Tuesday, 4 August 2009

In which I discover my head is too big.....

Physically, of course. Ever since I was knee-high to a pedal I have cycled, albeit in patches. Not long distances. Not like a proper cyclist with proper cycling outfit. Not even cycle clips. Not setting out with a route planned on a map as I once dreamed of doing in my early teens, all gleaming thigh, handsome jaw and plastic drink bottle. My cycling is just getting on the bike and doing fairly small circles. I am, after all, a busy man and don't have time to be doing big circles, unless, that is, a magazine or publisher is paying me to do so.

Besides, the thigh is no longer gleaming, nor are the lungs or heart in any kind of long-distance shape. But then they never were. I was, in my youth, rather fast on the flat. I ran a good 100 yards, even for Middlesex schools on one occasion. I could fly reasonably fast down the straight. So I was played on the wing in football, and, a few times, on the rugby field too. I was - still am - of fairly broad chest and good drive. Nothing above 440 yards though. A series of 100 yard sprints was fine, but not the long jog, nor the long pedal.

Out of this I developed my theory of why I was a poet rather than a novelist or scholar. Poetry was a series of sprints, and even my longer poems, the sequences, were essentially sprints. I composed, and still do compose, in sprints, headlong, light on the feet, driving forwards over the relatively dark terrain of language and feeling. I am productive by sprints because I have stamina - sprint stamina. I prefer running up stairs two at a time practically on my toes. I dance light. My hair and nails grow fast. Everything is metabolically calibrated to high-energy intensity: think fast, feel fast. When I hand write I tend to begin my second word before I have finished my first.

The thing is I haven't done much cycling in the last year or so. Too much the busy desk-bound man. But I have to do some exercise, so a regime of cycling and table tennis might be the best I can manage.

Which takes me to the issue of the big head. It doesn't look that big until I try buying a hat. Somehow the circumference is always too wide or the wrong shape, a freak of nature. Last time I was teaching at Oxford someone was telling me she cycled an hour to work each day. She also told me that a friend had had a cycling accident and was now brain-damaged as a result. She beseeched me to buy a cycling helmet. I smiled and broke the sink that evening when my glass slipped from my hand.

Today, at last, C and I went to buy cycling helmets. C has a fairly large head too it seems, but she soon found one that fitted. But nothing, not a single helmet in the shop, fitted me. I felt faintly monstrous. Faintly Boris Karloff. I asked the boy serving to order me a bigger one from the supplier then left and carried on the cycle ride in my usual unhelmeted fashion. The air was lovely, a light warm southerly breeze, under the railway bridge, over the highway bridge, out past fields full of poppies, a weasel darting in front. It was as if the First World War had never happened. But then that is Norfolk for you.


Will said...

re the headgear

maybe you just have a big brain


George S said...

I'm definitely not going to Mexico.

Will said...

No good for cycling Mexico.

I just made that up.

I have no idea whether it is or not good for cycling.

Blog comments allow for that sort of thing.

Desmond Swords said...

In the second year of third level, i'd been off the fags for 12 months and the ale for 2 years. Fit as a fiddle, daily in the gym, cycling everywhere and going places.

I stumbled across a great site, Trento Bike Pages, a user generated content site, with all kinds of writings; the most interesting of which I thought on coming across it; the cycle tour diaries.

The one that got me reading, was of a man who rode from Roscoff to Santiago de Compostela. On reading:

"...a day to day account of my 2000 mile lone cycle ride undertaken in July and August 2000. Most of my friends thought I was mad to try it at the age of 56 especially since I had never cycled much further than the local pub before. Had done no training, and my fifteen year old MBK mountain bike and heavy tent and things were hardly high tech."

...I had to read more. The rest of it is here at his Tour Diary pages, and you access the sections of his travel via the links on the left which lead to his write-up and the photies of that particular bit of the drag.

I was busy making plans to go (funnily enough) to Hungary. Fly to Graz for 15 quid and hot foot to the cheaper parts of Europe (at least then in 2002). But it didn't happen because a pal who was rewarding himself with what was - ostensibly - two weeks walking in the Pico de Europa mountain range in N Spain, for finally drummming up the go to leave his missus, - again (this time it was for good though: the walking tour was an act of proof, he said) and against my better judgement I opted in.

I won't bore you with the details of how this trip went from health trip for a man 12 months not smoking, to a Costa piss up and back on 30 a day; although I did get two poems out of it.

Like George, I am a surf and see: write, write, write when it comes and hope the light/s come on; stay on and lead us firther in to the intellectual core of our spiritual portion hidden away up in space with God - is it? - who doesn't exists - of course - for the less childlike of our dreamy tribe of big kids pretending we're all grown up and understanding what planetary rhythms of people in bardcraft, lead a poet searching for tropes; to know if s/he'll rock or fold in silence, driving as an epithet lofty in a life-pan, filled with sung event. Balanced on our back by sorrow and joy; ineluctable mimesis, poetical process, of time, trial, hope: unaired drafts of Sophia's wisdom and eventually, come to know if the gig's real.

Billy C said...

Thank you for starting my morning off with a big grin, George. I ended reading this with a tummy chuckle. It was the 'Boris Karloff' bit that caused it :)

Paul Saxton said...

I sympathise and empathise with the head thing George. Me too.

And with your short sprint theory - in writing, in my advertising day job and in exercise.

And with the living in Norfolk....