Wednesday 12 December 2012

Urban Diary

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.

© 2012

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)


  1. You are beyond right. And I still (more years later than I can count on my fingers and toes) remember that first flight. Magic.

  2. Beautiful post, Weaver. And like The Elephant's Child (insatiable curiousity!) I can remember vividly my first time too. It was this time of year, not a million miles away from where you are now, and my mother was in The London Hospital. The bike was an electric blue hand-me-down from an older brother. I could not wait to visit Mum to tell her that I could ride a bike. I felt as if I had conquered the world.
    The Past is a different country alright.

  3. make it so easy to see...and familiar as gain much once you learn to ride as well...find freedom you did not have before...its also a great time for the dad to earn props as well in the relationship...its one of those moments that will never leave you...but also is magical to watch for others...

  4. What lovely post I really love this and I can sepe how you picture all; the winter; the kid; all; and you see the life from your window:))
    Me gusto mucho. Ls vida es un milagro y es bella!
    A pesar de todo..gloris

  5. What a lovely description of learning to cycle.

    You might want to consider turning off word verification as it takes such a long time to leave a comment with it turned on.

  6. true what you say..those are the moments that stick with us...reminded me also when i learned swimming...def. mile stones that have their own melody that gets never forgotten

  7. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    The only reason why Urban Diary exists as a regular section on my blog is that I can neither paint nor take good photographs (I can draw a little but very, very bad). So, the only way for me to share these magical moments of which London is full is by writing about them in no more than 350 words. Although sometimes I've gone over by the odd one or two. :-)

    Have a nice rest of the week.

    Greetings from London.

  8. So very true, once the ability to ride on your own comes along, it is like flying.

  9. This brought back so many wonderful memories. The only difference - the sultry heat of summer was the background to my first attempt at riding a bike ( a skill I never quite mastered, but it didn't matter because my Dad was always there to pick me up again!!) :)

  10. Brilliantly told-this vignette of life. And, I do think it is a shape of things to come. I was just discussing the other day how important and powerful the father-son relationship is. I think more so than the mother daughter.

  11. And today it's markedly warmer - and I feel even colder. How to explain?

    A beautiful portrait of you and your family. Something for us all to treasure.

  12. It's an exciting and freeing thing to ride a bike! Like your poetic way of describing an event:)

  13. You make the archetype new. k

  14. I enjoyed this reflection on the seasons and parenting. It made me think of the song The Circle Game. Sorry to be so late visit. A busy week and a sick husband!

  15. Many thanks for your comments. Have a nice rest of the weekend.

    Greetings from London.

  16. You definitely are right. I remember learning to ride my bike on my own, and it happened decades ago. Launchings are important and definitely memorable.

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