Back on the bike !

Sunday 22 January 2017 – London.

A rather belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and welcome to my first post of 2017.

It has been a very long time since I have been on my mountain bike, November 2015 was the last time I rode in the UK. I had a quick and awful pedal on my last trip to New Zealand and have only ridden the commuter bike once or twice since 2015. I have been meaning to get out more, honest.

I am going to stick to my usual excuse, no point in making up another one now. I have been really busy since I returned from my trip. I was unexpectedly straight back in to work and have been working ever since. As my contract finished before I left for India I was not expecting to be working so soon on my return, but I have been back at the same place on a sort of week-by-week basis.

I have also started to look for a full time permanent job, back to working five days a week. It is time to replenish a much hammered savings account. Much as I have loved working four day weeks, I have not saved any penny in over a year and have churned through the money I saved when I was working a full five days. I have been taking job applications semi-seriously this time, I have fired off quick responses to a couple of agencies but most applications have taken considerable time to complete. Fingers crossed one of those applications will prove that all the work has been worth it.

The other reason I have not ridden is I have been lazy, very lazy…

Last weekend as I was walking home from the laundrette I saw a mud covered mountain biker waiting at the lights near the end of my street. He looked like he had had a lot fun and I was quite jealous. I decided that I would do something about it. Mid-week and out of the blue I had a message from someone I have ridden with before asking me if I wanted to take a slow pedal around the forest. Perfect timing!

Fortunately all my bike needed was some air in the tires and a bit of chain lube, a quick spin around the block yesterday morning to make it all worked and I was ready to ride.

What I wasn’t really ready for was riding in -1 degrees. It was cold when I got outside! It was however a glorious sunny day, there was no wind and once we got going I sort of warmed up a bit.

There was a lot of frost on the ground and on the roofs of the parked cars as I pedalled up to the meeting point on Beacontree Ave. I was first to arrive and with a couple of minutes to wait took the first photo of the day. Frosty grasses in a road side tub.

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With little exercise in the last 12 months I knew it was going to be a slow and hard ride, I was lucky that my riding buddy today, Tom, was not in for a fast ride either. I told him that I would be wanting to take some photos on the way. This was not just an excuse for multiple breaks. It was stunning out there this morning! Our first stop was only a few minutes in, this could be a long ride.

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The ground was incredibly hard, I have never ridden on frozen mud before, mud that crunches under tyres or does not yield when ridden on, the puddles were mostly iced over and very few were broken under our wheels. Our next stop was at Highams Park Lake, which appeared to be completely frozen. I know shooting into the sun is a photography no-no, but meh, I have been breaking photography rules for years. Flareage!

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I loved these leaves trapped under the thin ice on the lake.

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It was a bit of a slog up Pole Hill, my legs were starting to feel it and we had only been going for 30 or 40 minutes. While we rested I went for a quick explore, looking for some frost laden leaves.

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There is a great view over towards the Shard and down to Canary Wharf on a fine day, but there was a little mist around so we just had to make do with the view down over Chingford.

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The ride down Pole Hill through the trees next to the golf course is one of a very small number of tracks that actually go down hill in the forest. So naturally it is one of my favourite trails in the park. There is also a great piece of single track on the other side of the road, with solid ground under-wheel, rather than the usual mud it was even better than usual. Though we did come across a really nice fern grove. So I had to stop…

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I loved the way the frost made the surface of the leaves so white and fragile.

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I didn’t take any more photos. Too tired and I needed to concentrate on the riding. We rode up to the tea hut at High Beach, which is a regular stopping point for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. 2 pounds 10 for both. Wonderful, no wonder it is so popular with riders and walkers.

The ride back towards home starts off well with some really nice and mostly downhill single track, but as we leave the forest proper and meander through some smaller, but still forested parks it turns into a bit of a slog. At least today it was not muddy!

All up we were out for about three hours. It was damn good to be out and about on the bike again!

One week later. I went for another ride again today. There was no ice, but lots of mud and it was so much harder.

Ride @ Brixton Academy.

Wednesday 13 October 2015 – London.

I have a confession to make. I love music. I mean, I really, really love music.

Lots of people say that they love music, and they may well think they do, but after a bit of gentle interrogation I usually find that they really like music, most of the time. A bit like they love puppies and small children and other things that distract from the important things. Like music, for instance.

My love for music started in December 1988 on a trip back to the UK with my family. I was 16 and my childhood friend Nick played me the Buzzcocks song ‘Promises’. It was love at first listen, complete and total. I had enjoyed music before this momentous day, some could even say I had loved music. I was a fan of heavy rock, of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple – my first LP was a birthday gift of Deep Purple’s Burn. I had even flirted with disco when Saturday Night Fever was taking over the world, but I had not found my true love, and to be honest I didn’t know true love really existed.

I had missed the whole punk thing. New Zealand is small, and was a long way behind the rest of the world, and without older siblings of my own or knowing anyone really connected with local music I had never heard anything like it. I believe it did literally change my life. I started my final year at school when I got back to New Zealand after Christmas and the first thing I did was look for others who had heard this amazing noise – and over time my social group changed as I met other like minded people. I bought my first records. The Clash ‘Give ‘em enough rope’ was the first LP I bought with my own money. Once I started working it was gigs and records and parties where only MY music was played. I turned into a true music snob – If I did not like your music taste then you would never be my friend. It was not pretty, this lasted for many many years – I have mellowed a bit, I think.

