The first hint that all would not be well came when I got off the train. It was Monday 22 December. I got on my bike at Paddington and was caught unawares by one hard rattling cough. Thinking that was strange as my chest has been fine for several months, I pedalled off and thought nothing of it. The air freely into and out of my lungs.
Tuesday afternoon the same happened. A single rattling cough in a day of healthy happy breathing.
I had christmas eve off. My first of five days without a commute. But of course I had a chest infection. Well it was actually an upper respiratory infection. Or so I was informed by the conveniently co-located nurse. Coolio I thought. I also had a savage cold but that was half a day from showing its face.
Christmas and Boxing were spent doing all you know humans do when they have upper respiratory infections and colds. The weekend came and the cold faded but my lungs still sounded like weary old maraccers.
Monday I had to go to work because I was the only person available to care for computing and co-workers. It was not even that cold as I free wheeled into a practically deserted station. A taxi had illegally parked right outside the front entrance so as I negotiated the speed bumps I considered whether I would pull in behind or in front of the car.
The next thing I knew I was doing an impression of a 747 landing without undercarriage. Except where wheels should have been my elbows were bouncing along the tarmac. ‘That’s going to hurt later.’ I thought as my ribs and then hips crashed into the road. No idea where my bike was. It just was not there anymore. My blackberry skidded passed me.
Working without thinking I crawled forward on the road to reclaim my Blackberry. Realising that a car had been the cause of my brief moment of free flight. It had been parked and despite being lit up like a christmas tree (me and bike) had not seen me. All that I recall of the car was it being small and silver and not dissimilar to Priddeesh’s. It then reversed and then drove around me and then out of the station at pace.
The force of the blow had been strong enough to buckle the chainwheel on my bike and completely turn around handlebars that would never previously turn. I knew my elbows had taken a beating but I climbed to my feet as the train entered the station. I could move all limbs without any screaming back at me. So I got on the train.
By Reading I had blood consistently dripping from both arms onto my jeans so stuffed some tissues up my sleeve. My trusty first aid colleague at work then applied bandages to both elbows and I applied plasters to the scratches and the like.
I have been cycling 25 years and have never worn a helmet. Over confidence I suppose and from being witness to people that do. Who universally seem to think a hat makes them safe and proceed to bike about without a care in the world. But you cannot plan for chance, so now I considered was the time for me to get one.
There could be some detail here on what a nightmare finding Selfridges was - this is abridged: The only department store on Oxford street without a pulsing one hundred foot high sign declaring the stores name is Selfridges. Which has a sign that is four foot by two, metal and two foot of the ground. So I walked past it and got to centre point through the post christmas shopping frenzy before realising. And then walked back through the same frenzy.
I purchased a crash hat that looks like a world war two german infantrymans hat. Mostly because if I am going to look like a arse on my bike I might as well look like my kind of arse. I also replaced the front light that disintegrated that morning and brought two extra. Mounted and fitted I now look like something from Close Encounters cycling down the street.
The bike did still work after a fashion - the chain would keep coming off but I kept putting it back on. But wearing my new crash hat and with all lights fitted I got off the train at the local station and the bike fell to pieces. I almost did a few seconds later.
The bike is now being looked after by the local bike doctor and I was cared for very well by the very attentive Priddeesh who had returned from the local NHS bandage warehouse (NHS Trust to lesser people) with all but a CPR machine with which to care for her wounded soldier.
The stock check of injuries is the loss of five inches of skin, bruised ribs, arms, back and thigh. I suppose I was lucky. I am still struggling with the slowly diminishing upper respiritory infection.
My journeys to the station are by foot these days and spent looking meaningfuly at anyone with a small silver car and a bike shaped imprint on their front bumper.