My tolerance and patience are legendary, (as the woman I was forced to beat with a rolled up MCN for tutting too disapprovingly on the Northern Line will testify.) When I am King there is going to be one simple rule - if I can hear your music outside your house, it's TOO DAMN LOUD. (Actually, when I am King there are going to be some other rules too, but these are more complicated. The poles in Underground carriages are going to be wired so that if any body parts other than the hand for which it is intended rest upon it, your testicles will fall off. That should stop blokes leaning on them in order to leave both hands free for the newspaper. Also my subjects will be issued with a miracle of technology which, if pointed at someone using their mobile phone while driving, causes their heads to explode. I accept that there will be some initial FlashForward style carnage caused by headless motorists but I believe this would encourage rather more rapid compliance than any number of carefully-worded motorway signs. Also, given some of the standards of driving out there, I'm not sure we'll be able to tell the difference.)
So when Frank Melling was looking for feedback on his plans for the new improved Thundersprint Quiet Zone, somehow I sprang to mind....
Frank has a simple dilemma - how to keep two opposed sets of people happy. Those who think that 6am is best seen after 2am, 3am and 4am, standing by a large bonfire with a beer in one hand and a likely prospect in the other, and those who think that 6am is a bit bloody cruel as a starting time for scrutineering.
Like my credit card and a second-hand bookstore, it is wisest for these groups not to meet in the first place. So the plans for 2010 sound fantastic. The Quiet Campers will be on the football pitch at Witton Albion FC, and anyone going through the gate to set up behind the goal lines will have to acknowledge that they are heading into a curfew zone. The Happy Campers will be the other side of a high wall. Like Escape from New York, but the other way round.
I think it sounds great, but I was sold at the thought of camping on the pitch. PB dents my happiness by reminding me that the football players have to go home first.
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Like El Diente, I am getting a new bike tomorrow. But Ruby and the Triumph can rest easy - in fact, hopefully a little more easily than is the case at the moment, as I have been forced into this purchase by the realisation that while weight creeps on quite easily, it doesn't seem willing to creep off again without effort.
So I have ordered an industrially well-sprung Pathfinder from the remarkable and Revolutionary Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Operative. If there was an Edinburgh Motorcycle Co-Operative I'd go and work for it, because this company loves two wheels and wants as many people as possible to see the light. I'm going to share a bit from their Autumn/Winter catalogue and pretend it's my kind of bike they're talking about:-
"Riding a bike is one of the best ways to feel truly alive any day of the week. Reasons to ride are well-rehearsed: fitness, swiftness, ecology, economy...I remember a better one today, which I think was attributed to a Zen monk. "I ride a bike so I can ride a bike." Our message this season is like the aristocracy: double barelled but simple. Keep riding this winter because life's better by bike.
Viva La Revolución!
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Monday, 12 October 2009
Peace pounces in the most unlikely of places. Twenty feet above Trafalgar Square, serenading Nelson with my slightly squally rendition of Moon River, watched in person by the Round Britain Rally (insomniac) section and online by an opinionated community of twecklers, I was expecting my predominant emotion to be panic with a side order of terror. But it was impossible to be anything but calm, high in the kind of cold clear night that kicks off all the best
fairy tales, and surrounded by friends.
Or maybe I had just used up all my panic in the previous 12 hours. I thought I'd been lucky with the rain this year, but in fact what has happened is that it saved itself up and landed 10 months worth on my head on the M40. A brief detour to the Tithe Stone in Beaconsfield only allowed the weather more time to ooze through the zip on my jacket, and by the time I was circling St James Square looking for a parking space I had reached saturation point. No problem, I thought. Quick check-in to my plush hotel (special rate for plinthians :) and out with the dry clothes packed around Steve's busking amp. But no - contrary to previous reports, the Metal Mule does leak so it was off with the soaked-through clothes and on with the ones only damp in patches.
