A conversation over a kickstand: identity and cycling in the post-trip world

Relegated by a return to my fast light commute bike to shopping hauling status, I have given in to practicality and gone on a trawl round the bike shops in Fremantle to buy a kickstand for the Big Dummy.  I’m amused to see that kickstand quality isn’t much higher here than it was in Central America. There I went through a succession of them before admitting defeat and learning to pack the bike balanced against whatever stability I could find.

Perth cycle commuting – heading the ‘south of the river’ route home in closing dusk

The second shop has one that will probably do – shopping and errands won’t stress it as much as the abuse I meted out on tour so it may last a while at least. I ask to borrow a spanner, and am directed towards their workshop out back.  As I enter, one of the shop assistants is half-heartedly trying tricks on his skateboard – there’s not much going on today.  He doesn’t look inclined to fuss about tool use so I get on with it.

“Do you just use that round town, or are you going to do a tour on it?”  He has sidled over to inspect.  My bike doesn’t fit in amongst the stock-in-trade carbon and aluminium bling.  The skateboard is now discarded.

I am still unsure as to how to answer this innocuous question, even after a few weeks practice in this place so removed from our recent life. The time when my uncontested identity was that of a cycle tourist is already fading enough that I find myself fighting the urge to come out with all of it – the months, the countries, the distance – trying to communicate the absolute reality that we’ve lived.  Touching the vividness of these memories jolts them to the fore.

Fremantle’s working harbour has an industrial soul close to that of Tyneside, home in my pre-Australia era

Returning to the hospital where I used to work has produced an odd time-shifting effect.  It is as if I have stepped side-ways and backwards into a life that is both alien and comfortingly familiar.  The people I work with have a remembered ‘me’ in their minds that I almost was, but now am not.  Time and an enormous experience have moved me further from their conception.  To avoid fleeing in the face of such discomfort, I am letting myself settle into a reconciliation between the different versions of ‘me’.  I hope that I won’t lose the now-me in the process.

With the passing of summer dryness, the morning rain catches me. Mostly it sweeps in off the sea, passing Rottnest Island and the ships and tankers awaiting an approach and chance to disgorge.
Evening home-comings, assuming I make it out in time for the dregs of daylight, tend to be mellower. The city beaches – spaces for walking now. In summer, throngs of kite-surfers dominate, but winter’s brought a quietening of the Fremantle Doctor that drives them.

Daily cycling continues with the commute into Perth and back each day.  Much like work, I am growing used to the degree that I have remembered the minutiae.  I anticipate known bumps and cracks; and the seconds-saving short-cuts make me smile at the challenge I make of iterating improvement in such an oft-repeated journey.  It is a very different take on movement and progression to that that was just a short time ago.


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