Harriet knelt on the kitchen floor, her Brompton folding bicycle was upside down, resting on its saddle and handle bars, over a couple of old towels. A small tool roll was beside her. Harriet was gently and carefully wiping away the road dirt and oily grime from the frame and bottom bracket. She turned the wheels slowly, checking the tread and looking for cracks and flints. Starting at the valve stem each spoke was wiped clean and a cloth ran around the hubs. A small screwdriver was used to pick out a thread caught around the wheel sprocket. An old toothbrush scrubbed the old oil and dirt from the sprocket, and then from the chain wheel. Harriet made a few adjustments to the spokes, but overall both wheels were running true. She had measured the chain and decided it was worth renewing so she would have to buy a new one next time she was out. In the meantime it could be cleaned to save grit getting back on the sprockets. The brakes looked serviceable but she thought maybe new brake and gear cables wouldn’t go amiss as the ends were beginning to fray.
The bike was laid on its side and the seat and seat post was removed and rag on a stick was used to clean the inside of the frame tube. Harriet wiped the Brooks saddle with a little warm water and added leather food to her list of things to buy.
Adam and Amanda had left Harriet to her methodical cleaning process in the kitchen. They were aware that Harriet was grieving, and that cleaning and cherishing every part of Mitch’s bike was a therapy that Harriet needed, probably even more then she needed the bike. It was a task they didn’t offer to help with and didn’t interrupt. They said nothing when they could hear Harriet gently talking to the bike, referring to it by the name she had bestowed upon it when Sarah first brought it over. Tiddles seemed a silly name to call a bicycle at the time but now, with Harriet gently talking and reassuring ‘Tiddles’ that he will be ok, and that he will be looked after and cared for, they knew that Tiddles was more then just a gifted bicycle, more then Harriet’s transport. They could hear occasional sobs, and sniffs, as Harriet cleaned and polished the little bike, and made adjustments to the brakes and gears with the rhythmic clicks and rattles of the chain as she wound the pedals by hand. Though they were in the living room with the television on a low volume, they didn’t want to turn it up to be more audible, not that they wanted to hear Harriet in the kitchen, but that they didn’t want the television to disturb her. Adam put the subtitles on instead so they could follow the programme.
As Harriet ran a bit of cloth around the brake calipers and pulled back and forth to clean behind them she felt the tears run down her nose. She sniffed and carried on without wiping them away. “It’ll be ok, Tiddles, I will look after you now.” She spoke quietly, the sentiment of the words as much to herself as to the bicycle. She felt no shame and wasn’t self conscious about talking to her bike, it wasn’t really the talking as the reflection on her own loss, her own pains, and that of Mitch’s widow. Mitch knew that his days were short and that his time was coming sooner then expected and had accepted that graciously. Even though she didn’t know Mitch, nor had she had the chance to meet him, his death hit her harder then she had expected. Mitch was lost to the world, an apparently generous, caring and thoughtful man. A person who now only existed in the memories of those who knew him personally, who’s lives he had affected, and changed, the unseen marks he had left on the world. Harriet would never know him, nor hear his voice, reflect on his thoughts, or share in his knowledge, humour, or experiences. A whole person, and everything he was, was gone baring the memories. Harriet was coming to terms with the change in her own life, the moving onwards, an unknown future ahead of her. Unlike Mitch, she still had her life to live, and she wasn’t going to let that go to waste, no matter how she still felt, how Marie had made her feel.
Harriet felt a calm come over her as she felt that switch over inside her, where the nagging belief that Marie was right about her being worthless suddenly became that realisation that she was truly free, and real, and alive in her own right. That though she was still healing she also felt stronger and more valued and loved then ever. That those feelings of love from her friends out weighed the control and hate that came from Marie.
Harriet gently held Tiddles as she reassembled the bicycle, as she continued the cleaning process, and in turn that cleaning slowly cleansed her of Marie’s effects on her heart and her mind.
Daisy was doing her accounts at the kitchen table on one of her days off. Now that she was employed at the Environment Centre her income was ‘Pay As You Earn’. However, she still had her previous earnings to sort out and finalise. Daisy wanted to know exactly how her finances stood, what out goings would be due, and if there was anything she had missed. She didn’t want any surprises if she had a mortgage and bills to upkeep so it was worth knowing that her tax and National Insurance payments, and other regular outgoings were accounted for. Daisy found it interesting that, due to the small size of mortgage she could afford, her mortgage payments will cost her less each month then her third of the rent on the shared house! Moving out would save her money, assuming she could find somewhere she liked in her price range!
Fran staggered into the kitchen still wearing her dressing gown. Yesterday had been a long day, followed by a long evening and Fran was grateful for not needing to be at work until later in the afternoon.
