Le Grimpeur

….is French for ‘the climber’.  It is how elite racing cyclists are described who conquer the fearsome mountain stages of bike races in the great European Tours.

I also fancy myself as something of a ‘grimpeur’, too, living nearly half a mile up a…hill.  It’s not quite the Pyrenees, but you get my drift.

In an early edition of this blog I wrote about the famous Luxembourger Charly Gaul who won the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour de France twice – oh, and the yellow jersey of the overall winner, too.   You can read that edition by clicking on this link: https://puncturerepairkit.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=27&action=edit

When I first entered the interminable drizzle – damp miles of the pedal – grinding world of depression back in the Spring of 2001, I found a free  CD among the pages of my newspaper (I was barely up to looking at the photos, let alone reading anything).  It was a CD with a handful of taster tracks to promote the album of a singer I had never heard of. (The singer’s name was Neil Finn, the album was called One Nil)

I put into the CD player and pressed ‘play’.  I was way beyond actually listening to any lyrics in those days.  The music, the yearning, the hope and despair flooded my sodden mind.

Little did I realise it back then, but he was singing for me.

How long was it before I actually heard his words?  Listening to someone in mental distress is a key part of aiding their recovery, as slow and lugubrious as that may be.  I certainly wasn’t listening to much of anything back then.  I do recall my psychiatrist nodding approvingly as I told him how I was sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping all day, every day.  He smiled, and told me that was what I needed to be doing.

In September that year the climb back to my better self began.  My children’s class teacher asked me to come on a class trip to a local Stately Home.  I was to dress as a Victorian gent. I spent three weeks – I did precious little else – growing a pair of impressive, thick sideburns to enhance the look.  The following week I started volunteering listening (yes, I had begun to get my ears back) to children practice their reading one hour per week.  And that was the most activity I could manage in those days.  I continued to volunteer there for the next three years.  During that time, I gave up my job, was on the aptly named Incapacity Benefit for 3 years, and slowly, but surely turned the pedals, crunched through the gears until I was in sight of the summit.

I’m in the foothills of the mountains again.

The Climber 

Beside me now are strangers to my eyes

They might be getting crazy might be wise

Were stranded either way

In such a lonely place

 I’m looking out for you

Among the flies that wait in line for days on end

And nights so cold and always so intense

I try to reach the top most every day

In hope I turn my face up to the sky

The cover hangs so low I see no sign of life

Nothing springs to mind

Among the flies that wait in line

For days on end and nights so cold

It’s always so intense

And here we are

 Theres a smile between us and its going on

You and me have always gotten through

 Anyone can tell you that its true

You feel it every time you drive away from home

The headlights hypnotize and they take you off towards the sea

Into the night you run away with thoughts you cannot hide

 Vacant eyes can’t describe my hunger

For your billowing arms….

 Neil Finn (1958 -)

You can watch a video of this song  – just search YouTube for ‘Neil Finn The Climber’.

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