There was a long queue. It stretched way around a corner, and I knew there was no barber, hairdresser, closed-pub-serving-orders, top-class restaurant doing takeaways or supermarket with a queue back to last February in the vicinity. Just houses.
The queue trailed around a corner. I had to find out. So I tracked it – from a distance – around the corner, and another, to … a bike shop.
"A bike shop," I exclaimed to myself with a socially distanced muffle, and such shock as not heard since Lady Bracknell uttered "A handbag!" on discovering her daughter was about to marry a man originally found in … a handbag.
This remarkable popularity of a most unremarkable bike shop was quite the surprise – though I had already noted the growing numbers of people on bicycles since pandemic regulations eased. There was also that unexpectedly large collection of same at a popular spot one sunny afternoon.
Undoubtedly, one of the more unforeseen consequences of the pandemic has been the exponential growth in bicycles. On reflection, it is easy to see why. Travelling in such solitary fashion is safer in times when we are warned against just about everything social.
And could there be a healthier way to get around? All that exercise. All that fresh air. But it makes me wonder. As regulations ease and traffic increases, how safe will cycling continue to be?
And traffic could become worse past the worst of Covid-19, with people probably preferring to travel in small groups by car than in crowded buses and trains. We shall see.
I got my first bike when I was six. It was a trade-off. I had to give up the bottle. A struggle! Myself and two of my brothers were given a bottle each going to bed until it was decided by greater powers that I was past it.
Separating me from the bottle was one of the greater challenges I posed for my parents. They upped the ante. I was offered a bike instead and gave in. But, bike or no bike, I never overcame the separation trauma. It is why “the bottle” never lost its charm for me. Though nowadays it rarely contains milk.
Bicycle, from bi Latin for "two", and a Latinised form of the Greek kyklos, for "circle, wheel".