A bientôt, mes amis

En vacances

There is a beach –
Long, quiet, silver in the sun –
Where, for a while,
I can be
Complete.
Until
At summer’s end
I leave
To spend three seasons
Living here
Half-heartedly;
Knowing exactly
Where I left
The rest.

 

Holidays are upon us, so gonecycling will be  – well, gone cycling – very shortly. Thank you all so much for your comments, support and encouragement. Looking forward to catching up with you soon.

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Recidivism

Fail

I tried so hard to quit:
Did my utmost to hang ‘em up,
Laboured long to let it go,
And strived to make it
Something-I-used-to-do.
I bent my will
To turn a corner
And after ceaseless struggle
Thought I’d found
A different path
And determined to walk it
Without a glance behind.

But everything about
The bike and all the life
That went with it
Just sounded wrong
When put into the perfect tense.

And so
I’ve slipped back into my old ways;
Willingly submitted
To the hard and fast rules
Of the road.

And I have to say:
Failing
Never felt so good.

Breakaway

Breaking away

Today
This sunny Sunday lane
Is our own private
Tour parcours
Complete with mimicked Phil-and-Paul
To lend us greater speed:

“And now
The leader
In the Best Young Rider competition
Makes the move
On the inside –

The gap’s opening up –

And the champion
Must respond to this:

He’s digging deep

Let’s not forget
He’s the oldest man
In the race,
So you’ve got to ask;
Has he got the legs
To counter the attack
And close it down
Or are we about to see
A new era ushered in?”

Of course
If I chose
I could go
Straight over the top of her;

But, smiling, I permit
Her cheeky breakaway to succeed
And sit on her wheel;
Training for the big attacks
And moves I cannot answer
In the stages still to come,
Knowing that one day I’ll have to watch her
Head up the road alone.

Written after yesterday’s ride with my 10-year-old daughter, who seems to have inherited my competitive streak on the bike…my fault for encouraging her to watch Le Tour, I guess. For those who haven’t been glued to ITV4 or SKY for the past three weeks, ‘Phil-and-Paul’ are the dynamic commentary duo of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, who have been the ‘voices’ of cycling to British fans for over 30 years.

Summery sonnet

The weary gardener sets aside the spade
Now heavy as the August day is long
And seeks a quiet corner in the shade
To breathe the flowers’ fragrance, hear the song
Of busy birds among the shrubs and trees.
The wren trills in the hedge; the thrush replies
With liquid notes, and carried on the breeze
The shriek of black swifts harvesting the skies.
Then all at once a midnight silence falls
Upon the garden. Nature holds its breath.
No pigeon pipes, no finch or blackbird calls,
And summer shivers at the chill of death
As in the whispering ash beyond the gate
The sparrowhawk alights to watch and wait.

Villanelle: Rehearsal

Conducting experiments

It’s better than it was before.
But it must be exactly right.
Please can we try it just once more?

That’s just what I was hoping for,
You strings; you kept your bowing tight.
Far better than it was before.

Flutes: sorry to be such a bore:
Those quavers must be quick and light.
Please can we try it just once more?

Remember, trumpets: really soar
In bar sixteen – be bold and bright.
Still, better than it was before.

You’ll notice if you check the score
A rallentando – very slight.
Please can we try it just once more?

You’ve worked so long and hard, I’m sure
You’ll sound amazing on the night –
Much better than you did before.
Now: can we try it just once more?

A small tribute to our wonderful Community Orchestra conductor; a gracious lady with infinite patience and nerves of steel who gives her professional experience freely to amateurs possessed of far more enthusiasm than skill. She works us hard, sets high standards and encourages us to play music, not simply the right notes in the right order. For two hours a week, there’s no room in my brain for anything except music. And for that, perhaps above all else, I’m incredibly grateful to her.

Hit and run

Dutch courage

Don’t know him –
Never met him. Probably never will.
Just another skinny guy
In shiny shorts and sponsor’s jersey
Getting paid for doing something
The rest of us do for love.

But in a breathless
I-don’t-believe-this instant
The car swerves
Wheels touch
And Johnny’s spinning off the road
Somersaulting into a barbed-wire fence
At forty miles an hour
While a billion stomachs
Take an express elevator down a hundred floors
And all France is swept
By a mistral of gasps and blasphemy.

And suddenly
I’m right there with him,
A brother in the hit-from-behind nightmare
Those of us who ride the road
Must smother daily;
Each of the three-dozen stitches
In his gouged and shredded skin
A tally-mark for a million times
It didn’t happen;
And a knot tied to remind us
That it can.

A truly horrendous – and unforgiveable – crash on yesterday’s stage of Le Tour, from which the Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha and Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland were lucky to escape with their lives:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYPDAry-A-s

I won’t post links to the images of Hoogerland caught up in the barbed-wire fence that have appeared on the web this morning; suffice to say they’re not suitable for those of a nervous disposition. It remains to be seen whether he’ll start on Tuesday (today is the Tour’s first rest day, thank goodness) but if he does, it’ll prove yet again just how tough these riders are; and, on a more troubling level, just how all-important Le Tour has become, and the pain and risks riders are now prepared to accept to stay in it.

Slipping away

The long farewell

She never leaves this room
But long months
She has not been here.

The girls with their practised smiles,
Brisk words and time-is-money hands
Come and go; each routine visit
The first time they’ve ever met.

And after sixty years
He’s a stranger, too;
Well-known enough
Not to be frightening,
But no longer
The man who wrote her
Two hundred letters from the war,
Gave her three babies
And the happy home her giddy girlhood
Dreams were made of;
Filled and healed her heart
A thousand times for every time
He broke it,
And in their souls’ communion
Washed away the evils
Of the world.

Now she is reborn
Each morning;
Entering anew a world she has never seen
Does not understand
And will not know tomorrow.
A slow, sad unremembering
Until she finally forgets even
To breathe.