Thursday, March 12, 2009

On yer bike

I got on my bike on Tuesday in order to take it to what pet owners are wont to describe as 'a good home'.

Three punctures in a row (plus a serious attempt by some yob in a 'mo'er' to dismount me turning right at a busy junction) made me think my cycling days in this city are at an end.

I spotted a discreet sign ...

'Recyke y'Bike'.

On investigation this turned out to be just the place to take my old but graceful 'machine' and see if they were interested. They were.

I found myself down a green lane beside one of the imposing arches of the mainline railway bridge which spans the Lower Ouseburn valley. I will leave to another post an explanation of how this all came about; how the Victorians 'filled in' a narrow dene (valley) to make the flat topped space I call 'Battlefield' but is more usually called 'The City Stadium'.

Recyke y'Bike are a nice bunch. Within seconds of arriving I had filled out a simple donation form and had a hot cup of tea thrust into my hand. I went on a short tour and saw some of the dozens of bicycles which are being re-furbished (re-cycled!); bicycles of all types and splendid they looked. Newer styles – 'mountain bikes' and sleek road bikes – side by side with the kind of bicycle George Orwell must have had in mind when he wrote his famous lines about "old maids biking to Holy Communion" – lovely things being cared for with skill and affection. Some of these re-furbished bikes go far and wide with the aid of the web. However, if you are living in the north east and are looking for a bike then I do urge you to try Recyke y'Bike.

But I have something else to write which feeds in to a recurring theme.

I am not simply against developments which I think unsuitable or in opposition to the organic growth of the Lower Ouseburn. All around us as we spoke in the warmish spring sunshine today I had the sense of hidden enterprise and people doing something to make a difference; small workshops, a second hand furniture warehouse cum community removals service; a builders yard, bus and coach company, carpet and flooring warehouses and all of this unsuspected endeavour hidden from view. Post industrial sites lend themselves it seems to such adventurous new comers; unfashionable, uncared for and over looked, such places have found second lives stemming from the very circumstance of their neglect. Frequently the pioneers are seeing something others have lost sight of, and the very feeling of 'unwantedness' as a strength.

There is a bad side of this, which in fact is now a familiar consequence of such formerly run down urban sites, the process described in the UK as 'gentrification', when such places are discovered by the wealthy and – bang! "There goes the neighbourhood" as they say. Something like this is threatening Ouseburn. The men in the white Porches are circling and homing on the 'potential' others have taken risks and used their own often meagre resources to highlight. With their priorities and cash to support them what is real and living is distorted by mere money and the vibrant is replaced by the synthetic; not always, but most often. As a result the pioneers find they are priced out of the game they invented. I hope that does not happen to Lower Ouseburn and I think that there are good reasons to believe it may not, not least for the time being: The 'credit crunch'.

I have placed Recyke y'Bike's web site on my links with permission.

(Edited for grammar 18.04.09)

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