The Spectre

R.I.P. – The Spectre

Me: “Firstly… I’m fine.”

The man who took my Spectre away: “There’s no fixing that, mate” (or words to that effect).

So… The Spectre will ride no more.  She now truly is a ghost.  But will live on in spirit.  etc etc.

There were finally some true Spring days – and I decided to make the most of it, albeit without the benefit of GPS navigation.  So – I’d pick a spot, put together some hand-written directions in my own bizarre evolving shorthand (trying to fit 20 or so turns/etc – to stay on country roads – onto an A6 piece of paper) – and head off.  On nearly every occasion, losing my way at some point – and just choosing some random spot for lunch instead.  This approach did, on at least one occasion, lead to my delight at finding some tiny country lane turn quickly to surprise when said lane turned into dirt/mud track, leading in turn to some heart-stopping moments of the Spectre reminding me it most certainly is NOT a dirt bike.  But made it through with only a little sideways movement, found space, U-turn, and find my way back to more appropriate terrain.

Anyway – two weekends of this, I think it was… with a couple of forays to the south, one to the west, and finally one to the east… the final trip.  Every time I’ve been east, I’ve been disappointed.  I’ve found it difficult to find country roads, all the lanes seem to head straight back to the A12.  Difficult to find country pubs, and therefore – food is usually rubbish.

Sunday – 2nd June – I headed east… no particular destination in mind this time, no hand-written directions.  This was mostly to avoid the need for the tank-bag… the Spectre just doesn’t look so pretty with some cheap tank-bag on her.  Headed out on the A12, and had a couple of attempts to find random country lanes… each time, leading directly back to A12.  Figured I might as well just push on, get to the coast – at least get some nice sea-side food/views.  Ended up in Felixstowe.  And remembered how terrible English seaside towns are.  It seems that the English realise that a coastal town should be fun… but because their beaches are terrible (coarse stones and freezing water) – feel the need to make up for it in other ways.  Horrible garish ways.  Amusement arcades, cheap run-down carnival rides, concrete boardwalks, and depressingly run-down pubs/hotels.  My first choice for a pub – the barmaid looked amazed at the concept of red wine.  Asked twice to make sure I didn’t mean rose.  I could see the bottles of red wine behind her – but figured I’d use the excuse to make my escape.  The second place – which had a family sitting inside watching sit-coms on the big-screen, rather than outside in the sun – had a barmaid who knew what red wine was… but she did feel obliged to go out the back and find/clean a glass for me especial.  Which I appreciated.  Oh – and did I mention the forecast perfectly clear skies for that day out east… did not appear?  Anyway – enough bashing Felixstowe and “The East”.

Because on my way back… I did manage to find some random roads, one nice enough country pub, etc.  And while the weather still wasn’t perfect… the day wasn’t a total waste.  Until I decided to get back onto the A12, and just get home so I could relax with dinner at my trusty local pub.

And then the Spectre turned rogue on me.  At around here – I was cruising along the right-hand lane; the official story is that I was travelling at 70mph – it’s very possible that I was going a little faster than that; when the Spectre just changed direction.  About 30 degrees to the left.  In that Streetview link above – I found myself heading straight for that white steel gate (and it was closed.  And green).  Not really knowing what was happening, or why – I remember trying a few things – gently seeing if turning the handlebars in the ‘right’ direction did anything.. nope…. gentle brakes… nowhere near enough time to slow to a stop before I was hitting something… and then this insanely optimistic image of slowing enough as I crossed three lanes of traffic that I could hit that driveway, up onto the grass on the far side, and either skidding out on that – or (in my ridiculously over-confident/optimistic mind) with extreme luck but zero grace, skidding a little on the grass – recovering, coming to a shaken, embarrassed, but safe stop on the sidewalk.

None of those things happened.  What did happen, I think, was that I couldn’t even direct the bike enough to miss the ‘near’ kerb… I think I just clipped the kerb on the near/left side of the driveway leading to the white(green) gate… at which point the Spectre and I parted ways.  The bike skidding across the driveway, up onto the sidewalk, and I think maybe hitting the lamp post?  And me hitting the ground (possibly with the Spectre landing on me at first… only thing I can think of which explains some of my injuries) – and then skidding/tumbling along the very side of the road… ending up against the kerb on the far/right side of the driveway.

