Skunk. Idiots and Loveliness. 6 Things I know after cycling 1000 Miles for charity.

I’ve almost (6 miles away) completed this epic challenge for Dementia Research. I signed up to cycle 1000 Miles and raise £400. I increased the money when I reached £400 quite quickly. I’m now just shy of the £1k as well. Brilliant and thanks so much to all those who have supported with kind words and donations along the way!

I have been on the pedals for such a large chunk of my life (in fact there are few times when I HAVEN’T had a bike) and in the last few months in particular. I can’t help but notice some THINGS about cycling in my area of London. THINGS that I’d like to SHARE.

  1. People smoke a tonne of skunk in rush hour traffic in London. Great fugs of the stuff coming out of cars and work vans (and really fancy motors too) at 7, 8am and 6, 7, 8pm in the thickest and densest traffic. If I were an eager cop I’d get a little stand and do spot checks (higher proportion of painters and decorators I reckon).
  2. Don’t knock on the back of the Audi A3 who’s just sitting in the bike lane pulling out onto Putney Hill and therefore made you almost stop and go round him. He *might* be on a first date with a young lass and feel the need to REALLY go at you. Imagine your best ridiculous Kurrupt FM type voice “Don’t touch the fucking car man”. Quite funny but also quite “could-have-had-a-knife-or-ANYTHING”
  3. London has some totally lovely – STUNNING – bits. Richmond, Hyde, Regents Parks of course. But also Morden Hall Park, Beverly Brooke, Reddington Lock. Loads of places. Best done first thing in the morning as sun is coming up. Saw deer loads of times on my way into work these last few months and I swear I had a much better day after that nature therapy!
  4. There are idiots on the roads and they are not all behind a wheel.
  5. Cyclists are mostly blokes and they ALL want to race you.
  6. Cycling tells you a good deal about yourself. Like you might not always be first to get there and your bike may not be worth like the deposit on a house, but you do get there, and in fine form to boot. You get better by doing it and you enjoy it when you can feel yourself improving.
    One thing I saw on someone’s teeshirt one time was:
    2 steps to happiness.
    1: Get on your bike
    2: Ride it.
    I agreed then and I agree (more) now.

Once again big thanks to all donations and raise a glass to my lovely dear departed mum Judith, with whom I do have the odd conversation while out on the pedals!



I started this post in Dec 2014. Just getting round to publishing it now for some reason…

I bought and have been enjoying the Don’t Make a Scene fanzine brought to us by Adventures Close to Home a few weeks ago, and have used this as a learning resource once already… will do that again, for sure. It has had me thinking even more than usual about the brilliant and the paradoxically less brilliant DIY scene. I want to share some of my own thoughts about it.

In 1999 or 2000 my band Billy Mahonie embarked upon our first UK tour which had been booked by an agent. We acquired these “necessary” accoutrements of a “successful” band each time very much by accident. (except the labels – these we knew we needed and wanted, and we sought those out very much on purpose. Then fell out with them. More on that later). When asked by Simon Williams when we were about to release our first single, “Who does your press” I simply replied “what?”. I knew not what “doing your press” meant. And same with getting an agent. We met with an infamous bloke who passed us onto his new junior, who went ahead and booked us a bunch of shows both here in UK and abroad. I’m still friends with him now. Got very much out of that game and now enjoys a different role in music. Still playing in bands a lot. Lovely bloke. (connected maybe?).

Anyhow. That first tour we hired a van and set off, and had a nice folder with a sheet for all the shows booked, with info and details about how and when to arrive, where, and at what time we would have soundchecks, dinner and so on. This was all very well organised and I loved it.

The thing was, for the show at the Packhorse in Leeds, there was no info. Just an address. No mention of fee. I was worried. It felt a little like we were going into the unknown. We WERE going into the unknown!

We got to the show and found the promoters – a lovely bunch going by the name Cops and Robbers, and quickly realised that there had been no cause for concern AT ALL. We were fed (a lovely home made curry at the promoter’s house, where we stayed) and paid more than all the other shows paid. The show was rammed. And we got to play with Polaris who were fucking awesome. And I still maintain some kinds of contact with various members. Notably Neil Turpin who is the one of the finest of drummers.

This may well be just an anecdote. I refer to the fact the my band Billy Mahonie were very much learning (or not) on the fly. I refer to the fact that Cops n Robbers, despite being awesome promoters and lovely people, hadn’t sent the information to the agent, meaning we didn’t have it, and there was some resultant anxiety – which may well have turned into some kind of sourness had things gone awry in some way.

