Get back on it
The fear of doing something for the first time is often not as crippling as the fear of doing it again. Experience plays a role in this, leaving little to the imagination as to how it might pan out. The memory of that first attempt stubbornly harbours itself in our hard drives, making it difficult to trust our touch-type method of shift and delete. Especially in the case that it hasn’t worked out the way we’d have liked it to. Of course, life can be fun and there are plenty of first times that we’ve tried, tested and loved the ride. We’re good to go back for more. But unless narcissism is cousins with nepotism, how do we try again when it might not be good to go back for more?
And why should we try again?
Even if it looks cool and everyone else is doing it. And there’s plenty of encouragement from peers cheering you on. You can do it. You can overcome the fear, just inhale and exhale. You might cough up a lung, but it’ll be ok. Trust yourself.
Before you know it, you’re a smoker of third and fourth chances, and it’s a pack a day. Sometimes, only because you have to try again.
I arrived back in Hamburg at the beginning of May after 5 months in Cape Town. The first thing I saw when I walked into our apartment was a big black bicycle, with beautiful vanilla wheels and the name Gazelle printed along the lady-friendly bar. It was early in the morning after a 15-hour journey and no sleep. Spring weather hit the walls like a squash ball bouncing off the floorboards onto the dining table, into the mirrors, over our bed and back onto the cobbled passageway outside. All the trees were green. What a time of year to try this again? And what a way to go out there and see it all again? But the bike could wait. I’d just endured the constraints of living in a city that was experiencing a severe drought. A long, hot, long, long, long shower was on the cards first and foremost.
The Gazelle is huge. My turning circle is a lot wider as I plough the bike lanes on what feels like a Bentley Bentayga in comparison to its rusty predecessor, but that just takes a bit of getting used to. Either the seat is smaller or my bottom is bigger but its purpose is primarily for the latter anyway. The quirks of the old have been upgraded and my view of the land is almost arial as I float above the road, seamlessly peddling, shifting gears, bulldozing the warm air, practically barefoot in my birkenstocks. Ideal foot wear for a cruise through the city. Slightly different from the stilettos I once sported upon a bike, once apon a time, along The Kings Road, in London.
I had been working in Knightsbridge during a fleeting fashion moment of pin skirts, bold fishnet tights, and pointy stilettos being the rage. Well, in my wardrobe they were. A bad first that has never been given the chance for a second. Dollar was living in New York that year, and kindly offered me the loan of her mountain bike. A quicker, greener, bigger seat / smaller bum better way of getting around The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I left work in my saucy attire and walked down Sloane Street, over the square, heading for the river. Dollar’s apartment was in Battersea, just a hop, skip and jump from Albert Bridge so the walk would be wonderful, I thought. As well as the fact that she shared her place with a particularly attractive rugby player, or whatever he was, so no need to return home for a quick change into lycra. This’ll do fine. So I strutted over the bridge, knocked at the door, thanked him profusely for handing over the bike, hitched my skirt and mounted the steel horse. It took a bit of rearranging and readjusting of things, but I began my journey back over the bridge. My handbag was swinging back and forth from the handlebars, banging the front wheel, as I synchronised acclerating, breaking, changing gear, hand signalling, pin-skirt-pulling, pointy-shoe-repositioning and hair-face slapping, systematically. But it didn’t take long for me to find my groove, as I joined the flow of the Royal embankment, ahead of the sun. Wind in my hair, warmth on my back, water slapping against the wall of the Thames. The early evening light pierced the ripples on the river making it impossible not to squint. I could hear the music, feel the breeze, taste thrill and smell joy. I was Amelie, for a moment, on her way to do a good deed. To show the blind man how to see for a moment.
I turned onto the Kings Road and suddenly the race was on. Bus lanes, with lots of buses in them. Many, many cyclists and many, many people. It was summer and London was alive. It was one of those evenings when it doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, or how busy your lives always are, or pale your legs are looking; you don’t care, you find the time, you put a skirt on. Pubs were full of people falling out onto the curbs, leaning up against the walls, holding up pints filtering the cherry sun. I dodged the other drivers and surveyed the madding crowds, when a call came bellowing from ahead. I looked around with a hint of conceited awareness that the call was coming for me. Some chap, who was chatting with his mates and having a laugh, had spotted me, dropped to his knees and applauded as I cycled on by.
Well this feels good. I know what I’m doing every day from now on and forever, I thought. Onwards to Parsons Green where a group of lads were playing touch rugby on an oh so tiny patch of grass with a clear intent of falling onto the pretty picnic goers, swigging white wine spritzers. I was too busy capturing this Sloany Pony moment that my pony slowly-ed down, only to receive more adoration. Wolf whistles, claps and cheers, came my way like seagulls over a trawler. I even received a marriage proposal. I promise you.
I rode on, feeling more alive than every Scandinavian city combined, in its first sun after a long winter. I was on fire. I was born to be on a bike. It’s that easy.
A speedy right turn and wide left, I arrived outside my apartment, rested my feet on the pavement and looked down to discover that my boobs were hanging from the outside of my top.
I lost control of that fire. It shifted from my ego to my feet, slowly igniting my shins, flaming up my thighs, straight to my gut and my throat. Then to my face, where it burned a slow burn.
I stuffed them back inside, rushed to hide, looked back on my ride, and let’s be honest, cried and cried.
I eventually got over the fact that a portion of West London had seen my saggy tits and returned to the saddle. It is the best way to get around a city, afterall, and getting back on a bike is always worth every single chance in life you give it. As long as it’s easy peddling. I’m not a big fan of the mountain in Cape Town, when it comes to this little part of it. I like flat roads, not flat whites at Vida e Caffè in Camps Bay. I prefer having a Radler on the road.
Needless to say, I am always dressed accordingly and tightly strapped in whenever I get back on it. And as I glide my gazelle along the Elbchaussee, it’s at my own pace, under my own steam, without any direction, all on my own.
Turns out, driving on the autobahn is also inner-fire-igniting. And speaking a little bit of German is as much fun as a new joke. The fuzziness of fear is slowly dissipating into the spring air, alongside a gust of judgment, grabbing perfectionism by her wings. As a hot ray of sun cracks my frozen stream of doubt.
Perhaps the fear of the first time was greater than any other chance I was willing to give.
But it’s about bloody time I trust that it can be as simple as riding a bike. Tits out ‘n all.
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