We have a rescue cat at home – named Kaspar, after the cat in a Michael Morpurgo children’s book. He’s small, black, and scared of everything. While not pretending to sleep at various covert locations around the house, he seems to be poised on a hair trigger – always planning escape routes from uncomfortably close encounters with humans.
I’m starting to wonder if I need to adopt the same outlook on the world around me – not just to aid in survival in the longer term – more to aid in surviving until tomorrow. I probably need to explain.
While cycling to work this morning, I was nearly killed. Twice in two minutes.
The first incident happened as I passed a junction in the rabbit warren of Victorian town-houses that make up perhaps a third of the town. The roads are narrow, and the town is ridiculously affluent – meaning colossal four wheel drive behemoths and weekend sports cars clog up every driveway, parking space, footpath, and un-marked piece of roadside. It seems the drivers of the four wheel drive tanks – usually used to transport trophy children to daycare – have a common sight defect – they cannot see huge software developers on bicycles wearing luminous rain coats and day-glo crash helmets. I am invisible to them.
As I approached the junction, in full view of the truck waiting impatiently to drop their clutch and bully their way through town, they did just that – dropped their clutch, and accelerated straight at me. At the last moment I’m guessing, they realised that all of the cars waiting in traffic around the junction would see them drive straight over my bicycle, so had second thoughts – skidding to a halt, and staring at me as I also skidded to a halt directly in front of their car.
After re-composing myself, I continued on – as did everybody else.
A little further along the road, where the Victorian part of town meets the high street, two small roundabouts lead to a narrow bridge – famously the prototype for the bridge over the river Danube between Buda and Pest. Crossing the roundabouts in morning traffic is probably specifically stated in the disclaimer smallprint of every life insurance policy ever printed.
As I crossed from the first to second roundabout, a four wheel drive monster truck just leaving the bridge (no doubt illegally – there is a three ton weight limit) – accelerated onto the roundabout, not really registering my existence at all. I turned sharply across the roundabout – looking for an escape route – which somehow alerted them to my impending doom. I would like to say they slid to a halt, but I imagine anti-lock-brakes kicked in – the nose of their truck diving towards to tarmac as they lunged to a halt.
It’s worth noting again – I was in the middle of the roundabout when they launched onto it – and I was wearing a reflective yellow waterproof, and a luminous crash helmet. I’m not small either.
Luckily, I’m still here to tell the tale. As I cycled away from the roundabout, I shook my head – leaving them stranded in the middle while everybody else probably admired what they had nearly done.
I am beginning to wonder how many more “nearly” moments I am going to get away with – before some ass-clown succeeds in taking me out.