Accidental polite ignorance

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Sometimes I lie. They are strange little lies that usually don’t mount up to much but they are lies nonetheless, and can seem pretty weird if they get found out. It’s an odd phenomenon because in any important situation, I have a total inability to be untruthful. Sometimes I would be better off offering a half-truth or a total lie to save myself and I just can’t bring myself to do it. No; the lies that I can do are quite unconscious. I like to call them ‘accidental polite ignorance’. To put it simply, it’s when you pretend not to know something that you are being told, even though you do. I know- it’s a bit weird.

I have a feeling that it stems partly from a sort of mild degree of social ineptitude where you over-think conversation. Sometimes you realise that you’ve left it a bit too late to say that you already know. It’s especially difficult with fast-talkers or particularly confident people who often don’t leave very big gaps for you to neatly insert a quick ‘yes, you did tell me that last week’. So the conversation, or rather, the statement of fact, rambles on uninterrupted until it is far too late to do anything but feign mild surprise at the amazing proclamation about the thing you already knew.

Life can also sometimes be a minefield of things that you know but shouldn’t know or have been told with the prefix- ‘don’t-tell-anyone-but’, and it can sometimes be safer to pretend that you don’t know just in case you shouldn’t. I think most sufferers of accidental polite ignorance are also quite good listeners and as such, tend to know an awful lot more than you might expect.

Secondly I think it is partly due to the fact that the exchange is often a more positive one if you give the teller the pleasure of being the one in the know. I know this is silly, but nobody likes to say something that they think is original and profound and be told that the listener has already heard that. If you play along and pretend you don’t know, you are giving the teller the pleasure of being right, interesting and conversation worthy. It’s a pretty little confidence boost, like giving praise. It can also fill conversation gaps in awkward first meetings.

Of course the problem comes, as with all lies, when you get found out. And then you look pretty weird. It is hard to explain the motivations behind these little accidental polite ignorances, given that it’s usually totally unconscious until it’s too late. Only the other week I let a man ramble on at the train station about how best to stop smoking, without the having the heart to tell him I was a smoking cessation advisor… I couldn’t help it- he looked so pleased to be giving me such insights! I do dread the day that he recognises me behind my counter and enquires why I didn’t tell him that I already knew what he was telling me. But then in this internet savvy world where everyone seems to know about everything, perhaps we’re all just humouring each other anyway.

The Father’s Day Bike Ride

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We knew that one day we would look back and laugh heartily- everyone told us so, but right then, in the heart of the moment, it was pretty hideous.

We were ten miles into the London to Brighton Bike ride and just getting moving fast enough not to wobble and fall off  when a sharp explosion sounded, followed by a quick scuffle and the cry ‘Man down! Man down!’ from one of our team members. As he tried to hold back the masses and limit damage to bike and body on the floor, the rest of the team got out of the crowd and edged our way back. I’d never heard a tyre pop before and it was pretty loud. The body in question  had also taken a bit of a bashing, but I think she was more worried about the brand new bike… We patched things up best we could and struggled on to the next rest point to get some mechanical tlc, extremely glad that we had able repairmen in our team (who also happened to be possessors of numerous secret energy sweet stashes).

At the rest point, the injured party spent her entire £20 allowance on a new tyre and inner tube (the repair having completely herniated by this stage) and we began quaffing our first energy bars in trepidation for what was yet to come. Things hadn’t started well. We’d already cycled 2 miles lost in London before finding the start line and the ride would be 54 miles in total. We soldiered on.

And then we stopped. We had met the fist accident of many during the ride that would cause such major holdups that at about 2 hours in we would still be leaving the periphery of London. As we crawled along and stopped and crawled some more, the clip pedal brigade were taking it in turns to tip over, and we were beginning the think that our dinner reservation at 2 had been rather ambitious. By 2 o’clock,  about half way between London and Brighton, we knew it had been. We crawled past a man making a mint with a tray of homemade flapjack and one of our delightful team treated the ladies to an edible morale boost, which was much needed after the revelation that we would miss dinner.

Then, just as things started to pick up again, my bike began spitting spokes. For no apparent reason, both wheels started to ping and then ride was from then on interspersed with stops to remove or bend inward offending spokes. Unfortunately, even with someone of my small stature it was only a matter of time before things started to bend…

Cycling up a hill, the team member who had popped her tyre managed to pop her chain off, and on that same hill, I got squeezed by slow moving cyclists into a hedge and had to be helped out of it by some kind chaps behind (although really they had little choice since I had blocked the road at that point).

With everyone back upright and chains where they needed to be, we headed full pelt towards the Ditchling Beacon. It is a hideous hill climb that is apparently roughly equivalent in height to the fourth highest building in Dubai (don’t quote me on that). By this point I was really struggling so I urged my team members to carry on up at their pace and I’s see them at the top. Unfortunately, I then discovered why I was finding it so tough. My wheels had lost so many spokes that they had warped, causing the brakes to be permanently in contact. Unable to find a space to pull over and sort it, I simply had to push it against all its resistance up the hill. That was when it broke me. By the time I was halfway up I was sobbing behind my sunglasses and shaking with fatigue. This had been an incredibly emotional ride. It was father’s day and we were riding in memory of one team member’s dad. Whilst getting ready to set off, another team member’s dad had sadly passed away in his hospice. My own dad was poorly. It was the worst Father’s day ever.

