Frank O’Connor, that great Irish short story writer once wrote “Every old bachelor has a love story in him if only you can get at it”.
I would add that every old spinster also has one or even a few and whether imagined or real (or a bit of both) it matters not as long as they are told.
She had a passion for bicycles and yellows!
He had a penchant for pumpkins and blues.
One day their world would collide in an explosion of color!
Matilda Maricella was a lover of all things yellow.
Though she was not impartial to other colors.
Blue for example, appealed to her romantic side and of course mixing blue and yellow together led to the verdant green of the trees she lived under so, she would admit to having a ‘thing’ for green too.
Talking of which! The green Mexican jug on the table caught her eye more than once a day, a jug which she filled with pink tulips when in season.
Yes! Pink and green, she decided, went well together.
And the pink of her silk moroccan cushions did not in anyway clash with the cardinal red of her armchair
Which in turn matched her yellow coffee pot .
Her rugs were of blue and yellow and green and red and pink stripes.
Her plates and cups were of turquoises and purples.
Even her knives and forks had carefully chosen colored handles (blue with white daisies)
It would be safe to say that her life was completely filled with vivid color.
But it was yellow that turned her head.
Yellow that held her eye!
It was yellow that she dreamed about.
And her ‘grande passion’ for colorful objects did not lie just with household goods!
It also included bicycles.
Some might call it an obsession.
And when other women were scurrying with unbridled lust towards fashion boutiques or jewelry counters, she found herself pulled by some invisible chain into bicycle shops.
The bicycles she veered towards were the old fashioned ‘high Nelly’ types.
The Dutch Gazelles. The Danish Veloboris. The English Pashleys. The Irish made Raleighs (Though she was not abject to other brands as long as they were colorful).
Indeed Matilda Maricella was known to buy a bicycle on a whim just because of it’s color.
The day she saw the yellow bike for the first time was a sunny spring one.
She was sitting in the park in the grounds of St Patricks cathedral drinking her coffee from a blue takeaway cup and admiring the newly blooming daffodils when she happened to look up and glance through the railings at the line of shops across the road.
It was as though her breath was swept away from her.
She stood up dizzily, holding her two hands flat against her chest as though to calm her thudding heart.
For one of the shops was a bicycle shop and in it’s window stood a yellow bicycle.
She looked around wondering had anyone else spotted it, but the office workers sprinkled on the various benches, continued to gnaw boredly at their stale cheese sandwiches.
Imagining that at any moment someone else was sure to spot it and rush into the shop before her and nab it, she, with no fear for her safety, dodged between the traffic and, tripping on the mat in the doorway, plunged headlong into the shop.
Only by catching onto the counter did she prevent herself from falling head long on top of a handsome young lad.
‘I’ll take it.’ she cried, ‘No matter what the price! I’ll take it.’
The lad, with a large disk stuck in each earlobe and one arm covered in tattoos that matched the color of the oil on his hands looked up from the bike he was mending. ‘Sorry Missus! That racing bike is not for sale’. He had to shout over the beat of heavy metal music. ‘It’s in for repairs’.
‘No no! not the racing bike’ She shook her wild hair impatiently and tossed her colored scarf around her neck (a gesture she made when she was nervous). ‘THE YELLOW BICYCLE’.
She had to shout to be heard above the music.
And so, seconds later, to the loud strains of led zeppelin, she stuck her card into the machine and punched in her pin with no thought for her bank balance. (In fact she had no idea until her bank statement arrived a week later, how much she had paid for it)
Matilda Maricella rode gaily home on her new bicycle, her long purple skirt and her colorful scarf matching it’s brightness.
And as she did the bells rang out from the Pro Cathedral.
Joyously she answered by ringing the shining bell on the yellow bicycle.
Oh! How she proudly whizzed down Patrick street and on to Camden street with her hair flowing out behind and the long scarf wrapped artistically around her neck.
’That scarf will catch in the spokes and she’ll strangle herself’ Old Mattie, the butcher remarked, looking up for an instant and barely missing his finger as he brought the cleaver down across the ox tail he was chopping for an old age pensioner.
‘Never cycle with a scarf round your neck’ Miss Mc Coriskey instructed the group of small children buying sweets in her shop ‘It will surely get caught in the spokes and swooosh! your head will fall off!’
