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Letter to America: The Cycle of Life On:2022-12-12 08:21:07

My Dear Americans,
    when I was young (Oh! So many years ago...) cycling in the summer, usually with a couple of the other guys, was one of our favourite activities. It meshed well with the other one of sailing1, since if it was not windy enough for one it was great for the other, as was its opposite.
We would ride, widely, within a roughly 20 mile radius: to the sea at Covehithe2 or Lowestoft or GreatYarmouth or inland even as far as Norwich. Back then cars were less frequent and we could ride carefree on the relatively car free roads (one might even say carelessly if not completely carlessly), with me on my handmade Claud Butler racer3, with Campagnolo4 hubs, wheels and pedals, Brooks5 saddle and of course fixed-wheel6 drivetrain with a ridiculously high gear ratio and no freewheeling. Ah! Youth!!

On one memorable occasion we went down to Holton near Halesworth where I got my first sight of their remarkable post mill7. A hundred or so years before my youth occurred windmills were a common sight, but by the middle of the 20th century they were a rare not to mention delightful one.
The mill thus took all my attention, consequently leaving me none available for the T junction I was approaching, had approached, gone through and gone beyond. [horrible crashing sounds] Yes, I went full speed into, and indeed pretty well through the prickly hedge that ran beneath the mill's hill. To my friends credit I don't remember that they laughed—well not too much—actually now I think about it almost rolling about on the floor, the swine, but since I was wearing bits of hedge and had an interesting surface striation on my exposed parts (which in shorts was quite a lot) and I wasn't really hurt nor, more importantly, was my bike so I suppose I forgave them and all was good.
Then time passed, cars proliferated, I grew up (to a certain extent) and eventually there was the motorbike incident. As you probably know motorbikes have extremely good camouflage and other road users can hardly see them however hard they try, so on a day biking motorishly on the way to Bedford, with a constant stream of now proliferated traffic coming towards me and as I was approaching a gas station (or as we say over here a petrol station), a car exited it and, intending to ease their joining of the approaching stream, stopped—in the middle of my side of the road! [repeat horrible crashing sounds cut short] No, no I didn't hit it, I somehow managed to drive into the forecourt, miss the gas (or petrol) pumps and exit beyond he whom I'll now call Uh! They won't let me say that on air.
For some unknown reason that happened very close to the time of echoing the piggies of Orwell's Animal Farm "four wheels good, two wheels bad" and getting a car.
After that my entire two wheel experience was limited to the time I was innocently walking through London's Soho when a crowd of protesting cyclists passed me: all of whom were naked! Apparently nude cycling is a form of expressing grievances.

I have no idea what they were objecting to, though as a guess it might have had something to do with the roughness of bicycle seats.
All of which brings us down to last Thursday and to Beccles Public Library where they carry a lot of often rather interesting pamphlets of "things to do" in the district.
Among these I happened to notice several for bicycle tours, you know the sort of thing, a group of people in bicycle helmets and garish spandex8, and I guess on bicycles, herding off like wildebeest thundering over the veldt, or lemmings at full pelt being chased by rabid Disney nature-film makers9! Took me right back to my youth, it did (apart from the spandex and the helmets). I was almost tempted. But then, then I saw The Brewery Cycle Tour... Brewery Cycle Tour!!?!... A tour of breweries on bicycles—Well you can forget about post mills tempting fate! This wan't just cycling to a brewery, looking around, maybe having a beer and then carefully home again. Oh! No! There are seven of them on the route! Seven: St Peter's Brewery,?Grain Brewery, Queens Head PH & Waveney Brewing Co., Green Dragon PH & Brewery, Black Swan PH, Flint Vineyard & Ampersand10 Brewery.
I'm sure they will start out safely, but after the first few "Oh! I'll just taste a pint here or maybe just make it a half", though I'd never suggest their judgement might be impaired in the slightest, soon it'll be "another round all round", and by the time thy reach the vineyard it'll be "zhust leave the boddle an we'll finish it". And on the way home "Shay...Look at me riding no hands (Wheee!) ... ... and standing on the seat (hic)... facing backwards ... with my eyes closhed!!!" [repeat horrible crashing sounds]
Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me!


1 See Letter to America: Beautiful Broads for a disquisition on this, and see the last few paragraphs to see just how rotten we were whilst doing it.

2 For more on this lovely and (currently largely) non-existent place see the essay Walk Awhile.

3 Claud Butler

4 Campagnolo

5 Brooks

6 Fixed-gear

7Post Mill

8 Did you know that spandex was coined as an anagram of the word 'expands'? Did you even care?

9 A not terribly veiled reference to the myth of lemming suicide perpetrated by Disney in a 1950's "documentary" and entirely staged, including the poor things being "thrown off a cliff by the Disney filmmakers"! [Grr!!]

10 Probably wouldn't work to say ampersand Ampersand Brewery. Sad.

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