In the last three days, in the course of travelling around town on two wheels, I have managed to fall down a manhole and almost slide into the path of a bus. The former was funny, the latter quite scary.
Firstly, the manhole. This was Friday night, and occurred whilst putting my motorbike away in it's little yard. There is a rusty old manhole cover next to where I park the bike, and in order to avoid getting in the way of the massive recycling bins that belong to the shop below me, I need to squeeze the bike as far up the skinny gap in between manhole cover and the raised paving slabs on the opposite side.
Unfortunately, on Friday, the massive industrial size bin was further along the wall than it should be, blocking my way. So I left my bike in the gateway, flicked the lock off the bin wheels and walked around to give it a shove. As I did so I stepped on the manhole cover. And as I put my weight on my back foot to push the bin forward, I suddenly dropped about 3 feet.
I took stock of the situation and found it hard not to laugh. The cover to the manhole was obviously not fixed, and had been placed back on at an angle. In putting weight on one side of the cover, I'd swivelled it up and around as easily as if it was hinged, and the whole of my right leg was dangling down the manhole. I could not feel the bottom (nor did I want to - god knows what slurry there lies) and the only thing preventing me from falling further down the hole was the fact that the other leg was bent at the knee with the foot still planting on terra firma.
Once out, I was amazed to discover that I didn't have a mark on me. I had imagined I'd be covered in something brown, at the very least.
Then, today, when getting on my bicycle to ride to a lunch appointment, I realise my tyres are flat. The bike shop round the corner from the office handily has a pump for such occasions so I stopped by and pumped up my tyres. Five minutes into my journey, I realised I may have overdone the psi, as my tyres were so pumped up they were catching on the mudguards. But I got safely to lunch, and after some very lovely tuna and borlotti beans, I cycled off back to the office.
Halfway back my front mudguard started making the most almighty noise. Clack, clack, clack as the tyre went round and caught the metal guard on its knobbly bits. I wondered whether I should stop and see if I could twiddle something in a professional looking way. But before I'd even finished the thought my pushbike was in a sudden powerslide, my back wheel threatening to overtake the front one. The mudguard had caught the tyre one final time, and the force of the bike's momentum had twisted the guard like it was a sweet wrapper, turning it inside out and wrapping it around the tyre, locking the front wheel.
And all this time I can hear one of the bendy buses behind me. I also heard a passing pedestrian shout out in shock at the unfolding scene. I think they said "Jesus" but I can't be sure because I was too busy trying not to die.
I then had to carry my bike back to the office. As I walked in late to a conference call about advertising end lines for a four wheeled vehicle I noticed I had a big hole in my tights and my hands were still shaking.
I'm riding the motorbike as usual and that's fine. No manhole cover will put me off that. But the pushbike is officially retired for a while. At least until it's dry enough to rip the mudguards off and not worry about the spray.
So, until about June then.