Saturday, 28 May 2011

an apology

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you will not have failed to notice that it has not been updated in almost three months. For this I offer an abject apology. During this period, I’ve written at least a dozen posts, some long, some much shorter, but I’ve found it impossible to round any of them off satisfactorily. I found myself thinking about things I didn’t want to write about and as a result struggling to put together the words needed for those things I did want to write about.

Well, that’s my rationalization of the problem, but there have been other factors. I had quite a bad accident just before Christmas, losing control of my bike on what appeared to be a completely innocuous surface. Usually, when a wheel slips, you have time to adjust, but the interval between my realizing that something was wrong and my head hitting the concrete cannot have been more than half a second. I described the experience in emails to friends:
I fell off my bike last week: it took me completely by surprise, the bike simply disappearing suddenly from under me while I was turning a corner. There was nothing near, it wasn’t wet, and there was no reason to suspect that the surface would be slippery. I’d probably be on life support now if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, because I still felt one hell of a bang through the helmet. The police were on the scene within a minute (impressive seeing as how we were on a cycle track, some distance from any road), and an ambulance was called, but then the copper said that if I had to go to hospital, they would take my bike—and I could collect it from the New Territories police headquarters in Tsuen Wan. [Although Tsuen Wan is technically in the New Territories, geographically it is contiguous with Kowloon, with a mountain range between it and the rest of the New Territories]. I thought, fuck it, I don’t fancy that, I think I can ride home. Only about 12 miles, and after being patched up by the paramedics (bad abrasions to my knee, elbow and shoulder, which took several weeks to heal), I set off rather gingerly, for about a mile, then I felt I was up to riding at our normal pace. In any case, we had only an hour or so of daylight left. I managed OK, but I think I’ve buggered my shoulder. Nothing broken or dislocated, but it doesn’t feel comfortable when I pull or push anything.
I decided that I wouldn’t get back on the bike until I felt no more discomfort in my shoulder, which turned out to be three weeks. My main objective first time out would be to take a closer look at the place where I fell off. If I had made a mistake, I would want to know what it was. Unfortunately (you can’t make this stuff up), the entire area had been resurfaced using high-friction materials. I wonder whether this was merely coincidence. I should add that despite these improvements, I pay extra attention when negotiating the corner in question.

For some time, the experience dented my self-confidence, but since the end of March Paula and I have been doing a lot of cycling. The route options are quite limited, but the moving hazards (pedestrians and other cyclists) are infinitely variable, so there are very few dull moments and plenty of opportunities to test your skill. One such is the footbridge hairpin, on the route south from Fanling to join the main cycle network. It’s harder when coming off the footbridge, with a four-foot drop-off if you don’t turn sharply enough, and hardest of all if you have to avoid an old woman and her dog, a singular hazard that I’ve encountered only once. The woman kept shouting instructions to the dog that were the opposite of what would have made life easier for me. Of course, I could have simply put my foot down, but where’s the fun in that?

The footbridge hairpin. Paula can be seen disappearing into the distance.

Meanwhile, I’ve been distracted by the environment around our house and in the rest of Fanling, which is always at its most interesting during the slow unfolding of my favourite season in Hong Kong. I’m currently in the UK, but unlike last year I have an internet connection, so I expect to be able to provide an account within the next few days of some of the notable discoveries I’ve made during the past three months.

Another interesting story, the first hints of which appeared at the beginning of April, involves attempts by someone claiming to own the land to force ‘farmers’ on the outskirts of Fanling to abandon their fields. Some skullduggery appears to have taken place already, and I suspect that the story has some distance to run yet, but I’ll provide an overview next.

I also intend to resurrect some of the posts that I’ve been struggling with: Future Imperfect will be my assessment of the prospects for the human race in the twenty-first century, and The Village Idiot will be a denunciation of the views on climate change of former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. Explanations should be self-explanatory, while Three-Card Monte will be my analysis of the well-known street con and its connection with modern financial services.

While I’m here in my home town, given that I shall be here now until October, I will probably write a few articles about the place. Just don’t expect any tourist guff.