At which point, I rolled onto my back, swore a little, groaned a little, then started figuring out what I could and couldn’t move.  Resulting in thumbs up for everything.  Lay there – trying to get my breathe back – but people had already screeched to a halt, and good samaritan bystanders were rushing to my rescue.  To immediately try pulling my helmet off, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t the ‘correct’ thing to do… but as I knew by this time I was in one piece, I helped them with that.  And sat, then eventually stood, in the midst of a small crowd of very frightened and helpful people.  Not one of which I ended up with contact details for… so I can’t thank them, but I did appreciate it all very much.  I managed to stand up, to assuage people’s fears more than anything else… but they wouldn’t let me do too much.  And very quickly, there was an ambulance there… and they of course were very adamant I should sit/lie down.  In fact – once I mentioned the speed that I was probably going… they looked at each other – with this look of “really, he can’t have been going that fast… he’s hardly got a scratch” – but then “have to play it by the book… and the book says that any ‘high-speed’ accident… compulsory stretcher, neck-brace, etc, etc.  The only pain I was reporting was “general sore, bruises all over – but particularly just below my right knee… feels like a pretty solid bruise there”.  So they went and cut my trousers off me… and found a couple of ‘major’ lacerations.  No cuts/tears to the trousers at all (until the scissor-happy ambulance team) – but yeah, two biggish cuts to the leg.    But very little else… thanks to ‘leathers’.  Very happy about wearing the proper gear.

Police came by, did the due diligence… checked I wasn’t drunk, confirmed nobody else was involved at all, etc.  Some chap came to pick up my bike.  I hadn’t had a chance to check it out properly… but had spotted my ‘dashboard’ plate lying on the ground, and a couple of other pieces of metal.  And the helpful motorists had made a point of standing it up, against the lamp post I think, because there was a distinct smell of petrol in the air.  But it was this chap – asking me if I wanted it delivered to my home, or where – when I said “take it somewhere to be fixed” – responded with “that’s not getting fixed mate”, or something similar.  So he took it to some storage facility – I haven’t called them yet to confirm the bad news… will probably do so tomorrow.

Anyway – ages spent in the back of the ambulance, while the medics and policeman did their paperwork.  After which it was explained to me – that again because it was a ‘high speed’ accident – it was ‘the rules’ that we had to “go in blue”… ie: with lights and sirens, etc.  Not entirely sure what the point of that is after sitting doing paperwork for 20 minutes, but – “gotta do it by the book”.  Got taken to Romsford Queen’s Hospital.  Not particularly convenient for me, but it had to do.  And then a long sequence of answering the same questions again and again, having more pieces of clothing cut off me despite my knowing perfectly well I could stand and undress if they really wanted, lying there waiting, same questions, waiting, etc, etc… until neck brace was taken off, so I could at least read while waiting between answering the same questions, and eventually I was taken up to a ward to spend the night, but not allowed to eat… with some vague promises of an operation the next day (to just clean, check, stitch leg).  So – while my phone had battery left – fired off emails to work – telling them I wouldn’t be in the next day.  My first poor communication volley.

Monday morning, woke – feeling considerably more sore and delicate than the previous night – filled out more forms, answered the same questions, paperwork, and waited to hear if I really was going “under the knife”.  And yes, I was.  Then found out that with the forms I’d filled out, including contact details for my Next-Of-Kin… that it might be “by the book” to call my Next-Of-Kin to notify them of any operation under general anaesthetic.  At which point I panicked… I’d been thinking “I’m out of here this afternoon, can go home, then let everybody know what happened from a position of ‘First – I’m fine – but…’”.  But all of a sudden, I had the horrible thought of some nurse not thinking about time differences – calling New Zealand in the middle of the night, announcing they’re from some random English hospital, etc, etc.  So – tried to get ahead of that… sent SMS messages to Angela, letting her know what was going on… but with my “reputation for understatement” – as my employer described it – caused panic anyway.  My only defence is… the entire time I was in hospital, I thought I’d be getting out later that day, so just wanted to get home – where I could deal with worried people from a position of strength.  But as things dragged on, I just dug myself deeper.

