Come along for the ride!!

Monday, February 11, 2008


Well, well, well, wasn’t the weekend a beauty? Sunday found me helping the plasterer finish off indoors so I won’t dwell on that day too much, but Saturday, Saturday, dear sweet Saturday.

Isn’t waking up to a deep blue sky and no sign of frost anywhere on a Saturday one of the very best things ever?


We had breakfast and drove straight over to Richmond Park where we just ‘ambled’ about for 2 hours, the children running here, there and everywhere and they kept on running until the familiar chant of “I’m hungry” filled the air.

Back into the car, over to a cracking Japanese restaurant in Putney where we shared sushi, sashimi, prawn tempura, char siu (pork) and unagi don (eel with rice – my favourite), all washed down with carrot and apple juice.

M had a meeting to attend in the afternoon, so Joseph, Annabel and myself went to the Common with bike, trike and crash helmets,. Joseph ordered me to take a spanner so he could “try riding without my stabilisers” which I duly did.

Clever Dad (me) remembered a lock so I didn’t have to traipse after my children whilst simultaneously pulling their belongings behind me when they dumped vehicles for slides and swings – I think it was the first time I ever managed to remember to do so.

Anyway, they had a lot of fun at the swing park; as you might imagine it was packed, what with the weather being as beautiful as it was, but the highlight of the day was yet to come.

M joined us just as light was starting to fade and so all concerned donned appropriate headgear for the ride home, then Joseph asked me to remove his stabiliser wheels. He has tried (half-heartedly) in the past but try, try again and all that.

So, I remove said wheels, and for a change I don’t bother him with the basics do’s and don’ts; I just let him get on with it.

We start slowly, building speed and all I have to do is remind him to look up rather than down at his feet. Within 10 seconds, I am running behind him, my hand hovering but not touching him and ….. and ……. and he’s off, all on his own.

I slow down and drop back from his peripheral vision, telling him he’s doing it all by himself. He briefly looks around trying to see where I have gone and he wobbles badly, but he recovers wonderfully before leaving the path for the grass.

His broad smile tells me he is pretty chuffed with this latest achievement.

Me too.

Once is definitely not enough however and so he brings his bike to the middle of the path and off we go again, this time just the briefest of ‘push-offs’ from me but he is away again, off into the distance and I am standing halfway between him and Annabel and M whom I have left behind.

He stops again, rotating to acknowledge my applause and I in turn spin around to beam at “the girls”.

I stand there and realise that I can now bring out my own bicycle with Joseph and cycle around the common together rather than me, slowly walking with him on the ride out and me drag his bicycle home ‘cos he is bored of it.

I can remember the bicycles my brother and I had (my favourite being my beloved red Grifter that had a stand!) and we cycled everywhere ALL the time. There wasn't an inch of our neighbourhood that we didn’t know. Every street, alleyway, shortcut; even the shallowest bits of the local Quaggy (river) at the bottom of our street that would allow access across.

Our Dad would take us to ‘Cowboy Valley’ on Blackheath (SE3) which was basically a set of cross country paths in a big muddy dip and we spent as much time there as possible, not going home until it was pitch black and we were totally exhausted and unable to ride another metre.

Watching Joseph, I realised that he is already too tall for his bike – the bike Annabel “bought” him when she was born. When he looked down to see his feet pumping away, he nearly knee’d himself in the nose so this year looks like being new bike time for him.

Annabel was happy to be pushed home on her trike, combined with occasional strolls holding M’s hand while us “boys” ran on in front.

There is a scene in the weepy film Kramer vs Kramer when Dustin Hoffman takes his son to the park and watches proudly as ‘Billy’ cycles off under his own steam with no stabilisers. It is a scene that for some reason has been burned onto my psyche and one which I always wondered that I might be lucky enough to play out myself.

As it turns out, I have been lucky enough. I did picture having a camera to hand to record the moment but I have a feeling that my own experience of it will also be burned into my memory.

Go for it Poops – there’s no stopping you now!


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