So this morning was one of the tougher bike rides of my life: approximately four miles over two hours to the reservoir and back. And if you don’t think that sounds very tough, add in ‘with ten children under twelve, one of which was riding a full-suspension Hello Kitty mountain bike stuck in first gear’. We’ve done this before and it was more or less the same deal, except that the whole school detoured to the village coffee morning first, to fill up on cake (after all, why else do we cycle?) and to practise their small talk.*
Thus fuelled, the noise levels on the ride out were something phenomenal, abating only as the group tackled the climb that I have dubbed ‘Heartbreak Hill’. I’m impressed with the school discipline, though. At one point, the bickering over who was supposed to go behind who and who wasn’t letting who into the line of bikes reached the sort of volume where birds were in danger of falling out of the sky, so I stopped the ride and turned around and said ‘Hush.’ And they did (if you think that’s impressive, the head teacher can get them to go utterly silent simply by saying ‘one … two … three’ – by three you could hear a pin drop).
Fortunately lunch and about an hour of running around like lunatics (at what point in our lives does running stop being something we do for fun and start being something we do to punish ourselves for getting old?) took the edge off them somewhat and the ride back to school was marked less by bickering and more by bell ringing and the singing of a song of our own invention (‘single file, single file, single all the way, oh what fun it is to ride on a wet and rainy day’ to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’, because I should mention that it was drizzling pretty much the whole morning, a fact which to the children mattered not a jot). One of the P1s – so small that his hi-vis vest reached his knees – also joined us on the ride back, and even beat Miss Hello Kitty back to the school gates.
While it would be nice to have the sort of roads and the sort of culture where all of them cycled to school as a matter of course, at least now, thanks to the efforts of the iBike officer who organised this event, I do see three of the boys cycling to school regularly (one of them on a bike which turned out not to have any working brakes – it’s lucky we don’t have any actual traffic on his road) and events like this help to keep the flame alive. I saw one of the older girls cycling home on her own this afternoon and that was a cheering sight. Worth all the effort if it means she keeps it up.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go and have a little lie down. How do teachers ever survive?
*I love the fact that the head teacher has deemed it part of the curriculum that the children should learn how to make polite conversation with their elders.