Ever found anything in an ice-cube which shouldn't have been there?
In late January of the deep freeze of 62/63 I am witness to my father and older brothers extracting the giant cylindrical ice-cube which has formed in the garden water-butt. As we energetically roll the pseudo iceberg up and down the length of the frozen lawn a couple of times it eventually begins to break up and so we decide to finish the job.
In the middle of this ice-monster we find a frog.
Even though I know I should not ascribe any sense of self-awareness to the last moments of the doomed amphibian, I am mortified – I cannot help envisage its fruitless struggles against the inevitable pressure.
And so I segue into the mess that is Lance Armstrong.
There is a section of competitors in every sport who have the attitude that while there are rules, which can be enforced by a referee, if you can get away with some infringement, then do it. What they generally refuse to acknowledge is that they are cheats and will try to find the thinnest rationale for what they do. They will even get upset if you don't back down from your assertion.
"So I stomped on his face and broke his nose."
He takes a swig of beer.
"That's part of rugby, is it?"
I take my own swig. And swing at his alpha-maleness.
"Of course, it is. The bugger deserved it."
"No, you misunderstand. I was being sarcastic. That's in the rules, is it? Kicking an opponent in the face?"
"As long as the ref doesn't see you do it. All part of the game."
He takes another swig, with a confident smile that says no-one messes with him on the pitch.
"Then you're cheating."
He nearly splutters.
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are. Cheats break the rules. Therefore, you're a cheat. Oh, and now you look as though you want to repeat what you did on the field. There are rules about that, you know. But since there's no policeman in sight, you'll probably be alright …"
For all the misery Lance Armstrong has wrought upon the men and women who stood in his way, I feel a kind of misplaced empathy for the self-inflicted pain Armstrong is probably going to have to experience. – just like the frog with Fate pressing down upon it.
A few days ago, and I am cycling along a snow-covered track, with only the footprints of various rabbits and a fox disturbing the virgin ground. It takes a considerable effort not only to stay upright, but to keep moving.
And I feel so alive. I understand that the naturally produced chemicals in my body are giving me this high, but in this mad act of bloody-mindedness to be out in this appalling weather, I am demonstrating that there is a satisfying energy to be found from cycling and which I express with a broad grin. It is an experience I suspect is partially responsible for helping drive Armstrong on to do what he did. And which is what he will miss.
But I will not miss him.
My sympathies are with the frog …
Don't do stupid – it's just not clever.