Document 988

Learning to Ride a Bicycle

Author(s): Prof Christian Kay

Copyright holder(s): Prof Christian Kay


Christian Kay, IIa.
Learning to Ride a Bicycle.

At one time or another, most people are filled with the urge to ride a bicycle. The reasons for this extraordinary desire are many and varied.

Take the case of my small cousin, Hortense, aged nine. Her brother, Cuthbert, had received as a birthday gift, a bicycle. Hortense had always beem a covetous child, and was immediately filled with the urge to possess a similar monstrosity.

Some weeks later, Hortense herself attained the age of ten, and received from an indulgent aunt, the princely sum of ten shillings. With this money burning a hole in her pocket, Hortense accompanied her mother to a sale of work.

On arrival, Mrs. Mulligan fluttered off to superintend the 'Cakes, cookies and confections' stall, leaving Hortense to her own devices. The abandoned child wandered aimlessly to and fro until she arrived at the white elephant stall. And there - in the place of pride - leaning against the wall, was a bicycle!

The phenomenon was decorated in a bilious shade of kingfisher blue; the saddle was upholstered in elegantly patterned leather; a promisingly raucous bell gleamed on the curved and undulated handlebars.

Nervously, Hortense approached the stall-keeper,

"Pleathe," she lisped charmingly, "how muchth ith that bithycle?"

"Ten shillings, duckie," said the the stall-holder as she inclined her flower bedecked hat towards the impatient child.

"Could I pleathe buy it?" Hortense offered the lady her money.

Fortunately, this well-meaning lady was of the breed who asks no question when shown ready money. The transaction was completed in a few minutes. Hortense possessed a bicycle.

To this intelligent child, her mother's reaction on beholding a second, more awkward bicycle, was apodictic. Hortense therefore secreted her treasure in the garden shed without further ado.

Next morning, Hortense wheeled her possession into the garden for a few practice spins. Like all the Mulligans, she was exceptionally intelligent and adaptable, and before the breakfast bell rang, she had succeeded in ruining two azealas and jeopardising the lives of six unwary cats.

Hortense soon began to feel that the garden did not afford her enough scope. Consequently, she arose one morning, ridiculously early, and sauntered forth with her machine to ravage the countryside. She swerved violently along a straight road until she met a milkman who was having a slight disagreement with his horse on the subject of immediatement action. Upon seeing Hortense approaching, the horse deemed it expedient to bolt in the opposite direction. From his abusive profanity, the milkman did not seem at all grateful to Hortense. A brownie is not without honour, save in her own district.

Hortense's control of the machine progressed - literally - by leaps and bounds until she became an efficient cyclist.

Meanwhile, Cuthbert had also assumed control of his particular menace. One day, he approached his sister, superiority personified in his repulsive features.

"Hortense," he articulated patronisingly, "you may have a shot on my bicycle, if you wish."

Hortense accepted with alacrity. To the amazement of her brother, she mounted with confidence, and rode unfalteringly along the road.

Slowly, Cuthbert's compressed lips parted until they had assumed a completely circular shape......

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Cite this Document

APA Style:

Learning to Ride a Bicycle. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 25 June 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Learning to Ride a Bicycle." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 25 June 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Learning to Ride a Bicycle," accessed 25 June 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 988

Learning to Ride a Bicycle


Text audience

Adults (18+)
Audience size 1
Writer knew intended audience

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 1954
Word count 530
General description Secondary school English essay

Text setting


Text type



Author details

Author id 606
Title Prof
Forenames Christian
Surname Kay
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Academic
Place of birth Edinburgh
Region of birth Midlothian
Birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's place of birth Leith
Father's region of birth Midlothian
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's place of birth Edinburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes All
Scots No Yes No Yes Work