As we cuddled up in bed, Roger sighed contentedly.”Its over” he said.
“Thirty four years slaving away in the factory,
now we can look forward to the rest of our lives doing just what we like.
And I’ve got a surprise for you darling. I’ve told them how much we are
looking forward to getting out and about more, and tomorrow morning
they are delivering my retirement present, which will make that possible.”
It took quite a while to get to sleep after that, I was so thrilled,
they must think a lot of him to buy him a little car. We had been wanting
one for ages but he said we couldn’t afford it, so we soldiered on with our
old unreliable gas-guzzler.
When I did wake up, Roger was at the window peering out of the
curtains. “There’s something out there” he said excitedly “They’ve
delivered it already. Get dressed quick and we’ll go down and have a look
together. Promise me you won’t peep and spoil the surprise!”
As if I would have time for that ! I don’t think I had ever dressed so quickly, and
I literally ran down the stairs.
“ Close your eyes” he said. I was as excited as him I think, so I let
him lead me outside. “You can open them now” he said, so I did. I didn’t
know what to say. “Isn’t it great” he enthused.
I clenched my ﬁsts. It wasn’t the little compact car I had imagined, It was a tandem! I ask you —a bloody tandem!
“They gave us the cycle helmets as well” he said. He
was looking at me a little perplexed, not quite sure how I was reacting.
“If you think” I said through gritted teeth “that I’m going out and
about on the back of that thing with your bum stuck in my face, you are
very much mistaken – and don’t you even think about lycra” and I
stormed indoors , slamming the door behind me.
I was drying my eyes when he came in very sheepishly. He was so
crestfallen I felt a bit sorry for him.
“Please let’s just give it a try” he said “You might enjoy it.”
Well I doubted that very much, but couldn’t think of a genuine reason to refuse, so I grudgingly agreed to go along with him. He laid the monstrosity into the back of our estate car, and off we went to the car park at the common. Thank heaven there was no one
around. We put the helmets on, and laughed as we helped each other do
them up. It eased the tension a little.
“You get on ﬁrst” he said. “I’ll hold it steady”.
Have you ever looked at a tandem closely? The frame is one
piece, so it has a crossbar front and back, and although the back one
slopes down a little, it is still there, and you have to get your leg over it.
Much easier said than done! As you can see, I am no athlete, and lifting
my leg over that bar was only accomplished aﬂer a terrible struggle, a lot
of swearing and a split in my trousers. I was panting with the exertion,
but at last I had my behind on the seat and one foot on the pedal, the other
on the ﬂoor, holding it steady by the handlebars. I refused to think about how big my backside must look, hanging over each side of this narrow
uncomfortable saddle! Now it was Roger’s turn to get on, and as he ﬂung
his leg over his crossbar he gave me an almighty kick which almost
dislodged me. What a ﬁasco! At last we were both on board, and after a
count of three we pushed off, managing one turn of the pedals before
having to put one foot down each. After several tries we wobbled off
along the path for about ten yards, accompanied by cheers from a
coachload of kids who had turned up to play football! We were so
absorbed we hadn’t seen or heard them arrive, but this audience so
Lll’1Il€I’V6d us that we crashed into a rubbish bin, and both fell off and lay
winded in the grass, red faced and crying with laughter as these
youngsters surrounded us, more interested in the tandem than whether we
were dead or dying.
Later on, back indoors, as we nursed our bruises, Roger admitted,
to my absolute but hidden relief, that perhaps it had been a mistake, and
we should sit down and work out how we could budget to downsize the
car, trading in our old one and the tandem towards it. Our “Something
Out There“ would thankfully soon become someone else‘s
And that is why today, one year on, we are enjoying ﬁsh and chips
in our comfy,warm Ford Fiesta on the front at Clacton, while the rain
pours down outside, instead of huddling frozen and soaked through in the
bike sheds. Result ll