We met on a cold Saturday in April. Winter had worn on you, rotted your core. My job, along with other volunteers, was to strengthen your weak points; a job you would reciprocate months later. You creaked and moaned as we pulled up your boards to expose your insides. Afzalia had become endangered and so we patched you with lesser wood. Rotten next to the new, but “well-loved” was the word I chose to use when talking about you to friends and family.
Summer meant I spent every Thursday I could spare with you. My body leading up to that day reacted as it does before a first date: sleepless nights, unbridled giddiness, overthinking, and trying on my skinsuit countless times. Instead of butterflies in my stomach, my lower region decided to nervously poop for 24 hours leading up to our meeting. Was this love?
More from Brenda Croell and Spencer J Harding…HERE!
Despite the post-war austerity, no expense was spared. There was an orchestra, roller racing, acrobats, trapeze artists and dancing girls. In a highlight of the evening, Fausto Coppi, on his first visit to Britain, took to the stage for a demonstration. Dressed in the celeste and blue of his Bianchi team and under dimmed lights, Il Campionissimo rode a snow white track bike on a special set of red, white and green rollers.
The rollers were mounted on a slowly revolving platform to ensure everyone got a complete view of the world’s most complete cyclist, with moving spotlights of continually changing colours illuminating his graceful figure. The crowd roared its appreciation.
Coppi’s show was followed by the finale of the evening: the presentation of prizes to the 12 fastest racers of the season just gone. A photograph shows them lined up in front of the orchestra, trophies in hand.
Standing out among the men in suits was a woman in a strapless fuscia ballgown with matching lace gloves and shoes. She was a shade under five feet tall with brown wavy hair, dimpled cheeks, and a toothy smile. She was Eileen Sheridan of the Coventry Cycling Club.
Sixty one years later, near enough to the day, Rouleur photographer Wig Worland and I are at the door of a pastel pink terraced house on the banks of the Thames in west London. It’s a sunny winter morning. A small model bicycle stands in the net curtained front window, next to a couple of pot plants. I ring the bell.