Anyway – eventually went under general anaesthetic for the first time.  Wow – that stuff really works.  “Are you feeling drowsy at all?”,  “Nope – not feeling anything”,  “You will in 1 second, bye bye”, “… …”,  wake up back in my ward.  (Not sure if one rambles or anything under anaesthetic, or when coming around – so I concentrated on thinking about niece & nephews as I was going under… so if I did ramble in front of any lovely nurses, it would be as a doting uncle.  Always thinking.)

So – came around some time in the afternoon… starving.  Ate some food.  By this time – my poor communications had also sent my company into a panic… but this had an excellent side effect.  I didn’t want to alert anybody else in London I was in hospital – as it was a ridiculously inconvenient hospital to be stuck in… I mean Romsford, really?  But – one workmate happened to live out that way.  So – they asked if I needed anything brought.  Which was very welcome – so I requested a charger for my cellphone, so at least if people were to be worried, it would be by my own hand – not a sudden silence; and grapefruit juice.  I knew that as soon as I could drink some grapefruit juice – all that ailed me would be cured.  So – John from work – many thanks.  He came out with all I requested (except the juice was pink, not golden… so didn’t quite cure all) – plus some extras: bottle of wine (but no corkscrew, WTF?), chocolate, and a card – implying I had Man-Flu.  And signed by one workmate who thought it was my leaving card (an email had gone out that very morning announcing my imminent departure)… and who had therefore signed “Sorry to hear that your [sic/grrr] leaving us” – which I thought excellent.

What wasn’t fortunate – was the timing of this visit… as it came just after I’d convinced the doctors to have another look at my back… and an X-ray had shown hints of fractures in my spine, or similar.  Nothing hugely serious… the doctor hadn’t prefaced his news with “I’m very sorry, but…” – or anything like that.  I got the impression, we were looking at hairline fractures – with the possibility of my wearing a back brace for a week or two – just to make sure that no nerves got pinched in anything while I move about.  But yeah – John turns up, just as my most recent update is “Oh, yeah, maybe some spinal damage – back brace, waiting for an MRI either tonight or tomorrow… so let the client know I’m likely to be off work 1 more day, yeah?”  Spinal, MRI, back brace… not the best words to be thrown around… and indeed I had a little shiver when the doctor said each one… but as I said – my impression was nothing super-serious… just very minor problems associated with some very scary names.

And, my impressions are usually pretty good.  Annoyance level: was told I had to stay flat… had to eat with my entire bed tilted… until the MRI.  The next morning.  Eventually had the MRI – 45 minutes in a claustrophobic white tube, during which I practised my shallow breathing in preparation for next diving adventure – and after which, the MRI technician’s initial reaction after my exit being bemusement… seemingly confused that anybody would bother scanning me for anything.  “Pfff… sure, some very minor stuff, but… pfff”… as if I’d wasted her time.  Waiting around for another couple of hours – flat on back, until doctor came to confirm that all was good.  And I’d probably be out the door that afternoon.  But also accused me of having “thin bones”.  Which means I can’t claim to be “heavy-boned”.  But overall – good news… immediately texted John-from-work to cancel a possible 2nd care-package.  And then my back-brace arrived… one of the doctors had ordered it yesterday, assuming it was going to be needed.  I told the nice man to take it away quickly, before the doctors saw it had arrived – and thought I “might as well wear it for a week or so, just to be safe”.  Waited for a few more hours, paperwork, etc – before being released.  But – my favourite biking top layers (my sweet Portishead t-shirt, and an Icebreaker which was falling apart anyway) had been cut off me, as had my trousers & boots.  (Nearly all of which – no real reason, just the medics playing it safe… and me going “yeah, what the hell”)  So – I borrowed a pair of hospital pyjamas, and limped out of the hospital, wearing cut open socks/motorcycle boots; pyjama pants, pyjama shirt, and motorcycle jacket… carrying a very scuffed helmet, and a bag.  Found a ‘camping and hiking and skiing and stuff’ store across the road – where I bought shorts and sandals, “no bag necessary thanks – please just cut off the labels” – and then walked to train station, and eventually found my way back to my local pub for Tuesday dinner – just 48 hours late, and looking like… well, not sure what.  And, to work on Wednesday – I don’t know why.  Thinking back, nobody would have complained – and I could really have done with a day sitting in the sun, rather than wincing my way into a suit, and spending a day in the office not really caring about any of the work – when thinking occasionally about how lucky I really was.  (Just not lucky enough to miss the kerb, up onto the grass, leading to an ungainly skid, and then coming to an embarassed halt on the sidewalk)

