What goes down always comes up roses

THANKS to an interesting Facebook post http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/ – relating to emotions people feel but can’t explain – I realised there were a couple among the list of 23 words that went some way to describing the aftermath of my last big fall. No, not the shopping centre slip up of recent days, but the shit-scary bike stack I managed to walk away from in 2006. I put together a descriptive piece about six months after the ordeal, and I‘ve included it below, for your cringe-worthy enjoyment.

I fell off my bike. Aged 37.

It wasn’t just a little bingle, like those giggly stacks you have at Rotto http://www.rottnestisland.com/, it was a nasty, head-over-handlebars-while-speeding-down-a-big-hill style stack that would have appeared painfully spectacular to onlookers.

Perfect fodder for funniest home videos; ugly but hilarious all at the same time, with the rider “no outdoorsy mothers were injured during the filming of this video.”

I can still feel the massive blow to my chin as I ploughed into the concrete path, and that was more than six months ago.

The flashbacks only hit me occasionally now. For a while there everything I thought about doing, driving the car, riding ‘the’ bike, even going for a walk, would end in an eye-scrunching memory of that “bang”. It made me much more paranoid about the possible negative outcomes of doing everyday things, too. I’ve since progressed to riding my bike again, even down that big hill, although I avoid that part of the path if I can. And I am very conscious of never, ever again applying the front brakes without first engaging the rear ones. Doh!

I ended up with a deep gash under my chin that needed six stitches, various superficial facial and limb grazes, two breaks to my left wrist, a broken bone in my right hand and a fracture to my left elbow.

It could have been so much worse – not long after my accident a front-page story on a weekend city paper detailed the story of a cyclist who wound up a quadriplegic after crashing into other bike riders on a Perth cycle path.

For a week I had both arms in plaster. I was unable to drive for six weeks because of the (fluoro pink – so me) fibreglass plaster that remained on my left arm, this initially scared the hell out of me – the loss of control and freedom was claustrophobic. I was unable to work for nearly four months as my wrists strengthened and eventually realigned thanks to lots and lots of physiotherapy (and patience), and as a casual journo, the loss of wages was another hurdle to overcome.

Why did I put my front brake on anyway, I hear you ask? Well, as my two daughters and I coasted down the hill that afternoon, I became aware of walkers chatting on the pathway up ahead and called out for the girls to ring their bells.

I also began ringing my bell, then put a hand to my head to stop my hat from blowing off (no, I was very stupidly not wearing a helmet) and swiftly realised I was about to crash into the rear of my seven-year-old. I immediately applied my right hand brake, it seemed instinctive at the time, being right-handed and already using my left hand to keep my hat on.

The rest is family history. I came to a very sudden, crumpled stop. My children stopped when they heard my squeal, which was all I could manage, and the walkers ran over to help. My 12-year-old called my partner on my mobile, and my father arrived, along with the ambulance.

So what did I learn from this experience? Heaps. It challenged my need to always be in control and to constantly do things for myself without asking for help. It made me realise how we coast through life never realising how lucky we really are and what dangers potentially lurk in even the most innocuous activities. It made me realise I had to slow down and stop trying to do a million things at once.

Being a working and studying mother of two busy children meant it was commonplace to do several things at once to capitalise on my time – when I look back now, my frenetic lifestyle was always going to come crashing down around my well-organised ears. I am just so thankful I didn’t have a car accident, or hurt other people during the “crash I had to have”. Even my bike escaped unscathed. Now, when I feel my life speeding up, I take steps to slow down and yes, the roses do smell great.

PS: The obscure words that related but not necessarily resonated were Lachesism: The desire to be struck by disaster – to survive a plane crash, or to lose everything in a fire. Are you kidding!!!; and, Exulansis: The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it. Except that they do…everyone’s taken the bark off or smashed their ego when gravity separates bike and rider.


Is there an upside to falling down?

It’s been years.

Since I fell over.

Ok, I’ve tripped up the stairs in a rush and lost my footing over less than flat mats, and there was that time I fell off my bike, aged 37….but we won’t go there, again.

No, this was an embarrassing fall from grace exacerbated by a large, unsympathetic audience.

There I was, minding my own business, a woman on a grocery mission. Kiwi fruit, unsalted butter, gluten free bread, Sensodyne…and then wham! I was in an alternate universe where even as I plummeted floorwards I was saying to myself “Hey, this feels a lot like falling over, doesn’t it? Am I? Falling over? Nooo. Yes, I ammmmmmm”.

…Right palm typically takes the full defensive brunt as my foot pathetically slips and my legs become entangled, handbag landing thwack on the floor below me…

And, with Murphy among my closest friends, it was a day when every seat in the food court was taken up by infinite bus loads of elderly morning teas-ers, their mouths gaping slackly open, mid-muffin munch, blinking unbelievably at the silly cow sprawled before them.

Did they hastily get up from their chairs to help, or ask if I was alright? God no! They were too stunned to know what to do. Had they really witnessed a woman in her mid-40s hit the tiles baby giraffe style? I gave them little time to react, jumping up as soon as my confused body would let me. Even the woman sitting on the chair closest, almost within reaching distance, sat motionless, staring, like some sort of taxidermied goldfish out of water.

Had these people never seen anyone fall over before!!!!

I made my escape to the nearby post office, rubbing my sore hand and checking my ego for permanent damage, glancing behind me, almost expecting to see myself still lying on the floor. It was that surreal.

Finally composed and balancing a parcel in my good hand, I set off gingerly to my next port of call, flagging down a weary, black-clad security guard on the way. How serendipitous – now I could tell someone and make it real!

“I was walking around the corner to the post office,” I said “and all of a sudden I was on the floor.”

“Rightio, can you take me to where it happened luv. We’ll be able to check it out on the security camera, see if we can work out what happened,” he purposely took a small notebook and stubby knife-sharpened pencil from his top pocket. Things were getting official.

Again I felt as though I was performing for a nocturnal house full of bug-eyed possums, the audience watching intently as I explained where I had fallen.

“I’m not sure if something has been spilled on the floor and it’s a bit slippery. It would be terrible if one of these elderly folk slipped and fell, they’d probably break a hip. Or their concentration….”, I mumbled.

Scuffing his own sensible shoe across the floor, peering at it from all directions, searching for any imperfections, he began to resemble a dodgy mechanic with a Bali holiday on credit.

“Floor looks alright to me. Hmmmm, maybe it’s those shoes,” the security official accused, bending to inspect my feet.

“WHAT! Are you telling me I don’t know how to walk in my own boots with the sturdy medium heels,” was what I wanted to say.

What I did say: “I don’t think so. I wear these shoes all the time. I was walking fine until I got to this spot, and then I was on the floor. Ok. Thanks, anyway,” I trailed off, feeling belittled by a uniformed grandfather wearing a bunch of keys on his thick belt.

Now I almost want some old biddy to slip and fall at the same spot, just to prove a point!…In her moccasins, pushing a walking frame, husband following behind with a trolley containing just two bags, still sucking the muffin crumbs out of his falsies…

As I teeter on the brink of the age group being urged to leave the ‘burbs for the permanent bliss of an ever growing selection of convenient and sophisticated lifestyle villages, I cringe. Then shudder. Are slippers, walking aids and Metamucil really that far into my future? And how can I get a gander at that CCTV footage…

www.dailymail.co.uk 1933 Some of the fair competitors come to grief in the sack race during the sports of John Baker & Co at Southfields today.

Some of the fair competitors come to grief in the sack race during the sports of John Baker & Co at Southfields today.