Beyond The Kerb)
10 May 2018
Betty was our next-door neighbour. She was the archetypal elderly spinster: she was feisty, she was fiercely independent, and she used her home as a sort of hostel for local stray cats.
One of Betty’s tools of independence was her venerable Raleigh Shopper. Despite having seen better days (and quite a lot of them) it needed only occasional attention from one of her neighbours: a spot of oil and an occasional puncture repair, and this humble contraption was as indefatigable as Betty herself.
The shops were a little over a mile away, and although Betty struggled to walk that sort of distance (let alone while carrying bags of shopping) she could pedal it just fine. The Shopper’s step-through frame meant she could mount it comfortably, and its wire basket carried enough shopping to keep her going for a few days, so it allowed Betty to go about her business not just with relative ease but also with some pleasure, keeping her active in her old age.
Betty had a car as well: a Peugeot which dated from the 1990s but somehow appeared to be competing with the Shopper in terms of apparent age. She rarely used it, though: it was there for visiting friends and relatives in the surrounding villages, not for getting around town.
But there came a tipping point, where Betty decided she could no longer cycle.