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Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem is an oft used phrase, but never was it so pertinent than to Robin Williams. Master if improvisation he literally seized any moment and made it his own. What was less well known was his insatiable appetite for anything two wheels, he was a cycling officiando and had a collection of bikes to rival Wiggle. Ben Carlson-Oakes offers some words up to cover the passing of an icon.

‘O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.’


I think I had heard of Walt Whitman but I can’t be sure. It’s possible he merged into the overabundance of moody and inaccessible poets I was introduced to in my teens via an over excitable GCSE English Lit teacher. Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Robert Frost all glided untouched over my teenage head. I was more interested in what Kurt Cobain, Zack de la Rocha and the Beastie Boys had to say.

‘O Captain! My Captain!’ hit me, like the first time you hear Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’; (which if you haven’t, stop reading right now, sit somewhere comfortable and YouTube it…………………………Are you back? OK well done.) It stirred something in me which as a pubescent boy at an all-boys school had been supressed and ignored in favour of rugby and talk of unobtainable girls. Emotion. I know, for a fact, that the poem on its own would not have done this, it was the delivery. I give you Robin McLaurin Williams and ‘The Dead Poets Society’.

I knew this crackers, 100mph comic from Mork & Mindy; part of the 90’s Channel 4 offering between 6pm-7pm on weekdays. I had seen Good Morning Vietnam also and was struck by the emotionally sincerity in his role when the madcap shenanigans had subsided and the full horror of war had tempered his character into sobriety. I liked Williams; he was a funny guy.

“The Mississippi River broke through a protective dike today. What is a protective dike? Is it a large woman that says “Don’t go near there! But Betty- Don’t go near there! Don’t go down by the river!”… No, we can’t say “dyke” on the air, we can’t even say “lesbian” anymore, it’s “women in comfortable shoes. Thank You.” – Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning Vietnam

 ‘The Dead Poets Society’ siezed me and I identified with its variety of characters. Perry, Anderson, Overstreet, Dalton, Pitts and Meeks; I saw something of myself and close friends in all of them. The day to day school environment was also a familiar one, albeit less preppy and more North East, UK. The struggle for both internal and external acceptance, confidence in a confusing and scripted world. I did have some inspiring teachers at school but we lacked a John KeatingIt is still a film I don’t mind admitting that I struggle to watch without becoming a bit wet faced. The ending is a distressing crescendo of coercion by an unrelenting father figure; I will not spoil it if you haven’t seen it………AGAIN, YOU’VE NOT SEEN ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’! STOP READING THIS AND GO WATCH IT; jeez have you been living under a rock?!

“Carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” – John Keating, Dead Poets Society

So we have established Williams is, in my humble opinion, a legend, one of the luminous few; to make his position even more lofty and enlightened he was obsessive about all things bike. As befits a man of his zany and unconventional existence his considerable and excessive collection of two wheel velocipedes is staggering. You can view part of this collection, in fact you can own part of it if you have the cash money. 87 of his steeds are currently being auctioned off for charity and there is something for everyone.

Some personal favourites of the 87 are;

The Pea Picker Krate Stingray

The Chopper Hog Roadster

The Derringer

There seems to be every conceivable brand covered. Some that are household names and some that have disappeared from existence. This collection is apparently only a fraction of the collection. What a guy. Another quirk of the auction is the addition of the accoutrements i.e. saddle bags, frame bags, frame pumps, bottles and in a few even the cycling computer seems to be included. What a personal touch. What entities of wonder and precious things grace the insides of his Dario Pegoretti saddle pack? What steady routes did he complete on the Pinarello Dogma 6.1? What emergency implements hide in the tool bottle attached to his Calfee Dragonfly Pro?

It is unlikely I will ever know because due to the recent skydive of the pound there is now way I can even contemplate bidding for any of the bikes. But someone will find out, and someone will have a direct connection to the great man himself. I will have to conciliate myself with the visceral connection he made to me all those years ago on channel 4, VHS and latterly in his openness to publicly deal with his failing health, be it physical or mental.

He would be first on my rollcall of bucket list dinner guests alongside Bill Hicks, Bob Marley and Steve McQueen. I think more fitting though, would be to have been able to share a café stop coffee with him, sharing tales of daring descents, questionable climbing and a penchant for ill-fitting Lycra. Thanks for making me happy Williams.

“Well sir; I don’t know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know I made a few people happier than they would have been without me and as long as I know that; I’m as rich as I ever need to be.” – Mork, Mork & Mindy

 Carpe Diem People, Carpe Diem.

You can bid on the 87 bikes at Paddle 8 until 25th October

Paddle 8 Auction

Original article from PARIA buddy – Ben Carlson-Oakes

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