It’s a mugs game son

It has been a long time since I have felt compelled to pick up the electronic quill and unleash it on the blank page – which is to say that I have been alternating between being terribly lazy and really quite busy. However, today Monday 17 January which has been labelled the bleakest and unhappiest Monday of the year, I find myself compelled to write a short little piece.

In some ways, I feel that what I will relate could be equated with the similar unveiling to a great scandal – something along the lines of Bernie Madoff (disclaimer: link leads to Wikipedia – I’m still recovering from my laziness) and his Ponzi scheme. The effects are great, and could potentially lead to the gnashing of teeth and shaking of fists against the injustices of the world, as trusted bodies heap betrayal on top of treachery on top of grave sin.

What I am to relate will seem of no great importance to the many, but perhaps for the few, a sense of outrage could sift through their accustomed mild-mannered selves and just as an earthquake far away at sea will slowly build up to create a devastating tsunami of destruction, so too might this announcement do likewise.

Enough waffle for the moment though…

Moseying through Victoria Park this Sunday past, I found myself at quite a loss, for I had arrived a whole hour early for a meet with a dear chum who had trotted on down from Scotland (incidentally the owner of the gorgeous bicycle described here). The day was cold, promised rain and really did not encourage stationary (lack of) activity. I therefore moseyed my way around the sad and empty model boat pond, along the filled football pitches with their amateur dramatics and portly referees, and came a while to the Pistachios in the Park for a BLAM (bacon, lettuce, avocado and mayonnaise sandwich – new invention as they had run out of tomatoes).

Now I had so chanced on my initial foray a trio out for a Sunday ride: a father, mother and young son. Now the pater familias was sat upon an iron steed that looked all too familiar. It had that Buckingham Black frame loved by many who shop from a certain manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent; those relaxed sloping forks which thrust the lead wheel a comforting distance ahead of the pedaller; and the all too familiar North Road handle-bars – it was a Pashley Guv’nor!

Silly name, beautiful bike

Now there were little differences: there was a Brooks’ ladies saddle instead of the B17 and black Schwalbe tyres not cream, but I assumed that these were due to some punk pinching the saddle and the difficulty that can be had for finding tyres in London (Velorution is the best place – and very reasonably priced too).

A Pashley Guv’nor for me is a thing of joy – an absolutely beautiful ride which will spark all manners of interesting conversations from the cyclists you bump (not literally) into along your daily rides. Apart from a frequently wobbly headset (present more or less since its birth) and a very silly name, I love this bicycle. Yes, it is in many ways the kit car of bicycles – a modern bicycle masquerading as a classic – but that really is purely superficial, for it is a bicycle every bit as capable as your average road bike and can match some of the better ones too (as I proved last year when I cycled to Paris). Yes, I am an owner (though the Sturmey Archer hub gear appears to be buggered at the moment – which irks no end as the gearing is only a year and a half old), and yes I am proud – or at least I was until I bumped into Neil again.

Neil, a London cab driver with an enthusiasm for bicycles of all sorts hailed me as I wheeled into the muddy plain outside the café. He complimented my wheels (a battered Brompton called Basil), and I complimented his Guv’nor. He smiled and thanked, chuckled a little, and then pointed to a little gold label on the seat post spelling out “Sovereign”.

I then noticed that there was the two little nipples on the outside for holding a pump…a slow cold dawning came over me…this was not a Guv’nor…it was an imposter!

Neil, disabused me of this thought swiftly.

Actually it was one of these, with upside down handlebars and no mudguards

He had discovered through some chums of his at a local bicycle project that essentially the Guv’nor was a stripped down Sovereign, sans mud and chain guards, with handlebars turned upside down (though with leather grips as opposed to plastic) and differing saddles and coloured tyres. Ok…the wheel sets are slightly different as well…but to all intents and purposes for £300 more Pashley are selling a stripped down Sovereign with a fancier saddle and leather handlebars. What a bargain – I had spent more – much more – for much much less. For instance I would kill for the mudguards at the moment –  mudguards and other accessories that have been promised since the Guv’nor’s cream wheels first hit the tarmac. Oh that and fixed hub gear.

I am still reeling from the shock of this, and at the time tried not to sound too dispirited, but clearly failed despite Neil’s complimentary words about Basil.

In the end, I confessed to Neil a certain sense of “muggishness”. He nodded his head sympathetically with the words of “You weren’t to know lad”, before assembling his clan to continue their ride. As he left, he bid me farewell with a knowing look of the shock he had involuntarily caused, and said “Have a good day” twice.

But how could it be? How can it ever be? For I think that I now truly hate Pashley…


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