  • I’ve got 13 stitches in my right leg – over two distinct ‘cuts’ (but trousers were never cut… so not sure how/what they really are from – perhaps metal edges on the bike landing on me?) – due to come out next Monday.
  • Missed my follow-up appointment back at Romford on Thursday – as I didn’t get the appointment letter until Friday.  But have another one now – next Thursday.
  • Also – something about getting an ultrasound of my Thyroid?  The following Thursday.  Thinking back… maybe the doctor didn’t accuse me of having thin bones, but I misheard something about the thyroid.  And doing some quick/basic research – I’ve decided that the doctor is going to do something to kick my thyroid into action, and solve weight-gain, baldness, and moodiness with a single acupuncture treatment.  Hooray!
  • While in the hospital, I spent quite some time going by the name Oscar El… aged 120 years.  My ‘trauma’ name.
  • I’ve had to register with a GP, after avoiding it for over 5 years.
  • Now that my resignation from job has been officially announced… I was meaning to set up the company last week, but then got distracted.  Finally hired an accountant today… have a phone meeting tomorrow to organise setting up the company itself.
  • Still need to buy a mobile phone.  Phone companies here (everywhere?) are annoying.  I don’t like them.
  • I’ll postpone an update on my next motorbike until next time.  (Am I joking?)

2013 Q2

April:

  • using my phone as my sat-nav while out on the Spectre – decided a little rain couldn’t hurt it too much, while trying to figure out where to go.  Turns out… yeah, it can.
  • visited the ‘Maori house’ at Clandon Park… some rich guy decided his souvenir of New Zealand would be a house.  To be fair – his original house wasn’t much to look at.
  • got my first flat tyre on the Spectre… came out from lunch, and yeah… noticeably flat.  Took it to the local garage, tried to get some air in there.  Bloody valve at just the wrong angle to get the nozzle on… (and I had to pay for the air, WTF?) – eventually managed to get some air in there… continued on my way.  Then, on the M25 – 60 or 70 mph… could feel it become flat again.  I’d always wondered how one could really tell by feel if a tyre goes flat.  Well… I know now that it is unmistakable.  Unmistakably scary, on a bike.  Found another garage… again struggled to get any air into the valve… eventually breaking the valve off.  And then a sad sad journey home, with the Spectre riding piggy-back on a recovery truck.  Ne’er a sadder sight.  Sent her to the garage, to get fixed up.

May:

  • Friday 3rd, left work early – went and picked up the Spectre… good as new.  Dropped her off home, picked up my suitcase, off to Heathrow, and onwards to NZ.
  • Landing in Auckland, to a miserable raining Autumn day.  Which was still warmer than the London Spring I’d left behind.
  • A couple of days in Auckland, doing chores (renewing NZ licence, replacing NZ bank card, buying CDs, replacing pounamu cord), and hanging with Pen – letting her deal with the sharp-end of my jet-lag, so that I might be recovered when visiting family.
  • Didn’t quite work… two weeks of driving around the North Island, visiting family, and each time leaving, feeling guilty about being such miserable company, and the short time I had available for each destination.
  • Worst jet-lag ever (possibly compounded by very long/boozy night in the middle)… the night before I flew out – I was still feeling half-asleep by 8pm.. with zero ability to be sociable/chatty.  Or that’s my excuse, anyway.
  • 1 wedding – successful
  • 2 niblings’ birthdays – also successful
  • Far too many questions about “coming home” – for christmas and/or for good
  • Hugs and tearful goodbyes… how come it gets harder every time?
  • Back to England, shocked again by the cold Spring… and jet-lag
  • Flaming Lips – good, not the best Lips gig I’ve see, but an average Lips gig is still pretty bloody good

