On The Inner Chimp

Marking the death of Robert Hughes yesterday, there were dozens of quotations I could have used, and I chose the one about the Inner Child and the Inner Adult more or less at random. It is a fine example of what Michael McNay in his Grauniad obituary calls Hughes’ talent for “[an] epigrammatic judgment that condenses deep truths”. It was a fortuitous choice, for it prompted Outa_Spaceman to bring to my attention another Inner Being of which I was previously unaware, the Inner Chimp.

The Inner Chimp seems to reside mainly within Outer Cyclists – or, as I tend to call them as they hurtle towards me on the London pavements, bike wankers. Outa_Spaceman supplied this intriguing extract from a 2009 Grauniad article:

In his absorbing and often riveting new book, [Mark] Cavendish trashes the contribution of some former leading members of British cycling – in particular, Simon Jones, acclaimed as the UK’s coach of the year after the 2004 Olympics. “He was a dickhead and all their scientific analysis of riders is complete bollocks when it comes to me. They kept telling me I wasn’t hitting the numbers but look what’s happened since. I couldn’t give a fuck about Simon Jones.”

With more warmth, he describes [Dave] Brailsford, the feted performance director of British cycling, as “a media darling”. He is also amused at the way in which Britain’s Olympic gold-medal winning track cyclists are so heavily reliant on the sports psychologist Steve Peters – who has done so much to ease the often tortured psyches of Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton, and even Chris Hoy. “I like Steve. But all that stuff about ‘taming your inner chimp [of negative thought]‘ is hilarious.”

I looked up Dave Brailsford on the Wikipedia and learned that he is the son of an Alpine mountain guide. This is no doubt extremely pertinent to his discovery of the Inner Chimp, though in ways I have not yet been able to pinpoint. Chimps do not, after all, hang about in the snow white Alps. Yet I sense a tantalising connection there, between the tiny Brailsford plodding in his Papa’s footsteps o’er the the Alps and his adult conviction that cyclists are prey to their Inner Chimp. When I have worked out the cast iron link between the two, I will let you know.

Meanwhile, forgetting all about the Alps for the time being, it is worth considering the Inner Chimp in and of itself. I would like to know if it lurks within all of us, whether or not we are bike wankers. I myself am a militant pedestrian, though I share Rayner Heppenstall’s puzzlement at the need for a separate word to designate those of us who use the basic form of human locomotion. But I am now wondering if, whenever I walk from A to B, or from Haemoglobin Towers to Nameless Pond, I have an Inner Chimp struggling to assert itself. I would be interested to discover how it would make itself known.

There is a clue, perhaps, in the reference to the “often tortured psyches” of Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. From my scant viewing of the Olympics hoo-hah, I would say that the latter does look rather highly strung, in a mad-woman-in-the-attic way, but Wiggins seems a far more relaxed character. But if Brailsford is to be believed, both of them have an Inner Chimp, which explains their tortured psyches. I am fairly sure my own psyche would be tortured if, as soon as I set out on foot somewhere, my Inner Chimp started jabbering for attention and threatened to become an Outer Chimp. I would run for the hills, if not the Alps. Though perhaps that is what the Inner Chimp would want me to do. This is devilishly complicated stuff.

It also leads me to wonder if chimpanzees themselves have an inner bike wanker. Next time I go the zoological gardens I am going to study the chimps very very carefully for telltale signs. What those signs might be I do not yet know, but I suspect I will find out if, for example, I flash a red light at the chimps and they are thereby compelled to rush towards it at inhuman speed, scattering adults and children and guide dogs and puppies and indeed any innocent life-form that gets in their way.

The other animal we have mentioned with an Olympic connection is the otter. What, I wonder, does Brailsford, or indeed Cavendish or Pendleton or Wiggins have to say on the subject of the Inner Otter? Cycling and beach volleyball are of course two different sports, and there is no reason to think that Inner Animals cross over from one to the other. But if the world of Inner Animals is as rich in variety and unfathomable weirdness as the world of actual, Outer Animals, it would not be surprising if there were instances of cyclists with Inner Otters, otters with Inner Chimps, chimps with Inner Cyclists, and Lord knows what other combinations.

Personally, I am looking forward to the day when everyone gives free rein to their Inner Pedestrian. Actually, strike that. Given that much of the population appears to be savage and barbaric, the ideal thing would be for most of them to unleash their Inner Stay-Indoors-And-Read-Morally-Uplifting-And-Improving-Literature-By-Candlelight Persons. Then I could happily walk from A to B and from Haemoglobin Towers to Nameless Pond without having my progress blighted by either bike wankers or shambling gits. Oh happy day!, in the unlikely event it ever dawns.

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