My Fifty Seventh Week as a Budding Author
Anyone with the slightest interest in reading should stop at this sentence and run off the the library for a good nose into H.G Wells “The Time Machine”. It’s a much better read than this blog, arguably one of the first science fiction books ever written. If you haven’t read it already and are determined to stick with me instead then I will summarise the plot. A bloke invents a time travel contraption, goes forward in time, has a ding dong with some Morlocks, comes back, gobs off about it to his mates then disappears.
As far as I can remember he only nips forward in time. I don’t think he used his machine to go backwards which in my view is a huge mistake. Going forwards simply provides a voyeuristic journey of the cock-ups you are going to make. Going backwards is far more useful as you can then correct the cock-ups based on hindsight and hence never make them in the first place. Now I am sure some smart arse will mention the Butterfly Effect. Put simply, if you go back in time and tread on a butterfly then the repercussions across history can be immense.
But who cares! I’d suffer a fourth term of Margaret Thatcher if it enabled me to go back and not say something dreadful that I said to one of my neighbours in the early seventies. It still haunts me today and I’d love to give that little lad a good smack in the chops and send him on his way before he had a chance to offend. Then I’d move onto some of the clothes, haircuts, female based opportunities that weren’t taken and some that were. Finally I’d buy a few shares in Facebook and life today would be peachy.
This chain of thought is not as random as you may think. It is driven by the practical experience of completing the writing of the book. Simplistically my workflow goes along the lines of; do some cycling, take notes and photos in some form, coerce them into a few meaningful sentences, edit and review for accuracy then lay it all out into the book. I am now in the final stags of “meaningful sentences” and it is here that I sit willing H.G Wells to pay me a visit and deliver the much needed time machine.
Some of my ride notes are dreadful. They were shouted into a dictafone, often breathlessly at the top of the hill and with scant regard for the bloke who would end up editing them into a rich and meaningful book.This week I was putting the finishing touches to a chapter concerning Yorkshire, this included a particularly spectacular climb that’s almost iconic in cycling circles. I could just about remember riding it and was convinced that in my notes there would be sufficient material to support the construction of some perfect two wheeled prose that would leave the reader enraptured.
“Difficult climb leading to moorland”
That was all I had down. The urge to nip back a few months and give the idiot on a bike with a dictafone a right leathering was irresistible. How on earth am I supposed to work with that? The whole chapter hinged around this climb and the rider’s quest to accomplish it and I’d only managed to provide a single adjective “difficult”. “Difficult”, here’s a really interesting fact. Shakespeare only used “difficult” once in his entire works. That’s how crap it is as an adjective. The “fluffy wank” quotient of “difficult” on a scale of 0-10 is about 2 which equates to “for use in local authority guidance material or drain clearing instructions”. Interestingly Shakespeare uses “quo” more times than “difficult” if only he’d have heard the relentless three chord madrigals that were to come. He’d have got in three time machine, travelled forward and handed out a swift long haired guitarist cull.
“But it’s OK”, argues the past-tense Dave, “at least we have the reference to moorland”.
Well actually Dave, it isn’t OK. Yorkshire is one bloody great lump of moorland. There’s more moorland than anything else in Yorkshire where the stock response to “Where is X?” is “They’re up on t’moor” (where the dogs play football).
So as you can see, it’s not all roses in the Barter writing shed at the moment. I’m having to fill in a few documentary gaps by staring long and hard at maps and trying to place myself back in the scene. Then I recreate the ride using google street view which has proved to be a lifesaver on this project. Using street view I can carry out the ride from the safety of my shed gaining a 360 degree view of the road and landscapes around. It begs the question as to why did I even bother doing the rides at all? I could have plotted them on a computer screen and ridden them from the comfort of my office chair.
Adjectives are causing me pain in other ways as well. There’s forty chapters in the book which require their own unique flavour in order to prevent repetition. Given that each discusses cycling in some form many adjectives are required as there are lots of bits of Britain that need describing. I’ve used up the entire supply from the Oxford English dictionary and have now had to resort to inventing my own.
I’m proud to introduce the first use of “wibblemaker” to describe a climb, “wibble” being the only utterance you a capable of having ascended it. Then we have “smold”, a shortening of “same old” to be used when the landscape has not varied for a while. Also a big round of applause for “phlatch” please. This is a conglomeration of “phlegm” and “patch” used to describe the mark left on black lycra when bicycle based nose clearance has unfortunately been misdirected onto the rider instead. And, yes, I know it is a noun.
It’s not just been words words words this week. I’ve also been on my travels. As you may realise the calendar clicked over about a month ago and the year is now 2012. This is one hundred years on from 1912, which is the year in which Tommy Godwin was born. I’ve written plenty about Tommy before and made no secret of the fact that he’s my number one cycling hero for riding 75,065 miles in a single year. Last year I did 8,500 and I’m still shagged out, Tommy once did more than that in a month. I wrote an article for Cycling Weekly about Tommy that was published in January all part of a quest to raise awareness of his feat which is largely forgotten in cycling annals.
This week I met with Barbara his daughter, Neil who’s parents were Tommy’s greatest friends and Stoke City Council who have decided that, given this is the Olympic year and would have been Tommy’s centenary, it’s worth celebrating the man’s achievements. So plans are afoot, more details as they emerge.
My year record book project is gathering further momentum as I recently met with Joe Greaves the son of Walter Greaves. Walter’s story is truly amazing, he held the year record a few years before Tommy but rode it in slightly different circumstances..he only had one arm. Joe passed me an amazing piece of writing that covers Walter’s life and his record riding year. At first read it seems like fiction as the things Walter did to get the record off the ground beggar belief.
It was amusing to read of how they conditioned Walter’s saddle before he set out on his ride. It was spread with butter and then beaten about with a hammer. I imagined Helen’s eyes going firmly up to the ceiling if I raided the fridge for some Sunny Delight, slathered it all over my bike and then took to it with a mallet in fury. Thankfully for us modern cyclists those days are gone with computer aided design ensuring that largely synthetic saddles are properly modelled to the bell curve of cycling arses.
There are seven main players and one rogue in the Year Record story. I now have enough material to cover Tommy, Walter and Marcel Planes. Ossie Nicholson was an Australian professional and I have some material on him. I mooted a trip to Australia to complete my research, but the response “Not without us” came quickly back from the family. The other riders are proving a little more elusive, particularly Bernard Bennett who rode the same year as Tommy Godwin. This stuff takes time. Naively I thought I’d be done in six months. The end of this year would be a more feasible projection.
Finally. I’ve been working on project OCCD. This is currently secret, but hugely exciting as I’ve nearly finished it. It is foray into publishing that I have been planning to do for a while but kept putting off. Seeing as I need to venture into some form of paid employ in the near future, I thought I’d better get it out of the way, so evenings have been spent in front of the keyboard instead of Eastenders as spell check on my Mac takes a proper hammering.
This all requires another trip back in the time machine. I’d return to October 2010 and have a quiet word with the bloke about to hand in his notice and set out to write a book. I would suggest to the young fellow that he might want to consider options for self cloning before he handed in his fateful letter. He’d point at the Morlocks and tell me to sod off.
3rd February 2012