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Magic Spanner, by Carlton Kirby

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Cartoon Kirkby, DiscoSport’s leg end of a Tour de France cycling commentator
Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s legendary Tour de France commentator

Title: Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator
Author: Carlton Kirby (with Robbie Broughton, foreword by Sean Kelly)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport
Year: 2019
Pages: 250
Order: Bloomsbury
What it is: Geraint Thomas’s The World of Cycling According to G knocked off and loaded up with Carlton Kirby’s highly imitable witterings
Strengths: The name on the cover
Weaknesses: The name on the cover

Eurosport broadcast booth
Eurosportthe mobile home of cycling
Chris Graythen / Getty

Hello and welcome one and all wherever you are to the Podium Café, the second home of cycling! I’m Carlton Kirby and we’re here today for a live reading of Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator. Our reader today is the Café Bookshelf’s chief book stacker, Fergus McKie and he’ll be trying to get through all 250 pages of this epic tome written by me, Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s legendary Tour de France commentator.

The stations of the cross only had 14 stages, as Henri Pelissier famously told Julie London at the 1942 Tour. The Big Buckle itself has 21. But there’s much more suffering in line for McKey today as he attempts to tackle in a single sitting all 28 chapters of Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner, written by me, Carlton Kirby, and brought to you by Bloomsbury books (available in all good charity shops, pay no more than 75 pence).

Other books are available. Ha! Ha! Only joking! They’re not.

I’ve no idea what sort of day McKee has in store today. Maybe he’ll sprint through the chapters like Mark Cavendish eager to get to the finish line and get a hug from the fragrant Peta. Or maybe it’s going to be like a long day out in the fabled Circle of the Deaf, where no one can hear your tears, those five fabled climbs in the Pyrenees that include the Col d’Aspirin, the Col de Turnip, and the Col de Mount Vindaloo. Can MacKeye make it all the way to the finish without stumbling and needing help from a domestique like Simon Serene? We’ll soon find out. I’ll be your commentator todayairdoors to manual!here at the second home of cycling, Podium Café. Let’s go reading!

As you all know by now, British cycling hasn’t always been where it is today. Hard and all as it is to believe, there was a time when people laughed at British cycling commentators. But the days of David Duffield are long gone and no one’s laughing now. No one. British cycling commentators rue the airwaves, from me and all my wonderful friends and colleagues at Discovery Eurosport – please do not call us DiscoSport, it’s not clever and it’s not funny – to ….

… hold that thought just a moment, we’ve got some action! Yes! Yes! McGhee has entered the room and he’s carrying his copy of Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner, along with a mug of coffee and what looks suspiciously like a packet of Neurofen! I hope they’re not on the naughty list, otherwise I’d have to refer to them using a euphemism like ‘forbidden candy.’ And now Magee’s about to settle into his armchair and start reading. I’m joined now by my good friend and colleague, Rob Hutch, for a quick comment on what he thinks is in store for us today. Hullo Bob!

“Hello Carlton! I really like the look of Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator, written by you, Carlton Kirby. It’s a fabulous book, really fabulous. One of the best cycling books ever written, and I’ve read plenty of cycling books, seven or eight of them at least. Thankfully you’ve got an index in yours and I immediately turned to the pages I was mentioned on, pages 142, 143 and 144! I think that might be the first time I have ever been mentioned in a cycling book so thank you for that, Carlton. I really hope Fair-gull Ma Keye can comfortably make it to the end today, even without his name being in the index. He’s already breezed his way through the first few chapters even as we’ve been speaking!”

Incredible insights there from Job Hitch who, unfortunately, can’t stay with us all day as he’s still barely halfway through his daily target of 10,000 slaughtered syllables and so is off to work his way through today’s edition of La Gazzetta. If you’re watching us on TV we’re off for a quick commercial break. Come back soon.

74 minutes later …

Welcome back to today’s live reading of Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner here at the second home of cycling, Podium Café. While you’ve been away lots has happened and ….

