In The Red: 'I've found that the desire to look like Agyness Deyn does not a cyclist make'
Saturday 11 October 2008
Well. Last week's column clearly struck a chord – the emails positively flooded in (OK, "flooded" may be an exaggeration, although there was a definite bump in in-box). It seems that many of you have had the exact same problem with John Lewis, being forced to endure faulty fridges, warm freezers and exploding washing-machines sitting unrepaired for months on end.
Anyway, my threat of bad press did the trick; a brand-new fridge arrived, as promised, on Saturday morning. Well, almost as promised: in fact, the doorbell rang two hours earlier than agreed, much to the annoyance of my sleepy flatmate. Still, I was thrilled: a fridge!
It's amazing how luxurious things can seem after being deprived of them for a few months. I've already noticed a difference in my grocery bills: no more daily milk purchases! No more shop-bought lunches! No more luke-warm wine! It's as if I've been propelled back into the 21st century after a spell in the Dark Ages.
Which leaves me to return to that long-ago-raised issue of transport. I had, if you remember, promised to take up cycling instead of forking out £120 on my monthly Oyster card. Unfortunately, I think perhaps – just possibly – I may have been a little premature in declaring myself a cyclist. Contrary to earlier reasoning, the desire to look like Agyness Deyn does not a cyclist make. It's not that I haven't made progress, it's just that I haven't made much. In fact, I have encountered a surprising number of obstacles on my mission for thrifty transport.
It all started OK. I bought a second-hand bicycle from a stall in an east London market. (Yes, I realise it may have been stolen property; after a good, ohhhh... three minutes spent weighing up the moral implications against the bargain price of £70, I decided that, well, I didn't really care that much. It's not like I'm sure it was stolen, is it?) So, with perhaps a fraction too little deliberation, I handed over the cash and took my new toy home, wheeling it next to me as I walked.
But that's where the good news ends. My boyfriend took one look at the thing before declaring it a death trap and a rip-off. The front brake wasn't working, he said – although apparently this is a much better scenario than if the back one wasn't. He also pointed out that it was a boy's bike. I had no idea that a girl's bike was different, though once mentioned I suppose it did look a bit odd.
Still, not to be deterred, I took it out for a spin. Brake problems or no, it seemed fine to me. Before I knew it I was riding up to the local park, zooming around in circles like a 14-year-old hoodie. And then, disaster: my second brake began to fail and I was propelled down a hill like a tobogganist on a ski slope. Then I lost control of the steering, and my seat shot downwards with a bump. I felt like I'd crashed, except that I hadn't stopped moving. Eventually I reached some grass and came to a halt, before slowly toppling over in a heap.
It wasn't that bad – just rather embarrassing. The local teenagers found it hilarious, catcalling and shouting, practically falling off their park bench with merriment. Nevertheless, it was enough to put me off cycling – at least for a little while. And I suspect that my bike's days are numbered. I haven't been able to force the seat back to its original height, and have yet to get round to having the brakes fixed. I suppose it serves me right for buying on impulse.
I've seen another, brand new, model in a shop near my flat. Gallingly, it's almost as cheap as the first one – but after that waste of money, I'm struggling to bring myself to splash out again.
So far, then, my cycling ambitions have had limited success. Money saved: £0. Money spent: £70. Hmm. Must do better.
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