Tandem acts of kindness

Cousins are like siblings and friends all rolled into one. You share DNA and history, but you can choose whether to have them in your life or not.

Cousin Jacki and I decided to be in each other's lives, then we decided to take an Alaska cruise together - and that choice was tested.

When you've known someone as a child, in some situations, you respond to each other as if you were still children. Half way through the cruise, we were irritable.

That's when we reached the dinky little town of Skagway, where we had decided to try tandem cycling. Jacki had booked us a bike at the Sockeye Cycle Company.

Following our map to it along the wooden sidewalks of the main drag, tricked up for tourists to resemble the gold rush town Skagway once was, we spotted a tiny dog wearing a T-shirt that said "security". We stopped for a pat. "He's my carer dog," said an older gent from Miami, dressed in a neon singlet and bum bag, in town via a different ship to ours. "That's why he can come on the cruise with me."

"Might call my cat a carer cat so she can come to work with me," Jacki said under her breath.

The gent was also heading to the Sockeye Cycling Company.

"We have a tandem booked," I said at the counter.

"Oh my God," Mr Miami bellowed. "My wife and I tried that. It's hard!"


"Gee, thanks for the encouragement," I said.

"Well, just remember to pedal really fast! Otherwise you'll fall off!"

We went through to the workshop, where the mechanic, Brendan, was waiting with our bike. "Just have patience with yourselves," Brendan said gently, with an encouraging smile, as he wheeled our bike outside.

Mr Miami followed us. "Oh, this I gotta see! This'll be great, haha!" Our first attempt was a disaster, much to his delight. "Haha! Told you it was hard!"

Flustered, I said to Jacki, "I can't do this. Let's just get a couple of regular bikes."

We brought the tandem back dejectedly. Mr Miami had seen all he needed to. "Good decision, haha!" he jibed - and left.

"Guys," said Brendan. "Don't give up. Trust in the tandem. Come on, I'll help you."

First, Jacki took the front seat and Brendan the back. As it turned out, frantic pedalling was not the way to go. "It's about synchronicity and communication," said Brendan. A tootle around the street outside Sockeye, and a beaming Jacki and Brendan came back.

Then I took the back seat, Brendan the front. "One, two three, pedal," he coaxed and we were away. Smiles all round.

The time came for Jacki and me to test our newfound skill. "One, two, three, pedal," we counted together, and what do you know, it worked. We had the best morning, cycling, giggling, drawing admiring stares from other tourists.

As we powered expertly along, all our irritations fell away.

Brendan had been right. It was all about synchronicity and communication. And about trusting in the tandem.

The writer was a guest of Silversea.