Show me an out-in-the-sunshine cyclist who dares to ride in lycra who has not fantasised about winning mountain stages in the Grand Tours, or charging over the line first in the sprint finish on the Champs Elysee. Well, O.K. there must be lots of them. Show me an amateur club cyclist rising along the banks of a windswept velodrome who has not dreamt of glory over 1km.
I can show you a cyclist who whose weight approaches that of his steel – frame tourer and who rides a staggering 3 miles to the station and back 3 mornings a week. I can show you a cyclist who is so anxious about the prospect that he will get a puncture on a ride home from the shops, that he doesn’t take a puncture repair kit with him for fear that he would struggle – and fail – to mend it on the pavement in front of all those passing folk on the high street, bike mechanics every last one …..
These dreams of glory are never far away. The fact that I live half way up the fearsome, iconic Tour de France climb, the Mont Ventoux, helps with that.
Confused, dear reader? If you’re wondering where this is going you would be right. Some of us do achieve great honours, lasting respect and admiration. Some of us do act as an inspiration to others.
I have noticed a contemporary trend that some mental health advocates, researchers and others have of naming famous people (mainly men) who have or had Bi Polar Disorder. Amongst them, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale, Friedrich Nietzsche ….. I would really like to see Beethoven’s medical records, talk to his psychiatrist. Time and time again it is not medical ‘experts’ who are making these post mortem psychiatric judgements, but historians. I’m looking forward to reading Dr Sigmund Freud’s work on the Hundred Years War …..
O.K., now I have got that off my chest, I have to concede that there is a formidable list of folks who have seen a head – shrinker and received a career – enhancing diagnosis. And that just adds to my sorry realisation that the nearest I am going to get to leading the peloton, with the yellow jersey on my shoulders, past the memorial to Tom Simpson on that moonscape mountain on which he died, is crunching the gears on the hill – the hill!!! – upon which I live.
We are not all brilliant. We are not all talented, we are not all full of potential, on the cusp of world – wide recognition. And our dreams of greatness, of messiah – like powers, crumble away with the first thinning of the mists in the Alps, the Pyrenees. And then the rapid descent, our hopes aerodynamic, all the way past the excitable crowds, who know nothing of the wind chilling the sweat on our chests.
I return from my mountain – top finish on the mighty Galabier – and turn in to my street. I free wheel to a stop. I fiddle about with my keys. I open the garage door, and restore my bike to its rightful place among the assortment of cycling odds and ends and random pieces of long – unused furniture. Then I open my front door, enter, and I go and do a wee.
Did I mention that I have won the Nobel Prize in Literature every year since, since, well …. forever?
Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)