After I had slept a while I awoke. The light from the low-burning lamp was snaking against the shaded walls, in moving shadows. My clothes lay in a pile where I had dumped-them after the previous night’s ritual. A burnt-out candle lay in a stagnant pool on the lace table cloth. As I watched and listened the first bird awoke outside the window and I heard strange chanting through the aft; There were various members of a punk-rock band in sprawled poses on the floor where they had fallen in a drunken stupor the previous night. I dressed quickly, and went outside to where my bike was locked, and now began to gleam in the dawn-light. I looked back on the quaint, ivy-covered cottage where I had spent the night. The cycles of my companions were stacked neatly next to mine, against the wall of the conservatory where it joined the shed. My stomach rumbled and I knew there was no food in the cottage, and no shops were open yet, it being a Sunday in the early 1990s in Scotland.
I looked past the outhouses to where the single-track road curved gracefully along a row of trees and disappeared into the gully rise, at the foot of which our cottage stood. I could not stand there without remembering the blandness of my previous life in the city, and the mental effort it had taken to lift myself out of it. I had had to sever unprofitable ties and surrender some of my most valued possessions. — As for the people who depended on me- why, they could go to hell. They were just a drain and gave nothing back. I looked again to the open door, and the untidy remains of our malarky. I took my cycle helmet and gloves from the handlebars. It was like the first time I ever put them on, standing there as the first shaft of sunlight cleared the lofty treetops. I was proud of all I had achieved, of how the band had progressed from a smoky backroom to doing gigs all over the country. As a drummer, I felt it was my timing and precision that had kept us all strong and together. Mind you, the contracts had been a nightmare to sort out, as we were too proud to pay for lawyers. We never signed up for anything more than a year ahead. There was always so much giving and taking between band members and we never got stuck in a rut that way, though once on stage we all tended to lose our heads a little. But mostly the audience was so out of their heads that they hardly noticed. Even the notoriously unscrupulous record- company had paid-up on time. Well, my family were friends with one of the producers which helped things along and meant we could keep an eye on things. The only thing was, there was talk about going to play in Europe. I had only been away once before, and although I liked the continent, I had strong ties in this land.
I lifted the bike carefully from where it was leant up against the wall. This machine had carried me many miles, both through mishap and merriment. I had never flinched nor balked no matter what the road had thrown at me. Only once had I lost control, and at that time my heart had pounded fit to burst.
I still bore the injuries, but to my credit I had not cried nor made a fuss.
In fact, it wasn’t ’till I arrived at my destination that I was attended by a doctor. He had wondered how the hell I had carried on cycling in that condition. Never before in all his years as a doctor had he witnessed such strength and determination. My family asked me why I had not stopped sooner and sough medical aid. I had been on the way to see my girlfriend, soon to be my wife, and hadn’t wanted to disappoint her. My clothes were soaked in blood by the time l arrived, and she nearly fainted.
However, the fact was that I hadn’t been late, and nobody had time to worry. My mother had looked at me and the bike thoughtful at first a hard look came into her eyes, as if to berate me for my carelessness. Then she began cursing the drivers for their inconsiderate and brutal driving.
I had never heard her swear before, except to my father, and she let it all out.
“Filthy bastards! They’re scum! I’m going to murder them when I get my hands on them!”
From then on, they gave me and my family a wide berth, after the fuss she made, I was only twenty-five. My father said nothing, but went into his study and started typing furiously. Moreover, the kevs stopped leering and checking out my girlfriend, but averted their eyes however sexily dressed she was. I even befriended some of them, and they understood at last that she wasn’t just good shag, she was also my best friend, whom I loved more than life itself. She was such a looker, they explained, that they had thought she was just using an ordinary bloke like myself. I forgave them for believing this, and I’ve never had any trouble even though I don’t wear a wedding ring. For she is my Goddess, and I can love no other, even if she were a billionaire. She even kissed my hand as if I were the lady! Generally, we are considered the luckiest of couples, and we tend to keep ourselves to ourselves so as not to make people envious. We like to stretch our legs on the moors, crannocks and hills. If I had to chose between the band and her I would be stuck. That’s why I’m so reluctant to follow the advice of our record company and tour Europe. She hates travelling and besides is fully engaged in our village life. – By now the day was bright and the birds in full song, so putting all these thoughts to the back of my mind, I mounted by bike and accelerated down the road.
(THE END of the Beginning)