Saturday, December 22, 2012

The ribbon of flat road. The afternoon sun. The front wheel. Hands.

Saturday, December 22, 2012 1
There has been much fuss over Instagram in recent days. Mia Farrow in particular got very upset indeed about the company's change in terms of service and we all know that you do not fuck with The Farrow. Instagram, for those unfamiliar with the service, is this irreligious icon on my phone that makes crappy photos of weird Twin Peaksy hotel bars in Bunclody look like they were taken by a pretentious, talentless cunt rather than by a naturally gifted photoguy like myself. It's fab. Everyone should have one, particularly people in Homs who I suspect could do with a little Amaro cheer. The controversy arises from Instagram threatening to take everybody's dreadful photos of their blog post rough drafts and feed them into the corporate monster machine like so many processed savoury snacks. They taste like shit, these glowing orange treats, but the monster cannot but munch. Gimme, keeping in character, fails to give a fuck. And all this is as nothing in comparison to the Instagram based trauma that was visited upon me recently. Last week a young lady who I "follow" "posted" a "picture" of something inconsequential. I commented pedantically, not on the picture itself but on the accompanying caption and received a scathing, my place putting me in response. So far, so not unusually Stranded. But yesterday I discovered that said person had in fact "blocked" me. And while this action should not have surprised me given that during my brief flirtation with the horror of Facebook the same woman refused my repeated requests for friendship status, it seemed to me to be both something of an over-reaction and also immensely fucking cheeky given that I paid for the device on which this blockage was performed. Yes folks, it's one of my patented switcherooes. For the unstalked of which I speak is none other than my very own Riker, my sweet, sweet baby girl, barricaded from me now in so very many and not merely socially mediated ways.

Do you remember back when I started this shit? Riker was eight, tense of mouth, and "as a rule carried herself with the long-suffering air of an Irish mother". And now it is Data that answers to eight, and in six short weeks Riker will be fourteen. I have a fourteen year old daughter. She bears that same air, for the most part, with precious few of the teenage tantrums that society has led me to expect. But Ryker, for she has changed the spelling of her name, Ryker is riding away from me. She has always has been trying to, naturally, naturally, but until recently I could always at least keep up and more often than not take the lead myself. Being still relatively young and pretty fucking determined, I could pick the route, set the pace, shelter her from the wind. But of late she has opened up a little gap. And day by day, week by week, this gap widens. I still churn out a good steady tempo, but I grow older, weightier, and am imperceptibly but inevitably slowing, even as Riker herself grows in alacrity and confidence. Soon, much sooner than I can stand, she will be invisible on the twistier roads and as she crests those rolling hills. I will still catch glimpses on the longer straights and on the hairpins above me, but not until she begins to slow herself,  from the fatigue inherent in the chasing of her own child perhaps, will I make the catch and ride side by side with my Riker once again.

At which point she had better unblock me on Instagram. I cannot stand to be this uncool.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What sounded like fireworks turned out to be just what it was

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 1
We went down every New Year's Eve. I tried my hardest to make a tradition of the trip because White Mills was one of those places where I always seemed to be happy. I was happy because it was a pub, it was never too loud and it had a pool table. There was also a brief period where I was a massive fucking celebrity due to my soap opera stardom. Oh how I laboured under the terrible weight of fame for that one weekend a year. "Greatest Pub in the World!" I would loudly to proclaim to any new person that I was trying to drag down with me. And it was. Olive and Jimmy would be there to meet us. Jimmy already aggressively chalking up his cue, in vain, as Olive would have prepared mountains of delicious, proper homemade food for the self-starved actors and their mates. Here are three chickens, every vegetable Carlow has to offer and a potato Alp. Eat up and you can have nfinite toasties for dessert. She wouldn't say much, would Olive, and when she spoke it was in the softest of tones and always with concern. Olive was concerned about everyone. Particularly her boys, but everyone else too. One year, Jan, despite being nothing if not languid, managed to smack her head with no little violence on a low hanging protrusion that a drunken body would face on the way from the bedrooms to the pub. Repeatedly. Every time, in fact, that she went up or down the stairs.  The next year Olive had a sign up when we arrived. "Mind your head, Jan!" I think it might have had a smiley face. 

