American dream

Delighted to announce that my little book goes on sale at amazon.com today – I’ve always dreamed of visiting the US, and still hope to some day, but at least now my words have made it over there, and that’s exciting enough! N.

Advertisements

Bolt from the blue

IMG_9496[1] IMG_9498[1]

Suddenly, a new power rises,
Liberating, tapping into
Unseen fundamental forces,
Bringing aid and hope of rescue.

Unexpected, out of nowhere,
One small spark. A new connection
Made, potential to kinetic,
Answers all my burning questions.

Surging, urging onwards, upwards
Higher, faster, far beyond my
Obstacles and limitations,
All the pain discharged, forgotten.

I will seize and ride the lightning
Take control then be conducted;
Follow where this current draws me
Remade and regenerated.

 

Behold the Volt Connect – the solution to my wrecked knees, made possible by a wonderful early birthday gift from my folks. It’s an e-bike, with an electric motor that gives me a choice of three levels of boost up the hills, but cuts out at 15.5mph (which in practice means on the flat and downhill). On the ‘High’ boost setting, climbing is virtually effortless, and takes all the strain off my joints. On ‘Eco’ mode, the battery is good for 70 miles or so, which is plenty for me! It’s very early days, but I’m a complete convert, and I think it’s going to be genuinely life-altering. Will keep you posted. N.

(BTW, the metre is trochaic tetrameter, best (or at least most famously) employed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in ‘The Song of Hiawatha’. I like it for its sense of relentless, forward energy, which seemed to go well with the subject!)

End of an era

Guv 2

And so we reach
The end of our long road;

We saw the moment coming
Like rain over the sea

And for a while
We dodged and weaved

Found secret shortcuts
And pretended we could win.

But there were things
We never could outrun

Thought swift and strong
This race was never ours:

I will give best
To ruined bones and time

And let you go
For good.

 

I’ve had to let The Guv’nor go. My osteoarthritis has been giving me hell this summer, and riding this bike, with its hefty weight and only three gears, was doing me more harm than good. Given the state of my knees, it was probably a mistake to buy him, to be honest (perhaps I should have titled this End of an Error?) but we had some fantastic times together, and I have no regrets. I’m pleased to say His Nibs has found a truly excellent new home, but it’s still a wrench. Part of me has gone with him. N.

Hero

I don’t hold with heroes.
Too many times
I’ve seen my dreams defiled
And danced into the dust
By careless feet of clay;
Watched conquered summits crumble
Immortal deeds effaced
Glimpsed wicked eyes and sneering mouths
Behind the smiling masks
And spied the crack that runs right through
The highest pedestal.

But if I were to pick
A model for myself
It’s the guy who’s always out there
Grinding down the miles
And the gnawing teeth of Time
Riding fearlessly
(And gearlessly)
Into his eighth decade:
A life’s work scored deep in his limbs
A faithful record of each season
Etched sharply in his face.

Resisting all beguilement,
Easy wins and level roads;
Undaunted by the weather
Wearing wisdom lightly
Committed to the labour
Unknown, unsung and unremarked.
A quiet courage, steel-cored
That bends but never breaks.
And when the rest have quit the field
Looks round and smiles, renews his grip
And onward.

 
 

Inspired by a fellow I met on the road yesterday. He was riding a fixie – a bike with just one gear and no freewheel mechanism, which means you have to keep pedalling the whole time, even going downhill – and I had a job keeping up with him. Apparently, he puts in over 2,500 miles a year on it, plus another 5,000 on his geared machines. And he’s 76. I want to be him one day (but not quite yet!) N.

Paris

All I know of you

Is endless steps and winding stairs
Broad boulevards and sweeping squares
Your swirling traffic, streams of lights
Your blazing days and balmy nights
Your great cathedrals, famous shops
Your bicycles and Métro stops
Montmartre, St-Germain-des-Prés
La Place d’Étoile, Champs-Elysées
Love locked to lampposts by the Seine
The moon above La Madeleine
Bastille, Abbesses and St Lazare
La Gare du Nord and Eurostar.
Your Rivoli and Rue Royale
Your Clichy, Moulin Rouge, Pigalle.
Your buskers, beggars, hustlers, touts
Your desperate drunks, your down-and-outs.
Your wounds that run so deep, still raw;
The guards and guns at every door.
A glance, a smile, a brush of hands
Then gone. Who better understands
This coup de foudre; who but you
Could strike so swiftly, win and woo
At once? I’m not the first to fall.
One taste. And now I want it all.

 
 

Just returned from a two-night break in Paris for our daughter’s 16th birthday treat. I’ve been to the city a few times since my first visit, aged 12, on a school trip, but only ever for a day at a time; this was my first chance to get to know it just a little better. And what a mesmerising, horrifying, glorious, impossible and utterly magical place it is. I couldn’t live there – it would drive me crazy inside a week – but I love it, and can’t wait to go back. The rhyme and metre is inspired by the techno classic Tour de France by Kraftwerk. N.

Glory days

To think that once
We’d gather while the saner world
With its small ways
And dull, diminished dreams
Slept on

And roll out

Knowing we’d be gone
Till those same silent streets
Smouldered gold in a hickory reek
And weary shadows yawned and stretched
Into encroaching dusk;

Returning

Cheeks and bellies hollowed out,
Legs freighted with a double metric tonne
Of England’s lanes and hills;

Unconscious of our glory
Complacent in our strength
And never yet supposing

That our one day’s ride
Would turn in time
Into a weekend’s work;

That knees and hips would find their voice
And raise a chorus of complaint
With backs and shoulders

And all our talk
Would be of what had been.

A different road
Through distant days.

 
 

When I was 15, Bruce Springsteen’s anthem Glory Days was just a great song. It still is, of course; but 30-some years on, I feel as though I’m in it. My friend Mike wasn’t (as far as I know) ‘a big baseball player’ but he was a fine bike-rider, and a great companion on the road. Looking back, I can’t quite believe we put in some of the miles and days we did. Couldn’t do it now, but wouldn’t have missed it for the world. N.

Baggage

These bags
I’ve packed
Beneath my eyes
Are just my carry-on;

My real freight
Is checked and stowed:
The baggage that I do not need
But cannot seem to live without;

A steamer-trunk of wasted years
A rain-stained tote of lost ideas
A locked briefcase of secret schemes
A Samsonite of fragile dreams.

It’s unimportant where I go
How frequently or far I fly,
How carelessly I label them
Or hope they tumble from the sky:

Each day I’m at the carousel
To find that every single piece
Has made it with me, safe and well.
A reclaim that brings no release.