Book 1, Chapter 5

Dunkerque.

How would you say that?

Dunkerque...

I've been saying dunker-cue. Like dunking a cue stick.

Nope. Not Dunker-cue.

Dunkirk.

How the fuck have the French got Dunkirk out of Dunkerque?

Anyway. Here we are. Dunkerque.

France.

No border post, no Immigration, no Customs, no checks, I just ride straight into the country, no questions asked... I can't believe it.

I try a left turn, and my brain nearly melts...

Everything's back to front... Arseways...

I end up on the left side of the road. Which is the wrong side of the road, and half-correct it to get back into the right lane...

Head: fucked.

I shake it off...

Belgium is only twenty clicks away. I can be in three different countries in one day...

Why wouldn't I?

But first: Petrol.


I pull into the first station I come across.

Gazole...? What?

Essence Sans Plomb...? What the fuck does that mean??

Which one is petrol?

This was a mistake. I shouldn't have left the UK.

Fuck. Which is it??

I'm out of my depth here...

I don't think it's gazole. But then again, the Yanks call petrol 'gas'.

Essence?? Sounds like a fucking perfume...

I know 'plomb' means 'lead'. One of those weird things you hear once and never forget...

Sans? I thought that was a font... Like, 'comic sans', right?

Maybe 'sans plomb' means 'unleaded'. Which means 'essence sans plomb' is the go, and 'gazole' must be diesel...

But that doesn't make sense either, because 'gazole' here is way, way cheaper than 'essence', which is arseways. Again...

Petrol should be cheaper. Right?

"Fuck it!" Essence Sans-Plomb. Done. I brim the tank and head inside to pay.

"Bonjour!"

"Bonjour... erm..." I don't know what to say... "Essence??" I point outside at the bowser.

"Bar bar bar bar?"

Fuck.

From the inflection at the end, that was probably a question... I shake my head, confused. What question would she ask if this was all happening in English? 'How's your day?' This shouldn't be so tricky...

"Aaarrh..." I hand her my credit card. "Essence... Essence?" I point again, like that's gonna help.

"Bar bar bar" she takes my card. Progress! Words I don't understand flash up on the credit card machine... I put in my PIN.

"Bar bar bar bar?"

"Erm, non? Merci?"

She gives me back my card.

I can't tell if it's worked or not... I don't know what to ask...

She's staring at me and I'm staring at her...

"O revoir"

"O revoir!" Yes! Goodbye! Success!

Fuck's sake. That was like pulling teeth. I don't want to do that ever again.

Why did I leave the UK? That was stupid...

The bike starts. Which is good. I've won the coin toss. We roll away.

I even come out of the petrol station on the right side of the road.

Things are looking up.


I'm approaching my first set of traffic lights, and I pull the clutch handle to wind-down through the gears. I realise my mistake immediately, but too late....

I've pulled the brake handle.

Blink.

My testicles slam into the petrol tank with the full force of my body weight.

"UGH!!"

Balls: Exploded.

Offspring: Never.

My forward momentum grinds my pulverised nuts into the merciless, unforgiving metal tank - which is the least of my problems... The unexpected, sudden braking sends me flying over the handlebars.

Almost...

The Enfield is all over the road, I'm perched on the fucking handlebars like an eagle, fulcrumed on my groin, feet nowhere near the footpegs. Supermanned.

Finally, I slide back into the seat, feet on the pegs. Saved it. Back under control...

I know it's coming before it happens; that awful moment...

Then it happens...

Nausea.

I pull over. Helmet, helmet, helmet! I start retching before I can undo my chin-strap...

I whip the helmet off, not a second too soon, and blow chunks all over the hedges.

Call an ambulance.


It takes a long, long time and a bloody long walk to come good again... I think I'd rather have vaulted clean over the handlebars...

What was all that about then? Why the fuck would I grab the brakes when I wanted to grab the clutch??

Very tenderly, I get back onto the bike.

Instead of hitting the ignition I hit the horn button on the other side. I jump out of the seat. And land hard.

Nausea.

"Fuck...! What the fuck, brain!?"

My head's gone way overboard on the whole 'left is right and right is left' rules with the changing lanes. Everything's switched sides.

Bizarre.

Fuck this. What am I doing here?

This was a mistake.

Oblivious | Luke Gelmi