Thursday, August 4, 2005

Imminent injury averted

When returning to Cambridge from Windsor my Mum expressed some entirely human misgivings about my using the tube.

Doug: “Well, I’m more likely to be injured in a cycling accident in Cambridge than in a terrorist incident in London.”

Mum: “That’s really not very reassuring.”

Doug: “Fair point.” Internally: Mental note, really must get my bike’s brakes fixed.

One of life’s minor joys is finding reliable trades people. Over the long summer break, things move at a slower speed around college and I’ve had a chance to chat with some of the staff at my accommodation site. I’ve had some interesting conversations with my Polish cleaner and a lovely guy from maintenance who came to replace a flickering light.

More crucially, as a car driver I always faced the peril of trying to find reliable mechanics. Nowadays I need reliable bike mechanics – and having moved across Cambridge this year, needed some new ones.

And some new brakes. The hideous screech of my bike and it’s 30 metre stopping distance was beginning to draw attention. (Yes, Malcolm – I know when you sold it to me you said the brakes needed attention, dropped the price and recommended mechanics. I’m just lazy.)

So, two years in this country and I’ve finally found the yellow pages on line (, not super intuitive, frankly). And through it – a local(ish) bike mechanic.

He was a little Italian dude with a face that appeared to have emerge from a gnarled olive tree of the type visible in the somnolent, dusty background of “Stealing Beauty”. I was in two minds as to whether, under the moustache he had only three teeth, or whether he just had three giant teeth dwarfing their neighbours.

He praised the “they-don’t-make-them-as-good-as-this-anymore” character of my brake assembly, pointed out where one horse-shoe component was a little out of alignment and said he’d probably just replace the brake blocks.

I got about 7 words in 10 of his English; but that’s a hell of a lot more than anyone’d get of my Italian, he was friendly, seemed to know what he was on about, ran a tidy workshop (I’m always reassured by mechanics with an ordered working environment) and didn’t overcharge me.

Yay, a local gem. And it always feels good to support owner-operators over a bigger outfit.

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