The children sucked furiously on their sweets and stared wide eyed through the shop window at the woman whizzing down the hill.
‘Jaysus wha’ a roide!’ shouted two young gurriers on the corner and ran after her but she laughingly out did them.
Down along Dame street she rode with pizzazz. Around by trinity college and onto Nassau street.
Cars tooted their horns.
Bus and taxi drivers gripped their wheels and muttered ‘irresponsible’ under their breaths as she wove in and out of the busy traffic.
But she just smiled and waved at them all.
Her plump legs twinkling. Her skirt blowing. Her handbag dangling.
At last Matilda Maricella landed safely home and though her scarf dangled perilously near the back wheel, she had come to no greater grief on her journey than a pair of pink flushed cheeks.
She wheeled her new purchase in to join the rest of her family.
Now just as she loved adorning her home, Mathilda Maricella loved adorning her bikes too.
A red flower wound round the handle bar of the blue one.
Blue and red flower patterned saddle bags were added to the back carrier of the green one.
A bright golden bell on the pink and purple one.
But on the yellow one, she wrapped a long line of colored felt flowers around the handle bars and back through the front basket.
She hung a second wicker basket to the side of its back carrier.
She removed the silver bell from the handlebars and replaced it with a shiny red one.
Then she picked up her pot of paint and painted red flowers along the chain cover and the skirt guard.
When she was finished she leant back on her hunkers and sighed with satisfaction .
That evening, while others were sitting on their sofas watching television, Mathilda Maricella settled on her red armchair, her head supported by her pink chinese silk cushion and drinking red wine from a turquoise glass, admired her array of colorful bicycles.
But her eye rested again and again on the yellow one.
Now you might be wondering why she needed so many bicycles?
I suppose she didn’t, but she made use of them all as, for each journey she used a different bicycle.
For example when taking a trip to the sea for her daily swim(matilda swam from the first of march to the thirty first of october) she chose the blue pashley.
A day trip along the canal it was the turn of the green veloboris!
The pink and purple gazelle she used for nights on the town, a visit to the opera, a concert.
But the yellow bicycle became her faithful every day bike.
It brought her for coffee with friends, to the library, grocery shopping and to work.
Gradually it took the place of the others for trips to the sea and along the canals and even on nightly escapades.
It was also the most comfortable.
With it’s broad leather saddle and wide handlebars and a lean back feel about it, she floated along at a good speed despite the appearance of clumsiness.
They say a dog owner begins to look like its favorite dog
well the yellow bicycle was the bicycle version of matilda.
Now far away from the colorful world of Matilda Maricellas Dublin
In france actually,
Lived La Monsieur de l’abbe de Tourville
(The abbey itself , once a monastery for Trappist monks was now a cavernous and dimly lit chambre d’hote)
As great as Matilda’s passion for bicycles was, it was more than equally matched by ‘La Monsieurs’ penchant for pumpkins.
He was obsessed by them
Their round shapes, their colored hues of yellow, orange even blue, fascinated him
They were everywhere…
When they ripened he made jam with the innards before cutting intricate patterns into the hardened skins. Some He turned into exquisite bowls, others into delicate lampshades.
Some he left au natural placing them strategically around the abbey grounds.
He lived, surrounded by pumpkins, in a large room at the top of the tower of the abbey.
One fine evening in october, Matilda Maricella arrived at the gates of the abbey on her yellow bicycle.
She was on one of her longer cycles, which she escaped to do from time to time.
Last year it was the Caminho de Compostela.
The year before that it was the cycle ways of burgundy.
This year it was the canals of southern france.
She pulled the chain at the high gates of the abbey and the bell bounced and echoed through the stone cloisters.
A dog barked in the distance and after a while La monsieur appeared.
He was dressed in blue linen trousers and a white linen shirt. A wide brimmed black hat adorned his head.
When he reached the gate he stopped and they gazed at each other through the rusty wrought iron bars.
Later she would describe it as a bolt of yellow sunshine hitting her between the eyes!
He would describe it as having been knocked over the head by a shapely and delicious blue pumpkin!
Matilda broke the silence first.
’Bonjour Monsieur’ She said ‘I have a reservation’
END OF PART ONE.
(I promise to complete this story, unless of course a handsome man comes along in the meantime and WHISKS me away)