Hills are predictable. As a kid, I would plot a route on a good old-fashioned map, and by marking off the contours create a vertical section of the terrain. It usually looked disappointingly flat, so I would stretch the y-axis to represent how it felt, rather than how it was. An early lesson on how to use charts to say what you want to say. A skill, incidentally, which precipitated future academic success in geography and statistics. Let me show you my histogram of my qualifications. It looks unbelievably impressive.
Google maps has yet to provide a vertical slice facility or even to show any contours. Hardly a map at all, my geography teacher would have said. Fortunately I have a pretty good memory of where the hills are. And – earthquakes, tectonic shifts and glacial freeze-thaw erosion notwithstanding – they remain fairly predictable.
Wind, on the other hand is impossibly unpredictable. Its net effect on a circular journey should be neutral. But it is never that fair. It is highly localised and disturbingly hostile.
Draw a line through your ears. Wind blowing at you from any angle ahead of that line will make the effort of cycling enormous. A squall 60 degrees either side will ambush you and hurl you into the middle of the road. Just occasionally the wind kindly addresses the small segment behind you and gives you a friendly push. Of course any wind in your ears makes your iPod tunes inaudible. And the line through your ears can be very uncomfortable.
Such is life. We ride the undulating hills of our well laid plans. We are blown by the unpredictable winds of change. I will choose, if I may, to pedal uphill with the wind behind me. Which will give me the satisfaction of achievement – with a little bit of help from behind.