Small boys on bikes

Buses to the city centre run through the estate, travelling in via one road and out along another. The bus route roads have mini-roundabouts at their junctions with other roads.

Walking back from school, two small boys on bicycles were going around and around one of the mini-roundabouts, an annoyance to drivers passing through and, more importantly, a danger to themselves.

The bicycles were shiny and new, probably Christmas gifts, and had presumably been bought to last a few years because they were big for the boys.

They broke from their circling of the roundabout and pedalled in my direction.

“Mister, do I know you?” asked the larger of the pair.

It was an impossible question to answer. “Do you?” I asked.

“Do you live at Lansdowne Gate?”

“I do,” I said.

“Do you remember that we met you in the car park?”

I did. I had gone down to the underground car park beneath the apartment complex to check the post box and found four children running amongst the cars.

“I do remember, it was the day when the government closed the schools because it was windy. How are you today?”

“We’re good, mister. We came to see a friend but now we can’t find our way back.”

It seemed a mark of how young they were that they had no smartphone to which to turn for directions.

“Where do you live?”

“Lansdowne Gate, that’s why we asked you.”

“Ah,” I said, “if you go along this road until you reach Slieve Bloom Road, and turn right there, you’ll see your way back.”

“I know where you mean,” said the spokesman for the duo.

“Will you be careful riding back. It’s Friday afternoon. The roads are busy.”

“We will, mister.”

And off they went, straight through the roundabout without looking in either direction.

I sighed and walked on as they disappeared up the road, making steady progress straight down the middle.

There was an odd moment of happiness. The encounter seemed like something from long ago, something from a different age.

It was from a time when people lived in communities where, even if you didn’t know a person’s name, you knew them to see. It was from a time when small boys could go out on their bicycles without fear. It was from a time when a conversation with an adult was not something to cause concern.

Perhaps better times are coming.

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