In 2009 I eased up on the bike a little in the June-July period, punctures and a work project got in the way a little. Besides, that year the Pink Lady was suffering from a frozen shoulder so there was less pressure to venture out into the country. I missed the quickness of riding a bike backwards and forwards to work; that and it helped me to keep the weight down.
Then the bike was back in action and for the latter half of 2009 and a month or so of 2010 I was back in the saddle. Then problems with the bike occurred again.
After a month or so I got a little fed up with punctures, wheel wobble, a lump in the tyre, stretching cable wires. It seemed no sooner did Velocipede get it working, than another problem occurred.
The Pink Lady berated me:
“Why don’t you go to Mitchell’s Cycles? It’s only a few minutes away?” said she.
“Well…well, I, well, Velocipede does all my repairs…”
“He hasn’t done this one, though, has he?” was the lady’s comeback.
“Well, no, no, he hasn’t…but…”
“And how long has the bike been off the road.”
“Well, a month…” Mumbled I.
“How long?” asked she, again.
“About a month…” I responded, thinking she hadn’t heard.
Then came the ‘less of the bullshit stare’. If one has never been subjected to the Pink Lady’s ‘less of the bullshit’ stare, then one has no right to criticise how easily one falls apart under it.
The stare again.
“….and three weeks…”
“So when is he going to repair it?” demanded the Pink Lady.
“I’m not sure, I mean he’s busy, one doesn’t like to push…” I stammered.
“Have you asked?”
“Well, not exactly asked. Did mention there was a spot of bother…”
“The bike’s bloody useless, with the brakes going and a wobbly tyre and a puncture….?”
“Yes,” I mumbled, even more quietly than before; my foot was drawing patterns in the ground, rather like a sulky child.
“So are you going to ring him, asking him for a firm date?”
I was caught between defence of a friend, whom I hadn’t stated any urgency to, and trying to tactfully move the conversation on.
“I think he’s on holiday…” again, mumbling. I don’t think I was the mumbling sort until I met the Pink lady.
“Then take it to Mitchell’s Cycles…get it sorted out!”
I frowned, speaking a little more loudly. “Can’t do that. I mean if I didn’t let Velocipede do the repairs he’d be offended, he’d think I’d lost confidence in him!”
“Rubbish, Fitrambler, it has nothing to do with hurting Velocipede’s feelings. It’s because you’re a tight fisted git. You don’t want to spend the ten or twenty quid…”
“Ten or twenty quid,” I exclaimed.
“Yes, ten or twenty quid, if you want to get it done and it’d be ready within twenty-four hours.”
“Well, maybe, but I ought to give Velocipede another call, let him have a chance…”
“Tight fisted…” she repeated.
“Now look here, I’ll have you know that that’s the last thing I am…Me, tight fisted, how can you say such a thing!”
“Easy, you always procrastinate when it comes to spending money. ‘I’ll buy it later, when the price comes down,’ or ‘I’ll think about it’. By the time your wallet sees the light of day or you’ve thought about it the thing’s gone.”
“I’m hurt. Miser, that’s what you’re saying. Nothing could be further from the truth…”
“So you’ll be taking the bike to Mitchell’s Cycles then, to get it sorted out.”
It was, I am afraid to admit, a trap I fell into. To prove I wasn’t a miser I had to get the bike repaired at Mitchell’s Cycles. But I didn’t do it immediately (ha, ha!). I can do defiance!
A few days later I went into Mitchell’s Cycles and pointed out the problems with the bike and they quoted me about eighty quid. So much for the Pink Lady’s ten to twenty quid quote. Well, ok, it wasn’t just a tyre, it was the brakes, and the gears were a little in need of a touch of the old TLC.
While I was there I made some enquiries about something which bothered me ever since I’d taken up cycling again. Being upright when cycling. I saw people who were upright when cycling and yet I was always bent forward, no matter how high Velocipede put the handlebars.
The chap in the shop showed me a few bikes he called ‘sit up and beg’ bikes. I saw a Dawes, Town and Country and straight away I was smitten. There are only a few things that I have admired almost immediately – Pink Lady aside – but this bike was one of them.
I gave it a little thought, my bike wouldn’t be ready until Saturday. I told them there was no hurry; besides, the longer it took them the more I could sigh at the Pink Lady and say “Mitchell’s Cycles, not as fast as you led me to believe.” Alright, a little childish but…
Anyway, the more I thought about the other bike, the Dawes, the more I got the feeling I just had to have it. I didn’t mention this to the Pink Lady, just told her about the cost and the time it’d take Mitchell’s to do the job on the old bike.