“You look bright and fresh this morning! How are things?” Fran asked.
“OK. Just got some paperwork to finish up, once it is out of the way the rest of the day is my own. It’s so weird thinking that, for a change, money just appears in my bank account and it is all mine, I don’t need to invoice, chase it, put aside tax from it. I can probably still keep putting some away and add it to my savings!” Daisy said. She closed the lid on her laptop.
“You have savings? What are those then?” Fran had a mock confused look on her face.
“Ha! I’m buying a house, so, yeah! Don’t you have any?”
“No, I’m twenty two, I go out and have a life, what am I going to save up for? Tea?” Fran went to put the kettle on.
“A house? Oh, yes please, thanks. I’ve been saving for years, and paying into my pension. I can now buy a house and the mortgage will be less then my share of the rent here. Then I can, maybe, retire when I’m sixty.”
“But that’s ‘cos you was earning more then me. I can’t afford to save and have a pension.” Fran protested.
“You’re earning more then me at your age. Anyway, it isn’t the amount you can save so much as keeping on saving. Just little amounts regularly. What do you spend on a night out?”
“Not that much, a couple of rounds of drinks? Speaking of which…” Fran put the mugs of tea on the table and then sat with her head in her hands and yawned loudly.
“And taxi fares? That’s about what I save week after week. It’s just a standing order out every month so it’s never there to spend on stuff. I’ve got so used to it not being there from when I first started working I just don’t miss it.”
“So you… “ Fran started. “Hang on!” Fran suddenly sat upright. “Scroll back a bit! What was that about the mortgage?”
“It’s less then my share of the rent. Sad innit. I mean that’s what I can borrow, which isn’t a lot as I earn even less now, but I have savings to make up a big deposit. I can buy a small house somewhere a bit out of the way so it’s always going to be cheaper then town centre rents. I mean this is a popular place to live so it’s not cheap here.”
“Holy crap! That is so unfair on people who have to rent! I’m gonna have to start saving. How am I gonna find the money to save to get a cheaper mortgage when the rent is so high?” Fran sighed!
“Yep, it’s unfair. I hadn’t even thought about it until I started to house hunt. I thought it would cost me more! Hang on, lets see what you can do.”
Daisy began to show Fran various banking apps on her phone that would be useful, and demonstrate how to manage her money with them.
“See, here you can set up a standing order to keep moving a set amount, say the cost of a couple of nights out, in to your savings, or you can transfer some in as and when, and this one rounds up your spending to the nearest pound and puts the change in the savings. You can set it to just the pennies, or multiply it up to make it pounds. So like, say you spend five pounds seventy-six, you can save the twenty-four pence, or make it two pounds forty pence. If you buy a lot of small things individually it really adds up!”
Daisy continued, “And if you want a pension worth anything, start now while you’re still young and start paying into one, take advantage of that compound interest working for you. You’ll get that on top of your state pension and it might make the difference, over the next forty plus years, as to whether you live, or just survive. You never know where the state pension will be then, nor personal ones, but worth trying to have it as a back up, if you can, just in case.
Sorry, I’m sounding like my Dad! He drummed it into me.”
Fran was, for the first time in her life, captivated at the thought of savings and doing her accounts!
“And I thought I was too young to worry about a pension! You’re good at this, Daisy. You should set up as a financial consultant for us ‘young people’. Fran joked.
“Nah, I’d need to go to college for that!” Daisy laughed. “And I tried that already!”
“Have you given up on that history course thing then?”
“No, just postponed it. I’m going to have to see if I can do some research first. And see if I enjoy it.”
“So whatcha gonna research then? Poor young people with lousy finances?” Fran laughed.
“Pah, no, but it has been interesting looking at the stuff people throw out in the recycling. There is a lot of market research there of what people actually buy and how long it lasts before they chuck it. I’m going to stop doing birthday and Christmas cards, people just read and bin them, it is a waste so I’d rather phone or text and say the words myself. Also I am going to drain all the household bottles and cans better to get the best out of them before recycling.”
“You’re going to research people’s rubbish?” Fran gave a baffled look and then a glance at their own recycling box in the corner of the kitchen. “That could be, umm, very telling!”
“I did think about it and it’ll be interesting, but probably not that fun to be honest. Also I’d have to take notes when I should be collecting. No, I am thinking I might wait until I have a house and then research the history of it. At least that will be something I can do whenever I have the time. The waste thing needs to be done live as it happens, and I think the centre has someone who monitors the overall waste collected so we know what we collect and how well we are doing collecting it all anyway.”
“Cool!” Fran replied. “So have you decided on a house then?”
“Nah, not yet, still looking but I know I don’t want a boring house. I do have a bit of a short list with some of the agents though. Hang on, I’ll show you.” Daisy went to get her house hunting file from her room.