Riturrrn Of Tha Track Pt 3

This is the concluding episode of a trilogy telling the story of a bike theft, and an heroic attempt to restore justice in the face of overwhelming adversity. Call it a soaring middle-finger raised to injustice's melon so we can all sleep better at night. Just thinking about it makes me want to call my mum. You can read episode 1 by clicking here, and episode 2 by clicking here. I can't even remember what the hell happened so i had to read them again too.


My man Wilma's beloved track-bike disappears mysteriously outside a coffee shop. A month later on my way to a silent art-house movie from the 20s i catch sight of it and its new custodian, a huge dreadlocked man. Sacking off any plans for my film-screening, i Jason Bourne the man across Hackney whispering hushed coordinates over the phone to Wilma, who by chance is in the area drinking a pint. We crisscross London Fields, suddenly losing phone contact, and with it all hope of coming out alive. At exactly the moment where i think all is lost and i'm about to get sucked into an underworld of iniquity in the council estates whose heart our oppressor is reeling me into, Wilma appears stage-left on his vespa, careening across the roundabout at precisely the spot where the tip of my finger ends.

Rubber burns, pedestrians gasp, inner city speed-limits are broken. 

We rest easy. It's clear which side of the law we're on. 

As Wilma rattles towards me, I wave my arm in the manner of a man urinating powerfully down both trouser legs in the direction of our oppressor, whose back is turned and moving incredibly slowly up the road. The spine-tingling moment when time seems to slow in moments of high-tension washes over me, draining the blood from my face. Out of the corner of my eye I see two old ladies motoring up the other side of the pavement, and realise time has not slowed at all, not even remotely. It is merely the unfathomably slow progress of our man down the street that has duped me into thinking the space-time continuum is out of sync. 

In my confusion my mind drifts in the manner of a Caribbean wave to the totally tropical taste of Lilt from the 80s advert, new mango and mandarin. And Javan, the Lilt-man, chilling with his selection of tropical fruit out of the back of the Lilt-mobile. 

In this strange odyssey through the recesses of my subconscious i careen into a wall. All of a sudden a rising sun of realisation dawns on me. The man we are tailing looks remarkably like Javan. Someone upstairs is telling me something. I snap back to reality and shake off images of the Lilt-man like a dog shaking off the late morning rain.

I refocus on Javan, the name bestowed on him as a literary device for the purposes of the story.

His name could actually be Javan. Who knows.

This is no getaway driver, fingers on the wheel, primed for siren-wail. But does the gazelle being tracked though the high-grass by the cheetah see any cause for concern? Suddenly the motives for his slowing become clear. He is stopping. The thief, and by now we both seem clear on the fact he is responsible for the cruel theft mere weeks before of the white Brother bike he is astride, comes to a languid halt by no. 142 Landsdowne Drive. Lazily skipping the bike up off the pavement he walks towards the bright red door on the left. 

Wilma and i move forward together in unison.

Wilma shouts...


JAVAN about-turns at the door of Number 142 exhaling a plume of sensimilla


That's my bike!

what jah talkin bout?

You're holding my bike mate it was stolen from a coffee shop on Broadway Market three weeks ago. I'm calling the police.

jah madman bredren mi buy dis fi 20 pound from man pon brick lane

I'm calling the police.


nuh call di police bredda

Give me my bike or i'm calling the fucking police.

At this point we move in perfect pincer-movement towards him, me a whisker away from tripping over a paving stone and face-planting into a shrub. Feeling our advance Javan recoils into a cat-like position, ready to spring at the throat of his oppressors. In the blinking of an eye, his face morphs into an expression of such fury and unabated evil that both Wilma and i do a huge double-take. The intensity of his glare seems to explode every capillary in his face and a river of blood washes over the whites of both his eyes, turning them crimson.

Whether i shat my pants at that exact moment or it was only at a later stage that i lost all control of my bowels, remains unclear to me. The traumatic events that followed have been papered over by selective memory and much therapy, but as far as i can recall what happened went roughly as follows.

Wilma launches himself at Javan and the bike, and together they fall to the ground. Mid-fall i see Javan remove something from his jacket pocket that for a split-second catches the reflection of the late-afternoon sun. It is metallic. I fear for my friend's life and do the only thing a man faced with such a predicament can. I get out my phone, certain of lensing the viral video of the decade. I sigh, realising the pixel-power of my nokia 301 is never going to set youtube on fire, and consider switching to my Canon G5X. I also think better of this, concluding that any passer-by opportunistically capturing a fight between a white man and a huge black man being filmed from a metre away by a guy on a DSLR, and you really do have the viral video of the decade. All the while Wilma and Javan writhe on the ground outside number 142 like a pair of sketchy breakdancers trying to do a freeze.

