The second incident happened on a hot summers evening in August. Phil and I decided to go down the pub for a few early doors one Sunday afternoon, and thought we would work up a thirst by riding bikes down to the pub, with the intention of riding home before dark about 8pm for a curry. Well the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say.
We set off about 4pm and by the time we got to the pub we were both gagging for a beer, we sat in the pub garden sunning ourselves, watching the infrequent cars pass through this quiet village on idyllic late summer afternoon, birds softly singing, as we sat there drinking. I am sure that at least once during this very pleasant afternoon I must have a glanced down the hill which was later to become the site of another misadventure, although I don’t have a clear recognition of it. The afternoon passed and after a couple of hours a few mates turned up, we drank some more. About 7ish, as the August sun dipped behind the horizon of roof tops, the first chill of autumn appeared on the air and instead of going home we went inside, and, drank some more. We played pool, put money in the jukebox and drank even more. Can you start to see what’s coming next? Is that feeling of marching ants crawling through the centre of your being as you imagine the accident approaching? Here it comes, are you ready?
About 11pm we decided to go home, it was the right time, we thought. The communal spirit that keeps everyone feeling sober while within the pub left us feeling confident that the ride home was no problem, we were offered a lift home but declined, as we were sober enough to ride our bikes. Now outside my confidence drained away like the dirty water of my youth on bath night, and I began to feel rather drunk, I had only been drinking for 7 hours, so I can’t think why. It was only a small village so there were no street lamps; we had no helmets, no lights and no sense of balance. I think you may be able to guess the rest. The road leaving the pub was a very steep hill and not one to be treated lightly, or so I know, now. I jumped gingerly on to this two wheeled contraption, and for a moment was unsure how two inches of traction was supposed to keep me upright and trauma free, and in a moment of clarity I started to walk and push the bike. Phil shouted not to be such a poof and I finally got on a peddled, although the mechanics of controlling the bike had totally slipped my mind. I had only got into the journey home for about 30 seconds before I fell off, because of the very steep gradient leaving the village, and nothing to do with being as drunk as a skunk, and I was doing some speed. I remember the wind rushing past my shaven bald head, oh how I wish I could have said through my flowing locks of silken hair but alas I’m as bald as a cue ball, if I had hair it would have been as thread bare as the thousand year old pub carpet which we had just left.
Phil came back to find me face down on the gravel path, asked if the bike was ok, as it was his you can understand his concern. I picked myself up and got back on, still very unsteady on the bike due to the drink but now tinged with a dazed feeling due to my soft skull hitting gravel and concrete at speed. I totally disregarded the burning sensation on my face, the pain in my hip and the agony of my wrist, which a few years ago I had broken in a football accident. Once back on I rode off at speed down the remainder of the hill, confidence growing all the time at my biking ability, totally wrong of course. I then turned left into the road that led us along by the lakes, which looked very pretty with the silvery moon reflecting of the blackened surface. Two years from now I would be viewing these lakes on another August night in a totally different frame of mind, but for now it was with a drunken kind of joy.
Home was getting ever closer or Phil’s home, as we were going to his to cane his Stella, no, not a kinky threesome with a woman called Stella, perverts, as in Stella Artois. Well anyway once again I wobbled and fell off but this time into a field, a soft landing for a change. It took me ten minutes to stop laughing and pick myself up. I Got back on and rode a bit further, to find Phil on his back like a giant turtle struggling to find his feet, to this day he still accuses me of pushing him off, like I keep telling him I was 200 yards down the road having my own crisis. A few moments later a friend came by and picked us up. It was the best idea I thought; we had turned a lift down by the same person just 20 minutes earlier, we could have got another pint in if we had waited.
It was not until we got back to Phil’s and his Stella collection that I saw the full extent of the damage; it was evident that come day-break the hangover would be the last thing effecting my day. Blood streaming down my face revealed an angry looking selection of cuts and grazes, but with the flecks of black gravel it was pretty, it really contrasted the reds and pinks where the right hand side of my face used to be.
The next morning, as expected, was agony. I tried for many minutes to get my aching and battered body of the bed, let alone pulling my blood caked face off the pillow, and once on my two feet things were looking no better. I couldn’t grip with my left hand making me panic that I had re-broken my wrist, I had a severe limp from the pain in my hip, and as I got dressed the huge bruise on my hip was as black as coal, I don’t bruise as a rule, and if I do I have to have had a bloody good whack to create one. To this day I am sure there is a bone chip that floats its way in and out the socket, give me no end of grief. Upon looking in the mirror, my face was covered in dry and browning blood and gravel, it was swollen and very angry looking, with a hint of a black eye. The laughter from the night before came flooding back with vengeance. Phil’s reaction when I got to work was the same. It was the topic of discussion in the pub when I got there later that night, and many laughs were had about my little journey home. It has just become another story to add to the collection of my life after divorce all well illustrated with the scars of battles with my demons.