Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ching Ming Festival

Today is Ching Ming Festival, which is a public holiday in Hong Kong for its inhabitants to go sweep their ancestors' graves. Nobody in the office is doing this, because there will be too many people sweeping graves. That feels a bit odd to me; it's akin to saying you'd go on a pilgrimage, except it's a bit inconvenient. But then I can't criticise; it's not like I'm taking the opportunity to fly back to the UK to sweep any of my ancestors' graves.

Instead, I spent the morning shambling around our flat, complaining about the constant pain in my upper back, and then going back to bed and having a nap. Now you can't have a nap before noon. That's just not appropriate. That's admitting you shouldn't have got out of bed in the first place.

Last night I wrote six postcards to make up for my failures of communication recently, but I also wasted two hours playing on my Xbox. After I'd said I was going to stop. Well, after that I really am going to stop: it is, after all, a not particularly valuable time sink, and I doubt sitting on the sofa clenching an Xbox controller is doing wonderful things for my back.

My back's been giving me gyp for the last two weeks now - all the muscles between my shoulders seem clenched up and very sore, and it's sometimes painful to breathe. It's not as bad as it was two years ago, when I fell out of bed screaming with the pain, but then that was the end point of a gradual deterioation too, so I'm a bit nervous.

From feeling shattered and my back being all sorts of wrong, I wasn't keen on going cycling, but my fiancee kicked me into gear and out of the house, and I went down to Central in a taxi to take the ferry to Mui Wo. From there, we had about half an hour of faffing about at the Friendly Bicycle Shop, fitting new pedals and adjusting our bikes.

I've now got a pair of shiny white magnesium-bodied pedals for the equivalent of twenty quid: I remember the same things being three times as much in the UK. Once again I'm tempted to make a living for myself by posting cheap bike parts back home. The only problem with these pedals is that they are very, very white, which looks a bit odd on my bike, and will gradually look worse as I chip half the paint off when they smack into rocks.

The last time I rode Chi Ma Wan was in October of last year, when it was still roasting hot. This time it was much cooler - around 17 degrees - and as a result it was much easier. Having flat pedals makes it much easier to get through the rocky sections (well, that's basically the trail as it's all rocky sections) or perhaps after two weekends at Tai Month Shan, I'm beginning to remember how to ride down steep rocky stuff.

Still, with three punctures between the three of us, and an incredible self-destructing derailleur, it still took us four hours to do the trail, when if you're competent it should be a two hour ride around the peninsula. I was annoyed at my punctures: the first was because I hadn't inflated my rear tyre enough after I ripped out a valve last Saturday, and the second was mysterious: I hammered it to the bottom of the last downhill of the trail, pulled up to a halt and then my front tyre went flat. I'm glad I bought that spare tube at Friendly.

Because we took so long, we missed the ferry back to Central (unless I fancied the slow 8pm sailing) so we got a different boat to Discovery Bay, along with twenty other bikes, the same number of dogs and small children, and a bloke with a tuba. Then I had five minutes to catch the ferry from DB to Central; that ends up with me getting home maybe an hour earlier, but also saves me catching my death of cold wearing sweaty cycling gear on a cool Hong Kong evening.

And, wonder of wonders, my back feels fine. No complaints on the trail, and no problems now as I sit on the ferry. As in the past, a bit of exercise gets the blood flowing through it and warms it up; I'm still not looking forward to tomorrow morning, when I expect it will have seized up again.


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