19.10
Bicycle philosophy

I counted all the left and right decisions on my five mile ride to work. There are seventy-eight different options, twenty-six of which involve me actively changing direction. That’s a lot of decisions for a man of little brain. Or to be more specific for a big man of big brain with slow neural pathways. Like a Wooly Mammoth. With less wool. Although it has to be said, that I do have quite a lot of wool, just none of it on my head.

The thing is, whichever decision I take, even if I turn left out of my house rather than my usual right, I can still get to work. There are no right or wrong answers, just loads of options. It is true that a string of consecutive poor decisions could very quickly have me heading off to Portsmouth down the A3, but no single decision affects the outcome. If my first decision is to turn left, I just need my second and third decision to be left as well to get back on track. A left, left, right begins to be a little harder to rectify, but in general a wrong turn here or there makes little difference to the outcome.

Bicycle philosophy: Left or right, it doesn’t matter, you’ll get there in the end.

There are, of course, some exceptions. A wrong turn into oncoming traffic. Different end.

Bicycle philosophy is a philosophy for life. Left or right, it doesn’t matter, you’ll get there in the end. The big decisions in my life haven’t really been decisions at all. They have just been things that have happened to me. Specifically interviews.

The course of the latter half of my life has been set by two interviews. One with a scary woman who became my wife. The other with a scary man who became my business partner. On both occasions I thought I was just going for a job and on both occasions ended up with much more than I bargained for. How did that happen? More to the point what might have happened had I turned left rather than right and not attended those interviews? I suspect I would have still ended up with a wife and offspring, but not the same wife and my two children wouldn’t exist. I suspect also I would have my own business, but not the same business. Thinking about it now, I can see that the two most significant people in my life have been the two recruitment consultants who arranged my interviews. Jay and Natasha have Nicky Horner of HSR to thank for their existence. I was only with her for thirty minutes, but it produced two children.

So maybe a slight qualification to bicycle philosophy is called for.

Left or right, you’ll get there in the end, but there may be some surprises on the way.

(As an aside, this is why I’ve stopped going to job interviews – there’s only so many surprises one can take).

People who know about this sort of thing, wise men and women with zippy neural pathways (not wooly mammoths like myself with overgrown detritus-filled pathways) have sophisticated tests to determine the truth of a philosophy. As a former adman, the only test I’m familiar with is will it pass muster with the Advertising Standards Authority? Is it legal, decent, honest and truthful? I think my bicycle philosophy is. Moreover, most important for an adman, it is differentiating.

Bicycle philosophy doesn’t apply if you are on foot or in a car.

A wrong turning when walking can have dire consequences, as that Royal Holloway Professor of Mathematics found when he went for a walk in one of Moscow’s public parks. He lost his bearings and was dead before morning. It’s all too easy to lose your way on foot and fail to reach your destination, because there is no self-correcting mechanism with walking as there is with a bicycle. I say this as someone with spatial awareness. I have it on the highest authority (my wife’s) that spatial awareness is one of my three core competences ( the other two are lighting fires and punting), but even I can get lost without a bike. In Singapore the other month I went out for a walk, carefully following signs to the scenic route only to find myself horrendously lost in the hosiery department of a shopping mall. It was a nightmare – I haven’t felt that tense since getting stuck on the conveyor boat inside ‘It’s a Small World’ at Euro Disney with hundreds of spooky looking puppets in national costume singing at me. (Those who accuse films like Clockwork Orange of inspiring violence are focusing on the wrong target. They clearly haven’t been on the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Euro Disney. I’m pretty sure there must be a high correlation between psychopaths and people who have been on ‘It’s a Small World’ in their formative years. Imagine how profoundly disturbing to be exposed at an impressionable age to Disney’s dystopian vision and to believe that this is all the world has to offer.) To be fair, I probably wasn’t lost. In Singapore, a country of six-lane motorways, shopping malls and nothing else, a hosiery department is a highlight of the scenic walk.

Walking philosophy: Take one wrong turn and you could be fucked.

And cars don’t count, because technology has taken over. Take a wrong turning in a car and the Sat Nav lady gets all uppity and starts banging on about having to recalculate your route. If your Sat Nav lady is anything like our Sat Nav lady it’s just not worth making a wrong turning. Talk about going on, she just won’t shut up. It’s enough to induce nostalgia for the back seat driver. Nowadays the back seat driver doesn’t exist, replaced instead by teenagers with headphones and screens who don’t give a shit. To be frank I avoid the car now as much as possible. The driver’s seat is such a lonely humiliating place – everyone other than Sat Nav lady ignores me and she spends the whole journey barking instructions and berating me.

Driving philosophy: The bitch will get you there, but your male self-esteem be in tatters.

So if you want to get to where you want to be in life, do, as Norman Tebbit said, and get on your bike.

    Penelope
    2014-10-25 04:00:30
    "But, Goff, if the plane is blown to smithereens and rains down in little pieces, does that constitute a landing, I wonder."

    Goff Moore
    2014-10-21 16:59:11
    "Penelope, I feel the law of gravity is on my side."

    Gerald Miller
    2014-10-21 14:16:35
    "Is Obi Ben Kenobi lurking around the corner here? Is the Art of Motorcycles Maintenance (a book I never got passed page 24) open on the shelf? I mean, it's a bike. It has no brain or soul although one day soon we can assume it will have a noisy GPS. The bike can not get lost, but you can. (Or I can, and have.) A bike just gets you back or more lost faster. I also take exception to the observation that there are no more back seat drivers. I often have one in my car, sitting beside me in the front. That's when I really wish I was on my bike."

    Penelope
    2014-10-20 05:01:24
    "There's an O. Henry story I vaguely remember where someone comes to three forks in the road. He takes each one, in parallel universes, and very different things happen to him along the way but he always ends up at the same destination and in the same predicament. I have to take issue with Goff. My father had to do a sky dive in 2007 to finally get back to the airfield he took off from in August 1943, although I suppose that was a landing of sorts."

    Mark Brandis
    2014-10-19 19:10:56
    "My 'left/right' decision was whether or not to buy a stolen bicycle from someone at college. I bought the bike. It led, indirectly, to one wife, three children, a lifetime in advertising, and too much time wasted on Scrabble. The skiing's good though. The vendor was of course Simon. (I suppose I should add that the sale had the blessing of the local constabulary)."

    Goff Moore
    2014-10-19 15:44:03
    "As you know Simon, I like flying light aircraft. The difference between bicycles and light aircraft is that not only do you make left and right decisions (rolls) but also up and down decisions (pitch). Sometimes at the same time. You can also do steep turns where you go round in circles without moving your position. Unless of course the wind is blowing hard in one direction. The only philosophy I have is that there will always be an equal number of take-offs and landings so life is in perfect balance. By the way Cambridge United are doing quite well this season but not as well as Wycombe Wanderers. Perhaps they interviewed the right managers."

Please leave your thoughts below!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


two + 5 =