I CAN’T say I’m a fan of the Tour de France, let alone the Tour de Yorkshire. On any given Saturday or Sunday we get about three pelotons’-worth of the flaming nuisances streaming past our front door.
They are mostly married blokes for whom skin-tight lycra is the mid-life alternative to a bit on the side with a 24-year-old Ukrainian lapdancer.
I’m sure their wives are glad of the peace and quiet, with the added bonus that every weekend there’s a half-decent chance of a life insurance payout. And even if the old boy survives it’s cheaper than a golf club membership.
Whether it’s due to a thrombo while in the saddle (which in fairness could just as easily happen with Olga from the Volga) or some impatient driver of an open-top Merc, who inadvertently nudges them either down a ditch or into the path of an oncoming HGV, these would-be Chris Froomes dice regularly with death.
I know and count as friends men who will see themselves quite clearly in this description, none moreso that Mirfield’s premier pedaller, Coun Martyn Bolt.
Bolty did a charity cycle from London to Leeds recently, which I can only think of being like a sponsored tightrope walk across Niagara Falls. You just hope your mates still cough up if they end up dragging your body out of the water.
I was left reflecting on cycling madness this week after riding my bike – shorts and t-shirt, no helmet – the 500 yards to our GP’s surgery. Despite it being a B-road through a village, past a school festooned with flashing 20mph signs and road humps, I nearly got wiped out three times.
I know, I know – no helmet. But hey, I’m just a bloke on a bike, out for five minutes, running an errand for crying out loud.
The irony is that I was returning some blood pressure equipment to the doctor’s. My annual asthma check-up involved my usual showing off, whereby I blow the breath-o-meter (or whatever it’s called) off the end of the tube. But then a regular blood pressure check was something daft like 150/100.
Apparently this is not good and the look on the nurse’s face suggested I might be about to go ‘pop’. At least they have a defibrillator on the wall outside.
“Are you under any particular stress or anxiety?” she inquired politely.
“Well, I’m married,” I replied in avuncular tone. She didn’t smile, let alone break out into a belly laugh (I suspect her husband clears off with the weekend Wigginses for a bit of male bonding).
“Business is pretty manic, long shifts, six or six-and-a-half days a week…”
The result was me having to monitor my BP twice in the mornings and evenings for a week.
In and amongst this, last Thursday I was in St Bart’s Hospital in central London with a close friend who has just finished a second cycle of half-a-dozen chemotherapies and is currently being used by NHS specialists as a crash-test-dummy of sorts for radical therapies.
Despite my aforementioned derision of the two-wheeled weekend warriors, I do enjoy renting a ‘Boris bike’ when I’m down t’Smoke. Not last week. It was black cab and bottle of wine time, which is what we were indulging in when my phone rang. An old rugby pal, Jack Connop, had just pegged out, in his GP’s surgery of all places.
Jack was 64 – four years older than another old pal whose Facebook post I read on the train back north that evening.
Charlie, a fellow journalist, was minutes away from giving his early-retirement speech and heading off to a life of leisure in Spain when his oncologist rang and summoned him. They’ve given him 15 months.
All of which, I can fully understand, may well leave you dear readers with a morbid determination to steer well bloody clear of that bloke Lockwood, who by the sound of things may as well be walking round in a black hooded cloak with a scythe over his shoulder.
Fear ye not friends. In and amongst all of this I’ve decided to take my health out of the GP’s hands. He can keep his pills and potions.
That won’t be a scythe you’ll see over my shoulder, it will be a new set of golf clubs. It’s time I joined a club again. Possibly even a posh, expensive one (these places need the tone lowering!)
I really am going to have to get some ‘life’ into the work-life balance and I’d advise you to do the same while there’s time.
And hey, if it’s a 3- speed titanium road racer that floats your boat, then go for it because you never know what’s round the corner.
Although saying that, if it’s me round the corner, I’ll be at the wheel of the open-top Merc, so watch out!
PS: The BP was down to a rather less life-threatening 120/80...
SPARE a thought for the thousands, nay millions of students who are spending the summer not so much sweating under the July sun, as sweating over the impending results from GCSEs, A levels, BTECs, diplomas and degrees.
I was so confident of my nine O levels that I sailed through the summer of ’75 washing Thornhill’s windows with my dad Jim, having a memorable camping holiday with a couple of school pals at Cayton Bay (they both looked old enough to get served, I found pub corners to hide in the shadows of) and a good time was had by all.
And then I opened my results – and far from becoming a journalist found myself packing newspapers in the warehouse at John Menzies on £14 a week.
Talk about a wake-up call.
The pressure seems to be 10-fold upon teenagers these days and I have both parented, and been a friend of parents, whose children have suffered massively through the stresses of modern society’s expectations of them.
University was never an option for me, even when I did get all my O and A levels. Do I regret it? It would have been nice, but not really.
And today, when I get CVs from graduate students who somehow have English qualifications but can’t punctuate their own names and addresses. I despair.
And these ‘kids’ (because unlike in our generation, at 21 they are almost all still kids) are lumbered with anything from £30-£50,000 of debt. It’s a disgrace.
I’ve witnessed enough over the past three years with my daughter at York College, and my son at Leeds University, to be convinced that further education is little more than a corporate financial racket on a huge scale, its primary goal being to extort money from young people whether they are suitable candidates or not.
My pair are capable young adults who have proven adept at sorting their own problems and I admire them for coping with so-called lecturers and administrators who are a disgrace to any education system – lazy and careless, in the worst cases and far too many of them.
Whether it was thousands killed in Iraq, or millions conned in our colleges with his ‘university for all’ wheeze, that Tony Blair has claimed some victims.