If you’ve read the last few posts, you will have noticed that I haven’t said just where the Langsetts have washed up, now that we’ve jumped off the good ship Manchester.
Well, it was very nearly York.
Ah, York. The place where me and Mrs L first met. Like everywhere in the UK at the moment, York is riding the crest of a bicycle filled wave. In some places, that means that two people now cycle instead of one. In York, it means that more or less everyone cycles.
I lived there ten years ago, in a house full of students. In all my circle of friends, I knew three people who rode bikes and another one who sometimes left the "Bikes and bike accessories" pages of the York Press open on the dining room table. It never even crossed my mind to get a bike. Most of the time, I walked. On nights out, my housemates and I would occasionally treat ourselves to a taxi from Fleetways, which would often be a luxurious Mercedes driven by a doleful redundant structural engineer or something similar. These two modes of transport covered all journeys admirably, other than the trek out to that nightclub on the ring road (which required a special bus and a willingness to contemplate a drunken twelve mile walk home).
It’s all changed now.
These days, visiting York is hard work, particularly if (like me) you get a tiny bit excited and / or distracted every time you see someone riding a bike. When we visited to see whether we still liked the city, there were so many bikes being ridden all the time that it was more or less impossible for me to concentrate on anything, because I kept trying to check exactly what sort of bike each passerby was riding and decide whether I approved or not.
It’s in places like York that you can get an inkling of just how significant a major shift to travelling by bike could be. When I drove into the city to pick Mrs L up from her new job, I was pleasantly surprised to find out it actually was possible to drive into town and out again within a reasonable period of time. At rush hour, no less. Ten years ago, this would have resulted in a lot of sitting in traffic, interspersed with desperate lunges forward to try and get through traffic lights before they turned red. On the basis of my extremely unscientific - but nonetheless persuasive – test, either the drivers of York have fallen victim to some sort of mass illness which has left them unable to operate a steering wheel, or the increase in the number of bikes is as a result of a matching reduction in the number of cars.
Mrs L backed this up when she started work, confirming that her office – a recently completed conversion of a Victorian building that is home to 2,000 office workers – has no car park at all.
And it’s not just about the bikes. York is a very lovely place, chock full of interesting stuff left by everyone from the Romans onwards. Our old landlord used to host dinners for the York Georgian Society, meaning there was a very real chance that you would meet gentlemen in knee breeches and powdered wigs emerging from the portico of his home beside the Knavesmire. He had a superb story about meeting the Crown Prince of Jordan. It was that kind of place.
But as much as me and Mrs L loved it, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to pay what was needed in order to get a house that would fit us and the girls inside it. So we looked a bit further afield