In my pre-plinth fantasy the next step was filling my balloons with the helium delivered to the hotel by Just Balloons, perhaps with a little glass of something cheerful, before a hot bath and an early night. I had reckoned without the power of Health and Safety. The cylinder was sequestered in the loading bay in a HazMat cage and couldn't be delivered to my room, for reasons unclear but possibly involving incorrect memories of the Hindenberg. Nor could I go to the loading bay and fill my balloons there, because insurance doesn't allow for guests to roam behind the scenes at the hotel. Stalemate for the next three hours, while the decision of the General Manager was awaited. On the positive side, it gave me the chance for a final practice of my tunes, as the Plush Hotel came with a very nice sound system. At 7.45 pm I had a call from the Duty Manager who said that a deal had been arranged and at midnight, once the press in the bar had eased, I could bring my balloons down to an empty public room and fill them up under the supervision of hotel staff. Not brilliant, but better than nothing.
At 7.55 I got a call from the other Duty Manager to say that since I probably wanted to be asleep at midnight he would meet me in the Strategy Room in 5 minutes and we would get the job done, which was very kind of him, though Health and Safety certainly wouldn't have approved of his assistant standing on a chair waving the leg from a flip-chart stand around in an attempt to persuade an escaped helium heart out of the wide-open first-floor window.
Balloons ready, kit checked, and tunes practiced, by 8.15 I was free to go and meet f1roro for a Malaysian curry and that long-anticipated glass of wine, improved only by the arrival of PB just before pudding.
At 3.15 am PB and I were wrestling two sets of balloons - one for each end of the plinth - out of the front doors of the Plush Hotel and across the road to the One and Other portacabin at the edge of Trafalgar Square, ready for the 3.30am check in. Which shouldn't have been stressful, and I don't want to be ungracious, for it is conventional to thank the One and Other team for their welcome and hospitality, and they genuinely were very warm and friendly given the earliness of the hour, but the 90 minutes of hanging about ended in a sudden declaration that "We have to go NOW!" followed by a hasty bundling out of the door. Possibly things were made more difficult by the fact that the just-landed plinther was accompanied by a large suitcase, a partner on crutches and a medium sized wooden horse, but in the chaotic departure my carefully arranged dual balloons were loaded together into the cherry picker and instantly tangled into one sticky mass, while the second search of my pannier and person (required in case during the 90 minutes of hanging about I had managed to acquire and secrete any naked flames, glass or scissors) left me anxious that something essential to the production of tunes or the hanging of RBR banners had been taken out and left behind.
The one thing I wanted to avoid (OK. There were several things I wanted to avoid, including changing my mind and wanting to get down, falling off, and forgetting the tunes)....the *main* thing I wanted to avoid was the five minutes of faffing about which seem compulsory at the beginning of every plinther's video. I wanted an elegant setting out of kit, a brief wave at the RBR, then a seamless segue into Wonderful World. What I got was a doomed attempt at separating the two sets of balloons, a resigned spreading out of Graham's spanking new banner onto the floor of the plinth where only the Sky Arts camera could see it, and a nervous launch into my Louis Armstrong cover.
Previous plinthers have remarked that the lights are so bright you can't see who is watching you. I'm very happy to reveal that isn't true - it was perfectly possible to see (and wave at, at the risk of dropping one's Green Bullet blues mic) my crowd of friends, supporters and passing traffic wardens. In the words of the late great Freddy Mercury - I thank you all. It was a privilege to have you there and I'm overwhelmed by how many people were prepared to sacrifice their beauty sleep and their annual leave on my account. But especially I'd like to thank:-
- Dave the D, Graham and all the RBR's, the ones who met at South Mimms at 3.30am and made the dash into London, and the ones who couldn't come in person but have said kind and wonderful things online
- Ro, who made a special trip to London to come and take photos
- Jo, who must have been on the milk train from Oxford to be in Trafalgar Square by 5am
- LU Goodwin, who stopped to listen on his way home from the night shift
- Just Balloons - if you need helium, give them a call for service above and beyond
- The Trafalgar Hilton, for moving heaven and earth to find a way to let me use my helium
- PB, for not complaining at the hundredth time he heard Moon River while trying to cook
- Steve Lockwood, for his encouragement, his enthusiasm and the loan of his busking gear
- Willingham Jam Club, for being my practice audience
- egneg, for his encouraging tweets
- The One and Other team, for giving me the chance to be a part of London's history.
Posted by Highwaylass at 19:18 PERMALINK
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
(cross posted from my One and Other Page)
Many people wonder what the point of their existence is. The One and Other Project has helpfully resolved this for me – I now know that I have 100 points to my existence and they are available to any participant in the Round Britain Rally with the strength of will and mind to get up at Silly O’Clock and take a photo of me on the Plinth – usual rally rules apply. As an extra temptation I’ll be making a donation to the Air Ambulance proportionate to the number of photos being taken (yes, I’m being a bit cagey about this because there’s a potential pool of over 200 participants and it could get quite expensive.)
