Sunday, 6 July 2014


Just been watching the first stages of the Tour de France in beautiful Yorkshire . With hand on my heart I admit that the White Rose County is as lovely as Lancashire, county of the Red Rose - the Red Rose can been seen wrought in the gates of Liverpool’s Central Library. Watching the cyclists who were as colourful as the scenery in their cycling gear, I was transported back to 1962, the year John and I went youth hostelling on the bikes we had bought second hand that Spring. His was a Claude Butler with gears. Mine was a lady’s bike without gears. I had never owned a bicycle before. No, I tell a lie, my sister and I were given my sister-in-law, Elsie’s, to share. I learnt to ride by simply getting in the saddle and peddling up and down our street. I only fell off a couple of times. That was around about 1957 - the year most of my present manuscript, LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND is set.

But back to 1962. John, having decided we were going to cycle from Liverpool to Cornwall, had me getting into condition by cycling to places such as Formby on the Lancashire coast and for hills, those ones in Liverpool that rise up from Great Homer Street, and up to Netherfield Road and Everton Brow. I can’t say I arrived the top without getting off my bike.

When we eventually did set off for our epic cycling trip two hills stand out in my memory. The first is Porlock Hill, Devon, which has gradients of 1in 3.
 John, of course, took it all in his stride. As for me, I spent most of that climb, pushing my bike up the hill. I discovered that passing motorist informed him that “She’s on her way, lad!” and he kept cycling down to where ever I was at that point. I did eventually reach the top and remember crossing part of Exmoor on what some would call a typical English summer’s day, mist, rain, etc. Suffice to say I never did reach Cornwall because by the end of that day when we arrived in Barnstaple on the north Devon coast, I’d had enough.

Going back a bit - the other hill - a gorge actually. We took what we thought was a short cut to get out of the wind after leaving Chepstow, bypassed Bristol and went through the Chew Valley, Somerset and ended up at the top of what we discovered was the famous Cheddar Gorge. 
 At the more sensible age I am now, I would never have cycled down it but it wasn’t until we had freewheeled down it and were almost at the bottom that we read a notice saying that cyclists were advised to walk.

I have had several bikes in my life so far, never having wanted to learn to drive. When I had my youngest son, Daniel, in my mid-thirties, when he was a toddler we bought a bike seat for him. I used to cycle with him on the back and a shopping basket on my front handle bars . I suppose it’s not surprising that when he was in his twenties, he cycled from Liverpool to France and throughout that beautiful country.

Those were the days, my friends.

I still have a bike which I generally remove from the shed to cycle along the canal towpath and in our country park that used to be the local council tip. It is now full of bird song in spring, wild flowers in summer and is great for picking blackberries in Autumn.

In my early writing days one of the first things I had published was an article in a series called MY FAVOURITE THINGS, you’ll probably guess that mine was MY TWO WHEELED FRIEND MY BIKE.