Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Wheels on fire

After a week or so of fine weather, my boss has started cycling into work instead of taking the tram.
He does it very professionally, with a change of clothes, special shoes, lights and helmet. This is because 'you can't just hop on the bike in the morning'. I feel rather guilty and say nothing, thinking of the four years I spent in St Andrews doing exactly that, usually with head-on rain (if not salt spray) and cross-winds. The extreme of my cycling folly involved a rather wobbly trajectory down Abbey Street after rehearsal with a good 25cl of chinon blanc sloshing around my insides, an electric keyboard under one arm and twelve rolls of Kitten-soft swinging from the handlebars.
Last reports say my bike is gently rusting away outside the library. Faithful companion, I salute you.

Being unable to shift a longing for the breeze in my hair, the road beneath my wheels and misguided insects careening into my eyeballs, I rather frivolously 'invested' in a pair of rollerblades.
After my experiences with balance and coordination outside Tesco, I ought to have known better.
I've now been four times to practise up and down the path along the Wisla, and I have made an important discovery: asphalt is not smooth!
I can now chart every bump, node, crack and change in surface texture between Galeria Kazimierz and St Norberts Abbey. Small children on bicycles and joggers- old, fat joggers- frequently overtake me. Still, I'm taking no chances, and the knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards are staying firmly in place, although the statistical chances of a fatal accident at speeds of under 2mph are low. A special kind of panic is generated when I find myself having to go into the cycle lane to overtake pedestrians: what if a bike should come silently whooshing up behind me? How do I get back into the pedestrian lane without crossing the path of one of them?

I'm proud of our efforts with eco-friendly transport. We must be the lowest-carbon translators in town. Our specialism? Automotive engineering...

My boss's cycle lamps actually reminded me of something which happened to me back in St Andrews. I never managed to keep a set of lights for more than about a month without them being pilfered by some young hoodie (read 'first year med. student') outside the Whey Pat Tavern after training. So I was frequently stopped by the police, whose presence in such a quiet town was impressive (although this never stopped my bike lamps from disappearing).
One evening, I was peacefully puffing and wheezing up Abbey Street with several kilos of fencing equipment lashed across my shoulders, when a large van swerved out of the darkness in front of me. My habitual stream of post-Romantic French poetry was cut short when I drew up on the inside of the offending vehicle and saw that it was driven by two policemen.
- I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you stop. You can't ride without lights after dark.
I was already late for training.
- Well how about a lift then?
The first policeman was just muttering something about insurance, when his colleague leaned over from the driver's seat:
- Where is 'training'?
I explained where the Sports Centre was.
- Oh that's just on our way: hop in the back
And they came round to help me in with my bike, while I took a seat on one of the benches and grabbed a helpful loop hanging from the ceiling. There was an amusing barred-effect window between the front cabin and the back benches. We were halfway down Argyle Street when the phone rang:
- Flic, where the hell are you?
- Are you sitting down? Sit down. It's an interesting story...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Felicity. My name is Deb Keech and I would be your first cousin. My father was Alan Raikes, your Uncle who lived in Canada. I have just read your blog, which your Dad told my Mother about, who then passed on to me. Sounds like you are have quite a few adventures and must be very brave to live in a city where you are a stranger and foreigner. Good for you! If you ever want someone to communicate with, please feel free to email me at I will continue to check in now and then on your blog to see how you are carrying on. Take care. Deb Keech