So, a bit of a conspiracy played across the old noggin, not realising that soon I would be involved in an even bigger one not of my own making…
I decided to buy the bike and when we next went out for a ride I would bring the new bike along and surprise her. The only person I told about the new bike was Velocipede before I bought it, asking his advice.
Within twenty-four hours I was riding the new bike, new lights, and adjusted as needed. I rode to work for about seven working days when the Pink Lady was going shopping one Sunday and decided to use her bike.
I was clocking up about eight miles a day but still was not really all that fit.
When I got into town I parked the bike, locked it up and saw the Pink Lady’s bike parked a couple of bikes up from me. So, I met up with the Pink Lady and we had coffee before going round the shops.
While we were having coffee, the Pink Lady asked. “So, what’s the progress on your bike?”
Carefully, I said: “The old bike is being repaired, needs quite a few things doing to it.”
“So you haven’t got your bike with you?”
“I said, the old bike is with Mitchell’s,” I repeated, carefully.
We moved onto subjects anew…
A while later I walked with the Pink Lady to her bike, then, casually took my helmet out of my rutsack. When the Pink lady saw me she frowned.
“You said your bike was being repaired!” she said, and looked amongst the other bikes, frowning all the more. “I can’t see it.”
I smiled as I put my rutsack back on my back, then took out my keys and began unlocking the new bike.
She didn’t quite do a double take but it was close.
“This is my new bike,” I said.
“You never said you’d got a new bike?”
I just smiled. The Pink Lady looked over the bike and approved.
“Well, Fitrambler, as we’ve both got our bikes, how about a ride?” she suggested.
I was full of pride in my new bicycle that the idea seemed a good one.
“Where to?” asked I.
“I’ve been wanting to look at the path that leads to Chiseldon,” replied she.
That seemed okay to me, finding the beginning of a path to Chiseldon, not as though it will be all that far?
“Not too far, then.”
“Oh no,” said she, “not too far at all…”
Distances are relative to the person. A couple of of our short rides in the past have been rather long in my opinion, but one has managed. But I felt on safe ground with what she had suggested.
However, we weren’t going far, so I went along with it. After all, finding the new cycle path to Chiseldon wasn’t the same as riding it all the way to Chiseldon was it?
So, off we go, Fitrambler following the jean-clad bottom so familiar on bike rides. We went to the bottom of town and follow the Canal all the way to Old Town. Then it was onwards to Coate Water and beyond that to a road I knew from a previous ride. It was here I got a little worried because the last time I was on this road it led to a bloody great hill. My feelings on hills are well documented. But we only went a hundred or so yards before we turned off in what looked at first like someone’s stone chipped drive but led through into Coate Water.
We continued on and I began to identify familiar parts of Coate Water for over ten minutes before we were through and then almost to the motorway. This is where I began to get a little suspicious; especially when I saw the twisty-bridge thingy.
We got level with the twisty-bridge thingy – or rather the Pink Lady did – and began cycling up it.
I tried to register a protest here – like had we not gone far enough and how much further after the bridge – but the distance and noise of the bloody traffic drowned me out.
So, no choice but to go up the twisty-bridge thing, which I did and got to the other side, whereby it was downhill. There the Pink Lady slowed to see if I was still there but before I could shout out a protest it was arse chasing time again as she was off!
The route seemed straight enough until it veered off to the right and became rather steep; actually bloody steep.
Hill, bloody hill. Ahhh God!
Off went the Pink Lady, the distance between us increasing. There was something very familiar about the territory. As I moved through the gears and fortunately with this new bike there were more of them, I began to curse and swear.
I barely managed to get to the top of thing long and winding road (all due respect to the Beatles), but when I did I wasn’t a happy bunny.
I parked the bike about twenty feet away from where the Pink Lady was. I was trying to decide whether or not to throw the bike in the bushes or at the Pink Lady! This wasn’t what I agreed too.
Anyway hot and sweaty I calm down and the bike doesn’t get imbedded in the ground or indeed the Pink Lady – gentlemanly instincts prevailing. I leant it against a fence and walked ten or more yards away from the Pink Lady until all aggressive thoughts died down.
“Chiseldon,” said she.
“Great!” I responded in a less than enthusiastic tone.
As far as I saw it I’d gone three times as far as I planned and discovered there must be a language barrier between us. The Pink Lady originates from Nottingham, a place I have only visited once on official business door to door and not actually venturing out. So I was thinking now that ‘finding the path’ to somewhere meant not only finding it but following it to its logical bloody conclusion.
Thinking back it reminded me of my pub trips with Ol’ Blameworthy. He would often suggest a pub he was taking us to was just around what turned out to be the biggest and longest corner in existence.
Finally, we take the journey home….
