Father, child, child, father. Bicycle. Father, child, bicycle. Child, father, bicycle. At some point the three merge into one amorphous noun (“Fachibi”? Chilbifa? Bifachi?), that is hard to discern in the early evening crepuscular sun. I’ve just come back from my regular run and in between stretches I look at the trio through my kitchen window. There’s an anxious launch into the unknown (the child), a small push (the father), the calming voice (the father), the struggle for balance (the child), the bolting horse (the bicycle). The clumsy landing, the tears (wiped by the father. “Oh, poor little darling. Now get back on it, c’mon! I’ll help you out”).
It’s almost winter in my urban corner of London. Correction. It’s winter. I don’t have to wait until the solstice on Friday 21st December to get written confirmation of the cold temperatures we’re currently experiencing. The leaves on the trees are gone. The leaves on the pavement are gone. The leaves on my neighbours' front gardens are gone. Instead we have ice patches now. There’s barely anyone out on my road as soon as the sky turns a darker shade of purple. Except for these two figures who are intent on staging a cycling-themed mise en scène for the benefit of neighbours and visitors.
Their ritual reminds me of the last song that gets played at a party. The melody you’ll take with you on the last train or bus home. Days later you’ll catch yourself humming it in the office by the photocopier or in the kitchen whilst you’re doing the washing up. And you will remember the party.
And the child will remember this moment as well. The moment when he finally takes flight under his father's careful gaze. To dad, his son is still riding his bike on the tarmac. But the child, the child will believe (believes already!), that he is flying across the universe. He’s traded fear for equilibrium. Two feet for two wheels with no stabilisers on. Confinement for freedom. The shape of things to come?
And it’s all happening here, outside my kitchen window, in the dead silence of winter.
Photo taken from the blog This Old Street.
Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 16th December at 10am (GMT)