It’s not everyday you meet someone with a bicycle built for two. In Hoxton, my old neighbourhood in London, I was used to seeing the odd penny-farthing, but the hipsters weren’t keen on a bicycle built for two, so really I’ve only ever seen them on TV.
They are utterly delightful.
My colleague, who was in charge of the bicycle, was not in her normal flouncy frock (she is a fan of a good frock, and all her frocks rock) but rather in what she termed, her boy clothes, waiting for her husband to emerge from the same building both of us had just left. They commuted to and from the university on a bicycle built for two. And they weren’t hipsters. A bit odd, slightly mad, yes, obviously, but still, it was unusual for me to see such a thing being ridden without being first dipped in a serious amount of irony.
So far, Bristol has been underwhelming. When weekend guests come from London (as they kindly do once a fortnight, just to make sure I’m not losing my mind) we always have a blast. Because Bristol is grand for a weekend. Nice long walks, good air (this is a thing you miss when you live in London and at times you can forget that air doesn’t always smell like filth), nice restaurants, decent pubs, and there’s enough to adequately fill a weekend. It’s just that, come Monday, if you’re me, you’d rather like things to pick up a bit.
I like a good pace. At each and every interval in my life someone be they a teacher, mentor, colleague, has told me I ought to slow down. Even my piano teacher when I was six told me that. Slow down. The only person who has never said that were my swim coaches. Everyone else wants me to slow down.
When I first arrived, my boss’s boss threw a little party at her new house, being as she was new to town too. Everyone from work went and I met a chap called Neighbour Paul. He used to live in London too. He said it would take me about a year to calm down fully and embrace Bristol and all it has to offer.
Which, from my point of view, is slowness, acceptance that things are just fine as they are, that it’s okay that the buses don’t run properly, that everything is touted as being really exciting and when you get there it’s four people standing around selling cake. There is none of that wild-crazy okay we have to make this work or we are totally and utterly screwed tension that I quite like about cities.
There is a rebellious spirit here – these are people who rioted when a Tesco tried to open – and that kind of spirit I can get behind. But this town reminds me of The Mom’s hometown: it’s full of professors, generally math or computer science ones, people like the slower pace of life, and think it’s totally fine to not live in the hustle and bustle.
I however, quite like the hustle and bustle. I don’t often participate in it and will complain up and down about the ridiculous, fearal-ness of London, but God I miss it. There are just endless possibilities there, in a way that there aren’t here.
Though, Bristol does make up for that in other ways. The bicycle built for two lady for one, and there are goats in charge of lawn mowing duties up in the park near my flat, and though I’ve not yet seen them, the plaque indicating what they are and their purpose show that they have wild Gandolf-like beards, which appeals tremendously.
For now, this is my writers’ residency. I have my own flat, a short walk to work, and time to think and write. This would be make ever more legitimate if I could get a book published, but never mind. Time here to work on that as well.
And if all else fails, I will take the bicycle built for two lady up on her offer of a sidecar. Which I may do anyhow, because you can’t put a sidecar on a penny farthing and there is a serious lack of bicycles built for two in London.