When it comes to reading I always have several books on the go at the same time; too many books not enough time best sums it up. The book that always takes precedent is whatever the current book club book is (Helen Dunmore ‘The Greatcoat’ this month) and then of course depending on how that goes during the month I’ll dip in and out of other books as I go along. I usually have a biography or other non fiction book to hand as I find that these fit well into the fiction gaps but I also usually have another fiction book and often I’m also re reading an old fav. The re reading seems to fit in well as you don’t lose the plot and it’s easy to pick up where you left off. I do struggle to get the fit of another novel though as I find that I end up taking my eye off the main goal which as mentioned is always to read the monthly book club.
As I scan round at the moment I’ve got The Corner (David Simon & Ed Burns) and Rough Ride (Paul Kimmage) as my non fiction and biography fix; the novel on the go is Until I Find You (John Irving) and no re read happening. I love John Irving but I’m definitely finding that his are not novels that you can read around other books. Of course even if you have a couple of books on the go there are so many others that you want to read which is where the Ned Boulting book comes in. I keep lists of books that I want to read; in my head, on scraps of paper and electronically but of course many fall off completely, some I know that I’ll never get round to but others it’s just a matter of time and Ned’s Yellow Jumper falls into the latter category and I’m so glad that I’ve finally got round to reading it.
For those who don’t know him Ned is a journalist and reporter for ITV who, since 2003, has reported in his crumpled polo shirts on the greatest annual sporting event, the Tour De France. I love anyone who does not take themselves too seriously and is prepared to admit their own mistakes and laugh at themselves, so I got on well with Ned right from the start of this book as this is clearly the category that he falls into. Anyone who has ever had to give a presentation or been put on the spot without knowing the full facts of what is going on will grimace and laugh as Ned has to go live on air to give his view of a crucial event that has just happened to David Millar when he clearly has no idea who Millar is or what it is that has happened to him. You see when Ned first got sent to cover the tour he had no idea about cycling, did not know that it was a team sport or any of the riders apart from Lance Armstrong or as he puts it early on “He’s the American cancer bloke isn’t he? Keeps winning it” – that appeared to be his sole knowledge of the race and the sport.
However what transpire through the book is how, through witnessing the madness that is the tour, Ned came to truly love the sport and the race for all it’s warts.
so it is then that cycling occupies two different spaces in our understanding. It is both the realm of the incredible, and the ordinary. And in this respect it is unique
Although the book is about the tour it is also about journalism, France, cultural differences, power, politics, hotels, boredom and toilets.
Braced as we are then for events to drag us away from what we thought would happen, we cling to those fragments of routine which keep us sane, and without which we would lose all grip. They are the snags of rock just big enough to gain a fingerhold and prevent us from slipping off the sheer rock face of the Tour de France: regularity, security, dependability, toilets.
So begins the hilarious chapter on the toilets. You see the book flits about between the serious and the absurd. From the controversial enigma that is Lance Armstrong (or Larry as he is known to the team) to tips on packing your suitcase and ensuring that your socks don’t rot your clothes. It’s an excellent, funny and touching book that I lapped up in a couple of days often laughing out loud and could be enjoyed by someone who knows nothing about the tour (as Ned started off) all the way through to the riders who ride it. Pick it up and enjoy the madness that is the Tour.