I did say that I wanted to highlight the fabulous motorcycle community – and the fact that at least a dozen RBR-ers have pledged to ride into London in the small hours with only the consolation of an Ace Caff breakfast should demonstrate in spades what an amazing bunch of people you find on two wheels.
As Thursday is National Poetry Day I’m also highlighting the wonderful Thom Gunn poem, “On the Move” –
“On motorcycles, up the road, they come:
Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boy,
Until the distance throws them forth, their hum
Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.
In goggles, donned impersonality,
In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,
They strap in doubt--by hiding it, robust--
And almost hear a meaning in their noise.”
- but don’t worry, I’m not reading it out, I’m just flying it on a flag.
Also, as the thought of me standing there waiting to be photographed was getting just a little bit too reminiscent of the final minutes of Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore, I will be passing the time by playing some blues harp. Wish me luck, or bring your earplugs….
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
I am reconciled to the rain. It makes the garden grow, it smells nice on pine needles and it washes Ruby for me. In fact, this morning I was feeling quite mellow about being drenched, as it was the first serious wetting I’ve had for some weeks, and also because BMW have finally cracked the fog-proof visor so I could actually see the road ahead.
On the downside, what was revealed in mist-free clarity was 40 miles of standing traffic. Does the rain bring out all the cars, like grateful wiggly worms? I have no objection to a bit of filtering, it’s one of the reasons I ride a bike, but by Junction 2 of the M6 my left hand had seized into a claw and my Foggy-esqe stare was scaring small children. As previously posited, I’m still of the view that cagers are getting better at moving out of the way (or at least not deliberately moving into it) though this positive sentiment does not extend to the girl in the hot hatch who spent 5 minutes fluffing her hair in the rear-view mirror while firmly astride the white line – in a moment of unsisterly churlishness I debated knocking on her window and explaining that it’s also good for showing vehicles approaching from behind –nor to Mr MPV who very unwisely decided to play Michael Schumacher to my Damon Hill and change his line several times in an attempt to keep me on his left quarter. Given that both my concentration and my patience had long been exhausted, and I’d already bounced a Metal Mule off a large HGV and won, he was putting a lot of faith in the future wellbeing of his wing mirrors.
While I’m having a whinge - it would also have been nice to have had a wave from Mr Sportsbike – I don’t mind people following in my wake, one of these days I’ll go the whole hog and fit a cowcatcher instead of a beak onto Ruby – but a small nod would have been appreciated.
Monday, 5 October 2009
It turns out that like motorcycling, harmonica playing is genetically predetermined. Talking to my dad about my Plinth Plans, he revealed that in an effort to stave off boredom in the sanatorium (every single one of the diseases of post-war childhood had a go at killing off my dad: fortunately for me, unsuccessfully) he decided to join a trio of pyjama-clad percussionists on the harmonica. I'm not sure which is the greater challenge, playing chromatic with TB or playing diatonic 26 feet above Trafalgar Square. I guess I'll find out on Thursday!
PS That's not my cool kit in the photo - it's all on loan from the fabulous Steve Lockwood. (apart from the roll of prayer flags) (and the Conga Girl badge.)
Saturday, 3 October 2009
In 5 days it will all be over and I will hopefully be drawing a sigh of relief and wondering what to do with 5 inflatable motorcycles. I love the great writing which motorcycling inspires in people and I have been puzzling over how to make that manifest on the plinth without having to stand there and read any of it out loud, because I suck at public oration.
Inspiration struck this morning, and in slight trepidation at the possible insult to Buddhism, I have made biker prayer flags. I'm going to fly them from the string on one of my sets of balloons and they will send inspirational words about riding into the London dawn.
I'll do proper links later but the writers I've included are the incomparable and much-missed Hunter S Thompson, Dan Walsh, Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Lois Pryce, and Teresa Wallach. I've also made a flag which quotes "On the Move" by Thom Gunn, which speaks to the soul. If I'm going to read anything out loud it will be this, as Plinth Day is also National Poetry Day. But I may not be brave enough.