I blame the bread.
And not, of course, myself.
The basic ‘problem’ is the new bike.
I have now generally adapted (with relief) to the fact that my newish bike is electric when you need it to be. In keeping with the tarnished Puritan work ethic that I like to think that I possess, it is still very much a bike. A bike, admittedly, with five levels of ‘power assist’ - and indeed a throttle that can make the bike move without the use of foot power. But, basically, it is a pedal bike with a little boost when you need it.
It is also collapsible, or perhaps I should say that it is ‘foldable’, the previous word have far too many negative connotations. Foldable and with back and rear suspension. Although those two attributes seem unrelated, they have a very real effect on how you accessorize the bike. In means in effect/affect [I really must work out once and for all which one of those is correct] that there are no real areas of ‘free’ metal to attach things. Like a basket. Or even one of those back wheel spring-loaded clamps.
The handlebars of the bike are full. The bits that are not the grips have brakes, gears, an electronic thingy and a bell - and even the small bell that I bought had to be changed for another because there was not enough room on my handlebars to ring it! The front light has had to be attached upside down as that was the only way to get it on a very crowded tube of metal! So, no basket, no clamp.
That lack was, of course, a shopping opportunity as I had to replace my sports bag with a sports backpack. Decathlon (bless them) produce something which is almost perfect for swimming with a section for shoes; two main compartments; one front flat pocket, and two side pockets: all securely zipped.
There is even a little transparent plastic case inside the main compartment for bits and pieces and creams and unguents.
So, my traditional meal of chicken on Sunday from my friends take away in Castelldefels all packs into the backpack - and when you realise that our Sunday lunch usually comprises an entire chicken in container; sort-of roast potatoes; aioli; six croquettes; a couple of salads and a bottle of wine, you will realise how much a mere backpack has to take. I have done this trip a few times and there is generally no problem. The backpack is heavy and, packed as it is, it usually rides fairly high on my back, but the levels of assistance on my bike make the extra load nugatory.
The bread however, complicates.
We usually, no invariably, have a baguette and that is too tall to fit into the backpack, and while it is aesthetically satisfying to have a loaf of bread poking out of a handy pocket, it is not practical, and the pocket is not deep enough to secure it. My solution is to break the bread in the middle and fit the broken parts in their paper case and but them in the flatter part of the backpack at the back.
This time, however, things did not fit. I was never addicted to Tetris and so three dimensional jigsaw type problems leave me floundering. I packed all the food into the pack, but it was not an easy fit and I had to take things out and repack them. Eventually everything almost fitted with only a pastry protrusion of paper covered bread poking past the zip. That, I thought to myself, is not going to matter.
Proverbs usually work best as principles rather than direct situation-specific instructions. “A stitch in time,” we’re told, “saves nine.” I know that this is true as I have ignored potential unravellings and paid the price. Although thread, cloth and stitches comprise the environment of the proverb, I should have transferred the idea to my zipped backpack.
The tip of the protruding bread had a zip on either side of it. The opening was only a few zip teeth wide but . . . well I suppose you can guess the rest. The cycle lane from Castelldefels to the beach via the outside of the Olympic Canal is bumpy. Even with suspension (back and front) each judder was transferred to my back and each jog opened a few more zip teeth.
The final disaster happened as I left the cycle lane to go onto the bridge that takes the road over the motorway. Suddenly I was a great deal lighter and I was making my lighter way leaving behind me half the meal. There is a particular quality of sound when a bottle breaks on concrete, inside a plastic bag and hemmed in with plastic containers. Not a good sound.
I stopped and for a moment surveyed the carnage. The explosion of cheap red wine with interesting shards of glass that had escaped the bag (presumably the neck of the bottle) together with assorted foodstuffs made a grotesque (and expensive) action art street canvas.
I kicked some of the glass into the gutter. Picked up the dripping plastic bag, add the unsalvageable bits and made a sorry sight as I shamelessly used the throttle to get me up the hill and down the other side where I knew there was a street rubbish bin.
Amazingly, I didn’t get a drop of the dripping wine onto my clothing and I managed to put the shards safely in the bin.
I have taken a photo of the stain.
Not because I think it might do as a front cover for my next book, whose title “The eloquence of broken things” encourages the positive use of disaster, but because I wonder just how long it will last. In the UK, as I recall, it would not be many days (irrespective of season) before a friendly torment would obliterate the vinous remains, and the shadow would be a thing or mobile phone memory and not reality.
In Spain I am counting the days. Already 24 hours (and more) have passed and The Stain is still there. Would anyone like to open a book on how long they think the stain will survive? Please leave your estimates (with email address) and I will give a small prize to the one who is closest! In the interests of fairness, and because I live here and am wise in the ways of the weather in this part of Catalonia, I will not take part in this contest myself!