June:

Lots of boring stuff to be done…

  • Investigate UK indefinite leave to remain… I was never planning on doing that, but recently I was nearly sent to Germany to do some work.  I thought I could do that, no issues… but looking into it, maybe not.  In fact, the work I did in Spain/France a little while back… maybe not so legal.
  • Hypothetically, if I was to set up a company… need to choose a name.  And an accountancy firm.  And go through all of that.  But first… a name.
  • Need a new mobile phone, and probably a new phone number.  With all the choice regarding mobile plans, deals, etc, etc.  Too much choice, not enough variety.
  • Should probably get the Spectre given a once-over before I try taking her across Europe.  I asked the garage to do it when they fixed the tyre, but apparently forgot/misheard.  Have bought a 90-degree tyre valve adaptor… flat tyres will hopefully no longer be as disastrous.

Spring 2013

Reading my previous ramblings – it seems I am terribly overly optimistic.  Spring in this country consists of snow.  Snow in March, yep.  April – sure, why not some more.  And still cold as all manner of &*%$£^$.

But – despite the fact that temperatures have still not breached double-figures, today I tested whether the Spectre would actually start – after 4 months of neglect and ridiculous cold.  (I’m sure it’s colder now than it was in winter proper).  And – yes she did.  So – my first ride of the year today, a short trip up to Cambridgeshire… shaking the cobwebs off the Spectre and myself.  Mostly done so that I am assured of being able to ride to Czechland in July.  Which I am looking the hell out of looking forward to.  1000 miles of Europe, each way.  I have been poring over google-maps and bestbikingroads.com.

Autumn Slump

Very tired – so going to try and quickly sum up using bullet points…

Gigs:

