I hadn’t thought of that momentous day for ages, but when Lorraine Mace included this in her interview of me: “Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know“, I was reminded of something good that happened to me when I was twelve.

I won a bicycle!

There was a competition in my girls’ magazine. I had to answer questions on the rules of riding on roads. I even asked my mother whether she thought I should send in my answers and she said yes, never expecting me to win, but I did.

I had asked for a bike before. My parents hadn’t agreed. They said it was too dangerous. Yet my brother had always ridden a bike. I remembered the story of how my dad had taught him, running with him. I never saw my dad run and he didn’t teach me. (I learned to ride on the bike of a friend’s little brother. It was so low to the ground that I wasn’t afraid of falling off.)

“That was different,” they said in answer to my pleas. “We lived in the country, then.”

It was always different for him. The country, the boarding school, being a boy.

But I won a bicycle and so my parents couldn’t stop me from getting one. I remember we ordered a bike suitable for my height, but the one that arrived was adult-sized and so it lasted for years.

Bicycles

Cycling in Devon, UK

I don’t have a bike in hilly Jerusalem, but I’ve enjoyed some good times riding, over the years.

This is the seventh in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

It couldn’t have been more different. In one short flight, I went from a hilly country to a flat one, from not many bicycles to a multitude of them, from coolish temperatures to nights so hot it was hard to sleep, from one language (I did hear only one, and it wasn’t Irish) to another, from people I’d only just met to ones I’ve known all or most of my life.

One thing remained the same: the currency. It was hard to believe I could take out the coins I’d collected in Ireland and hand them over to shopkeepers here in Amsterdam.

During the four days I spent in Holland, I visited the newly-renovated Rijksmuseum and cycled through the Amsterdam Bos to a lake where (as if my legs weren’t aching enough from cycling) we went out on what they called a water bicycle and what I’d call a pedal boat.

Cycling in Amsterdam

Cycling in Amsterdam

We also joined a coach tour to Rotterdam, Delft and the Hague. Delft is a fascinating old town with plenty to see all around the central cobbled square.

At the Royal Delft pottery factory, while the guide spoke to us, I took the photo below. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the story behind the tiled picture behind her and neither can my brother. I do remember that it was sold, but the factory is allowed to keep it for now. If you know any more about the picture, please let me know in the comments. (The comment button is at the top.)

Royal Delft Pottery Works

Royal Delft Pottery Works

I hope to return to Delft one day for a longer visit.

There had been threats of thunderstorms every day, but these didn’t materialise until the last day, when my brother and I went out for a short walk around the Vondelpark, decided there was no need to take rainwear and of course got caught in a thunderstorm. Oh well, I lived to tell the tale.

Oops, I missed out yesterday. I was too bogged down. In my WIP, that is; the bogs of Scotland are all but forgotten.

***

Three lovely days in Amsterdam. On the first, we visit an art exhibition: From Matisse to Malevich, the Royal Palace and the Historical Museum. All are very interesting, especially the historical museum.

On the second day, we walk 16 km from Castricum to Egmond-on-See. The terrain is flat. Flat! So different from Scotland. On the way, we see a group of children on bikes. “Probably a school trip,” my brother says. “What happens if a child doesn’t know how to ride a bike?” I ask. “All Dutch children know how to ride a bike,” he says.

The walk ends at a beach. I’m interested in the seat cabins people have brought with them.

On the third day, we hire a bike and go for a 35-km ride through the Amsterdam Bos to Waver and along the river Amstel back to Amsterdam. It’s fun and I’m proud of myself – I haven’t ridden a bike for a long time. But, when in Rome….

I hop on another plane back to the familiar south of England. Cheap flights are good, although I don’t enjoy standing for over half an hour to wait for the plane to arrive and unload its passengers, especially as my legs are aching from all that exercise.