On a wheel and a prayer

6th February 1998 at 00:00
Don't park your car when there are kids about, especially if they're on bikes. Everybody knows that. And certainly don't park near our house, because our kid's learning the unicycle, the bike you see at the circus, the bike with one wheel. She wobbles like a runaway blancmange. "Steady kid!" I yell, yomping alongside. "Mind the parked cars!"

All parents get this once in their lives - that metaphor for parenting - teaching your child to cycle. To start with you're needed, leant on. Then, all of a sudden, you're redundant. Offspring sprints off, rides into the future and leaves you behind. "Have a nice life!" you call and "mind the parked cars!" But to get it twice is a privilege. Especially, and this is important, especially when you can't do it yourself.

It's a thrill to teach unicycle when you can't unicycle. And that's the point about teaching. You don't have to be able to do it yourself. But you do have to be there, supporting, picking up the pieces when required, giving sympathy, encouragement, care and most important of all, support - literal on the bike, moral and psychological in the classroom. It gives a nice twist to the old smug cliche: those who can, do, and those who can't, teach others how to.

But many can do it, even in Farnham. I say even in because to outsiders Farnham, stuck out on the borders of Surrey, sometimes seems a rather stuffy place. But in fact it's full of trick cyclists, jugglers and people wearing funny trousers and funny hats. Farnham is hip.

A skateboarding art college student rumbles his way past our house. My daughter unicycles off to Our Price. Me, I'm boring - I walk.

Richard Hoyes teaches at Farnham College in Surrey

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