I was cycling east along the A259, the Sussex coast road, when I saw a sign I hadn’t noticed before: You Are Not Alone. It sits on the cliff, looking west at the traffic and out towards Beachy Head.
I never had much of a head for heights, although I must admit the cliff edge does have a somewhat magnetic pull to it, the seducing power of gravity beckoning me forward.
It’s not unusual in bike racing for a rider to break away from the pack and go it alone for almost the entire race. In a stage race like the Tour de France, this might mean 100 kilometres out in front with no one’s slipstream to benefit from, or friendly banter to pass the time. Inevitably the chasing pack catch such a rider with a few kilometres to go, and he slips back into the peleton, free-wheeling across the line with everyone else – just a another day at the office.
Apart from charity bike rides in the summer, I am not a natural member of the peleton, preferring to turn the pedals alone, across the cobblestones of my mind. Isolation, the feeling among depressives of standing alone behind a glass screen, is one of the defining features of what Psychiatrists like to call this ‘mood disorder’.
Depression Alliance is a U.K. charity which runs support groups and information about depression. When I was first diagnosed I used to make a 100 mile round trip (by train) to one such group in Westminster. Since June I have been a regular at my local group on a Wednesday night. Whoever attends, some just for one session, others are regular fixtures, we all come because it reinforces the fact that – however we may feel at times every day and every night – we are not alone.
Stage races, especially now that they are team events, with mini competitions like sprints, and King of the Mountains, within the main race, are not lonely places. As part of a team, either as a team leader, or lowly domestique, cooperation and communication are key. Cyclists even have to cooperate with rivals. riding in the peleton, one faulty pedal stroke, or wobble, and a cyclist can bring those around him crashing onto the tarmac at speeds of 30kph, and more.
I have been asked to include some of my own poetry in this blog.
Pam Ayres I ain’t. You have been warned.
I wrote this poem in 1983. The previous week I had gone to London with friends. We had visited a friend of one of our group. A week later this young woman, ( like us, in her late teens), slit her wrists in the bath.
I found out by accident.
I pictured you in his smiling face:
Lean cheeks, evasive eyes, ragged, unbrushed hair,
Sitting over mugs of coffee
In the kitchen, your basement flat.
The picture calendar hanging loose,
The silver kettle on the stove,
The chipped cups and dirty knives,
Last week’s paper lying on the side.
Pick up the phone.
ph: 08457 90 90 90
ph. 0845 123 23 20