My Dutch bicycle is standing in my English garden under a large piece of plastic tarpaulin, being very lonely and unused for the last ten years. It had been a birthday gift from my first husband and the dream I had to cycle with him never came truly true; he had a speed bike and wanted to race, I was more into just touring. So, after the break-up and my moving to this bicycle-estranged island and settling in, on a clear spring day I was ready to use my bike again.

As you may know, my birth country is flat, and although Somerset is being blessed with the levels – large fields just below sea-level; whenever I need to have a whiff of the Low Lands I go there, fantasize away the hills and I am back “home”, there are hills here I cannot dream away. I live on a hill. There is a real hill in front of my house.

That sunny morning I took my bike and flung myself from the not too steep a hill. However, for Dutch standards the foot of St. Edmunds hill is the little brother of Mount Everest. Very soon I became afraid that if I had to brake I would fly over the handlebars and be possibly mortally wounded, and riding back home from the High Street my poor lungs almost deflated. My legs pedaled like mad, I had to use the highest gear to keep moving. I was adamant not to be beaten by this Hill and totally exhausted I ended up in my front yard not being able to move my body one centimeter with or without bike.

After a while I got used to Hill Ridin’ and a friend and I went out into the country and toured around Glastonbury one day and we whooped and yelled to about thirty cows in a field; they started running with us and we were truly Women Who Cycled With Cows and they were the Cows Who Ran With Women. Their hind legs kicked in the air while we took our feet of the pedals and freely flew down the hill.Curious Cows at Dusk

Curious Cows at Dusk

I just love the curiosity of cows, being on bike or not. One summer evening at dusk, Sig and I took the car to show his sister the levels in bloom, there was a bend in the road and our car crashed very gently into another coming from the opposite direction with the same slow speed. Within seconds the cows in the field next to the road where lined up to curiously watch us dealing with this incident.

I never felt completely safe on my bike in and around Glastonbury. Traffic is not used to bike riders here and the layout of roads in villages and cities do not take cyclists in account much, although Bristol is getting better and there are now some tourist bike routes in Mid-Somerset. Inevitably, giving in to my fear and having read about some ghastly accidents involving cyclists in this area I started riding less and less and then stopped cycling all together.

The other day when I moved a few books on a windowsill, a small wooden box fell to the ground. The lid flew open and the key to the lock of my bicycle slid over the smooth floor; the label my ex had written was still attached to it and I saw it as a Sign, a Nudge from the Universe to get on that bike again in spring. Maybe I have to buy one of those ghastly helmets, say goodbye to a nice hair do and have the bike checked out by our local bike man soon, so it will be ready to use when the weather is getting better.

While I write this, doubt is creeping in to my heart again; I think I’m just not a very courageous bike person abroad. It is possible that I have read the Universes’ Nudge wrong. Is it time to throw the bike out? It is also possible that I am a total chicken, and taking this in consideration I’ll sit on this weird steel egg a little while longer before I take any decision.

-Karin Schluter Lonegren