Penguins in the Dark

This is an edition from 2013

I mainly ride on the road.  I haven’t been out on my Mountain Bike for quite some time.  There are different skills involved in riding off – road, for sure.  And, yes, I am much, much less experienced riding off – road, but there’s another – ideological – reason that I ride a Touring bike.  Riding amongst the traffic – and sometimes dozy pedestrians – means that I am at the heart of society, part of the life of the place. I hold the road, communicate with drivers, acknowledge others, and they acknowledge me, my place in the world, their world.

One of the symptoms I find most difficult is the sheer speed at which my anger flares. There is nothing unusual about this.  Anger management courses abound in the treatment of disorders like mine, believe me.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t get angry with good reason.

I got pretty angry recently, as a matter of fact.  With good reason.  Yet another car driver was lecturing me  – finger wagging included – on the well-worn theme of How Dangerous Cyclists Are.  Don’t worry, dear reader, I barely so much as missed a beat, as I was told (yet again) how dangerous cyclists are.

Let’s crunch some numbers. According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the United Kingdom (sorry to all my readers across the globe, but to include international statistics here is beyond the scope of this particular post.  I will return to what happens elsewhere in a future post). 107 cyclists were killed and 3,085 were seriously injured. These men, women and children were all hit by motor vehicles.  Virtually every single one of these people were hit by vehicles driven by people who failed to have additional (optional) mirrors fitted. Most were killed or injured at road junctions.

How many drivers are killed by cyclists in the United Kingdom every year? I hear you ask. I know of two cases in 2011.  Both were deadly cases of physical violence on the part of cyclists against motorists. I knew one of the victims.  His name was Tony Magdi.

You can see what I’m driving at.

People like me are pilloried twice over.  Once for being cyclists, out amongst the traffic, and then again for being – well, mad.  Sorry, that’s a technical term, I meant mentally ill.  That’s better…because we’re ill, aren’t we?  Infectious.  It runs in families, you can catch it by, by…..being a man born and raised in the United Kingdom of Afro – Caribbean descent.  Just check out the in – patient statistics for men diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia in hospitals here.

Or by being a gay man. Oh no, that’s an out – dated, discredited view…isn’t it?

But I digress. What’s all this about penguins?

The other night I was cycling home – lit up like a Christmas tree, I might add – when in the light of the headlamps of the car wheezing up the hill behind me I saw two King Penguins waddling along the pavement ahead of me.

A moment later I saw them for what they really were: litter bins. I smiled to myself as I passed the traffic island, and swung left to allow the car behind me to overtake.

We can all think we see things that turn out to be, well, rubbish.

We’re not all Stephen Fry or Spike Milligan.  Some of us – even the suicidally depressed among us – are just trying to stay alive.


You’re beeswax and I’m bird shit
. I’m mostly harmless. You’re irrational.
If I’m iniquity then you’re theft.
One of us is supercalifragilistic.
If I’m the most insane disgusting filth
you’re hardly curiosa.
You’re bubble wrap to my fingertips.
You’re winter sleep and I’m the bee dance.
And I am menthol and you are eggshell.
When you’re atrocious I am Spellcheck.
You’re the yen. I’m the Nepalese pound.
If I’m homesteading you’re radical chic.
I’m carpet shock and you’re the rail.
I’m Memory Foam Day on Price-Drop TV
and you’re the Lord of Misrule who shrieks
when I surface in goggles through duckweed,
and I am Trafalgar, and you’re Waterloo, 
and frequently it seems to me that I am you,
and you are me. If I’m the rising incantation
you’re the charm, or I am, or you are.
Nick Laird (1975 – )
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