My friend Jan at Jahn1: Mainly Fair With A Chance Of Rain has made me consider a drastic departure form the norm. The purchase of a bycicle, and a move from from petrol to people power. But before I do: a repost about my on-off relationship with anything which can achieve speed.
I was not a great cyclist when I was younger.
Coincidentally, I am not a great cyclist now.
But briefly, roundabout my fourteenth year, it did dawn on me that this two wheeled contraption might be a good device with which to see a little more of the world.
I looked at the bike one day, while I was dressed in flares and tomboy tops, and I remember concluding: if I get on that and pedal, everything will pass me much faster.
So I began to pedal out with my brother Joe for company, through the lanes, past lych-gates and ploughed fields and beckoning barns. And it was good.
We gained in strength and tenacity, and tried further afield: but one day a puncture put paid to it all. We trudged the miles home, bitterly regretting the untamed enthusiasm with which we had put distance between ourselves and our house.
And that did it for me. Bicycles were instruments to be viewed with suspicion and used with extreme caution.
It would only be a few years until a driver’s license made speed possible once more: but the bicycle did have one last rapprochement during my ill-spent youth.
It came at university. My house was a stiff fifteen-minute walk from the campus, and the journey there was downhill virtually all the way.
Of course, one can logically conclude that the journey back was almost all uphill.
Cheap speed on easy terms, that outward journey. But the way back from the campus was an arduous business. It required willpower: something which only appears in my life during a Perfect Storm.
And all the conditions for such a phenomenon were simply not present. So this is how I worked it: I would leave the departure for a lecture until the very, very last minute. Sometimes even later.
And then I would hop on the bike and fly like the wind past the little Victorian terraces, through the parochial high street; I would plummet down the hill by the 18th century parish church, and when I got to the bottom there would be enough momentum to propel me to the top of the steep inclinel and a level approach to campus.
If I was lucky, there would be just enough time to grab my music scores and attempt a haphazard dash into the theatre, where our music department was located. Mission accomplished, but breathlessly.
There really was nothing like that plunge downwards, and then upwards. I felt as if I was jumping on Mr Isaac Newton’s bandwagon, experiencing gravity as it really should be savoured. This was speed, and it was delicious.
On the way back, I got off and pushed. Simple as that.
Then I met cars.
My husband recalls an incident before we met properly, when he was sat in a traffic jam in the slow lane of a motorway on his route to work, snailing along. The fast lane was clear, but derserted, because the British are often a comparitively well-mannered race of drivers and everyone was waiting their turn.
And then, in the fast lane, at some unmentionable speed, I cannonballed past him. I was already at my desk by the time he rolled into the car park of our little newspaper’s offices. I am not proud of this incident.
But the advent of children changed everything.
I curbed my speed, because something formed a new regulator on haste. Nothing like a baby in the back to make you as effective as one of those advanced skills drivers.
These days my love of speed lives a vicarious life, through the filthiest and most disreputable member of the household.
My friends, who double as the dog’s harem, love to sit him at the gate which stands at the entrance to the forest.
They actually count down to his release when they are at their most merciless. The lead stays on while they go from five to one and the dog is a small muscly study of static energy about to blow. He positively crackles.
Taut, trembling, protesting, he can barely stand the anticipation. And then they let go, and he shoots, like a bullet out of a gun, up a nearly vertical rampart and down, away out of sight, to ditch some serious kinetic energy in the way he does best. Worry some squirrels, hassle a few muntjacks. And all at frantic speed.
It is an immensely satisfying sight. But these days, life has come full circle, and I watch him as I walk.
Someone, somewhere, is still watching the world fly by. But I like to stand and stare.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia