Battersby Cycles has been giving personal service for 113 years.
THE VIEW FROM HERE THE impending closure of Battersby Cycles, which has been trading in Hill Street, Ryde, for more than 113 years, heralds another nail in the coffin of old-fashioned family firms.
Sad, but not particularly surprising. Graham Gardner, who took over the shop in 1995 after it had been run for over a century by the Battersby family, blames the closure on "the economic downturn and the increased popularity of internet shopping".
Ah yes, internet shopping. Such a breeze. Google "discount bikes online" and more than 28 million results pop up.
Scroll down, choose your bargain, a couple of clicks and, whoop-a-doop, your bike will be on your doorstep without you even having to leave your desk.
All very convenient but scarcely in the spirit of Battersby Cycles, which has been unfailingly faithful in flying the flag for those who still like to think the Island is 50 years behind the times. Its corner premises, attractively cluttered and a bit murky, has for decades been the kind of place which might have a mountain bike in its window but holds a penny-farthing in its heart.
It was a refuge for the kind of person who regarded technology with suspicion but knew about Sturmey-Archer three-speed, dynamo lights and puncture repair kits, stored in a flat tin and kept in a tiny bag strapped to the back of their saddle.
They didn’t have to scratch their heads when the screen asked difficult questions about PayPal. They just had to push their bicycle up to Battersby’s and have a leisurely chat about repairs to the spokes and spindles.
Daisy, she of the bicycle made for two, would have adored Battersby’s. She would have fluttered in with her companion, her sprigged frock slightly greasy around the hem and her gauze-ribboned hat a little awry, and looked deliciously helpless as her companion discussed broken chains with Mr Battersby.
She might have inspected a wicker basket as she waited for the men to sort things out, or reflected on whether she had done the right thing in taking a husband who, on his own admission, was half-crazy. Nor, thanks to this half-wit, had the wedding been stylish.
Still, at least they had a bicycle made for two and the wonky chain was a bonus, because it necessitated a trip to Battersby’s, which was always a great comfort, especially as it meant her loony husband could talk to somebody else for a change instead of crooning soppy songs at her.
Who else would approve of Battersby’s?
Oh, scores of people. Col Blashford-Snell, the Famous Five, Alan Titchmarsh, Arthur Negus, Robinson Crusoe, Prince Charles — you get the picture.
And, of course, Norman Tebbit. When he told the unemployed to get on their bike, he didn’t mean order it online. He meant go along to Battersby’s and get a sturdy old Raleigh — and until you’ve got a decent job, my lad, don’t even think about poncy things like gears or a saddle.
Yes, it’s a great shame for all these people as this little bit of history comes to an end.
But don’t despair. Thankfully, the Island retains Hurst’s and its treasure-trove shops of hardware, electricals, gardening tools, kitchenware and so much more.
Hurst’s is very much in tune with the ethos of Battersby’s, although it has, excitingly, moved with the times and abandoned its early-closing day for automated tills and even a website of its own.
But don’t panic. You can still go into Hurst’s and purchase four screws and a couple of tin tacks. They’ll even saw a bit off the screws if they’re too long. Then they’ll tippety-tap on their clever till and after extraordinarily lengthy negotiations with its keys and screen, they’ll triumphantly produce your bill of 19p.
That’s 3/10 to you, Mr Battersby.
The Island’s hospital icon won’t be a Koan alone
As one icon departs, another rises from the ashes. Battersby’s may be on its way out but the Koan is making a return and I, for one, am absolutely thrilled about it.
Of course, the Koan never actually left us. Installed in 1997 outside St Mary’s Hospital, it had a brief moment of glory as it twirled and twinkled before grinding to a halt and switching off its lights.
Since then, it has stood like a technicolour corpse, both garish and moribund, Liliane Lijn’s structure as pathetic as an Action Man with dud batteries.
But, hurrah, here comes the cavalry armed with a box of triple-As, all ready to revive our Koan and send it spinning on its shining way.
I don’t know who the "unnamed company" is which has offered to fix the sculpture. B&Q, maybe, or possibly Hurst’s. If the latter, I don’t know why they weren’t tried first.
Anyway, it’s excellent news for the Island.
I am, however, a little worried about Lijn’s "dancing cones" sculpture being shortlisted for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth.
Don’t they know these cones are likely to stop dancing immediately after installation? In this almost inevitable event, they should try Hurst’s first and if that fails, Bruce Forsyth could always order the cones to 'keep dancing’.