Of course, the bicycle was equipped with brakes—levers mounted on the handlebars—but not the particular part of the handlebars that my hands now gripped so determinedly. To loosen my grip and reach for the brake would result, I was sure, in my losing control of the steering, causing the wheel to turn sharply and pitching me over the top for a fatal header. These days I know no such thing would have happened, but I didn’t know it then and nor did I consider that it worth the risk of experimentation. The only alternative then was to hang on and allow the machine to rush as it would to the base of the hill and then coast to a halt on the flatter section beyond. Which might have been the case had there not been further complications.
First of these was the dust and grit, thrown up by a gusty wind and now being forced by my increasing speed to rush into my eyes, blurring everything in a film of tears and making it almost impossible to see the road before me. What lay ahead was Mr McKenzie in his new Ford, coming along toward me in what was an open challenge to my hitherto sole command of the road.
Now Mr McKenzie could never have honestly listed driving skills amongst his major talents and indeed at the time seemed to be in even less control of his vehicle than I was of the bicycle. I immediately took evasive action, shooting up Mr Jenkin’s driveway and onto the footpath, but there I encountered another local traffic hazard—Mrs Thompson and her shopping jeep—blocking my escape route and leaving me nowhere to go.
One by one, those dare-devil, very expendable flying aces of WWI were blasted out of the sky in The Dawn Patrol, and even Errol Flynn got it in the end. But they all died with such remarkable dignity and chivalry and I was sure that when I finally came to grief, I would go equally. Alas, here was a disillusionment that was just about to happen.