Depression is sometimes akin to having spaghetti strands chucked into one’s mind. Focus, even for long enough to listen to a short conversation escapes me. Lethargy presses on my shoulders like a lead cloak. The ability to recall even simple things or remember stuff – even if it was a case of life or death – is gone. Working with this mindset – a mind that once carried myriad facts, dates, amounts over days with instant recall in pressured situations has long since departed – probably on a train it nearly missed…

I sleep…poorly yet for hours and feel shattered even once awake. Slovenlyness – or at least not bothering about simple tasks and appearance creeps back up. The bad thoughts and fragments of things that hurt permeate one’s dreams which become much more vivid when the darkness has caught up again.

Cycling has helped, but it seems that it only temporarily supplants the more destructive ways of coping like hiding for hours on the PC or eating badly and often – the chocolate consumption has gone way up lately. When I can’t cycle, I soon slip back into the bad habits. Fair enough,cycling is a much better addiction than chocolate or the far worse substances a lot of people succumb to when they can’t cope and I’m grateful I haven’t but – there has to be more than this. Something permanent.

I had been much more productive for a while, cycling regularly, even socially with people I had not before met, fighting my inhibitions and shyness to get out there. I was convinced my improving fitness levels were improving my mental health for good, yet a few days of enforced non-cycling and I feel back where I started.

I’m now almost forced to watch favourite shows that I used to adore, the kindle is gathering dust despite it proving much easier for my fickle, diverted mind to cope with than a book. I have a near mental block on watching movies and relaxing – preferring a bout of mental self-flagellation. Other hobbies or interests have long been abandoned.

I need more than this yet I couldn’t face the latest psych appointment – it simply stirs everything up and is not a help at all – I understand the issues, the guilt complex, the chemical imbalances. I can fix stuff but I can’t, even armed with that knowledge and insight, fix myself. The frustration is huge.

A sage person told me that a key is simply replacing any unwanted, negative or hurtful thoughts with good ones. Good times seem so transitory, so in the past and I feel past it. I used to have so much vigor, energy, appetite for life. Concerts, cinema, camping, adventures – there was no stopping me. Now, well I don’t think I even have a favourite band anymore which is criminal for someone who begged his Dad for the first walkman he brought back from abroad when they were ultra new (yeah he gave me it even though he would have been looking forward to killing hours and hours on his return flights – he’s that kind of Dad) and was buying records at 8 years old. Watching nostalgic youtube videos of favourite bands long past their best is just another form of wallowing – like the future can’t and won’t have anything worthwhile in it, such a silly way to think. I cannot afford to give up, not just for my own sake but it feels like I have sometimes.

Dammit – I’m better at helping others but why can’t I accept my own advice or get better? I’ve worked all my life and have a lot to offer, but here I am stuck, useless, festering, succumbing, sinking, drowning, hiding.

So I need a plan or a long-term goal. Something. Anything. Otherwise I’m either going to become so lethargic I fail to get out of bed one day, or alternatively get on the bike and just cycle as fast as possible in a forlorn attempt to escape myself.

Old house at Whitekirk

Whitekirk with it’s non-white Kirk (the original white Kirk was allegedly burnt down by suffragettes) looms into view. The sky darkens without warning.

Zing! Ouch! Zing! I said OUCH already! Zing….fizzzz.

This isn’t just a rain shower, this is a Scottish rain shower  – with perfectly formed, icy stinging hailstones! It’s May, c’mon! These wee buggers are cunningly designed like dum-dum bullets. They sting when they impact, and then, as your body heat instantly melts them they spread out and splatter much more ice-cold water than a mere raindrop could deliver.

Drookit (soaked) in seconds.

We shelter under the only cover in sight – a trailer in a field with a tent-shaped two sided wooden sign advertising the local golf range’s Sunday Carvery. It’s not a tent one would wish to spend the night in but it suffices as a makeshift one for the few infuriating minutes until the bonkers Scottish Spring weather reverts back to a patch of intense sunshine. The heat is such we are probably 90% dry by the time we’ve cycled another mile.

