I never wanted a bike.
In fact, at the age of six, I already had a train set and the number one present on my Christmas list was more train, and perhaps something with bosoms.
Instead, I got a bike.
A small, red bike.
I cried. And parents, being what they are, interpreted my wails of "I don't want a bike!" as tears of joy.
I didn't want a bike. For a start, I didn't know how to ride one. My cunning plan from the year before of kidnapping large-breasted bikini-clad blondes and keep them tied up behind the bins was entirely conceived for one small boy on a tricycle. There was absolutely no way this plan was going to succeed on two wheels - with or without stabilisers.
Christmas morning was spent, then, trying, and generally failing in my attempts to learn to ride a bicycle.
The first time I got on, I pedalled like crazy and blazed along like a bat out of Hell. In a blind panic, I found myself at the other end of the street, mounting the kerb and falling flat on my face on a front lawn owned by two elderly lesbians, who glowered at me with man-hating distain through the blinds before returning to their festive tuppence-licking.
After a couple of hours fruitless thrashing about in which I managed to stay upright for about three seconds, I retired in disgust to the living room, where I watched my brother and sister cruising up and down the road on their brand new bikes.
A couple of hours later, after stuffing my face with Christmas dinner, half a bowl of nuts, cheesecake - frankly, my late mother made the best cheesecake in the world and I will fight any man that says otherwise - and an entire Cadbury's chocolate assortment, I was ready to face The Bike O' Doom all over again.
Belching slightly with the effort, I mounted my red steed, pushed off, and wobbled down the road. Easy.
After a short while, I was confident enough to ride around completely unaided, and even remembered to use the brakes nine times out of ten. Luckily, on the tenth occasion, a neighbour's car was there to halt me.
Now officially a cyclist, I felt brave enough to take the next step. All the other kids who sported brand-new Christmas bikes were already at the top of the hill and throwing themselves at enormous speed down our otherwise quiet little cul-de-sac.
I would, I decided, have a go myself.
I puffed my way to the top and looked back down the Crescent. It looked as steep as Hell and I was terrified. (In fact, I went back the last year on a Mirth and Woe-related fact-finding mission. It's hardly a hill at all, more a gentle slope. But to a six-year-old, it must have been massive)
No going back. I pushed off from the top of the hill, and whizzed down the road. With more luck than judgment, I negotiated the bend at the bottom, and pedalled like fury for the dead end at the far end of our crescent.
And, in the words of the well-known song:
"Now here comes the crucial bitI would have pulled on the brakes and brought myself to a smooth halt outside my house, but I ...err... forgot. I also completely forgot to stop pedalling. These are two straightforward acts that might seem entirely logical to you, but back then, Christmas Day 1972, my first time on two wheels, I was struck stupid by the sheer speed at which things were happening. Events would be left to run their course to their terrifying conclusion.
For there was no way of stopping it"
And the conclusion would be this: woe.
I roared past Casa Lesbos, past The Mad Orange Woman's house, past our front door, and gulped in terror as I sped towards the dead end, a driveway, and - looming before me - number 30.
The front door of number 30 swung open to reveal a man carrying out a rubbish bag filled - presumably - with Christmas wrapping paper.
"MWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!" I screamed, as I headed straight towards him, and things went rapidly downhill (as it were) from there.
If I was terrified, and so was he. Spying a six-year-old tearaway on a bike bearing down on him, he flung his rubbish to the ground and fled for his life.
About a quarter of a second later, I rammed into the lovely, soft sackful of scrunched-up paper, and, as is usual in cases like this, Newton's Laws took hold.
I flew over the handlebars, and landed crumpled in a heap halfway up their hallway.
"Ouch," I said.
Actually, it came out like this:
And, eventually and somewhat inevitably:
Luckily, I had already been turfed - somewhat uncharitably, given that this was the time of year to love-your-neighbour - out of their house and into the street, where rivers of rich, brown, tasty-gorgeous cheesecake-flavoured vomit could do far less damage.
Except, perhaps to the front wing of his 1969 Ford Cortina.
These days, the only connection I have with cycling is my entirely harmless saddle-sniffing hobby, but I still look back on that bike with more than a little fondness. I had some of my finest bone-jarring, head-cracking moments of woe on it; and it was my mode of escape from many, many acts of firey carnage.
It was a sad, sad day that I outgrew it, but come another Christmas Day, something large and yellow lurked next to the tree: A badly jaundiced Santa - with a new bike!
Need more woe? Rikaitch has it