As I was cycling into Bigtown yesterday I noticed ahead of me a cyclist who appeared to be carrying a fishing rod (this is not that unusual a sight – there’s a chap who regularly cycles along that road in full fishing gear, including thigh length waders). As I slowly caught up with him, though, I realised it wasn’t a fishing rod that was sticking out over his handlebars, but in fact a tree – a ten foot sapling which, as he told me when I finally drew level with him (it’s embarrassing, actually, how long it took me to catch up with someone who was cycling along on an ancient mountain bike carrying a tree), he had dug out of the river to replace some trees he’d bought in an auction which had died, due to an infestation of coral spot and that he wanted the tree so the birds would have somewhere to land, and he needed a big one so he’d get some enjoyment out of it while he was still around. I further learned, as we pedalled into town, that he had retired from his job in the quarry, but still cycled out along the road and back every day because he enjoyed it so much. And that two of his grandchildren had never ridden a bike (we agreed what a terrible shame that was). We then chatted more generally about bikes, and the fact that there were no decent jobs in the area for young people these days, and I offered him some of the birch saplings that I’m digging out of the garden, and generally we passed the time very pleasantly until we were in Bigtown itself and parted ways.
I’m enough of a recovering Londoner to find the fact that we fell into conversation as naturally as we did much stranger than the fact that he was cycling along carrying a tree – although now I think about it, we have exchanged nods many times as we’ve passed each other on the road, so we’re practically old friends. And I was so caught up in the conversation, I never even thought to ask how he was carrying the tree, as the bike he was riding had no rack or basket or pannier or any carrying capacity whatsoever.
This last is a bit of a shame, because it turns out that tomorrow (as well as many other things) I am going to have to work out how to get a longish bundle of bamboo – shaped, as it happens, very much like a small tree – across Edinburgh on a bicycle by some means. But at least I know that, theoretically, it can be done …
Oh and talking of bikes as lovely as a tree, if you’re in Edinburgh tomorrow and want to come to Pedal on Parliament but don’t have a bike, there are a couple of glorious Paper Bikes available for loan.
You know you want to.