Cycling to Riga

A faulty pedal clanks at every turn
Reminding me of all that isn’t right.
It’s how I manage on this sort of trip.
By nature sedentary, I have to pound
My faults to a sustaining pemmican
Of concentrated peevishness and grudge
And let contentment wait for retrospect.

The ferryman hangs bikes from butcher’s hooks
One hopes the idea came from abattoirs.
My start’s in arty Nida. Thomas Mann
Spent Nobel winnings on a summer house
I think the builders fleeced him. Small and plain,
Both gauleiters and commissars disdained
To burn it down. Agreeing, I set off.

A beach resort strung out along the coast
Brings phone-transfixed teenagers to be dodged
Don’t use the prissy importuning bell.
There’s hefty girls in too short skirts to mock
‘Does nothing for her’, as my dad would say.
Whilst older men attempting youthful style
Attract my pot and kettle ridicule.

The cycle path expires. Now open road
Torments with vistas of long miles ahead
And tall pine trees no longer kindly break
But funnel headwinds sworn to make me quit.
Oblivious cars pass their windows sealed,
Submariners and fish, we share a space
Yet not a world. I sullenly progress.

Police and paramedics fuss about.
A lycra’d arm protrudes from roadside grass.
The victim’s upturned bike wheel spins as though
The accident’s so recent but of course
It’s just the wind. I stop. They wave me on
To count my blessings for a little while
Till grumbling and cursing are resumed.

Expensive, gel-filled cycling shorts don’t work
Except to make you feel you’ve shit yourself
Which might well happen when I next dismount
Such is the pain. I waddle to the shop
And eye the ice-cream freezer with a view
To rectal application but apply
Conventional beer-therapy instead.

My route turns east, inland, the wind veers too
And blows expletives back into my face.
Becoming anti-Latvian I slog
Though hungry hours of forest, field and lake,
And pretty hamlets lacking restaurants.
This is the modern age, they should despoil
Their countryside for my convenience.

On the eighth day, I navigate drab blocks
Surrounding Riga, wince on cobblestones,
And tell the man who takes my rental bike
Where it’s come from. He checks and signs the chit.
But doesn’t see fit to congratulate
I pat the hated saddle and it’s done.
Nostalgia begins. That was quite fun.