I would invariably get very, very drunk. It was a pub! It was New Year's! Bed was very close! On one occasion however, it was not quite as close as I had imagined. We played pool till four or five. I drank all the Guinness and quite a number of gins and tonic. Finally we threw in the towel and headed on up the stairs. Jan bashed her head and then walked off to the bathroom. Or somewhere. I went to the guest room and got into bed. 



"I think you're in the wrong room, Gimme."

"No, I don't think so."

"Really, Gimme, I think you are."

The debate raged for some time and I believe it took a particularly loud snore from Jimmy's side of the bed to convince me of my error. I got a pretty hard time of it the next morning from just about everyone in the county, though not from Olive who contented herself with a little gentle ribbing. Gentle Olive. Caring Olive.

Pancreatic cancer. It was quick. Shockingly quick. I got the text message in the checkout line in Super Valu about an hour ago but I waited till I got home to call him back. Waited till I got home, had eaten something. Had a cigarette. That feels like a betrayal now. He didn't pick up. I haven't talked to him yet. I wish he'd call me back.  

A dog barked far off, once and no more.

Do you listen to Judge John Hodgman? You should. It is an amusing way to while away a thirty minute* bicyclistic commute.** John Hodgman, whom you will know from The misnomered Daily Show, pronounces judgements upon trivial disputes both real and I very much suspect, fake. From time to time the disputants are so irritating that I am forced to skip to the next podcast in my endless list, most often these dark days Richard Herring's Leicster Square Theatre Podcast or as the cool kids are calling it Rehelustepu, (Rehelustepu!) but never before His Honour delivers his opening salvo, traditionally a modified culture reference that bears some passing relationship to the case at hand. If either party can name the piece of culture in question they are awarded a summary judgement. Such is the obscurity of these references that this rarely comes to pass.

I live a life of such terrible isolation from my fellow man that most of the greatest moments in my life are inexplicable to the rest of humanity. I have no close friends who share my passions. You may consider me a friend, but were I to explain to you how, as I completed my third consecutive ascent of Mont Ventoux this July***, I collapsed on the ground and wept as I have not wept since as a sixteen year old I learned, in a beer garden in Ballinaskelligs, of the death of my cousin, you would at best regard me with that glazed expression with which I have become so familiar and at worst do whatever it is you are doing right now. And so it was that I dismounted outside the unnamed gym and pushed my way through the turnstile while listening to the Judge intone words that felt familiar.  I reached my locker as he finished his piece and on hearing the final line "That was nonsense.", I realised that I had won, that I was the champions, that I did indeed recognise the culture reference that the justice was paraphrasing. I did not exclaim out loud, but I was filled with an all encompasing joy, a feeling of connection with my fellow man, a momentary release from the constant fear, with the confirmation that I shared a passion for an obscure author with somebody vaguely famous.

Samuel Youd died this February, a mere thirteen days before my younger daughter's eighth birthday and, my red training diary tells me,  two days after I dropped my phone in a toilet. All things are one. He wrote dystopian fiction for adults and "young adults" alike and if you know him at all it will be as John Christopher, he to be the author of The Tripods Trilogy. And the Tripods Trilogy was fucking deadly. But The Prince in Waiting Trilogy? Oh my. What a fucking book for a ten year old to read. It stands up still, though everything seems to happen too quickly and even main characters which I had remembered as Shakespearean in their depth seem to my adult eye to be little more than rough sketches. But he could tell a tale that kept the pages turning, with language that seems to me now an odd combination of stuffy stiff upperlipiness and an almost Chandleresque sparsity that results in an unabashed dramatic tension throughout. But what the fuck do I know? I'm not some literary cricket. Mostly he was an author I read over and over again, for whatever reason, in the halcyon days before I switched to Orwell and realised that this life, no matter how prettily portrayed, is just one long miserable march to death.

So thanks, Sam, and please accept my apologies for the lateness of my tribute. I hope your march had flashes of the joy that you so regularly brought me.