We’ve set off from North Berwick to kill time cycling whilst the young master tackles his Higher English exam. Tantallon Castle first stop we fancy – until we cycle in and find they are charging £5 EACH to visit a ruin. Ok, it’s reasonably well preserved but still, on the offbeat tracks we cycle we regularly pass myriad hidden ruins of castles and once-proud manor houses, and as we only wanted a quick look before cranking on we pass. The kiosk and wall blocking the drive up to the castle means we couldn’t have taken the bikes up to keep them in safe view in any event.

Old Smithy

Binning Woods looks tempting again but it’s still been too showery which makes the logging trails into the deep woods soaking and flooded so we pass it by leaving it as an itch to be scratched at a later date….and fly onwards towards Tyninghame and one of the ‘raison d’etre’ for cycling – tea rooms. Tyninghame (old English – Hamlet on the (river) Tyne) is a beautiful wee village with impressive red stone cottages. The tea room is situated within the Old Blacksmiths (Smithy) shop and serves a nice selection of cakes, teas and coffee with a nice sun-trap of a courtyard with outside benches and tables. It also has a rather nice shop full of trinkets, postcards, tat and whimsy. The tea is good, the millionaires shortcake a welcome sugar boost. The chocolate brownie cake is good if not up to the benchmark standards of the cafe at Merryhatton Garden Centre at East Fortune, and the prices are very reasonable indeed. The coffee can be brewed as potent as you like – the caffeine kick might be just what is needed before the climb up the steep hill as we turn and head back towards North Berwick. The spring showers that loom in the sky skirt over us as we chill and munch, but don’t in the end give us our second drooking of the day.

The wee steep climb back up to intersect with the John Muir Way is a killer but worth it to enjoy the nice shortish sections of forest singletrack with lots of wee dips, banks and climbs (it’s called a walk but this has – HAS – to have been carved through the woods by a cyclist). This is a great section of the route, fast and twisty, and the broad smile erupts on the riders face and creeps from ear to ear threatening to split one’s head in two – nothing beats forest singletrack when you are on a mountain bike.

The pace slows as the John Muir Way turns into grassy tracks which are harder going. This route, which  consists of lots of interconnected individual paths and tracks, has  many heavy gates to hold open or fences to heave the bikes over which also makes progress more leisurely. It’s still a good effort to connect it together to run 43km. We climb gently up towards North Berwick Law. Once up there is a nice fast section down to the car park, and we pass what I thought was a radio ham coming down from the top of the hill with a tri-pole antenna. She is eagle-eyed, tho, and spots that it is actually a member of the RSPB checking bird numbers by listening in for their leg or wing-mounted transponders.

Back into North Berwick in nice time to rack up the bikes and pick up the budding young writer from his exam.

Miles: 15  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 0  Cake: 1  Tea: lashings  Hailstones: billions  Calories burned: 1100  Mechanical problems: 0  Nettle stings: a couple  Tosser motorists: 0  Moronic cyclists: 0 

Manor House

Cranking along at 19mph nearly home and there’s a glimpse of brown through the hedgerow. Then another glimpse. It’s moving quickly. Probably more deer like those that crossed the track whilst we were cycling the quagmire that is Garelton Walk near Whitekirk, where the motorbike eroded ruts were so deep the only way to keep going is to preserve momentum as the ground either side is too high to allow pedaling.

Slurp! Sticky…sticky….thump! Momentum lost….splat! Dumped in the mud. Ouch. Stop laughing at the back.

It wasn’t deer as the next flash is black & white…as the hedgerow dipped and the road rose we saw the craziest sight come into view. Cows. Lot’s of cows. Cows. Racing. Us. Haphazardly canting along the hillside like be-costumed It’s A Knockout contestants. It was the second unofficial race we became embroiled in. The cows were much more civilized and agreeable than the first set of opponents.

