As mentioned in my previous blog entries (see “Cycling…” for more details) I have for now – well, over the last six or so months any rate – been cycling to my place of work in what I like to refer to as an “enforced fitness regime”: this phrase basically means having to use a bicycle for a ten mile round commute into my job and thus enduring a physical workout I actually have no say in. Now, please don’t get the wrong idea and think I’m complaining about pedalling hardships without gaining some benefit from all this cycling; now I’m half a year into this perpetual sloggery, at an age where the good times are long gone and my belly’s future does indeed appear bleak, I’ve noticed my once slack shape has tightened somewhat and I do feel quite fit, although not quite as a fiddle.
Through my daily sweat-drenching and lung tearing sessions, my torso’s gotten trimmer, my arms and legs are more muscular and my once dissipated energy levels are now back to a modicum of sorts and although I’m not 18 again – how cruel it is to have that past memory as an unattainable present and future fitness benchmark – I can now hold my head up high with energetic pride. (Indeed, just holding my head up high on an elderly and worn spinal column is an achievement at nearly 40!)
So there’s been a personal health benefit from my unfortunate car crash and the subsequent chosen mode of transport, but there has also been a trade-off to cope with – which is usually the case in life (and especially with my existence) – in the form of the balance of fate or whatever it may be called elsewhere. I may be drunk on my oxygenated air most of the day but for everything that goes right, I find two or three things then tend to go wrong to balance things out again: whether it’s the Ying and the Yang, light and darkness, good and bad or just luck or lack of, there’s always the in-between to be redressed. For some reason – maybe I did something bad in a past life and Karma’s paying me back now – I seem to function in this “in-between” space, squeezed and shunted from having an anodyne, boring life where not much happens, to a frenetic, complicated life where all is in chaos and it’s these two opposing states battling in a continual tug-of-war over my everyday reality. This has gone on for so long now I know no difference and as one thing clicks into place, then a couple of other events will cancel it out again or vice-versa, so enjoy the following tale as an example of my equilibrium life wobbles.
The other week, I woke early and opening my curtains I saw the sky was covered by dark clouds and a deluge was falling downwards from them like a blocked gutter spilling its contents everywhere. I dragged my bike out and set off on my early morning journey in the torrential rain, cycling along farm lanes in order to cut my mileage down: by the time I reached my workplace I was sprayed in mud, soaked through my supposed waterproofs and to add massive insult to drenched injury, I’d attained yet another punctured tyre. It was at this juncture the internal implosion occurred and the boiling rage flushed through my system, causing the adrenal fission bomb to explode in all directions and this energy was pointed in just one area: my slippery, crap-drenched bike. I grabbed its frame and hoisted the useless metallic mode of transport up above my head, oblivious of its weight due to my pained scream of exertion, which I emitted at the apex point, much like an Olympic weightlifter snapping his record-shattering rep into a five second hold. Then without any forethought, I tossed the bike into a fence and watched as it bounced off and smashed into the muddied ground at my feet, its now-flat front wheel rotating as the spindle slowly dissipated any excess energy until coming to a wet, dripping stop. This circular spin-down I didn’t bother to hang around for though as I just dived into doing my job, sending out daggers to my Boss and work colleagues whenever any of them asked me the simplest of questions, further fanning at my now simmering fury.
Come the time to leave work and go home, I’d managed to calm down and was even laughing to myself – much to the bemusement of everyone around me – at my latest travelling misfortune as I walked to my prostrate bike, repair kit in hand and began to take off the punctured front wheel. As I searched the outside of the tyre tread for the latest spiky culprit, I suddenly realised with horror that there was something drastically wrong with the shape of my bike wheel, so glancing downwards and looking more closely, I saw the real problem: the wheel’s rim had snapped, along with three spokes which now drooped loosely, rattling against the remaining tightened ones. I felt my heart drop as it became apparent almost immediately that even if I could fix the puncture, then the now fractured wheel would never support my near-fourteen stone weight with three missing spokes, so immediate action was called for. What transpired next was like a scene from an episode of The A-Team, minus the rousing musical score, as I dived straight into my Boss’s workshop with the knackered wheel and got started at trying to salvage my return journey home: from pushing a bike five miles in the rain to being able to pedal out of this mess with some dignity intact.
Anyway, I managed to patch things up: I got the inner tube repaired, bent the spokes back into place and wrapped them around the others, then super-glued the cracked rim into place. Putting them all back together and onto the bike, I made a speedy departure, homeward bound in the hope of I’d make the slog back before the wheel crumbled beneath me or worse – as I’d noticed once I started moving – my crank falling apart from its grinding, impact-shattered bearings. I finally made it back home, bike barely intact, and realised that I desperately needed some other way of getting to work the following day and indeed for the rest of the foreseeable future, as the amount of money now required to fix the metal pain in the arse was too much to justify (plus I didn’t have any cash anyway!). Then I remembered a mate of mine – I’ll refer to him as “M” from now on – who had a bike which he wasn’t currently using, for one reason or another, and so I flicked through my ‘phone and called him up before I’d even thought of changing out of my sweat-drenched, rain-soaked work clothes.
He answered his ‘phone on the ninth ring. “Yeah, hello?!” came his barked introduction.
“Alright M, have you still got that bike at yours?” I spurted down the line, waiting for a reply.
