Back in the early 80’s school really was like a scene from Grange Hill. I used to hate school, and whilst being locked in the classroom enduring the drone of the teacher, my thoughts were a million miles away thinking about one thing. Cycling!
I used to cycle 12 miles a day on the school run. I would bike home for my dinner as well. It was a kind of release at dinner time to escape to captivity of the classroom and hit the open roads and green countryside and get some peace and quiet for an hour.
Come rain or shine I point blank refused to catch the school bus for three years and insisted to my dear mum I was going on the bike to School. She didn’t try too hard to discourage me from the bike because it saved her a few quid a week on school dinners and bus fares, and I also knew she was struggling for money at the time so it was a mutual benefit all round.
In the winter my bike would be armed with a bottle dynamo, an old Eveready battery light and my trusty Huret Milometer clicking merrily away on the front wheel axle. The bike weighed a ton with all the extras as well as me and a huge rucksack stuffed full of books. I never bothered with gloves (no sense whatsoever) when I was a youngster. I would swap hands on the bars and warm one in my coat pocket to ease the cold chilled pains in my fingers.
Every night the School double decker bus would overtake us halfway along our ride home. Goodness kids can be disgusting when you think back – the bus would go past and it was guaranteed a group of kids on the top deck would spit out the window openings hoping it would land on you. It did, a lot of times, and we would come home covered in spit. I can remember hearing them laughing on the bus as their vile spit would make a landing on one of us.
There were no bike racks at school so everyone used to keep their bikes just across the road at a house that the owner was kind enough to let us use. His garden was strewn with a least 20 bikes. He had no chance of cutting his lawn or hedges on school days because of the sea of bikes. Being mischievous as kids are, there was always the risk of a sneaky sabotage of your bike. The favourite was letting tyres down. Thankfully the owner of the house would keep a keen eye open, but for the ones he missed he always had a bike pump in his shed to get you on your way home.
Summers were the best time to cycle to school. It was like a mini Tour de France with us all racing down the country roads. Sometimes we would even beat the school bus home and avoid the aforementioned disgusting “shower”.
Every now and again whilst going back to school after dinner the temptation would be just too much, especially in the summer, and I would ride straight past the school and have a nice afternoon exploring the countryside instead. When I would get home I would be met with a clip around the ear by my dearest mam, God bless her. The school would call her wondering where I was and she would make up an excuse knowing damn well I was off on one of my mini adventures.
As much as I hated schools they hold the fondest memories of childhood.