But it was great, and they were great, and they still are I notice. Brilliant.


Our fault

I know that my friends in the EU and me will continue to enjoy continued strong relationships moving forward. Indeed, I’m vowing to make extra effort to develop our friendships all the deeper. I know that we don’t need a political union in order to do this.

I’m not tempted to call out anyone who I know voted to leave either. I am certainly not going to go and request they unfriend me, as I believe that to be a root cause of the problem. I’ve had some quite intelligent discussions with leavers. Of course I profoundly disagree and I’m utterly empty inside at this result.

Telling people to unfriend you is fucking childish: “Either-agree-with-me-or-fuckoff.”

There are people not like you, who like music, art, creativity and are perfectly rational, actual human beings. What is more, if you really do seek to bring folks to your side how are you going to reach them!? Isolationist elitist pricks!

Izzard, Festivals, Industry, The City, Music Industry, Academia be DAMNED. Clearly the “people” don’t give a hoot. In fact they’ve mobilised against this. They’ve mobilised against you. They’ve mobilised against me.

Those people in London looking to make their statement in a referendum for London to stay in EU: YOU ARE VERY MUCH THE PROBLEM!

The sickening thing when I write this is that voters have been convinced by stealth, by sinister players YET FURTHER away from their concerns. I’m hardly the voice of the working man (I feel a good distance further from it right now than ever) and my complacency and that of “London Northerners//Working Class” is shameful.

When watching the results come in last night it was crystal clear that it was poor areas versus rich. I found myself rooting for the big (rich) metropolitan areas. What the fuck!?

It’s my fault, and my fucking bourgeois complacency.

Work Abroad FFS

(this had been sat in my drafts for too long!)

In 1992/3 I spent a year living in Aix-en-Provence for college and upon returning would often get a hard time for starting too many anecdotes with “when I was living in France…”, like a pretentious student version of Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses. The truth is that it was a magical time and it still has a profound influence on who I am and how my life has been shaped.

Chris Waddle had just left Marseille and there was graffiti about the stadium demanding that “Chris! Revient!”. Kids were still walking about with that mullet hairdo of his. It made me very proud.

I taught English for a while after college and have all the understanding of what it feels like to get to a place for the first time and understand nothing.

Angered since the summer I have wanted to write about English players not playing abroad for a wee while. It’s been interesting watching folks go on and on about our national team but not enough noise is made about the fact that English players travel terribly at present.

There are a few thoughts which have come to mind… Last time England played in a semi final at the world cup there were 4 Rangers players and one Marseille player. The best they’ve done for yonks.

Euro 96 and Ince was at Inter and Gazza at Rangers.

Not massive differences to the 2014 squad which had one Celtic player (keeper Fraser Forster).

Same when Lineker was at Barca, Beckham at Madrid and so on…

Alan Shearer recently admitted in some TV show that he would probably have been improved by a move abroad. Ashley Cole has come out saying that English players are too afraid to go abroad. I think he’s right,. But it’s sweet coming from him, nipping over to Rome in the twilight of his career.

I was so disappointed when Campbell went to Arsenal instead of to a big EU club. (And he goes on like he’s a big wordly bloke too!)

When Wilshire is touted as having the possibility of a move to Juve, you just *know* that he’s not going to go.

Since living in France (did I tell you I’ve spent some time there?) I am a subscriber to l’Equipe – their sporting magazine. It’s so impressive how supportive they are, of their exports. They’ve a weekly roundup of who’s done well in the English, Spanish, or Italian leagues. They’re rightly very proud of how well their lads do, around the place. And look how well their national team does. Think of Germany, Holland, Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Spain. And think of where a good % of their players play. ABROAD.

Reading, and not. And Stress. And writing from beyond the grave.

