Cara Nonna,

Has there ever been something in your life that you just disliked, that no matter what, you just could not get yourself to enjoy it? But that also, when that same thing was absent, for some reason, you just missed it? Before you get confused, I'll explain: the matter in question is cycling.

As you know, I go to Girton, the college known for being faraway, and therefore, to lead a full Cambridge life, including lectures, supervisions etc., I have to cycle to most places. Cycling may seem like some sort of idyllic picture. A bike, gently rattling the cobblestones and scattering the leaves to the mid-autumn breeze as it drifts through the quiet market town. Well, let me tell you something, it most definitely is not.

Cycling from Girton means 15 minutes (on the way to class, 20-ish on the way back, as it's uphill and twice as hard) of pain, sweat and very often, tears (I admit - very occasionally I have enjoyed a nice cycle into town).

First of all, there’s the wardrobe restriction: flowy trousers and coats, some of my favourite items, are risky at best and avoided most of the time (the last thing I want as I race to my lecture because I’m late is my trouser leg getting stuck in my chain and sending me flying). But that’s only the start of it: looking outside my window, the day might look grey and bleak and therefore presumably cold. This will lead me to layer up to avoid freezing (and so that you don’t worry about me), only to then realize, about 5 minutes into my cycle, how wrong I was. No matter how cold it is, my torso always generates more than enough body heat that I arrive at lectures coated in a somewhat thick layer of sweat. And so, even if I was dextrous enough to wear nice clothes and not get them either ripped or caught in my bike chain, I would not want to wear the nicer items in my closet to lectures since they would just end up sweaty and ruined. Most days I just feel bad for whoever should sit next to me in lectures and catch a glimpse of the sweat.

The idyllic view I once had of cycling in CambridgeVirginia Bernardi

I haven’t even mentioned the rain. Cycling in the rain is like being under the shower, fully clothed and in the cold, while the water in on at full blast against you. One word. Unpleasant. Even a light drizzle turns into cold daggers of water against you on the way uphill back to college. And the wind, oh boy the wind. Sometimes the wind is so strong I am convinced it will just blow me off my bike. Normally, going downhill is the saving grace of the cycle but there have been times when it has been so windy that I have had to pedal going downhill just as hard as I normally do on a flat, and I’m pretty sure I would have been faster if I had been walking.

And cycling traffic is the worst: I constantly have to be aware of and (try) to avoid people, cars and other bikes. I barely know the road rules in Italy, least of all England so I try and cross and pray I don’t get run over (I do wear my helmet, before you get on my case). It’s a constant game of trying not to hit or be hit. If only my bike were light and agile - maybe I would find this all easier. As things stand my bike is heavy, my tires are flat and I seem to struggle more than any of my friends to do the simplest, quickest cycles, so much that I wish Nonno were here to take a look at my bike from time to time whenever it gets slower. Maybe it's all in my head, but I’m sure I'm not the only Girtonian who has complained about cycling before.

It's a constant game of trying not to hit or be hit

This year has been even worse since I do not live at the main college site anymore. My accommodation, is a 15 minute walk or 5 minute cycle away. Now this does not seem bad (and it can be really fine to do) but there are days when the path from college to my flat has felt as long as a ‘birth’ (you know how we say ‘é stato un parto’ – it was a birth, for something that is very long and tedious? I’m trying to get it to catch on), especially cycling in the wind or the rain. But as quick as the cycle can feel, and I’m not sure why, but the walk feels like it lasts an eternity.

And this brings me back to my initial question, since a couple of weeks ago, being the disorganised mess that I am, I lost my bike keys. Hence my bike was all locked up, but alas useless, and I was left on foot. As a previous advocate and lover of walking (not to mention passionate, tears down my face, shouting at the wind, hater of cycling) I thought I would be fine.

When my relationship with bikes was more amicableVirginia Bernardi

To my surprise, I suddenly I felt like a bird whose wings had been clipped. Travelling to places just took too long, going home at night or into the college library during the day felt like they required enormous amounts of effort: what was once an occasionally pleasant cycle became a dreaded walk, a path which seemed endless. I was trying to figure out why this was, I famously hated cycling so why was I not happy? Had I perhaps, in my hate of cycling, grown to have it as a constant, the 15 minute ordeal to get to lectures, always there to greet me in the morning like the coldest, most unpleasant shower, and now that it was gone, the rug had been swept out from under my feet? Or am I at heart just a very, very lazy person and am willing to bite the bullet of cycling just so I can GET to places and not have to waste all my time plodding along?

Probably the latter option. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment, duly saved on my Snapchat, when the maintenance men came to cut my bike lock and my bike was free. I felt that I now too was newly independent, free to cycle like the wind (or more likely be stopped by the wind going against me).


Mountain View

What's on the cards: Week Five

This elation has not lasted. I have a new lock, which requires a combination, not keys (setting myself up to avoid the repetition of mistakes, see the Tea Towel Incident) and hate cycling just as much as I did before, within a day I was already shouting my complaints as my thighs burnt and rain soaked my trousers, unavoidably leaving them wet for the rest of the day, but I feel like I have learnt that you can dislike something and still miss it, which is something I had never really thought about before,