The unfordable ford
We all love to hear of other people’s misfortunes. It’s what fuels village gossip and sells newspapers, after all. If ever you have been admitted to hospital for a ‘procedure’, when you discover there are others in a much worse condition than you, you suddenly feel so much better about your own circumstances. Gore Vidal once said: “It is not enough to succeed; others must fail”. ‘Schadenfreude’ is almost a sin of envy in reverse……and we are all guilty of it.
Yesterday, I tried to ford the ‘unfordable’. I was cycling back from Cambridge (where I had been attending a writer’s course at the Fitzwilliam Museum) and took a back road around Hail Weston, just 5 miles from home, where there is one of those picturesque little fords over the river Kym (an innocent little river that meanders lazily down towards the Great Ouse).
I would normally dismount and carry my bike over the footbridge but, stupidly, a split-second decision saw me heading into the ford, which was covered by a mere three inches of water………in other words, eminently ‘fordable’. Innocent though the water level looked, lurking beneath that shimmering sheen was a slimy green surface that was waiting patiently to catch unsuspecting cyclists like me. As I entered the water, too late to do otherwise, I knew I had made the wrong decision……….
Like the black ice that brought me off my bike three years ago (when I broke my femur) the slime took the bike from under me and left me sprawling on the deck, three inches of the River Kym happily lapping over my prostration and enveloping my bike in a malicious caress, intent on sweeping us both down to the confluence of the two rivers.
During the brief second it took to fall, I had an alarming flashback to the black ice incident that had put me out of action for several months, and I lay there cursing my own stupidity. Adrenalin immediately kicked in. I hauled myself out, climbed over the bridge, and before I set off, I saw a dog-walker about to enter the water in his wellington boots. I shouted to him: “Take care…..it’s treacherous underfoot”. Once he had uncoupled himself from his earphones, he shouted back: “I know……but most people don’t!”. As I cycled off, leaving a pool of water in my wake, I muttered to myself: “So why weren’t you there to tell me in my hour of need?”.
This time, I luckily escaped with a bruised hip and grazed elbow……………and, of course, a certain amount of damage to my pride!