One Saturday afternoon in August 2017 I went to a friend's
café opening and had some scrummy coffee and walnut cake. Afterwards I drove
out over the hills toward Sheffield to Ladybower Dam
(passing a high-end Mercedes car on a scrap of land with every window smashed
in.) I had sandwiches, crisps, chocolate on the passenger seat - and my bike in
the back of the car.
I parked at
the bottom near the bridges and set off. A track runs around the perimeter of
the reservoir and I took a leisurely couple of hours cycling round it. The
water level was quite low despite all the summer rain. I was listening Simon
& Garkfunkel's Greatest Hits on my mp3 player
(not one dud song on there.) I passed many people coming in the opposite
direction and, unable to hear them, shouted hello to most of them. I didn’t
bother with the ones that take refuge in staring into space or pretend to be
adjusting their sleeve.
I passed many
other cyclists and two large Pakistani families, the second mostly on bikes. I
passed them by and about ten minutes later came to a hill where you accelerate
fast. I sped down and nearly fell off as only my front brake works. I was now
at the halfway point and stopped to switch from Simon & Garfunkel to a
comedy audio book I had been looking forward to.
It’s lucky I
turned off the music. Behind me a Pakistani girl of about 13 years hurtled down
the hill on a bike and came off spectacularly. She lay on her side on hard
gravel still clutching the bike while screaming and crying. Bum. I pulled the
bike off her and, not sure how it might look, tried to squeeze her arms and
legs to see if anything was obviously broken. She was wearing a helmet with a
veil underneath it. The knees and elbows poking out of ripped black tights and
dress were shredded and oozing blood. Between cries she said she could not feel
her arm or leg when I squeezed them up and down. I tried to straighten them out
as she wailed.
Where the heck
were her family? Slowly and after a few minutes I tried to get the girl to stand
up but she was in equal pain and shock. Thankfully the whole family came round
the bushes, some running, some on bikes but all with alarmed facial
expressions. They must have been used to accidents as one had a box of
plasters. They were very grateful but seemed a little uneasy as I was holding
the girl up.
Finally I left
and I doubt the girl had broken anything. I'm sure she'd have been howling in a
higher volume had something snapped. There's a warden down near the café (about
a mile away) so I said I'd asked them to come up in the jeep to bring her down.
I needed some invigorating music to power me down to the warden so, once round
a corner, I put on Roll With It
(live) by Oasis on repeat. I nearly had a couple of accidents myself as a
scootered down to warden's hut (but they weren't there.) In the lyrics are
“don’t’ let anybody get in your way” and I didn’t as I burned passed walkers
and turned corners quite recklessly. It was brill.
I could not
find the warden but an old man of an avuncular nature said he was heading up
the path. I was tired and felt a little guilty as a headed back down to the car
at the bottom of the reservoir. Though I was desperate for a frothy coffee and
slab of cake I stopped to look at the bridges at the bottom of the dam. The
fading light lent them and the surrounding waters an appealing look and I
thought to myself, “I’m going to paint this scene” I took a few photos and
before I’d reached the car I was - in my mind anyway - pulling a small canvas
out from the attic and giving myself an hour to do the painting.
I’ve got six
painting in progress at the moment so on Monday evening I thought to myself
“Paint that bridge in one hour - and no more than one hour.” Here it is, poor
in quality but done quickly in 1 hour 40 minutes. I barely mixed paint, took it
straight from the tube and smeared it across the canvas like butter. It’s not
terrific but it was satisfying to start and finish something in one burst.
The scene I will try to paint…
Coming on slowly…
Getting dark but nearly finished…
Here are some photos from the bike