Bicycles, Anxiety and My Dear Friends.

basket bicycle bike cart
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It’s all well and good patting myself on the back and encouraging myself to step out of the old comfort zone, but understandably, others might not have the same urge to do so.

Going to the bicycle shop to give Claude (my bike) a general overhaul prior to ‘The Big Trip’, I realise that I am not alone in travelling around on two wheels and enjoying this lovely weather as half the world and it’s cousin are at the little local bicycle shop too.

The red haired, multi-pierced friend, cycling fanatic and in fact shop keeper from my previous visit unfortunately had his attention firmly up somebody else’s inner tube so taking my place in the queue, I was finally attended to by ‘Gustapho’, a rather splendid Brazilian with an encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘la bicyclette’. I certainly felt as though Claude and I were in safe hands.

Sometimes however I do wish for a little privacy and surrounded by the truly serious cyclists, a ridiculous amount of Lycra and some fairly solid thigh muscles all waiting in the queue for their turn, I found myself whispering to Gustapho about Claude’s newly acquired clicking noises, the dodgy gear and the brake that the other day failed to actually work at all and resulted in a slightly closer inspection of a Privet hedge than I had previously anticipated.

“Aha! You have need of me. You need Gustapho. You madam, may call me Gus!” he pronounced proudly with a strong accent in a rather lovely theatrical way. I feel as though I’ve just stepped onto a film set and any moment ‘Gus’ is going to give a deep bow with much waving of his arm.

“However,” he pauses (I actually think for nothing more than effect), “For a full service Madam, we have a waiting time of one month.” One solitary finger is raised with force at me to make the point.

A lot of red-faced gulping, apologising and whispered grovelling with hand wringing ensued with yours truly explaining that I had thought that I was so organised and prepared but clearly proper cyclists, such as those I was surrounded by in this tiny shop, have every detail planned out not just weeks, but months in advance. Schoolboy error Katie. You truly are a novice.

I could hear tutting and sighing from other customers and so began asking about other shops in the area who might be able to help. But apparently every shop within a 50 mile radius worth their salt would give me the same answer, so humbled, humiliated and rather red, I started backing out of the shop. Quite hard when seven other people all with bikes have wedged you in and you’re desperate to leave.

All of a sudden however my red-haired, tattoo-clad friend then popped his head up from his inner tubes, gave a huge grin, came over and shook my hand like a long lost friend. Oh the relief at the sight of a friendly, familiar face.

Whereupon he explained loudly to not only ‘Gus’ but embarrassingly to everyone within hearing distance of the details of my trip. Now I’m not so bigheaded as to imagine that a middle-aged old bird such as myself could possibly make an impression, but bless his little cotton socks, he had remembered every detail of our last encounter when I admitted that I, said old bird, was undertaking a 1200 km bicycle ride through France on my own, camping each night whilst donning a rather unattractive pair of padded cycling knickers which in fact may well be shorts. Having divulged all of this, and left me feeling slightly less of a lower class bicycling citizen, and almost a slight sense of pride, he then happily disappeared into the bowels of the shop for presumably more playing with his inner tubes.

However, for my moment of happiness, I discovered that everything comes at a price. For the lady (and I use the term loosely) beside me with fearsome helmet, dark wraparound glasses and an enormous mountain bike, suddenly involves herself. A splutter of laughter from her as she raises her glasses to her forehead and peers down at my tatty bicycle, Claude, with his pale blue slightly distressed paintwork and wire basket on the front with a rather natty pink handbag (if I say so myself) inside it.

“Good God!” she sniggers, pointing at Claude, “On that?”

It’s an odd thing to feel protective over a pile of metal and rubber, but Claude and I have bonded well over the past couple of months and I felt that implied insults were most certainly uncalled for. Pah! She had a good fifteen years on me and I felt my hackles rising well above her varicose veined legs. But of course, manners maketh man and all that, so I smiled as sweetly as I could between clenched teeth.

Whereupon she launches, along with Gus about the merits of having a proper bicycle, in fact as she so smugly told me, it’s imperative to have two! Her road bike (she pointed down the stairs to the maintenance section where a skinny whippet-like equivalent to a bike) was being finely tuned for apparently the third time this year.

“My dear!” she tinkles with laughter, “Yours is far to heavy and cumbersome! Haven’t you thought about the hills?” She, Gus and now a couple of other Lycra’s roar with laughter together with Claude and I wanting the earth to swallow us up.

“And who will be taking your gear?” she carries on. I thought gear was a way of talking about drugs, but clearly she’s talking about my spare clothes and tent.

“Well, um I’m putting everything into the panniers and the tent, sleeping bag and roll mat sort of fit across the top of them,” I finish rather feebly as their mouths start to hang open and whilst the woman’s eyes narrow at me and her head tilts questioning in disbelief, Gus’s eyes are widening and becoming faintly bulbous. He’s reminding me of a large fish on a plate with the head still on and you want to take that silly little sliver of lemon and put it over the eye so that it stops staring at you. Actually I’d rather slap them both with said fish.

