by Anne E Thompson
My mother has always been a keen cyclist. She has an old fashioned bike, with three gears that she never uses and a large basket suspended on the front. She cycles in whatever clothes she happens to be wearing (usually an A-line skirt and shiny court shoes) and she never wears a cycle helmet, obviously, because that would spoil her curls.
On busy streets, she has a tendency to cycle on the path. I encourage this. She is very polite and gets off to walk around pedestrians and she is a lot safer than on the road. I also cycle, but I cycle like a driver: I never overtake cars on the inside, I never signal right then assume I have right-of-way, I never assume a car joining the road has seen me, I never swerve unexpectedly round pot holes, I never wait until I reach a hazard and then swing out to avoid it and I never cycle after dark without lights. My mother is not a driver. Enough said.
Now, this story takes place a few years ago, when mum and dad were living in Peterborough. It was a clear, sunny day, so mum decided to cycle to the shops. She was careful not to cycle too close to pedestrians, until, that is, she spied a man filming. He was standing near the cathedral wall and holding a very large video camera. “That’s rather pretentious!” thinks my mother, “I think I will add to his film!” She then proceeded to cycle very close to him, peered into the lens and called, “Cooey! Now I’ve spoiled your film!” before cycling round the corner.
As she rounded the corner, a large, officious looking policeman stepped into her path and indicated that she should dismount. Mum stopped cycling, though remained seated. She was somewhat surprised to see the man with the camera had followed her.
“Madam,” began the policeman, “Do you realise this is a ‘no-cycling’ zone?”
“No,” smiled my mother.
“But there are signs,” said the policeman, who was now possibly beginning to regret stopping this ‘sweet old lady’.
“Well, I’ve never seen them!” retorted my mother.
“There is one just there,” he pointed out, indicating a large sign fastened to the wall.
“Oh well,” retorted mum, “That silly sign is much too small for people to read! I didn’t even notice it down there. You need to make a bigger one!” At which point, she got back onto her bike and cycled away, leaving a completely bemused young policeman standing there.
Two days later, mum went to the hairdressers. When she arrived, everyone in the shop smiled at her. ‘That’s nice,’ thought mum as she went to sit in the chair.
“I saw you earlier,” said the hairdresser, as she fastened mum’s gown.
“Oh really?” replied mum, “Where abouts? I didn’t notice you.”
“No,” laughed the girl, “You wouldn’t have done. It wasn’t outside. You were on my tele!”
It then transpired that the local television station had decided to make a report about the problem of people cycling on the path near the cathedral. They had filmed my mother’s whole escapade and aired it on the local news! Everyone in the shop thought it was hilarious! My mother was somewhat worried. Dad had repeatedly told her not to cycle on paths and he was an avid news viewer. He obviously had not seen the report yet, or he would have mentioned it. However, local news is often repeated throughout the day. Worse still, sometimes other stations bought reports when they had very little news, so it might be aired on more than one channel.
Mum hurried home for lunch. My parents usually ate lunch together. Dad would emerge from his study and they would eat from trays in the lounge while watching television and chatting. Dad’s favourite programme was the news.
“Let’s eat at the table in the dining room,” suggested mum. At tea time, mum had to feign a desire to watch a soap opera that coincided with the news, so dad could not watch it then either. The late news was more of a problem, mum had gone to bed and just had to hope that dad did not see ‘her’ report.
Mum told me this story about a week after the incident. My dad had still not seen the report and mum was hoping it had now been dropped by the local stations. I am not sure if she ever told my dad.
She still rides on the path….