Saturday, 31 May 2008

Hamilton Rd.....The Flint Rock Face.


Hamilton Rd. The Flint Rock Face.

Hamilton Rd in Wargrave, Berks, is a nice smooth surfaced road these days. But back in the 50’s it was an old Flint road.
Not just little flints either. These were industrial sized flints.

They must have ripped the car tyres of the unsuspecting stranger to pieces. But to the locals, they knew to keep over to the left as you came up the hill, as it was a little sandier over there. It was certainly the route we all walked up and down, or rode our bikes.

Now our Mum had never learned to ride a bike. But knocking at the door of forty, she was given one by one of the people she ‘did for’ down the Loddon drive. It was an old ladies all black bike. Very good condition too. She was over the moon.

The trouble was, as she couldn’t ride a bike, we kids had to teach her. Our plan was to go to the top of the road, sit her on it, and we three youngest would guide her down the hill.

Plans, as you know, never quite go as you’d like. Mum and her bike gathered a bit too much momentum and got away from us, sending poor old Mum right into the bushes half way down.

When you’re a Mum of 11 kids, you’re made of stern stuff, and she got straight back on her bike, determined not to be beat. I don’t remember how many times we repeated the torture, but after falling off too many times to calculate, covered in cuts and bruises, she eventually made it on her own from top-to-bottom of the road. She was now, an ‘independent’ cyclist. Skilled in the art of bicycle riding and ready to get to work in double-quick time.

It was a proud moment for all of us. We’d taught our Mum to ride a bike. Great! But there was just one thing. She might have mastered the art of bicycle riding, but she never did master the art of ‘BRAKING’.

The bike had perfectly good brakes. Maybe they were TOO good, I don’t know. But Mum was just too darn scared to apply them. It got to be a standing joke in the village. “Look out, Ven’s on her bike again”. She had been accident prone all of her life. If anyone was going to get run over, fall over, or slip into the river, it was our Mum. But she just bounced back up every time and kept on going. Narrowly missing the ‘Grim Reaper’ on many occasions.

After a few months of crashing her prized possession, she agreed that maybe she should give up the bike, and go back to walking. (Which she did). She gave me her bike, which I immediately painted every colour of the rainbow, (multi-coloured chevrons up the back mudguard), and took to the dirt-tracks up the back of the Estate, and just past ‘The Old House At Home’ in Sherlock Row. It was a ‘Hercules’ bike by name, and certainly a ‘Hercules’ by nature. No matter how hard I treated that old bike, the only thing that ever broke was the tyres.

Can we still say the same thing about bikes these days?
(Maybe if you pay over £1,000- for one you might.)

As for my old Mum? Maybe me taking her bike off her hands gave her just a few more years on this mortal coil. But I bet she took the fondest memories of that old bike with her,
(as will I.)

Catch you later,


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