There is a little girl who lives on the estate. She’s, dunno, five? Something like that. She has a bike. It’s pink, and has streamers on the handlebars, and a little basket on the front. I quite often see her bimbling about the place, doll in basket.
However, I may have to have Words with her dad. I’m sure he’s a very nice bloke, but…
She and I have had variations on this conversation several times, the latest being this evening.
I was down by the shed, doing a very minor bit of fiddling with Felicity, my other bike, the one with dérailleur gears and a foam saddle, that I bought as a slightly more sensible alternative to doing the Nightrider on Zephirine.
It only came fitted with front and rear reflectors, not lights, so I have been meaning to replace the rear reflector with a bracket and a light since, oooh, September.
Anything to put off writing my essay about the Chartists, I trotted off to the shed with spanner and light bracket, and set to work.
Little girl appeared.
“Why don’t you get your daddy to do that?”
“Because my daddy lives a hundred miles away, and anyway, he’s stuck on the sofa with a broken leg.”
“Why don’t you get your husband to do it?”
“Don’t have one.”
“He’d laugh at me. Girls need to know how to do this stuff too, you know.”
A look of utter shock crossed her face.
“But that’s what daddies are for!”
[Choking noise, mostly directed at bike’s back wheel].
Clearly, I have a defective daddy, who bought me a toolkit and what I persist in calling “The Bumper Book of DIY for Girls,” instead of arranging his life so he is constantly on standby to do up a couple of bolts on his daughter’s bike.
Now, I’m not saying that a five-year-old should be able to strip down and reassemble a hub gear, or even know how to fix a puncture, but she won’t be five for ever, and, please God, Transport for London will one day pull its finger out and fix the roads in London.
She will, hopefully, then discover that there is a world out there that is a lot more accessible on a bike, and so she won’t be within the reach of her dad/brother/husband/second-cousin-twice-removed to fix her punctures.
So don’t teach your girls (or your boys, for that matter), that daddy will always be around to fix a puncture or change a light bracket or fix a slack gear cable, because what is she going to do when daddy, packing for his ski trip, falls down the stairs and breaks his leg in three places?
The fact that I was doing this minor bit of fettling in knee-high boots with three-inch heels, a dress, and a pink fleece jacket is entirely irrelevant.