24 August 2009

My Sheffield bike

When I first came to the UK, as a student in Sheffield in 1989, getting a bike was not in my list of priorities - I had plenty on my plate with coming to grips with the language, the accents, customs, etc.

Eventually, some friends I made lent me a number of items that they knew would come in handy - first among them the TV (black and white - cheaper license!). One day they offered me a bicycle. In Sheffield, you understand, you don't think 'bike' immediately - what with all the hills to climb!. But I figured that I could always walk up the hill, but going down the hill a bike would save me time. I was right. Going from Broomhill to the railway station became much quicker (handy for early morning trains). Where before I'd have spent 45' walking, I could get there in 15'. Going back to Broomhill would take me an hour - but then, it always did.

The cycle in question was an old red Raleigh, a bit rusty in places but on the whole serviceable. There was a catch with this bike loan though: I was supposed to do my best to get it nicked, as my friends hoped that they'd claim it on the insurance and buy a swanky new stead to replace it. I have to say I signally fail to oblige. One day I went to the station and locked the bike using a D-lock I'd borrowed. A couple of days later my friend told me when I saw him "I saw the bike the other day at the station: Jay-sus man, with a lock like that you'll never get it stolen!". Another time it was Friday night and I'd parked the bike at the computer centre (remember, when all PCs where in a single building you had to go to). We all went to the pub afterwards and I "forgot" the bike. The following morning I turned up to retrieve it, hoping it'd be gone. It wasn't. Moreover, as I unlocked the flimsy padlock (I'd learnt my lesson) an old copper on the beat approached. "Young man - he said - if you leave your bike like this you'll have it stolen" he warned me sternly. If only........

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