At the top of the hill, I was in a state. The other’s found me and fed me dextrose sweets whilst seeing what could be done about my bike. Without spares and an array of tools there was very little that could save it. The only option was to slacken off my brakes so that I could actually propel it forwards and to hope that there was still enough braking ability to make it down the hills. Because of course, where there is a steep uphill gradient, there will always be a downhill equivalent on the other side.

We set off, in a tight little cluster so that the team members flanking me on either side could grab my bike if it wasn’t braking sufficiently. Everyone offered to swap bikes with me but I decided now was not the time to try clip pedals for the first time or a frame size too big for me to touch pedals and seat simultaneously. When the incline became too great to be handled with just a front brake, we were forced to get off and walk. I urged the others to carry on down and enjoy the hill and I’d meet them at the bottom, but they’d heard that one before and didn’t have enough dextrose sweets to perk me up again should things get even worse. And so we started and finished as a team. I can’t tell you how relieved we all were to cross that line (and on our bikes too!)

Whilst it was a terrible Father’s day and we one that we will all remember forever, the team that we had was the best I could wish for. My friend and I were in very good hands when our bikes went wrong, when spirits were low, and when hunger hit. We were so well looked after that it was like travelling with a small troupe of dads (which I suppose they all were! Just not ours).

At the end of it all, our bikes were broken, our arms and legs were scuffed and our bellies were pretty much empty, but our hearts were full.

 

If this lengthy (sorry!) account has generated any sympathy, please do feel free to pop to our justgiving page which is still open for the rest of this month and give to the British Heart Foundation, whose work is indispensible.

https://www.justgiving.com/bruisedbums/

 

A hypothetical question: Do I spend too much time in my own head?

Spice Islands
As a child I covered all the normal phases. I did the tantrums (or paddywhacks for those of you familiar with the midland dialect), wore only pink, refused cheese if it hadn’t been melted, broke things and then hid them and crafted daily cards for my best friend and second best friend with clear labels in case they were in any doubt of their position in the hierarchy.
I also had some other stages of development which may or may not point to some neurological ‘abnormality’. At a time when everyone was meant to be developing sympathy towards their fellow man, I was well ahead and just took it to a whole new level. When my younger sister bounced off the bed and cut her face rather spectacularly on the bedside table, I was the one crying and holding my face whilst she bravely sat by and had her bloody little head dabbed in Savlon and carefully mummified. Unfortunately this wasn’t a passing phase. As a teenager if my friends did anything embarrassing, I would blush on their behalf and only this year, I did a wonderful (i.e. spectacularly humiliating) public faint in an aquarium because I watched a video about jellyfish stings where I saw a woman in pain. If I was her, I thought, I’d be on the floor right now! I came round in one of those orange emergency chairs.
At nursery, purely to appease the staff and show them I was happy and normal and knew I was a girl I would choose to play with the toy pram every day. I never bothered to put a doll in it and just raced back and forth until the bell sounded and the whole silly charade could cease and let me get back into my head. It was probably presumed that I was slightly stupid until I emerged from my mind much later and let them know there was actually quite a lot going on in there.
Nowadays I still spend an awful lot of time inside my own head and I don’t think it’s arrogant to let you know that it’s rather fun in there. Don’t get me wrong- I can apply myself when I need to and I don’t often drift off mid-conversation (unless it’s boring). It’s simply that when I have little else to divert me, my mind is the best place to reside. It jazzes things up.
Running can be a bit repetitive, especially if you’re doing the same route regularly, so like many people, I listen to music as I go. But with my headphones in, I’m not just running anymore… I’m in the music video. Don’t be surprised if I’m mouthing something at you with a heartfelt expression when I pass by- I’m not talking to you: I’m in the video. I probably can’t even see you.
Then there’s leaving the cinema. This is a case of too much sympathy again. I couldn’t possibly leave the cinema at the end of a good film without being accidentally and unavoidably in character. Whichever one I felt most sympathy for, I will become. It affects the way I walk and how my face looks too I should imagine, but luckily it diminishes on entering the foyer and I’m usually back to myself by the time daylight hits.
Then there are the thoughts that suddenly occur to me when I’m on my own. An example of this happened just moments ago as I ate my dinner. Suddenly, I had an image in my head of Sean Paul sitting in the lounge. What would you do if you turned around and found Sean Paul in your lounge?! I asked myself this hypothetical question and decided that it could go one of two ways. Either he would start to sing and I would feel obliged to dance at him (probably at this point I would be dressed in nothing but sequins and well-placed feathers), or I would have to find him something to eat and have the stressful multi-tasking fiasco of trying to make polite and interesting conversation with an unexpected celebrity guest whilst rustling up vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise. Hopefully he wouldn’t notice it wasn’t meat because, I though with much indignation, not even for Sean Paul would I cook with beef mince.
I use the Sean Paul example since I can’t really go into details about what happened when I turned round and discovered Gotye going through my cupboards. Naughty Gotye.
So my question is this: is it ok to spend so much time in your own head? To imagine whole conversations with people that never actually happened? To imagine so effectively that you have to be wheeled away in an orange chair to a back room to come round staring at the turtle tank? I think that so long as you remember what’s real and what’s imagined, it’s probably just fine. Oh Charles Dickens- how lovely to see you! (Shit- what shall I feed him? I’m all out of beans…)