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bicycle

Superbly efficient means of transport, which yet manages to offer scope for a cheerful variety of design and character. Tricycles, not so frequently seen, offer even more chances for total fantasy.
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One of my great-aunts, Ethel Hodges of Fareham, used to own a bicycle shop. During a family holiday in Eire, at the age of eight or so, I wished - at some place or other reputed to be good for making wishes - for a bicycle. When we were home again, there was my bicycle, a present (for no particular reason) from Aunty Ethel.

But that, it now occurs to me, was years after I had first learnt how to ride a bike: learning had happened when we were living in Calne – bumping determinedly up and down the back garden of 175 Quemerford, tears and terror when anyone suggested taking off the stabilisers and then one cold grey morning taking them off myself. There's something to be said for overcoming challenges in one's own time.

My father's handsome Raleigh tourer – top-tube quadrant control, hub brakes, Miller DBU headlamp – was stolen days after I arrived in Sheffield, and I still wish the thief no joy of the machine whatsoever. The hills that characterise that fine city, plus the minor detail of having no money, discouraged any inclinations I might have had towards replacing the machine.

It is, however, just as they say: once you learn you never forget. At one stage, my benevolent employer bought a bike for my use so that I could cycle to one of my clients from the nearest station, thereby thwarting the thoughtless architects who had built a characterless campus on a green-field site only the most determined could reach by public transport. Now I have my own machine, from a shop which smelt exactly the same as my aunt's used to all those years ago, and take a great deal of pleasure in little excursions such as riding over to Peutie to play for mass.


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