  • Dirty Projectors – at the Roundhouse, so I was sitting pretty in my Members Bar… favourite thing about that bar is the top/side-on view of the stage.. I like to think I see what the band/support are actually doing, rather than what the show is supposed to look like.  But while being able to read what the show is supposed to be… if that makes sense.  Anyway – I say that because I watch the youtube videos of how it looked from the crowd, and that kinda matches what I was seeing from the side… a decent performance, but… strained?  Not natural?  Not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable – the crowd loved it, and so did I… but maybe the band/music doesn’t really ‘fit’ a stage/gig environment?
  • Couple of nights later – Hot Chip, Brixton Academy.  Met up for some base work drinks before hand, and I don’t think anybody really believed I was off to see a band called “Hot Chip”.  But – I was… and within half an hour, I was very pleased that I was.  Starting with the entrance to the gig – the normal people were trying to thrust flyers into my hand… and then inside the gig, there more more.  But these seemed more determined, and once one actually listened to them (after having done a similar job for Rough Beats, I do try to at least listen)… there were people handing out free ‘merch’… Oyster-Card holders (or just generic card-holders for non-London folk) stamped with Hot Chip album cover art, and some other stuff which I still ignored because that’s what I do.  And then the gig.  About 30 minutes in, as I usually do, I start thinking about how I would describe this if I can remember in a month’s time when I might write about it… and the words that sprung to mind were “Constant Awesome“.  And at no point throughout the gig did that thought dissipate.  Constant Awesome.  That was Hot Chip.  Energetic live show, original-as-possible light-show, solid stage-presence… just really constant awesome.  Bassist tossing his guitar to start playing some “side-drums”, vocalist running around jumping up on semi-mezzanines to help out on some percussion also, … just Constant Awesome.  If labels had to become involved, last year’s The Roots gig, but modern Indie (the 80srevival I never thought could work).
  • A few nights later – I saw Grizzly Bear at the same venue.  It came into conversation recently, and I couldn’t remember it.  Looking it up on youtube – yeah, now I remember it.  Not the best commendation, the fact that I nearly forgot the entire gig – but to be fair, I’m getting old, and maybe can’t handle a handful of gigs in a fistful of days anymore, or whatever.  And also – nice music, but not memorable.  Don’t regret the ticket, won’t be on my top 10 of 2012.
  • Possibly helping my amnesia of Grizzly Bear, was MUSE a few nights later.  Now… I’m not a big Muse fan.  Although I’m not  huge Grizzly Bear fan either – it’s just that after being to a Muse concert – I now feel obligated to stress… I’m not … ‘that’.  I’d always heard great things about Muse gigs, and what songs I’ve heard… yeah, I could listen to that.  So – booked myself a seat at the O2.  And – yeah, great show, terrible fans, alright music.  A really good show… with unusual consideration shown for people in side/rear seats.  Spectacular use of recent technology… I spent a lot of the gig thinking “if only Radiohead had put this amount of effort into their gig”.  The reverse pyramid of TV screens… good.  When they reverse that, so that they all get lowered to form an actual pyramid on stage, hiding the band… yeah… impressive.  And searching for videos of that, I just remembered the roulette wheel to choose the next song.  Fake, but impressive.
  • The following night – I had tickets for the Muttonbirds.  But I had some work in the morning – a couple of hours of easy work… which somehow led to my still sitting at my desk at 2am, waiting for certain people to just do their….. f*&%…ing job.  And yeah, I missed one of the last ever opportunities to see Don McGlashan sing Nature.  I sent an email of preliminary resignation the next day.
  • The Walkmen – I was still tired/grumpy after weekend of work leading to me missing the Muttonbirds.  But tried to enjoy it.  Unfortunately – the best moment of the evening was poorly captured as such.
  • Animal Collective – one gig where sitting up to the side (it was at the Roundhouse) probably hindered things… the stage set-up was very much designed for front-on viewing.  Watching the mechanics of the band – sure… but when I peeked in from the front at one point… the stage set-up looked cheap and crappy from the side.. from the front, the main crowd – it actually looked impressive.  But by the time I realised that, I was a tired old man who couldn’t bear thinking of standing with the crowd listening to ‘experimental psych-indie-rock’, or whatever this is called.
  • Two nights later, returned to the Roundhouse, this time for some more mellow tunes… The Civil Wars.  Took Jess along… and showed off my membership.  But for some strange reason, on this night the Members Bar was packed.  We were both happy to sit in the back, on a couch, with no view – but just listen to the gig.  To be fair – the Civil Wars aren’t exactly a visual show.  And yeah, it was good.  Their original songs, really good.  They tried some covers… bravely trying to cover Portishead and Michael Jackson… each time, I thought, coming off the worse for wear.  I mean – who tries to cover Sour Times?
  • Ladyhawke, the other night.  Good…?  Yeah – I think, good?  It was pretty much a pub gig in a venue.  Songs I liked, played on a stage, in a venue.  Very, very standard gig… I think I’d expected more… maybe her album cover being featured on Beck bottles had made me think she was a lot more successful than she really is?  But yeah – nothing to complain about… pretty much a kiwi musician-ess playing her pub-rock… with typical kiwi stage presence.

Other than that:

  • Commuting is not cool, but mostly because I haven’t figured out how to adjust my bedtime… am still refusing to even consider sleep until midnight, and then suddenly realising I have to be up at X
  • Have booked flights back to Aotearoa for late December, early January… have got nearly 4 weeks there… but already, trying to think of places/people/dates… it’s looking like not long enough.  Have been looking at hiring a motorbike for the period, but all the places I can find seem to be aimed at rich british/american tourists looking at ‘touring holidays’… and yeah, probably out of my price range.  Anybody who could recommend a company which hires out bikes, for locals/etc – please let me know.
  • Speaking of biking – managed to get a ride in last weekend – made a short run out to a country pub to watch Scotland vs NZ rugby in a pub filled of people watching ‘football’.  Am hoping on going on another short run tomorrow.  Work & weather look to make these rarer and rarer.

