[Dialogue between two Leiden international students – sometime around early December]
Student A (probably Finnish): “Who’s that guy who cycled into a canal recently?”
Student B (probably German): “Nah, he never cycled into the canal he just parked his bike next to it”
A: “And what? It just fell in all by itself?”
B: “Apparently so. I think Saleem was his name…”
Yes I confess! It was I. Most canals in Leiden are protected by a metal fence type structure to stop (I imagine) things falling in. But NOT all of the Rapenburg! “Why oh why” I lamented for ages was I casual enough to think it would be fine to park my bike next to a section of canal with no fence I shall never understand. But I did. So what happened next I hear you ask? Well…
Some canals are too deep to touch the bottom of with your feet (a hypothesis tested by an american student I know), and this is what I suspected of the Rapenburg. However as I returned to the scene of the crime after sunset, fortuitously my bike light had turned itself on, and visible just below the surface – probably mere centimetres – was my now submarine-like bicycle.
I put on my quick-thinking hat, and the only feasible solution I could come up with was to call Ben, my 6’9″ scottish lab partner from Glasgow, and hand him a lamp stand metal pole which I had taken from my room. Using his super long reach, and with me holding onto his legs (maybe that’s a slight embellishment), he was able to fish my bike from the Rapenburg and restore it to its former glory. Along with of course two whole pannier bags full of water.
My relief was imminent. Without my bike I would have been relegated to walking around Leiden. Which although do-able, with my busy schedule, would have been a severe inconvenience. Phew. Lesson learned! Thou shalt not park thy bike next to an open canal!