I was, and am still, very fussy about music. I like what I like, and it is within a very narrow band. I did finally move on from punk, though I still like and listen on those rare occasions when yelly music is required. My tastes are a little more publicly acceptable – I still like guitar orientated music, but now acknowledge there is a place for keyboards, in the right place. I think it is finally time to admit to myself that really I like pop music, I do not mean popular music, just music that is a bit pop. Lots of melody a bit of vocal harmony, jangly guitars, solid beat, but…. There has to be a bit of a racket going on as well, it cannot be all sweetness and light. There can be sweetness and light, in fact I like that, but only if it is all descends into some noisy feedback, overdriven chaos. Which leads me to Ride.

In 1990 the Oxford band Ride released their first EP Chelsea Girl on the Creation label. I am not sure when I first heard it, but it must have been soon after its release. It was a great song, sweet and jangly and then nice and noisy, I loved it, and then I never heard it again for years. I bought their first album Nowhere soon after it came out later in 1990 and it has remained a favourite album of mine since. I still had not heard Chelsea Girl again, it was not on the album and while the song itself faded from my memory the fact that I liked it did not and I did not get to hear again until well into the Napster days when I finally found an illegal download of it. It immediately became one of my favourite songs again, and slips in and out of being my favourite song of all time. I finally got a copy on a CD compilation of their first three EPs. I still want it on vinyl though…

Ride split in acrimonious circumstances in 1996. They never came to New Zealand so I never got to see them play. They reformed last year for a few shows and I tried to get tickets to their first London gig, but missed out. I wasn’t prepared to go to a festival to watch them so sort of forgot about seeing them again.

A couple of weeks ago they announced a series of shows to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of Nowhere, I jumped straight on to a ticket booking website and grabbed two tickets for the show at the Brixton Academy in London. Yes !!!

El could not make the concert so I ended up going to down to Brixton on my own. In 2008/9 I did a small amount of gig photography and got quite used to going to concerts on my own, so while I would have liked to have shared one of my favourite bands playing one of my favourite all time albums, being on my own was OK as well.

I arrived at the venue early enough, raised a second mortgage on my house so I could afford to buy a can of beer and sat myself down upstairs. I had decided to get an upstairs ticket, I was never going to get close enough to the front to take a photo so the front of the balcony was a good second choice. I took the little Canon G16 as I was not sure if they would let me take a DSLR in. My spot was not the best, but I took a few photos, very high ISO and a bit far away, they are not my best work. A good memory for me though!

Ride were supporting themselves in this show, playing a first set of classic songs, mainly from their second album ‘Going Blank Again’, followed by the Nowhere album. It all kicked off nice and early at 8:00pm.

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They were fantastic, playing most of my favourite songs in the first set, starting with Leave Them All Behind and ending with the wonderful Mouse Trap. The lighting was brilliant and the sound quality was superb. The band are playing better than ever and are incredibly tight, with the solid rhythm section of Loz Colbert on drums and Steve Queralt on bass holding it all down for the twin guitar/twin vocal attack of Andy Bell and Mark Gardener.

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There was a good crowd, and they were really getting into it.

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After a short break they returned to play the Nowhere album from start to finish. My favourite track from the album is Polar Bear, and I really expected this to be brilliant and noisy and a bit of a squall, but it wasn’t. It was still great but just a little too clean sounding for me. What did surprise was the last track on the album and the one I always liked least, Nowhere. Live it was fantastic, a highlight of a really good set.

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Andy – 10 years as the bass player for Oasis, mod haircut and sun glasses – and a lovely Rickenbacker guitar.

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I went downstairs to the main hall for a short while at the end of the set, it was really packed down there and I could barely get in through the door. Sadly there were too many people hanging round at the back chatting so I went back up stairs and, after getting told off by security for standing at the top of the stairs, took another seat closer to the centre of the venue.

The album cover for Nowhere is a classic, and has been the inspiration for a few photos over the years. Including this one I put on Flickr in 2008. I named it Chrome Wave, after a Ride song.

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The Nowhere record sleeve was used as the backdrop between sets.

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There was another short break before they came back on for the encore. They played Drive Blind, which is a fabulous song, one of their earliest and it really did not disappoint. A mix of sweet pop with a massive wall of noise break in the middle. Fantastic. I have read that this is often the final song in their set and was gutted that Chelsea Girl had not been played, but thankfully, I was wrong. As the last chords of Drive Blind faded Andy Bell, plucked the first few notes of what is again my favourite song of all time and I jumped with joy…

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It was a great gig, almost perfect. There was only one song in the first set that I did not recognise. The sound was really good throughout, lighting was great and the band fabulous.

Andy, Mark, Loz and Steve  – thanks for a great evening and some fantastic songs!

Here is Chelsea Girl from a gig at the same venue, but from 1992….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPbNp2LnBOM

The Buzzcocks thing is not actually true. Nick first played me ‘Hanging on the telephone’ by Blondie which was (and is) a great song. This was immediately followed by the Buzzcocks track. Sadly in my musically snobbish world, having Buzzcocks as a first love is much cooler and I pretty much wrote the Blondie episode out of my memory.