More laughter, clearly this is hilarious. I feel as though I’m back at school. Frankly I could bludgeon one of them very happily. Gus starts fiddling with my gears rather roughly and talking detrimentally about my bottom bracket, crank arms and dropouts. I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about but more of the Lycra-clad brigade (aka customers) are joining in, sucking through their teeth, shaking their heads and offering words of unintelligible technological advice to this pathetic creature (me) with her flippy floppy skirt, pink handbag a rather dejected looking bicycle. Perhaps they have a point. Perhaps this is truly just madness. I can feel that pricking of tears. Talk about pissing on my fire. Any flame is well and truly extinguished … in fact I’m now just a little puddle on the floor.

But with a jangle of his multiple earrings and silver crosses around his neck, my flame haired friend bounds up the stairs with a beaming grin like a long lost friend.

“Gotcha booked in for the morning!” he shouts. “I’ve shifted a couple of things around. We’ll work it out for you.” And with that, he gives me a wink, pats Claude on the saddle and moving his head closer to it, gives a wonderful stage whisper to Claude, “Don’t worry mate, I’ll have you fit for the fucking Tour de France in 48 hours!”

If I wasn’t concerned about getting my now frazzled hair caught in his nose, lip or eyebrow piercings, I’d have snogged him.

Gus looked rather surprised, the lady with the varicose veins and the two bikes looked thoroughly miffed and from behind me I heard some tutting. But frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

After much thanking, and believe you me, you couldn’t have had a more grateful recipient, Claude and I left swiftly and apart from becoming slightly stuck getting out of the door and leaving humiliated and with our confidence in tatters, we know that we will be fine, we will work out the problems which undoubtedly shall arise and even if we end up going, with my map reading skills, via Timbuktu, Claude and I shall write to our lovely WordPress friends and tell you all about it, the good, the bad and the ugly bits too … You’re all brill. You don’t laugh at me too often, you accept me for who I am, metaphorical warts and all. And for that my friends, I thank you.

Katie x

How do you react if you’re ever laughed at or humiliated?

34 thoughts on “Bicycles, Anxiety and My Dear Friends.”

  1. I’m glad your guy came through for you. That lady reminded me of the countless Regency romances I read, and the complete snobbery of the titled nobs, who usually acted more like…er, knobs.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I read all the older ones, in the sense of written 70-80s and 90s, and Georgette Heyer from much earlier on. Will you have access to paper books, or kindle, or what? I can fish you up some nice Georgette Heyer titles which you can probably get in a few places including online.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Oh thank you! My husband will be driving down to the final destination in Moliets et Maa 3 weeks after I leave so he can bring some paperbacks for me to read when I arrive. Thanks so much. Katie

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Are you a fan of Regencies? There are a number of hers which I liked and some which I found tedious in the extreme–what makes or breaks it for me is the good-naturedness of the main characters or not. Those I will fish up to recommend are all more or less good-natured even if some of the folks are silly or make poor choices. I just dislike reading about bad-natured protagonists, since I wouldn’t want a fantasy hero or heroine to date that was a complete grump.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Well I haven’t read any, at all, but my mother used to adore them so I’d love to have a couple to read in France. My favourite sorts of books are Jane Austin without a doubt, World War II books factual and romantic fiction. Also I love books about explorers like Shackleton … fantastic! I just don’t read enough at the moment and want to remedy that with something that I haven’t tried before.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. These are like Jane Austen, so I’ll go look up the ones I like upstairs–I keep a little log of all the Regencies I read, since all the covers look similar and I forget what I’ve read or not. It’s a way for me to write down the ones that stink, or the good ones, and that I gave the bad ones away.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Here are the quick reviews from my notebook:

        The Foundling, lively and likeable protagonists; decent with what I call scrin–it means criminal activity of some sort, bad guys or smugging or whathave you.

        The Nonesuch–nice-enough all around; stressless

        A Civil Contract–nice man, dreadful dramaqueen ex, plain nice loyal wife–depends on your tolerance for the above ingredients

        Lady of Quality–good-enough ensemble piece; sort of Noel Coward drawing-room feel to it

        The Grand Sophy–casual racism of the time, but otherwise good; a little dopey male stuff

        So these are the best of Georgette Heyer’s which I’ve read recently. Everybody’s milegae may vary, so that’s why I included my little notes. i will reread all of these which I’ve mentioned, so they’re at least that-okay to me. I hope this helps, andif it isn’t your thing, I can fish around for something else, but it might be harder to find.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. This is wonderful! Thank you so much for taking the trouble – it’s greatly appreciated. Oooh I shall have a little google now and work out which ones and where to buy them! This is great! Many thanks again! Katie x

