Stan’s Old Bike


By Lesley Wade

Rex Swain’s little poem came at a most opportune time! Bringing back memories of a dear neighbour of my mine.

Stan Shepherd, had just passed away and his sons and daughter were clearing his house, opposite my own. As I looked up I saw Stan’s old bicycle being lifted onto a truck looking as though it was aiming for the dump. Oh no! I thought I just cannot see Stan’s old bicycle go to the tip. Both he and the bicycle enjoyed a short ride in all weathers down to his allotment by the Thomas Peacock School. I spontaneously rushed out and asked if I could rescue it. The old bicycle was wheeled across to my garden and then I thought what on earth am I going to do with it? It will just rot away here as it would have done on the dump!

I had not ridden a bicycle since the age of 14 and I am now approaching retirement. My little granddaughter kept on teasing and asking when I was going to ride it. In the end I said “right now, come on” and we took it down to the field behind the Thomas Peacock School and to my amazement I could ride the old thing. The next day when my granddaughter was at school and nobody was about I decided to wheel the bicycle down to Gibbets Marsh and ride along that lovely rural cycle path all the way to Winchelsea (not a great feat for The Wheelers but amazing for me!).

Elswick Bike similar to Stan's
Elswick Bike similar to Stan’s

I did it! It was exhilarating and so peaceful, away from traffic noise and stress and it made me feel good too. I kept thinking Stan would be pleased. I was reminded of days of a slower pace of life when I used to cycle to school from Three Chimneys to Biddenden village when hardly a car passed me. When I got back to Rye another neighbour pointed out it’s threadbare tyres. It is a very old Elswick and Stan must have bought it from new, long before he even came to the Rye area (to serve as a policeman, in the 1950s I think) as it has a Reading, Berkshire sellers label upon it and I know Stan was born in Berkshire. It has certainly done very good service, just like it’s old owner, and unlike the bicycle in Rex’s poem hopefully it will live to see another day or two now. I shall replace it’s tyres,oil it’s chain and both it and I will enjoy my retirement – just like old Stan did.

I am never going to compete with The Wheelers but I will enjoy a ride along the cycle paths from time to time enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside instead of the fumes and noise of traffic. I cannot wait for the Rye Harbour cycle path to be ready – what a time that has taken – still better late than never as they say.

So the final paragraph in Rex’s poem rings true for both Stan and I.

We never broke a record we never cared to try

Except for loitering my bicycle and I

Tis not with louts and motor-fiends that such as we compete

Ours is tranquil travelling, and theirs is dust and heat

Stan was well known in Rye and served the town well as a Sergeant in the Police Force and after retirement he still worked in this town and community. He was a lovely neighbour and would hang a bagful of his first runner beans on my door knob and that of other neighbours.

He will be missed by his old neighbours, and some young and new, here in Rope Walk.

I send regards to Rex too. He and I worked together at the Old Spun Concrete Works in Rye Harbour – Good Old Days!

Rye’s Own July 2007

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