One of ’em days


Once in a while, nothing really works for you. Without warning, without any rational explanation as to why, it’s as if you’d just spent the night in a bad luck bed and it sticks with you all day long.

For me, 28th December 2012 was one of ’em days. A weird succession of little mishaps and pixellation, surprisingly all relating to motorbiking. Or is it to Yamahing?

I was due to play tennis with Mike from my climbing centre, who lives in Bromley. Picked up the Ten and rode off. At the Lewisham roundabout, exiting on the A20, with light green for traffic, two late teenagers decide to cross the street. They’re a good 30 metres away, but as I ride towards them one of them slows down to a near stop, eyeing me down defiantly. His mate is safely on the pavement, and to avoid his cunt of a mate I brake hard and swerve.

Is it me ageing and I’m missing something there, or did he have a death wish, or did he just mistake the Ten for a bull even if he didn’t have a red jacket?

Whatever the reason, it transported me straight to Laos. In Laos as in China and most developing countries I have visited, traffic and pedestrians work to different rules. But for a donkey here or there in Europe, people and cars follow a set of shared standards, there are dos and donts. Out in Laos, my bearings will take a big big beating, and this idiot staring me down acted as a potent reminder: ‘expect the unexpected’ goes the expression, a cliche, but a useful one.

All my senses will have to be on alert from the very start, a bit like when I started biking back in 2010 on my Vanvan.

We had a great hit with Mike, and I can’t thank him enough for that. Also met his wife and kids, who all seem very nice, which one would never believe knowing the man (eh eh).

After a drink at his place after the game, Mike dropped me back off at the club’s carpark and I set to dress for the ride back. The Metal Mule panniers’ locks had been given me grief virtually from the moment I mounted them, and as I prepared to wrestle for another minute or so to prise the pannier open, the bloody key snapped right off. One half in my hand, the other stuck in place in the lock.


My winter gloves and balaclava were in there. So I rode home with bare hands and my scarf wrapped up tight around my neck. Thank god for the handguards.

Back past the Lewisham roundabout, having been followed by a fuzz car for a few minutes, I elected to turn right at a light. Which was the way I’d come. But just as I got into the road, I saw three painted white arrows pointing towards me on the tarmac, and only three lanes. Oops, wrong way then!

Just as I stopped and started backing off with a big apologetic smile under my helmet, I heard the police car siren. Cue the car in my mirrors. Oh dear…

I turned around, they turned around, and we stopped 20 metres further into a side street for a chat. Luckily they only told me where to go: no paper check (all my papers being somewhere in Wales at the DVLA’s offices), no glove check (in the out-of-bounds pannier), and no fine. I guess the fact I’d already started backing when they turned up put their mind at rest I was not a one-way-street thrill seeker.

‘Alright’, thought I, ‘they come in 3s don’t they’. I was wrong.

Pitlaning home to fetch my summer gloves and necktube, I parked by our flat. Returning with my gear, I tried to turn the ignition back on. And it wouldn’t. I just couldn’t get the key to hit ‘on’, it was stubbornly refusing the turn that wee bit more. So for the next minute or so I fought with the fucker, playing with the handlebars and the barrel until, thankfully, I was able to get back on.

Now I know they might also come in 4s.

Anyway it stopped there, the rest of the day came and went, blissfully uneventfully.

In 6 days’ time, I’ll be dropping the bike at the removal company HQ in Wembley. I’ll spend 3 months or so in a crate, and the next time I’ll see it will be in Vientiane, Laos. No doubt I’ll have a few surprises there, but we’ll see in due time.

In the meantime, I’ll have to get my brains in gear for moving around in that fabulous country.



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