Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Another Chapter Closes

It has been a week of sad news for anyone of a certain age in this corner of the world. Cliff Morgan, BBC sports commentator, former Welsh rugby international and Question of Sport team captain passed away. The news was quickly followed by the announcement of the passing of renowned poet and sometimes broadcaster, Seamus Heaney, then broadcaster and writer, Sir David Frost and yesterday, the passing of broadcaster David Jacobs. In the days before 24 hour television broadcasting and multi-channel, terrestial or satellite T.V., broadcasting started about lunchtime and finished around midnight. You had a choice of 3 television channels BBC1, BBC2 or ITV. If you wanted 24 hour broadcasting, you had radio. I knew David Jacobs best from BBC radio. He was the soundtrack of my childhood and early teens, journeys in my father's car, usually on a Saturday. Hearing David Jacobs broadcast on the radio immediately transported me back to those formative years. He was a still tangible link, to times and friends long gone. He was the radio soundtrack of my travelling to the first event of the race calender year, a circuit time trial, usually held on the last Saturday afternoon in February. His voice was as evocative to me, as the whiff of embrocation rubbed into the legs before the race. It just brings the memories flooding back. Unloading the bike in the pub car park. The wheels lifted out first, chrome spokes glinting in the light, then the frame wrapped in a blanket, blanket off and rubber car mats set on the ground to rest the upturned bike on. Wheels put into the frame, hub quick release tension adjusted before closing the levers, bike righted and tubular tyres pumped hard. Bike parked along the car park fence, along with all the others, changing bag with the kit in, collected from the car. Go into the pub, 'Whittley's Tavern', to sign on and collect your race number. Then into the 'changing room', a store at the back of the pub. Chamois cream rubbed into the chamois leather of your wool cycle shorts. Change, remembering to use the clip on braces to hold up your wool shorts, 'Belfast Telegraph' shoved up the front of your club racing jersey to keep out the worst of the cold and wind. Embrocation rubbed into your legs and arms, followed by a covering of olive oil to try and keep out the cold. Help a clubmate fix his race number to his race jersey with safety pins and he does the same for you. Black shorts, club jersey, white socks and 'Pete Salisbury' leather shoes with nailed on T.A. shoeplates on the soles. Clatter out to the toilet 'for a leak' as both nerves and cold are starting to have an effect, then collect your bag and gear and return them to the car. Collect your bike and take it to the scrutineer, brakes and bell, spare tub protectively wrapped and held under the saddle with a toe strap, pump, junior gearing, all correct. Get on the bike and off to the start. Time keeper is Tommy Taylor, and it will be either Jimmy Nichol, Jimmy McBride or Frank Mckeown who will be pushing off. Check the number of the rider waiting to start to see how much time you have and off down the road, in the opposite direction, to warm up. Back up to the start, two minutes to go, rider off, now the one in front and then it's my turn. Bike held, a bit of banter, time keeper studiously watches the stop watch, three.... two.... one.... GO!  A firm shove, turning the gear as fast as I can, as bike gets up to speed. Which way is the wind? Side wind, so no help today and head wind along the third leg. Breathing hard and cold air making the airway ache, I approach that first turn onto a main dual carriageway. The road undulates and is also quite open to the wind for the first quarter mile or so. How far can I get before my minute man catches me? Frustration builds as the cold and wind start to have an effect. Cars speed effortlessly past. Second turn left and now into the head wind. It becomes more of a grind and the seconds just slip past. Third turn and the climb up to the finish. Going as hard as I can, but another rider passes me just to add to the frustration of cold, tiring, muscles. Finish comes into sight at last, but doesn't seem to be getting much closer. It just seems to be a slow dance, then out of the saddle and all out effort for the line. Back to the car, collect my gear and back into the changing room. The shadows are lengthening and the cold is getting more intense. Jersey off and strip to the waist before rubbing down with a dry towel. No showers here. Warm dry clothes eagerly put on, then wipe legs down with a damp cloth, to remove the road dirt and remains of the olive oil, before drying. Finish getting dressed. The feeling of warmth is great. Back to the car, gear stowed, then the bike is dismantled and returned to the car boot. Off to the pub for a cup of hot tea, not old enough yet for the strong stuff. Walk down to the finish to check the results. First time I've ridden this event. Wasn't first, but hey, I wasn't last and I have now got a time to aim to beat next year......
That instant link to happy times is no longer tangible. It has now become a memory like those it formerly brought flooding back. I have a lot to thank David Jacobs for, although I probably didn't appreciate it at the time. His broadcasting touched me in a way that neither he, nor I, would have expected, but he certainly enriched my earlier years. For that I own him many thanks, may he rest in peace.

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