When I reached my fifth birthday, my mum and dad took me into the front room. They had prepared a surprise. I tried to tug at the old grey blanket they had draped over my present and it crashed to the floor.
Actually, they had bought me a tricycle, a red one. It was a bit rusty, but I couldn’t wait to sit on it.
Mum said, “Happy birthday, son!”
Dad said, “I never had a bike until I went to Ragtop Lane Secondary Modern!”
My tricycle had a flat metal triangle for a seat. It had three wheels, two at the back and one at the front that had pedals attached to make it go. Only, one of the pedals was missing and you had to push a metal rod with your left foot.
Mum said, “I’m sorry we couldn’t afford a new one, son.”
Dad said, “It’s champion! He’ll be able to learn on that one!”
Alice, the girl next door had a proper bicycle. It had a pink frame, a white leather seat with real fur trim and stabilisers and a silver bell that made a merry tinkle. She rode it so well. I fell in love with Alice. She said I could have a ride of it when I grew a little taller as my feet wouldn’t be able to reach the ground.
Mum said, “That’ll be nice, son.”
Dad said, “Never trust a woman, lad!”
One day, when I had grown a bit taller I went to knock on Alice’s door to ask if I could have a ride on her bicycle, but her Mother said that she had gone to “Preparatory School”.
Mum said, “She’ll like that.”
Dad said, “She’s far too posh for you, son!”
I stopped loving Alice.
On my eighth birthday, my mum and dad woke me up to pull the old grey blanket with the frayed edges from my present. They had bought me a blue bicycle with two wheels only it had stabilisers and the saddle wobbled a bit and the brakes never worked.
Mum said, “You’ll have to be careful how you ride it, son.”
Dad said, “What if he falls off a couple of times? It never did me any harm!”
Bessie, the girl next door, had a brand-new BMX. She could do all sorts of tricks like wheelies and three-hundred-and-sixty-degree turns.
I fell in love with Bessie; so versatile.
She said I could have a go if I could prove that I could ride my own bike without stabilisers.
I asked if we could take the stabilisers off.
Mum said, “Ask your dad.”
Dad said, “They’re too rusted on, son. Sorry.”
I just had to watch Bessie.
She could lift her BMX up on to the shed roof, gather speed as she rolled down it and onto the garden wall and then she jumped her machine onto the rotary washing line before zooming off down the garden path.
One day, Dad went down to his garden shed and found an old box of tools that he had forgotten about. He sawed off the stabilisers. I went around to Bessie’s house to ask if I could ride her bike, but her mum told me that she had gone to join a circus.
I stopped loving Bessie.
When I was a teenager, my mum and dad bought me a proper bike. They had put the old grey blanket over it, but I could see what it was through the moth holes. It was one like you see in the Wizard of Oz; big, black and very heavy. It had a grubby wicker basket at the front. I asked if I could have the wicker basket taken off. It was embarrassing when I rode it. Everyone laughed at me.
Mum said, “Ask your dad.”
Dad said, “Sorry son, I blunted the saw on them stabilisers.”
I fell in love with Carol, the new girl next door. She had a proper racing bike with twenty-five gears and flashing lights. She looked gorgeous in her Lycra. We cycled into the countryside with the youth club. They all went racing off while I just rattled along carrying everyone’s sandwiches in my basket. I could never keep up with Carol.
However, with the basket on the front of my bike, I got a job doing a paper round both morning and night. With the basket up front, carrying the news was simple. I was quick. I could do two rounds before school and three afterwards. I earned lots of money and I bought my own racing bike with thirty-five gears, flashing lights and a two-tone horn. I cycled around to Carol’s house, but her mum said she had gone off to join the Olympic team.
Mum said, “That’s nice!”
Dad said, “I like a girl in Lycra.”
Eventually I left home, married and had a son of my own. When he reached the age of five I bought him a pedal car.
Bob Shepherd is an ex-headteacher and has published a book called ‘When Luke left Sally dead!’ He enjoys writing about humour and murders.