I rang my friend Irene on Friday afternoon.
“You know that cycle shop in Newburn, KB Cycles or something?” (KB Cycles Newburn)
“Well is that the shop you use? It’s just we’ve been in and put a deposit on a couple of bikes.” I paused for a minute to let this sink in. “I am taking up cycling,” I announced grandly.
“Are you? That’s great, but when you were over for coffee yesterday you never mentioned it! You didn’t say a word about it at all. Why not?”
Well there’s a very good reason for my not divulging this key information to my best friend of thirty-four years, an ardent bike rider, and to whom I tell everything whether cycling related or not. The reason? I didn’t know. Heather only told me on Thursday afternoon that I was to become a cyclist, and I took possession of my new bike, helmet, and water bottle on Saturday afternoon. Recent illness has robbed me of my main recreational pursuit (sitting in the pub) and this leaves a gaping void that must be filled. Osteoarthritis and back problems render me unable to run anymore, so I’ve begun cycling. I haven’t been given any choice in the matter; I’ve been bought a bike and informed that I will bloody well get on it.
I must say that the staff in KB Cycles were very good with me. No one laughed when I put my helmet on the wrong way around, and the lady working there stood at the shop doorway holding up a sign with the number 10 on it, as in marks out of, while she observed my wobbly circuit of the car park.
Once I’d got over the surprise element I actually became quite excited. I wheeled my new bike up on to the disused bit of road in Greenside where the old tip used to be. I had the chain dislodged before I’d even set toe to pedal, but at least I managed to work out how to put it back. For a whole hour, I rode up and down the same 500 yards of tarmac, always dismounting to lift my gleaming new piece of machinery over puddles and muddy patches. I reminisced about my childhood, a lot of which was spent on my fixed wheel tricycle riding back and forth on Woodside Lane for days on end, pretending I was driving to work. We spend our childhoods fanaticising about being adults, then we grow up and hark back to the time we were little. It’s true that you don’t ever forget how to ride, and though I’ll never be a Chris Froome, I was considerably more competent by the end of my session than I was at the beginning, and confident enough to ride it all the way back home in full view of the neighbours, all of whom appeared to be unaccountably disinterested.
We were back out again last night, Heather and I, the two of us, a vision of marital bliss. When I crash into the back of Heather it’s because I’m following too close. When she goes into the back of me, it’s a case of, “What the hell did you brake like that for?” Other squabbles emerged over who had which helmet. I chose mine in the shop, but then on closer inspection of Heather’s headgear last night, I realised that hers has flashes on it that perfectly match the lilac trim on my bike. I pressed her to swap, and she agreed, but only if she could have the orange reflector things attached to the spokes of my wheels. Not a chance.
Did you know that there are two five o’ clocks in one day? I used to know this because I worked shifts, but for the past year I’ve been doing office hours so I’d forgotten. I was reminded again on Sunday morning when we tipped up at Blaydon Car Boot Sale at 5.30am, hoping to transform DVD’s and books into hard cash. I’m prejudiced against both traders and customers at car boot sales, believing that there’s something shady and peculiar about folk who choose to plod about the clarts at dawn. I conveniently overlook the fact that I’m there too, rain dripping through my collar and all the way down my spine. I view myself as a superior observer, even as I yell, “All DVD’s one pound only, just a pound, come on everything a pound, even the box sets.”
I’ve done well at sales in the past, never leaving without at least a seventy quid profit. However with the advent of Ebay, and the low-cost of downloading films on to hard drive and books on to Kindles, the demand for entertainment media at car boot events has apparently diminished. We were back in the house by eight, tucking into the bacon sandwiches we bought on our way home, paid for with our ten quid takings.