The track that intersects the John Muir Way is taking us towards Binning Woods before we then head to the afore-mentioned Garelton Walk. It’s in reasonable shape, old sometimes broken access road. But it stinks. WHAT is that smell? It coats your lungs and nasal passages and doesn’t leave. The smell of putrefaction lasts over a mile. The only explanation is either this is where the (now dead) sperm whale from Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy interfaced with the planet and ended his short period of existence by learning that gravity is, indeed, a bitch,  or, as the lad suggests, maybe the US didn’t dump Bin Laden’s body at sea, instead they fired his corpse out the back of a C-130 transport plane somewhere over rural East Lothian!

Binning woods was soaking too, tracks with deep wet tractor ruts. We stay on the main route through, avoiding the various logging paths which are flooded at the bottom as they run off down the hill. This is a small working forestry with logs stacked along both sides of the track.

Tyninghame. Back on the road as the sodden, muddy paths were not hospitable to us today. In the distance a huge pack of road cyclists, possibly a racing club. We tank it down the hill to the bottom at which we are turning right to avoid being caught with this huge pack. We beat them down easily and turn off. Oncoming traffic means the lad has to wait patiently to turn. He positions himself perfectly just to the side of the line in the middle. The racers catch up.

Two abreast. Three abreast.

“You could be a bit quicker next time”

shouts one of the racers, as if encouraging a youngster to throw himself in front of a car just to prevent them from having to – lord forbid – steer, brake or yield even an inch of tarmac despite the lad having the right of way. The Mum gives them a severe dose of invective but this does not dampen our frustration and indignation at these events, particularly when a slower rider we speak to tells us one of the same group told him “to get out of the fucking way for fuck’s sake” as they passed him. Like a swarm of angry bees, these brightly-coloured carbon-mounted menaces arrogantly assume they own the road and can ignore any and all rules whilst being rude and discourteous to fellow road users. Rings a bell doesn’t it – it will be EXACTLY the same patter they espouse over lunch when discussing motorists. Most of whom, perhaps surprisingly, we have found to be very patient and careful on the rural roads we cycle in between paths and tracks. Disappointing and fuels the “all cyclists are menaces” mantra.

Hailes Castle

We fuel up in East Linton with picnic stuff to take over to Hailes Castle which lies south of Traprain. It’s an extensive ruin next to the River Tyne and is a great place to picnic at as we stuff back some well earned calories. The lad is getting better – and braver. He attempts to defeat gravity on a grassy downhill Evil Kinevel would have given second thoughts, and goes over the handlebars for a muddy faceplant. He gets up mostly unharmed and much wiser.

The rain wisely decides against pissing off  gravity and begins splattering the earth – and us – as we near Haddington. It’s warm and very humid so the rain isn’t terribly irritating – hey you can only get so wet anyway. But it accompanies us through Haddington and up the Aberlady Road and round Camptoun. Despite this, and perhaps due to the effort of the climb up from Haddington, this is the only point of the ride that I get in the zone and tune out all the’s been a frustrating cycle today….I find myself whistling Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” for who knows what reason as we crank on towards home and our short race with the CCRT – Cravendale* Cows Racing Team!

Jeux San Frontiers indeed.

Miles: 22  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 0  Sandwiches: 2  Mud: lashings  Calories burned: 1639  Mechanical problems: 1 minor  Nettle stings: too many  Tosser motorists: 0  Moronic cyclists: lots

*Cravendale is a double-filtered milk which is apparently soooo good the cows will come back to reclaim it – at least in the mind of some overly-paid ad man.

The beasties hover and ambush you in groups as you hurtle through their airspace.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

Forming a pattern like they’ve been fired from some ancient blunderbuss. They don’t hurt, but they leave gooey marks if they impact hard enough that their heads and tails become one as they splatter your cycling jersey.

“Are you going far” asks the friendly old wifey, who, with her rotund midriff and wide brimmed hat, looks like a colonial governor on safari in the jungle as she ceremonially stalks the first part of the ‘way’, shooting pesky natives with her fly-filled blunderbuss.  She seems impressed with the intended trip – we’ve come down to East Linton, East Linton > North Berwick following the John Muir Way – a series of paths and rights of way that are joined together to provide an off-road walking and cycling route that stretches from Muir’s birthplace of Dunbar along 45 miles of coastline, also joined by the East Linton spur.

