Bank Holiday Season

Lots of bank holidays recently/soon… and I’ve managed to make use of some, not of others.

But first up, recent gigs:

  • Augustines (formerly We Are Augustines) – at Koko.  I can’t figure out if these guys are a guilty pleasure, or genuinely good.  But in any case – another good gig.  They just seem so stoked to be playing.  Mandatory encore, acoustic song from balconyexcursion into crowd, cover of a ‘local’/semi-topical band/song.  Overall, good.  I’m going to take some of their optimism, and rescind my earlier predictions that they would become more and more annoyingly earnest.
  • John Butler Trio – at Brixton Academy.  Good.  Except, as soon as I reached the venue, I remembered… “there are going to be a lot of australians here”… and sure enough, the sheer volume of cheap shiny faux-leather, leopard-skin prints, and just general loudness – spectacular.  Although I started wondering, how different was this from a Black Seeds gig – with the “young-kiwi-in-london” crowd?  After some amateur postulation over mini-bottle after mini-bottle of Black Tower, I decided it boils down to aussies being full of self-confident naivete, while kiwis are self-aware naivete… or perhaps self-conscious naivete… can’t decide.  Anyway – John Butler Trio… good.  Very good, really enjoyed the gig.  Plenty of energetic songs done by the Trio, a few more extended classic John Butler solo efforts.  And, of course, some preachin’.
  • Devendra Banhart – at the Barbican.  Actually, Devendra was the 1st act, main act was Rokia Trao – and the show was the kickoff event for Nonesuch Records 50-year celebrations at the Barbican.  I’m considering grabbing tickets for more events.  But the one I did go to so far – it was obvious a very large proportion of the crowd was solely there to see Devendra Banhart – even though he was doing this solo/acoustic.  And as such, had nobody to rein in his completely random ramblings when he did start speaking between songs.  Or give him direction when he foolishly opened the floor for the crowd to start requesting songs.  But – when he did play, it was rather good.  I stayed around to check out Rokia Traore – and was glad I did.  Really good – I can’t find any videos of that particular gig, but one from recently, which looks rather similar.. or a video of a full concert from last year, which again looks very similar, excepting the setting – including when she really gets going at about the hour mark.  What is it about Mali, that generates so many spectacular musicians?
  • Nick Lowe – at the Union Chapel.  Always going to be good, and it was.  It was just last night, so no videos available on the youtube yet, but – rest assured, good.  About half the show, just him and his guitar.  Then for the second half, he had John Paul Jones (as in, Led Zeppelin) playing bass.

Bike rides:

  • Easter, meandered towards Wales, spent two days just criss-crossing every National Park I could find… the Black Mountains… awesome.  One amazing road, and several other just really really good ones.  The main danger, being nervous sheep – there were a couple which looked like they were going to jump right in my path, but luckily – no such thing happened.  Then on the Monday, meandered my way back towards London, picking random B-roads, ofttimes finding that I’d gone in a circle, or was heading away from London.  But all good… until a pheasant hit me.  Or rather, I should say, I hit a pheasant… at 70 mph.  Right in the centre of the chest, which was probably quite lucky – if it had hit an arm, handlebar, I’m guessing I could quite easily have dropped handlebar, and/or even swerved quite wildly.  But – nope, just a good solid kick to the chest, and the head must have hit my helmet – as I certainly took a little blow to the helmet/head somehow.  But, I stayed on, and stayed going… once I’d checked I was still in a straight line, and head was straight too… checked I wasn’t holding a dazed bird in my lap – but no such luck.  And with white-line-fever, I didn’t bother going back to see if it was dazed or dead on the road.  Regret that now…  somebody told me that it was illegal to ‘claim’ roadkill if you were the driver… but I believe that isn’t actually true.  In any case, probably would have been quite tricky hanging a pheasant in my apartment.
  • Last weekend – headed south.  Criss-crossed the South Downs national park several times, before finding a hotel at Bognor Regis to stay the night.  Turns out that the hotel was your stereotypical colonial-times hotel, with all the sorts of practices one reads about in Agatha Christie novels.  Designed for tour groups.  Dinner at a certain time, with your choice of meal made at breakfast.  A ballroom, the Garden Room, big lawns, bar open at very specific times, etc etc.  And the town – a typical “British seaside resort” town.  Pier, ‘amusement centres’, cheap restaurants, bad fish and chips, bad beach, rental deckchairs, and then Butlins… I’d never seen a Butlins, or similar, before – and even now – I just rode past it.  But it, and several other neighbouring similar entities – is apparently a ‘holiday camp’.  I think it’s just a hotel, and some sort of ‘so-called-fun park’ rolled into one?  I don’t really get it… it’s like they’ve found a place where it would be good to have a holiday, like the seaside… and then built this big complex there, designed such that you would never actually go visit/see/experience the reason for the location being a good holiday destination.  I just don’t get it.
    Anyway – next day, got up – keen to leave this place in my rearview mirror… discovered I didn’t have a clutch.  Realised this was most likely to my clutch fluid being effectively empty… couldn’t get the plate off to refill, neither could AA guy… settled in for a long van ride back to London – but recovery guy suggested he have a go, did so – got it off, sweet – refilled – I was off on my way.  Found myself in the Cotswald Water Park… and once again, I found myself confused.  Similar to Bognor Regis – it seemed like just dozens and dozens of ‘holiday camps’, based around, and encroaching on, a similar number of bad lakes… bad in that I couldn’t tell if they were natural, but ruined by the man-made nonsense going on around them… or artificial – and therefore just inherently bad, as man-made attempts at water features normally are.  Happy Land.  At one point, I discovered the tiny dirty country lane I was riding on, about to leave – was called “Happy Land”.  Not “Happy Land Lane”, or “Happy Land Row”, or “Happy Land Road”… just “Happy Land”.   Happy Land smelt quite a lot of the cowshit it was covered in.  After a day of randomly riding in circles, including through Avebury (home to Europe’s largest neolithic stone circle) several times, found a very nice road from Marlborough-Avebury… I need to remember and revisit… nice corners, hills, a big white horse on the hill, neolithic stones… everything – settled into a hotel in Marlborough… where it seems some family reunion or similar was in progress, with parents very drunk, and unsupervised children running around the hotel/pub – and it seems that at one point a food fight had taken place (parents or children – unknown).
    Monday – more meandering, before finally joining the A40, and making my way into the heart of London.  When, just as I am in the right-hand lane of what is effectively, if not officially, a motorway – heading up an overpass… my rear tyre goes.  Flat/burst/punctured – whatever… I’m in the middle of very very busy traffic, all impatiently driving home after the long weekend.  I pull over to the right of the right hand lane… hazard lights on… trying to make myself the smallest target/nuisance as possible… pull out the phone to dial somebody, anybody – maybe police? – just about to dial… phone switches itself off, no battery.  Awesome.  But, as it happens – I was right next to a police headquarters – they must have spotted me – sent a truck, which blocked traffic – I pushed my bike off the motorway to a nearby side-street, called roadside assistance from a payphone, and sat down to wait 2 hours to be picked up.
  • This weekend – picked up the bike, after having both tyres replaced, full service, MOT.  Should be safe again now – and I’m pretty sure the clutch fluid, and rear tyre going – were both my own fault… I hadn’t checked clutch fluid for a long time… and rear tyre, I had noticed was getting a little bald… just didn’t realise how bad it actually was.  In the future – much more diligent.  So, bike is as good as new now… rode it into town, did some shopping – mostly ridiculously overpriced clothing/accessories.  Then remembered that ridiculously overpriced places love to package their stuff in ridiculously over-sized packaging.  So, ended up riding home with a big luxury brand name shopping bag hanging from one handlebar, my mochila/backpack crammed full of other stuff – during a period when it seemed the rain had stopped (which it did, mostly)

So – sitting here now, with post-shopping regret… nearly every ridiculously over-priced item purchased was wrong for one reason or another.  Still, it was a nice day out.  Now – off to do more shopping, but today – cheap stuff, food, anything which will assist me in using up all the tinned foods I bought 2 years ago, as “ingredients for emergency meals” – but which I have never used, and will apparently expire next month.  I see some uninteresting meal options between now and flying to NZ.

Two Months in Two Paragraphs

Went to Ireland.  Nice ride, over some hills, through some valleys, etc, etc.  Wedding, with the level of binge-drinking that normally entails.  Republic of Ireland – really rather pleasant/pretty.  And then as soon as one crosses the border into Northern Ireland… not so pleasant/pretty, and lots, and I mean LOTS, of flags with Union Jacks, which just seemed rather rude.  Wales on the way home – also rather pleasant/pretty.  And then England – not so much, but some decent spots.




Otherwise – the first couple of months of TheKruse Ltd in operation… managed to get paid for the first time successfully.  Just in time… I’d got down to under £200 in the bank account.  And having Ben staying with me – being a good little boy, cooking me dinner each night.  Which means I now have a heap of ingredients, I wouldn’t normally use.  And I got talked into buying a sweet chef’s knife (which came in the mail, complete with two sticking-plasters, and a note from ‘Pete’ – saying “Hi Micheal, A great choice of knife, the [sic] one is a beauty. Grab a bag of onions and have some fun! Enjoy, Pete”.  Which all rather endeared me to Pete… it’s a shame he doesn’t have any awesome chopping boards.  So now – I’ve got plenty of excuses to start cooking again properly.  Will it be enough…?

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.