I finished reading Henry Cole’s A Biker’s Life: Misadventures on (and off) Two Wheels last night. I’m not usually one for talking about the books I read, as I get through quite a few of them. But I couldn’t put this one down; I read it in two days. I think that’s because Henry’s book resonated with me on a number of levels. Let me explain…
Fair warning, some of the subjects I’m going to cover in this post will be very personal in nature. I don’t usually talk about my personal life on this blog, but it is a personal blog, so why not?
Now this one is obvious – like Henry, I’m also a keen biker. Unfortunately I don’t have a collection quite as vast as Henry’s, but the love of biking is in my blood nonetheless. I really liked Henry’s writing style throughout the book – he comes across as so genuine with a this is me, like it or lump it kind of tone throughout.
The book isn’t about bikes, per se. It’s more about the feeling of riding a bike and how cathartic that is for Henry. I agree completely – biking is my escape too. This can be rehashed to any hobby one finds cathartic – gardening, running, walking the dog, puzzles. Anything. So even if you have never thrown your leg over a motorbike, this book can still offer a lot.
Henry is a self-proclaimed “junkie”. Although he’s been clean of drink and drugs for over 30 years, he still classes himself as an addict. I knew Henry was an addict before I read the book, and I was expecting it to be covered maybe in a chapter or two, then we move on to the bikes.
Boy was I wrong.
Addiction is a constant vein throughout the entire book. And I love this. To an addict, it’s not a passing phase in your life. It is your life. I’m sure Henry has to deal with those addictive tendencies day in, day out. But he has put them to positive use in both his career, and his love of motorbikes. Inspirational, I think.
The undertone of addiction throughout A Biker’s Life is what really resonated with me. My older brother, Mike, was a heroine addict for many years. He’s clean now, but not by choice. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as lucky as Henry. Mike overdosed on the 26th October 2016 in the toilet of a needle clinic.
A security guard noticed that Mike hadn’t come out of the toilet for quite some time. They broke the door down, and there was Mike. Dead. They managed to resuscitate him, but the hospital estimated his brain had been starved of oxygen for approximately 9 minutes.
This has resulted in Mike having a significant hypoxic brain injury. The doctor told us that any more than a couple of minutes hypoxia to the brain can be catastrophic, so to not hold out much hope considering he had been out for approximately 9 minutes. When he first woke up, after 2 months in coma, he couldn’t even blink.
After spending 6 month in intensive care and another 3 years in various specialist care facilities, Mike can now walk (albeit with a frame), he can take himself to the toilet, he can talk and most importantly, he has his sense of humour back. Mike does still require 24×7 1:1 care though, as he can’t do many of things you and I take for granted. Like getting a shower, or feeding himself.
In a way, I feel like I’ve lost Mike. Our relationship has morphed from a big brother, little brother dynamic; to me, the little brother, becoming his part-time carer. It’s shit. But he’s still here, and I can still have a laugh with him. So it’s not all bad.
This is why Henry’s book resonated with me so much. We still class Mike as being one of the lucky ones, as we could have lost him so easily. But he’s happy in his little bubble, and we’re so grateful for that. Plus, we know he’s safe, he’s fed and he has a warm bed every night. Which is the most important thing in the world.
I want to end this post with another quote from Henry’s book that actually brought a tear to my eye:
Now, obviously I don’t condone how they [addicts] get that cash together. But, at the same time, please don’t tell me that they are a bunch of thick, inconsequential idiots with no drive or ability.
Mike isn’t thick. He isn’t an inconsequential idiot. He’s my brother and I love him, addict or not. Thank you for an incredible book, Henry; you have lived an extraordinary life. It really is A Biker’s Life, hey?
Whether you’re a biker or not, I think a lot of people will get something from A Biker’s Life. It’s a highly recommended read from me.