Pouring Cold Water on the Challenge

I realise it makes me into a bit of a humbug-but I have to confess to feelings of relief that the blanket high-jacking of social network sites from the ‘ice bucket challenge’ is beginning to subside. I was just a little tired of watching yet another acquaintance saying something to camera [I don’t know what as I have a tendency to leave the sound off] having water poured over them and exclaiming loudly with their hair and clothes plastered to their skin. But it was for Charideee, of course, which means it must have been a great thing- wasn’t it?
Charities do good work and those who work selflessly for them are to be admired. In these recent times of austerity and financial recessions they have suffered from lower incomes and less giving. So I suppose anyone who comes up with a wacky, ‘fun’ and different idea for fund raising is to be clutched at.
I can never quite understand how those prolonged treks and cycle rides in foreign parts constitutes fund raising-it always appears [and shoot me down if I am wrong] that those who take part are actually enjoying an exciting piece of travel courtesy of those who’ve kindly donated to their particular cause. At least the iced water doesn’t look exotic and desirable.
But isn’t there more than just a bit of smug, do-good, aren’t I generous?/a good sport/a fun-loving sort about such viral challenges as the ice bucket? Why do those taking part need us to see them? Why not go out into the garden, or yard, or car park and tip a bucket of cold water over your head then go indoors and have a cup of tea? Or go and have a bath in some baked beans, shower off and go and dig the garden? Of course, it must not only be filmed, reader-it must be shared on a social network. Why? Well, because a]All your friends must know what a big-hearted, selfless and philanthropic person you and b]You will have been nominated by another fun, generous person-demonstrating that you are also popular and a ‘good egg’.
Wouldn’t it be a great world that had no charities at all in it-because they were never necessary-because the richest, fittest, most advantaged people’s incomes were taxed enough to cover funds to address disease/famine/injury/social deprivation et al; or better still, that the most advantaged gave from their free will, without recourse to iced water, baked bean baths, shaved heads, prolonged cycling or taxation. I know there are those who do contribute a great proportion of their wealth, quietly, without publicising the fact or using it to promote themselves. Good for them.
I doubt the respite will be long. There will be another daft series of selfie videos in due course. In the meantime I’m revelling in the lull.

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Downhill for Wrinklies

            In the photograph, we are both smiling. The image is deceptive. Husband is smiling a deep, broad grin, signifying his abject happiness with the activity we were undertaking. I am doing my utmost, mustering, at best, a grimace that may be mistaken for a smile, given that we were swathed in helmets, dark glasses and various items of protective padding. The snap was taken after I’d hit the rock that projected me over on to the stone-laden, rutted slope but long before we were anywhere near the base of the mountain; hence the grimace.

            The mountain was Mount Doi Suthep, just outside Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and we were being nursed down a rough, muddy, rock-strewn descent by two enthusiastic, young men. One of them, ‘O’, had the misfortune to be at the back of our group where he’d acquired the herculean task of getting me, the ancient, terrified snail of the group from Point A, the top of the mountain to Point B, the base via the horrifying precipices, ruts and mud that was the trail.

            To the young, Thai mountain bikers we were ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’, titles we were to be addressed by throughout our stay. ‘We must look very old’, I remarked to Husband, although we were charmed by the term, feeling that it was some mark of respect. Within our cycling group of eight we were not only the oldest by far but generations apart from the other three youthful couples, who surged down, leaping their bikes over boulders and soaring over the ruts in an effortless glide.

            ‘Good, Mama!’ encouraged ‘O’ as I negotiated a successful transfer from one rut to another. He must have wondered if we’d be down before nightfall. At times we briefly caught up with the others as they stopped for a water break or to take some photos; then they’d be off before I’d got the lid off my bottle.

            When I think of that day now, I know I would never have undertaken the challenge if I’d known how difficult it would be, and perhaps this is one of life’s lessons-that ignorance is somehow bliss. I can now look upon it as a kind of achievement, though nowhere near the hard won achievement of ‘O’, who got me, ‘Mama’, to the base.

            I must also point out that ‘Route 1’, our chosen way, was the easiest option. Others chose to follow a route across the mountain which involved, at times, cycling a death-defying channel along the summit, the width of a cycle tyre and with sheer drops either side, or a route which involved carrying the bike for some distances and calf-burning ascents.

            At last the trail levelled and changed gradually to gravel track. It led to a beautiful lake fringed with little thatched huts on stilts. We came to a halt, shed our trainers and climbed, wobbly-legged, onto a palm mat around a low table, already decked with bottles of cold water and coke. ‘Which lunch option would we prefer?’

            During the next few days a circle of dark, black and purple bruises appeared around my thigh. Throughout the course of the ensuing three weeks it changed colour, but remained. Vestiges remain today-a bracelet of honour and testament to the accomplishment of mountain biking down Doi Suthep.