Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

A list of my bicycles 1

A list of my bicycles:

1. My Cambridge Bicycle (red and white).
2. Spiffy Bike (blue and white)
3. Horrid Pink Bike
4. Purple Pioneer
5. Black Mountain Bike
6. My Norwich Bicycle (green, currently gone missing)
7. My New Norwich Bicycle (green, not yet in Norwich)
8. Chris's Bicycle (black)

As someone once remarked, I've got bicycles in all the liturgical colours, so in principle one could go to Church on the correct colour of bicycle in the same way that Shirley Dex goes to church in the correct colour of hat. That would be possible in principle, if the bicycle were in the right place at the right time, which, of course, is unlikely.

But let me explain about the bicycles.

1. My Cambridge Bicycle
This is a traditional women's bicycle with white metal mudguards and a proper chain guard. It used to belong to my mother, but she's in her eighties now and doesn't ride it any more. I'm not sure when she acquired it (in my memory she never had anything else, but it's not awfully old, maybe 1970 perhaps). It has no extra gears: you just get on it and ride at whatever speed it goes. Nothing ever goes wrong with this bicycle and it is a delight to ride.
Last Christmas the professor gave me some skirt-guard panels to make it easy for me to ride a bike when wearing elegant long clothes. There was only one bicycle they could be fitted to, and that was My Cambridge Bicycle, because it alone had proper metal mudguards of the traditional sort. Given that it also has a decent chain guard, this bicycle is now by far the cleanest bicycle to ride whatever the outfit. From that time on it's become my regular bike, used for all purposes in Cambridge city. It also has a particular good wicker basket. It has no disadvantages except that it's extremely hard work to ride up the slope from the underpass at East Road Roundabout, especially when laden with luggage.

2. Spiffy Bike
This is among my absolute favourites. Probably it is my absolute favourite. It's a Raleigh Topaz, a very lightweight sporty bike with dropped handlebars and five speeds. The top gear is quite high (for a woman's bike anyway) so one can zip along much faster than on a traditional town bike. The angle of the frame is also very efficient so it's easy to get downward pressure on the pedals with little effort. This is the bike I prefer for long cycle rides on good roads.
I bought this bike second hand from the cycle shop on the Iffley Road in Oxford sometime in the 1990s. I forget how much it cost: probably about £70 I suppose.
For a long time this also served as my emergency bike (to get on in a hurry when you find the usual one's got a flat tyre and you're in a hurry, or whatever). Some years ago I added a back carrier so that it was a bit more usable if one had things to carry in those circumstances: it's a matter of balancing the desire to keep the weight low against the desire to have a bike that is at least functional for ordinary purposes.
I've got a wonderful dynamo lighting set on this bike. I'm not sure you can get these now. It has a roller that fits below the frame and rolls against the tread of the back wheel. The front light has a spectacularly good halogen bulb. It's usable on country roads at night which is useful. Unfortunately the dynamo has been making excruciating noises of late, so I fear it may be in a bad way.
This bike also has a perfectly magnificent bell which came from my father-in-law and dates back to goodness knows when. It makes tourists jump out of their skin so is a great pleasure to use in the summer.

3. Horrid Pink Bike has a very particular virtue: it is so horrid that no one ever wants to steal it or even to vandalise it. Periodically I think of trying to get rid of it, but so far have had no success in this endeavour.
The origin of this bike is that I bought it in a hurry from a shop in Gwydir Street in Cambridge in 1997, when I was engaged to deliver a weekly series of lectures in Cambridge. At the time I was living in Oxford and working in Swansea. On Mondays I had to travel from Oxford to Cambridge, deliver my lectures, and then go on to Swansea by way of London (I would then teach in Swansea for the rest of the week and head back to Oxford on Thursday evening or Friday). I needed to have a usable but not very special bike to keep at Cambridge station to get me to the Sidgwick site and back each week. Horrid Pink Bike seemed to be acceptable for the purpose, and was the best I could find in a hurry. It was second hand of course, and the price was about £40. Actually that was extortionate, and I thought so at the time, but it did come with dynamo lights (very poor quality, but working).
When I bought it I also got a good lock for it. I now realise that a lock was quite unnecessary.
After I finished my lecture course in Cambridge, Horrid Pink Bike lived for some years at the home of some friends in Cambridge, and was used just occasionally when I or my daughters were spending time in Cambridge for one reason or another. Another of its virtues is that it is junior sized. This is a virtue if you are short, but not if you aren't.
Some time later, when I had left Swansea and was working in Liverpool, Horrid Pink Bike once again came into its own. I had been having some trouble with vandals at Liverpool Lime Street Station, who would inflict some minor damage on my bicycle over the weekend, and make it unridable for the following week. In desperation I took Horrid Pink Bike to Liverpool for the sole purpose of using it for the journey to and from the station (while my preferred bike stayed the weekend at my flat). This was a great success. Horrid Pink Bike never had any trouble and could be left at the station for weeks without suffering anything except having its basket used as a litter bin. Forgivable if irritating, because stations now refuse to provide litter bins since the Reading station bomb (so that means that naïve but well-meaning people, who like to throw their rubbish in a waste paper basket, think that it is helpful to put it in someone's bike basket, rather than put it on the floor).
Of late Horrid Pink Bike has not been much used. I keep trying to offer it to students as a gift or on loan (I was hopeful that one of Annie's friends might be pleased to have it) but no one will take it. So it sits in the garden going rusty, and whenever you do want to use it the tyre is flat or the lights don't work.

To be continued in a later post.

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