Riding a Bike around Ireland

bikeagainstwallThe whole pattern of my life, with occasional flurries of enthusiasm for health and exercise against the general background of ageing, slackening and fattening, betrays a slothful indulgent core, more interested in pleasure than in work, happiest when work is enjoyable.

Malachi O’Doherty’s memoir of biking himself back into shape, On My Own Two Wheels: Back in the Saddle at 60, caught my eye when I was researching another author. I enjoy memoirs; I adore Ireland; I fight a family history of diabetes; and sixty is suddenly not such an ethereal concept. It was a soft sell.

What I found was an honest depiction of how he arrived at diabetes, and what he did to change his life. O’Doherty preaches peckishness, one of my new favorite words. [It means hunger.] In short: Love peckishness and trust it to go away.

Temptation had to be treated with contempt and abruptly. When Satan, masquerading as my own thoughts, said things like, ‘One more spud is hardly going to hurt you,’ I had to cast him from me, into the fiery pit. I needed my inner voice to be a disciplinarian, a real tub-thumper, fine-tuned to condemn sugar.

O’Doherty returned to bicycling. He had cycled around Ireland in his younger days as well as a means of commute, and just fell out of the habit. His trips aid in his fitness and bring out the philosopher in him. I followed along à la Google, reveling in the beauty of Achill Island, Kylemore Abbey, the tiny village of Doolin, and Donegal Bay. After some intense trips, he settles into tootling—relaxed cycling for the joy of it. Rain or no rain.

If you let the weather stop you, you’ll do nothing.

I enjoyed the story; I like most Irish literary voices, and this one was winsome with that self-deprecating charm.

Further discoveries: First, O’Doherty has an audio blog (archived, the last entry is in 2011) called Arts Talk that has two readings by Seamus Heaney. Ahhhh. Also, O’Doherty mentions an Irish traveller, Manchán Magan. I watched four episodes of a television show with the boyish-faced Magan about his quest to consume and use only Irish products. He explores transportation, food, clothing and entertainment. Most of the dialogue is in Irish with English subtitles. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it amused me.