Whaam! by Lichtenstein

Whaam! by Lichtenstein

WHAM! WHAM WHAM WHAM! His fists flew, my head flopped from one side to the other as the blows landed alternating left, right, left right and for once I was glad to be wearing a helmet...

In the groove... the first ride of 2010 after a break of three weeks. It was good to be back, getting into the rhythm, Remenham Hill was climbed comfortably and the descent to Henley was the usual pell mell whirlwind with eyes streaming and bike skittering over the tarmac just the right side of being in control.

Over the bridge, through green lights, into the right hand filter lane. It may have been a Sunday but that didn’t mean everyone was relaxing and an impatient driver overtook me on my left and pulled out in front of me, but he was so short of distance before the red light he had to park up straddling the “bike box” at the right filter into Bell Lane. To avoid shortening my wheelbase even further by smacking into the back of his car, I swerved to the left and did my first trackstand of the year next to the passenger door, ignoring the car completely. A typical road incident hardly worth registering.

Red light red light red light amber GO, I took a nice line to turn right as per my right. The car driver was slower to get away and didn't like me getting in front and blasted away on his horn, the angry careless cacophony shattering the Sunday somnolence; I looked behind me and he was pulling in to the pavement near Starbucks.

So I gave him the traditional two-fingered salute, that symbol of sardonic respect and thought nothing more of it... for about two seconds after which there was a revving of engine and a screech of tyres behind me as the car came after me, chasing me pell mell down Bell Lane, which at this point is a narrow one way street. There were no exits, no alleyways to dive into, I had nowhere to go but straight on as the metallic monster chased me down, a powerful predator after its prey...

About 50m later there’s a choice - to continue straight on and exit Henley or take the right filter which would ultimately take me back to the town centre... I decided to go straight on... I rode wide to protect my line and to make sure I wouldn’t be overtaken and unceremoniously dumped into the gutter by way of being sideswiped, but didn’t figure on being undertaken and forced across the white centre line into the path of oncoming traffic... I am aghast, but with this car six inches from my left elbow there is just nowhere else to go...

...fortunately it was a Sunday so the traffic was light but even so a couple of cars had to pull in towards to kerb to avoid splatting me across their windscreen... 

... sketchy protection arrived in the form of a pedestrian island next to which I stopped, the wrong side of the road but at least there was something between me and this moronic monster. I quickly dismounted, he swerved across the road and parked up diagonally across it, blocking traffic in both directions and blocking any further froward progress of mine - no escape that way. By this time I was losing grip on reality - was this actually happening? This is a Sunday morning in Henley ffs!

Other traffic began to blast their horns for this nutcase to get out of their way, I picked my bike up and skittered on cleats across to the pavement and waited. The sleek silver shark glided away down the road, the small number of other cars that had been temporarily blocked trickled passed and silence descended....

I remounted and somewhat tentatively resumed my journey, hoping that my pursuer had given up and gone on to hunting grounds anew... but within a few yards it became apparent that I was some delectable morsel to be devoured undistracted. The driver was walking down the road, down the road towards me, arms outstretched as if to welcome me into his lethal embrace; there was no way to pass.

So I stopped, left foot on the ground, right foot still attached to the bike. As he strode towards me he was shouting and yelling abuse; he got up close and personal and continued his foulmouthed assault. He was somewhat taller than me and broader too, I being only of average build. His face that haunts me still was craggy, deeply lined, like some worn, battered and ancient rocky outcrop exposed to the harsh elements over several millennia; a short but also somehow scraggy whitish flecked and faded auburny-brown tired looking beard with tired looking hair made him look unkempt, uncaring and uncared for. He looked tired which was in contrast to the vitality end energy he was putting into his verbally vicious attack.

Strange I studied him in such detail. Strange that I felt completely unmoved by the toxic torrent delivered by this bicyclists’ bane; now that the flesh and blood was not contained in the defensive aggressive armoury of computer designed crumple zones I could eyeball my adversary.

Unstoppable, the putrid torrent of vile vomit spewed forth from this gargoyle’s gutter; my feeble response of “But you cut me up back there” was swept away like a mote of flotsam and jetsam in a tsunami; indeed my timid temerity simply swirled up ever more stinking, disgusting, rotting contempt from the putrid depths of his stinking, disgusting, rotting mind.

And then he spat at me.

Spat at me.


