On intolerance and trains

I would like to believe that I am a tolerant person.

However. Commuting seems to bring out my intolerant side.

Some things are especially infuriating.

Take, for example, bikers. People who ride bikes. Most of my life I held the opinion that cycling was generally a good thing to do. Environmentally friendly and all that. These days I think it depends on the definition of “environment”. If you mean trees and lakes and mountains you might still be right. Probably even. If you mean “whatever-happens-to-be-around-you” I’m not so sure. Especially if there are trains and other people involved. Even more especially if there are early mornings and lots of people involved. Extra especially if it’s 7 am on a Berlin weekday. Even more extra especially when there are several of them. Bikers I mean, not weekdays.

Why do people have to take bikes on the tube at 7 am?? Don’t they know how full the tube is?? And that’s before you add buggies, bikes and fat people into the mix. I can see that people with small children (and buggies) need to go places and don’t necessarily have cars. That’s fine. I can accept that fat people are entitled to ride on trains. Not a problem. What I don’t get is why the bikers find it appropriate or acceptable to make everyone squish together to make room for them and their bike and then stand in the way while half the passengers get off the train to let other people out/on at each and every stop.


I wouldn’t care if they spent all day on the train, really, as long as they stay off them during rush hour. Or pay for at least 5 tickets.

What also annoys me is the reluctance of certain people to sit by the windows. They prefer to sit on the edge, with one knee sticking out into the isle.

Assuming there are seats available, you can almost guarantee that they will be windowseats with an obstacle course between them and the door. It mostly isn’t worth fighting your way past all the ferocious people who are intent on staying exactly where they are and making it difficult for you to get past.

If everyone chose the windowseats first, then a whole lot more people would be able to sit down. That in turn would free up some space for the people who have to stand up.

Maybe then the bikers wouldn’t be such a problem……

On bikes, breadbuns and guilty conciences

Once upon a time there was a little girl. She learned to ride a bike (slowly) and when she grew up she still liked cycling.

That little girl was me.

Now I’m a whole lot older, even if not that much bigger.

When I started work, I lived in a house half an hour’s walk away from the workshop. Someone told me about the annual bike-sale in the town; I went, saw and conquered and came away with the most amazing bike ever.


That’s all history.

My bike was stolen in June last year.

I was not amused.

I moped and refused to think about getting a replacement.

A long while later, I was asked if I cycled; “I used to..” I said, and told him the sad tale.

Shortly afterwards, [practically] on my birthday, I received an answerphone message offering me a bike. She’d bought one recently and got too ill to ride it anymore. She had wanted to donate it to the church jumble sale, but since she’d heard mine had been stolen, she felt it would be more sensible to give it to me instead.

Who turns down that kind of offer??

After dropping my parents and brother at the airport, I went to fetch it and brought it home.

And felt incredibly guilty.

I just couldn’t manage to be as grateful as I knew I ought to be.

It’s not that I usually spend my time looking in horses mouths, but this horse had an attractive tongue..

I’d just been given an almost brand-new bike…

…and I didn’t like it.

The reason?

It was the sort of bike that stops if you pedal backwards.

Other than that it was pretty cool.

But it was enough for me not to want it. That and the knowledge that somewhere out there, someone was still happily riding MY bike.

It sat, or ‘stood’ if you’re a fussy German person, in my hall since then. I kept meaning to take it out for a ride and to get myself used to the stoopid brake-system, but I never got round to it. It was too icy, too cold, too windy, too wet, too dark, there was too much snow, I was too tired, I had to go out soon, I’d just got back and it was late… etc etc etc.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks turned to months, and the months were threatening to turn into a year. The more I didn’t ride it, the more I didn’t want to and the more guilty I felt about my ungratefulness.

Then, last week, one of my Hauskreis ladies asked us what we knew about the bike-exchange. We all emparted out assorted wisdom on her, and asked her why she wanted to know. Turns out her bike had just been written off, and she was on the lookout for a new one…

… one with backward-pedalling brakes.

Wow – seems people actually WANT the things.. I was astounded

As soon as I could speak, I immediately offered her mine and they all stared at me as if I’d turned into a buffalo.

I explained and they stopped staring and we arranged for her to come over on Saturday (with breakfast) and look at it, and maybe/probably pick it up. Then we would go to the Bike-Exchange and choose a bike for me.

And that’s what we did. I spent the morning tidying my house so they could have breakfast with me. When they came they brought breadbuns, but had already eaten and wanted to get on with their day. I put the buns onto the freshly washed sideboard and wheeled the bike out for inspection. She loved it and it was duly packed into the car.

I followed it in and we were off to the bike-exchange.

3 drizzly hours later I was the proud, if slightly soggy, owner of a ‘new’ bike.

The best part of it was that the pedals were there for pedalling and not for braking ­čÖé