Fred sitting in his canvass picnic chair, tartan blanket over his lap, glass of Zinfandel in hand, smile on his face, looking at the evening birds swirling, twirling, diving and dining on the myriad insects hovering and shimmering in the sunlit early autumn evening air. He was thinking of fifty years before, in love with life, in love with his wife, devoted to his children and the Labour Party, the benevolent and caring foster parent of them all. Their guardian angel. Astride his Raleigh Shopper he could go anywhere. Shopping of course, the pub, the club, the quiet country lanes but never too far, and three times a week to the Labour Committee Rooms. Once a month, like almost everything else he did, a labour of love, he delivered by hand the Party newsletter to the membership. He knew all the streets, the lanes and cul de sacs, the ginnels and cut throughs, the islands of wealth and poverty in a sea of drab suburban uniformity, the class configured landscape of the 70s.
And then his world gradually unravelled. The mother of his children left him. They flew the coup, university, the big city. Two moved abroad and one remained though still lost, to Margret Thatcher and the forces of evil. But he still had his beloved Labour Party. Then, the blight of Blair, the ignominy of Iraq, university tuition fees and Private Funding Initiatives. His love of Labour lost. Alone, with no loves to keep him warm or wedded to life, he sank into the arms of a deep despondency. As the years rolled by he retreated into himself where all he could find was the contemplation of the gathering darkness and the end of his pointless futile existence. The fateful finale of a betrayed life.
Then one day an old Labour colleague, now a woman in her mid 70s, knocked on his door. He turned her away, as gently as he could, but she came back with two Costa coffees and a Sainsburys’ Battenburg. Your favourite, she said. She had won. She introduced him to Victoria, her Pendleton electrically assisted bicycle. He took it for a spin up and down the road, bent knees pumping out sideways like a lovelorn grasshopper tuning up for a romantic night. His spirit soared, his memory and imagination took flight. Could he be in love again? She was lovely. But the bike was beautiful.
He was sitting in the warm evening air of a Yorkshire Indian Summer. Still alone, but now, three times a week, he went for a ride on Jeremy, his sturdy, reliable and faithful e-bike in the company of Rita and her beautiful, elegant and constant companion, Victoria. The good life was still there to be had if you could only find it but sometimes someone needs to come along and lead you there by the hand.
7th August 2020