Spittle splattered over my jersey, his intimate insides violated my outside; each disgusting fetid fleck of white spume glistened and sparkled in the sun but, just like his words, they were revolting, repulsive, repugnant. Who was this man? What infections or diseases did he carry?

Calmly and deliberately I spat back. You spit at me and I’ll spit at you. Fair play. But he didn’t think so....I saw him raise his arm before the first strike and I ducked...WHAM! WHAM WHAM WHAM! His fists flew, my head flopped from one side to the other as the blows landed alternating left, right, left right and for once I was glad to be wearing a helmet... 

As the blows fell I wondered what to do. How can I stop this berserk vandal, this ignorant pillock? This prick? This bully? This rabid emotionally retarded git? Should I kick him in the balls? After all, hard cleated cycling shoes firmly planted in his gonads would hurt. Should I throw my bike at him? Better not, it might get damaged and he was not worth that.

The pummelling stopped and I looked up, straightened up, and eyeballed this scum, this imbecile, this perverted personification of hatred, this bastard filled with blind unjustifiable anger, this exemplar of road rage lost in red mist. He puzzled me and I pitied him. 

He started again, but I had plenty of time to duck again... WHAM! WHAM WHAM WHAM! His fists flew, my head flopped from one side to the other as the blows landed alternating left, right, left right... this banjaxing of my brain was getting serious... 

With each blow to my calvarium I thought this might be my road to Calvary but the cavalry arrived; a bicycling band of brothers pitched up, the beating stopped, the bullying bandit backed off as a bespoked banderillero interceded and demanded to know what was going on.

Surrounded by cyclists the coward changed his attitude, portraying himself as the victim. Pathetic. Logic would say I would get witnesses, logic would say I would note his registration plate... but it was a surreal Sunday which made no sense, my senses had been scrambled and I left the scene.

As I defiantly continued my route, I reflected on what had happened. The thing that struck me, other than his fists, was that his invective and spleen was directed towards me being on a bicycle. He had tried to make me feel like low-life, like something that should crawl back under the stone from whence I came, that I was the lowest of the low; that being on a bicycle was socially unacceptable; I was a pariah; something that shouldn’t be allowed; that I was sub-human filth. I had no right to live. I was scum.


When I got home the shock set in. I reported the incident to the police and got a crime number (24th Jan 2010 MH2158561/10) and got myself checked out medically... after all although I was wearing a helmet my head had been used as a punchbag. I spoke with Cycling Weekly and The Henley Standard and Maidenhead Cycling Club sent out emails throughout the cycling world hoping to find my saviours... but the trail had gone cold. It took 4 days before the physical affects wore off; if I drove or moved too quickly I felt woozy... 

Whoever this guy was is a menace to cyclists, he is dangerous. He was driving a current model silver Audi estate, an A4 or possibly an A6. By forcing me across the road into the face of oncoming traffic, it’s possible he attempted murder, with his car as the weapon. Police have checked CCTV and can see the incident, but can’t make out the reg plate. 

I need to steal myself and go cycling through Henley again and lay this ghost to rest.

The tomato had to die...


... there it was. Bright, bloody red, a transluscent ruby set against a dull damp grey asphalt pavement. An inviting jewel, seductive, dangerous, juicy...

I saw it there and saw red, red, red. I felt the anger rising, bubbling from deep down, spilling over into a boiling frenzy of action... the rage, the frustration, the total and utter annoyance and I vented my spleen on this wolf-peach fruit.

I raised my foot and stamped down hard. I showed no mercy. None. Even through my boot I could feel the delicate skin tear and split as unimaginable forces bore down, crushing, crushing, seeking to extinguish the life of this puke-inducing, nauseating, choking spawn of the devil. I could feel the innards of the fruit cave in, totally destroyed, each and every pip shaken from its womb, never to be fertilised, never to grow into another deadly, deadly nightshade.

From being a perfect thing it became a mangled two-dimensional mess. Gobbets of its entrails splattered far and wide, droplets of its blood stained my jeans, which are now in the washing machine such is my hatred of the raw tomato.

I feel no remorse for destroying it.

What though possessed me to do it?