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Book wise I’d highly recommend books based on the mass observation project. Diaries of ordinary people during ww2. I think you’d love them.
    Thank heaven for redheads! We’ll save the world even if it’s only by losing our collective tempers and annihilating ‘jobsworths’, slug guts and snooty old bags with more bikes than friends!
    You can do this – I have faith in you 😊
    Vive la bicyclette!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh I can’t wait to join you Katie! What a brilliant account of your visit to the bike shop and I can only imagine what it felt like to be there facing that Lycra clad crowd. Good for you and all the best for the ride. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Such a hero and thank goodness he stepped in just in the nick because you must have felt absolutely flayed with that frightful biddy’s remarks. Above all things I cannot abide snobbery. But you survived and Claude will soon be absolutely fit for the journey and I imagine the boys in the bike shop are in awe of what you are doing in a way that they simply would not be if you were taking the trip on a super sleek light as a feather billion geared professional bike. It’s rather the same as friends of mine (from Goring, actually) who rowed the Channel in a Victorian Skiff which was basically made out of basket. Of course they could have done the same thing in a fraction of the time in a state-of-the-art ocean rowing boat but what they did was far more fanciful and fantastic and even though 20 years have passed I remember it like yesterday as, when all this is ended, will I always remember Katie and Claude on the byways of France from top to almost bottom. And a quick geography lesson for the old bag … the route I imagine you will take should be reasonably flat …. after all you will pass through Brittany (not known for it’s mountains) and drop through the Loire plains and thence through the Vendée (marshlands and flat) to Bordeaux (wine grows on gentle slopes rather than craggy montagnes) and into Gascony known for it’s food rather than its dramatic slopes!). Grrrr …. I do hate ill-informed wenches. And anyway, who asked her to even pipe up? Xx. PS …. books. I recommend The Boys in The Boat by Daniel James Brown – true story and even through you know the outcome from the get-go, truly one of the most inspiring and uplifting stories I have ever read

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I always so look forward to your responses … each and every time you make me smile or even guffaw, but ultimately you make me feel wonderful! Thank you. Claude is now on the operating table and being thoroughly checked over, the poor love. You’re absolutely right about the hill situation. She knows nothing! The route is predominantly flat, following the rivers, canals and then the coast all the way down. I’m so excited it’s ridiculous and yet I know there are going to be tough days. Thank you so much my dear friend for being so very supportive. I’m now going to look up what a Victorian Skiff looks like and many thanks for the book recommendation. Unless I’m blogging when I’m not pedalling I shall need something else to do. And frankly my blog shall bore you all senseless by day 2!! Many thanks. Katie x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Golly … thank you. (I think garages are places of horror … I always feel that I’m a sitting duck waiting to be ripped off and if I get out with a bill of less than £150 I drive out of there fast before they find anything else wrong with the car.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a delightful read! I was drawn into your world from the moment you entered the shop.

    Your fantastic writing skills helped me to clearly see Claude resting at the side, unaware of his impending contempt, Gus trying to appear to be the fountain of all knowledge on cycles and a queue of men and men-women bolstering up their insecurities by having a good old mock at you.

    I’m sure none of them would dream of taking on the bold activity you are planning and certainly not on their own, as there will be no-one to impress and no-one to admire them.

    So what if you didn’t think of all those seemingly necessary things?! That’s why you had the sense to go to the bike shop in the first place.

    They are just jealous. Don’t let their small-mindedness bring out Betty…do what you set out to do. So, you may come across a few more snags…that’s part of being courageous. It is not courageous to stand in a group and giggle at someone – it IS courageous to cycle alone to France, battling depression and people’s mockery.

    So, you go girl! I can’t wait to hear all about it and laugh WITH you at the hiccups that may have arisen along the way. But most of all, I’m looking forward to being even more proud of you than I already am.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi, nice blog! We meet again. I agree that you painted such a colorful picture we who cycle but are not pros or snobs can relate to. A lovely post and wish I were joining you, Katie. If after Timbuktu you make it to Austin, Texas, USA please stop by for tea and a snog. I don’t know what it is, like a friendly handshake, right?

    Any tips for rain riding? I need to show up dry and professional looking at a job I want to do that requires going around to people’s houses. I have a poncho, rain pants and shoe covers but they do that work well and I am often sweaty due to the rain gear. You’re welcome to check out my blog again, too, if in fact you aren’t already. I’m so bad about this WordPress stuff but would spend all day in it if I could. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just did it again, because I have no car. Even with poncho, rain pants and shirt covers I’m damp. But also sweaty. It’s that first 15′ before you warm up that is toughest. How do you handle it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For me, it’s the knowledge that it’s only going to get better. I was very cold some mornings despite wearing everything that I brought with me. Teeth chattering and visibly shaking, but as soon as I started feeling as though my body was having to work, I knew that it would start to warm up, so it was just a matter of enduring the first half hour. Hellish but no option unless I stayed in my sleeping bag!

        Like

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