'Those are my principles...'
21 July 2017 | and if you don't like them...well I have others. - Groucho Marx
Regular readers (you know who you are) will be aware that I am a fairly easy-going sort of bloke and hence I tend towards the more liberal, understanding, morally relative wing of the philosophical spectrum. I tend to favour rehabilitation rather than retribution, to value understanding rather than condemnation (1). Redemption is better than retaliation and all that. Well that's all changed.
SOME THIEVING, AMORAL, DEGENERATE, IRREDEEMABLY MORALLY COMPROMISED, NEEDLE-DICKED, SHIT-FOR-BRAINS BASTARDS HAVE STOLEN OUR BIKES!
Not just any old bikes - these were Bromptons, the Rolls-Royce of the folding bikes. Seven hundred quid each they cost us. Mind you, that was nine years ago.
At least I can't accuse myself of putting temptation in the path of poor, easily influenced underdogs who lack the moral fibre to resist opportunities thoughtlessly put in their way by inconsiderate rich bastards like me. These bikes were inside a locked marina, in direct field of a CCTV camera and chained to each other and a metal fence by a 12 mill diameter, high tensile stainless steel wire. Does the entire Strasbourg underworld stroll around with a set of four foot bolt croppers stuffed casually in the back pocket of their jeans?
I am now stomping about in incandescent rage, plotting suitable punishments should the scrofulous little shit-bags ever find themselves subject to my tender mercies. I'm becoming more and more enamoured with the prospect of stringing them up from a tree by a length of piano wire tied tightly round their genitalia.
'Hang on Bob', I hear you exclaim. 'It's only a couple of bikes - have a sense of proportion about this.'
Comments such as that, gentle reader, only go to show that you know absolutely diddley-squat about the semiotic and psychological symbolism of the bicycle as exhibited within the cruising community. Equally, you almost certainly know absolutely jack-shit about its cultural significance and its importance as a socio-economic status indicator and as a tribal identifier.
The bicycle plays a unique part in the lives of cruising sailors. It fulfills same sort of role for cruising yotties as does the camel for Bedouin nomads, the horse for Romanies, cattle for Masai herders and the donkey for 19th century Sardinian peasants. It is simultaneously a workhorse and an indicator of wealth. It is a hewer of wood and a drawer of water and yet at the same time it indicates tribal identity and the owner's status within that tribe. Although, having said that, I am as yet unaware of any lascivious cruising yottie having offered another yottie twelve bicycles in exchange for his innocent, nubile, flaxen haired daughter.
For most of modern western men, the car has usurped this role. I suspect that it is little exaggeration that a significant number of western males would rather lose their wife, children or selected bodily parts rather than have their car stolen. In fact, for this demographic having their car stolen would induce a very similar emotional response to that experienced on losing selected dangly body parts
It should now be becoming obvious, even to the uninitiated, just how traumatic an experience it is for a yottie to have his bicycle stolen. On a purely practical note, it makes life vastly more inconvenient. Few boats are big enough or equipped with the necessary crane and parking space to enable them to carry a car aboard. (2) So the yottie falls back on the trusty bicycle.
As previous blogs have detailed (probably ad nauseum) two of the major drains on time in the cruising life are provisioning and finding where everything is. This is where the bicycle comes into its own. Even on a Brompton you're travelling at three times walking pace so the time spent on these activities is cut to a third. With a bike you get to see much more of the areas through which you travel and spend much less time on mundane quotidian tasks. However, once the bikes have fallen into the clutches of the Strasbourg branch of the Thieving Parasitic Douchebags Association you're back to Shanks's Pony.
This inconvenience is bad enough, but remember that the bicycle serves many more, highly psychologically important, purposes than the merely practical. It is here that we see the full implications of having your Brompton stolen
The Brompton is to bicycles, as a Porsche or a Rolls Royce is to cars. It is more about status than practicality. Its small wheels make it difficult to cycle, and easy to crash. For other than pre-school children or the last few survivors of Chinese foot binding it is impossible to pedal without fouling the front wheel with the toes or the carrier frame with the heel. Or both in my case. It has a clever way of parking where you fold the rear wheel underneath, but you can't do that if you've got anything on the carrier (which is damned near always). It has a small carrying capacity and putting any significant weight in the front basket makes it about as stable as a clown's unicycle. Involuntary dermal abrasion of the elbows, knees, hands and face is an ever-present prospect for the Brompton rider.
However, this all pales into insignificance when, in an astonishing feat of 3D geometry, it folds up into the size of a cigarette packet in about ten seconds. This procedure is best performed with an air of casual ennui. It announces to the world: 'Look at me! I am a yottie! and what's more I have class - look I have a Brompton!'
Hence my (possibly worrying) fixation with the excruciating possibilities of piano wire, possibly enhanced by forcing the syphilitic little toe-rags to listen to Barry Manilow singing 'Copacabana' on a loop of tape at high volume. Christ knows what I'd think up if someone broke into the boat or attacked either of us in person.
It's different when it happens to you. That's why we have the rule of law, I suppose. To stop people like me.
Which, on reflection, is probably for the best.
(1) Pace John Major
(2) It's not unheard of though.