I stand there gawping, unaware of the warmth working its way down my left trouser-leg. Wilma pulls some beginner jujitsu out of absolutely nowhere and arm-bars Javan, forcing the metallic object out of his hand. It drops to the floor, letting out a tinkle on impact with the paving slab. Time stops. The three of stare at it.

It is a bike-key.

man fi try unlock mi lock fram bike fi give it back rasclaat!


(wincing in pain holding his arm)
lickle pussyclaat take ya pussio bike

Err... yeah nice one man. Umm... sorry about the arm buddy.

As this strange dialogue moves into second gear, another glint of something interrupts my vision. In my periphery i make out what i think can only be Javan's mum, a squat Afro-Caribbean woman holding an enormous casserole, yelling something about rice and how Javan is always late for his rasclaat dinner. My last impression is that of Wilma and Javan, arm-in-arm, laughing loudly as they disappear indoors in the direction of the casserole and a thick cloud of jerk-infused steam. But by now i am motoring down the street as far as my awkward limp can carry me, fully aware of the added weight of some substance coating my left leg and exploratorily seeping into my shoe. And the smell.


So yes in the end we got the bike back. Nothing quite so dramatic happened. No shanking took place. No blood spilt. No jujitsu arm-bars were adminsitered. Did we confront the perpetrator. Yes. Did he seem completely surprised and turn aggressive. Yes. Did he ask how the hell we had followed him there. Yes. Did i at that moment feel incredibly like Jason BourneYes i did. Did Javan reluctantly hand the bike over after repeated threats that we'd call the po-po on his ass. Yeah. Did Wilma and Javan shake hands at the end of this transaction. Strangely enough, they did. 

Did i shit my pants. Maybe.

Much more importantly, was the clenched-fist of justice administered to the glass-chin of wrongdoing, in the face of all adversity and against all odds.

 The world was the winner that day.


There is a strange sub-plot to this story.

Following the incident, Wilma and i fell out and didn't speak to each other for almost two months.

Upon retrieval of the bike we hugged it out and whooped and hollered and went our separate ways. I was still in time to catch my silent art house movie from the 20s. He of course had his pint to finish. That night as i got into bed, my phone bleeped with a short text: 

The next day, i met Wilma on the canal by Victoria Park in the midday sunshine. And he didn't even bring it up. It was like the whole thing had never happened. There was no mention of the heroic reconquest, the fight to the death, the faith in the universe restored. Nothing. I couldn't believe it. I began questioning whether i'd made the whole thing up. And yet there he was, in clear possession of his white Brother bike that three weeks ago he'd mourned the death of and said goodbye to forever.

And in that delightful manner i seem to have inherited from my old man when he senses an injustice slung his way, i pulled the portcullis down on our friendship. I mean i'm not a total psycho, i had other legitimate reasons for doing it, but the aftermath of the bike story had left me a bit cold. And so i shut-up shop on our daily banter and basically went ghost on him for over a month.

Resenting not being thanked sufficiently for something is a strange emotion. But a month of feeling it keenly made me realise that it is fundamentally a waste of energy. Much like those other two strange emotions self-pity and jealousy, they are emotions that shouldn't exist because they are so fundamentally pointless. There i was thinking all that had happened was something monumental, mythic even. But maybe it wasn't. Maybe Wilma didn't really give a shit about the bike. Maybe he had other things on his mind. 

Stumbling through Lao Tzu i saw the short passage:

Fill you bowl to the brim and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt.

Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, and then step back.

The only path to serenity.

This stuff is 2,600 years old. My wrath at not being sufficiently thanked lasted little over a month. And then it subsided. It wasn't that i thought Wilma was in the right about hardly thanking me. It was more about how i chose to react to it. Because sulking doesn't get anyone anywhere. And sulking is the practice of children. Why don't i write about it, i thought. Immortalise it on the page. Pour my scorn into words and let them bubble. Or step back. 

So i did both i suppose.


Do your work, and then step back. 

The only path to serenity.


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  2. this story has made my unusually long day short suddenly, stood at the till at a bikeshop bored enough to look up my instagram name on google images and i see a post thats not mine but i still recognise, i read through and laugh hard enough to stir the interest of my manager who also reads the whole story in a giggle. awesome to know it made it back.


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