Following my disastrous decision to walk home from School X last week, and bearing in mind my car-borrower status and pathological loathing of public transport/the publicly transported, I resolved to cycle to School X. Without a helmet.
I spent rather a lot of money on purchasing my bike a couple of years ago, as I was approaching the stage where half of my shirts did not fit me. My thinking followed the lines that- Cardiff is a relatively small, flat city. I live, work and socialise within the city limits. I was trying to save money for my wedding. I had recently started having to 'psyche myself up' to do up my shoe laces. I would, therefore, kill several birds with one, two-wheeled, stone. Within a few weeks I would be 'back in shape', relaxed and better off financially. And any guilt I experienced at inadvertently pleasing environmental do-gooders, could be easily assuaged, by something as simple as throwing a leaking old fridge into a river. The plan came a cropper as my extreme laziness had not been factored into the equation. Consequently, for a little over two years my bike had been parked in my garage. Next to an exercise ball that looks like a balloon two weeks after Christmas.
But on this cold, crisp morning, I was pumping up the tyres and preparing for my first ride since I bounced off the windscreen of a Peugeot 205, driven by soon-to-be-assaulted teenaged ne'er-do-well, as I navigated Gabalfa Interchange in 1995.
The ride from my house to School X is slightly uphill for the first part, with a short, steep(ish) hill right at the end. The early going was unexpectedly hard. I had not done any outdoor exercise since I unsportingly tried to decapitate an opposing player during a rugby match in 2004. (The resulting complete detachment of my right biceps had brought a sad, but predictable, end to my rugby career.) As I approached the steep(ish) section, I resolved to get off and push the bike. As I was about to do so, I spied two School X pupils, and, more importantly, they spied me. I thought I could still get away with it, as I was sure that they wouldn't remember me. At that point one of the eagle-eyed youths shouted 'Yes Sir!', the in-vogue pupil/staff greeting, and I smiled and nodded in his direction. Breath was at a premium. Thinking that it would paint a poor picture if a PE teacher was witnessed to push his bike to school, I continued in the saddle. As the whole hill was in view, I persevered to the top of it. By the time I reached the top, I could actually see my heart beating through my T-shirt, sweatshirt and waterproof jacket. I was sweating like a, well, like a clinically obese man cycling up a hill.
When I arrived at the school I parked my bike in the PE office, suppressed a feeling of nausea, and headed to the jolly secretary's office to pick up my timetable for the day. There were a number of teachers in the vicinity, bemoaning the behaviour of the children in School X. I smiled wryly, as in my head, I briefly went over the events of the previous three days I had spent in School W. The most memorable of these being a Year 11 (16 years old) class that I had 'taught'. Twenty two of the twenty eight pupils on the register were missing, presumed law-breaking. The four boys and two girls who had turned up, didn't exactly fill me with hope for the country's future. At one point, the brother of the convicted killer chased the six foot three white gangsta around the room with a stool. The big one then ending up wrestling both of them to the floor, before the brother of the convicted killer put the big one in a rather effective choke-hold. During this, the quiet one smiled at me and shook his head, whilst the two girls continued their independent phone conversations. Following his choke-hold release, the big one and the big girl started insulting each other. The white gangsta verbally backed up the big one, despite having a pronounced stammer, and the thin girl backed up the big girl with a few well-chosen barbs, highlighting the obvious shortcomings of the big one and the stammering gangsta. As I was about to intervene, the big one exhibited the sort of concentrated swearing that makes the British world-beaters in the field. He retorted to a weight-based insult, thrown by the thin girl, with this classic;
'F*uck off you f*cking sl*g. You've been f*cked so much, you've got a f*cking c*nt like a f*cking bucket.'
Lovely stuff. After being totally ignored in trying to encourage people to get along, the quiet one smiled at me and shook his head again. The brother of the convicted killer had, by this point, vacated the classroom and was running along the corridor, banging on doors and continually shouting, somewhat confusingly;
'A bomb has gone off in Iraq! Thousands of people are dead!'
I had no idea what constituted the bad behaviour that had upset the teachers at School X, but I was fairly sure that, in an Inter-School Poor Behaviour Competition, School W would definitely go through to the National Finals.
The day at School X passed quite quickly and before long I was, once more, astride my bike. During the day the workshop technician, an avid cyclist, had offered to service my bike, as I had mentioned, in passing, that the brakes weren't very powerful. As he didn't mention that that may be due to the large momental forces involved, I didn't question the cycling helmet that I saw hanging on his coat hook. However, I suspect that he may have heard about my thoughts on the matter somewhere. This is because as I was travelling homewards, down the steep(ish) hill, I naturally applied the brakes. The result was tantamount to hitting a low brick wall. The motorcycle-riding habit of applying the front brake, coupled with the hitherto-unrivalled stopping power, resulted in an 'endo' of epic proportions. This was accompanied by a loud, involuntary 'F*ck me!' uttered approximately six feet from a group of amused School X pupils.
Incidentally, I have never been a good 'trick' rider, even in the days when I rode my Grifter on a daily basis. In fact, none of the Somerset Road Gang were good 'trick' riders. It was a matter of geography. In my experience, I have always found that a child's ability to wheelie a bike, was inversely proportionate to their household's income. If you are offended by this I apologise, it is not meant to sound judgemental. Although the chances are that if you did take offence, you are almost certainly a wheelier and you grew up in a BBZ.
Wednesday early evening passed without incident or Beelzebub sighting.
Later in the night I was to be found sat on the left side of the big sofa, displaying a melancholic expression.