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Monday 10 September 2012

Penny Farthing

   Penny Farthing isn't my real name you know, it's the ordinary bicycle, or high wheeler, Penny Farthing is merely my nick name, suggested by the size of my two wheels being associated with the olde British penny and farthing coins.
   I was first invented in, well it's difficult to say, certainly sometime in the 1880's. I'm a pretty dangerous bicycle to ride you know, as an important and unfortunate attribute of the Penny-Farthing is that the rider sits high and nearly over the front axle. When the wheel strikes rocks and ruts, or under hard braking, the rider can be pitched forward off the bicycle head-first, called "taking a header" or simply "a header". Headers were relatively common, and a significant hazard: riders sometimes died from headers. Riders coasting down hills often took their feet off the pedals and put them over the tops of the handlebars, so they would be pitched off feet-first instead of head-first.
   Postmen used to ride me, and I've performed in Penny Farthing races, and can get up to a good turn of speed. Ah, but then along came the safety bicycle, and I fell into decline. And yet, perhaps my most famous appearance was in the 1960's television series 'the Prisoner.' But they could find no-one who was able to ride me, not even that stuntman Frank Maher could ride me, or would even attempt to. What kind of stuntman did he think he was? Film director Don Chaffey did try to ride me one day, with the aid of actress Norma West, Don fell off!They did find a little welshman who could ride me, but generally I was pushed around the Village. But at the same time I had to suffer the ignominy of having a pair of stabilser wheels fitted to either side of my farthing wheel! That was so that I could stand on my own two wheels I suppose. But I did recieve an up-grade, they stuck a canopy on me! It was thought that i looked so good, that I was chosen to be the Village logo, and was put on the bonnet of Village taxis, the labels of Village food, in the window of the General Store, on soda siphons, and of course the badges worn by almost everyone in the Village. It meant that when anyone was to see me, they would instantly think of 'the Prisoner.'
   It was said, by Patrick McGoohan {he didn't know I was listening at the time} that I was a representation of the speed of man's development, that man was, is progressing much too quickly, and that perhaps we should slow down, and enjoy what we have already achieved, rather than push ahead looking to develop new and better things. And that my canopy is representative of safety, in how we are taken care of the government.
  Anyway, the only trouble with this canopied up-grade is, that it makes me totally unridable!
   I don't know who the chap is sat on my saddle, wearing a crash helmet, and I'm not even sure if there is any film footage of him actually riding me. But there are pictures of him standing about the Village talking to people about me. It is such a pity, that somone in the properities department had gone to all that trouble in up-grading me with a canopy, that I'm not seen with it in any scene in 'the Prisoner!' But at least I am the Village logo, and made famous by 'the Prisoner,' in turn making me and 'it' unforgettable.
   So if you don't mind, I'll just peddle off now,   be seeing you

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