I have been taking a break from writing. Not because I have run out of ideas, or got ‘writers’ block’, or anything like that. It is because I went cycling.
Normally, cycling is a good thing. It gets me away from the computer and out of the house. It keeps me fit (writing is an unhealthy pursuit). And it is good way to explore, and get to know an area. I can’t claim that I get a lot of literary inspiration from cycling. Walking, which require less concentration, is better for that. In fact, it was probably lack of concentration that caused my problem.
I was on a mountain bike, following tracks and trails through the vineyards of Cognac. It was warm and sunny. There were scattered gangs of men doing the last of the vine-pruning. And I was thinking about the meal I planned to cook in the evening (guinea-fowl, braised with fennel in white wine). I never cooked that meal. Before I could decide whether to add lardons or chorizo, the front wheel jolted sideways, the bike stopped, and I flew over the handlebars, landing on the ground, face first and very hard.
I lay for some time on the ground, wondering what had happened. After I while, I untangled my legs from the bike and tried to sit up. My glasses were missing, and everything was blurred. But I could see, in the little mirror on the handlebars, that my face was covered with blood. And there were deep, open wounds around my nose and mouth. I lay down again. Then I realised that if I stayed there, and no one found me, I might actually die. So I got cautiously to my feet, held on firmly to the bike, and began to walk home. But the GPS receiver told me I was 5km away. It would take me more than an hour, and my wife would already be worried. There was nothing for it but to get back on the bike, and pedal, which I did, very slowly.
My wife was horrified, but managed to drive me to the local A&E, where I began a rather surreal 24 hours. I was inspected, injected, swabbed, bandaged and hooked up to drips. The painkillers gave me mildly psychedelic hallucinations (I’ve always wondered what they were like). I was ambulanced to another hospital, unbandaged, reinspected, rebandaged so that my head looked like an Egyptian mummy, kept in overnight, then ambulanced to a third hospital, where the sequence began all over again. All the time, a succession of doctors and nurses (indistinguishable without my glasses) asked me questions in French, to which the answer was mostly ‘une chute de vélo.’ My French turned out to better than I expected, but I couldn’t understand why everything was taking so long, or had to be done so often. Eventually, they stitched up my wounds and sent me home.
Since then, I have been recuperating, which consists of sitting around, drinking liquidised meals through a straw, and growing a beard, which I am stuck with until the stitches come out (and this in the very week when the world’s media have announced that beards are going out of fashion!). I was grateful when my doctor brother-in-law agreed that an occasional gin and tonic would do harm. The painkillers (or maybe it was the gin) dulled my thoughts, so no inspiration came. But I am feeling better now.
My wife posted a picture of me on Facebook, and a friend said I looked rather ‘Death in Venice’. So I am going out into the garden with my Von Aschenbach hat on, in the hope that literary inspiration will strike.