On the final page of each issue is a column with the amazingly inventive title of “the back page”.
We encourage readers to send in submissions: ±1,200 words. A topic of your choosing. What have you got to share?
By way of example: here’s one we prepared earlier. This is the story of a ride on a Wednesday in 2016.
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— Appreciation of a morning ride. Water never tasted so good —
The Back Page: #RIDE73
– By Rob Arnold
Events that happened early on a random Wednesday ride this August prompted a reminder of how lucky we are. It’s easy to get annoyed but frustrations in life are all relative.
A wise man once told me: “When you wake up, drink two glasses of hot water before doing anything else.” It’s a lesson that’s served me well. The day begins after this ceremony at the bathroom sink and, however sporadic subsequent events are, I’ve found this routine to be useful. The logic behind it is quite simple. “When you wash your dishes, you don’t use cold water,” explained my wise friend, “so apply the same thinking with your body.”
It’s not boiling, it’s just tap water. Turn it on, wait for the water to warm – sometimes I even rinse my hands, splash my face and cleanse the nostrils while it’s still tepid – and then fill the glass and proceed as instructed. At home, I can take it to maximum temperature and swallow without much fuss. While travelling, a little more caution is required. I’ve been caught off guard at some hotels which have a more powerful thermostat… but even then I just pace myself with smaller sips. And then I get on with my day.
Without going into unnecessary detail, let’s just say it keeps me regular. By the time I’ve walked down stairs, said hello to the family and checked my phone, it’s time to visit The Smallest Room. Job done, it’s time for what follows.
One morning this August, the drinking routine had been followed as per usual and soon it was time to ride.
There are habits for dressing too. For me it’s socks first, then leg warmers, undershirt, knicks, short-sleeve jersey, long-sleeve jersey – additional layers when necessary – followed by helmet, sunglasses and finally shoes and mitts. Sometimes I mix up the order, but this is my preference.
Out the gate, over the footpath, onto the road. Click in and go. That’s a good start to the day and it was how things unfolded on one random Wednesday.
Inevitably, as is the way with cycling, things can be forgotten. The Garmin might not be charged, lights may have been left at the office, long finger gloves lost in the sock drawer, etc. On this morning, I was gone before the kids were awake and there was no going back no matter what was forgotten. A glance down and it was apparent: no bidon. Oh man… life’s tough.
Frustrations are all relative. That’s the point of this yarn.
Shaking my head at The Mistake Of The Missing Bidon, onward I went, to the end of my street and off for my usual loop. The advice of the wise man serves me well. And this particular day I’d amended the routine and drank not two large glasses of hot water but – wait for it, three! Crazy I know. And so, even without a bottle on my bike, I could get to the turnaround and back without too much damage.
Around the corner I turned and behold: there were flashing lights and people everywhere at 6.43am. Usually it’s rather desolate at that time of the day but instead there was a flurry of activity. It didn’t look good. Actually, the closer I got, the worse it became.
The guy standing beside his car with his head in his hands was clearly distraught. He didn’t want his day to start this way. The ambulance officer running from his car clearly needed to do something, and do it quickly. The other ambulance officer, the one with the motorcycle helmet still on with his hi-vis bike parked beside him, was busy with his medical kit. And the guy lying on his back motionless was the centre of attention. I couldn’t see any emotion on his face. I couldn’t see any life. I could sense a lot of panic. And I could hear the siren of another ambulance, a third one, arriving on the scene.
There was nothing for me to do but get out of the way and hope for the best for the motorcycle rider who had, quite clearly, plummeted into a car that was turning right.
There’s nothing more real than an accident scene. It’s shocking and frightening and it can’t be ignored. It shakes you and reminds those who see it of how quickly life can change. It is upsetting and sobering and it conjures a vast range of emotions. It makes you feel hopeless, vulnerable, anxious and ultimately reminds you how lucky you are not just to be riding, but to be alive.
Onward I rode. Thoughts of a missing bidon were erased. There was no consideration of the cold. There was appreciation of fine weather, the smell of jasmine, the sun on the horizon, the joy of the art of pedalling. There were ‘thumbs-up’ gestures to motorists who gave me space and smiles at others who waited patiently at intersections.
Rolling back home, there was traffic: cars at a stand-still, bumper-to-bumper frustration. I’d see drivers texting bosses: “I’m late,” they’d be writing, “the roads are totally blocked. Don’t know what’s going on. Sorry.”
Once home, I showered, said goodbye to the kids and walked to the office. Around the corner and onward to the intersection where the scene of the accident was, I realised why there was traffic congestion. The road had been shut. Ambulance officers were replaced by forensic police. The motorbike was still there but the rider was gone. The car was still on the footpath next to the traffic lights and the dent on the front offered a hint of what happened moments before I’d ridden past only a couple of hours earlier.
The onlookers were shaking their heads and some were talking. No one was smiling. At the office, I checked the police media unit’s website. And I cried.
“A motorcyclist has died following a crash. Emergency services were called… following reports a motorcycle and a car collided head-on. The rider, a 28-year-old man was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital in a critical condition, but died a short time later.”
No one wanted this day to start this way. A life was taken because of a momentary lapse in concentration. It happened just around the corner from my house. I missed seeing it by a matter of minutes. It was an accident, one of many that happen on our roads every day of the year. It is tragic and sad. We may not know the people involved in these accidents but someone does. Someone has lost a friend because of a right-hand turn that went wrong. Someone is not with us anymore because of a crash.
We know these things happen but we wish they didn’t.
We don’t often see the accidents but we do read about them. Sometimes we witness the after effects and it affects us in myriad ways.
That day in August began thinking about the benefits of a routine involving hot water and my relative frustrations of forgetting a drink. It progressed like most days do, with discussion in the office about the weather and the morning ride and the things that need doing to finish a magazine. But I feel different than I did the day before. My routines will continue and I’m going to be grateful for that as long as possible – and I’m also going to get the most out of every day because I’ve been reminded of how quickly and easily it can all come to a grinding halt.
– By Rob Arnold