Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Goldfish goes cycling!

When Gloria Steinem said that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” she may or may not have been aware that although having no intrinsic need for a bicycle, sometimes us fish want to have a ride.

Actually, I always enjoyed cycling when I could do it. Throughout much of my childhood the family had no car so we cycled everywhere. Then there’s the rather tragic story of how for my eighteenth birthday I asked for a brand new bicycle as a symbol of my imminent recovery – so imminent that five years later I sold it in as new condition. I had been ill for two and a half years when I turned eighteen, but I was style sailing up that infamous river in Egypt. *

Anyway, we’re staying in Suffolk and this weekend my parents, my sister Rosemary who had come up for the weekend and I went for a walk in Thetford Forest. Everyone was pretty drained what with what’s happened, but we weren’t having a very easy, relaxing walk. This may have been because:

(a) We were lost. Even R who was navigating cheerfully entertained this possibility.

(b) The advertised wheelchair accessible paths weren’t terribly wheelchair accessible.

(c) The front left castor on my chair was bent back – it’s wrecked actually. Don’t know when this happened but we’re walked some way before we noticed.

Now, my mother had earlier investigated bike hire in the forest and she, R and I decided to go for a bike ride instead. “A bike ride?!” You may well exclaim. However, in Thetford Forest you can hire – for the same cost of a normal mountain bike – this very funky looking contraption with a proper seat (as opposed to an evil bicycle seat) at the front of the bike. Think Paul Newman and Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – the bit when Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head plays – except Katherine Ross is in a far less precarious position. She also has a seat belt.

My Dad had a go cycling on this thing first and did fine. My mother is a far stronger and more experienced cyclist however and because of all her engrained habits, we really struggled to get going. “Riding a bike and pushing a shopping trolley at the same time” was one description of what was involved.

It was a bank holiday weekend, so the open space in the Forest where the bike hire place was and where people have their picnics and the like was heaving. Unfortunately, Mum could only get two or three metres at a time without veering off the path. The bike was incredibly stable – you didn’t need the person on the back for the balance – but I think Mum had a strong sense that the whole thing was going to topple over and me be thrown into a nearby bush. Still, we caused much entertainment for the picnickers who sat watching, laughing and occasionally cheering when we managed to keep going straight for more than a few seconds.

Eventually Mum got the hang of it.

There was an issue with the tracks again because we had wheels either side of my seat but the cycle paths had been worn down into narrow ridges. We hired the thing for one hour and two had passed before we got back.

However, once we got going it was great fun. It was just like riding a bike except without having to move my legs! And along the way we met no less than four people who asked us about where we had got it from because their friend/ husband/ daughter was a wheelchair user and would love to come zooming round the forest with everybody else.

I think the place we hired it from (Bike Art) is exclusive to Thetford Forest although I’m sure these bikes must be available elsewhere. However, it is certainly not something I have come across before. I do have a web address for the place in Thetford if anyone’s interested.

I’m going to stay in Suffolk for an extra week so I can attend Andrew’s funeral next week. It’s going to be a Thanksgiving Mass as opposed to a Requiem Mass, thus being more a celebration of life. Whatever this means, Catholic services never fail to fill me with awe and wonder despite myself. We’re still struggling to believe what has happened.

Dad had a hospital leaflet about the thing that killed Andrew and it seems so simple. He had bad constipation – something the whole family is prone to it seems, except being less articulate (and Andrew never complained about anything, it was one of his “problems”) it got out of control and his bowel impacted. They cleared this out no problem, but in doing so disrupted the flora and fauna of the bowel, so that a certain organism which lives their happily most of the time grew into an infection. This most people survive but Andrew was unlucky enough to develop septic shock. And in twenty-four hours he was gone, just like that.

Ho hum. Thanks everybody for your kind comments – I really appreciate it and will pass these things on to my family.

* Da nile, yer know, denial, get it? Never mind.

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