Near Pavillion – No. 21

Posted by in March's Magazine

Regular readers of this excellent column will doubtless still be in a state of shock at the gaping crevice created by the lack of my article in last month’s Leither. This was, in the main, due to an act of sheer manliness on my behalf. I hope the advertising hasn’t dropped off too much as ‘I know, understand and appreciate’ how difficult losing a leading advertising magnet can be. My apologies, d’accord – but all will be revealed. Like an overpaid actor posing as a corpse on C.S.I.’s mortuary slab whilst being poked and prodded by department leader Gil Grisham.

As we all know the cycling season has raced back upon us and by now we will be deep in the midst of the Belgian classics – hard fought competitions on two wheels over uncomfortable cruel cobbles and brutally steep bergs, along with the chance of tough early season elements – the rain, the wind, the cold…the chronic flatulence.


As well as a top screenplay writer I also play a part in the world of professional cycling as a Directeur Sportif and because of this I was duly sent out to Bermuda to supervise the Katusha Cycle Racing Team’s winter training camp which includes my ex-partner Vladimir Karpets. Training camps are tough demanding affairs with up to forty professional riders giving it their all for six hours in the saddle each day.

Into our second week I had taken myself out of the team car and started cycling with the lads to get a feel for the attitude within the group. It was a wet day and moving along at pace I noticed that Vladimir had hit the white line in the middle of the road and in these conditions the road markings offer no more grip than sheet ice. In short Mr. Karpets, my ex, was going to crash and crash bad! With a full season ahead of him I simply couldn’t see him damaged in such a dramatic fashion so I did the only decent thing an ex-Secret Service agent and professional stuntman could do and slung myself between the Russian six-footer and the hard, unforgiving, asphalt allowing him to use me as an agonising air cushion.

This proved a bad idea – waking up later in the local hospital with two broken ribs, broken collarbone and scapula, along with a punctured lung, I thought I’d arrived in hell…

How wrong I was! I’d completely forgotten the Americanised island’s very relaxed attitude towards morphine as a painkiller. Added to this, good friends Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas live just up the road – so the next five days became a blissful Bermudian morphaic odyssey, with Nurse Spooner and her team very slowly attending to my every need (fetching a fork took three hours on one occasion).

Catherine and Michael maintained a bedside vigil providing easygoing chat, light entertainment, excellent visuals (Catherine) and the odd bit of timely relief (Michael). A very fragile Kirk Douglas (still alive at the point of writing) did pop in to offer some help – but strictly not to completion. Douglas Senior’s actions are well worth a mention by this grateful scribe: sensitive and delicate, aware of the subject’s requirements, small details like changing mouth temperature with an ice cube or a cup of tea. Thoughtful and caring but still rugged as a Calton Hill amateur when required, this giant of Hollywood didn’t have to come all that way on his wheelchair to please me – that turned out to be Cathy’s job when Kirk and Michael were arguing over what type of potato chip to get from the vending machine – but he did! Michael wants to let all Leither readers know that he’s feeling much better after the throat cancer scare and Catherine? Well, she just has to wait a few more years before bagging off with someone younger and tidier.

So that’s my story but what of those handsome rascals along at Leith Links and their cricketing antics? Well there’s a lot to report! Last season the 2nd XI got demoted! Ye Lords! This now really does put them down amongst the dead men – division 6 – the dregs of Scottish cricketing society. I’m talking, of course, about The Old Contemptibles. If sharing a league with them isn’t enough to lift the spiritual power of the Leith Beige 2nds well maybe it’s time to introduce the ‘punishment beating system’ for poor performances that I tried to create last year! Some names that will understand this methodology are the likes of Paul ‘The Sarge’ Bilson and Alex ‘The Reluctant Rascal’ Sutcliffe – who could do better and surely, this season, must make their mark.

“Keep your hands down your shorts and reaching for the stars”
A Bientot Leopold Simpson x

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