Formerly 'Rambling with a cantankerous old mule"
One time immediately springs to mind. It was in 2010 or ’11 and I was living in Antananarivo, Madagascar. My usual mode of transport was either my trusty old Yamaha XT350 motorbike, lovingly referred to as the Beast, or my bicycle. On this particular Sunday I had cycled to church in the morning, it was around lunch time and I was just starting the long climb home up a dreaded, much-travelled hill.
It was a typical hot, muggy Tana day, with the lunchtime traffic slowly snaking up the slope. I had developed a mild hatred of said hill, which I had to tackle so often at the end of a long day teaching. As a result, I had perfected the art of catching up to a minibus taxi or truck near the bottom, before it got too steep, grabbing on to the back and letting it pull me to the crest.
But back to the Sunday in question. I cruised past my friends the Midgleys, who had also just left church in their little Hyundai. Seeing a taxi in front of me I upped the tempo, keen not to have to climb the cliff under my own steam. But as I got alongside, and as I was considering how and where to grab onto it, another cyclist swerved into the road in front of me from the pavement. I changed direction just slightly but my handlebar caught the side of the taxi, flipping my front wheel 90 degrees to the frame. And down I crashed – straight over the handlebars – greeting the tar with my face.
And the whole world came to a standstill. The taxi’s passengers stared at me, saying nothing. The cyclist stared at me, and I shot a “What were you thinking?” glare towards him. I guess I should have asked myself the same question but I didn’t. All the pedestrians stopped and stared. Everything stopped. But no-one tried to help. I was a foreigner, and in Madagascar one doesn’t help foreigners. Suffering from a severely bruised ego, I picked myself up, checked that everything was intact and raced up the hill (helped by a fair amount of adrenalin), stopping off at the Midgley’s home on the way.
“That was so weird,” one of them said when they arrived home after me. “The traffic was flowing fine and then it just stopped dead. I wonder what happened?” I showed them my face. One of them probably asked, “What were you thinking?” I seem to have blocked that from my memory.
How about you? Do you have any “What was I thinking” anecdotes?