Bicycles – yes.
For my Saturday Slice this week, I thought I’d talk about bicycles. Innocuous things bicycles aren’t they?
Well. In my case, they are the two , sometimes three and the odd occasion, the one wheeled devils from Hell. Let’s start when I was three yrs old……….
We lived on the upper floor of a maisonette. There were four apartment on each floor, eight in the block. So, four families shared the landing.
From my front door to the left, there were two sets of concrete steps, which led to another landing. Then, another two sets to the ground floor and out.
And….I was 3 yrs old……… I’ve no recollection of the incident, but, apparently the bold Dave, decided to cycle out the front door, to the stairs, down the first set of 5, and, promptly down the second set of 13, landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom. Somehow, I survived with only a scrieve on my chin.
At the time, my mother probably thought badly of herself for leaving the bloody door open, and, that I was just an inquisitive stupid wee boy. It was two years later when I started primary school, they discovered I was so short sighted, I probably didn’t even see the steps. Yes, I was the Blind Evel Knievel and lucky to be alive.
From then on, I think I generally avoided bikes until I was about twelve. My parents weren’t loaded with money and they bought me this second hand red bike for £5. It was a carthorse of a bike, but, it was a bike, and the gift horses mouth, which I shouldn’t have been looking into, was wide open.
My school was the other side of town, and, I do recall cycling the thing down Hardthorn Rd, into town, down by the river to school. I don’t think I’d had the bike that long when, one day, I left the school gates, and turned right down the hill. It was raining. I arrived at the junction and applied brakes to stop…………..I SAID ‘APPLIED BRAKES TO STOP’……….STOP…..STOP….DAMN YOU….STOP……..BANG!! In the wet, on this £5 bike, with both feet on the ground and brakes full ‘on’ I slid right across the junction, hitting another cyclist just in front of a bus coming the other way. There we were, a total stranger and I entwined in bicycle chains and useless brake pads. The bus fortunately decided to stop a few feet away, not adding to the rain drenched ignominy, by squashing us flat. The gentleman who I’d carted turned out to be really nice, accepting my red faced apology before happily going on his way. At this point, I probably should have realised bicycles and I were not made for each other. However, the arrival of a brand new shiny white Puch Alpine racer was surely about to change my luck…………… My friend had a Bultaco 250 cc trail motorbike and, we used to take turns at racing across fields on it. One day it needed petrol. So, we set of with 5 litre cans on our bicycles to the petrol station. We didn’t have anything to carry them in so we were holding them on one hand while steering with the other. We were yards from Nirvana (the petrol station) when the empty petrol can caught in my front wheel….. WHAM…..I was down in the middle of the road. All I heard was the screech of brakes behind me. Lying prostrate, I waited for the pain to arrive in some part of my body, but it never did. (tick in the box 1 – I have not broken anything). I turned my head, to find the front bumper of a Ford, inches from my face. I had been lucky again. ☺ An hour later, instead of sitting in casualty or worse, we were hurtling the Bultaco across the fields again, as if nothing had ever happened. A few weeks later, having got over my near miss, in the height of summer, unbeknown to me, my hormones were taking over my brain. Instead of just playing football all day, chemicals in my system were now telling my adolescent brain it was time to start ‘impressing the ladies’. So, in full headdress and with chest feathers puffed out, I found myself cycling past ‘the girl from across the road’. Since I was a specky eyed spotty geek the tetesterone in my blood, decided I’d have to impress her with some bravado. So, I took both hands of the handlebars and looked over toward her. She smiled and waved. I smiled back, her beautiful eyes glinted, my specky four eyes glinted back, she seemed to flush slightly, I……..HIT A CAR BECAUSE I WASN’T BLOODY PAYING ATTENTION AND LANDED ON THE BONNET!!!! She is probably still laughing at me as any hope of my first romance faded as my Puch Alpine racer lay crumpled in a heap and I slid off the bonnet on top of it.
You would think that would have been it, and, it was for a while. I left home, and while studying, I got a summer job working for a Chemical company in Lancashire. I was living with a divorced woman and her two teenage boys. It was ok, nice place, used to watch cricket on the weekend. The weather that summer was nice. The only hassle was the walk to work. The factory was about a thirty minute walk downhill all the way and it was a fair trudge up each evening. However, I was young, fit and. except when it was raining, not in a hurry to get home. It was bicycle free heaven. However, one day the owner of the house offered me her sons racer to get to work. I decline, but she insisted and I eventually caved in. The steep hill would see me at work in 5 minutes. Returning home would be a hard cycle, but I could go the long and less steep way, and still save time. So, I headed off on the boys bike. The first two days went fine. It was great. I’d never loved bicycles so much. Then, on day 3, BAD things happened. There was a sharp corner on the steep hill down to work. I was just about at it, going full pelt, when the bike went one way, I went another, and I found myself lying against a wall on the pavement. I looked at the bike. The Derailleur gear mechanism had sheared, dove straight into the back wheel, jamming it, sending me into the bicycle abyss again. I lifted myself up, and carried the bike to work. As the day wore on I realised I’d have to carry the bike all the way home up the bloody hill. I bloody hated bicycles.
When I eventually reached ‘home’, I found the mother, and told her what had happened. I expected a bit of sympathy, as I apologised for a fault which I had no part in. Instead, she went a bit berserk, and gave me a row for ‘breaking her sons bike’. I wasn’t spoken to for3 days and my summer was never the same again. 😥
I’ve left out the story of ice racing and ending up under a parked truck with two of my mates and the time I got stopped by the police for cycling round Robert Burns’s statue with no hands, etc. etc. When I think about it, bicycles are the most dangerous things on the planet ☺ So, that’s my bicycle stories and for years I never went near one, until 5 months ago…….guess what I bought?……………. Watch this space………… ☺ Many thanks to Evelyn Hong for letting me use her bicycle drawings. Find more on twitter @Dotfivesticks ‘Bicycles’ was brought to you by David Linden aka @qosfc1919 and Dodo Productions © 2015