….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.
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’.