When I turned the page, the hair on the back of my neck literally stood on end. The image in front of me tapped into an engrained memory so precisely that it made me double take. It took me right back to a specific time and place. But the image was not a photograph.
In May this year, I rode Tim Woodcock’s Coast to Coast in one hit. Philip Diprose, editor of The Ride Journal, (www.theridejournal.com) heard about my crossing and asked me to write an account for the magazine. I was delighted about this because The Ride Journal had caught my attention as a publication written by riders for riders. I considered it an honour to have my story published here.
Conditions for the ride were mostly horrendous. Black Sail Pass in the Lake District was particularly treacherous. The hill is steep. The weather was desperate. It was dark. My confidence was on the floor. My wheels, however, knew little traction as I plumetted toward the valley floor.
The artist’s illustration created to accompany my story in The Ride Journal portrayed all this intensity so succintly that I was shocked by the clarity and the ‘moment’ came flooding back with an almost perceptible flood of adrenalin.
The image was created by Paul Bommer (www.paulbommer.com). We have never met . When I emailed Paul to thank him for his excellent work, he was pleased that I had recognised this cartoonish piece of work was based on Black Sail Pass. (I knew it was the case before he stated this).
I found the relationship between my words and his image fascinating. Did my writing portray my emotions in such a way that the words could be ‘decoded’ by a total stranger in another place in the same way that electrical signals can pass through a cable and be ‘reassembled’ into music or an image on a computer screen? In the past I would have said, “No. Our experiences are completely personal and their full context can only be grasped by the individual”.
But the picture slightly changed my perspective. It tapped so deeply into my psyche that I felt my memories had, in some way, guided Paul’s hand. This is indicative of how, in publishing, the writer and illustrator must share common understanding if words and pictures are to join effectively.