Since leaving The Company, I used to drive to the supermarket, the gym and make occasional forays to proximate shopping centres – Ibn Battuta or Mall of the Emirates. However, most of the time the car sat in the garage collecting sand and ‘CLEAN ME’ messages on the windows.
Upon moving to The Springs, Husband and I often discussed getting bicycles, but . . . look, I can’t even think of a decent excuse. To be honest, laziness was a large factor. We agreed that it was such an effort even TALKING about getting bikes, what was the likelihood we’d ever dredge up enough energy to cycle the things?
However, before Christmas Husband brought me shopping and I picked out a mountain bike, which he accessorized with front and rear lights, bell and basket for Christmas. Danny got me an XXXL reflective jacket.
And so I am a familiar figure around the community, carefully cycling along on my bike, basket brimming with toilet rolls and celery sticks.
The other morning I set out to cycle up to Ibn Battuta. Rather than risk my sanity on Sheikh Zayed Road (which would have been, I found out later, illegal), I thought I’d blag my way into the Jumeirah Islands Residential Community adjoining our neighborhood, which lets out the other end at the mall.
As I cycled towards the Jumeirah Islands Security Post, I decided the best course of action would be to charge by at a fast clip. Unfortunately, I am not well practiced with the fast clip, my top speed being more a gravity-defying wobble. The Security Guard, unimpressed with the ‘White European Female’ royal wave which nearly brought me down, shot out of his shed and held up an authoritative hand.
“You can’t pass here,” he said.
“Jumeirah Islands is a private development.”
[I’ve noticed that the damsel in distress routine cuts it less and less. I think you need a quivering bosom for full effect, and now that I was stationery my bosom was commensurately immobile.]
“Look,” I said. “If you don’t let me through I’ll have to cycle up Sheikh Zayed Road and I’ll die. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience now, would you?”
I detected a slight hesitation.
“Madam, do you have friends or relatives residing in Jumeirah Islands?”
“Yes! Yes, I have both friends AND relatives living in Jumeirah Islands.”
“Where do they live?”
[So. He was going to make me lie for it – and as you are aware, I am just so very very bad with the porkies, the evidence for which I am about to conclusively demonstrate.]
“Er. On top of the hill. Over there,” I gestured vaguely. “By the er, island.”
“And what is your . . .”
“What is your friend-who-is-also-a-relative’s name?”
“Bob,” I said with authority. Having observed The Master (Husband) for over eight years, I know that successful falsification requires Authority. If there had been a table to hand, I would have thumped it.
“Marley,” I said instantly. “No! No! I meant Quealy. Sorry, Quealy. Not Marley.”
“Which is it?” said the Security Guard with no small measure of impatience, although I’m pretty sure that somewhere deep down – or not so deep at all – he was enjoying himself immensely.
“Bob Marley Quealy. With a hyphen. Marley-Quealy. He was formerly a Quealy but married a Marley. No, that’s not right, hang on. No, yes, that was just his name. IS his name, I mean – he’s not dead. He’s very much alive and living in Jumeirah Islands, on top of the hill beside the island in the middle of the desert. Please don’t ask me any more questions. Can I go now?”
No doubt because I had provided more entertainment than the man had seen in WEEKS, the Security Guard waved me on.
Since then I have found a shortcut through the perimeter fence and most days I cycle up to Ibn Battuta to write in peace in The Lime Tree Café.
In the four weeks since, I have become more proficient with the cycling. After days of daring, I finally mastered The Kerb Wheelie, although on two occasions I inadvertently head butted the pavement. The first time, although I successfully popped the front wheel in the air, I misjudged the distance by about a foot, give or take three. The front wheel landed in front of the kerb and I got intimate with the handlebars followed swiftly by the pavement.
The second time, having got the front wheel up the kerb, I was so overwhelmed with my own skill that I paused to give a victory salute, thereby neglecting to pedal. When the back wheel encountered the kerb I promptly toppled over.
Even when trundling around in Tank Central (the Yukon), the road conditions here – ie drivers – are beyond terrifying. When cycling, I stick to the pavement where possible. Even this route is fraught with danger, what with rabid dogs, psychotic toddlers, and uneven paving stones.
I am often required to cross the two x two-lane road in The Springs, which is equipped with the odd pedestrian crossing. The crossings are a bit hit and miss and, lthough I generally aim for ‘miss’, I would probably have better luck betting on the geegees as to whether and which cars might stop at the pedestrian crossings. Most drivers like to speed up for them. Occasionally, when I’m paused at a crossing waiting for both lanes to clear, a misguided driver will pull to a stop, which results in enraged drivers thundering past in the other lane blaring horns and shaving my eyebrows off.
Despite all this, I love getting around under my own steam and being out in the fresh air. By ‘fresh air’ I mean the chemical-laden fug masquerading as oxygen around these parts.
I realize that perhaps I haven’t painted the most idyllic picture of me and my bike, so here is a whole list of perquisites:-
1/ The sand blast/dermabrasion effect that Cleopatra’s Spa would undoubtedly describe as: “Fine sand hand-picked from the Arabian Desert gently massaged into every pore of your body,” for which it would charge Dhs500
2/ The glorious scenery: buttercup strewn fields, country lanes wafting honeysuckle, charming villages with giggling children running after you down the narrow cobblestone streets
3/ Cycling with no hands – which I’m sure will be a big thrill when I master the trick
4/ The daring intrepidness of it all
5/ Ringing my bell. It’s great
6/ There’s got to be another reason. Oh, how about the health benefits? Big thighs: there’s number six