The day I went free-flying

I have only ever had the need to use our city hospital A&E department twice in my life, and one of them was our Neds fault.

He will blame me of course, but let me tell you, it was his fault.

We were both in our early twenties, he was still living at home and saving up for the first of his round-the-world walks, I was working in Newcastle and coming home at weekends and one weekend when I came home he showed me his latest prized possession – a new bike.

It was what we called in those long distant and halcyon days, “A sports bike” mainly because it had , count them, twelve gears.

Twelve gears, a double gear at the front, unheard of technology, technology developed from proper sporting cycling, a proper cycling bike and he joined a proper cycling club to ride it, I was almost impressed.

So almost impressed was I that one Saturday lunchtime when he was at the golf club with our dad I decided to take the proper sporting sports bike out for a little ride, I intended for it to be just a short ride and to put it back in the garage before he got back and not say anything to him, I didn’t realise just how short a ride it would be though.

You see he had decided to fit some lights to the bike with the idea that he may use it to ride to and from work and the front light he had fixed low down on the front forks, but he hadn’t fixed the bracket on very well had he ?

In fact the bracket wasn’t designed to be fitted on the front forks at all for the front forks were oval in section and the front light had a clamp bracket that should have been clamped to a perfectly round section, like the handlebars for instance.

So he fitted a round section bracket to an oval section tube – all the evidence I need that it was his fault.

I’d only gone fifty yards down the street, turned the corner, went over the first bump in the road, when the round section bracket on the oval section tube shifted sideways and jammed the front light straight into the spokes of the front wheel.

The bike stopped, didn’t travel any further forward at all, unfortunately I continued to travel forward at the same speed and the bike assisted my momentum by tipping forward at speed and catapulting me through the air.

There was a moment, just an ever so brief moment when I felt the wind in my face, the very pleasant experience of free flight with no assistance from wings or engines at all, this was what it must be like to be an albatross, I distinctly remember thinking that thought as I covered almost as much distance in free flight as I had previously ridden the bloody bike.

And then it was over, my moment of albatross-ism ended with a crunching meeting with the road surface and then an awful scraping along the road surface with your hands, knees and chin being the points of contact and you thinking, “ooh, this is going to hurt in a very short moment”

A young boy, the son of an asian doctor who lived at the bottom of the street saw what had happened and bless him he came running up and asked if that had hurt, “oh yes” I replied for as always I told nothing but the truth and then rather than help me to my now bloody knees he instead went and picked the bike up, “Oh dear” is all he said and he pointed to it, our Ned wasn’t going to be very happy when he got home.

Our mother wasn’t very happy when I got home either, despite the fact that I had blood pouring freely from my knees, hands and face all she could point to was the bike which by some unfathomable law of physics had not only a perfectly folded-in-half front wheel but had also managed to fold the front forks in exactly the opposite direction to which they should be pointing.

Our dad wasn’t very happy when he came home either and despite the fact that I had blood pouring freely from my knees, hands and face all he could point to was the bike as well, “Look at the bloody mess you’ve made of that” is what he said, “you’re going to have to pay for that you know”

“I am rather of the opinion Father that I may need some medical attention for my wounds which have now been bleeding freely for the last half hour awaiting your return from the golfing society, in particular I believe that my chin may need stitching up by a medically qualified person being that I can actually see my jaw bone poking through” is what I said back to him but perhaps not using those exact words.

Our Ned wasn’t very happy, that goes without saying.

I did need medical attention, lots of Dettol (or similar), that purple stuff that they used to put on wounds in hospital A&E departments and five stitches in my gaping chin wound, I emerged from the cubicle covered in swaddling bandages but still the sympathy was all for the bike and of how our Ned was going to get to work on Monday morning, I had to pay for his bike to be repaired, yes I repeat, despite the fact that it was all his fault and that if I hadn’t gone over the handlebars on Saturday afternoon then undoubtably he would have done so on Monday morning, despite all this I had to pay for the substantial repairs to his new bike AND I had to take it to the bike shop and pick it up again afterwards.

“Ah you went over the handlebars did you” said the ever observant man in the bike shop as he regarded my swaddling bandages as I stood there Egyptian mummy like in front of him, “its probably this round section front light bracket that you fixed to the oval section front forks”.

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