gossiping is a way of life for many in the hebrides. granted, i might be doing the remainder of the country a disservice, for perhaps the habit is as much a part of daily life everywhere, but of course, i wouldn't know that. i, however, have not bought into this particular long-term trend, an option that brings me more grief than if i was content to spread the overheard, further afield. the looks of disdain that are pointed in my direction on discovering i had prior knowledge of a specific event would more than likely turn me to stone or a pillar of salt. perhaps i should cut my losses and join the party.
correspondence, however, is something i find far more amenable to my disposition, a practice that has been immensely assisted by the advent of the internet. despite the presence of a substantially sized ocean and one or two inconvenient time zones, it verges on simplicity itself to conduct a one to one conversation with folks i've never even met over the course of a few hours in the evening. when i consider how long the same process would have endured had we remained in the letter post age, those bits and bytes flying through the ether surely constitute the eighth wonder of the world.
e-mails were once the preserve of brevity, if only because the effort involved in typing, logging on (remember dial-up?) and sending any missive was far more of a gargantuan task than modernity has made it. the advent of such light-fingered keyboards, even in the hands of one untrained in the art of touch typing, has made the construction of sophisticated missives a veritable piece of cake, allowing for intelligent and intelligible to-ing and fro-ing across the continents in so-called real time. for those of us with an uncanny ability to be effortlessly long-winded, it's as if all our christmases had come at once.
in the mousehold press publication amigo, i was singularly unable to decide whether the enforced lengthy correspondence between sports journalist nando boers and former rabobank professional, pedro horillo, was being conducted by e-mail or good old paper, envelopes and stamps. a part of me prefers to think that the correspondents sat down at their own writing desks - the ones with the wooden roll tops - and carefully considered their missives and replies.
there is a sketch from the stable of monty python's flying circus from many years past involving a send-up of an on-air interview with a footballer. no matter the question asked or statement made, the answer is always the same "well jim, i just kicked the ball, and there it was in the back of the net" and not pronounced with a particularly educated accent. cyclists, on the other hand, often come across as closer to the intellectual ideal. tom boonen, for instance, reputedly speaks six languages, and several others have either studied for a degree or do so at the end of their cycling careers. i admit the football jibe is lowering myself to typecasting, but i assume you get my point.
the correspondence between boers and horillo is enlightening to say the least. not specifically due to the content of each other's writings, but more for the level of intellect it displays. such a contention, unfortunately, perhaps says more about me than it does about them. in similar manner to those joni mitchell albums of old, i found it hard to snap my way easily and superficially through the book's 200 plus pages; it's very likely that i will soon start once more at the beginning in order to better comprehend all that i have read. for quite naturally, none of us are either boers or horillo, and to assimilate ourselves with immediacy into this unfamiliar literary situation will likely take a tad more effort on our part than the average book.
in case you're wondering, i mean that as a most sincere compliment; a good thing. so many other books, and not necessarily about cycling, inhabit a more transient space. while others will undoubtedly show their age as time passes, amigo will endure pretty much forever.
the basic idea of the book had been to record a season long conversation between our two proponents, a situation dramatically altered by horillo's near death accident in the 2009 giro d'italia. after being airlifted to hospital, he spent some considerable time in an induced coma, before undergoing a long period of rehabilitation. not unnaturally, any desirous tendency towards written correspondence was not uppermost in his mind. boers did, throughout the intervening hiatus, continue to send words of encouragement to his pen pal, almost all of which was left unanswered until 2012.
the correspondence is not, however, without its faults. for starters, after horillo's accident, the timeline of letter writing becomes very hard to follow, to the extent that i began to ignore each chronological heading and simply attempted to follow the thread of discussion. there is also, specifically on the part of nando boers, writing that borders on artifice.
"In the storage room below your apartment in Abadino, next to the training bikes and the mountain of olf baguettes for the donkeys, this unopened suitcase had been waiting for months. 'I wasn't afraid to open it,' you tell me, 'but still I didn't want to.' Somehow you shied away from looking at the remains of a life before the crash. you put your bottle of beer back on the cafe table. "You had left the suitcase untouched for four months, but then one day you clicked open the lid, almost without being aware of it. 'The smell that came from it reminded me of the race,' you say."
does anyone really write that sort of thing? i can't help but think boers is writing this more for his intended and subsequent audience than its actual recipient. however, in the light of the circumstances, perhaps there was no other way to frame the story, involved as it is/was.
aside from its literary merits, amigo is illustrated with a selection of black and white images featuring both authors, amongst others. sadly, some of us will never know, for none are captioned.
amigo is, having said all that, a truly excellent book, one that will bear re-reading over many years and at times an almost unwitting view into the psyche of a particularly aware professional cyclist, untainted by the perceived constraints of media training. both men are of an intellectual nature as is notably evident from reading but the first few pages. there is an intriguing complexity to their correspondence that hints at the whole being considerably greater than the sum of its parts. it might well take an intellect considerably greater than mine to fathom each twist and turn in its true context, but to my mind that is the very attraction of the book in the first place.
set aside as much time and understanding as you can before sitting down and reading. the more effort you put into reading and appreciating amigo, the greater will be the rewards. a possible contender for sports book of the year i'd warrant, but one that would happily inhabit a wider field of appreciation and influence than simply that of the velocipede.
tuesday 24 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................