… and McCoy’s stopped reading! He’s stopped reading! Drama! He’s reaching for his notebook and he’s writing something, hopefully the camera can zoom in there, yes, we can see what he’s writing: “Kirby’s a bit like the club bore who won’t stop chuntering on with stories about what he had for breakfast six weeks ago and various factoids and myths passed down from the fabulist’s fabulist Pierre Chany to Les Woodland and then left in some charity shop for Peter Cossins to pick up and recycle. Here’s Kirby serving up the story of Bernard Hinault striking a protester at Paris-Nice 39 years ago.”

Ah Bernard Hinault. What a gentleman. One of the Pantheon Marbles of the sport. They called him the Budger. He could really move. He just rolled on. A true rouleur. Everyone else is measured against him. There was never anything measured about his attacks. He always went full gas. That reminds me, I must get the gas boiler serviced.

While McColl puts down his notebook and gets back to reading Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner, by me, Carlton Kirby, let me tell you a little bit about the book. My close friend and colleague Brian Smithprofessional dour Scot, twice British Champion, and the former DS of Team China in Your Dreamshas said to me he thought it was a little bit like Ned Bolton’s duffers’ guide to cycling, How I Won the Yellow Jumper.

Now I have been called the thinking cycling fan’s Ned BoltonI have been called many things, only some of which I am able to repeat on air!but I do not see it myself. My anecdotes are funnier than his. And there are more of them too! Ha! Ha! Only joking! Ted and I are actually good friends, even though he does work for ITV94. Or as I like to call them, the opposition. Ha! Ha! Only joking!

And while we’ve been enjoying a gaggle of giggles, McCabe has already reached the Queen Chapter of Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator, written by me, Carlton Kirby and brought to you by Bloomsbury books, the funeral home of Brendan Gallager’s opus magnum about the Giro d’Italia, Corsa Rosa. Everything I know about the Giro I learned from that book. I doff my cap to you Brendan. Maestro!

Like our dear, departed monarch, the Queen Chapter is a rather serious and sombre affair in which I explain by example what a slow day at a Grand Tour is like. All padding and filler. A bit like a Hollywood star’s face. Ha! Ha! Only joking! They’re all lovely in La-La Land and I look forward to visiting when the film rights to my book are sold. Matt Demon is rumoured to be interested in playing me. That would be nice. Although I think George Clooney would be a closer fit.

A slow day is where the Encyclopedia Carltononandonandonica comes into its own as I fill the gaping void of dead air with stories about the time I worked in a biscuit factory in the lovely little Norman town of La Haye-du-Puits (crumbs but what a Nice time I had there, HobNobbing with all the local bigwigs) and cloud formations (that one’s a rabbit, and that’s a sheet of foolscap writing paper, and that one’s another rabbit) and crop rotation (clockwise, the same way you pass the port) and the prevailing winds of the Mediterranean (I’ve been told I’m full of hot air myself!).

People are always writing to me at Eurosport, the care home of cycling commentators, asking how do I remember all these myriad factoids and inanities I fill the day with. And I have to tell you, I just don’t know. Being able to remember things is just a knack I have. I can remember what I had for breakfast. I can remember to put my trousers on, most days. I can remember …

… and Mackey has stopped reading! And now he’s standing up! Oh dear but this is dramatic! This is high drama! Is he going to quit, is he really just going to stop there? And he’s … oh no! No oh no! He’s scratching his bottom. Oh dear! Dear oh dear! For goodness sake! We do not need to be seeing this. I apologise to our viewers. I’m sorry William and David and Thomas and Mark and Linda, I really am, but we have no control over the images we bring you here at Eurosport, the rest home of cycling commentators, that’s down to the host broadcaster and they really shouldn’t be showing us this, they really shouldn’t. Dear oh dear. I have to tell you, we do not need to be seeing things like this. It’s .. oh thank God! He’s sitting down now and he’s started reading again. Drama over!


Now, where was I? You know, in all that drama, I’ve completely forgotten! I have a memory like those things with holes in them, what-do-you-call-thems, that’s it, fishnet stockings. Or ladies’ panty-hose as my dear friend and colleague Shaun Kielty always calls them.

nb: Sean Kelly calling stockings “ladies’ panty-hose” is actually in the book

Hold on, my producer’s just handed me a note. Oh yes, slow days, that’s what I was talking about. Well as well as trivial inanities, slow days are also an opportunity to show our viewersWilliam and David and Thomas and Mark and Lindahow hard-hitting the journalism at Eurosport, the nursing home of cycling commentators, really is. And I do that by talking about the Italian town of Barolo.

