When I was younger I had a paper-round and like many people I used a bike.
There were all sorts of bikes, I even used a bike that had been my Mum’s. I fell out with that particular bike when it’s front wheel locked up one day, throwing me in the air and leaving me with a nice scar in my side.
I’ve no idea why I blame the bike because the incident was completely my fault. If I’d tied my shoelaces properly they would have got stuck in the spokes.
There was a certain fashion to the paper-round boys at that time. We fancied ourselves as real bikers (not cyclist, but bikers). In the winter we wore large leather gloves that came half way up our forearms. Our bikes had to have large cow-horn handle-bars. We would imagine ourselves twisting the handle-bars, with the noise levels rising as the revs kicked in and we floated away into the distance.
It was, of course, a fantasy. The only way that I was going anywhere was through my own power as my legs turned the peddles. Wobbly peddles, riding on worn our bearings, pulling a squeaky chain, through a misaligned derailleur, onto a wheel with even more worn out bearings, to drive a wheel buckled by too many abrupt meetings with curbs.
On one particular occasion this collection of engineering mismanagement nearly cost me my life. I was peddling along (I’d like to say’ powering along’ but I don’t think I was ever that boisterous) when I decided that I needed more speed to manoeuvre around a stationary car.
I stood up on the peddles and pushed hard. As I stamped down the chain bounced off the gears and my stamp met no resistance. The combination of forced flipped the bike from underneath me.
As the bike wrapped itself around me the two of us fell to the ground in a crumpled heap in the middle of the road. With my head on the tarmac I opened my eyes to see the number plate of a double-decker approaching fast and breaking hard. The fact that I am writing this is testament to the responses of the driver and has ability to bring his vehicle under control.
The wide handlebars may have made us feel cool but they were useless when it came to delivering the papers to the alms houses down the narrow alleyway that ran alongside the local common-land.
The large leather gloves were useless for handling the papers and just sucked up the water in the rain.
It didn’t matter what the weather was – the papers needed delivering.
The last house on my normal round was to one of the alms houses. It was there that every morning I received a welcome smile from the elderly couple who lived there.
I’ve been reminded of these events recently. Following a rather thin cycling history since those days I’ve recently been pressing the peddles as a method of getting to work.
These events are part of my heritage and occupy a scene in my story. Each of us is, in many respects, the combination of these events, our stories create our history which forms our heritage.
As a father I see that part of my role is to help to build similar memories for my children. I’m very thankful that I can look back on my history and see many enjoyable occasions and I’d love my kids to have the same heritage.
My cycle to work is quite different to my paper-round experience. I have the luxury of choosing when I go in. If it’s too windy or too wet I can choose to take the car. I’ve purchased the bike through a scheme at work which means that it’s a nice new bike which I’m endeavouring to look after.
All-in-all it’s a much more enjoyable experience.