May 18: Down the drain

My bike, along with less accessible forms of transport

My little Peugeot bicycle seems to be a common type here, a sort of classic run-about. I see ones exactly like it, except for the colour, tethered to gates and lamp posts all over town. It’s quite light, with gears attached to the frame rather than the handlebars, and a (non-functional) dynamo attached to the back wheel. Joel actually rode a heavyweight VeloBleu bike up our hill a couple of times. That hill is steep, and his effort attracted admiring glances from the kids who use the incline to practise daredevil skateboard moves.

Even with a light bike like mine (and Joel’s even lighter new one), that climb is a pretty serious puff. But, after all those years of spinning classes, I won’t be beat. Last week I was behind a man with one of the very expensive-looking road bikes you see all over Nice, who was kitted out with all the right clothing, helmet, bike shoes, crotch padding… I was behind him when he got off and started to push. Quitter! Loser! I wonder how he felt being passed by a woman on a second-hand bike, wearing jeans and balancing a baguette on the handlebars?

All bent outta shape

I’ve discovered all sorts of terrific things while on the bike, too. I’ve spent a lot of time gazing everywhere except in front of me. I should know better, of course. Last night, as I cut across the pavement to avoid traffic, I didn’t notice a drain in the gutter. The front wheel slipped snugly between the iron bars and came to a complete halt, while the rest of the bike continued on. I went over with it, slowly, and landed in the road, stuck between the seat and the now-immoveable handlebars.

Well, I would have laughed myself, if I’d seen it happen. People rushed to my aid, and a nice German tourist managed to get me out of the tangle. He was obviously asking if I was ok, and his wife was obviously saying, wow, how’s she going to get that bike home now? I smiled stupidly until the crowd had dispersed, then burst into tears.

When Ted first came to live with us, it was very shortly after my sister died and my mother was ill. He was a rescue cat – a second-hand cat whose previous owners could have been anyone. He became quite sick just after he arrived, and we thought he might not survive. He wasn’t very friendly, but I felt an enormous sense of responsibility to him. One morning a few days after he was better and had started going outside, he didn’t come back. I went all over the place looking for him, and the more I called for him, the tighter my throat became. At one point, I leaned against someone’s back fence and sobbed hard, not caring who could hear. I knew the tears weren’t really for Ted. That was a terrible time, awash with loss.

A prickly purr plant

I don’t think I was blubbing for my poor bicycle last night, either. Yesterday, we authorised the exchange of contracts on the sale of our house in London. I can learn to love another house, but just then it felt like something crucial was missing, something lost and gone forever.

Fortunately Joel was at home for a rest between lunch and dinner at the restaurant. The season is beginning, so he’ll be working at night again now, though unsettled weather is making it a slow start. He drove down to pick me and the bike up. We’ll store it in the basement at the restaurant until (if) it can be fixed. I don’t know what was more embarrassing, really: the fall itself, or having to carry my bent-out-of-shape wheel past Michele, Yen and the chef.

Another sunset… the thunder was window-rattling!


About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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4 Responses to May 18: Down the drain

  1. Deb Brenner says:

    Your bike story reminds me: Remember when I was almost strangled by my scarf coming off a ski lift? I turned to see you lying in the snow and laughing hysterically. Neither one of us could catch our breath…

  2. Harriet says:

    A beautiful posting – it made me cry too (because grief and loss are the price we all pay for love). But I am so sure you’ve made the right call and I hope to see your new kingdom for myself one day. X

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