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Hope and the Tandem

In our study of Romans chapter eight there was a line that I skipped over.  Paul said, “Now hope that is seen is not hope, who hopes for what he already has?” 

For a little while now, Frances and I have been hoping to buy a tandem.  This is in part a reliving of our youth since we once enjoyed a wonderful holiday in the Orkney Islands on a bicycle made for two.  Of course there were some strong winds, there are no trees on the Orkneys and anything higher than a cabbage is blown off into the ocean, so some of the going was admittedly tough but then our legs were several decades younger.  So we set about trying to buy on eBay a tandem with thousands of gears that was within walking distance of our holiday house in Hunstanton.  Of course the reality was rather different.  After losing several auctions to people my son calls “bid snipers”, we too learnt to hide in the virtual long grasses of eBay land and moments before the time limit, fire a perfectly aimed bid into the ether taking the other participants by surprise and by using these guerrilla tactics we eventually won.

She was described as a “vintage tandem” and indeed has the charm the cycle equivalent of an Austin 7, a very modest set of gears (5) and was just over fifty miles from Hunstanton.  “No problem,” I announced father-like over the breakfast table, “all four of us will go in the car and then share the trip on two wheels between us.  That’s only twenty-five miles each and since there will be two of us on the bike maybe it will feel only like 12 and a half miles!”  I had hoped that this last point would appeal to William’s love of maths and that the exercise would appeal to hockey goalkeeper Patrick who is lean and fit with not a wasted ounce about him.  But goal keepers are alert, William’s grasp of maths is good and they both flatly refused.

So out came the Baedeker, the bus timetables and maps, and soon Frances had calculated a way of our returning from Hunstanton to retrieve our car from the hamlet of Wramplingham, blessedly west of Norwich; a place of five houses, as many dogs and a tandem.  Leaving the teenagers abed, we set off in the car hoping to show them how feeble and flaccid the summer holiday of playing Game Boy was making them.  We swapped our fistful of fivers and successfully acquired the machine.

I had of course taken some advice.  I consulted our very own Tony Baines on the subject who assured me that a couple on a tandem could pop over to Peterborough sometime after dinner and be back easily in time for the News at Ten.  So we set our stopwatches and set off, full of hope you understand.

Now I am not going to tell you how long it took us.  Let's say that it was an interesting multiple of Tony’s guideline, not once, not twice, but a few more.  During the journey we learnt a lot about hope.  First off, from the vantage of the saddle, Norfolk is not as flat as all that, secondly, unaccountably despite what my schoolboy geography texts said, it is not downhill all the way to the sea. 

And Paul was right.  As long as the uphill stretch led to a bend in the road it was possible to hope and pray that round the corner it would level out or maybe even go downhill for a while and the closer we got to the bend the more hopeful we would be.  Now sometimes, of course, it continued on up but there would be another corner and more hope.

It was on the long straight inclines, when up was as far as the eye could see to the horizon and beyond, that we began to feel like Peter, we would notice the strong wind, become frightened that we would never make it and begin to mentally sink dreaming of sleeping in the verge side.  But the great thing about a tandem is that there are two of you, so you can encourage one another and so make it up the long slopes, to be hopeful together about what is round the corner and even agree to walk together a little to ease the strain.

Even though our faith may be deep and strong, there are times when it can be tested by circumstances and events.  Our hope can waver and that is when our church community and friendships really matter, when we can support and love one another through the long tough climbs.

As Paul said, and “now faith, hope and love abide these three, and the greatest of these is love.”


Click here to see an artist's impression of Steve's tandem riding.

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