Life in the saddle
You know those times you said "yes" when you should really have said "no"...
Life in the saddle
“Hands up if you want to take up BBC Radio Suffolk's (mumble) challenge,” says the boss, endearingly.
Who could resist that smile?
“What is it, again, boss?”
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“It's not till September - it'll suit you down to the ground, Lynne,” he nods evasively.
“Ok, I'm up for it,” I agree rashly and thought no more about it until a colleague asked if I have a bike.
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I told him I didn't and he said not to worry, someone would probably be able to lend me a strong enough one to take my weight. (It's all right, it's not harassment - I give as good as I get).
After a week or so, it dawned upon me that this challenge involves riding a bicycle in a charity event to raise money for Suffolk churches. In the spirit of being a menopausal woman with bad knees and attitude, I went into whine mode.
“I haven't ridden a bike since my O level year… that's… um”
The boss produces an abacus and runs the beads expertly through his fingers. “Nearly 40 years,” he pronounces, rounding it up for readers.
“Thirty-eight,” I prefer.
I realised that I would have to literally rely on the old adage: “It's just like riding a bike” which means, once you can do it, you never forget.
But I am reminded of Homer Simpson who, when his brain was full up and information had to be off-loaded, found he could no longer drive. Maybe, applying the same principle, I had forgotten how to ride a bike.
As my last bike was scrapped in the Seventies, my boss, determined not to give me any excuses, gleefully said I could borrow his wife's.
On the day we were due to meet up for the picture opportunity (it's online - please don't look), I saw Rosie's Ride for the first time.
“It's got a cross-bar,” I grizzled.
Apparently girls' bikes have cross-bars now. When did that happen and why? What are we supposed to do if we cycle in a skirt - ride side-saddle?
“What's this hole in the saddle?” I inquired of its owner's husband.
Boss looked mildly nauseous and suggested I work it out for myself. After a few moments thought, I realised it was to minimise the pressure on delicate lady parts. We definitely didn't have that when I was 16. All I got was three gears and a dynamo.
I continued to peruse the strange, two-wheeled conveyance. The boss could see my courage was now in full retreat and decided to play his trump card. “There is one feature on this bike that you will like very much, Lynne,” he said and pointed to the handlebars where I spied the one bit of equipment I was confident I could operate.
“A bell.” Honestly, did he really imagine I could be seduced by a trifling accessory? If so, he was dead right.
“I love bells,” I squealed and rang it until everyone told me to shut up.
In spite of the fact the boss is almost a professional bike rider - he has Lycra leggings and everything - he is not on the team, preferring to assume the title team captain (non-exec). The full racing team is, in alphabetical order, arts editor Andrew Clarke (chain well-lubed); education editor Karen Hindle (small, fit, shows us all up); and Lynne Mortimer (large, idle, makes everyone else look good).
My handbag went into Karen's pannier and I decided not to bother with a spare tyre - I was already carrying two round my tummy.
It was time to climb aboard my velocipede.
After a couple of fruitless arabesques, I managed to get my leg over. (Yes, very funny) And managed to engage the saddle with my bottom; probably permanently.
We set off and, lo and behold, it's true. Riding a bicycle is just like riding a bicycle except the saddle is smaller and harder than I remember.
After a 10-minute slog we covered the 400-metres from the office to St Mary Elm, in Ipswich. The church is next door to the police station and I was a little nervous we might be cordoned off and arrested for crimes against Lycra.
As we cycled up to the door we were confronted by a formidable sight. It was the opposition. Broadcasters Mark Murphy, Emily Anderson and Rob Dunger were mounted, primed and looking hungry for action… or maybe just hungry.
It was like gunfight at the OK Corral except without the guns, the fight, the corral or the bottle.
At the church door we were issued with our information pack including sponsor forms and list of churches taking part. This was all becoming horribly real.
Stunned into the realisation that I was actually going to have to do this bike ride, I was pretty quiet on the return journey. And just when I could have done with the soothing BBC tones of a broadcaster I got my colleague Andrew instead.
“I've agreed to have a webcam fixed to my handlebars, Lynne, so when I ride behind you, people will be able to see how you're doing. I've asked for a wide-angle lens.”
Following my rambling reminiscence about dancing along to the pop charts on the radio when I was in my teens, Mrs Green writes from Aylsham to remind me that Radio 2 was the Light Programme not the Home Service (now Radio 4) as I misremembered. “I should know; I listened to it a lot,” she says and adds: “When I asked a friend if she listened to the radio a lot when she was young, she said: 'No, I was too busy doing things,' which put me down a peg or two.”
I'm on the same peg as you, Mrs Green.