Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Eight of us were at Canterbury Cathedral, ...

Eight of us were at Canterbury Cathedral, and it was my turn to stay with our bicycles. We didn’t use locks on that 1970 trip -- and seldom on any of the three European tours I led for Christian College students. Instead, we took turns staying near the eight new Peugeots with their matching sixteen black, Karrimor saddlebags. On this occasion I had made a quick visit to Canterbury and was catching up on my trip diary by standing near the bikes and speaking into a small Sony, the first tape recorder I ever owned.

A young Japanese fellow interrupted my taping by saying, “Take picture? Take picture?” I agreed that he could take a photograph. It was a colorful lineup of bikes and luggage. I stepped aside and put the recorder in my bag. “No!” He wanted it just as he had first noticed me -- speaking into the recorder. I agreed. After snapping a couple of shots, he said, “I want you to meet Mr. and Mrs. Ibuka. He’s the president of the Sony Corporation.” I hadn’t actually noticed the two middle-age Japanese with him. He was their interpreter. “Well, now,” I said, “I’d better shake Mr. Ibuka’s hand!” And I turned the Sony tape recorder off and stowed it in the saddlebag again. Stupid me! The conversation was a short, memorable one, entirely through the interpreter.

Later in the trip, I dropped the little Sony and thought it was gone forever. We had cycled down through southern France and crossed into Spain in very heavy Sunday afternoon traffic. “Let’s just stay put for a few days,” someone suggested. We were all happy to do that because only two or three of the girls had studied Spanish. I took Latin and French.

We rented an apartment and an extra room in San Sebastian in the height of Spain’s holiday season. We saw the great fireworks display over the bay, had an inside look at home life from the back window of our apartment and, of course, attended the bullfights.

We were leaving the arena when the mule team was pulling the second dead bull off the field because some of the girls were nauseated. One fight was enough for all of us, actually. I dropped the little Sony as we left the arena; it bounced and scattered batteries, lids and broken parts down the full flight of steps. I thought it was a goner and that I’d lost the pageant of the bull fights -- the shouting, the band behind us, the girls’ comments, etc. At the apartment I taped it all back together, and it operated as good as new.

Later in the trip, I stopped at the main Sony shop in Salisbury, England, and asked if they could replace the case. While I waited, the manager and I were talking and he said, “I’ll be going to Japan in August to the Sony factory.” Then I told him of our brief meeting at Canterbury. With tongue in cheek, I said, “Say, ‘Hello’ to Mr. Ibuka for me.” He took me seriously. “I will. I’ll be with Mr. Ibuka and will give him your message.” I said, “He won’t remember me, but he might remember the eight loaded bikes.”

Two months later I received a personal letter from Mr. Ibuka in Japan. “I certainly do remember meeting you....” he said, through a secretary. His letter is one of my treasures that’s lost in the “piling system.” And it’s one of many memorable encounters that were created by the sight of our loaded bicycles. That’s the way to go!

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