The Montana Journals - A Literary Interlude

Man in a Palm Tree (2).jpg

Weight 93kg (that’s another 2kg this week)*.  Alcohol units – 9 (and that’s just last night). Near-death incidents while cycling – none this week, for the second week in a row, amazingly. Injuries – lower back a little ‘warm’, even when not cycling


It was while editing the stories of our six heroic ironmen - of their training to take on Challenge Roth in Bavaria** - that I realised something vital, eternal and life-affirming. Thing is, that two of them listed their reading material as Sapiens – you know, the stratospheric bestseller by Yuval Harari, his Brief History of Humankind - adding that it has taken rather a long time to get through it. It took a surge of oxygen to the brain, but a few hundred of my synapses snapped and the idea took form.

I too have been reading Sapiens. And I am now within forty pages of finishing it (check, 35 pages as of 9.30 this morning). And it is not because I have managed to get to the end that the lightbulb moment arose. It’s because I have been reading the book on the crapper.

Of course some people will balk on principle at the very thought of this. But the rest of us find the quiet and refuge of this contemplative ‘space’ an ideal place to read.

The thing I read most, in the smallest room, is science books, specifically science books that are just beyond my normal comprehension (though I should add, desperately, that Sapiens doesn’t fall into this category; actually it’s pretty easy to read – it’s just that it’s organised into sections ideally suited to the length of a bowel movement).

The key thing about reading on the crapper is the extra oxygen that flushes through the brain. Which in turn means that I can actually understand the physics. Well, that’s my theory, anyway. And hey, I have strained and - even if momentarily – understood the theory of relativity. Before it all evaporated in a fog of forgetting and I wandered off into daily life.

Other books to read on the crapper? The Goldilocks Enigma, by Paul Davies. This took a couple of attempts. As I sat and took it up for the second time, defiantly, knowing it was time to read and understand it, I noticed where my bookmark lay. On page 42. Which is spooky, no? For a book about science (and yes, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is much more my level of reading). And fruitily if nonetheless suitably, I have read Fred Watson’s Why is Uranus Upside Down? which is full of lovely facts, some of which need a little, er… concentration, to comprehend.

The next book on the list, or at least the one lurking on the magazine rack next to Sapiens, is by that celebrity Italian physicist, Carlo Rovelli, called Reality is not what it Seems [No, really.] The Journey to Quantum Gravity. It’s another second attempt, this (page 35 since you ask) and from what I remember of it first time around, I might have to induce a little constipation in order to get there…

By the bye, something else occurred to me, while we’re on the subject of loo reading. Lou Reed, RIP. Oh, we love his gravelly voice, and his riven face, but he must be the person we’d least want to appear while we’re…. well… loo reading. I am sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

And whoops, clearly this entry has nothing to do with the IGO event in Montana, despite the fact that the Montana Journals are supposed to be about my training in the run up to it. But in keeping with the long tradition (nearly a year now) of journals on this website – a site devoted to sporting endeavour, after all - of  not writing about training, and writing about not training, this entry is not about not training for the event in Montana. Still, next week.


*With apologies to Bridget Jones

**You can read the account of their training (not) and the event here.