The following day was my birthday. I would be five. Daddy had said that, as I was now a big girl he had decided I was old enough to get a very special present. I wondered what on earth it could possibly be. I thought and thought. I loved my dolls and the miniature cot that Dad had made for me. I neither needed nor wanted another doll. Mummy let me use the pretty little china tea set that had been hers when she was little and my cousin had given me her dolls' pram.
What could it be?
In the morning I was awakened by Mum's voice, "Happy Birthday darling. It's time to get up. I'll help you wash and dress."
"When can I have my special present?"
"Very soon. Breakfast first," said Mum
I could hardly contain my excitement. "Where's Daddy?"
"He'll be here soon," said Mum. It was Saturday. I was puzzled. Daddy didn't work on a Saturday. I gobbled down my breakfast. As I gulped down the last of my milk, Daddy appeared.
"How's my little princess, this morning?" he asked.
"Where have you been? Where is my special present," I said as I ran to hug him.
"Ah...have you been a good girl and helped Mummy with baby Keith?"
"Don't tease," said Mum
"Alright, little one. Come outside with me." I grabbed Daddy's hand and danced down the hall to the front door.
"Happy Birthday", he said as he opened the door.
I could hardly believe my eyes. There on the front path was a shiny new bike. Its gold paint glinted in the sun. A dainty basket was attached to the handlebars and a little leather cycle bag hung from the saddle.
"Ooh. Is it really for me? Can I ride it now?
Dad laughed "I take it you like your special present."
"Yes, yes." I made to sit on the saddle.
"Just a minute I want to make sure the saddle is at the right height. Can you put your feet flat on the ground?" I was on my tiptoes.
"Off you come." said Dad "The saddle needs lowered."
I was jumping up and down. I was desperate to get on.
"Now can you move the pedals? The stabilisers are there to stop you falling. You're quite safe."
I sat down hard on the saddle and gripped the handlebars.
"There is a brake on either side. Try and pull the lever up. Good ... now push down on the right pedal first, then the left. Keep at it." The bike began to move, slowly at first.
"Brake and stop at the gate. Get off and turn round."
Doing what I was told I was soon back.
"Please, please can I go down to the esplanade and practice there?" I pleaded.
Mum said, "I'll go and get Keith ready and we'll put your bike in the car and we will all go down. You can cycle and we will walk with Keith in the buggy.
I had a wonderful time and soon learned to pedal quickly along the esplanade and after several more trips became adept at avoiding the people and the dogs. Dad decided it was time for me to ride down to the sea front with him from home. He rode his bike while I rode alongside on the pavement. From then on Dad regularly took me out for a cycle run. I felt very grown up. However I began to feel it was time to get rid of the stabilisers.
Dad agreed to let me try but said that we would take the bike in the car to the esplanade. My bike looked very strange without the stabilisers. It had not penetrated that the bike would not stand up without them. Dad held onto the saddle till I got my balance.
"Don't pedal too quickly or you'll fall." Dad said. The bike wobbled as I put my feet onto the pedals. I did fall a few times but persevered till I was sure that I did not need Dad to hold on to me.
I loved to go out with Dad on our bikes.
One day Mum had workmen in the house and I was bored. "Can I play on my bike?" I asked.
"Yes, but don't go out of the garden." she said abstractedly.
I got my bike out of the shed and rode up and down the path. What fun is this? I thought. If I go out the back gate Mum won't see me and I could ride to the park and back. I sneaked out and started down the back lane. If I pedal fast enough I can be there and back before she knows I've gone, I thought. I set off furiously pedalling along the track. The lane dipped down to the pavement and I was so enjoying the speed that I forgot that there were 5 steps at the end to go down to the road. I didn't stop. In my haste I tried to ride down the stairs and ended up in a heap at the bottom. I started to cry. I had grazed my knees and something sticky was running into my eyes. I howled. I wanted my mummy.
Mrs Jones our next door neighbour loomed over me. "You're in a pretty pickle," she said "Let's get you untangled from your bike and I'll take you home."
Mummy had heard my screams and had run to the front gate.
Mrs Jones said, "I think you should take her to the hospital. Off you go. I'll look after Keith."
Mummy put a cold cloth on my brow and pushed me into the car. Tears were still streaming down my face though I had stopped howling. At the hospital the doctor asked how I had managed to take a chunk out of my eyebrow. I sniffed through the tears that I had been riding my bike and had tried to ride down some stairs.
"That was a silly thing to do." he said. "You do realise that you will now have a gap in in your eyebrow where the hair will not grow."
"Will I have a scar?" I asked.
"Yes" said the doctor, "You will have a scar for life."
To this day I have that gap in my eyebrow, the consequence of juvenile rebellion.