I love all the little towns and villages cycling’s Grand Pianos pass through, insignificant places filled with people so glad to have someone new to talk to they put on a special welcome for us cycling journalists, feeding us, and watering us, and giving us free samples of whatever their local produce is, from cheeses to cashmere coats. And then there’s the Italian town of Barolo. An awful little town in northern Italy that’s so full of itself that when the Giro passed through it they didn’t put the welcome wagon out for us cycling journalists and actually insisted we pay for our own drinks!

nb: this goes on for three pages in the book


There wasn’t even a coffee machine to be found! And then they organised a wine tasting whereand this is where some press guys lost ityou were expected to pay! If you want to wind up a group of journalists, just make them pay for everything! Apparently their pumped-up, over-muscular, drink-only-with-aged-liver-or-well-hung-game plonk was too valuable to be given graciously and freely to those supposed to comment on it. Remarkable.

nb: an actual quote from the book

A quick note to my friends in Barolo: technology has caught up with you guys. There are obviously many, many wine shops all over the UK. On average, Barolo can be found 40% cheaper in the United Kingdom. I could go to Majestic Wine round the corner from my home and get exactly the same bottle for significantly less without having to lug it around Italy for a few weeks.

nb: another actual quote

You’ll have to excuse me, my producer has just slipped me another note. Radio Norwich has been in touch and would like to know if I’d be interested in hosting their early morning slot. They say that the pictures are better on radio but let me tell you something: that is simply not true. There are no pictures on radio, not even on DAB. It’s a purely aural medium. It’s all just speech. And bits of music. And ad breaks. And over to Wendy with the weather. Would I like to fill Radio Norwich’s early morning slot? I may well be renowned the breadth and length of Great Britain for being a painter with wordsI have been called the Dali of cycling commentary by some, others say that I talk Pollocksbut no I would not like to fill Radio Norwich’s early morning slot, thank you very much! I’ve lived in Norwich and if they didn’t want me then there’s no way I’m going back now. I’ve worked at television’s TV-AM, I have, thank you very much!

Cuts to ad break. 83 minutes and 19 ads for Ineos’s antisceptic handwash later …


Welcome back. And you’ve missed a lot while you were away! It really kicked off at the end. Gosh! What excitement! Let’s play back the finish and there’s McCann sitting in his Poäng armchair from Ikeanot the sort of chair I’d choose to sit in myselfand looking world weary and worn down by it all as the words slowly ebb and flow, weaving and wefting their way across the pages. And just look at the relief on his face when he turns to the final page and tries to sprint through the final paragraphs. And just listen to that sigh of relief when he reaches the final full stop. That’s the sound of a man who’s just happy to have made it across the finish line. Fantastic stuff! Fantastic!

I’m joined now by my colleague Robbie McEwen. What did you think of that finish, Robbie?

“Well Carlton, mate, I thought Feargal fudged it a bit coming into that final page and …”

Oh dear, we seem to have lost Robbie there. I do hope it wasn’t because of something he said and he hasn’t been sent to the naughty step, again.

Well unfortunately that’s all we have time for today, we’ll have to leave McCant’s podium celebrations for another time, we’ve got to get off air and make room for the Tractor Pulling from Gdańsk. Thank you for joining us here at Podium Café, the second home of cycling. I’ve been Carlton Kirby and I’ll be back later in the year with Carlton Kirby’s Sticky Bottle – The Cycling Year According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator, the hotly anticipated follow-up to Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator, both written by me, Carlton Kirby and brought to you by Bloomsbury books, the childhood home of Harry Potter. Now look at the place.

Until then … nighty night.

Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator, by Carlton Kirby is published by Bloomsbury Sport
Carlton Kirby’s Magic Spanner – The World of Cycling According to Carlton Kirby, Eurosport’s Legendary Tour de France Commentator, by Carlton Kirby is published by Bloomsbury Sport