Weekend rides and gigs

Constantly feeling tired – as now my weekends don’t consist of slothing around the house, but rather researching a random place to ride to for lunch.  And then mid-week gigs, a ridiculous commute to work, and yeah… not cool.

Gigs:

Gemma Ray – really good.  Small gig at the Borderline.  Zero expectations, but she was very very good.  Just cool music.  Playing the guitar with a butcher knife seemed like a bit of a gimmick at first, and it was – but it worked.

Beirut – I was very very tired.  Nearly falling asleep during the entire thing, grumpy and disliking being in the midst of so many people.  But obviously good, judging by the irritating enthusiasm of all the people.

Kimbra.  Her first biggish headline gig, I believe.  And where better than Union Chapel.  I was a little confused at what she’s trying to be… serious soul singer, Amy Winehouse with tutu, pop with talent?  But I guess that’s a good thing – she’s none of those things, just doing what she wants.  But the dress… what the hell?  Good set, I get the impression she’s still trying to nail her stage persona – or else she’s got it, but it’s just crazy.  Played pretty much her entire debut album, plus the song she did with Foster The People (still gutted about missing them, passing them over for chinese with an Ex).  But now I guess I kinda saw a bit of that gig, because even played by Kimbra’s support band – a Foster The People song can’t be mistaken for anything else.  I’ve seen her effort at SXSW linked to from a certain website dedicated to awesome stuff, so here’s hoping she goes on to big things.

We Are Augustines… missed these guys earlier in the year due to a clash with something, can’t remember what.  Snapped up a ticket to this one… and got the impression it was their last tour or something?  Don’t know – can’t be bothered researching the veracity of that.  I’ve had the impression from their videos that they, or the lead at least, are earnest earnest young men.  And although it comes across as a little annoying in the videos (albeit, I believe there is justification for that) – it was kinda ‘sweet’ in the flesh.  He really seemed blown away by playing in a ex-theatre-type venue like SheBu (that’s the Shepherd’s Bush Empire).  Which, fair enough – the first time I went there, I was all like “wow… cool… gig in a London theatre”, and then the 10th time I went there I was all like “wow, the toilets are a pain in the arse to get to, and there’s a friggin’ Walkabout next door”.  But – the earnestness actually made the gig – they seemed genuinely stoked to just be there.  And an enthusiastic crowd to egg them on… made it a really enjoyable gig.

Next up was Radiohead.  With paperless ticketing, which ended up being more hassle than dead-tree-ticketing.  My card expired, I hunted for hours to confirm that my replacement debit-card would still get me in, then I got an email disclaiming that – asking me to call and give them my new card details.  I don’t like calling companies like Ticketmaster – they spend an hour with an automated voice telling me I can do anything I want on-line, while I’m swearing at them, reciting in turn that if there was any chance, ANY CHANCE, that I could do something “on-line” rather than picking up a phone and talking to somebody… it would have been done yesterday.  But…. rant over.  Radiohead – fairly high expectations for this, as one would assume.  And…. a little disappointed.  It was a good gig and all, but… just not spectacular.  Well, spectacular in a way, but not… innovative.  I couldn’t help thinking – Snow Patrol did the whole floating TV screens better than this, and Jay-Z/Kanye West absolutely smashed the whole concept of big-screen TVs.  It just seemed like they were just doing their job.  Which they were.  I had something in my head when I thought “Radiohead gig”, and what I got did not match that.  And I lost my debit card.  But I’m not going to be one of those “they only played the new in-accessible stuff, I wanted to hear only their first two albums” humbugs.  I’ve got a workmate who went as well, and he complained about “they only played their self-indulgent stuff, screw the fans”.  Nope.  Incorrect.  By now, if you haven’t figured out that their Kid-A onwards stuff isn’t that much different, well… you might as well go to a Bod Dylan gig and yell at him “Judas!”.

