I’ve agonized of whether or not to write this post. This is because I consider myself the loving and thoughtful son of a concerned and caring mother, who scarcely needs more reasons to worry about her 8,000 miles distant offspring. Far be it from me to further worry said mother unduly.
But having chewed the issue through I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a story that must be told, and that the effect it has on my poor Mum’s already shredded nerves, whilst unfortunate, must be read as the necessary by-product of my desire to tell you about the defining events of my time living in Vietnam.
My conscience thus soothed, here goes: This week, for the first time, I fell off my motorbike and hurt myself.
I wish I could tell you it wasn’t my fault. I wish I could tell you some lunatic pulled out in front of me, and it was the most I could do to hit the brakes and hope for the best. I wish I could tell you that, but I can’t. The truth is the accident was entirely my fault, caused by me becoming distracted by what I will charitably describe as an attention grabbing member of the female species walking at the side of the road. Whilst thus distracted, a car travelling in front of me slowed down to turn left. By the time my eyes were back where they should have been – on the road ahead – I realised that avoiding a collision was going to be challenging at best.
I hit the brakes. I hit them hard. Usually I’d only use the back brake on my motorbike. The front brake is very sensitive, and careless use tends to send a speeding motorbike sliding from beneath its rider. But on this occasion, such was the urgency of my need to come to a halt, I pulled both of the brakes tightly closed. I managed to avoid hitting the car, turning out of its way with a few feet to spare, but in the process the bike tipped over beneath me, and left me lying in an embarrassed heap on the tarmac.
On reflection, I got off lightly. I didn’t hit the car, so no bill for repairs to what looked like an expensive Honda. By the time I came off the bike I’d managed to get most of the speed out of it, so it was less a case of hitting the ground and skidding, more of simply landing a bit heavily on my knee. Indeed, other than a sore (and, as the week has gone on, increasingly multicoloured) knee and a small tear in the sleeve of my coat, I came away unscathed. I’d say my pride was more hurt than my body.
Its not unusual to see bike accidents in Vietnam. I’ve seen a few since being here. The accidents I’ve seen always appear more of an inconvenience to their participants than anything else. Most motorbikes seem to have signs of damage from previous incidents. This is why I chose not to get anything other than a rust bucket of a bike – imagine having a really nice shiny bike and getting it all scratched up! Nightmare that.
The bike was fine as well, as it goes. One of the brake handles snapped off, so the next day I found a local repair shop and rode the bike (rather more carefully than usual) around to get it fixed. The Vietnamese mechanic came out and had a look. I handed him the snapped metal handle. He gave a smile and a shrug, a sympathetic nod, and in five minutes of very quick work fitted a new brake handle at a cost to me of less than £2. I asked him if the rest of the bike looked ok following the crash, and he gave me a shrugged nod that seemed to suggest this is something that happens from time to time, and that there’s never any point worrying too much because it’ll fall over again soon enough. I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or not.
So, my first motorbike accident. I get the sense it won’t be the last, for some reason, but I may be able to avoid them in future by following a few simple guidelines. Like, you know, watching where I’m going, an that.