When Lisa set her cycling prompt for this week’s Bite Size Memoir challenge, the first thoughts that came to mind were not so much the riding on but the falling off a bicycle.
My first bike was for my seventh birthday present. I loved it. We had a narrow pathway between the side of our house and the neighbour’s fencing. I remember practicing riding for hours by keeping one hand on the wall of our house and the other on the fence to help me balance. Oh the joy when at last I was able to ride whilst holding the handlebars instead!
When we moved to Suffolk, I usually had to get the bus to school but on good days in the summer, it was a treat to ride my bike. During the summer holidays, me and my brother hopped on our bikes with our hastily packed lunches (usually consisting of jam sandwiches and a packet of crisps) stuffed into our saddle bags and took off to the nearby town for a game of tennis.
These games usually ended in blazing rows over who had to pick up the balls when we missed our shots (which was constantly). Somehow the bike rides home seemed much quicker than the ones heading out…
We often used to ride out to a nearby village with its isolated, leafy road and steep hill which we loved to race down, hands-free no less. With nothing but the rush of summer air whipping past our heads and the smooth whirr of oiled chains at our feet, we urged each other on to ride faster and faster. So what if we ended up crashing into a bed of nettles with a few stones embedded in our kneecaps from time to time? All part of the fun.
On one particular occasion, our antics backfired. My brother, racing ahead as he always did (even though younger than me but always much more daring) and yelling for me to come after him, suddenly disappeared over his handlebars. A stick or something had jammed into the spokes of his front wheel and now he was face-down on the road.
I cycled as fast as I could to get to him and was horrified by the sight of what looked like to me one of his entire kneecaps sheered off. What to do? I must have learnt something in the Girl Guides (earning my First Aid Badge for one, but a fat lot of good it was going to do for my brother out there in the middle of nowhere).
So I got him up and somehow managed to walk him and both bikes to the first house we came across. A nice, elderly lady took us in and called my mother on the telephone while she bathed my brother’s knee in something antiseptic. Funny what sticks in our minds: I remember her saying something like: “I would put iodine on it but that would send you to the roof!”
Later on, when the panic of the moment had died down, I asked my mother what iodine was. When she told me, I don’t know who was more glad that the elderly lady hadn’t used it – me or my brother!
He ended up going to hospital and had to keep a plastic bag over his dressed wound for the rest of the summer to keep it dry. Since we spent a few weeks that summer in Brighton with my dad, trying to keep my baby brother out of the sea and his wound dry proved to be darn near impossible. But that’s another story.
So with all these cycling memories coming to the fore, and by no small coincidence harking back to my Girl Guide days, here is my 150 word bite (no more, no less!):
Cycling and Sherlock Holmes
For a year or two I was a Girl Guide. By the time I turned 13 I lost interest, preferring to mope about at home instead.
I loved riding my bike and got the idea that it would be fun to cycle to an evening meeting. Fixed up with a headlamp and dynamo, off I pedalled.
Still light, the rural road was deserted but it was dark for my return, and no street lights. This might not have been a problem had I not just finished reading ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. The surrounding fields were dark and menacing and I was all alone. As I pedalled furiously, those headless hounds of hell, tongues of fire blazing from their necks, chased me all the way home.
Bursting in through the front door, I could hardly breathe. I never did cycle to Guides after that. In fact, I quit soon after.