It used to be very much a cycling life for me, and I thought I’d write a blog post about it because of my protagonist in The Dream.
I wrote about a character who hated cars and cycled everywhere, and I did so because that used to be me. When I first started work I would walk – it was only about fifteen minutes away – but two years later I bought a bike, and from then on we were inseparable. I loved that bike. I rode it to work every day for fifteen years. Eventually it became so worn out that my dad couldn’t repair it any more and I was forced to buy a new one, but it was never the same. The new one was a mountain bike; it was too big, and it had an uncomfortable seat and handlebars. The cycle to work – by then forty minutes each way – became more of a chore than a pleasure.
The great things about cycling are seeing nature close at hand, being in the fresh air, keeping fit (although that didn’t actually cross my mind much at the time) and just generally feeling free. The less than great things are getting soaked in the rain, fear of falling off in black ice or snow, getting chilly on the iciest of days, being blasted on windy days, having to walk for miles if you have a puncture, and being stuck if ill or injured. As it was, I tended to cycle to work even if I were ill or injured. Many a time I puffed along when my asthma was bad, or strained through the miles when I had a fever. Once I injured a ligament in my arm but didn’t get it looked at even though it was very painful; I couldn’t ride my bike if my arm was in plaster, and I had no alternative means of transport. Another time I fell off my bike and gashed my elbow and then cycled to the hospital to get it patched up.
So when I decided that Ollie in The Dream should be a keen cyclist, it was based on my own experience. Not only that, but a friend of mine who is now almost forty has travelled exactly the same path. Only now has she finally bought a car after years of cycling to work. This might sound strange to American readers, but it’s not so uncommon here in the UK. Like my friend I eventually succumbed to the lure of the car, but I will never come to love cars the way I loved that bike.