To begin, an apology. This blog might end up seeming like a bit of an advert. We’ll see how it goes. It’s also about reading, again!
I’ve had the great good fortune in the last month to do some quality reading. By “quality”, I mean stuff that has completely grabbed my imagination, played video in my head, as it were, entertained, and at the end, actually made me think “Hey, I am a better person for having read that!”. I don’t mean that in a big-headed sense, but if you have ever discovered places, read words, seen images, etc, that engaged you emotionally or vicariously with the subject-matter, and the experience left you enlivened or enlightened, you will know what I mean. You’ll have felt it too.
What’s more, the elements of the reading were nothing overtly “intellectual”, “spiritual” or what have you. One was a biography, one a motor sport magazine. The connection between these is less than intuitive. They fitted neatly into a very small amount of space, in my necessarily restricted luggage for a wonderful 2,000 mile (3,200km) motorcycle tour recently, from home to Monte Carlo and back, over eleven days at the end of May. If you know me and my bike, you’ll know that my idea of “restricted” is going to be somewhat more generous than might otherwise be conjured up by the words “motorcycle tour”, but the equation needed to take my wife’s luggage into account as well….
The biography was a story of a professional cyclist in Italy in the 1950’s and the early 1960’s, Franco Balmamion. Although I profess to be a fairly well-read cycling fan, and an unashamed italophile, I had never heard of him. It was also the first book by a writer who was also completely unknown to me. Here’s the advert. The hooks for me were the characterisations in the book. The story of the stars of the races described was set within the context of these men as they are today – most still living, most in their 70’s and 80’s, and most still able to tell it “like it was just yesterday”. I guess I realised early on that these sportsmen were the generational counterparts of many of the senior statesmen in my own sport, and were the newspaper material of their age, much like today’s young athletes will read of Armstrong, Contador, or Wiggins. My aim’s not to write a book review in this blog. I did that here, anyway, but this was a book that charmed me, taught me, and entertained me. Better than any medicines.
I don’t read much motorsport writing. My web-site explains something about my fondness for classic motorsport. This underpins my monthly indulgence in purchasing “the big green one”, aka “Motorsport” magazine. It has firmly established itself as containing something for everyone, be it intelligent reflection on the modern Formula One scene, nostalgic looks back at the olden, golden days, usually without benefit of the rose-tinted lenses, or chewing the cud with those at the fast end, then and now. What really did it for me was the mix of styles. The magazine served me for the best part of the week, just as a volume of the best short stories might have done.
It was also the incongruity of finding parallels between a sport I have only ever stood and gawped at, and one that has for years drained me of sweat and tears. Witness Jacky Ickx describing the relationship between sports car racing drivers in the Ferrari scuderia in the early 1970’s: “The biggest difference between us was the degree of desire. There was less difference between the amount of talent. OK, some were more fit than others, more resilient, but the key was the desire to win. This is a very individualistic sport: one thing that never changes is that your team-mate may be your best friend – but he’s also your worst enemy!” We Masters Athletes know that feeling!
I have a whole string of competitions coming up over the next month. It will help bulk out my 2010 track CV, which currently reads “run one, won one”. Could be worse.