Then a response came. “Eh? Who the f**k is that? Bike? What f**king bike?!”
I think it may have had something to do with the fact I’d not spoken to M for nearly six months or the fact he ran an “alternative business”, (an explanation of which I’ll leave out for the time being), but after I finally explained it was me and I needed to borrow his bike, then he was cool.
“Yeah, got one here at the minute, just pop up and it’s yours for as long as you need it, alright?” came M’s reply.
“Sorted. Is it the red one you had before?” I asked him, remembering a bike I’d seen at his house the last time I’d called around the many months before.
A rushed response came down the line, “Red one? No, it’s a blue bike I’ve got here” then I heard another telephone ring in the background. “Right, gotta go, see you in a bit” and the ‘phone line went dead.
Without changing clothes, I flew to the closest bus stop, hopped onto a single-decker and was at M’s front door within ten minutes, standing there knocking in the same downpour that I’d cycled home from work in. M opened the door and we exchanged pleasantries as he wheeled the bike out towards me: it certainly wasn’t the red bike I remembered from my last visit but was indeed blue as he’d said, except the finish was a neon-blaze, luminous sapphire along with a huge logo stating “THE BIKE-INATOR” on its frame. Also, the bike itself looked a little small to me. I stared at the bike, then at M and then back at the bike but beggars can’t be choosers, so taking hold of it, I adjusted the seat height as far as it would rise and swung my leg over ready to leave.
I turned to thank M but at that moment one of his ‘phones rang out, so we both just nodded at one another and I set off back home in the rain, raising a hand as I left in a belated thanks for his help. With my hood up and head down, I started flicking gears, trying to get used to the bike’s set-up and soon had the crank up into the highest gears, although it felt like I wasn’t really moving. “That’s funny” I thought as I looked down at my feet rotating in an accelerated motion, “I should be moving more than this, surely?” and realised that even though the seat was up as far as it could go, my knees were still bent at right-angles.
I was still trying to work out this seat and leg-joints confused arrangement, when suddenly I heard a voice shouting out loudly nearby, though I didn’t pay that much attention until it seemed to get louder. “HEY, YOU ON THAT BIKE, F**KING STOP!” rang out once more and I spun my head in the voice’s direction: I could see through the rain a group of young, post-pubescent teenagers, probably about ten or fifteen of them, running towards me from the entrance to a local park. As they got closer however, I could see a couple were carrying sticks, most were wearing scowls upon their faces and they were obviously pissed off about something, so I stood up and began to pedal as hard as I could as this seemed the best option available.
Their thudding footfalls died out with the sound of their screamed obscenities, which ran along the lines of “YOU PRICK, WE’LL KILL YOU!!!” and “COME ‘ERE YOU F**KING WANKER!!!”, some of the usual classics of articulated, misspent youth and I obliged them as I disappeared into the rain with the latter sentence’s hand gesture delivered in their direction. I know it sounds bizarre, to escape in a hurry from some kids but the children of today live in a reality dictated by the rules of the video game, Grand Theft Auto and really do live their lives against a minutia-governed backdrop of bling and respect, all wrapped up in a lack of discipline; If I’d stopped, anything could have happened and no matter what the outcome, I’d always be on the losing side against the “Kid-ults”, regardless of whether I was right or wrong.
I arrived at my flat half an hour later and after swiping my fob, I struggled through the security door and up the first floor flight of stairs with the new blue bike, finally getting through my front door with some difficulty. As I stood panting and taking off my soaked clothes, I thought to myself, “Christ, I feel more knackered than usual off that ride!” when my ‘phone rang. It was M.
“Forgot to tell you, mate – the bike’s a knock off…” came the statement after I accepted the call.
“Right, nicked is it?” I said without any hint of surprise.
M said, “Yeah, someone taxed it off one those little crack dealers who hang around the Tandle Hill park, so watch yourself as those little bastards carry guns, alright?!” just as another ‘phone starting ringing in his background.
I shook my head, “What?! No shit?”
“Yeah, right, gotta go Pal, see you later.” and as M hung up, I heard cut-off tone sounding, which now appeared to be the usual fare when conducting a call with him.
And that, dear reader(s) is an example of my so-called-unlucky life at the minute and the embodiment of pure cancelling-out that passes as my everyday existence. I break my bike after receiving yet another puncture but gain a new one through a friend’s help, so things are looking on the up; however, the trade-off against the good deed consists of three additions:
• The bike is stolen.
• The bike is stolen from children, hence the plasma-blue colour scheme and the name “THE BIKE-INATOR”, the small size of the frame and the fact I’m knackered pedalling as the gear ratios are set for kids, not adults.
• The bike is stolen from drug-dealing children, who carry guns, have already chased me once and have probably gotten a good look at my face as I did a wanker hand-sign at them, so are in the process of hunting me down as I write this garbage.
Things are definitely looking a little more than confused for the foreseeable future, don’t you think? If this blog suddenly ends, then I hope the above story goes some way to partially explaining my absence due to the fate-related tomfoolery which seems to be stalking me at the moment, whether bicycle-connected or not. If you think of me, remember just one thing for future reference:
The Kid-ults are now in control of our streets,
sat up high on their luminous bike seats,
handing out crack like it’s nothing but sweets;
so don’t bother borrowing a cycle from an old mate,
just take a little walk and use your f**king feet.