Friends, I’m touched that so many of you have donated to the charitable causes on whose behalf I’ve cycled the Danube/Ness-Leverburgh/RideLondon100. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Between us we’ve raised £6539-33 for Cancer Research, Macmillan Cancer Support, Bethesda Hospice and Guide Dogs. None of these cycles was easy – they all involved fixed-gear or single-speed bikes, and they all involved pain! Because I don’t wish to impose upon your kindness, the next (95-mile, single-speed) bike ride and the half-marathon are not for charity, just for ‘fun’. And because I value your support, anyone who has sponsored me for any of these bike rides can email me with Short Story as the subject and I will email you back a free, unpublished short story. Can’t say fairer than that. Again, thank you, on behalf of all these charities. Your donations are making a real difference to real people.x
I’m doing a 100-mile cycle (all in one go) on a single-speed bike (a bike with only one gear) – but I’m doing it for charity, not because I like pain!
That charity is Guide Dogs, a very worthy cause indeed. (Some of you will know I’ve had my own eye problems). Any donations, no matter how big or small, will be most gratefully received.
The 100-mile route starts in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, where I will follow a modified version of the road race route used in the 2012 Olympic Games. Rather worryingly, Leith Hill and Box Hill feature, both of them leg- and lungbusters, especially on a single-speed bike!
We will ride along closed roads through the capital, and then continue on to the country roads of the Surrey Hills before heading back into central London to cross the finish line in the Mall. I’ll probably collapse a few centimetres after the finish line, but that’s okay!
I’ve been training really hard for this but there’s no doubt it’s going to be one of the toughest days in the saddle I’ve ever had, maybe THE toughest. Here’s the Route Map And Profile.
Please consider sponsoring me for this vital cause: http://www.justgiving.com/Kevin-MacNeil1
Following a recent interview I did for Optometry Today about my eye disease, keratoconus, I thought it would be appropriate to post this poem. The song version is available on the album I made with Willie Campbell (Kevin MacNeil & Willie Campbell are Visible from Space). The poem was first published in a book celebrating the quincentenary of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.
For all the eye specialists I’ve seen – in varying degrees of haziness – over the years, and for the anonymous donor who gifted me his/her vision, in something like the way succeeding generations of writers do My vision’s been where I haven’t. I’m but a go-between. When my cornea frosted over, I saw an optician (blurred). A part of me has seen things I have never seen. My eye lost its glistering green, took on a foggy sheen Like that of a dreamish moonbeam, oceanly stirred. My vision’s been where I haven’t. I’m but a go-between. That whiteness eclipsed my eye when I was thirteen. Words on pages slurred; even girls turned smudgy, wayward. A part of me has seen things I have never seen. Keratoconus, intoned the specialists. The word seemed Vague as the world around me. Faces looked the same. Absurd. My vision’s been where I haven’t. I’m but a go-between. If the cornea’s a tiny jellyfish in the gene Pool blind fate stirs, then blind luck also occurs. A part of me has seen things I have never seen. The doctors grafted while I was drugged and dreamed - I still do - of the life-before-me my cornea’s conferred. My eye is like a mind’s eye. I’m but a go-between. A part of me has seen things I have never seen.
(c) Kevin MacNeil
I’ve spent a good deal of time listening to your voice on ‘Colombian Fireworks’. I think I replayed that opening track such a disproportionate amount of time that it seriously delayed my appreciation of the rest of the record. How did that come about and how did you convince them to make it the lead track?
“I really like what There Will Be Fireworks did with ‘Colombian Fireworks’. It came about because we happened to meet at a gig and they subsequently emailed and asked if I would write something for them. They’re great musicians and I was happy to create a new piece of work for them. I was living in Shetland at the time and my brother came to visit and recorded my voice. I deliberately wrote about fireworks to chime with the band name. I visited Colombia a few years ago and mentally absorbed something of the…
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I was trying to get him [Fitzgerald] to write his stories as well as he could and not trick them to conform to any formula, as he explained that he did.
‘You’ve written a fine novel,’ I told him. ‘And you mustn’t write slop.’
‘The novel isn’t selling,’ he said. ‘I must write stories and they have to be stories that will sell.’
‘Write the best story you can and write it as straight as you can.’
‘I’m going to,’ he said.
A Moveable Feast
I picked up a beautiful little edition of a book called Zen Buddhism in a shop in the west of England recently. No author or editor is credited (and there’s something Zen-like about that). The book was published by the Peter Pauper Press (Mount Vernon, New York) in 1959. This publisher was so named because it sought to publish elegant editions that ‘even a pauper could afford’ (you can find out more about the Peter Pauper Press here).
The book is subtitled An Introduction to Zen with Stories, Parables and Koan Riddles with Cuts from Old Chinese Ink-Paintings. Some of the stories will be familiar to readers of the popular book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, edited by Paul Reps.
Here is a quotation from a good (again, uncredited) introduction:
Each of us is the apex of a cone of past ancestors, and the beliefs, acts, and events which determined them. Each of us is also a point from which a new cone of individuals and events will arise, each in some part a product of who we are.
The Dolan fixed-gear bike is having some adventures this summer! First of all, the Ness to Leverburgh ride I did in my native Hebrides in May raised an amazing amount of money for Stornoway’s Bethesda hospice (where my mother passed the last weeks of her life). Ullapool Book Festival, a favourite of anyone who has ever attended it, generously donated money from one of their famous coffee mornings this year, plus they had a charity bucket during the festival to which many people kindly donated. These lovely gestures boosted the monies raised by £470-00!
So, the bike-ride raised £2687-01 which, with Gift Aid of £433-00, totals £3120-01. I am humbled and grateful and want to say to everyone who contributed what they could and who supported the ride for this cause:
Back to the present! This week the Dolan and I are back in Scotland, delivering a film as part of the Hansel of Film project (part of the Cultural Olympiad, and brain-child of Shetland Arts, Mark Kermode and Linda Ruth Williams. It is a UK-wide relay (Shetland to Southampton and back!) of screenings of short films made by the public as part of the London 2012 Festival.
You can find out more about it here.
I am delighted to be taking part. Shetland runs two brilliant concurrent festivals every year – WordPlay (books) and ScreenPlay (films). I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a number of events at these great festivals and so it feels good to give something back to Shetland Arts and its associated individuals and communities.
Some info from the Hansel page about my involvement:
RELAY ROUTE: ULLAPOOL TO AYR
TRANSPORT: BY FIXED-GEAR BIKE, TRAIN, KATHYMOBILE
Cycling from Ullapool to Ayr, with an occasional bus, cadged lift or train journey thrown in!
“The only thing better than a moving picture is a moving moving picture. If it’s quite a poignant film then it’ll be a moving moving moving picture. I’m riding a fixed-gear bike because it’s a physical counterpart to the mental exercise writing demands. I also want to support Shetland Arts as I lived in Shetland for a year and I reckon WordPlay and ScreenPlay are two of the best festivals in Scotland.”
Cycling through one of my favourite places in the world, the Isle of Harris. You might recognise the landscape from 2001: A Space Odyssey! (“Tinted shots of parts of the island were used by Stanley Kubrick as the surface of Jupiter in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.” -Wikipedia)