Today was a long day. After a late night last night and an early start today, we had parent-teacher interviews from 4 until 7pm. This process fascinates me. I have 5 minutes to see each set of parents, usually with the student present. Sometimes I have a series of scattered bookings and time to talk more deeply. Sometimes, as tonight, I have bookings every five minutes for long, long stretches, and emerge from the process utterly spent.
As the night went on I used my short breaks to keep an anxious eye on the weather bureau’s radar page, watching the rain arrive and settle in for a protracted stay. As it became clear I was going to get wet on my ride home, I briefly contemplated cadging a lift. It was a toss up between staying warm and dry and chatting in my friend’s car on the way home, and getting cold and wet but shedding the day’s tension and stress with every pedal stroke.
In the end the stress relief won and I suited up for the ride home. I have a large yellow rain cape that makes me look like a giant yellow duck, and plenty of very bright lights, so I wasn’t worried about visibility in the traffic, and I stay fairly dry from the knees up.
As I left the building I took a moment to commune with a fellow cyclist – a rider far more intrepid than I, who averages about twice my speed and rides for almost 3 times as long. We shared rain avoidance tips, compared bikes (His: lean, fast and serious. Mine: an armchair on wheels.) swapped good wishes for the journey home and whooshed off into the night.
I started to sing my favourite boppy song (currently “Love is Easy” by McFly – it’s very difficult to feel miserable in the presence of this song) and took my usual gentle approach to the ride, magnified slightly by the need to keep an eye out for particularly deep water and wheel-snatching mud holes. I safely navigated the building site where they have changed the footpath on an almost daily basis for last six months, wresting my back wheel free of the mud, and I scooted down a local side street, on the home stretch now but also hitting that point where water from my helmet was dripping down onto my nose in a most uncomfortable fashion. Also my legs were starting to get cold.
Then I saw it.
A shape on the fence I was passing turned to study me, as if wondering what strange manner of large yellow creature was disturbing the peace with splashing noises and flashing lights, and I was suddenly eye to eye with a large tawny frogmouth. It watched me impassively as I sloshed by, with a curiously contemplative air.
By the time I got home I was warm and tired on the inside, cold and wet on the outside, and energised by my chance encounter with this charmingly enigmatic bird.
In a car I would never even have known he was there.