Bike Roulette is a brand new game, invented today by me. The rules are simple. You set off on a bike ride. When you meet another cyclist, you turn round and go home.
Having played exactly once I am already aware of some of the depths and the subtleties of this game. By embarking on a game you give up control over the length of your ride. It is perfectly possible that you will meet a cyclist twenty metres down the road and have to go home again. But it is also possible that you end up doing a very long ride indeed.
Setting off this evening in gloomy midsummer dampness, with the idea of the game and its rules still taking shape in my imagination, I headed through Alsager in the general direction of Crewe. I expected I would meet one of the many commuters who come home along Crewe Road. The sky was grey and the wind was gusting but it wasn’t that bad.
After a mile or so the absence of cyclists could not be ignored so I headed through Oakhanger and back to Alsager via Nursery Lane. Perhaps the road from the station would have some cyclists embarking from the train. No luck there. Slowly the implications of the rules were starting to dawn on me.
Heading up Talke Road I made for the A50, where surely there would be bikes! At seven in the morning I always pass another cyclist along here. I began to feel slightly annoyed by all the cyclists who weren’t out there. This is exactly the sort of predicament that calls for a good radio programme, and Radio 4 was there to keep me engrossed with the superb Honest Doubt by one Richard Holloway. Poems of Emily Dickinson kept me going and soon I was in a pleasant trance, pedalling and listening.
Whereof we cannot know, thereof we must stay silent. Quotes from Wittgenstein always remind me of the time many years ago, visiting a friend who lived in Cambridge, when we went at night to find his simply marked grave, in a churchyard on the Huntingdon Road. With the aid of a torch we played a great game of creep up on Wittgenstein’s grave.
Halfway to Congleton, I was starting to have real doubts about Bike Roulette. It was getting dark. What if…. suddenly sticking to the rules seemed like a real test of integrity. If I gave up now, the game would be dead in its infancy and I would be left with the bitter taste of failure. Was I really going to have to head to Crewe Station with its dozens of bikes parked on the platform and wait hopefully for the right train to come in?
With darkness falling I began to consider other strategies. I could phone my son and offer him a cash incentive to get on his bike and come out to meet me. Doable, but probably expensive. Would this be within the spirit of the game? As the maker of the rules, I decided the answer was yes.
Before I had to resort to such desperate measures, Radio 4 came to my rescue with quotes from Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going.
Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence
I decided at once that an encounter with a poetical bike was within the rules of the game, and headed for home.
My map of this ride shows the rather haphazard route. Anything could have happened. I shall play again.