France comes to Fulham

Tour de France comes to Fulham
Well that’s how it seemed on Sunday when the London - Surrey Cycle Classic (an Olympic test event) whirred it’s way down the Fulham Road, bring with it a breath of the Tour de France. I have always been a fan of cycle racing and as a boy dreamt of being a racer, but like a lot of childhood dreams it didn’t happen, nor did getting rich! Anyway being as how the riders were going to pass the end of my road I was up there at the barriers (8.50am) in plenty of time to see them sweep past. It’s a good job it’s largely a free event at the Olympics because my involvement lasted less than five minutes. And that included the team cars, the press and the police outriders! But the experience was worth it. One hundred and forty riders travelling close together at over thirty miles an hour. The only trouble was that nowhere, on my return home, could I find any kind of commentary on how the race was progressing. Surely a missed opportunity by the Olympic Committee and the broadcasters. This will be the first gold medal on offer at the 2012 Games. Anyway I was back up at the barriers at twelve in time to see the leaders flash by and later to learn the Britain’s Mark Cavendish had won.

I don’t know that much poetry has been written about cycling, let alone cycle racing, but there is a wonderful poem by Louis MacNeice called, The Cyclist about the joys of bike riding. Rather appropriate with more and more people taking to two wheels. Google it. One other little gem, a poem by Judith Nicholls that I came across called Biking.

“Fingers grip, toes curl; head down, wheels whirl.
Hair streams, fields race; ears sting, winds chase.
Breathe deep, troubles gone; just feel windsong.”

Side by Side

road show
Elsewhere on this website I have expressed the view that poetry comes in many forms; a passage from a novel or a magazine, the lyrics of a song, can be poetry. And there is no better example of this than the work of Stephen Sondheim.

Last week I went to see Road Show at the Menier Chocolate Factory which is staging the European premiere of the show, a much changed version of Bounce, originally premiered in the states in 1993. It is perhaps simpler, less subtle, more direct than some of Sondheim’s other shows, but the feeling for words, for meter, for the spoken or sung phrase is still magically there. I always come out of a Sondheim show wanting to write, but never do because the minute I start, it is his rhythms, his voice that refuses to leave my head. Which is interesting because poetry is meant to be read out loud, even if you’re reading it to yourself. You can’t possibly get the full meaning of a poem without reciting it; without putting in the stresses, the rhythms, the vocal punctuation the poet has put into his work. That’s how poetry started thousands of years ago, much of it was never written down, it was performed, on the streets, in cafes and courts, in poetry competitions. Try it for yourself, record yourself and listen to the poem in your own words. It’s great fun, and quite addictive. Road Show is on until September 15 - go and see it. Quite apart from anything else a visit to the Menier Chocolate Factory is a magical experience in itself!

Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop!
Does her business but I notice something weird.
Lately all her neighbors' cats have disappeared!
Have to hand it to her --
Wot I calls, "enterprise"!
Poppin' pussies into pies!
Wouldn't do in my shop!