They say, don’t they, that you never forget how to ride a bike.
I mean, that’s what they say but I am not about
to put the theory to the test, it being many years since I last entrusted myself to two wheels and a couple of pedals. From memory, I think I owned three cycles in my childhood, including a three-wheeler. I don’t remember this one but there is a charming
photograph of me, aged about three, on a little trike, looking exactly like the Youngest of the Darling Daughters. My hair is in bunches, tied with exuberant ribbons (my dear Mum was an ace at tying ribbons) and were it not for the graininess of the
black and white photograph and the smocked dress I am wearing, I could easily pass for my youngest daughter at the same age.
Bicycle Number Two was a second hand
one, purchased for me, aged about eight, by my dear Dad. It was a dull, black colour and not the least bit stylish but my Dad managed to get hold of some lilac paint and transformed it into, if not a Thing of Beauty, then something approaching it. The addition
of a brand new cycle basket completed the transformation. I loved that bike.
A few years later, one never-to-be-forgotten Christmas, my Little Sister and I were
the excited recipients of a brand new cycle each, bought (I discovered later) through weekly instalments which must have involved much scrimping and saving on the part of our loving parents. This Christmas gift ought to have been a massive surprise except
that I accidentally-on-purpose peeked round the door of my brother’s bedroom where the “Big Surprise” had been hidden. Why I did this is quite beyond me - I had spoiled the surprise for myself for absolutely no good reason. My mother, on
finding me out, implored me not to spoil things for my sister and I, thoroughly chastened, kept my lips tightly sealed. How I wished I hadn’t peered round the door when I witnessed my sister’s unparalleled joy that Christmas morning and had to
feign surprise! I had learnt my lesson the hard way.
Mr B and I bought Our Foursome a brand new cycle each one Christmas. We actually recorded on tape the moment
when they came downstairs on Christmas morning, opened the living room door and breathed in unison: “A bicycle!” It still brings tears to my eyes remembering that precious moment.
On the tape recording the Eldest of the Darling Daughters reminds me that I had said they might not be good enough for bicycles and I can be heard exclaiming, in a dreadfully syrupy voice, “But you WERE good enough!”
To which the Middle of the Darling Daughters, in the interests of honesty, says: “We weren’t at all good really, were we, Mummy?” While this fascinating conversation is underway, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters is experimenting with
the brakes on her tricycle: “This is how you stop it, Mummy. This is how you stop it!” she says, over and over again, with nobody paying her the least attention. She still, to this very day, harks back to this moment when she wants to complain
that nobody in the family ever listens to her...
This is all very interesting, I hear you say (or, possibly, not) but what has this to do with anything? Well you
see, yesterday I was on duty in our parish church welcoming cyclists taking part in a Ride and Stride event in aid of the Sussex Historic Churches Trust. The idea is that cyclists and walkers from all over the county cycle or walk between as many churches
as they can to raise money both for the Trust and for their own church, at the same time enjoying the beautiful Sussex countryside. Our task was to sign the cyclists’ sponsorship forms, note their attendance, offer them drinks of water and, if asked,
answer questions about our ancient church building.
On duty with me was my lovely friend, the Ever Joyful Jill - which was excellent because it meant that,
even if we did not have many visitors, we would enjoy a good old natter. I was a bit late, having been delayed by Unforeseen Circumstances, but I arrived in time to meet a party of four cyclists. Apparently, before their arrival, there had been just one person
turn up all morning so you could say we weren’t exactly rushed off our feet. Still it meant that Joyful Jill and I could have a good discussion about the amazing variety of penguins that exist across the globe, none of which have ever been known to ride
a cycle - but give them time.
I did read the accompanying literature setting out the rules of the Ride and Stride. According to this, only three modes of transport
are allowed - cycle, walk, or horse. Jill and I were most excited at the thought of riding a horse around the churches of Sussex and wondered why we hadn’t thought to bring our Trusty Steeds along with us. Ah, well, it made us giggle.
There again, if I can’t trust myself on a bicycle, does anyone seriously think I should take to horseback?
Altogether now:” Nnneeiigghh!”