"Shhh...we're going to see Nan." Ever so quietly, little Sam reached up to the front door on his tip toes and undid the latch. There was a loud click as the door spung open. He turned, put his finger to his lips and looked straight at me. "Shhh...!" For some reason he'd decided that it was my fault that the latch made a noise - but my little Sam was so cute that I didn't mind.
With the door wide open he took one more furtive look up the stairs before pushing me carefully out over the step and onto the path that led to the front gate. It was sunny outside, albeit a little chilly - it was only seven o'clock - but Sam didn't seem to notice. After feeding himself a two-Weetabix breakfast - during which he managed to spill both milk and sugar across the dining table when his spoon caught the edge of the bowl - he carefully put his shoes on the wrong feet and then wriggled into his coat; it took a few goes and finally all was good, except that there seemed to be more holes than buttons when he did it up. He shrugged, unconcerned.
Sam was often up early at the weekends and would come down to get his own breakfast. Usually Mum or Dad would come down too when they heard him bumping down the stairs on his bottom - he could walk down but, after his recent tumble from top to bottom he was back to bumping down. But no one came that morning. I had been sat there in the hallway, at the bottom of the stairs, when they'd come back from the pub the night before, paid Julie for sitting Sam, and made their way up to bed. They were clearly a little drunk and Dad had that funny look in his eye as he followed Mum up the stairs with his hand on her bottom.
I had seen Sam's Nan a few times when she'd come to visit, but I'd not gone back to her house since I'd been given to Sam on his third birthday. I'd got to Tedder Road in the boot of Dad's car so I didn't actually know where her house was.
Leaving me out in the garden and leaving the front door wide open, Sam went back to the kitchen and I heard him opening the refrigerator door; after scrabbling around for a minute or so he reappeared with his Pepper Pig rucksack on his back. Seems he'd brought some supplies for the journey. Carefully pulling the front door closed behind him - it clicked again - he then climbed onto me and pedaled up to the front gate. We were off!
"Where's he taking us?" The two little wheels at the back always spoke in unison and were also a bit behind everyone else.
"He said we were going to Nan's? Don't' you two ever listen?" Saddle was as grumpy as ever - something to do with always being sat upon, I guess.
"That is what the boy said - but boys never say what they mean - do they?" Front wheel always deferred to me. Well, I did hold us all together.
"Well," I was stalling. "Yes, that is what he said - but do we think he knows the way? I don't remember us ever riding to Nan's before - what do you think Pedal-Pedal?" The two of them always liked to be referred to as one.
"No, we haven't ridden there, but I bet he's been there in his pushchair." The handlebars were the most sensible of us all and were always able to steer us back onto the right track.
"Hmm, yes - so let's assume he knows the way." I could hear the saddle still grumbling on its post; Front wheel was keeping quiet but I could tell she wasn't happy. I think those two preferred it when we had been sat in the dark garage for all those years.
I have been part of the Simpson family for a long time - I used to be Dad's trike when he was a little boy and, when he got married to Mum and they had baby Sam, I was dragged out of Nan's garage and given to him. Nan bought me from the department store on the City Road when Dad was just a nipper. He didn't ride me a lot, but when Sam got me he told him about all the adventures we'd apparently had; I thought he'd grown out of me after a summer and I was relegated to the garage quite quickly. Whatever, considering my age, I think I was in pretty good condition when I got handed to Sam; my red steel frame with its white handlebars and seat still shone like new, and my solid wheels with their painted-on red petal spoke-holes that made it look like I'd come from the set of the Magic Roundabout, completed the 60's look. Mum had wanted to put a bell on me but Dad wouldn't have it - I don't think he liked the noise they made.
"What does she want a bell for?" Handlebars sounded uncharacteristically concerned at the prospect of a chrome Mickey Mouse bell ruining the purity of our design.
"I wouldn't able to stand the noise - can you imagine all that ting-a-linging up and down the garden?" Front wheel was similarly against such a move; besides, Nan would never have allowed one.
Besides, a bell would have ruined the sweet sweep of the bars - I was clearly designed by someone with feeling for form and, when no one is looking, I often sneak a peak at my sweeping lines in the hallway mirror. In my opinion, I was the most beautifully designed trike ever,
The rubber tyres on my three wheels were still good - they were made solid so were never going to puncture - and my little rubber pedals still spun as well as they did the day I was built. I might have been a bit heavier than some of the other children's bikes, but I was built to last. Besides, Sam loved riding me and I still got that little thrill every time we zoomed down a slope. Feeling his little hot hands on my bars and hearing his shrill screams of delight at the wind in his mop of blonde hair always made me smile. He was such a happy little boy who made everyone smile.
We'd been to the park before with Mum so at least I knew the way there - along the pavement for quite a bit before crossing at the lights and then along Cranleigh Avenue to the Park at the end. Thankfully, it being early in the morning, there were no cars on the road and when Sam drove us straight out and across the crossing point without even stopping to look, I had a bit of a moment and front wheel almost had a heart attack.
"Hey look out - it's me that gets it first you know!"
Mum wouldn't have been happy with what just happened as she always told Sam to stop and wait for her; and he got a proper telling off if he didn't do what Mum said. But she wasn't there so I guess he thought that there wasn't much point in waiting.
When we got to the Park, Sam seemed surprised that there was no one else there. But it did mean that he could go on all the swings and roundabouts without having to wait for anyone else. He especially like climbing to to the top of the climbing frame - it worried me as much as it did Mum whenever he hung by his little hands, but thankfully he didn't fall - who would have been there to rub his knees if he'd fallen? He also went down the slide on his tummy which he would never have done with Mum there.
