We have certain expectations of people based on what we have seen or heard of them in the past. Mention a name and you can picture a context. Take Nigel Murray of Trilantic, for example. What comes to mind? Sitting expansively in a bar with a beer in hand, going outside every so often for a cigarette. That is what he was doing when I saw him last night, anyway, much as he has done for the 15 years or so that I have known him. I did once see him run, but that was across a pavement to a cab in the rain, so barely counts as an exception to the general rule.
Seeing someone out of context is a shock to the system, like finding whisky in your teacup or seeing a judge in a lap-dancing club – possible but unlikely, you would think. How about Nigel Murray cycling 350 miles across Northern France over five days in May? Sounds barely credible somehow.
That, however, is what he plans to do. The cause is Help for Heroes, a charity which provides support to wounded servicemen and women. He is to join 299 others following the route of the Allies’ liberation of France in 1945. On a bicycle.
Within the group will be teams from our Allies of today, including wounded servicemen from America, Canada and France, as well as our own from the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Unit at Headley Court.
The route goes through the Normandy invasion beaches (Omaha, Pont du Hoc, Arromanches, Pegasus Bridge), then through the (not flat) countryside of France through Bayeux, Caen, Lisieux and Evreux, ending up in Paris where they will ride up the Champs Élysées to lay a wreath at the Arc de Triomphe.
Nigel hopes to raise a good sum for Help for Heroes by this endeavour. If you would like to contribute to a good cause, go to http://www.justgiving.com/nigelmurray
This has to be seen. I hope to be there when they arrive. Somehow, the combination of the location and the reckless bravery makes me picture a landing craft crashing through the swell and reaching the beach at Arromanches. Down comes the ramp and out pour 299 cyclists and Nigel.
We need before and after photographs of this. I draw your attention to the patent incredulity of the dog in the first one.
Nigel Murray in training
Nigel Murray winning