I'm currently reading an excellent book called The Rider by Tim Krabbe. It's about cycle racing a sport which I have been intrigued about since heading to London a few years back to watch the Tour Prologue. I was led there by my love of simply just being on my bike, but my knowledge serbved only by faded memories of the Tour on Channel 4. This meant I didn't really know what was going on but the full-frontal assault of the publicity caravan with its shower of gallic gifts from Hotel Etap pens to Laughing Cow fridge magnets engulfed me in the atmosphere like a peloton mercilessly swallows a lone rider. The smudges of garish colour burnt onto the pixels of my too-slow camera and indelibly in my mind led me to read about the tragedy of Tom Simpson on the moonlike Mont Ventoux, the struggles of the unsung domestique and the pantomine that has always been the Tour de France. These however, are only background to The Rider. Krabbe, a cycle racer himself, invites you deep inside his mind during a fictitious race. This however, serves as a vehicle for an exploration of the real emotions of the racer. The garish colours are stripped away allowing the obsession, pain and determination to glow with flourescent force.
I know I can never be a cycle racer, I do not possess the masochism or ability to ignore pain that is the stock-in-trade of the rider. But, the emotions feel familiar - they should to all of us. We are all involved in our own cycle race. Sometimes we collaborate, sometimes sitting in anothers draft and sometimes we break out alone. We struggle up mountains and try to hold our nerve as we hurtle down the other side. We stretch our mental and physical abilities with an eye on the finish line. University certainly feels this way to me - essay deadlines being like the crest of mountains.
At the moment I am enjoying a section of the race on the flat where the rhythm is more relaxed. I've just been to an introductory seminar for my second unit this semester. The subject of this, and my other unit, is on changes in the delivery of welfare - particularly the involvement of the private sector and voluntary sector in welfare delivery. A subject I'm particularly interested in and intend to enjoy before I reach the next mountain.
I will also be seeing a lot of my old social-services colleagues tonight. It should be a nice get together as even though promises were made to keep in contact these were, despite good intentions, buried under layers of work and other commitments. I will however, have to try to refrain from getting too carried away in discussing social policy!
The Book is Real
4 weeks ago