By Kieron Gargan
The clock bells rang out as the big brass pendulum swung noisily reminding me that the hour had come. I loved my grandfather’s visits, he was always good humored and his stories would keep you captivated for hours.
Gazing out the window I could see him as he turned the corner, perched upright on his prized possession, a vintage Raleigh bicycle we called an ‘upstairs model’. It was quite heavy and designed more for comfort than for speed.
Bicycles were a status symbol and a necessity in those days just like a car today. It wasn’t unusual to see men carrying their loved ones on the crossbar of a bike going to a dance or a football match.
My grandfather was employed by the County Council to cut hedges and ditches along the roads around the town. Each morning himself and a team of workers would set off on their bikes, shovels and forks strapped to the cross bars. Others could be carrying a slash hook or even a scythe, a disaster in the making if they crashed.
His bicycle had a leather bag attached to the saddle which he used for carrying his lunch. This was usually a few cheese sandwiches, an old chef sauce bottle filled with milk and a Billy-can for brewing up the tea.
A small tin box containing a few spoons of loose tea and sugar completed the menu.
Friday which was payday, a few ginger nut biscuits would be thrown in.
One summer’s evening we were sitting outside, the sun barely visible behind a large chestnut tree in front of the house. Pointing at the bike with his pipe through a haze of plug tobacco smoke, he said, “My bike is my livelihood. Last week I was shocked to discover that it was missing. I leave it in the bedroom every night and deliberately sit outside the door so that the lads can’t take it.
‘‘It was a mystery,” he said, “the window was too small to get it through. “I don’t know how they got it out.”
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