Sunday, 6 April 2014

I saw two magnificent "roadsters"

on my way home yesterday. I came through the back streets after attempting to visit a sick friend. (Friend was not home and I am waiting to hear whether she is in hospital.)
But there, being ridden in the back streets, were the two "roadsters" - or that is what the boys called them. They were billy carts, push-carts, flyers or whatever else you care to call them.
You know the sort of thing I mean I am sure. A home made wheeled vehicle you can rise on or in or pedal or....well, something.
These were extraordinary.
They were, for a start, larger than is usual. They were also the "pedal" variety - which, believe me, is rare. They had a timber base but the axles and the steering were metal and the seats were cushioned. The wheels were solid rubber affairs.
I suppose the ride was rather bumpy. I don't know. I was not offered a ride but I was told a good deal about them. I promptly forgot the details. They did not matter to me.
What did matter to me was that the two boys, eight and eleven years of age, had made these things themselves. Their father had apparently advised (and undoubtedly guided) but, they proudly told me, they had made these things themselves. Their father had "told (them) how but didn't do it".
I did not have to pretend to be impressed. I was genuinely impressed.
They had some questions about my tricycle too. "Cool". I could see them thinking about "three gears" and "hand" and "back pedal" brakes. And did it bother them to be seen talking to me? Not in the least. They had stopped me. They called one of their mates over to have a look. (Another interesting child.)
They were friendly, polite and obviously intelligent, creative young men. I left them feeling there was some hope for the future if even only a small number of children are doing this sort of thing.
I can remember too my brother and I constructing a flyer or billy cart. (We called it a "flyer" because that is what our grandfather called it. I think the local children called it a billy cart.) Ours was made from the wheels of a pram abandoned outside the town. There was a fruit box for the body. We steered it with rope and tried to pull it along with our child size tricycles. We had some fun with it but it was never very successful. Our parents had no time to help and in any case our mother did not really approve of such ventures.
But I pedalled off aware that what had just happened was all too unusual. It almost never happens now. I can hear anxious parents saying of the tools used to make them, "You can't use those things. You'll hurt yourself." I can hear them saying, "You can't take those out into the street. There are cars." Even riding them up and down the driveway would be seen as risky. The rider might ride into the garden or hit the wall or.... well, you know the sort of thing that might happen.
Oh yes, all that "might" happen, let's not take any risks. Life will be a lot less exciting. You might not learn anything - but you will be "safe". Or will you? What do you think?

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