IT was one of those far-away days when footpaths were the sole preserve of the pedestrian. My one time pal Arnie had got a warning and reprimand from the local bobby for riding a grocery delivery bicycle on the pavement.
The battered bike he rode had a lopsided, dented carrier up front, being wonky to ride, needing real pedal power to propel and slightly resistant to steer straight. But Arnie had the skill of a circus unicyclist to forge ahead as though he was on a charger. With a war in progress new bikes were a rarity to come by. It was a time for making do. Mister Evans' grocery delivery service was streamlined with a clapped-out ex butcher boy's twowheeler.
With Arnie in the saddle, he used his dangling legs as stabilisers and his boot toecaps for braking.
One day, with its second-rate braking, he'd gone smack-bang into a gardener's wheelbarrow loaded with rockery stones, as he rounded a blind bend. Like being bucked from a wild horse, he had gone straight over the handlebars.
Standing on our doorstep with an arm in a plaster cast, he related the saga of leaping for his life, asking if I would take on the grocery round for a while. Not being as robust as Arnie it was a demandingly strenuous ride for me, spending more time on my feet than on the saddle.
It was a pushbike to be pushed and not one to be ridden by the faint-hearted.
When his dad had cadged a bag of building sand from a jobbing brickie working at the Barley Mow pub, Arnie was mustered to pick it up so that the bike's front carrier basket came in handy for the task. With the heavy sand ballast load up front, he set off riding down the lane from the pub to turn onto the steepish downhill part of his ride. With inefficient braking he failed to slow the increasing pace sufficiently so that he sped past his intended right turn. With dangling legs and boot toecaps scraping the roadway, he was heading for the main highway. Time, he realised, to unsaddle and vault off, having reached the final downward stretch of road, leaving the bicycle to crash into the footpath wall.
Arnie slipped away a few years back. I am reminded of his boyish reckless courage, whether climbing trees, swinging from a lampost or scree boarding down the quarry incline.
The boy on a battered bike would, no doubt, have done well with a circus.