The following day, Monday, (walking like I was a member of the John Wayne impressionist society) I texted Velocipede and we arranged a bike ride for the coming Friday, despite my aches.
But, in view of yesterday’s experiences with the Pink Lady I decided I’d lay out some ground rules.
Velocipede assured me this will not be the case and he has a route in mind which will suit me nicely.
Being an amiable sort of chap, I believed him.
Friday arrived and we decide first to go over our childhood turf. So from the old Fitrambler residence we follow the Queens Drive until we get to Park South. We looked over our old houses, took a few photos of the front and back, and then cycle the way we would have done had we been going to school; really doing the memory lane thing.
Then from there we looked around the shopping centre opposite our old school and then back towards Coate Water. I let Velocipede lead and as went past Coate, turned into the same lane as the one the Pink Lady did last Sunday, I began to get a little tingle up the spine. More tingling as we turned up the driveway and started cutting our way through Coate Water.
No, I tell myself, following this bit is just a coincidence, a ride round Coate means nothing….
But when we rode past Coate Water and onto a side road, which then lead through some gates and exactly on the path through Coate Water which I travelled the previous Sunday with the Pink Lady, the spine is positively pin-prinkingly tingling!
I frowned but remembered the text. No hills and Velocipede agreed to that. I was wrong to doubt the chap, he just wouldn’t do that to me.
We followed the route until we got to the helter-skelter thingy.
We stopped there for a few seconds.
“Um, where are we going?”
“Over that,” he said, pointing to the helter-skelter thingy.
“Yes, and then?”
“A pub,” he tells me pleased.
“But there’s a bloody hill between the pub and the hill, isn’t there.”
His face wrinkles as little as he says: “Nah, not really.”
I think for a second or two and decide – quite naively as it turns out – that Velocipede probably knows an non-hill route on the other side. I mean, the agreement was no hills! (Yes, clutching at straws by now!)
Then he’s off again and I have no choice but to follow…
…UP A BLOODY GREAT TWISTY HILL. THE SAME BLOODY TWISTY HILL AS LAST SUNDAY!
I do a little better this time. Trying to concentrate on important things ahead to take my mind off the strain.
“Beer and pub, beer and pub…” I chant to myself, almost trying to put myself into a trance.
But as I struggled to get to the top, I rapidly began to wonder which part of my text ‘No hills’ he hadn’t understood?
Finally we reached the promised pub only to find it’s bloody closed! It’s either being refurbished or being converted into flats or a house. I don’t know which but I’m not happy.
But Velocipede recovers from the temporary disappointment and says there is another one quite near we can try and, surprise, surprise, the route is via another large hill! Oh joy!
Happiness and old Fitrambler weren’t having any quality time together this evening.
In the midst of my tiredness, moaning and general demeanour of being pissed off at people who have difficulty digesting the phrase ‘I don’t like hill’, a theory begins to form.
It is a bloody conspiracy!
Tired and perhaps a touch delirious – it was a long day – I remembered Velocipede and the Pink Lady had met a couple of times at the monthly sojourn at the Glue Pot. Both committed cyclists for most of their lives!
Who’s to say they haven’t spoken to each other without me present or indeed while I might have been distracted talking to Wellread?
Can they think I’d really be naïve as to think two bike rides in a week should follow the same route and be put down as coincidence? No, no, no. A bloody conspiracy, I tell you!
Yep. Had to be a put up job. Yes, they were trying to kill me, I knew they were, no other explanation…my left eye was beginning to twitch by now and I was quietly manically laughing to myself…
We eventually left Chiseldon, made our way to Badbury and the Bakers Arms.
It was a long time ago when I last drank in that establishment. One of the first times was with Ol’ Blameworthy, when we worked at the same Company together back in the very late 1970s, early 1980s. Memories of darts games and copious amounts of 2Bs flowed through the old noggin.
Now the bar was knocked into one, making the place a lot more spacious. There was a quiz on and most of the seats were taken. Although the 2Bs was on we both decided to have Cider. I wasn’t sure of the strength, but it wasn’t very powerful falling down water.
It was a lovely evening (if you didn’t count the hills and the conspiracy). So we made our way through to the back garden. There were only two other people in the garden.
About thirty to forty minutes later we were back on the bikes and off, the way home.
Fortunately, any hills we confronted was a descent and not an ascent, so it was a little better. In fact where hills are concerned going down them is not a bother, I rather recommend it.
Still, (hills not included) it was a rather pleasant evening out. It was nice to see an old drinking hole, to see how it’d changed over the years.
However, no one will convince me that Velocipede and the Pink Lady didn’t conspire under the dubious pretext of humour, to put me through the same gruelling ride twice in one week!
I’m not paranoid, they really are out to get me….