A prince among hillocks
once more, he searches for a meaning to the universe, with stimulants
which he has kept handy.
First sighting of Bykeman
deep in the Pennines.
The sun shines benignly on this early summers day. Looking westwards,
the road slopes down from the hills. Tarmac shimmers in the heat. Far,
far away, we see a speck. This speck will grow into him, Bykeman, before
shrinking down to nothingness.
Soonly speck grows into man! Well, man and bike. Rapid indeed is the progress.
Some power is pushing through those pedals, driving the machine to its
not much more time than it took the universe to pop its cosmic cork,
his posture starts to emerge. Hunched forward, low. Then his features,
focused and determined. [This is where I suppose I ought to describe
him for you but we each have our own picture of what a hero should
look like, dont we? And Bykeman is a hero of sorts.
Why should I spoil your ideal by my description?]
On such a quiet, peaceful day, little or no outside sound intrudes, so
that the whir of wheel and clicking of chain move into our ears as he
nears. Over the closing yards, its all about velocity and co-ordinated
effort as, hands clamping the handlebars, his knees work like twin pistons
pushing to the limit.
In a blur of controlled activity, Bykeman flashes by, shadow in hot pursuit.
For a time he can still be heard, as he diminishes, while the process
is reversed. Shrinkling back into that speck.
Bykeman has passed by. Weve sighted our hero.
Major events in this most momentous day:-
1) Bykeman questions his health.
2) He hunts for a job.
3) He launches himself on an entire poetry group.
4) At home once more, he searches for a meaning to the universe, with
stimulants which he has kept handy.
Stage 1 Beginning
at the beginning.
Waking up. Invasion by radio can trigger it. Or, more traditionally,
birdsong. A jarring alarm might summons a sleeper from the land of dreams.
It can often be the fractious, bawling babe who performs the same trick.
For Bykeman, it was just that it was time to no longer be asleep.
His eyes had quickly taken in the scene and checked to see if the coast
was clear. Indeed it was and this should not surprise the reader since
all of Bykemans demons were inside his head. He made sure, all
the same. There was plenty of light powering through his curtains from
the strengthening sun. Early June, and summer had more or less made
it to the eastern Pennines. Weeks of mind-numbingly depressing rain
had somehow failed to wash away the inhabitants of Ridge Terrace. The
said rain had sulkily quit the scene, vowing to return with a vengeance.
For today, though, all was sunshine and joy.
What he had consumed last night needed clearing from mind and body.
The bathroom was the place to be, so he rolled out of bed and made his
way there, gently. Whoever invented the mirror had a cruel sense of
humour. A close-up with yourself only serves to depress in most cases.
It did in this one. Mid thirties : half way there! It would all be downhill
from now on in the worst of senses. Unless
quite done for yet. Something heroic in him stirred, or perhaps he just
wanted the lav.
Anyway, within ten minutes he was easing himself and his racing bike
through the kitchen doorway. There was a beauty and freshness to the
day which enticed him and soon he was on his way up Wainstalls Hill,
pumping iron, and rubber, and nylon, and plastic. He loved the physical
demands of cycling. It was clean, honest exercise and it had made him
fitter than he had probably ever been. Those first weeks when he had
taken up bikeriding in earnest had just about killed him he ached
all over after one particularly adventurous foray to Manchester and
back. His wife had had to peel him off his byke and virtually unravel
Cue Conversation:- Long-suffering wife providing the required tender
loving care, numerous sympathetic oh dears and the odd can I run you
a bath? Suffering husband alternating cusses with moans...
He persevered, though, with his fitness programme and if this were a
film we could have some brief action scenes with suitably action-sceney
music indicating Commitment, Toil and Progress. Thankfully, its
not so we can skip all that and press on with the story.
Before too long he had improved his cycling prowess to the point where
he was, if not yet King of the Mountains, certainly a prince among hillocks.
Where was he going at such a speed? From what was he fleeing? What was
he thinking as he raced? Time and space, these are indeed the issues
in this tale of Bykeman. Time and space
oh, and existence, of course.
But surely not such weighty matter before weve at least allowed
him to have some breakfast? We can check on him soon. He should be fine.
Stage 2 - Oh Doctor, am I in trouble?
The couch supported a recumbant man. Sunbeams, filtering through the
open kitchen door, fell across the resting figure and illuminated the
anxiety etched on his face. On the mantelshelf fashioned by his own
hand in brighter times, a clock ticked out each hurrying second before
it faded into oblivion.