I just finished You Shall Know Our Velocity and it’s the second of Dave Eggers‘ books I have read in which the narrator speaks from the grave. Ok the first time it was a dog and a short story, but this time the narrator himself. I was surprised you didn’t get to read about how he does die but it made for a weird feeling of expectation when reading the book.
I wondered if I’d read any other dead folks narratives and I remember just one (again a short) – in Julian Barnes ‘History of the World in 10.5 chapters‘. This time involving loads of cooked breakfast in bed.
The above are not the reasons I am writing. It’s something to share I reckon, to have finished a piece of fiction. For me at least.
In times when I am particularly stressed or anxious about something (usually work) I generally cannot read fiction. I struggle reading at all but factual stuff is by and large easier to read than anything creating a world of it’s own.
I spoke to some folks recently about this and they had their own stuff they couldn’t do when stressed. Theirs was reading anything, listening to BBC Radio “Particularly Radio 4 and Steve godawful Lamacq” and another was “I totally stop taking in the outside world. World shrinks to the room that I’m in..” Funny what stress can do to you right?
I get advised often enough to breathe very deeply and through my nose if possible. This helps a great deal to alleviate stress and anxiety. And it’s dead simple. Do it.
Then take a big deep breath and open up a book.

Can’t be arsed

I’ve had two quite connected emails today one from an artist another from an industry person.

Artist says please don’t remove me from the bill, because in spite of not mentioning the 6-weeks confirmed show on my website I have bought a train ticket and I can start to promote now less than a week before the show. And in any case, I promote events myself and would never expect the artist to do the promoting for me.

Industry person says the argument that PAY TO PLAY PROMOTERS ARE COMPLETE CUNTS doesn’t totally stack up and that given they’re the bank, holding the risk, what’s so bad about promoters trying to protect themselves in the face of a tide of lazy bands who promise 30 mates and bring nobody.

There’s a lot of grey between the two arguments. And to start from either position is wrong.

One thing is certain: when you’re doing a show and you check the acts websites and the show isn’t mentioned, it’s just completely soul destroying. This process could be got through far quicker by just handing out some money to some acts, and not actually doing the “event” part.

Christ, my band used to make our own flyers and posters on top of what the promoters did, and hit the promo *hard*.

The Marathon and me. Bawling, Therapy, Guilt, Bawling

When I was a kid, the only Marathon I was interested in was the chocolate bar now known as Snickers. Having said that, I was a little chubby kid and didn’t like a lot of foods, and peanuts back then were a no go area. I would hate discovering a nut in my chocolate, and couldn’t stand the fact that nanny and grandad only ever had whole nut or fruit and nut…  anyway.. I digress before even properly starting…

I did start to run as a kid and remember the first times I went out on a run. I knew I was a little fatty, and I wanted to try and do something about it. (today I measured the distance of the first run I did, it’s just over a mile). I felt very self-conscious. I still do at times when out running now. I kept up running occasionally through college, as a smoker, and in 2006 I used running as a way to give up smoking. I signed up for a marathon, and stopped smoking.

The fact I was doing it for The Alzheimer’s Society was down to my mum having been diagnosed. With Mild Alzheimer’s. That’s how you dealt with it. You say “mild”. Like as if it’s any different than if it was really strong. Or like it was going to just be a little brush with Alzheimer’s and then it’ll go away. Here’s the first instance of the symbolic nature of running. Like you’re running away from something. I think always with running, for me at least, I’ve been running either away from or towards something. Depending on how good I am at applying spin to how I’m feeling at the time it could be to/from a bad marriage, a sick mother, a smaller waistline, health, a new personal best.

This guy’s piece in the Guardian about how he HAS to run marathons is a really good example of how training for a big run can be a decent strategy for good health. It takes a good 4 months, a third of a year, to train properly, so it can be quite habit forming and you’re likely to be still benefiting a good while later.

There’s something most existential about running. Not being able to get your head round something and then going out for a run. The Forrest Gump thing. The doing of an activity for the sake of doing the activity. It helps you to breathe, to concentrate on breathing (much like Yoga). I’ve been able to think about the symbolism of a long run like a marathon. How it’s an achievement in life which might be a suitable enough replacement or substitute for no great achievements in work, love, family etc… How it might be symbolic of an understanding of the longevity of things. “A marathon not a sprint” and all that. It can be very therapeutic.

Recently I joked to a friend that his enthusiasm for running was equal only to the guilt he felt in his personal life. This is classic projection really. My own enthusiasm has diminished the further away from a bad marriage I get, and the closer I move, to a decent set up both at home and at work. I do think the amount of penance in the name of charity x or y does come from a guilt position. It’s a very public display of good-doing.

A friend asked on Facebook last week whether anyone else got all teary when watching the marathon and a few replied yes. I was one of them. Given the stuff I’ve covered above I think it’s hardly surprising. Seeing folks put in so much effort with a picture of “dad” on their backs, or similar is very tear-jerking. For me it’s enough just to see people running.