Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Strong in the leg, weak in the head

It could have been just up my street – a three-part TV series about a Scot who cycled from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentine, climbing on foot the two highest points en route, Mt McKinley and Mt Aconcagua. But by the end I was gibbering.

For one thing he whinged: at the uphills, at the rain, at the wind, at food poisoning, at fatigue. Hey, he’d chosen to do this; it wasn’t my fault. Worse was his commentary. Cycling offers time to prepare the mind, yet he’d have been bereft without “incredible”. He said “This is the most remarkable/impressive/overwhelming sight I’ve seen.” about a dozen times. And at least thrice uttered the traveller’s ultimate indiscretion “indescribable”.

All adventurers looking for a wide audience should be forced to read Eric Newby’s “A short walk in the Hindu Kush” and thereafter practise self-mockery and minimalisation of hardship

WHEREAS… Why should I, an unreconstructed atheist, be glued to another three-parter called “Sacred music”? Well the subject was slightly off the beaten track (it’s not the first thing one associates with Brahms and Bruckner), it was sung a capella by a choir of angels (The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers) and it was anchored by someone who had got his tongue in gear, Britain’s greatest actor, Simon Russell Beale. He speaks with quiet urgency and has the ability to be transfixed by beauty. Don’t take my word: Harry let him sing along with the choir. Simon should buy a bike.


Plutarch said...

The beliefs which inspire sacred music do not affect its quality or effect. So your preferences are not surprising. I may doubt if my Redeemer cometh, but the music is no less moving.

Sir Hugh said...

I sympathise with your irritation with the whingeing - this is even worse if you have to endure it from a so called companion on a walk. For that reason and the others mentioned in the quote below I prefer to walk alone.

"...the man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off." Henry David Thoreau

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: I was, of course, being slightly tendentious. But not as much as The Guardian's music critic yesterday. A concert by The Sixteen was given a single star - in effect, a drop-dead rating. But to some extent it was deserved. HC and his group were merely showing slightly more than what had been shown on the BBC series, plus some videos. He felt outraged as I might have been.

Sir Hugh: One is only entitled to whinge - and then to a limited degree - about conditions that have arrived accidentally. In this case Thoreau proved to be wrong: the cyclist, accompanied only by himself, had fallen into bad company. Since he also turned out to be something of a climber (although Aconcagua must have the most dispiriting summit of any of the high mountains) there was the unspoken scenario of sharing a tent with him on the South Col during bad weather. Ughh.

Avus said...

Having watched Mark Beaumont's previous TV reports on taking the round the world cycling record I was filled with admiration by the fact that he did it alone - no back up with him - and having cycled his 100 miles per day - every day - he put up his little tent each night and camped by his bicycle. He filmed his own record with a small digital movie camera. I bought his book (The Man Who Cycled the World) which was a bit indigestable.
So when his America north to south ride came up on the box I was interested to see it. I turned it off halfway through the first instalment and have not watched the others. He is capitalising on his one good thing, but should have left it there.

Avus said...

Re Sir Hugh and Thoreau, above:
Kipling said:
"Down to Gehenna, or up to the throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone."
A motto I have always followed in my motorcycle and cycle rides.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus (1): Beaumont was copying Benedict Allen who pioneered the solitary expedition with hand-held camera on an excursion (among others) by camel across central Asia. The difference was that Allen had considered what he was going to say before speaking; Beaumont didn't bother, relying on what he no doubt regarded as his native wit. Since the visuals of cycling thousands of miles on main roads tend to be repetitive it was vital that the commentary added something extra. In Beaumont's case it didn't.

Avus (2); But Kipling and Thoreau need to answer this twenty-first century question: does the wonderfully self-sufficient, independent, free-from-it-all traveller carry a mobile phone? It sort of breaks into the idea of splendid isolation, don't you think? This has become a problem in mountaineering where those in trouble have used phones to call up the rescue services whereas in the past they would have enjoyed their personal equivalent of Mallory's death.