January 28 bikes

My dad told me that when he was in the war (the Second World War) he was running away from the Nazis (or was it the Communists?) and with his friends they got hold of some bikes but one of them couldn’t ride a bike and he ran behind them, but he couldn’t keep up and fell behind and eventually he got caught by the Naziz (or the Communists) and killed. He used to tell me that story to convince me how important it was to learn to ride a bike, because I couldn’t ride a bike. Still can’t. Though it did worry me, that story. What if I found myself in that position. I was a good runner, but surely not good enough to outpace the Nazis.

A few years ago I read Gunter Grass’s autobiography where he told a story about what happened to him in the war. He was a young Nazi soldier trapped in a house outside Berlin with some other German soldiers during the taking of Berlin by the Soviets at the end of the war. They found some bikes and after a brief discussion, they decided they would make a break for it on the bikes. But Gunter Grass couldn’t ride a bike (or was it that there weren’t enough of them?), so the captain told him to cover them as they rode off. The young Gunter Grass knew it was tantamount to a death sentence as they left him alone in the house with the Soviet army advancing. But as he watched his compatrots riding off over the brow of the hill he saw them all, everyone of them, shot down dead, picked off by a Soviet sniper. Grass panicked. He ran out of the back door of the house and ran and ran until he found a railway track, which he followed for miles and miles, until, remarkably, he met up with a company of his own army.

This time not riding a bike saved his life. The moral is that being rubbish sometimes works for you.


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