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GOING up is a slog but downhill, a real pleasure. And such as life is now, if it be downhill, then let it be in style. It is, says my friend Adib, like being transported to your younger days. Fifteen maybe. And it was the best STG60 I spent this year.
Things happen on sunny days and one sunny day, as I was walking in West London, there it stood in the window of a bric-à-brac merchant, among the neglected and the forlorn, the second lease hopers in the life of the detritus of our world. Recleaned flower pots and reclaimed china, pulled perhaps from the darkest corner of the kitchen store, an old frame around a coronation picture of Her Majesty in 1953, little statuettes of nymph-like creatures or leprechauns, possibly, and little trinkets and plastic rejects in the shape of children's tricycles, watering cans that had seen the life and deaths of verbenas and lavender and old lillies of the valley. Dinner jackets and old apparels pulled out from the mothballs of yesteryear, and shirts gaily patterned perhaps from someone's past jaunts in tropical isles.
The bric-à-bracer, if he can be so-called, sat there among his wares.
I am using the appellation sparingly as he was no ordinary fellow that you saw in dusty shops under the sign board "William Watkins and by the Grace of God, his Twelve Children".
I saw something like that once above a shop in Bayswater, a butcher's if you must know. But that was a long time ago, and they were all sowing wild oats then but they are all growing sage now.
He was sitting there, the bric-à-bracer, involved in his own umwelt, and between his fingers, a broken doll. But it wasn't that that drew me to his shop, it was the fact that he was Rastafari: Bob Marley in his shop surrounded by the remnants of the post-imperial world.
And of course, the bicycle.
"It's a postman's," he said. I knew there was something familiar about the red. And he took me to it, his hand picking assorted items of women's apparel.
A blouse draped on the handle bar, two skirts neatly stacked on the seat, a tweed skirt now resting on the cross bar that in its heyday would have felt at home at the queen's summer garden party.
Shorn and stripped of all its dangly parts, life came back now to the postman's bicycle.
It was a Pashley, I noted, and Pashleys were made by human hands in the country of Shakespeare. It said so in the manufacturer's sticker that still shone from under the handle bar.
"Hand Built" it declared, by Pashley, and Pashley was in bold, cursive script that spread across the sticker's diagonal. "Of Stratford Upon Avon in England" it said further, in a pile of text in the bottom right, and addressed to the reader in capitals.
It choked me that the scions of the Bard were building bicycles and spraying them red in their enchanted corner of these isles.
We were now in the prime slot just behind the vast front window of the shop. And there I was on the cycling seat, test-driving the roadworthiness of the Pashley.
Not that there were miles to go, just a couple of inches -- and I had to be deft enough -- to avoid the old flower pots and the plastic kiddie's bike and the framed picture of the coronation of Her Majesty.
And Bob Marley was watching me very closely. "One hundred pounds," he said. "It's a beautiful bicycle."
I walked out of the shop as Bob re-draped his bike. A postman's round now dressed in women's clothes, a splendid work by the hands of the great-great grandsons and ditto granddaughters of William Shakespeare, back now to sing its mournful note in a drab front window of a West London assembly of bric-à-brac. I could not just let that one go.
Two days later, to my relief, the Pashley was still there, gleaming red half-heartedly in the pale light of a recalcitrant English summer.
I walked in feigning to be on the trail of battered fedoras or even plastic watering cans for faded begonias. But Bob Marley recognised me.
"Name a price," he said. I named sixty, adding "that's all I can afford" as an afterthought.
"OK, man," he said. "Let me ask me bruvver." And then, OK, he said, whay-hey-hey.
I have been Pashleying now for some weeks and have never looked back (fearing lamp posts along the way).
Have been cycling against the flow of the A40 (on the pavement, I must say) and going out is a breeze (we live on the higher part of a slope), downhill, downhill all the way, enjoying the wheeze back to childhood as my friend Pak Adib, a cycling enthusiast, so aptly put it.
So, what next? The world naked bike ride? Too blasé (and please don't all rush now to Google). The RideLondon fest next year? Possibly. Another keirin rider from Terengganu? Wrong bicycle.