Miranda Pumphrey is, as her barrister husband Toby frequently declares, “an all-round good egg”. The often harried but still glamorous 40-something mother has been feeling a teensy bit bad about the number of times she uses the family car, an Audi Q7. Mainly, she worries about the cost to the environment, but there’s also the cost of fuel. Things aren’t exactly tight in the Pumphrey household (especially after Toby’s recent successes in a spate of high-profile divorce cases), but that’s no reason not to be careful in this new era of austerity.
The school run is unavoidable. Well, the boys could walk – the church school is within the 1.5-mile catchment area (when it came to their children’s primary education, the Pumphreys preferred to “pray rather than pay”). But by the time her three young sons are prised out of bed and into bathrooms and uniforms – they’re usually running late. And if they did walk, they’d get so chilly in their (adorable!) shorts. No, ditching this two-mile round trip in the Chelsea tractor is out of the question.
Then there are the boys’ clubs, sporting activities and sleepovers to get to and from, as well as Miranda’s trips to the superstore and hairdresser and various soirées. All these, and other essential outings, are reached in the 4x4. So Miranda has decided to “do her bit” for the green movement by cycling to the St James’s art gallery where she works on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. She can’t bring herself to hire one of those ugly “Boris Bikes”, so she’ll join several of her fellow yummy mummies in Knightsbridge by purchasing a retro-style push-bike. She secretly thinks she’ll look charming on a gorgeous Pashley Poppy in Pastel Blue, with her 1950s-style skirt billowing and her hair streaming behind her. Mario, the new gallery owner whom she is keen to impress – and who’s a dead ringer for her “green” crush, the Tory poster boy and former Ecologist editor Zac Goldsmith – might even pay her more attention.
Soft-touch Toby concurs swiftly and hands over cash to pay for the bicycle – despite audibly gasping at the £700-plus price tag. (Along with a wicker basket, Miranda insists on a smart leather saddlebag and grips, a stylish Yakkay helmet in pink tweed, plus lights and lock. She balks at the idea of a high-visibility tabard – not the look she’s going for at all.) Toby himself would expect horsepower for that kind of outlay, but what Miranda wants…
Tuesday morning arrives. Miranda drives the children to school in the Audi and drizzle, returns home and prepares for her maiden ride on the newly named “Blue Belle”. Looking more chic tourist in France than Tour de France, she mounts her bike and – conveniently forgetting the times she’s reproached adults cycling on the path – wobbles precariously along the pavement, almost knocking over her neighbour. She even attempts a wave at a rare bobby on the beat.
Her short route should be very civilised, crossing a little of both Hyde and Green Parks. But it’s her first stint of pedal power since university, and she’s finding it hard work. The wind picks up and her new Vuitton skirt not only occasionally billows dangerously above her knees but, even more dangerously, into her spokes. She daren’t look, but is sure there’s already a tear. And now the rain is really coming down. She’s soon cursing the fact that she let vanity get the better of her and didn’t put a cagoule in her basket. Her new-season Chanel faux-fur cape is sodden. And why on earth didn’t she think to wear her waterproof mascara..?
At least she’ll get to the gallery before Mario. Or not… The ride has taken longer than expected and, as she legs it into work – forgetting to lock up Blue Belle, which will undoubtedly be pinched before noon – she’s painfully aware that she’s late, bedraggled and, yes, making quite some impression on the new boss.