The long-suffering Doc tries to dissuade Bernard from a life spent chasing vicarious glory through ‘borrowed’ children. It’s nearly as bad as it sounds…

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If I recall correctly, the last time I wrote about the activities of my boon companion Bernard, he was in the process of recovering from illness.

Some of you will have noticed by now that this is a common state of affairs. Inevitably, the lost fitness (and I suppose it must be very easy to lose when it was so vestigial to begin with) has driven him into the usual mix of depression, rage, and self-destruction.

“I’m quitting,” he announced, for what must be the 50th time. I wanted to tell him it has less impact for having become a catchphrase. “You’d miss it,” I said instead.

“You’re right. But that’s what’s so good about my new plan,” he said. “I’m going to stay involved. It’s simple, I’ll go to the kids’ races. That way I’ll be able to go to events, chat to my friends, have a cup of tea, get excited about the competition, enjoy the thrill of the race, and finally, as a bonus, if the kids win I can take the credit, and if they lose, it will be their fault alone.”

“You don’t have any children,” I said.

“I can soon fix that,” he said.



There have been several putative Mrs Bernards over the time I’ve known him. None of them have lasted long. He’s never really been much bothered about the idea of family life; while some people have a nesting instinct, Bernard has a shedding instinct.

It’s not so much that he drives women away, because he doesn’t have the energy for that. It’s more that he goes out to tinker with things in his shed, and after a while he comes back into the house to find that they’ve just wandered off and haven’t come back.

Lend us your dears
So it was at the risk of getting involved in a very complicated (and frankly icky) conversation about his personal life that I said, “Are you not going to need a woman for that? Or has no one ever had the conversation with you?”

“Don’t talk rubbish,” he said, “I can borrow some kids.”

“I really don’t think you can, dude. Don’t you ever watch the news?”

“I won’t take them without asking.”

I asked him to name for me one, just one, parent who would lend him some children to traumatise with his views on training, bike-fit, tactics, nutrition, and (I can’t emphasise this one enough) psychology. The only person I could imagine who might be that irresponsible was Bernard himself. And there would be an insurmountable issue of circularity about that plan.

“I don’t have to. Not as such. I’ll become a junior coach.”

The first thought that occurred to me about Bernard as a junior coach was that he could wipe out all forms of competitive cycling globally in a generation. The second was that it might not take him that long.

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“But Bernie, and don’t take this the wrong way, to be a coach you need a lot of training, you need to pass exams, you need to really know your stuff,” I said.
“You’ve got a coach, yes? Tell me, has he passed any exams?”

“Yes — in fact he’s got a Ph.D.”

“Has he indeed? And yet you still look like a bag of spanners on a bike, and go, and don’t take this the wrong way, very slowly.”

So there we are. If you have any children who love cycling and spend all day dreaming about winning the Tour, but whom you much rather spent their time worrying about their school work, I’d be happy to recommend a coach. You might want to put some money aside for therapy in later life, mind. Just a suggestion.