The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Friday, November 25, 2005

"if you're not willing to be changed by a place, there's no point in going."

Interruption in service: I apologise to athrawes, I should be away, travelling, silent, not interrupting, but there's something urgent that I need to ask of the good readers of Blackboard Jungle.

You see I'm in Vietnam, doing a sponsored bike ride for Vietnamese street kids. The Eighty Kilometre Bike Ride of Death, I call it.
[mais monsieur! even crossing ze street in Hanoi, c'est plus dangerouse!]

Right now it's less than 24 hours until the KOTO sponsored bike ride.

An eighty kilometre bicycle ride through the still green lakes and hills of Vietnam, to raise money for a worthy cause: the education and training of street children of Ha Noi, by an aussie charity here.

I'm all hyped up. Pumped, as Arnie says. I'm ready to kill myself doing this.

And kill myself doing this is extremely likely.
Did I mention that I'm not really outdoorsy?
That despite posturing underwater in the previous four months, back on dry land, I remain the world's biggest seven stone weakling?
Did I mention that I haven't ridden a bicycle in fifteen years?
Did I mention that I haven't done any physical exercise at all since some rowing in Singapore four weeks ago?
I did mention that just those two hours left me crippled for two days, didn't I?
Did I point out what eighty kilometres is in imperial measurements? It's FIFTY MILES. When I wrote to everyone in my address book asking for sponsorship, I didn't realise this. To a Brit, every metrical measurement appears tiny. I assumed this would be something simple, like a foot or so. 80 metres. 80 centimetres. Perhaps 80 millimetres. You know, something possible?
I ever mention to you that even in the gym in days of yore, the stationary bike machines were the one thing I couldn't cope with?
That my thigh muscles are such flaccid dead fish of a human sinew that they usually appeared to split at the seams after just 75 repetitions of pressing down an unweighted wheel to get nowhere?
Many of my good sponsors have communicated an earnest hope that I have been in training since I foolishly agreed to murder myself by two wheeled means. This is not so. My training regime has been a peculiar one. It involves food poisoning, a full week laid prone in bed, running to the toilet every hour, and eating one bowl of rice and boiled broccoli a day. I look skinnier, yeah, but fitter? Think 'The Pianist'.
Have I mentioned that Ha Noi's road traffic doesn't follow any rules whatsoever? That simply crossing a road intact was a Vietnamese challenge sent me by one reader?
The streets are infested with speeding mopeds, ridden to be seen, not to get from A to B, and therefore populated with the type of motorist whose mirrors are angled to check their hair is straight rather than to stay alive.
The rules of the road are: the bigger the vehicle, the faster you have to move out of the way. Horns are a deafening everpresent scrum. A horn beeping replaces the indicator lights, replaces the use of brakes, alerts people to the oncoming road accident, and tells everyone that you're rich enough to have a moped. Horns beep day and night in an orchestral cacophony. Horns beeping will not save me from harm.
Did I tell you that the reason I never cycled in London was because I'm not roadworthy? I was the only kid in my primary school class who didn't pass the Cycling Proficiency Test.
Did I tell you that the last time I cycled anywhere, in the nineteen eighties, I had to ask a friend to cycle just in front of me, so I could steal the signals from her without looking behind me? Because if I look over my shoulder, I wobble ten feet to the left, then fall off the bike?
That I've never yet managed to stay on a bike on a mild incline?
That I have a serious problem navigating Ha Noi's streets, and have only once managed to leave my hotel without getting lost within six paces?
That one of the KOTO bike ride's central problems is people with an actual sense of direction get lost year after year?
Are you feeling quite how bloody foolish this bike ride will be for me yet?
Nevertheless I will do this.

I will do this because KOTO is a really really worthwhile cause. I will do this because I promised my friends if they sponsored me, I would photograph my agony and embarrassment.

I will do this because having read this promise, my sodding bloody over-generous friends committed more than $800USD in just 48 hours, if I kill myself on Saturday.

Every mile I ride, every muscle I tear, every ragged gasp I breathe, every pained tear I shed, every tendon I split will be recorded for their delectation.

And it will kill me.

If you're willing to add to the sum raised by my death, and are titillated by the thought that KOTO will sell you pictures of it, please send your email and your sponsorship promises to me at this address.

I'm asking you for the price of a pizza.

Roll call of esteemed sponsors:
Russell Braterman, Germany, Eroica from Frogstar World, NZ, Looby from Gay Nazi Sex Vicar ..., UK, Francesca from End Message, UK, Vikki Tomlinson, UK, Martin from Web Frog, UK, Tess from Bored and Broke, Northern Ireland, Duch, UK, my mum and dad, UK, Margret Smith, Spain, Ruth Gilburt, UK, jatb, UK, Will of Moving Forward, Mexico, Tim Worstall, UK, Karen from Secret Walk, Phillippines, Robin Brzakalik, UK, my sister, UK, Paul from Noxturne, USA, Paula Newark, UK, Fishboy from Effing the Ineffable, Australia, Pete Connolly, UK, Yidaho from kitchensunk, UK, Bloom from Tales from the Chalkface, UK, Madeleine Minson, Sweden, Emma from Etcher: A Print Maker's Diary, UK, my mum's boss at work, UK, Terry of More Coffee, Less Dukkha, UK, Mike of Troubled Diva, UK, Nicole Hammond, UK.

Killers, all of them.