Because I woke up to find yet another fucking flat tyre on my bike. That must be the fucking fifteenth fucking flat this year, nearly one a fucking week. Fuck fuck fuck. So instead of going out on a fucking wet fucking crappy fucking dull damp fucking Saturday I hoofed it to Halfords - a fucking crappy bike shop if there ever was one - and got three new fucking innertubes. Ha! Some good news - I only got charged for two as the checkout guy fucked it up.

Then of course, the trusty spanner I've been using for years gave up the ghost - instead of turning the wheel nuts, the spanner bent... FUCKING WELL BENT! Fuck, fuck and double fuck. So back into Maidenhead, by which time the decent bike shop was open, and I obtained a decent spanner.

And had Costa Espresso. And did some shopping. And met a mate and shot the breeze.

And then killed the fucking tomato.

And it felt good.

How's your day?

Romance in the gutter


Allin’s bike shop was my favourite of the two that Croydon had to offer the serious cyclist. Run by Stan and Anne Butler, he a former racing star, this store was an Aladdin’s cave of wonderment. It wasn’t in the smart end of town, if Croydon had such a thing, and it wasn’t a smart shop. But you could always get the vital left handed widget that you needed; it would just take a few minutes for Stan, Anne or the enigmatic “Ching” to rummage through the workshop and you’d be all set.

Even a small shop such as Allin’s holds a huge amount of stock, and the accounts hold surprisingly large numbers, though Heaven only knows how the books were reconciled as the “till” consisted of a wooden draw and a paper roll on which all sales were hand written. On a busy summer’s day it could take 20 minutes to get into the shop, with the queue extending some distance down the road.

Cyclists being cyclists, this would be treated as a social opportunity as we’d exchange views about the latest two wheeled news, gadgets and gizmos. Indeed it was in one such queue that my chum Andy and I were approached by a chap who enticed us to join the Anerley Bicycle Club, and hence my racing began.

At one stage in my illustrious career I ended up working at Allin’s. Stan and Anne had retired, selling to John and Ray; I was bored with my job at the time, and thought it would be a fun thing to do, to work in the bike industry. And it was, for a couple of years, but then I had to find some other area in which to build my career, Lisa seduced me and I was away.

However whilst working in Allin’s I met many wonderful people, some odd balls as cycling seems to attract more than its fair share of characters, but all fine people. One regular customer was an enthusiast, not a club cyclist, but nonetheless keen and of course his custom was most welcome. Alas I forget his name now, though I’m certain it wasn’t Zeus, however his daughter’s name was Helen and she did indeed make quite some impression on me.

It turned out that Helen lived not so far from me, indeed every day I cycled past the road down which she and her family lived. I took quite a shine to this blonde torch and rather felt that the feeling was reciprocated; lots of eye contact, smiles and that indefinable, powerful, know no bounds, earth-shattering chemistry that seems to occur between two people that are attracted to each other.

So, one Friday night, as I cycled home on my trusty Whitehorse fixed wheel steed, I thought I’d seize the moment - carpe diem and all that and with a swipe of my credit card I left the florist’s with a fine, bold, colourful, beautiful bouquet of flowers. If this wasn’t going to melt Helen’s heart and make me her Menelaus, then nothing would.

As I approached the turn off that would lead me to her house, I must have started to lose concentration as wildly improbable images filled my mind. The anticipation of an assignation with my ship-launching beauty was just too much to bear and as I negotiated the sharp left hand turn into her road I lost control of my bike.

To this day I still have no idea what happened; I just can’t explain it. All I know, all I recall, is that there was a wobble of monumental proportions and I suddenly found myself flying through the air, over the top of the bars, and torpedo-like I landed in the gutter, bike clattering down on top of me. Fortunately, mid-flight, I’d had the incredible presence of mind to throw the bouquet away from me so that I wouldn’t land on top of it.

Once I’d extricated myself from my less-than-trusty Whitehorse steed, dusted myself down, picked myself up and ensured no laughing witnesses, I took stock and noticed that my new jersey had been shredded on my left arm, and there was a dark damp patch that was slowly spreading through the fabric. oo, that’s gotta hurt. (Five stitches. I still have the scar).

I hobbled over to my love’s only ever so slightly damaged gift, gingerly remounted and safely but slowly negotiated the final fifty yards to my date with destiny.

The door opened, though it wasn’t my golden haired princess that answered, but her mother, possibly called Leda. She was only somewhat startled to see me there and assured me that Helen would be thrilled with the flowers...

...once she got home from being out with her boyfriend.