Cycling news from Bristol and beyond

Cycling nonsense

My uncle is a doctor, a lifelong cyclist and an inspiration.

He recently mentioned that he’s cycling rather less now he’s over 90, ‘and my free bus pass is ever more attractive’.

He passed me this nonsense poem that he published in The Lancet in 1979 that you might enjoy (based of course on You Are Old, Father William by Lewis Carroll).


Lines composed while recycling a route first cycled in childhood


You’re a grandfather, Dad,” said his son with a frown,

Look, your hair has turned perfectly white.

And yet you persistently cycle down town.

Do you think at your age it is right?”


My vital capacity’s much reduced now,”

Dad agreed, “and my FEV1 too,

Though it lets me blow candles out, will not allow

Me to still hold2 a candle to you.”


In my youth,” he went on, “I could keep with the stream

Of the cars, and go freely up hills.

Though on slopes I admit that I now pant and steam,

Is it panting and steaming that kills?”


In my youth,” he continued, “I followed the birds.

Now I’m mellowed by age. But I still

Delight to keep up with the feathery kind,

At least when freewheeling downhill.”


You are old,” said his son from his motor bike seat,

And I think you’ll be squashed by a van.”

It’s kid cyclists,” said Dad, “who’re at risk in the street.

Till they pass tests, there should be a ban.”


Now be off,” he went on, “since your motor-bike’s noise

Could demoralise even the brave.

And while you get poor keeping up with the boys,

Just think of the money I save!”


1 Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1) is the volume of air that can forcibly be blown out in one second, after full inspiration.

2 Infinitive split under general licence from Fraser, Sir B. The Complete Plain Wordsrevised ed., London, 1973.

Piece contributed by John Forrester anonymously to The Lancet of 22 September 1979, p 628