*Current world record 22'47''

**Let's not get into the cycling with earbuds thing because that's just going to lead to the no helmet thing and what are you my mother? Jesus.

***This, as you may now be gathering, was a pretty fucking big deal for me. I'm too scared of its enormity to deal with it in one go, so I'm just going to keep dropping in references until you scream "SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT MONT VENTOUX" and I can go "What? I've barely mentioned it!"

Monday, December 17, 2012

My aim is forget what my name is

Monday, December 17, 2012 2
I'm always thinking of shit to write about when I'm on the bike. Not cycling related ideas, but other genuinely interesting, even controversial topics that any internet trawler would glad to scoop into its nets. They come to me, these inspiration flashes, in complete, sparkling sentences, syntax intact with a full flowing narrative and heart-wrenching conclusion. But by the time I turn into the car park or the garden path they are gone, leaving nothing in their place but the inevitable pasta lust. I could stop, I suppose, and whip out a notebook. How writerly I would then look. And there may well be a combination of up and down volume button presses I could perform on my headphones that would allow me record a voice memo. Talking as I ride? I could do that. Looking like a total weirdo is no bar to me.  But I cannot talk this tripe. this tripe must be typed. My voice sounds funny, you see, and fake. It makes me feel ill to hear it. So I just need to sit down. And tap. Tap it out. I say that to students of spin, riding right on the edge of their sustainable threshold. It hurts. Yeah. But you tap it out. 

All twelve of you guys* are just going to have to excuse the last couple of posts and then move on and be momentously forgiving of this one. This one is worse than all the bike and cutsie children entries you could imagine. Writing about writing. The last refuge of the scribbling scoundrel who finds herself bereft of inspiration. But my plan is to put it out there as my first, or counting yesterday and this morning, third resort, for it to very not be the last. I'm going to attempt a little something every day now. It may be slight and it may not appear on this soggy ground. But something it will be. I'm resolouting here and I would like for this resoloution to be public so that you might hurl things at me in the street when I almost certainly fail. Almost. Almost certainly.

 It really does feel like a return to exercise. Creaky. Uncomfortable. Somewhat terrifying in how much harder it feels than when I was banging paragraph after paragraph, day after day. But I do it knowing it'll get better, easier if I just apply a little consistency. And always, even after the first go or the often tougher second, I stagger in the door, or push the keyboard away, feeling way better than I have for quite some time.

*That used to be my big joke, hahaha, I only have twelve readers. It was never that funny since I rarely climbed over 150 but now it's one of those literal actual fact things, and thus well, slightly funnier, albeit in a pathetic way, than it was before. Which is kind of nice. Twelve people I can cheerfully ignore. I do it all the time for money. And now it feels once more as if  I'm doing this, whatever this is, for me. Saying that, feel free to attempt to rectify this situation in any way you feel fit. Subscribe and rate me on iTunes.

Nobody's gonna go to school today

There's a trite title reference for you. I don't need Bob to tell me why. I have no interest in seeing into the mind of this killer. I doubt that there's all that much to see. If you're going to repeatedly propel lead into the bodies of screaming six year olds, then you may as well be a derailed train, a flood, a collapsing building. Your thought processes have become an act of God and as we all must surely be aware by now, God is a terrible cunt. But we build trains to run true and endeavour to keep their tracks clear. We construct flood defenses and evacuate the homes of the threatened. We do not sink our foundations in quicksand. 

I was a troubled teen. All teens are, to some extent, troubled, but I like to think that I was way up there with those Tribbles, albeit considerably less cute. For deeply uncute instance, I gave that old self-killing bit a whirl. It was a half-hearted attempt, foiled, I assume, by some safety mechanism inherent in extension leads. Hair dryers don't kill people, electric outlets in bathrooms do.

And the why on this one? Dunno. I remember hating myself, and with a burning intensity. But I also remember hating others, with much the same fervour. Teachers and students alike, some of whom didn't have the slightest connection to the Senior Cup Rugby team. I don't know for sure that given easy access to a high powered rifle I would necessarily have embarked on a Columbinian massacre but then again I wouldn't have been remotely fucking surprised. What is not in doubt in my mind is that if my mother kept firearms in the house I would not be here entertaining you with hilarious anecdotes from my idyllic childhood. If I my drunken, egocentric 1990 self could toss a hairdryer into a bath he could surely have squeezed a trigger.