This was a dying man and an onlooker always must feel an arrowshaft
of guilt when intruding on a fellow humans death throes. How long
had he been dying? Impossible to tell a first glance. On closer inspection
it would appear to be something like thirty five years. He may well
have been cycling like a maniac a couple of hours before but now the
sick man in him had regained control, confronting him with visions of
his mortality. He felt so bad. He had to shut his eyes tight to lessen
the rage of his headache. It had him in its vice and was in no hurry
to let go. It was a brain tumour, of that Bykeman was almost certain.
Would he be well enough to make it to the surgery? Not in his present
state. They would have to come and collect his remains for the postmortem
that would at least prove him right in his gloomy prognosis. Scant consolation.
Bravely and against all the odds he marshalled his waning powers, clambered
off the settee and gingerly set off for the surgery. He would walk.
Minimal activity was necessary. He had to husband his remaining resources.
The staggering shuffle through the village attracted no attention whatsoever.
Yorkshire folk, it is believed, could turn an indifferent eye away from
the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse if they didnt recognise the
horses. Bykeman made it to Westdale Surgery unmolested by prying questioners
and ghosted past reception into the waiting room.
If this were another story, it would be worth commenting on the bizarre
choice of magazines that invarably adorn the dreaded central table in
waiting rooms up and down the land. Even more interesting might be a
sweeping survey of the waiting patients. We could play guess the
illness just like patients do but our story has moved on
and we must hurry to catch up. Bykeman is closing the door behind him,
ready to bravely hear the worst from his doctor.
Doctor Patel began with a good-natured, "Ah, hello again. How are
you?" It was a solid, doctorly start.
"Erm, not very good Im afraid," the dying man answered
This, of course, left the way open for the doctors, "Sorry
to hear that. Whats the matter?"
And the floodgates opened. "Well Ive got these massive, throbbing
pains in my head. Its like somethings trying to drag my
brain out through my eyes."
"Oh dear," Patel said, trying to quickly jam shut the floodgates.
"Tell me, how long have you had the pain and where exactly is it?"
This returned the conversation to the autopilot of surgerytalk, just
when Bykeman was about to launch into a lengthy, chunnering grumble
of the sort intended to even break hearts of stone. Obediently, he gave
Patel was a skilled practitioner and it was not all that long before
he had more or less persuaded his patient that he probably did not have
a brain tumour. It was no more likely, he felt, than the stomach cancer
Bykeman had feared he had a couple of months back. Or the possible anaemia.
He was sure tests would, once again, prove negative. Grudgingly, but
brightening, his patient concurred, then left for home.
Stage 3 Its a good job.
Someone a long time ago in a land far away said that if you couldnt
find a job, you should get on your bike to go and find one. Bykeman,
complying with this sage advice, cycled into Broadfield for yet another
interview. The day had begun to cloud over, aptly matching his mood,
as he wove his way through the post-lunch traffic. Despair hovered over
him, lurking in the noxious exhaust fumes and it took a mighty act of
will for him to continue. Well, you can only take so many knock-backs
Todays failure was ordained by destiny. Bykeman it seemed was
fated never to be a road sweeper. The omens were certainly not good.
When he arrived at the Council Offices, he couldnt find anywhere
to leave his bike. Apparently visitors on foot or with cars were expected
but someone on a bike threw their delicately balanced sensibilities.
He eventually decided to chain it to another bike in the employees
area. Roadsweeping might well be a necessary job in a modern society
and goodness knows he needed some physical work to keep him occupied.
Despite all that, he already felt beaten.
He knew he couldnt sustain sufficient enthusiasm long enough to
con them and just when the chap from Broadfield Council wanted him to
wax lyrical about his commitment to cleansing the towns roads
of debris, he found himself sadly lacking in that very department. Mr
Sowden, as well as suffering from an unimpressive name, was small, round
and saddled with the view that he was somebody. Very quickly he seemed
to have formed a second view, this being that Bykeman was not his man.
How to politely get rid?
thoughts but not very deep ones.
Ey-up, what have we here then? This lad doesnt really seem interested.
Hes strong enough, all right but I think hes either off
his rocker or taking the mick out of me. If I just need someone to handle
a brush, why cant they just send me someone whos as daft
thoughts not his deepest, either.