The Gaslight Anthem – last night.  Very good.  Very pleased about that gig… pure pleasure in playing exhibited by the band.  Check them out, they really are rather good.  Just wholesome blue-jeans rock-and-roll.  Imagine The Boss, if he’d had a couple of Clash records in his collection.  Or something.  That was only last night, so can’t find any decent videos yet – this will have to do.  Boring last encore.

Rides:

And on the weekends, I can’t really remember – every weekend possible I’ve gone out for a day-trip somewhere.  I’ve now done over 2,000 miles – and am ticking over each fraction of the bike’s total mileage as I do it.  The bike’s nearly 30 years old, and I am now accountable for nearly 1/7th of it’s total mileage.

Brighton, tick.  Hastings, nice bike parking facilites, but terrible seaside.  Cotswolds – inland, so no seafood, but beautiful ride… little villages, great pub at the end of it, good food – seriously considering a repeat.  Southend-on-Sea – terrible seaside.  Dover/Deal – “10th Best Seaside Pub In England”, I certainly hope not.  And then there’s just the random places I looked up, as they’re on the ends of peninsulas, to get there and realise they’re industrial ports.  But – all good fun… the Spectre’s running fine, and it’s something to do on the weekends… until I go broke.  (Petrol for a bike is fairly cheap, but dining every Saturday & Sunday at a ‘gastropub’ – not so much).

My plan for upcoming weekends is to start going to more touristy venues… and eat at cheap(-ish) pubs.  A photo album of the Spectre in front of Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Leeds Castle, etc, etc.  There’s got to be a very very niche market for that.

The Spectre

So – faced between buying a cheap boring ubiquitous Japanese bike, or a twice as expensive much more exciting European bike – I opted for a cheap odd 30-year old Japanese bike.  Behold The Spectre – the shaft-driven Kawasaki KZ750 which nobody in this country has ever heard of (although I believe they are widespread in North America)…

According to the nice man, and the odometer – nearly 30 years old, yet under 15,000 miles under the belt.  And – I nearly believe it… it’s either been sitting unused in a shed for 30 years, or somebody really has done an amazing job in making it look like new.

Anyway – within a week, I’d added 1,500 miles onto it, having visited Hastings, Scotland, and Wales.  I have also figured out how to check the oil – realised I have a serious leak (although only overnight – perhaps leaking from the oil tray when cold?), and that it is very likely I rode all the way up to Scotland with zero oil.

Also – gigs…

Afghan Whigs – I can’t remember going to this… I must have skipped it for some reason?

Of Monsters And Men, again… and again – good.  They’re starting to play to the crowd a bit more, which I’m not sure is a good thing (the whole getting guys to sing one lyric, girls the next… it’s just divisive, you know?  And anyway – I paid to listen to them sing, not the tuneless jerks around me).  But yeah, good – had bought multiple tickets, meaning to insist that some people come with me – as it’s music which is impossible to not enjoy… but forgot until the actual evening… managed to get Jess along, who claimed to enjoy it – so all good.

Tiki Taane – claiming to be an acoustic/solo gig.  Which it was, sort of.  And then he used the loop-hole of claiming the gig was over.  BUT – he would stay on stage and sing over some phat beats for a while.  So – rather than being a solely acoustic gig, it was really more of a game of two halves Bob-Dylan-at-Royal-Albert-Hall type deal.  I left once the use of dub-step was becoming the overwhelming factor.

And Leonard Cohen – went to see him.  Was ultra tired, and fell asleep a couple of time.  Not happy with myself.  Excellent gig – amazing voice on the old fella.  And next time he tours, I’ll definitely take the time to head into Europe to see him playing in some awesome old castle or roman ampitheatre, rather than at bloody Wembley Arena.

And that’s about it – much more happened, but I’m still ultra-tired, and just trying to put my life, and house, back together after an extended visit by australians.  Luckily, champagne didn’t raise its ugly head until about 1.5 hours before Ben’s flight left.  And yet we somehow managed to get through 2 bottles.  I believe we actually started the second bottle after he was supposed to start boarding.