Guns, if you are inexplicably failing to get my gist, are the problem here. Guns for the dead and Twitter for me. Because before Twitter I might have been satisfied with just being nauseous and weepy and briefly nicer to my children. And my rage could have been pointlessly directed at the unconcerned gunman. But Twitter. Twitter with its hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people whose primary concern after this senseless slaughter is the highly unlikely possibility that they mightn't be able to go down to their local range and shoot the crap out of some shit whenever they fucking want. These are real people. You can talk to them. They can tell you to "BURN IN HELL DEMON". And they, not the zombie who walked into that school, no, nor the seventeen year old Gimme, they are the reason that twenty-six families now lie in ruins, never to be rebuilt.

I understand a passion for a past time. I have been moved in profound ways by my time spent astride my various bicycles. But if taking away all my Monts Ventoux, all my Alpes d'Huez, even my Sallies Gap were to prevent the horror visited on so many people on every day of the year I would not hesitate. Take the Focus. Mercilessly smash its carbon frame, sever its cables, warp its pretty wheels. Leave it mangled, mutilated in my daughter's school playground. This no sacrifice. This makes me no hero. You would do the same, with your football or your train sets or your Farm Frenzy 2. As would anyone with a shred of fucking decency.

But not those cunts. Those stupid fucking selfish cunts.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's the same with men as with horses and dogs

Sunday, December 16, 2012 2
The fall is coming. Not the Fall. Or even The Fall.* Just the fall. My fall.

 Here it comes. 

If one rides a bicycle quickly and aggressively through city center traffic every day of the week, to a total of about 500 kilometers a month, one will only last so long before the inevitable crash. And it has been so long.

We all remember my high speed altercation with a delivery van back in the late summer of 2010. Since then? I've gotten caught in the clips once at traffic lights (that'll learn me, never fucking stop at lights) and last week I went down on one of those wooden bridges by the IFSC. Wheels just disappeared from under me. Low speed. The wrist took it, classically. It remains a little ouchie in a long arm plank but I can still comfortably, furiously masturbate. Outside of that? Nothing. Spill free. Beheading bereft.

So it's coming. 

And when it comes, I very much hope that it is my fault. For while I still holler abuse at the many, many morons who fail to indicate, who pass too close, this is increasingly little but a reflex. I no longer consider cars to be people piloted. To me they are now merely moving obstacles which can and will do all kinds of crazy shit, but all kinds of crazy shit that I have seen many times before. Nincompoopery holds no novelty for me now. I count on cuntishness. I assume that I am unseen. I can ride these mean streets with speed and determination while always giving myself the space to make the save, to ride the wave of traffic without being submerged. A little lapse, a forgotten glance, these things may take me down. And it would be a deserved downfall and one that I would accept. I accept and suspect it would not be fatal. Because of the space, because of my smarts. But there are incidents that defy prediction. The oncoming drunk driver crossing the median line, the light broken beyond the now somehow acceptable five second limit, the fresh pothole as I draft a bus. These and all those other happenings of which I have not dreamt, these are the moments that I fear. I embrace Darwinism. I am happy to be slaughtered by my own idiocy. But not by chance. Chance can go fuck itself.

Soon now.  I want to live. So I hope that it is me that fucks it up.

*Two Americanism right there that have totally, thankfully, failed to take hold in our new Hiberno Americano. First, "Fall" as Autumn. Really, I have no problem with this. It's a far better word than the Narnian "Autumn". It just doesn't belong here. Keep Irish English Irish English. No Surrender. Second, the singularisation (no z there fuckers, red squiggle at me all you want spellcheck) of both bands and sporting teams. Of groups essentially. Coldplay is not a collection of joy numbing soul manglers. They are a bunch of cunts. Bradford City is not my new favourite football team. They are, despite my knowing precisely none of their names, my sporting idols. In summary, I'm fine with your Fall, Yanks, but please get it the fuck together with the group thing.

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