My Ninth Week as a Budding Author
You know that saying “The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley,” (purists please note that I quoted the original not the anglicisation), well firstly I’d like to ask ..since when has a mouse ever made a plan other than to shag another mouse, find some cheese, or get eaten by something? But with that ponderous question out of the way I think it is fair to say that the schemes of this week have certainly “Gang aft” for me.
I’d planned to spend days sorting out the writing that I have done so far. It needs to be rewritten in a manner that flows, makes sense to the reader and more importantly engages them. One of the greatest pieces of writing advice I was ever given came from Dan Joyce, editor of the CTC magazine. He sent me a brief with a paragraph along the lines of “please don’t write one of those ‘I turned left at the junction and then rode down to the cafe’ articles, you need to bring the reader into the ride”.
At the moment most of my writing reads as if I turned left at a junction and went to a cafe, so it needs some “riffs” (to steal another phrase from Dan). Unfortunately the following equation, that only mathematicians and cyclists will understand, summarises the amount of time in hours I have actually spent doing it this week.
Time riffing = Sum(testicles belonging to Lance Armstrong) x (cows in Spain on Clenbuterol)
Anyway, all was not lost as I did get up to all sorts of other useful stuff that is related to cycling and some of it will even make it into the book.
On Sunday I drove to Kent and took over 600 photos of cyclists taking part in the Hell of the Ashdown sportive. This has nothing to do with a lycra fetish and everything to do with the fact that they were riding in an area that is covered by one of my routes. The plan was that these photos would be awesome and save me having to return and stage some shots. Sadly of the 600, five can be classed as “ok” which is why I am taking steps to sort my photography out with the aid of a professional (more next week).
Seeing as I had worked the weekend, I took Monday off to go mountain biking. That’s as long as the term “mountain biking” can cover “riding a demo full suspension bike (that I can’t afford) round Afan and then returning home and buying it”. I’ve had the “it’s the last bike ever Helen...conversation”, her eyes glazed over and like a bored barrister she pointed to the evidence in the garage. This episode takes me back to buying my first ever mountain bike from Mitchell’s Cycles in Swindon. It was sold to me by Mr Mitchell himself and in his broad Irish accent he declared “It’s the only bike you’ll ever need”. I should sue him for misrepresentation of the product, as the simple fact is that I’ve subsequently purchased at least fifteen other bikes since.
Tuesday was spent documenting the Meridian ride I did last week. The route also needed a severe amount of tweaking to take out the many diversions and motorways that I had encountered on the way. This then left Wednesday for planning as I’d agreed to meet my friend Andy on Thursday and attempt a huge ride in the Peak District. You’d be surprised how much effort actually goes into route planning, however, I can’t escape the fact that the majority of Wednesday was spent gathering the paraphernalia required for a couple of days riding, stuffing it into bags, becoming unsure that it was actually packed, emptying the bag all over the floor again and then repacking it having discovered that said item was in a sock.
Thursday I spent riding with Andy, a habitant of the Peak District and one of northern disposition. We set out to do the classic Tour of the Peak route. For those not familiar with it, draw a line that is one hundred miles long and inclined at 45 degrees from horizontal, that is probably a fair indication of the route profile. My poor choice of campsite dictated that Andy and I start the ride by immediately climbing Whinnats Pass. If you draw another line that is inclined at about 85 degrees from horizontal and is a mile long then you’ve crudely but effectively created an artists impression of the climb.
The fact that the temperature was hovering around freezing didn’t help either so at the top we scooped up and untangled each other’s lungs, reinserted them and toddled on to the next gradient based challenge. Thirty miles of this led to a cafe, Andy cracked first and within minutes Power Bars and Hi-5 were replaced with cappachino and ginger cake. The cappachino was suggested by Andy, he may have lost some “northern” credibility by straying from the hallowed tea, but in my book it was the right decision as those milky coffees carried us on for another 30 miles over just about every major climb in the region.
So, at 60 miles we parted company, Andy deserves a medal for riding this far as it was his first proper road ride of the year. Me, I’d have made excuses at the cafe about a knee or something and sloped off home hours earlier. I wanted to finish the whole route and had another forty miles to go. I was sorely tempted to follow Andy back to his car, but he had reassured me that the climb to the Cat and Fiddle was “steady”.
Typical bloody northern understatement. I chewed my handlebars, top tube, gear levers , stem and even the front wheel for a bit as I ascended over 1200 feet to some god forsaken pub at the top of a wind swept moor with the wind sweeping right into my face at ever increasing speed. I was bloody freezing, shagged out and the sun was doing its best to get to Australia as quickly as it could. Finally the GPS proclaimed that my altitude was 1600 feet and I thought to myself that it must be all downhill from here.
Well, it wasn’t. The Cat and Fiddle had got its height and it was determined to hang on to it. Every now and then a little was given away only to be snatched back by some nadgery little incline waving two fingers at me. I made it back to the van after 100 miles and 13,185 feet of climbing, I’ve only ever done one ride harder than that in my life and that was in the Alps in the summer after months of training. Reviewing the route, I spotted at least two possible shortcuts that I had ridden past, I’m going to ask Andy if I’ve now qualified to be northern, surely that ride allows me to take care of pigeons and whippets whilst calling my kids “thou”.
On Friday Andy and I returned to the Peaks route to take some photographs. There were fleeting instance where we almost looked as if we knew what we were doing as we stood and discussed F-stops, depth of field and made rectangle shapes with our hands. It wasn’t the best day for coming up with cover shots though, as the mist had descended and it was bloody freezing. For some unknown reason my legs were elected as the pair that had to ride up and down each hill segment only to be told by Andy that we hadn’t got the shot.
In fact he definitely had some secret agenda going on, evidenced by the picture below. We were trying to exhibit the steepness of one particularly nasty corner on the Strines. Andy made me stand on it to get the focus right, then asked me to “step back a bit”, then “step back a bit more”. I was falling for the old comedy photography trick that usually ends with the subject falling into a pond. In my case, the pond was absent so I simply slipped on some spilled diesel and fell into the road. Coincidentally, Andy took his best shot of the day.
Dave 5th March 2011