Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Tale Of 'No Lights' Dobson

I bumped into on old teacher the other night. Not literally bumped, although that was not beyond the realms of possibility, but rather cycled past and recognised.

Mr Dobson was a teacher of mine while I was at school between 1974-1979. I would like to say he was my favourite teacher but to be honest I don't have any great recollection of this period unless it was particularly exceptional one way or t'other. That certainly doesn't mean he was a bad teacher but simply my memories are just vague. I remember the headteacher, Mr Best, playing various suite's from The Planets by Holst at assembly. I remember winning first prize for a painting competition with an undersea scene of cartoonish fish. The prize was a large sticker of Busby, the bird used for advertising British Telecom at the time. I stuck it to my bedroom window for years. I remember finding out why I'd been having terrible headaches for months and then having to wear some terrible specs' to sort the problem. I remember Blackfriars swimming baths always had Daddy Long Legs in the pool. I remember the point when I decided I really, really didn't like football. When I think of Mr Dobson I just get some warm fuzziness (so pretty good really) and remember we all thought he was a little different because he was a grown up who cycled everywhere.

I continued to see Mr Dobson cycling the streets where I lived for several years after I moved from that school. Eventually I left Manchester in the early 90s and he faded into distant, hazy memory. I moved back to the area in 2005 and was surprised to see him still pedalling the same routes, looking older but still fit and wiry and definitely the same Mr Dobson. I told my wife who he was and mentioned I would like to say hello if I ever got chance. My chance came the other night.

Cycling home in the dark, I noticed an elderly cyclist pulling out of a side road into the cycle lane ahead of me. I tutted to myself they had no lights/reflective gear but as I went passed I instantly recognised the slightly stooped profile. I decided to wait at the next side street and see if he would stop and chat. I'm glad I did.

I'm pretty sure he didn't remember my name or face but he was more than happy to have a natter. I have to give him credit as one of the first things he did was to apologise for not having any lights on. It turns out he retired from teaching in his early 60's and "got a proper job" working as a painter/decorator. He was just on his way home from a job that had run over and he hadn't brought his lights.

We chatted a bit about what I was up to and the fact I still see him about the locale on his bike. He started off telling me he'd done the coast to coast a while ago, then impressed me by casually mentioning he'd also done the LEJOG. I didn't get any details about this as he then went straight on to blow me away with his tale of cycling for 12 weeks across the USA from San Francisco to Chicago and I think onto the east coast. Cycling 50 miles a day, being welcomed into stranger's homes to stay the night, really tasting and feeling the country. I'm not sure when exactly this was but he did mention he did it in his 60's and it was maybe something I could do when I retired. I hate to have to guess at his age now but likely a very sprightly mid 70's (if you are reading this Mr D then I am happy to correct this if told!).

Great to be able to catch up with him after several years of trying to say hello and I hope to chat again. But really sir - no lights! It just is not good enough... 

The black void is Mr Dobson
No point showing any video as he is even harder to spot

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