This is a poem for a good friend and erstwhile colleague, Jim MacDonald, who died recently. It was written on the day of his funeral, a startlingly beautiful May day.
Jim was a huge fan of Southampton FC, and he and I and a bunch of friends went, over the course of several years, to see various stages of Le Tour de France.
The poem is for Jim, for his children, Elizabeth and Daniel, the family and all his friends…, in particular, for ‘the gentlemen of Le Tour’ and other friends from ROCC days.
The May tree is snow white, pink flushed, startling
the sycamore, bobby dazzling in a sapphire stained, swallow diving sky.
As we await your presence,
For that one last trip
I take the sun, the heat
(fierce today, aslip over this bittersweet spring of ours
with it’s malevolent harvest darkening the way )
Daydreaming of French roadside cafes,
Saddlebags stuffed with cheese, bread and wine.
One less now
to effortlessly charm the women in the boulangerie,
make short work of a cold beer
To sip strong coffee elegantly.
You were kindness, nonchalance,
Good humoured grace
As the Peliton flashed by,
The sibilant hiss of tyres on hot baked asphalt
A glimpse of Indurain’s tour bus.
Never one to make much fuss.
The celebrant noted that
“memories and stories
Don’t just stop…
You are but a breath away”
Yes, even as
The Saints go marching in.
The strange thing
The world continues to spin
Whilst we, the grieving
Sad to say, for
“The gentlemen of Le Tour”
One set of wheels
Turn no more.
From Orkney to Pompey
Exultant memories prevail
The road still rises
The sunset pale.
Across French fields and roads,
The hill climbs will still be there
The stages, time trials,
Good companion to
Le Tour is our collective
Treasure house of joy.
Our gentleman Jim.