2wheels: The Return
Edward Genochio's bicycle expedition from China to England
September 2005 - November 2006
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Horseman Stole My Bicycle!
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Mongolian Horseman Stole My Bicycle
The Sun Says....
That chap on the right is me. The fellow on the
prancing horse on the left is, errr, Genghis Khan.Naturally. You can't send
a Mongolia story to press without slipping him in somewhere.
Thus announced the Sun, never one to pass up on a good headline - and, in truth, I couldn't have put it better myself.
I mean, a Mongolian horseman did steal my bicycle, and I think the headline writer encapsulated the facts of the case very neatly.
If, shall we say, a man by the of Freddie Starr were to eat my hamster, it would be hard to fault the newspaper who ran a screaming front page along the lines of "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster". Not that that would ever happen, of course - I use it simply as an illustrative example.
On the other hand, had a befuddled sub-editor come up with "Mongolian Horseman Ate My Hamster", or "Freddie Starr Stole My Bicycle", or other such misleading nonsense, there would have been grounds for legitimate complaint.
In the headline wars, it was in the end a straight head-to-head between that doughty pair of British red-tops, the Sun and the Mirror. The Sun, true to its high-brow aspirations (errr, shurely shome mishtake?), stuck, as described above, to a basically factual account, unadorned by verbal gymnastics.
The Mirror took a different approach.
"Mongolia", thought some old lag on the news desk, sounds a bit like the noise you might make if you accidentally stepped into a bath full of boiling hot rattlesnakes - especially if you ignore the first three syllables and drag the last one out a bit. (I'm talking about the syllables in "Mongolia" here, not "rattlesnake")
What's more, he (or it may have been she) was not slow to spot that the noise made by one stepping accidentally into a bath full of boiling hot rattlesnakes might, at least to some extent, be similar to the noise made by one having his bike stolen in the middle of the night.
From there to a classic headline was child's-play:
dodgy bloke on an orse... This one captioned, helpfully, "horserider".
I give it to the Mirror on points - it was the two-tone white/red headline that swung it for me.
At this point (or, quite conceivably, at some earlier point) you may be asking: what the hell are you going on about?
What? You mean you missed the biggest story to come out of Mongolia in 2004?? This one knocked the one about the marmot who learned to speak Japanese right off the front pages. What were you doing in August last year then?
OK, so you were on holiday in France were you? That's no excuse. The Mongolia Bike-Theft Drama was all over page 9 (foreign news) of Nice Matin. (No, that's not a singularly easy-going church service for early-risers, it's the leading news daily in the French city of Nice.) I know because my good friend Sylvie saw it. And she's married to the French ambassador to Mongolia, so she wouldn't just be making it up.
What actually happened was that - oh, just read the Sun headline, will you?
You want it in plainer language? OK. This bloke, right, some Mongolian geezer, he come up to me and basically right what he done is that he nicked my bike, just like that, right under my nose. It was a bit of cheek I'll tell you that. I mean I ask you. Though it is usually lip that you find right under the nose.
You want to know how I felt about it?
Well, let me tell you. I was furious. "Mongoliaaargh!" I shouted at him, as he made off into the night.
Just like that. I mean, I thought, if anything's going to stop him in his bike-thievin' tracks, that will. Your Mongolian doesn't like having someone shout "Mongoliaargh!" at him in the middle of the night. It puts him off his mutton.
But this particulaaargh Mongolian was made of sterner stuff. He ignored me completely. Just kept on riding his 'orse, dragging my bike and half my tent behind him.
So I yelled out, "What are you going to do with half a tent and a bicycle, you stupid big fat hairy Mongolian horseman? Eh? You dig your heels into the flanks of that bike, it's not going to go any faster for you you know! Stick to riding horses, you greasy bow-legged reeking-of-butter scion of Genghis Khan!"
"Just give me my bloody bike back!"
And then I burst into tears.
The whole thing later turned into a bit of a diplomatic incident, because, as I say, this was the biggest (and quite possibly the only) story to come out of Mongolia that made it into the British press that year. Never mind forest fires sweeping across the country, a Mongolian athelte winning a bronze medal in judo at the Olympic games in Athens, or the fact that there were Mongolian troops serving as part of the "coalition of the willing" (aka coalition of those who grudgingly sent over a token squad of soldiers in return a hatful of American aid dollars) in Iraq (did you know that? There were Mongolian soldiers in Iraq!), the British press knows its priorities.
So to cut a short story long, I started getting emails from irate Mongolians, saying things along the lines of "You stupid big fat hairy English cyclist! Now no-one will want to come and visit Mongolia. They will think we are all a bunch of bike-thieving horsemen. You have single-handedly destroyed our tourism industry!"
To which I could only reply that, whatever else you may say, the facts of the case remain indisputably that some stupid big fat hairy bloke did single-handedly (or, with the aid of a horse, quadruple-hoofedly) steal my bicycle, and I was pretty much willing to bet the remaining half of my tent that it wasn't a stray Israeli backpacker wot dunnit. To accuse me of damaging Mongolia's international reputation does rather blur the distinction between victim and perpetrator, I feel.
But, in the interests of international harmony and the Mongolian tourism industry, I would like to point out here, in public, that nearly all the Mongolians I met were extremely nice people, and not a single one of them so much as tried to steal my bicycle, apart from the one who did.
OK, I've spared you the blow-by-blow account. If you buy a copy of the book which I'm working on at the moment, you'll get a chance to live out the drama yourself in slow-motion real time. If you don't buy the book, you'll just have to use use your imagination.
Nice spot, shame about the bike thief...
Here is where the dastardly deed was done.
This happened during the original 2wheels expedition.
Another account of the same episode can be found here.
Mongolia is a very poor country. There are many homeless and orphaned children, especially in Ulan Bator. The Lotus Children's Centre does excellent work and needs your support.
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|Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005 Edward Genochio
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