"This is very dangerous you know - what will we do if he gets hurt? How will Mum know where he is?"
"He's a boy - boys always do stupid things. There's nothing we can do." Saddle was as helpful as ever.
I sat there at the edge of the rubber-floored playground area for quite a while as Sam made a point of trying every piece of equipment at least twice. But, not really surprisingly, as it was just after seven in the morning, no one else turned up to play with him. I thought we would be going home after he'd played on all the pieces, but when he got back on board and started to pedal, I realised that we were going out another gate from the Park and along a road I didn't know. It was along here that we saw the man with the dog. He was wearing a big dark coat and was waiting patiently on a lead as his old Alsatian did a big poo next to a lamp-post; I didn't like the look of either of them. Despite Sam smiling up at the old man, who was smoking a smelly cigarette, neither he nor the dog even looked at us as we sailed by. The dog, though, did have other things on its mind as it squatted uncomfortably and looked up into the sky over the rooftops as if trying to avoid the stink of its own doings. Sam instinctively pinched his nose as the stink wafted over us.
"Stay wide guys - we don't want to run though that!" Front wheel often forgot the little guys at the back.
Suddenly, as we were sailing down the slight slope cause by a dip in the pavement that marked the beginning of a driveway, I was aware of a big black bumper about to cross in front of us - we were just about to be hit by a car exiting a garden! At the last moment it stopped and thankfully came to halt just a foot away from us. Sam didn't even seem to notice, but the old couple in the car were sat with faces frozen in complete shock as we carried on our way. Looking back I could see that a very elderly man had got out of the car and was now watching us pedal away up the road whilst shaking his head.
"Is someone going to do something? This kid will be the end of us all!"
The repeated driveway slopes got to be great fun and Sam lifted his feet as we sailed down them before deftly catching the pedals again for the up slope. After a while, the pavement turned onto a big road and we went past a row of shops. But Sam didn't stop until we reached the ramp of a subway that would take us under the big road that was now in front of us. The next thing I knew, we were were careering down the slope at an ridiculous speed; I didn't think we would be able to stop in time for the bottom or be able to turn the sharp bend. It looked like there was nothing we could do to avoid a nasty crash. But Sam was laughing out loud as our speed increased and the air rushed through his hair. I was powerless to do anything.
Miraculously, Sam somehow managed to steer us round the ninety degree bend at the bottom and into the darkness of the subway - front tyre was complaining loudly.
"Can't you stop him, you fool - he'll split my rubbers!" I ignored him; what did he think I could do? Hearing his own voice echoing through the subway Sam screamed like a demon as we roared through the short tunnel and up the slope on the other side. We quickly slowed to a stop as his little legs just didn't have the power to push lardy me up the slope. Undeterred, Sam dismounted and pushed us up. I was very proud of him. His father didn't have that sort of determination. He'd have got off at the slightest slopes and burst into tears until someone helped. Sam was made of sterner stuff.
"I think we should go home now." Front wheel had her concerned voice again.
"So do we." said the rear wheels displaying a better understanding of the situation that I would have credited them with. I didn't know what to say. It surely couldn't be too far to Nan's as Mum would never walk for very long before she needed a cup of tea.
"It shouldn't be long now."
"What do you know? If it goes on for much longer then I'm going to begin to take a dim view of this whole caper. Sunday mornings should be for rest you know." I didn't know that Saddle was religious?
"I don't know why you're so miserable - you're just sitting there - us wheels have to do all the work!"
"Pedal-pedal, pedal-pedal - who does the work?"
"Oh come on now - let's just go with it. We're having an adventure, aren't we?"
Thankfully Sam's next turn seemed to quieten everyone down in an instant. Turning off the pavement, we went up a passage-way between two houses and, before we knew it, we were in a huge field of corn. Sam was taking us across the middle of a field in a valley of wavy corn that made us all smile. None of us had ever seen corn before - a huge expanse of golden barley swaying in the breeze either side of the path. Sam pushed on across the bumpy trail through the field of gold until we came to a little rise at the far side. He pushed us up to the top from where, below us, we could see a gap in a hedge. The other side of the gap, down the slope, was a gate; a gate to a bungalow - the very same tall wooden gate that stood at the back of Nan's garden. We'd made it to Nan's!
"So what does he think he's going to do now then?"
"There's no way through...we're going to have go all the way back - it will take forever."
"And this time he's bound to get into trouble - you can't just ride across roads like he did earlier, you know."
"Waste of time, waste of time."
"Nan! Nan! - it's me, Sam." There was no answer from the other side of the gate. Sam ran down the slope to the gate and started to peer through the small gaps in the fencing. "Over here, Nan, I'm over here!"
"Stuck in a field, stuck in a field, waste of time, waste of time."
"Shut up you two. There's no point stating the obvious - come on what are we going to do?" I thought for a bit. The gate looked quite fragile....if we could just...
"OK everyone - let's charge the gate!"
"Let's roll down the hill and smash through the gate - it doesn't look very strong to me."
"Oh great - remember who's here at the front - it's me that going to get it, again!"
"Come on, come on - let's do it, let's do it!".
"We'll follow." Did the rear wheels have a choice?
Before we knew it, we'd started to roll down the slope. Silently, we gathered speed down the smooth path between the tufts of grass, and front wheel dutifully aimed for the middle of the gate. Being such a heavy old beast meant that we easily smashed through the flimsy wooden panels of Nan's gate and ended up on our side in the middle of the soft green lawn. Sam stood and watched with his mouth agape before realising what it all meant.
"Nan, Nan - it's me, it's me!" Sam scrambled through the gaping hole we'd made and ran up the garden path to a bemused Nan who was sat in her conservatory reading her Sunday morning paper.