I’m not sure if its a trick of memory, but I don’t ever remember having a bike with stabilisers. I recall being held from the side by my dad briefly while I wobbled and tried to pedal fast as a learner, but I can’t think back to a time where i was unable to stay upright on my own.
My very first bike was actually a Frankenstein’s monster which I loved dearly. It was constructed in secret at night from scavanged bits of other bikes in the loft by my father while I slept. A new bike for a birthday was at the time financially out of reach for my family, but it didn’t matter to me one little bit.
It had a dark blue frame, black tyres and shining (but slightly rusty) chrome handlebars with with white plastic grips and black pedals. The granite like saddle was made of slightly yellowed white plastic and could shake even the hardiest of spines loose from your hips when going over rough terrain.
Where the constituent parts came from I’ll never know – but I loved it nevertheless. It carried me all round the neighbourhood, through the woods and endlessly around the park.
My well meaning mother replaced this when it eventually expired with a beige folding shopper bike from the Kays mail order catalogue. It had white wall tyres and a saddlebag at the back for cans of beans or other similar consumables.
In order to further endear me to the other children in the neighbourhood (who collectively refused to believe that I was a trendsetter) she bought an identical one for herself so that we matched on excursions to the local supermarket.
They also had shiny metal bells next to the left hand brake, so we could alert pedestrians to my humiliation if needed.
In a mysterious set of circumstances unknown to my mother at the time, the folding shopping bike was distressingly almost snapped in half by unexpectedly brutal metal fatigue, meaning our matching mother and son transports were no longer.
Sadly this tragedy meant a new bike was needed – and after spirited sales patter from myself the mortally wounded shopper was eventually replaced with a far sturdier Raleigh Burner BMX. This was unlikely to break if it was accidentally thrown from the roof of a garage repeatedly like its predecessor – and this was for many years after my main mode of transportation.
It’s fair to say that the 1980’s were simpler times, and I doubt these days a parent would be comfortable with the 8 hours a day I could typically be out of the house on my bike with my friends.
The independence all of these bikes brought was formative and life changing. When I was on two wheels there was very little that I could find wrong with the world.
I needed no stabilisers and I could do everything on my own.
These days I’ve been made to realise thats not the case any more. I can’t do everything on my own, despite feeling like I should be able to. Now, more than I did back then I need stabilisers to keep me on the straight and narrow.
As an adult these are not two extra wheels at the back of my bike, but rather the structure provided by friends, colleagues, and family.
After much deliberating and lengthy conversation before mom’s funeral with a very philanthropic manager and my brother, I have been made to realise that dealing with any kind of substance abuse whilst at the same time introducing a year of free time could be a colossal and costly mistake.
When I went to the drop in clinic, they too thought that I might be setting myself up for a fall when I shared my plans.
I had to concede to myself and others that maybe my willingness to ‘fix me’ by changing everything in one go might be better accomplished a bit more gradually and with professional support.
My boss (who must be bored of me by now) was as supportive as anyone could possibly be about my needs for counselling if I remained in my position – and I was left wondering what I’ve done to deserve him and others being so patient with me.
On Friday with this varied and well meaning counsel under my belt I decided not to leave my job, withdrew my notice and put my dog (apologies to my sister in law) on hold for a while.
Further down the line though a dog still lurks in the bushes looking for a sober master to take it on a walk.
Watch this space…
Tomorrow however I’m back at work with my friends, and until i’m better I’m taking things one step at a time.