Friday, 23 September 2016

Angelina gets on her bike. And then can't.

Mummy on the Edge
Families North West London Magazine
September 2016

So I’m sitting here in my bed-office (yes, that IS a thing) trying to write this column for your delectation but I keep stopping to listen to Midi-Me who is singing eighties songs loudly in the kitchen while making pancakes for breakfast. Take heart, dear reader: after years of no sleep, mopping puke, feeding, watering and loving them (most of the time) you eventually start to turn a profit.

Judging by Midi-Me’s excellent impression of Rick Astley, she is in good spirits and quite right too, as we have just returned from a week in France.  Our June-inset-day-inspired break in the Cote d’Azur never happened as my dad had an unfortunate accident on the High Street in Watford and he needed me here. (Unexpected isn’t it, to find those two locations in a sentence together.) So instead, I booked an August week in Il de Ré which is an island off the west coast of France over the bridge from La Rochelle.

Thing is, in Il de Ré, it’s all about the bikes. That’s how everyone gets around mostly, from town to town. So, while Midi-Me was on a wonderful engineering course (which I will tell you about in next month’s education issue) I found a course of my own. If, like me, you never had the opportunity, always felt you were missing out, and really want to enjoy the basic pleasure of riding to the park with your mini-you, guess what: it’s not too late to learn! Most boroughs offer subsidised classes to get you on your bike and you can find these by asking the google. I contacted which is a brilliant organisation that services, repairs and re-builds bikes. They take donations and sell bikes and run fun events and most importantly for me, they offer cycle classes for children and adults!

I treated myself to a one-to-one class (they also offer women-only group classes) with the fantastically patient and encouraging Fiona. She took the pedals off and had me scooting along, balance-bike-style. And then after a while, she added a pedal. And after some practice, she added a second pedal. As someone who possess neither confidence nor coordination it was a delightful shock when I lifted both feet off the floor and pedalled both pedals at the same time. (Documentary evidence available on the blog and facebook page). I spent the latter part of the hour-and-half of tuition in nirvana, flying on wheels around the basketball court, my shirt billowing in the wind, like you see people do in real life! I just kept picturing Midi-Me’s face so happy and proud of me when I showed her what I could do! 

Elated and only slightly bruised, I walked back to the car with my old dad whom I had brought along to watch and he said, “That was all wrong. Someone needs to hold the back of you and run while you ride as you are very wobbly. I could have taught you better.”
“OMG! I’ve JUST learnt! Obviously I need practice! You had forty-three years! Why didn’t you??” I retorted, incredulous at his lack of vicarious joy.

“It never occurred to me.”


Picture it, Midi-Me and I, baguettes in our baskets, riding in rapturous gallic cyclement through the hollyhocks of quaint little towns around Il de Ré, our hair flying like a jubilant Tricolore in the breeze, and behind us a soundtrack of popular French accordion music.

Naturally, it never happened. If you are regular reader you will know it’s because our lives run like a British spin-off of Modern Family. I broke a few ribs a couple of weeks before leaving by slipping in the bath. We still went, sharing one Easyjet-sized hand luggage between us to avoid me having to carry anything (coz I couldn’t). Relying on walking slowly and infrequent buses to get around the island wasn’t ideal but equally wasn’t the end of the world. We gorged on the freshest fish, market delicacies, and oysters as big as my hand washed down with Ré Lemonade for her and Pineau (local wine which had a wonderful anaesthetic effect…) for me. And a rainbow of glace flavours with crepes and waffles. And buttery croissants for breakfast every day.

Franchement, what else does one need? * * twitter @appleina *Instagram @mynotesfromtheedge *

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