One of my blogging friends, Geoff Le Pard, is an author and poet. You can see his list of ever-growing books at Amazon. His latest publication is a book of poems called The Sincerest Form of Poetry and in celebration of this I’ve invited him to write a guest post on my blog to which he’s responded by penning a cycling poem just for the occasion. Enjoy … and then go and buy his book.
One Man’s Short History Of Cycling
I don’t recall my mother on two wheels
It wouldn’t have fit with her sense of style.
It was her who, with her traditional smile
Launched me, and my trike with terror-filled squeals
Freewheeling downhill across the years.
Stabilisers gone, at eleven, I began
To ride to school feeling I’d become a man.
That first bike was a racer with six gears:
She died of rust and a fractured frame,
And though I’ve replaced her with many bikes since,
Hybrids, mountains – I’ve yet to be convinced,
However many features, there’s none quite the same
As one’s first bike, on which one can explore
The widest world just outside one’s front door.
I have cycled for as long as I can recall. I vividly remember where mum taught me to balance on those two wheels – my father’s rugby club in North Surrey while he tried to convince himself and others that he could really be a hooker. Once I’d achieved balance – I’d have been about seven – I was allowed to go pretty much where I wanted. Those were the early 60s and dogs and children were pushed outside and told to be back in time for dinner. I crashed – once having grit tweezed out of my cheek, once when I lost control going downhill (the dreaded wheel-wobble) and the skin on knees and palms as a result) – I puffed up and down the North Downs and I loved the freedom. That bike was many-handed, not just second hand, red, with a tear in the side of the front tyre through which the inner tube squeezed out. The rear brake blocks would occasionally lock, or alternately refuse to move, leading to my learning the other way of stopping – find a forgiving object like a hedge and enter.
When eventually at eleven I was given the licence to cycle to school, my beloved bike found the daily grind too much and, on one never to be forgotten day, entered a pothole and never really left it – I did with yet another Geoff-tarmac interface. My parents scrabbled around, found a spare few quid previously lost down the back of my grandma and bought me a blue, dropped handlebar, five speed gear wonder machine. That saw me through to university where my many scrapes (recounted here on my blog if you’re interested) eventually undermined its fundamentals.
For a while I took to a motorbike – it seemed cool, what can I say – but it cost too much and, at 23, I sold it and used the proceeds to pay for a holiday in a Jersey and bought a new bike. From then – 1980 – until I hung up my legal toeclips in 2013, I cycled from home in South London to the City and back. I loved it then. Just as much as I did as a kid. No sweaty lump next to me on the tube, no unexplained delays, a satisfying glow after I’d showered and sat at my desk.
What’s all this to do with poetry? Two things.
The first is Joy. Both have brought me joy. They can be frustrating – the badly timed puncture versus the inability to find the right rhyme, but more often than not I end up with a glow of satisfaction.
The second is mental health. A city lawyer’s lot is stressful. Sitting on my bike, thighs all a quiver as I confront the Elephant and Castle gyratory system – four lanes of closely packed traffic and a full hand of buses – my mind is free of the contractual complications or critical client of earlier. Similarly, focused on finding a rhyme for ‘shadow’ that fits the meter stops me dwelling on some looming legal crisis.
If you follow Rachel you have to enjoy cycling – or at least tolerate her commitment to it! Similarly I hope you might also enjoy my poems, contained in my new book, the details of which are below. There’s something for everyone and lots of humour!!