Although, you may be familar with the Guildford Four or Birmingham Six, it is unlikely that even the well read amongst you will know the exploits of the Longwick one. It is lost in myth exactly what turned this mild mannered family man into the uncontrolled lunatic regulary decimating the Buckinghamshire countryside with foot, bike and occasionally head. However, we can point to one event that may have turned the tide.
Just before the turn of the year, my life had flashed before my eyes after an unscheduled, but nevertheless spectacular, double roll with pike dismount from my bike onto a large and, for want of a better word, pointy rock. It was at this precise moment that the “mad hat” passed from me to Mike although not in the true literal sense as my hat having been spiked by said unyielding rock had now taken on the appearence and functionality of a very holey ashtray.
There was then a 6 week interlude where neither I or “Mad Hat” Mike ventured out due to the prevailing weather or to be more precise the fact the country was mostly underwater. Our lager training was undiminished and if anything had intesified which made the new year rides all that more daunting. The first was undertaken in Arctic conditions with the rain giving way to snow and ice. MHM transmogrified into the Longwick one and attacked the icy downhills with the reckless abandon more associated with younger and, not sparing anyones feeling, more technically acomplished riders. Ok, shouting an ancient battle cry, abandoning the brakes and then Henry the 5th like hurtling down the track towards his own personal Agincourt is one approach. Not one, I would venture, associated with long life, grandchildren or a full collection of limbs. Amazingly he survived the entire day even after two post downhill beers on our way home (medicinal for me, I was terrified by proxy). As we say in Yorkshire “he wouldn’t let it lie” and “it’ll all end in tears” – a prophacy that was to come true very soon.
The following weekend, snow had turned to rain so the Longwick one with his faithful companion set out to groans of aching limbs. Madness prevailed again and only from the whoops of joy and distressed looking forestry could I follow mad hat. Eventually, only one downhill separated us from a well tried alehouse (we were in training after all) – this downhill was wet, greasy, steep and covered in leaves. In other words, an accident waiting to happen and fate sent mat hat to make sure it did. Adjectives such as careful, composed and skillful in no way describe the longwick one as he barelled off down the hill with no though of his own mortaility or that of a 1000 year old wood. I followed reluctantly whilst looking for possible landing sites for the air ambulance. Mat Hat had barely built up a good head of speed before a combination of gravity, a surface that would have put an ice rink to shame and a large (but unseen) log came together at the point of his front wheel. It’s hard to explain what happened next although I now fully understand the meaning of potential energy as the bike rotated through 90 degrees and stopped dead – thereby transmitting all that energy into pole vaulting (that’s what it looked like) the Longwick one over the bars. He described a graceful parabola arcing through the still air before the inevitable Mad Hat/Ground interface point. What followed reminded me of low budget horrot movie where the “leaf man” is the main character. The Longwick one become the Longwick tree as he slid, with the grace of a three legged stoat suffering a major head wound, down the track and out of sight. 10 seconds later was wild laughter followed by “aaaarrggghhh, my wrist hurts”. Mad Hat clumped back up the hill brushing aside my concern and cackling manically. People who have never met him would have instantly thought concussion – I, on the other hand, who know him well thought “Lager”. We retired post haste for some theropy of the alcohol type although Mad Hats left hand drinking days are over for a while. If he was a medical specimen, his notes would have read “wrist with Squash Ball Inserted”. Pretty – No, Funny – Oh God Yes.
So the Longwick one avoided hospital treatment but now has to face the prospect of another week without any more riding. Considering his trip to Kenya is less than six weeks ago and only his expanding waist line is getting regular exercise, I shudder to think of the state of the fella after a week in the Rift Valley. Maybe this is the time to get him to lend me some money as he may not be back to collect his debt…..