Missing a turn

Missing a turn

The Far Island Fox Hunt: On missing a corner you know is coming.

It’s been a few years since I really scared myself on a bike, and this is the first time I’ve talked about it. Out of character perhaps, given that unlike my mental health ‘scares’ there’s not so much of a stigma around that kind of close call.

Yet for both scenarios there are consequences to such a revelation, so deciding with whom and when to talk is kind of important. But to hell with it, here goes:

Slinking among the hills between St Helens and Diddleum Plains, through the north-east of the island, is a thoroughfare omitted on tourist maps. Those stumbling upon it by chance might consider the omission a welcome oversight. The seemingly quiet gravel road is rich in scenery, surprisingly direct, well-formed, and generously maintained. But that sense of discovery is quickly dispelled the instant the first 15m of fully laden ‘folding Skel’ truck comes hurtling around a blind 60 degree corner it knows pretty damn well belongs to it.

Clearly, it’s not the route to let your concentration lapse. Add to that, being unfrequented, supposing you were lucky enough to slide off around the outside of that screaming B-double, it might be a while before a hopelessly lost minivan full of Chinese nationals comes along to right you. Then, after a roadside version of charades wherein they find out just how you ended up down that embankment, comes one of those weird moments when each of you is internally questioning the other’s grasp of self-preservation.

Regretfully (perhaps) the exotic minivan came too late for me, mere seconds after I’d finished a good hour of manhandling 200kg of machine out of an inexcusably slippery metre-deep table drain on said route.

I had been cruising along without any thought of such an outcome. Which is why I overshot a left corner I knew was approaching, yet in all honesty I just hadn’t prepared myself for. Fortunately, there was no rolling mass of steel heaving the other way. But at that moment the potential that there might have been was in no way lost on me and the thought sent shivers down my spine.

I still haven’t told my wife about that one. Don’t get me wrong, my dearest understands there are everyday risks involved for us afflicted by the motorcycle. So I know to give her calls when reaching destinations or agreed landmarks. And she knows to remind me I keep in focus quite important things that might drift out of mind when the going is either too good or conversely a little bit challenging. I don’t think she’d stop me from riding, it’s just, well, I guess I don’t want her to think I’m not a capable rider, because if she thinks so then I have to consider it too.

There’s recently been a bit of talk about how and when you might tell your work about a mental health challenge. Some have even developed quite useful guides to help decide upon and even undertake the task (see for example here and here).

I chose to share with my work and have been fortunate in how it has been received. One decider for me was my need for ‘systems’ in place at work to maintain consistent momentum, a bit like those ‘call ins’ to my wife. Likewise again I didn’t want anyone to think I’m not a capable worker; I am. But If I do slide off the road, as I have before, it’s good to know someone who understands will be there to help me get back on route.

Whatever you choose to do, stay clear of table drains.

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