A month has passed since I carelessly packed up my entire life and jumped on a flight to The Netherlands (I was filled to the brim with sedatives, regardless of the flight duration of course). My only regret at this point, is that I wish I had taken a little longer to pack my suitcase – if I had considered this and ignored the impetuous, carefree elements of my personality then perhaps my outfits would not be on a vigorous, repetitive cycle.
Let’s start with the comical. In The Netherlands, for most residents, it is imperative that you own a bike as this is seen as one of the most popular modes of transport. Of course, after initially purchasing a bike, the rest is free and that is the magical thing about it (although, the laws here regarding lights and so forth are quite strict – I’m currently ignorantly bending this law to suit the needs of my bank balance). Plus, the exercise makes you feel all giddy on the morning commute, theoretically segregating all of the miserable commuters to the tram and train (I soon learnt that bikes weren’t exclusive to happy people). So, after being stood up once (it hurt), I managed to purchase a bike and before I could even learn the Dutch word for bike (fiets), an old-school silver gazelle with a traditional gear system stood in front of me. (I managed to break the gears as soon as I trial rode the bike of course – leaving the seller’s hands covered in oil and dirt after he eventually fixed it on the side of the street for me). So, after a bit of a bump in the road, I was the proud owner of this beauty.
Prior to the purchase, I was borrowing my aunt’s bike, to get me to and from my beach bar job. One evening, myself and another newbie friend decided to cycle into Den Haag and meet up with some others for some drinks (only a ‘quiet one’). After an entertaining evening meeting the funny locals, whilst slowly becoming more cheerfully intoxicated, and briefly rowing with some Dutch police, out of no where, the heaven’s opened. Ignorance was pure bliss as we embarked on our short journey home, whilst absolutely drenched without an ounce of fear or worry about the trip ahead of us.
As I was attempting to blink the heavy raindrops out of my eyes and wiping the tip of my nose with my already soaked through silk jacket, I gazed down at the floor to see my friend skidding past me in the road, shoe-less and in a fit of laughter. She had indeed fallen off her bike, rather gracefully mind. I tried to stop myself from screaming with laughter (I failed), so she threw her broken shoes in my basket and jumped straight back on her bike. Again, I arduously blinked, but this time it was me skidding to my destiny half way down the road. Opening my eyes, the ground was in my eye line and I could just about make out my own arm stretched out in the road. Clearly, our pathetic appearance screamed ‘help us’ and an onlooker ran out of his home to help the two tipsy girls who had fallen off of their bikes. Obviously, we both found this irresponsibly entertaining and continued to cycle home, holding back the tears of laughter . This accident was rich in riveting memory until the following morning, when my friend woke up in bruises and missing her shoes, whilst I awoke with an open wound on my hand and a broken phone.
In reflection, the last time I remember confidently riding a bike was when I had a bike crash at the age of about 13 – no wonder I walk everywhere, I am completely accident prone and balance is not my forte. As you can imagine, I am now engulfed by terror every time I mount my bike. It is now my responsibility to gently increase my confidence, so I can eventually become used to the devil piece of apparatus – who knows, I may even be able to turn a corner without coming to an almost complete stop. Once I have that mastered, all I have to do is be alert for constant idiot bike riders, cars, trams, tramlines and pedestrians. Oh, and the huge, aggressive, appropriating seagulls, who are constantly out to kill – never eat, drink or move around a Seagull when in Scheveningen, they rule the streets here and will eat you. I saw one eat a plastic bag at the beach last week for God’s sake.