Grrreat. How the hell am I going to persuade this geezer I give a stuff
about his lousy roads? What a prat he looks. Typical, jumped-up, Yorkshire
businessman. Ill give it a shot but hes so boring
Im drifting off to sleep in the middle of his yatter. Hope he
Their eyes met as their thoughts and paths crossed for the only time
in this run-through of the universe and they both knew the game was
up. The pleasantries were dispatched quite quickly and Sowden allowed
him to escape, rejected, with the consolation that it had been a very
As he cycled back home, all of Bykemans other recent failures
ganged up against him
Like when he tried to become a toilet cleaner in Broadfield. He had
quickly guessed it was a fix by the way they kept calling the other
interviewee by his first name. They obviously already had the person
they wanted lined up. The charade of an interview was to show theyd
rigged it fair and square. The clincher for him was when he failed the
vacuum cleaner test.
If you are ever interviewing would-be lavatory attendants and need an
excuse to fob somebody off, try this wheeze. Ask them, straight-faced,
mind you, what is the first thing they must do when they wish to vac
the floor. They are bound to say something sensible like plug
it in and youve got them. Of course, the right answer is
check the fuse! Works every time. It certainly scuppered
Like when he went for a job at a Laser Gun gamecenter. Imagine how pleased
he felt to be turned down for the job and yet be invited on a night
out to meet the staff all the same.
Like the time (a corker, this one) when he was actually offered a cleaning
job before they then changed their minds and withdrew the offer.
Like the time he went for a job as a general assistant in a hotel and
was told he wasnt quite what they were looking for. Quite? Quite.
Cycling uphill, away from town, he vented his anger on the pedals. What
a shame that such magnificent scenery; plunging valleys, climbing hills
should be relegated to becoming just the backdrop to his fury. But it
wasnt fair and the whole world knew it if it was going to be honest
with itself. He could do any of those jobs with his eyes shut. Well
not the Laser Gun thingy. If he didnt land a job soon, he felt,
his head truly would burst. On he pedalled, on, onwards, devouring the
road, cursing the handlebars, hating the front wheel for its cyclic
[When you think how important the invention of the wheel was to human
development, it is slightly surprising how long it took for someone
to think of putting a couple of them in line, so inventing the bicycle.
The wheel has graced civilisation for thousands of years, the bike for
a hundred. The bike has a beauty, a power and most importantly a cleanness
because it utilises nature and harmonises with it at one and the same
time. Unlike a car, it does not need an exhaust, produces no poisons,
leaves no trace behind. It also, always, relies on the riders
balance to function. This is where it harmonises with nature.]
It would be neat, if unfortunate, were Bykeman to have crashed into
a ditch after this last section in praise of the bicycle. Neat, but
since it didnt happen that way, well just have to allow
our hero to race on unscathed. There is no doubt, either, that the productive
work necessary for riding his bike, eventually, led to his rage easing.
By the time he had arrived home, he was able to put yet another frustrating
experience into some sort of context but he still remained angry at
two things and in the following size and order;
1 - The entire universe
2 - Broadfield Council.
As he poured himself a cool glass of milk, he confided to the fridge
what a tosser Sowden was. One of the cats, Euclid, was told outright
how the Council Offices were a naffer version of Cell Block H and, warming
to his task, he told the whole living room some unpleasant details about
Mr Sowden, many of which would have been impossible to prove without
expert medical knowledge and a minute physical investigation.
Not feeling quite so cross with the universe now, he decided it was
only fair on it to promote Broadfield Council to Number One. He then
made his way upstairs towards the computer room. Poetry Evening was
only a few hours away and he hadnt finished his poem. This was
the time of day when he tidied up his late night workings.
He grafted solidly for
an hour? Who knows how long? He didnt.
Time ceases to count when you are totally absorbed in something. The
ideas which had flowed from brain via pencil onto paper, late the previous
night, were now keyed onto his screen.
These ideas had been swimming in the grey pond of his brain for some
little while before he had fished them out last night. Hed landed
them in a hurry, scribbling determinedly, lest any escape back into
that protozoic soup to be lost, perhaps forever. They apparently liked
the order in which he had landed them and didnt seem keen on being
moved around now. They had got on famously since first meeting, inseparable,
friends for life. Bykeman persisted, however. The artists will
finally prevailed and eventually he was able to press the print
button. He smiled, his work to see and he smiled, too, at the thought
of how his poem would go down that evening in the pub. His poetry was
not for the faint-hearted.
© Graeme Garvey July 2002
email:Graeme Garvey firstname.lastname@example.org
Previously by GG
The Yorkshire Dales
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