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Christmas Ride 2017

Blog Date - 25 December 2017

It's almost a tradition this now - Ren's Christmas Rideout.

I've been a good Daddy and taken my almost middle-aged son a new rucksack from Santa and said hello to all the various relatives. I've been a good son too by transporting Grandma. I've been sure to duck any offers of Christmas dinner because I'm already fatter than Santa himself. It's time for my Christmas present - self indulgence of the two wheeled kind.

Weatherwise this could actually be a usual dull grey British summer's day. The weatherfolk tell me it's around 9 or 10 degrees and there are the merest hints of blue skies betwixt the thick clouds, the horizon looks rather dodgy though. As I depart towards Bolton the first drops appear on my visor but not sufficient to warrant waterproofs just yet. 

My 125 feels majestic as I ride along the road, it must be filled with the Christmas spirit. Despite the shops being closed the roads are far from empty. I see hatchbacks filled with wrapped gifts and teenagers with bored faces. The Transit van up my arse has a builder in the driver's seat and his wife next to him. I wonder if the BMW R1000RRrrrrrrr that whizzed by me is a Christmas present?

Bolton town centre is deserted though - and that's why I've come here. Town centres are horrid places filled with people and noise but today they are a haven of peace. The main square has a pop-up ice rink and some kind of slide which rather spoils the view but I can still stand in peace with only the occasional dog walker or youth on a shiny new bicycle passing by. Bliss.

Bolton's town centre complete with pop up ice rink for Christmas
Empty, blissfully empty.

I have my thoughts. I don't hate people and I am actually quite sociable. I can manage crowds OK however I prefer a small group of people laughing and joking between each other. The idea of Glastonbury Festival makes me wince, the idea sitting in a cafe drinking tea with a few friends makes me smile.

The Crescent in Bolton, imposing architecture and no people
There are a few imposing buildings in Bolton.

There is a blight on the M60, Manchester's primary motorway ringroad. The abominable festering sore that wreaks havoc and misery to those who wish to travel by in peace is the Trafford Centre - AKA the "Traffic Centre". It is a temple to capitalism, a shrine to unnecessary spending, a place of untold excess and the bringer of misery to those with credit cards. It specialises in selling things people don't need to those that can't afford them as they try to prove their worth. It also jams the motorway that runs by it.

Not today. This is the one day a year where the money pits are closed and the motorway flows freely by. I think this is the best time to visit such a place. 

The Debenhams shop at the Trafford Centre, and the car park is empty
No-one, nothing. All is quiet.

The car parks are empty save for the odd car or van, presumably security. I always thought the place was massive, vast and expansive. Today though I ride around the perimeter in a short while due to the lack of queueing cars. It is large I accept that but it's feels a lot smaller today. I...I can almost appreciate the architecture, it's not to my liking but it does feel as though someone actually cared to try.

The large brick and stone buildings at The Trafford Centre at least have some styling
At least they tried.

As I park to take pictures I feel awkward. There will be I'm sure a camera trained upon this random motorcyclist, stopping at the barrier to take images. I am but a humble blogger taking a few snaps to illustrate my prose but the security man will surely be pondering if I'm a terrorist finalising my plans or an arch criminal preparing for the heist of the century. Maybe I need to calm my imagination.

Before I return home I make a brief visit to my local temple of consumerism - The Middlebrook. This is much more familiar which for myself makes it feel more friendly. The architecture is far far less imaginative though, here we have bland boxes next to bland boxes with only large brand logos to distinguish between them. There is nothing here to separate The Middlebrook from several hundred other such shopping centres around the country if not Europe. 

The rather ordinary shops at Bolton's Middlebrook Centre
It's not much but it's home. I guess.

Why am I surprised to find even McDonald's is shut? I half expected to see a skeleton staff of disillusioned youths still pumping out tasty yet vitamin free foods.  

I'm back home before dark and all is well. For tomorrow the shops will open once more and the car parks will be filled to the brim and the tills will ring and the circle of money and life will continue once again. I shall be returning to work in a few days to ensure the grinding wheel continues. But for today, this one day a year, it all came to a halt.

Unless you're a policeman, nurse, fireman, security guard, railway engineer, chef, hotelier, vicar, prison officer, bar staff, charity volunteer....................

