“Hot Numbers Bicycle” – The Story Behind the Image

Posted December 18th 2016

Some interesting and beautiful images are made in difficult or extraordinary circumstances. This can be part of what makes them special. Think of pictures set in remote places, or taken in inhospitable climates or terrain, or shot at inconvenient times of day. Think of the Northern Lights, or a David Attenborough documentary!

Well, there are two quite unusual things about this picture I took in Gwydir Street, near Mill Road. Firstly, there was snow in Cambridge. Secondly, I was up at 5am on a very cold morning and outside with my camera! This may not sound like a pioneering adventure, but I felt like a polar explorer.

When snow started to fall the previous night, I realised that I might have a rare chance to take some photographs of CB1 in the snow. If I wanted to catch the sight of a fresh coating, relatively undisturbed by tyre tracks or footprints, it would mean a very early start.

The streets were deserted and eerily quiet when I left the house. Any distant sounds of early risers or slow-moving vehicles were softened to a murmur by the snow. Cambridge had the feeling of an abandoned city, shrouded in a thick layer of white dust.

As I approached Mill Road, this lovely old bicycle caught my eye. Somehow, it added to the feeling of abandonment – a bicycle left out in the cold, enticing non-existent passers-by to a café that was closed. I loved the way that the snow had settled on its classic features, and how the sign optimistically gestured towards the small light next to the Hot Numbers café.

After photographing the bike, I stayed out for another two hours while Cambridge woke up to an amazing sight. The snow was soon being scooped up for snowballs by schoolchildren walking to school, and swept off car windows by commuters preparing for their journey.

I think that black and white suits this picture. It adds mood to the image by emphasising the contrast between the bright snow and the dark, slightly sinister-looking buildings and sky. I was pleased to be able to include part of the distinctive Dales Brewery sign – a reminder of the history of the building that is now home to Hot Numbers and other small businesses.

Sadly, the bicycle went missing a few months later and was never seen again in Gwydir Street. Hot Numbers, on the other hand, has flourished in the years since I took this picture, and is now well known for its home-roasted coffee, live entertainment, and art exhibitions. Hopefully this picture will bring back fond memories of the early days, and of the bike that used to live at the end of the street.

If you like this article or have any comments, please leave a note for me using the form near the bottom of this page.

Hot Numbers Bicycle

A framed print of “Hot Numbers Bicycle” will be on display in Hot Numbers Coffee in Gwydir Street until January 22nd 2017.

Bicycle in the Snow

“Bicycle in the Snow” – Another photo of the bike taken the same morning.

You can see more of my Cambridge photographs in the Cambridge Gallery.

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