A month ago I had no idea who Martyn Ashton was. I’d be surprised if most of you reading this are not uttering the words Martyn who? at this very moment. Yet in the space of a few short weeks he has become part of daily life in our house.
Assuming you’ve fought off the lure of Google and have stuck with me until paragraph two I can tell you that Martyn Ashton is a mountain bike trials and stunt rider. I’m no expert when it comes to these things but even with my lack of knowledge I’d be comfortable saying he’s a bit good.
In our house he’s also known as The Special Man.
A couple of years ago he released a video which shows him performing all kinds of tricks on a road bike. Not just any old road bike. A Tour de France winning bike. It’s had about 11 million hits on YouTube so far. We’ve already established that I’m no bike expert but I’d be comfortable saying it’s a bit harder to do clever stuff on a bike like that.
Unless you’re Martyn Ashton.
Impressive huh? I am of course referring to my ability to embed a YouTube clip. All that showing off on a bike is far less entertaining than listening to me I’m sure you’ll agree…
When I first saw the video four or so weeks ago I had a feeling the kids, Rhys in particular, would love it.
I had no idea just how profound an effect it would have…but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The email with the link to the clip also had a link to the sequel – which I hadn’t watched – but having some experience of a five year old has led me to always have something else up my sleeve and so we ended up watching both of them together.
Amazing huh? I am of course referring to…ok, ok I’ve done that joke. The videos are brilliant.
As far as Rhys is concerned they are not just brilliant. They are the most amazing things in the universe. He would sit in front of the computer watching them on repeat the entire day if he had the chance. I get asked for The Special Man before school. I have downloaded the song from the first video to my phone so we can have The Special Man song on the way to school. He talks to his friends about it, he talks to his teachers about it. Granny and Grandpa have been ordered to watch it with him and told to keep quiet (much like he orders me to stop singing if I have the temerity to mumble along to The Special Man song while driving).
And it isn’t just Rhys. Arwen is equally fascinated (and vocal) in her requests for The Special Man. Tonight we had the hilarious experience of driving home in two separate cars from my in-laws house (ladies in the one car, boys in the other) and The Special Man song was being yelled for in both. According to Rhys it makes his body happy when he hears it.
After watching both videos a couple of times I wanted to find a bit more about Martyn and so I Googled him. As I was filling in his name the suggestions box came up with Martyn Ashton Paralysed and my heart sank.
During what was described as a routine trick as part of a show Martyn Ashton fell badly and landed in a twisting motion on his shoulders. To paraphrase his own words, he snapped himself in half. He is now completely paralysed at the T-10 vertebra (just above the waist).
The second video now made a lot more sense to me. I had assumed that the additional riders (Chris Akrigg and Danny MacAskill who also hold a special place in our house these days) were there to differentiate the video from the first one and to showcase some additional talents. The reality is that they were there helping a friend to complete what he had started.
I’ve watched an interview with him and a documentary about the second video and his positivity is infectious. He doesn’t focus on being injured, he focusses on being alive and facing the next challenge. It’s humbling.
A day or two after I saw this tragic news we went for a walk to the park. Grown ups walking, Arwen in her pram, Pepper straining at the leash and Rhys riding his bike.
When we got to the park the most amazing thing happened.
Rhys is a wonderful little boy. He’s gentle, he’s (mostly) kind and he’s very loving. He is also fairly timid in many respects. In terms of bike riding he is only a couple of months out of training wheels. So you can no doubt imagine how it felt to see him with a huge grin on his face standing up on the pedals shouting Look Daddy! Like the Special Man!
Five minutes after that he was off riding a full circuit of the park by himself. Until then he had barely gone fifty meters unless someone (i.e. me) was jogging along beside him. As he came around the final corner I could see he was tired. There’s a little incline in the path but he gritted his teeth and pushed on as hard as he could to make it.
Simply put, he was inspired.
Before we left the park to ride home he was trying to ride along a fallen log and on the way home he was jumping off curbs. To see the pure joy on his face moved me close to tears.
I haven’t shown Rhys the new Martyn Ashton video. I’m keeping that up my sleeve for now. But it also has a look of pure joy that moves me close to tears.
Now that one is truly amazing. A special man indeed.