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A tale to be told. Left handed.

4 Sep

images.duckduckgo.comIt was a pleasant evening at Buckden rounding off a weekend of mayhem (us) and debauchery (not us) in Leeds..(what happens in Leeds stays in Leeds). I’m riding my bike home, carefully, as you do on a wet night, when suddenly the bike makes determined effort to mount the left hand verge. I wrestle it back only to find it drifting across to the other side. The inevitable happens. The bike his the verge, stops dead, and hurls your truly over the top and into a somersault. The aikido rolls and five years of tuck and roll from Sara’s car come into play, and I somersault, dramatically, into the ditch.

I pick myself up and dust myself off, and try and lift the bike. This is not happening. I have obviously done something serious to my right shoulder.

Rather than call for an ambulance, I call for roadside recovery, thinking that I can get the bike home and go into A&E in the morning. Unfortunately, because it’s an accident, I now have to go through the claims process. By the side of the road. In the rain. With a busted shoulder. They advise me all sorts of things about false declarations and stuff. Eventually it’s done and a recovery vehicle is’s 60-90 minutes away.

At which point my phone dies. I spend the next hour so walking up and down the road. In the rain. I see no other vehicles in this time. Concerned that they may not be able to find me, and with the nagging doubt that no help is coming at all,I decide to set out in search of help.

I have two choices. . Go on to the sleepy village where no one has ever been seen on the streets, and scare the bejabers out of some poor soul at 2am, or go back to the US Air Force base where surely someone will be awake.

I head for the base, a couple of miles away. I am now aware that my left foot may not have escaped injury.

Eventually the welcome sight of the barbed wire gates comes into view. The place is seemingly deserted. However, I can just make out the shadows of two figures in the guardhouse. They are awake. They are fully armed. And they are not at all sure what to make of the grey clad figure emerging out of the rain. Apparently I am the first walk up visitor they have ever had, and I don’t look like your average civilian tourist anyway.   An early question is ’are you armed’ and I run through an inventory of the contents of a motorcyclist’s pockets to see if I am carrying anything I might get shot for. Newspaper headlines swim before my eyes..”British biker shot after midnight crash’…’Biker attacks US nuclear depot armed with helmet lock’.

images.duckduckgo.comThey take pity on me, but to a man the entire base is equipped with iPhones. I will not be charging my phone tonight. They send for medical assistance. It arrives in the form of two firetrucks driven by a crew with broad Cambridgeshire accents. I am told that my blood pressure is too high (really? I wonder why?) and that yes, my collarbone is probably broken.

The base police turn up. They, too, are reassuringly English but equally heavily armed. I might now get shot or tasered. Choices, choices.

Eventually an ambulance arrives, and takes me to Huntingdon. I do not particularly want to go to Huntingdon, but Huntingdon is where I am going.

At which point the wonderful thing we call the NHS kicks in. The driver is English. She expresses regret because she hoped to see my arm get fixed. She believes it is dislocated. Fortunately, she is wrong. The other paramedic  is charmingly and wonderfully Spanish. If you are female it may well be worth getting in an accident just to meet him.

The hospital is quiet, but am greeted by a United Nations of fabulous medical staff who continually offer me drugs. I turn these down on the basis that if it really starts to hurt, then I will really want all the drugs I can get and I don’t want to waste any on mere discomfort. I have an Asian doctor who takes great delight in poking bones, bruises and other bits exactly where it’s going to hurt. However, he manages this with such good humour that it is easy to forgive him. The Filipino porter manages to move a weight four times his size at the end of a 20 hour shift. The Chinese nurse brings me tea and biscuits. They are all cheerful, helpful, and efficient. They make me very happy, which confuses all of them, and I am transported round the building propelled by my fabulous Filipino friend while grinning like a madman.

The doctor confirms what I suspected. My collarbone is broken, and there is some twisting to my foot. I ah equipped with a boot for my foot and a sling for my arm, along with a single crutch. I feel less stable using the crutch than if I just stomp along like I have done all my life. It may come in handy for waving, threateningly, at people.

And that’s it. One of the nurses finds me a charger and I discover that while the recovery vehicle could not initially find me, my motorbike has already made it home. I will later find that quite a lot of grass verge has also made it home. Darcey has a smashed fairing and bent wing mirror but is not too badly damaged otherwise. I get through to my son at 6:30, who cheerfully comes to pick me up. As he arrives the reception staff are graciously trying to deal with a very irate man who cannot quite grasp the fact that if he has an abscess on a tooth then he needs to go see a dentist. Again, the staff are doing this tactfully and diplomatically.

So. I have crashed my bike. I count myself lucky – my injuries are relatively minor, and they will heal. But I am full of admiration for a bunch of air base staff who rather bemusedly dealt with this crazy Brit who appeared out of the rain with a random story about motorbike and phones – for an efficient bunch wildly international medics – and the fact that I can just turn up and the only thing that’s important is getting me back to a functioning state, without worries about insurance and hospital bills.

I am back home, glad to be in one piece (apart from the bit of me that’s in two pieces, of course). I doubt I will be riding again soon…or, indeed, doing much with my right arm for a bit. But, somehow, it feels like this is a very good day to be alive.


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Apologies for typos. I am learning one handed typing. Badly.


A new era–thanks, Huey!

17 Jul


It should be pointed out that Huey is a motorcycle… a Huonaio Hn125-8 FireBird to be precise…bought off my friend Andy two years ago for £500 – and he bought it as a Chinese grey import for £700. Huey has been reliable, economical and damn good fun to ride. £20 a month is pretty good value for transport. I’ve had mobility that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We will ignore the incidents when the battery fell out, or the headlamp unit fell off. We will forget the embarrassment of the top box that made a break for freedom. And we will forget the several times that the reserve tank hasn’t been enough to get me home… you can build real muscles pushing a motorbike. And perhaps we should draw a veil over the day that, overladen with gear, Huey and I toppled slowly yet spectacularly into a ditch.

