As anyone who has ever met me knows I am not great fan of exercise. My preferred activity is reading a book, preferably while drinking coffee, or talking with friends, and if push comes to shove, and I really have to do something, then I quite like walking and dancing.
For many years I was quite proud of the fact that I’d been skiiing for one day; I could just about ice skate, and at university I had even been asked to play mixed doubles in tennis. Once. They never asked me again. I played badminton once with my husband and his cousin. And when I was in school they once let me be in the school hockey team. For ten ignominious minutes. Then they preferred to play with ten. Not a good record. Clumsy child syndrome. Dyspraxia. Laziness. Whatever. (I was even hidden in the library during a school inspection – you won’t mind staying here for a while, reading a book? asked Mrs Nurse the pe teacher, whilst gently shoving me into the nuns’ library.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered a photo of me on a bicycle. I had always sworn blind that I couldn’t ride a bike, nothing would induce me to even try. And then a couple of weeks ago I found this snap. Connell Crescent between Park Royal and Hanger Lane. My grandmother in the background. 1963. I was almost ten. My father must have taken the photo.
And slowly, slowly the day is coming back to me. My father never really knew what to do with me so he encouraged me to play with the girls in the street. I had a red scooter and so I went out with it a lot. In time I made friends with Caroline Long and Kim Somerville. I wonder what’s happened to them? We played together a lot and went to each other’s houses. But boys were something different. We didn’t acknowledge them as far as I recall. Yet here I am sitting on a boy’s bike. And now I do remember pedalling down the little hill with the boy (who was he? What was his name? How old as he?) running beside me. I don’t think I learnt to brake. I imagine I was quite exhilarated and very scared. I never did it again!