All I wanted was figs.
So I cycled to the market – a twenty-minute bike ride that culminates in the heart of Cambridge, where all (or no) traffic rules apply.
(When I drive my car, cyclists teem out of every street corner. Unpredictable and quick like bats and birds, they dart and swoop, and at traffic lights swerve to the centre as if to say: “This is my road.”
When I cycle my bike, cars are the enemy: pernicious, powerful, and with no care for those on two wheels. It took me a whole month to be brave enough to move to the middle of the road in order to turn right (rather than dismounting and crossing by foot)).
Back to the market … despite a couple of tight squeezes with some hulking great buses, I arrived in one piece. I bought twelve figs (I wanted ten but the deal was for multiples of four), popped them in my basket and took to the cobbles again.
However, I always take a wrong turn when exiting Market Hill. There’s something about doing a route in reverse that I can’t quite master.
I found myself on a narrow pedestrianised street, dodging shoppers and oncoming cyclists, when I spotted a familiar shop on a side road which caused me to veer right.
Which was a surprise to the man overtaking me. All I could think about was protecting my ankle which I’d already injured twice in the last fortnight. So I did a weird kind of bike stagger and landed in a tangle on top of a bin.
Cambridge folk are nice. A lady on crutches kept checking I was okay and said that she had worried I was going to fall on my head. A man retrieved my bike and waited while I picked myself up and then collected one fig after another that had spilled from my basket. And the overtaking cyclist was young and looked pained at my fall. I assured him that it was all my fault then gathered what remained of my dignity to push my bike in what I hoped was the correct direction.
Once out of sight I got back on my bike with something of a wobble and my mudguard fell off. I only realised because it made a crumpled sound when I ran over it. A woman sitting in a pavement café called after me and put down her book – possibly in sympathy but more likely with curiousity – as I muttered what a muppet I was while stuffing the mudguard on top of the squashed figs in my basket.
The rest of the ride back was fine – in spite of the wide-bellied buses and over-confident cyclists who crushed me close to the edge of the road. As the minutes went by I picked up speed and began to feel restored.
Half-way home, I was trailing a couple of men about to pedal up the railway bridge on Mill Road (which counts as a hill in Cambridge). Something came over me and I decided to change gears. Mudguard-less and dishevelled, and with a bad ankle to boot, I knew I had to beat them.
The men were fast but I was faster, and I smiled as I swept past.
I had to screech my brakes to the bottom of the hill because my way home was to the right. I dismounted from my bike in order to cross the road, and watched the two men sail past me without even noticing I was there.
As for the figs – I’m hoping I can cover their bruises for my guests tomorrow night. Otherwise I’ll have to go to the market again.