Friday, 14 December 2012

Wheels and Me .....

 This was me when still at Convent School and before I started having more
 majorly conflicts with machinery!

Reading recently of my daughter Sian's journey on Martha's Vineyard on a tandem 24 years ago put me in mind of my own tandem experiences and others.

I would have been 17 years old and together with my first love we were duffel-coat wearing, CND supporting, Bertrand Russell followers with strong beatnik leanings.   We read James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Sartre, Francoise Sagan and The Outsider by Colin Wilson.   At the time, 1961, coffee bars were the place to hang out and our favourite was Birmingham's La Boheme.  Dark and moody with prints of real paintings on the wall and the constant gurgle of the first espresso machines serving up coffee in smoky see-through glass cups and saucers;  we would stay there for hours, smoking, talking and plotting of love and peace.

We got a tandem and together on weekends we left the grime of the city for the nearest small rivers and fields in nearby Warwickshire.   I lived in a very small bedsit in Handsworth and my new kitten came along with us in a basket on the front of this wonderful piece of machinery.   Also attached to us and the tandem were the fishing rods, keep net and bait.  Then of course, there was the picnic and flask of coffee.    The sun always shone and he taught me to course fish - my great achievement being that of landing a 2lb chub.   I was quite a success as a back of tandem cyclist.

In earlier times when I was 13 years old I was run over by a speeding motor cyclist travelling at a great rate along the Chester Road as my friend, Jean, and I attempted to make our innocent way across to the famed Sutton Park.   Broken legs with compound tibia and fibula fractures, kidney injuries and facial lacerations resulted but unbelievably my parents decided that it would be "too complicated" to claim compensation!   Oh well apart from my much-loved camel coat never recovering, I eventually did, and received lots of undue attention not to mention many gifts of sweets, chocolates, books and my first camera.  I should really have been warned right from the start that wheels and I were not totally compatible.

Aged about five years old and travelling at breakneck speed on my tricycle - yes that's what we all had until 2-wheelers with stabilisers were invented several years later - I whizzed past my mother and baby brother in his pram, past the gaudy flowerbeds of Handsworth Park, past the "Parkie", narrowly avoiding other mothers and babies, down the sloping pathway to the bandstand where I finally careered, landing upside down on the tarmac, to the accompaniment of the Salvation Army playing The Dam Busters, with bleeding knees and minus a couple of teeth.

There was a period from about 14-16 years of age when there was nothing I loved more than my second-hand maroon semi-drop-handled bar bike - there were no casualties during this time and it represented freedom, a total escape from parents and a happy and safe time often with both of my brothers beyond the suburbs of our home.

In the 1980's a friend visited on his Honda 90 motorbike.   When about to leave I asked could I have a go.  Why!!!  No sooner was I on the wretched thing with its accelerator on the handlebars than I had fallen asunder.  The lethal number plate on its, now illegal,  metal arc over the front wheel sliced neatly through my calf flesh.   This time Macclesfield hospital for the stitches but unlike my Birmingham experience no siren bleating just a deal of blood contaminating the passenger side of a friend's car.

For many years following and now a real grown-up, I have steered away from the 2-wheel vehicles.   Just once a few years ago I got my daughter, Kate's, wonderful black classic Raleigh out of the shed and with my husband took a rather stately ride along the Middlewood Way and home again in one piece.    I was told by an onlooker that I looked somewhat imperious travelling along with its sit-up-and-beg handlebars at a cautious, steady pace.

This year, 2012 and following the amazing British Olympics, we were so inspired by all the intrepid male and female cyclists that we took ourselves along to Decathlon and I bought a brand new silvery-blue bicycle - it's lovely, magnificent it has a cross-bar and it's for our 25th wedding anniversary and it's for HIM.   No more cycling for me thanks - I've learned my lesson!