Friday, 9 December 2005


       that you are going downhill very fast on a bicycle,
       through rain and 
       mist and 
       with the wind behind you.
       that it is steep and the mountain you are coming off
       is very high, with the road cut into it, with sheer cliffs either side, 
       one rising (on your right side) 
       the other (on your left)
       (as you fly down the slope) 
       dropping deep and 
       straight into the clouds.
       that you are going at about forty miles an hour, which
       on a laden bike feels very fast indeed.
       you feel the wind whipping your face,
       the mist licking your hair 
       and the rough road pounding your backside through the saddle.
And now 
       imagine you cannot stop.

Imagine you cannot stop, 
       because your brakes are gone. 
Imagine you squeeze those levers and, expecting 
       the soft squeal of rubberised friction, get only the scrape
       of metal on metal. 
Imagine you are now a slave to gravity. Imagine
       you see a bend ahead, and imagine 
       you know that if around that bend there is 
       a truck or
       a cow
       or a man with a wheelbarrow, or 

       a tree, or 
       a pile of rocks 
       you will, if you succeed in
       not going over the cliff, 
       hit the truck 
       or the cow 
       or the man with the wheelbarrow 
       or the tree 
       or the pile of rocks, 
       and likely be killed, 
       in the case of the man with the wheelbarrow, 
       quite possibly kill him too.
       (About the cow you are not quite certain.)
And now 
       imagine that you do, though not without a struggle, and
       not without cutting it very much finer than you care to remember afterwards,
       get round that corner, and imagine
       that Fate 
       has decreed that there shall not be a truck, 
       or a cow, 
       or a man, 
       or a wheelbarrow, 
       or a pile of rocks
       around this particular corner on this particular occasion 
       (unlike, you recall, the previous corner, and, 
       you subsequently discover, the next-but-one),
And so 
       imagine, to cut a long story short, that you reach the
       bottom of this mountain, and succeed somehow in bringing your bicycle 
       to a halt.

And imagine 
       that you discover yourself, after an interval of
       uncertain duration,
Sitting on the road, 
       shaking and

And imagine, finally 
       that a man with a wheelbarrow, who 
       (the man, not the wheelbarrow) does not speak your language,
       nor you his, 
       leaving his wheelbarrow behind,
       comes and sits down beside you, and puts
       his hand 
       on your shoulder.

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