Would you like to sponsor a page or a ride or an adventure on Bikes And Travels? Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Daf said :-
What a beautifully written reflection on Christmas for those of us who prowl around while everyone else is sitting at home sozzling! I didn't get further from home than walking the labrador but I was officially on-call for the blood bike. I'd have loved to go for a ride around the (hopefully deserted) roads of North Wales yesterday, but the 250 has dropped a valve and they've been gritting so the Harley stays in.

Ride safe boss, and all the best for Christmas and the year ahead. And keep writing, you say things that others wouldn't dare. It's refreshing!
26/12//2017 10:58:24 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Daf. Walking the lab sounds most civilised and healthy too. It's days like these where I'm particularly thankful I don't drink.
28/12//2017 7:28:06 AM UTC
Bob said :-
I was out too.
Nice to meet a fellow non-drinker, it really does give you the edge over most of our fellow drunkard countrymen. The ability to get up at the crack of dawn, get about your business on empty roads and get home again before the hung-over masses crawl out of bed and start clogging everything up is not to be under appreciated!
I went green laning, nice and quiet, nobody around, lovely
28/12//2017 10:38:05 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
You don't have to eschew alcohol entirely to enjoy those things. A half bottle of decent Bordeaux with dinner hardly puts me in the "drunkard" class and is one of the delights of touring in France. If you don't like it fine but I do detect a whiff of self-righteousness creeping in......

Having said that, I've done enough riding at the crack of dawn to think better of it these days. The Midland Classic Club used to organise Colonial Trials across the Peak District hills which were great fun but involved leaving home in the dark then tackling classic sections like Hollinsclough and Cheeks.

We did usually thaw out before a roaring fire at one of the excellent Derbyshire pubs at lunch time and I must confess that struggling into the solidly frozen Belstaff trousers afterwards was rarely the highlight of the day.
28/12//2017 11:39:57 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I have no problem with "moderate" drinkers, my problem as a youth was I never learned to be moderate. As with most 18 year olds I'd drink until I was ill. Really ill. I discovered the nights I went out on my bike I was having more fun sober and it just became a habit not to drink. I simply never bothered again after the age of 19.

According to some research or another moderate sensible drinkers actually live longer than teetotallers. I figure it'll be a stress or a blood thinning thing.

As for frozen pants - niiiiiiiiiiice.
28/12//2017 11:53:46 AM UTC
Stuart said :-
I am drinking much less than I used too.

As a shift worker I was on my way to work at 6.30am on the 24th when I met a car driver who turned out to be 3 times over the drink drive limit coming the wrong way down a single lane one way road round a bend.

The only good news is it was low speed and no one was seriously injured.

My ER is not so well and I need to sort out what to do with it. This is on top of my car being written off at the start of November by someone turning across us.

Let's hope it's a safe new year for everyone.

28/12//2017 8:12:14 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Afraid I am classified as a binge drinker. I go without drink for weeks on end (no alcohol allowed at work) then at Christmas Day had a nice bottle and a bit of Rioja with dinner and through the evening over about 6 hours. Unfortunately according to the label 1 bottle of wine is 10.1 units of alcohol. So that puts me in the binge drinking group.
I tell the doctor at my medical a every 2 years I am a binge drinker, she puts social drinker on the form. Not me telling the lies. ??
29/12//2017 11:55:01 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Stuart - it never rains it only pours. That's bad luck. The drunk guy needs the book throwing at him. I hope you get everything sorted but be patient - it's a long slow process. Also I'd like to hear how it screws up your insurance. I know it's not your fault but it'll still up your premiums a bit.

Borsuk - at least your not alcoholic. But yeah, maybe take your foot off the gas when you partake of the evil juice? 10.1 units would see me at the undertakers not the hospital I'm sure.
29/12//2017 12:38:30 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
That was for 2 glasses of wine. Scared to think what a 1/2 bottle of spirits is. I must admit I have large glasses, though they are smaller than they used to be, I have not found a wine glass yet that lets me put a whole bottle in at a time but there must be one out there somewhere.
Was not a wine drinker till I came to Spain. Never liked red wine till I discovered Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, lovely stuff and a decent drinkable bottle starts at around £2, £3.20 gets you a reserve. Anything priced above that is out with my ability to taste or smell the difference.
29/12//2017 12:55:01 PM UTC

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