‘Gironimo’ by Tim Moore


I read Tim Moore’s book, ‘French Revolutions’ when it came out 10 years ago and liked it. In the book, Moore details his attempts to cycle the route of the Tour de France on his own in his ill-prepared fashion, with a charmingly wry wit.

I liked it, I think, because I like travel books and I like travel, and manage to do so as regularly as I can, always in a wry and ill-prepared fashion and without any of the insouciance and sang froid that I would like to imagine that I possess. So, I liked his work. But I didn’t remember it as especially memorable and I’d lost track of his work subsequently.

I picked up this book for a friend’s birthday gift. A thought process no more complex than; ‘he likes cycling and we both love Italy. What could go wrong?’

This time, Tim Moore cycles the route of a race, on his own, recording his observations about his lack of preparation in a charmingly wry fashion. Seeing a pattern here?

In this case, he retraces the route of the 1914 Giro d’Italia, known as one of the most difficult races in cycling history. A nice addition is that this time he decides to undertake this madcap scheme on a reconditioned original – or as original as can be sourced – century old bicycle and dons woollen riding kit to boot.

And, here’s the thing: I loved it. It is one of the most genuinely laugh out loud books I’ve read, ever. I was not prepared for the sheer range of laughs the writing provoked, ranging from childish sniggers as he brakes and catapults his genitals onto the exposed rusted bolt where the front of his saddle should be, to the screamingly funny story of the cyclist who had enough in the original race and proceeded to savagely beat an unfortunately officious customs official who got in the way.

Moore manages to convey all of this with grace and no little use of simile. “‘To ride is to work,’ I said to my knees. ‘Each turn of the pedals is like the click of the freelance writer’s mouse’ or “‘It was as if my intimate parts now belonged to someone else: someone who was dead, and had died a virgin.’”

There are lags in the book, for sure. Any travel book will, at some stage, encounter the problem that, after a while, the writer must move and conveying regular movement – unless something extreme is happening – can be quite dull.

Moore’s solution when he doesn’t have a homemade wine bottle cork brake block repair anecdote to convey is two-fold. He either simply dips into the official history of the original tour and finds another tale of riders falling asleep in barns from hypothermia or drinking red wine from their panniers or keeps track of his own progress along the course against the times and distances of the original riders.

This book is a triumph of the genre and fully deserved its place on the Radio 4 Book of the Week list. It is so good I’m off to re-read ‘French Revolutions’ to check that I didn’t miss something a decade ago.

Moore is an approachable guide and its light, amusing, tone is the perfect complement to the guilt that comes from reading about someone else’s adventures while you’re slobbing at home.

I’m glad there are men out there prepared to do things to push themselves physically to the limits. I’m glad it’s not me that has to and I’m especially glad when they have Tim Moore’s ability to document these feats of ill-prepared carnage in charmingly wry observations.

Gironimo! in Five Words: Laughing to the Finish Line

You can follow the author on Twitter @MrTimMoore and the publishers, Yellow Jersey Press @YellowJersey_ed

I Think, Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo


I Think, Therefore I Play – Andrea Pirlo with Alessandro Alciato (translated from the Italian by Mark Palmer)

Oh good, another footballer’s autobiography one hears the book buying public exclaim at this BackPage Press publication. However, this small Scottish publishing house is building a reputation as nothing if not surprising, innovative and imaginative in both its list choices and its execution of what ought to be standard fare.

All of us interested in football know that Pirlo can play. He has been the de rigour hipster football man crush since he scurried onto the scene at Brescia in the late 1990s.

Few people can control a game, caress a pass or steer a free kick, like the man.
If you’re not familiar (a, shame on you and b, why are you reading this?) have a look here:

However, he also appears to have a way with words hitherto unexplored. Sometimes, this can be quite moving in its simplicity, such as when he explains to team mate Alessandro Nesta that he will be leaving AC Milan, saying simply, “I kept him up to speed with everything: step by step, tear by tear… I cried and I wasn’t ashamed to do so.” Not the sort of phrases one can imagine in the memoirs of a contemporary British footballers. Or even past British footballers if it comes to that.

There is remarkably little in the way of ‘the gaffer told me to go out and do that so I did.’ Instead, Pirlo seems to view himself as an almost metaphysical embodiment of Italy and – by extension – of calcio itself. The “wandering gypsy” on the pitch is translated into words with wit and insight by both Alessandro Alicato and the translator Mark Palmer who both do a superb job.

To be sure, Pirlo has got a healthy dose of self-confidence. “I would never have got to feel like just another guy. A normal person… The Pirlo I could have been but instead never became. They treated me like I was nothing special.” These are big words for any man and, in less skilfully written texts, can make a reader feel queasy. However, Andrea Pirlo gets away with it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he really is one of the all-time greats and, secondly, there are lashings of humour.

An already oft-cited example is the chapter on Milan’s signing of much-maligned Dutch forward Klass-Jan Huntelaar which is a comic master class from the writer interspersing his thoughts on the club at the time with the occasional exclamatory – “Huntelaar!” – to make the point that this really didn’t meet the standards of our Andrea. This chapter is worth the £9.99 admission price alone.

Perversely, the only real criticism I have of the autobiography is that it strays too far from the conventional. I learned that Pirlo is a cultured man, a fragile man and a vastly more interesting and intellectual man that we seem capable of producing in our own home grown sports men. But there was sometimes too little of the back story. I know almost no more about his growing up, his relationship with his parents or his wife than I did at the beginning.

It would appear that Pirlo’s beguiling obfuscations and sleight of hand are not restricted merely to his feet.

I Think Therefore I Play in Five Words
He Thinks. You Should Buy.