Twenty-First Thing: Je ne regrette rien

Someone wise once said that you’re more likely to regret the things you dont do than regret the things you do do. Certainly when I finish sentences like that, I regret not having learned accurate grammar: but I was a pre-internet child. Who could have predicted that one day my badly constructed sentences would be instantaneously available to read/mock anywhere in the world.

I also regret not being able to sew. I regret not learning play the piano. I regret not paying more attention in French classes. Or taking up German at all. But perhaps for these things, it’s not yet too late.

Other regrets are more time and site specific. Like turning down the opportunity to go and visit the Kröller-Müller museum with a friend who then lived in nearby Wageningen. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see the art (it apparently has a fantastic collection); or that I was too tired / hungover / lazy (or at least my memory doesn’t dwell on those as factors). What I recall was the main reason for passing up on this cultural excursion was the fact that to reach the museum, located in the National Park De Hoge Veluwe, we would need to hire bikes and cycle there.

At this point in my life (it was around 2000-2001), it was already over a decade since I’d been on a bicycle and despite the old saying about how riding a bike is just like riding a bike, I was too scared of showing myself up as an unconfident wobbler, or worse falling off, to risk it.

It’s ironic that having had the chance to get back in the saddle on the flat terrain of the Netherlands (and the visit there, in fact, came after 4 years living in the British equivalent landscape: Norfolk) I chose to pick up a bike some ten year on, after moving to the rolling hills of Northumberland, when my father was kind enough to dig his old Rudge (rhymes with fudge) out of the garage for me to try. Mastering gear changes to get up a slope was a learning curve and the frustration of the chain jumping off when I forgot to peddle at the same time made me wonder if the bike and I would ever be good friends, or only ever begrudging acquaintances.

It was only after moving to Gateshead (hillier still) that I started to use the bike as a form of everyday transport, discovering that it was by far the quickest method to get from A to B (downhill to work) – even compared to a car (thanks to various traffic-light-free cycle lanes) and going from B to A (uphill) although tough, was tolerable.

So I am a born-again cyclist, and with that comes the kit. The helmet, the gloves, the bell, the waterproof (all blue, of course), and then there are the lights, the tools and the optional gadgets (who even know what a bike computer was? No, you can’t send emails on it). And then you have the bike itself and the dilemma of where to keep it when it’s not in use for safe-keeping but easy access. Bikes can be muddy and wet and they leave annoying scuff marks when you lean the handle against a freshly painted walls…

My twenty-first thing, therefore, is a trio of bike-related tasks to tackle these issues:

  • 21a: Anti-scuff barriers in hall and porch so that walls can remain pristine.
  • 21b: Hanging-system in the porch for helmet, gloves, waterproof etc so I don’t waste precious minutes trying to locate them all every morning.
  • 21c: Box to keep all the bike gear in.

21a: This was easy as I already had a hand-stamped signs suitable for the job (thanks to fun with the ink stamps at Northern Print) so I simply laminated these and attached them with sticky dots (which themselves leave no trace when removed). Genius invention.

21b: This involved locating and installing a row of hooks I bought from Habitat some years ago (which the eagle-eyed of you will see is of the same vintage as the hanger in my first post). Drill, rawl plugs, screws. Pretty straightforward. And yes, I realise it’s a bit wonky.

21c: This was the fun one, taking a large shoe-box; mending the broken bits; painting it with household emulsion (using Crown matchpots – they come with their own applicators – in intense aqua and classic duck egg); printing out some cycling signage (I chose the Dutch cycling sign, which is much like the British one) and sticking these on, before a final coat of PVA to seal and protect it.

Tools / special requirements: All self explanatory.

Time taken: Added together, probably about three hours.

Things learned: The Kröller-Müller Museum is home to Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters. FFS: why didn’t I just go?

Satisfaction (1-10): 8

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