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Happy Birthday Bicycle!

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Happy Birthday, dear Bicycle!

200 years! That’s quite a feat, yet you seem to be as young and sprightly as ever; aging well and always open to change and improvement…

I’ll never forget the day we met for the first time. I had seen you before, but when you knocked on our door on my 5th birthday, I was over the moon. At first my relationship with your green little self (it was before the days when everything girly had to be pink!) was a little wobbly and needed some support, but soon we ditched the spare wheels and started to go for a ride of a life-time. I still see myself cruising around in circles in the yard, reveling in the sheer joy of speed and movement and feeling the wind in my hair (it was also long before helmets!).

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Fast forward a few years, and your silver incarnation, equipped with a 3-speed torpedo gear system, roadworthy and thus quite a ‘serious’ bicycle, had become my daily companion on the way to school, to afternoon sport or to see friends. I’ll always appreciate the independence and freedom I gained, let alone the precious minutes in the morning, when I could delay getting up because I knew I could make up for it by pedalling harder. There was many a frosty winter morning when I arrived in the classroom with my fringe frozen from the condensation of my breath.

Do you remember our first real adventure together? It was just too exciting – a three day bike tour through the summery forests, organized by the local sports club. My friend and I were so desperate to go, that we lied about our age. Minimum was 12 years, after our pleading they lowered it to 10, and we just didn’t tell anybody that we were only 9 at the time. We had so much fun! And I think it was then that I really realized the potential that was hidden within your steel frame and turning wheels.

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Over the years there have been many successors in a variety of shapes and colours; there was the green racing snake my grandmother had won in a crossword competition and which she didn’t really want because it wasn’t quite lady-like enough; a purple city bike with a bow frame, which I used to commute to university and which involuntarily found a new owner; that first mountain bike I just had to get to impress a friend I had a serious crush on. Then the golden Kona which became my first ‘work vehicle’ and which has not only carried me up and down many a steep mountain, but also tidied me over some tough times, and last but not least the slightly dull grey touring bike with the fancy back suspension and the auspicious name of “Steppenwolf”.

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Dear Bicycle, I really appreciate that over the years you have helped me save a lot of roubles (in petrol money) and that you enticed me to stay fit without having to the gym. You made me realize that I wasn’t made of sugar, or, in other words, didn’t melt away in the rain, and quite how much I love moving freely in the great outdoors. You gave me work and joy, and you allowed me to explore new regions – and later on countries and then continents – at the speed of thought.

You took me on journeys from the end of the world to the beginning of time. I learned from you that looks and colour don’t matter, that we, just like you, come in all shapes and sizes. Pedalling hard, I wrote entire books in my head, worked through personal issues, solved the world’s problems and started to appreciate the pleasures of an uncluttered, simple life.

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More than anything though I appreciate that you gave me freedom; the freedom to move independently at an early age, the freedom to explore my own boundaries, the freedom of thought by literally widening my horizons, and finally the freedom that only trust and belief in one’s own abilities affords. You made me happy and for this I am grateful!

So here is to the next 200 years of freedom, happiness, joy and diversity! Viva!
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“A serious sense of humour”

“The cow took aim. She came straight at Walter. Everybody – the owner of the cow, Andre van Heerden; his farm workers; Walter’s friend Willem, who had come for the ride; each and every one froze. They all held their breaths. It was clear that there was no way Walter could manage to get out of the cow’s path in time. Although she was sick, very sick in fact, she developed a hefty speed over the short distance, and she had some mighty forward pointing horns…”

It wasn’t this beautiful specimen though that Walter tackled in the chapter “A Serious Sense of Humour”, about halfway through ‘Healing Rhinos and Other Souls’ – I met her a couple of days ago and she was really friendly  🙂

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