As a toy newly come to life, Kolly Wobble – a light-blue-green octopus – is experiencing the many wonders of her unexpected life. In the midst of discovering not too many people are concerned or interested with the actuality of her existence, which probably says more about how the world is so exposed to novelty that anything that can be imagined is accepted and demanded as a matter of course, she has unearthed a side to her personality: not only does she love cycling, she loves cycling fast.
And today she intends to see how quickly she can go.
Kolly Wobble rides a converted carbon-fibre tandem. It has been altered to a single seat version, but still retains both sets of pedals so she can utilise four of her tentacles at once. It gives her an amazing power-to-weight ratio. And she has taken to wearing the attire of someone who wishes to be comfortable whilst being practical regardless of what the zombies think. The fact that it is fluorescent lycra appeals to her sense of otherness.
The leaves are yielding gold and red to the onset of autumn, but the sun is a harsh yellowing white, the Suffolk sky clear and there is little wind. Kolly intends to cycle out along the southern bank of The Orwell, meander around Chelmondiston, drift towards Shotley and Erwarton, and then head back … via Bourne Hill near Wherstead.
She tries not to get excited at the prospect. The hill is quite long, quite broad and smooth, and quite impossible for her to break the speed limit however hard she pedals. Though it will be lovely to try.
The tide is in and the waters of The Orwell lap at the black mud of the marsh beneath the Orwell Bridge. There is a hint of the sea and seaweed and crabs and cockles in the air. Canadian geese, gathered on the shore to rest, glance at her only to return to their business with a flutter of their wings and a quick preen. They seem to sense something else in the air, other than a change in the season and the faint seaside smell, but it is not Dangerous so they ignore it.
Twelve miles to go.
Kolly's heart beats a little faster.
As she has found on previous rides, after about half-an-hour of riding, Kolly is blessed with a profound sense of belonging and affinity with the countryside. Endorphins play their part, but the scent and sight of the farmland, the small woods and newly-cut hedgerows emphasise the apparent intrusion of town and industry in the environment. However, the hamlets and villages she passes through blend in more, as if they exist in sympathy and in a symbiotic way with this world of plough and produce and nature, and she knows that when she returns home, it will prompt thoughts of what the land may have looked like hundreds of years ago. Before humanity set stone upon stone, sealing their enterprise with cement and tarmac.
Six miles to go.
Kolly realises what little wind there is will be on her back when she descends Bourne Hill and she experiences a flutter of anticipation. She cycles a little faster.
Something rushes out from a driveway and nearly clips her rear wheel. She turns in her seat to look back and catches sight of a firm-bodied animal, cloaked in short, sleek brown fur, disappearing into the scrub on the other side of the road. It is far bigger than a rat, is not a dog or cat, and so Kolly decides it is probably a young muntjac deer, hell-bent on crossing at any cost. It seems not only humans act like zombies on Suffolk's roads.
Four miles to go.
The fields undulate as though they are earthy blankets being turned back for some new sleepy arrival. Pheasants seek out what meagre cover they can amongst the diminished furrows, whilst huge flocks of bright-white gulls and soot-black crows swoop and call behind the tractors crumbling the soil as a prelude to sowing. There is the tang of wood smoke in the air.
One mile to go.
Kolly begins to increase speed further. The road she is on is a bit of a racetrack for most drivers – trumpet-exhaust teenagers and even grannies-in-a-rush – and she now instinctively moves out slightly on the bends to reduce the temptation for drivers to try to overtake her when they can't see what is approaching. There have been too many times when a vehicle has brushed her shoulder as the zombie inside takes action to avoid another zombie coming the other way, hell-bent on getting where they want to at whatever cost.
The road dips, the marina architecture of Ipswich is visible in the blue-haze distance, and she lowers her body, changes her grip to the drops and begins the descent.
Her speed builds.
She changes up a gear.
And yet again.
Her on-board cycle computer soon says she is doing thirty-six miles an hour. She pedals harder. And harder.
She is caught up in the perfection of exertion. There is nothing but the effort. And the exhilaration.
Forty-one miles an hour.
And she has to break for the looming roundabout. Hard.
It's now she discovers she still had another gear to go.
Forty-five seems a viable target for the next attempt.
She whizzes into Ipswich overtaking the occasional car.
Try not to do the stupid things stupid people do.