Huey is where I learned to ride.. the L plates are long gone.. something I never got round to when I was younger. And sometimes I think that the car driving test should include an afternoon on a motorbike – it would make everyone aware of what it feels like to be vulnerable.

So, what’s next? A silver Yamaha Fazer actually, bought after great deliberation and two hours in a bike showroom trying to work out what to get. Another chapter in the story unfolds.

But what is it about riding a bike that appeals to me? It can be damn cold, damn wet and damn uncomfortable. Gravel is lethal. White lines on the road hold their own dangers. It’s no good for going shopping on. But it’s ‘can’t wipe the smile off my face’ fun. There’s something about the manoeuvrability, the rapid response, the flexibility. There’s something about the connection to the road – rather than being insulated by the steering of a car, steering a bike is something you do with your whole body. There’s a sense of living on the edge, of needing your wits around you. There’s something almost meditative about being so aware of what’s going on around you… mindfully aware of every potential hazard, every pot hole, speed bump, patch of diesel, every pedestrian, every other driver, every crazy animal. There’s something about the camaraderie among riders, who acknowledge each other as they pass. It feels like ‘me’ somehow.

It’s raw and real, being connected to the world in a way that no driver in a car can be. Feeling the wind whip past.. aware of the environment around me.. feeling the road, reacting to every moment.

We’ve had some adventures, Huey and I… loading up with camping equipment for a weekend under the stars.. riding to meet friends.. all part of the richness of life. And doing it in a car wouldn’t bring the same memories, somehow..

So , thank you my friend… I salute you!


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PS – it’s been a while, but blogging is back on the agenda…

A Light In The Black….

18 Feb


Monday night. A fabulous evening at Stanwick with lots of ‘up for it’ dancers who (despite their own personal doubts and misgivings) are actually starting to get it. Great class from Gordon.

Gordon, Ali and I lock up without tripping the alarm. I suit up and am back on the motorbike. Twenty yards up the road the entire electrics on the bike die. Subsequent investigation turns up a wire that has worn through on the frame, which I then manage to break. Half an hour later and some blood loss (caused by stabbing myself with a screwdriver while trying to strip insulation) I have repaired the broken wire (after a fashion) and replaced the fuse.I have also met a very chatty gentleman called Martin and now know most of his life history, his medical ailments and divorce woes. The bike starts and I have lights. Hurrah!

I stop for coffee to calm my nerves. The lash up falls apart and I have to rebuild it. I head off, holding the battery on with my right leg. Just before the Oundle turn the lights fail, abruptly plunging me into stygian darkness at about fifty miles an hour. I can see nothing, and the fact that the LED lights on the dash are finding enough power to dazzle me isn’t helping.

I manage to brake gently to a stop before I run into the central reservation that I know is there somewhere lurking and waiting to pounce. I do the last couple of miles running dark like a scene from a Bond movie. I expect at any moment to be attacked by helicopters and men abseiling from the sky. Or, at the very least, squirrels and the barn owl that I know hangs out on the corner waiting for unlucky motorcyclists.

On arriving at the front door, I find that, upon parking the bike, that the battery (somewhat precariously attached to avoid breaking the somewhat Heath-Robinson wiring and secured, as previously mentioned, by my leg) has ceased to be attached to the bike, precariously or otherwise. I get the push bike out, pump up the slightly deflated tyres and cycle off (still wearing motorcycle gear, but having, this time, removed my helmet) in search of the battery before someone runs it over. Fortunately, I find this lying in the road about a quarter of a mile away.

Today, armed with a soldering iron, I fix the recalcitrant wiring. The battery, sadly, has not survived its 30mph journey to the tarmac and subsequent deceleration. It may, however, have just enough juice for a trip to get a new one.


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(“A Light in the Black”? Possibly the best track ever by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” – catch the synth & guitar duel)

Freedom . . . .

28 May

DSCF7119So, Bessie is gone to a new family in Essex… and my own adventure continues, with the arrival of a sexy red Kawasaki. I didn’t pass my motorcycle test when I first started riding, so I have that delight to get through. For me, though, living on my own means that a motorcycle (albeit learner legal)  is just fine to get around on.

So, here we go on another adventure. I still want to put on a seatbelt every time I get on, I haven’t quite got back the ability to lean into the corners, and I am fully aware that sitting on a motorbike seat for several hours is going to hurt. And that falling off a motorbike seat is going to hurt even more. So, no, I don’t feel entirely safe. But life isn’t about feeling safe. Life’s about the joy, the thrill, the excitement, the passion. If I was all about feeling safe, I wouldn’t have left a perfectly good well paid job to become a speaker, author and leader. If I was all about feeling safe, I wouldn’t have jumped out of a perfectly good aeroplane. If I was all about feeling safe, I wouldn’t have thrown myself, snowboard attached, off a perfectly solid mountain. If I was all about feeling safe, then a few years back I wouldn’t have got out of a perfectly safe car and gone dancing. If I was all about feeling safe, I wouldn’t have put all my stuff into storage and travelled the world.

So, I don’t know where this latest adventure will take me. Not into casualty, I pray. And nowhere particularly fast, yet (the carburettor needs work, I think). But it gives me back something I’ve lacked over the last few months. Something that I’ve missed desperately. Something that’s one of the highest in my list of values – and perhaps something that we take for granted.


So, I’m looking forward to a new freedom – freedom to go where I want, to see friends, to dance, to see some of this beautiful countryside. And I’m reminded again that I do have the freedom to make my own choices and to do what I choose to do. And for that – well, I am truly thankful.

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