I have a bike. I am reasonably attached to this bike, so when, last week, I was too drunk to ride it home after an evening out in Covent Garden, I decided to go and reclaim it. ‘It will be long gone,’ My friend warned me ominously. ‘It won’t,’ I replied cheerfully.
My bike, like most people’s newborns, is attractive only to me. It is a dilapidated, rusty object, which, until an hour ago, had lethal metal spikes poking out of its wheels. (I had been meaning to remove these for some time, but not being the type of person who carries her own personal tool kit, had singularly failed to do so).
As expected, it was waiting as patiently as the fat child with asthma during netball trials, exactly where I had left it. I unlocked it and hopped on. As I have already said, I am reasonably attached to my bike. I am, not, however, like most mothers of newborns, blind to its faults.
I trundled off down Shaftesbury Avenue, and had to stop almost immediately. ‘Now,’ I said firmly to my silent bike. ‘You are not the most comfortable of bikes. But even you are not usually so infuriatingly painful to ride. I believe something is wrong.’ I wheeled my truculent bike to the closest bike store.
I have taken my bike to bike stores before.
It is a little like taking a terribly badly behaved puppy to Crufts. ‘Oh dear,’ The bike man said, shaking his head in dismay. He wandered over to take a closer look, running his eyes up and down my bike in a disapproving yet lascivious way. ‘This won’t do at all.’
I waited patiently while he explained the myriad of ways I was certain to die, painfully and publicly, unless I replaced every inch of my bike. ‘Is your life not worth £500?’ He asked finally. It seems I took a little too long to consider this, because he sent me off to see the mechanics. Meekly, I wheeled my bike down to the workshop below.
‘There’s something wrong with my back wheel,’ I said softly, suitably abashed. ‘And your colleague thinks I should rebuild every part of my bike.’ (I had decided to keep my newfound existential crisis to myself at that point.) The bike mechanic looked at my back wheel carefully. ‘You have a puncture,’ He explained. ‘I can replace the inner tube for a fiver.’
There are several points to be taken from this story, but I believe the most important is that, sometimes, especially when it’s 3 days before payday, a life is not worth £500, but could probably be measured out at £18.50 (after council tax has been paid). And also that it’s always worth going downstairs.*
*This is not true. Sometimes downstairs is a) someone else’s flat b) the creepy underground laundry room c) the part of the house they decided not to heat.