Apart from the odd wasp chewing sour-puss, most people are happy to share these trails and chat, and I always proffer a cheery ‘hello & thank you’ to everyone I pass, even those who look like they’ve just seen Beelzebub come into view atop a bike and just stare as they try to process your appearance.

Duck…weave…hop….brake..BRAKE…climb…out the saddle…batter on……the second part of forest singletrack is superb, fast enough to whizz along, lot’s of twists and mini climbs and dips, with roots, stumps and the odd sticking out branch all coming at you fast to keep you on your pedals.

North Berwick is heaving with tourists of almost every nationality, with the whole place planted with myriad flowers and in bloom it’s a riot of colour in the brilliant sunshine. I put back 500 of the near 2000 calories I’ll burn today with a quick lunch before cracking on towards Gullane. Astonishingly quickly we come on Yellowcraig beach…the ice cream van is tempting but a new ice cream shop in Gullane is the next destination so we forego Mr Whippy’s facsimile for the real thing.

Archerfield House

The signage is good but not perfect for the route to Gullane – we skirt along the golf course path a little further but soon connect back up, and also take an unintended detour past the magnificent Archerfield House before jumping back on the path.

There’s a biplane of all things buzzing alongside and above us as we come out of Archerfield Estate into Gullane. For giggles I wave at the pilot and to my surprise he spots me and flicks on the smoke switch. He then, to our delight, does a couple of sorties over his new appreciative audience. Brilliant!

The ice cream is cold yet begins melting immediately in the increasingly warm sunshine. It’s good, creamy and well-earned as there be hills soon. Don’t pass through Gullane without sampling!

We detour off the path before it continues to Aberlady and head past Myreton Motor Museum. I’ve passed this several times before but never visited and I don’t break that habit today at least. It looks deserted anyway.

The path shown by the map at Ballencrieff has been ploughed and planted so we didn’t get to Camptoun that way – had to double back and head up the road, slog..slog…slog…..then the fast bit back home.

Good times. GOOD times.

Miles: 27  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 1 Cake: 0 Calories burned: 1737  Mechanical problems: 0  Tosser motorists: 1

“Pull yourself together, man”. “Leave your problems at home. I look forward to leaving mine and getting into work”. “Tablets only change people, I didn’t recognize my friend when he took them”.

And so on. It’s amazing how many people become experts when they learn that you are suffering from clinical depression.

I suffer. Badly.

Tablets help but don’t cure. Some days are better than others. Some days I don’t want to get up for fear of how low my mood is. Other days I berate myself for being so self-indulgent and how it’s always about ‘me’. I hate myself most of the time. My psychiatrist cancelled my third appointment due to illness and hasn’t arranged another one.

But, there just might be a smidgeon of hope at the end of the tunnel that just maybe, just maybe isn’t an express train.


Cycling’s easy. You just jump on, keep the bars true and push one crank down and sure enough, the other foot will push the other crank down and you’re off. And that’s it, by and large.

Cycling’s hard. That hill seems to get steeper the further you climb. And all you have to rely on to fight gravity and a lifetime of destructive comfort eating is your two legs, and lungs that never seem to grab enough of a share of the atmosphere to keep your legs oxygenated. But you make it. And as you coast the hill, the view floods into your renewed senses, your heartbeat slows and then…the descent.

Woo-hoo! Is it really safe to go this fast with only an inch and a bit of contact with the road from each tyre? Ah sod it. Wheeee!

It’s called cycling presumably as it describes the cycle of the cranks from 12 o’clock back to 12 o’clock. That simple, effective method of self-propulsion actually demands that both sides of your brain are in perfect harmony, each hemisphere controlling the opposite side of the body. You zone out as your mind settles into this calming, rhythmic state. For once no damaging thoughts, the only baggage with you is physical not mental. No one can hurt me out here yet I’m not in a car which always goes and comes back as quickly as possible. I can go..anywhere. Faster than walking..slow enough to enjoy the scenery. One day I might not go home and just keep cycling and see where I end up.

“It’s a dangerous business going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to”.

Cycling helps.