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Sussex Cyclists
by Charlie Britten

Felicity loves going biking with Charles and the children at the weekend. They have the proper safety gear, of course: helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, fluorescent armbands, and a plastic wallet for putting maps in which hangs round Charles’ neck. With the wind in their faces, they pedal along the Brighton bus lanes, passing all the supermarket traffic, to the farm shop where they buy locally grown produce at exorbitant prices. Then they cycle back home and put the fruit and vegetables into the walk-in American-style fridge. 

“Mummy, do we have to have cabbage and parsnips again?”

After that, it’s off to lunch at one of the pubs in the South Downs – on the bikes again, naturally, Felicity pointing out birds and plants in the hedgerow. “You can see much more when you’re not in the car.” 

Charles replies, “Yes, darling,” and “That’s interesting, darling,” while Rory and Toby discuss whether Daddy’s car is faster than Oliver down-the-road’s dad’s car. 

Halfway up the first hill, Toby decides that he’s too tired to ride any further. “Come on, old chap,” says Charles. “Exercise is good for you. Did you know that one in ten six year olds is obese?”

In the pub at last, Charles and Felicity drink organic wine from Sussex vineyards and Rory and Toby eat cocktail sausages, made from ethically- reared pigs, who have lived short but happy lives on the Downs eating organic swill. 

Back home in the afternoon, Charles sprawls out on the leather sofa and reads ‘The Guardian’ while Felicity spends a happy hour with Elizabeth David’s “Mediterranean Food” and the half-bottle of Merlot they didn’t finish last night. Eventually, she prepares a complicated dish using organic polenta and whole spices that looks and tastes like Yorkshire pudding. As they sit down at the table, Felicity shuts down the computer, “Because appliances left on standby create more than four million tonnes of extra carbon emissions in the UK alone”. 

“I don’t feel hungry, Mummy,” says Rory.

“I don’t feel hungry either,” says Toby.

“That’s all right, boys.” As the childcare books say, children will eat when they’re hungry. 

“It’s Gay Pride next week,” says Charles, surveying the pale yellow lump on his plate. “Shall we go along… on our bikes?”

“We’re all different,” says Felicity. “It’s important that everybody feels valued.”

“Some of my best friends are gay,” says Charles. Several times.

“Uncle Quentin?” asks Rory.

“No, Rory. Certainly not. And don’t let me ever hear you say such a thing again!” 

After dinner Felicity throws away Rory’s and Toby’s empty crisp packets and thinks about sorting out the recycling… paper, plastic, bottles, cans. But it’s so much easier bunging them all into the wheelie bin - and the dustmen never notice.

On Sunday morning, while Charles is at his flying lesson, Felicity throws the bikes into the Range Rover and drives two miles to the sea front. She and the boys have a fantastic ride on the promenade.