A few weeks ago I took a bit of a twitter bashing. I hasten to add that this has nothing to do with Alfred Hitchcock and everything to do with social networking. My twitter inbox was momentarily lit with a number of tweets intimating that the title of my book Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder was offensive and poorly chosen. These tweets originated from an OCD sufferer who had asked the question of others who’ve succumbed to the disorder.
At first I was mystified at the offence, the title had been chosen to parody my own obsession, but then I dug a little further. I spent some time on the OCDUK website and began to realise where the complaints were coming from. Make no mistake, OCD is a long recognised condition that causes untold stress to those who shoulder its burden. I realised that the problem many sufferers have is the simple recognition that they suffer from a serious malady rather than some comedy aliment that we should all laugh at. Repeatedly cleaning light switches may seem a hoot to you and me, but one who is compelled to repeatedly clean them would do anything to be released from the compulsion.
I took time to mull this over and also reviewed my own actions in the past when dealing with a friend who also suffers. Truth be told, I’d not really taken his condition seriously. I’d laughed along with the rest and so I began to understand why these twitter strangers were upset with the title of my book.
I found myself torn. On one hand the title clearly underlines my own obsession with cycling, but as they had pointed out, I’m not unhappy with my obsession and am not seeking any kind of release. So I attempted to reassure that I’d chose it as a parody of me rather than the condition and added a paragraph to the print and e-books underlining this fact and pointing readers to the OCDUK site where they could read and understand as I had. I can’t change the title of the book as it’s linked to an ISBN number. Additionally it appears to be providing a tiny public service as I regularly receive emails from partners blaming me for bike purchases that the other half has made after finishing the book.
Now, this leaves me with a problem. I have a number of obsessions and I now need a new set of nomenclatures to describe them. As the OCD tweeters pointed out, these are not stressful compulsions, they’re things I have to do because I’m odd. Let’s call them “davizms” instead.
Davizm number one is drinking from mugs with a white interior. I cannot explain why but I only like tea or coffee from mugs with a white inside. I developed this davizm about ten years ago after getting into proper coffee. Wine drinkers will nod along with me, red wine is just wrong unless it is quaffed from a proper wide necked glass. It’s the same with coffee, white interior or it tastes like dishwater.
Davizm number two is pretty common I’m sure, but when walking along pavements I have to either avoid the cracks or step symmetrically on top of them. I’ve been doing this subconsciously for a long time now, but the daily walk to the office has brought it front of mind. I can step on cracks if I’m distracted by conversation or Clare Grogan, but when walking on my own I end up playing urban twister.
Then there’s apples. I eat every single bit of the apple minus the stalk. I don’t know why, the core tastes rank, but I have to and for some reason it upsets me to see others leave a core. I have no idea where this davizm came from as we were particularly well fed as kids and Mum had a special gadget that automatically sliced and cored our apples for us. I think a bit of my little finger is still somewhere in the kitchen of our old house after I had a go myself.
There are many other davizms to add to this list, but the next one is actually causing me some physical pain. I really can’t abide possessing any body fat. Now, I have real potential to offend again as there are many who suffer from eating disorders that could be glibly described as I have above. But let’s be clear about my condition, it is not a compulsion that leads me to extreme actions, it’s more of a “for fucks sake where did that come from and how am I going to get rid of it now”. These two questions are easy to answer.
Let’s start with “where did that come from”. The answer is always “beer and cake” the two culinary accoutrements that supplement my usually healthy diet. My body deals with both of them in a strange manner, instead of funnelling them off to offset some energy I’ve used, it stores them on my arse for a rainy day. Evolution is known for its experiments and in my case it wondered what would happen if it could come up with a human beer/cake camel, so it had a quick go with me.
Now I know there are hands up at the back ready to tell me that the simple answer is to avoid them. But I don’t want to. I work really bloody hard and in the past few months have worked seriously long hours on some quite complex stuff. Working in an SME means that Mr Grace never makes an appearance to congratulate my stellar performance so a few pints of IPA on a Friday will have to do instead. The same applies to my lunchtime cake, you corporate types have encouraging emails from head office or motivational posters to spur you on, I have Greggs.
Most evenings I carry out the fat test in the privacy of my bedroom. All clothes are discarded, I turn sideways to the mirror and bend over, if anything bulges out from the stomach region then the test is failed. This went badly wrong recently when Helen caught me mid-test and I had a lot of explaining to do. I’ve failed the test consistently for weeks and therefore been spurred into action. In my case the solution is simple, if I bulge after bending, I have to cycle, lots, until I don’t bulge anymore.
Now in summer this is fine as there’s plenty of opportunity to get out and have a bash at my fatty hula hoop. Long days and decent weather offer up all sorts of opportunity for a ride even late in the day after a long session at work. Clearly winter is a problem. It gets dark far to quickly and I’m never organised enough to have working bikes and charged lights in sync. Additionally the weather sends its own little message of discouragement varying from “are you feeling lucky?” to “ you can try mate , but I’ve gathered the lads and Wind is bringing his shotgun”.
In winter ride frequency invariably goes down. The only answer is to react with mileage and for the past three weekends I’ve come out fighting. November’s meant to be about recovery, reflection, goal setting and short rides with the family to the pub. In my case it’s boiled down to two stupidly long excursions into Wales and a Cotswold offroad hillfest that even Helen marked down as “mad” and she’s seen a lot over the years. Each of these rides has been over 100 miles long and written off a Sunday. Now you see where the physical pain comes from that mentioned earlier I doubt even Lance has a pill that can mitigate Clyffe Pypard hill after 90 miles.
The cakes and beer are compelling me to ride. I could easily break this chain or claim that I suffer from some compulsion but the truth is I don’t. I’m secretly happy with the whole situation. How can an all day ride through the Cotswolds with not a soul on the trails be a bad thing? And how can one criticise the cakes and beer that led to it. I’m sure some medical type could mention arteries, cholesterol or all sorts of other warnings linked to my little pleasures. I’ll definitely listen if they can keep up on Clyffe Pypard hill. It looks like this davizm will continue into next year. My post ride shower confirms a mini-bulge and we’ve only ticked off item 45 of a googol at work.