I’ve had a bike for four weeks. Three weeks? Maybe four. He is called Roy. Remember that bit in that Star Trek movie where those people keep saying “V’Ger” and it sounds suitably alien and then OMG SPOILERS it turns out to be a lost NASA probe thing called Voyager 6 with some of the letters scratched out?
Roy is like that. One side of the main bar bit (I don’t know the technical terms yet) says “Discovery”, but on the other side all the letters other than “R Y” have been worn away. Hence, Roy.
I have lived in Cambridge twice, for a total of three years. It’s very much a cycle city, for those of you who haven’t been here. Bikes are bloody everywhere.
I have resisted buying one for a long time. There are three main reasons.
Firstly, I had a minor tumble on a bike when I was a teenager. I was pedalling merrily along the High Street of my hometown, with a plastic carrier bag on my handlebar, when it swung into the front wheel and got tangled. I immediately stopped dead. Well, my bike did. I kept going, soaring majestically over the handlebars. I managed to get my hands up to protect my gorgeous face, so they took the brunt of the jarring fall.
I remember lying dazed in the gutter, not really wanting to move. There were some gasps from pedestrians nearby, and one kind chap physically picked me up and took me into the nearest shop – it was a British Gas showroom. I remember very distinctly that my vision turned yellow as I was carried through. I have no idea why. It was exactly like looking through a yellow filter on the world. It only lasted a moment, but was odd enough to stick in my memory forever more.
My hands had quite a lot of new flaps. I held them like claws in front of me, not sure what to do.
It’s a bit of a blur, but I got to hospital somehow (ambulance?), and a cheerful student nurse smeared some numbing gel on my flaps and proceeded to scrub the gravel out of them. You know those washing up scrubber things that look like knuckledusters? Those.
I didn’t ride a bike much after that. For twenty years.
I don’t drive, so a bike makes sense, but one of the reasons I don’t drive is also the second reason I resisted Roy for so long.
My right eye is pretty bad. It sees nothing but blurry shapes, and contributes nothing but a smeared double image to the world. My peripheral vision on that side isn’t great, so the thought of moving through the world at speed, with other big heavy objects moving even faster around me, has always been somewhat disconcerting.
Now, people with worse vision than me have driving licenses and do just fine. I could probably learn to drive if I so chose. But this isn’t about driving, this is about Roy. Gosh, me and my digressions.
Basically, I worried that anything at all coming from the right hand side would come as a big, and potentially fatal surprise.
Number three. Roots. Not Roots, but roots. You’ll doubtless have heard me use this line before if you have known me more than about forty seconds, but I’ve been made redundant eight times so far, and haven’t lived anywhere for more than two years in… A really long time.
I don’t settle anywhere. I don’t unpack. I don’t have a home, I have a house. (I would argue that that distinction was cemented a long time ago with my parents divorce.) I have a room in a house, actually. It’s where I sleep, keep my stuff, and go on my PC. There are no decorations. It’s a horrrible mess, because I have no emotional attachment to it.
My world is a rental world. Buying property never, ever crosses my mind. I just don’t know where I’ll be next. Back to London? Some other city? Europe? America? Probably not America, although that would be super cool. In any case, staying in Cambridge long term has never been part of any plan I’ve had – although I’ve rarely planned for the future at all.
Buying a bike feels like a statement. “I am a Cambridgian”. Buying this bike implies that I expect to stay in Cambridge, in order to get value from it. It’s a root. I don’t do roots.
I should give Cambridge Kung Fu an honorable mention. I started attending classes the January before last, and very soon I was doing every single class they offered during the week, and on Saturday too. Every optional Sunday seminar – I’m there. Currently I’m on twelve hours a week, and I am an assistant instructor in the beginner’s class.
I have become friends with the instructors, and others in the club. Ross is a root. Col is a root. Rin and Verity are roots.
I don’t usually do roots, but I like those roots. They paved the way for Roy, I suppose.
Am I completely comfortable in Cambridge now? No. I still don’t know how long I’ll be here. Maybe six months, maybe a year, maybe forever.
But I have more roots here than I’ve had anywhere for a long time, and I don’t completely hate that. Progress? I guess that’s progress.
I have a bike. He’s called Roy. I was going to say a whole bunch of other stuff about him, but I did this instead. I guess that means there will need to be a Part 2!