Negotiating the cobbles :::::

September 14, 2020 Ken Frankis

I’d had an early swim and still felt a little energy in the tank. Clear blue September sky on a Sunday morning, so decided to jump on my fold-up bike rather than driving home.
I have to say, cycling is one of life’s joys for me. Not really Tour de France style, more an urban explorer I suppose. Nonetheless, there is a childlike quality to the two wheeled pastime whether it’s towards a set destination or a random, curiosity filled meander.
I set off to spin around Dulwich Park a few times. A natural circuit with reasonable surface and just a minor gradient to test the legs here and there.
Now, some time ago I had an uncomfortable incident here; it’s stored away where those things are. There are a few sections of cobbles to negotiate and the smallish 16inch wheels on the fold-up bike can be a little skittish. I remember losing control of the bike when crossing the small, smooth stones and narrowly escaping a nasty spill. A small shock to the system duly recorded.
So this little event has played on my mind ever since and as I approached the first set of cobbles just inside the entry gates, my body tensed, expecting a shaky outcome. And sure enough, my front wheel skidded and swift correctional wriggling ensued to avoid an unwanted meeting with the ground below.
The next set of cobbles was about 50 metres ahead. Once again I could feel my body tense in preparation for another piece of trick riding! Should I speed up or slow down? Should I get off and push it? No, that’s not going to happen. I eased the brakes and aimed for a single line of cobbles with great care and trepidation. Sure enough, another moment where I felt I wasn’t in control but managed to come through it in one piece.
Onwards. About five laps of the park, avoiding darting Jack Russells, a variety of recumbent bikes, go carts etc. which can be hired in the park and tend to whizz all over the place, changing direction at very short notice. A steady and passive approach makes it great fun, absorbing the energy of the many and varied activities taking place. Our parks really are amazing. Outdoor gyms, table tennis, yoga classes, boating lake, picnicking families, football, tai chi etc etc. They are spaces for all comers and all reasons…
So, it’s time to exit the park now and negotiate the cobbles once again.
This time I would take a different approach. Calmed somewhat by repetitive and mesmeric pedalling and feeling good on the collective spirit everywhere, I decided not to tense up against the perceived foe. No, this time I would relax; an easy, softer grip on the bars, just letting my body be loose and balanced; confident. And sure enough, although the tyres recognised an unfriendly surface, my hands and body were able to absorb the feedback, rolling with the potential danger. Yeah, that felt great; like I was accepting the cobbles and they were accepting me!
So on to the next set and looking forward to trying my new found approach again. This time felt even better; almost enjoyable. The relaxed acceptance had taken the sting from the situation. Not fighting and holding on tightly in judgement of a malicious surface but soaking up and working with the slippery terrain.
Basking ever so slightly in my mastery of a challenging situation, I realised that this was possibly a metaphor for so much of the stuff we encounter in our lives. There’s talk afoot about Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity in the world today; more specifically the business world. It was ever thus. The challenges we face every day are reminders that we are alive and vibrant; we’re still at the races. The day these don’t exist, we don’t exist.
It’s the light and shade that shapes us and the spaces we live in. A pliant and flexible acceptance helps us receive a variety of stimuli and take them in our stride; not reacting with tightness and tension; not being hijacked by situations we meet. Our strength is in our flexibility; knowing we can deal with the many and varied opportunities which come our way.
I guess the relaxation of the body represents our flow state; the state where all the good stuff happens. It is an inner congruence which has a profound influence on what happens in our outer world.
Well, bring on the cobbles of life I say. I’ll give them time and respect but no more; not shrink in fear. And every time I cross them I’ll feel a little better placed to work with the next challenge.
And the one after that…