Swiss Cheese with a Banana Sauce

The snowy Cumbrian mountains stared down at me defying entry, and I thought of the time I had been to Kentmere before. There had been three of us and torrential rain. An easy stroll that should have taken about three hours but ended up taking six. We all got a drenching.

This time I was determined for things to be different. I had come with a mountain bike - speedy access to the tops and back down again in case of trouble. A pink sun bathed the snowy hillsides in early morning light and I knew it would be a good day - the shortest day of the year. The trails were perfect - low temperatures left the ground crunchy and traction was good. Rocks are rare in my North Downs backyard so it was good to feel them pounding through the bike into my computer-operator's arms.

As I dropped into Longsleddale and trawled the map for the bridleway south down the western edge of the valley I noticed a sagging feeling in the back of the bike. Puncture! Thorns weren't something I expected to find in the Lake District rockfest so I was shocked as the air escaped. Luckily the Cyclist's Best Friend had stowed away in my pack and ten minutes later I was back on the grind with a brand new tube.

But that day the mountains were in control. The front flatted as I washed through a frozen puddle. A patch was needed and as the glue dried I crammed a pork and mango chutney sarnie into my mouth catching up on calories. But when moved off the back tyre had gone down. That familiar feeling of something out there being against me threatened to take over, but I pushed it aside and searched for the thorn. There it was - sticking through a block in the tread, its wicked grin spurring a warm anger.

Now this is where it all started to go wrong, because instead of snapping off the point I should have dug it out with the old Swiss Army knife. But it was a bit cold for fiddling around so I just patched the tube and got ready to go. But oh no, the front had gone down. A look to the heavens and high snow covered peaks brought no response, so I got on with the job and mended the tube again.

But now that I was really cold and well down the road to being cheesed off it would have been too good to get going. Of course. I had another puncture. The un-dug-out thorn was languishing in the warmth of my rear tyre, while I stood around pumping air into a Swiss cheese. "Right, that's it," I told myself. "Any more blowouts and I'm walking back to the car and calling it a day." My prayers were quickly answered and I was soon on my way.

But if you think that just because I'd expressed some kind of sentiment to the gods above that they were going to have mercy on me, think again. Blowout number five happened on the least-thorny piece of ground I've ever seen. There was nothing sharp there to cause it either, or hard. It was all squashy moorland. My resident thorn was having one for the road, and final it would be. I rested up behind a rock out of the wind, and devised the Masterplan. I needed something thick to place next to the tyre to protect the tube from my little spiky friend. It was too cold to remove any items of clothing, and I didn't have any thick tape or five pound notes on me which would have done the trick. Doomed.

But wait. Surely a banana skin would provide adequate insurance against another flat. Thick, spreadable and easy to come by in the middle of the Cumbrian hills. I checked my pack for said bendy yellow monkey food. Bullseye! I scoffed the contents of the yellowed prophylactic and inserted the skin twixt tyre and tube, pumped away and held my breath. Still holding. Still holding. The tyre stayed firm.

Ashley Green