Monday, 3 June 2013


This morning, bad luck hounded me. I could smell its feral breath and feel its bloody teeth brush my heels as I tried to stay one step ahead of the snarling beast. You probably know the sort of morning: you get up and drop the soap, put on your t-shirt backwards, pick out odd socks... They are small inconveniences which warn you that some rampaging evil is about to fall into your path. Well, all those things happened to me yet I still thought it would be a good idea to make the bike ride into town I’d had planned.

The problems began when I grabbed my bike and discovered that the back wheel was flat. Deep sigh. Last week some local devil had been spreading two inch nails over the pavements and I’d found one embedded in my tyre. Clearly my repair hadn’t held. I pulled off the tyre and inspected the inner tube only to discover that last week’s patch was fine but there was a patch I’d put on some months ago which had peeled loose. I’d been trying  a new kind of pre-glued patch and it was clear that the heat of the morning sun on the bike had softened the glue. So, off with the old patch, fixed the hole with traditional rubber solution and patch. Tyre back on and inflated. 75psi. Looks good. Off I go...

All way going well for the first fifty yard. That was before there was one almighty explosion. I felt myself jump about half a foot in the air followed by the concussion of a pressure wave that knocked me off my bike, made pedestrians leap for safety into bushes, and red lights flash on some NORAD early warning command console. It became quickly apparent that my back tyre had blown like I’ve never known a tyre to blow.

Chagrined, teeth clenched, ears still ringing, I wheeled my bike home. Some builders working next door were talking about the noise and wondering if they should get on their mobile phones to say goodbye to loved ones. They asked me if I’d heard the explosion. I said it had been my tyre. They laughed, clearly relieved that they weren’t about to enter into a Mad Max scenario in which builders are doomed to roam a world where the skills of the plasterer are not in demand but there pale chubby bodies are. I also laughed like the poor na├»ve bastard I am…

I pulled off the tyre to find that the inner tube now had a one inch split. Deciding not to risk it again, I grabbed a brand new tube, reassembled my wheel, inflated it, 75psi, but decided that I wanted a coffee before I set off again.

I was sitting with my morning coffee, taking a moment to reflect on my bad luck, when a second explosion rocked the house. This one was even louder than the first. Doors rattled. Birds fell from the sky. I spilled coffee down my shirt. I ran out to discover that the brand new inner tube had gone the way of the last and I knew then that there was something going on that had nothing to do with punctures.

That’s when I found it. The wall of my rear tyre was shredded. This tyre was barely six months old and I’d bought from a proper cycle shop instead of the cheap wheels I usually buy from local supermarket. The weakness in the wall had probably been caused by the first explosion and then caused the second. Perhaps I’d had a pinched inner tube earlier that I hadn’t noticed…

So, now without a tyre and needing a new inner tube, I set off on the long walk into town, spend £20 on a new tyre and inner tubes, did a quick bit of shopping, thought of a few cartoon ideas (a relief since I hadn’t had any in days) before I walked all the way back. Hot and tired, I arrive home and finally repair my bike.

But this story isn’t about tyres. It’s about luck.

Despite my general atheism, my belief in rational things, there’s a part of me that believes that good luck and bad luck often come together. I want to think that we have bad luck so Fate can also gift us with some good.

Imagine my delight, then, when I look at my inbox and discover an email from ‘The Guardian’ asking if they can publish one of my comments in their weekend edition. ‘Great!’ I think. ‘Something I’ve written is actually going to get published! Doesn’t this prove that sometimes bad luck is what you pay in order to get some good luck?’ And it was immediately obvious to me which comment they’d want to use. I’d written 2000 words in the discussion on Frank Lampard’s new book. I was proud of the way I’d defended my position and it had been a genuinely interesting debate. They were obviously going to use some of my scathing one-liners, my well-reasoned defence of author’s rights…

Just to be sure, I checked the link they’d sent to the comment they wanted to publish.

That’s when I had the fourth puncture of my morning. I felt a small hiss as excitement departed my body. My shoulders sank. The comment they’d picked out is possibly the single blandest comment I’ve written in my entire life.

‘Great article and wonderfully written. This is why I read The Guardian.’

Ye gods! Why do you mock me?

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