Mind the Gap …
That there pic up there represents a double memory: first of all of the actual bicycle trip involved, which was the very first time I was allowed to take my penny farthing round the block; secondly of the fact that there was a photograph of the momentous event. I happened to come across the photograph during an archiving session late last night, and I thought that those of you reading this who are slightly related to me might find it amusing; friends might also enjoy seeing it; no loved-ones currently read this blog.
Youse can comment away there, but be aware that I have heard most of the jokes before. I will restrict my comments to things about the picture that no longer exist. First of all, that cyclist carefully steering his big brother’s bike in towards the crib to park it there no longer exists. I cannot remember the last time I was on a bike, but I am pretty certain it will turn out to have been the last time. Apart from cycling being beneath the dignity of a man of my advanced years, while I admit to once being pro-bike, I am now firmly in the anti-herds-of-cyclists-who-invade-my-narrow-country-roads-at-the-weekend-and-persist-in-riding-two-abreast-when-there-is-a-car-behind-them camp. The reasons should be obvious from the previous sentence, but it is also the ridiculous attire they wear that, for aesthetic and also philosophical reasons, gets my goat. Youse are not in le Tour de France, lads, and never will be (youse don’t take enough drugs to fit in) so there is no call for youse to be wearing the latest, most-expensive, aerodynamically-efficient kit in the most garish colours in the girls’ rainbow. Just go out on your bikes – if you must – in whatever you happen to be wearing before you get on your bike; it was good enough for your granda, and it is good enough for you too; and the only piece of fancy equipment you require is trouser clips, though you do not even need them as you could just stuff the ends of your trouser legs into your socks like your granda did. Also, if you must go out on your bike, do it up your own way and stop invading my personal country roads just because I have all the scenery.
Secondly, those two cars you see in the photograph no longer exist. The actual cars themselves, of course, but also the model or type of car. And weren’t they much nicer to look at than the monstrosities we drive around in now? Admire all those feminine curves in place of the square boxes we are supplied with nowadays, if you have a minute. Also note, either in passing or in staying, how well the cars fit the width of the street; neither is parked up on the footpath but there is still a wide enough gap between them for a double-decker bus to go by, never mind a wee lad on a tricycle. Why everyone nowadays thinks they require a vehicle the size and width of a mini-tank to drive from their house to the corner shop is beyond my ken. (Not that Ken, Question Girl; nothing is beyond that Ken.)
The lamppost no longer exists either, but, and here is the real point [at last! -Ed.], neither do the houses on the side of the street I am about to park the bike on. In my wittier moments, and I do have the odd one, I sometimes claim that they had to knock the houses down as they needed the bricks for the Peace Wall they built between the street I grew up on and the main road. Pretty witty that, I’m sure you’ll admit, but it highlights an extra problem writers from certain areas in Norn Iron have that do not affect writers from the real world. Whereas those other writers can dander around their childhood at their leisure in search of inspiration, noting down details they never noticed at the time in their wee notebooks to ensure the finished product has historical authenticity, me and my ilk are forced to have Joycean memory skills when we re-visit the past. Now I’ve told you before that the past does not exist, but in my case, for example, neither do the actual buildings: family home, primary school, corner shop where I witnessed the owner being shot – all either blown up, burnt out or dismantled to provide material for the Peace Wall industry.
It’s as well I have a good memory, isn’t it, Mal? Now, what was I saying? Oh yes, this guy here doesn’t exist anymore either. He took the picture, and he was my Da, among others. Here he is riding off into the sunset the year I was born.
And he is not even wearing expensive, aerodynamic riding clobber!