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On Yer Bike!

October 26, 2009

Today started like any other Monday in our household.  I got up, took Ten to school and came home via the supermarket.

Just around the corner, though, things are very different.

The trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic opened today.  How strange that something that had such a massive impact on so many people’s lives and something that is now receiving so much global attention could take place so close to home and yet have  so little significance in my own humdrum routine.

Something that strikes me as even more bizarre is the fact that after less than half an hour proceedings had to be adjourned due to Karadzic’s refusal to attend, claiming, if the media reports are correct, that he needs more time to prepare his defence.   Instead they are going ahead tomorrow and the judge has requested him to attend so that proceedings will not be further delayed.

How can someone choose whether or not to turn up in court?  If you are indicted to attend, which I believe Karadzic was, then doesn’t that make it pretty much obligatory?  I have just looked up ‘indict’ in an online dictionary and am no closer to understanding as the given definitions are both  ‘summon’ and ‘accuse’, whilst further investigation yields  ‘impeach’ and ‘request.’  So not obligatory, then.  I guess that’s the stage at which imposing counsel comes into play.  Any legal eagles out there who would like to help clarify???

Moving onto more mundane things, I swore in the car today on the way into school.  I called another driver an arsehole and immediately regretted subjecting Ten to my Dark Side again.  I felt the light atmosphere recede, the way an oyster draws itself in when you squirt it with lemon juice, and sat in frustrated silence wondering how to make things alright again.  The apology was almost out of my mouth when I swallowed it back down.  It didn’t seem like the right thing to do, so I sat in silence some more, feeling inarticulate and useless until Ten’s mind drifted off elsewhere and he piped up with:

‘Did you remember what I told you about last month when I was on the bus going to school and we passed Thirteen riding without her helmet on?’

The black cloud had passed over and his butterfly mind had flitted elsewhere – onto his favourite subject of victimising his older sister.

‘Eh, yeah, I talked about that with her so you can forget about it.’

We live in the land of bikes and yet no-one, literally no-one (except for the French) wears a helmet.  Cycling half an hour to school on some very dangerous stretches of road, she confided in me recently that she gets abuse thrown at her by passing Dutchies for wearing a helmet.  She is the only one amongst her peers who wears a helmet.  I find this fact astounding.  Don’t other parents care, or do they become wrapped up in the ‘when in Rome’ attitude and think that because Dutch culture does not embrace the helmet then they don’t need to either and their child will be fine?

I have been reading arguments for and against wearing cycle helmets.

One Dutch study suggests that wearing a helmet can help prevent head injuries in bike-only accidents (as in the cyclist falls off rather than colliding with a car) which are apparently the most common form of accidents.  I don’t think anyone is naive enough to believe that a helmet will protect your head if a juggernaut drives over it.  I have also been told of a study, no evidence of which I can find on Google, whereby the Dutch AA (the ANWB) reported that 90% of head injuries on children under 10 are bike related.

Yet another argument, this one from Denmark, suggests that wearing a helmet does not contribute in any way to protecting your head from anything but superficial damage and can even increase the risk of head and neck injuries in a collision.

In the mean time, I have also spoken to a good friend of mine, a medic, who tells me that she would never consider allowing her own kids to go helmet-less as she sees first hand those children brought in to ER after cycling accidents.  That would probably be enough to convince any parent.

Whom to believe, or rather, where to place one’s faith?  We all want what’s best for our children.

Thirteen soldiers bravely on, wearing her helmet (I think… I hope… I trust) and suffering the insults and abuse of her Dutch peers, all because of the parental adage:  No Helmet, No Bike.  In the mean time, she has adopted a defence strategy for herself which she employs at random moments.  It involves putting on her sad puppy face, adopting a barely audible victim voice complete with stooped attitude and saying:

‘Mummmmmm, I don’t want to wear a helmet any more.’

This tactic is regularly employed in the hope that by constantly chipping away at me like the proverbial dripping tap, I will eventually break and will give in, in much the same way that her persistence eventually persuaded her father to allow her to have a Facebook account.

It’s death by drowning and she thinks I’m oblivious.

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