I’m not the kind of person who feels the needs to brag, show off, or grandstand. I don’t embellish stories to make them sound more impressive, and I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not; if anything, I do my best to under-promise and over-deliver.
However…(can you see where this is going?)
Whilst wandering around my town the other week (a traditional English market town with a great food market…good way to spend a Saturday morning), I got chatting to a couple of acquaintances. The conversation quickly turned to cycling and, as we cyclists often do, I felt the need to make the point (in a quiet and understated way, of course), that I know my way around a big day out on a bike.
Not to show off or try and impress, but merely to put our little chat into context for them, you understand.
So there I was talking about the joys of a simple bike ride, and just gently hinting at the fact that I’m a semi-serious bike rider who’s adventurous, self-sufficient, and not afraid of a bit of hard work on two wheels, when my four year old son stepped in.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, your average four year old is prone to announcements of such searing honesty that it pays to never take yourself too seriously in their company. While I was busy wittering away about my favourite hobby, probably describing a 50 mile ride as ‘nothing more than a bit of gentle exercise’, my boy announced:
“When he breaks down, me and mummy have to come and rescue him in the car…don’t we daddy?”
Not quite the image I’m going for, to be honest.
For the record I must have been for around 450 bike rides in my 4 year old boy’s short life, and I’ve been rescued a mere three times; once when I snapped a chain many miles from home, once when I crashed into a parked car and buckled my front wheel (it’s a long story…!), and once when I mistakenly went for a ride on a cold and snowy day, bizarrely punctured my front wheel four times, and phoned for rescue with hands reduced to claw-like lumps incapable of removing and repairing an inner tube.
The desperate insistence which drips from every word of these descriptions betrays the fact that they are not my finest hours.
In my more suspicious moments I can’t help but wonder whether my wife has, in some way, ensured these stories have become embedded in the boy’s memory, and cleverly trained him to raise them in conversation upon use of a subtle signal, simply to teach me a lesson.
In my less suspicious moments I can see the absurdity of this little theory.
What can I say; the boy has a pin-sharp memory, and these little adventures are understandably more memorable to him than the other 447 bike rides which I undertook with minimum drama, and returned home unscathed and under my own steam.
If I’m honest, they’re more memorable to me too; it’s a funny thing, embarrassment.
I suppose the old-timers and the purists wouldn’t even carry a mobile phone with them on a ride, saving the space in their saddle bags for a selection of well-chosen tools and on-the-road fixes sufficient to remedy almost any maintenance situation. They probably also have the required levels of concentration to make a collision with a parked car highly unlikely.
Having said all this, if once – just once – they needed rescuing mid-ride, and my four year old got wind of this, trust me…
…they’d never be allowed to forget it.