The Enterdent: odd name for a tiny narrow lane near Godstone, Surrey, that links Tilburstow Hill to ChurchTown, a few ancient houses grouped round St Nicholas Church. It’s not long, but fairly steep and the the surface isn’t great. It’s a bit of a teeth rattler as you fly down, hoping there isn’t a vehicle coming up the other way.
Or a squirrel that’s decided to cross the lane just at the moment you approach.
I think squirrels must be one of the most indecisive creatures I’ve ever come across. I glimpsed this one halfway down. I was going too fast to brake sharply without sending myself over the bars. So I tried to guess where it might go, and shift my body weight accordingly, to give it the space and time it needed. We seemed to look into each other’s eyes. Its whole body was twitching forward and back, poised to leap straight across. But I was prepared. It darted out.
I had moved the bike ever so slightly to the left which gave it that extra second to complete its manoeuvre straight across, without us making contact. Then it turned, shifted the angle of its body and headed back across the road. This I hadn’t been prepared for.
Remember, the time it takes to read this translates to maybe two or three seconds at the most in real time. “Bloody hell, squirrel!” The words in my head actually made it out this time. This time I was not in control. I waited for the thud and crunch that must surely come as fur and flesh were either crushed by, or tangled in, my front wheel. And my crash to the ground, destined to follow. A last glimpse of the squirrel as it seemed to take a tiny leap into the spokes of my front wheel. It was like a slow mo clip from an action movie. I closed my eyes.
Nothing happened. My wheels kept turning. I was vaguely aware of the little grey creature nervously skittering around, safely back on the other side of the road. Then I had to refocus back to descending and negotiating the potholed lane.
I couldn’t work out why I hadn’t squished it. The only possible explanation was that, as I closed my eyes, a split second had passed and in that tiny spit of time, the front wheel had rolled forward a fraction, the squirrel had spotted the gap between front wheel and back wheel, under the bottom bracket, gone for it and been quick and small enough to fit through just in front the rear wheel.
Maybe it wasn’t merely an indecisive rodent. Maybe it was a little thrill seeker, and did it just to see if it could.