Monday, 7 November 2011

Nels Cline

Cycling with Waywo Bassey
This week, Holesgrow ~ Stabwater

Last week, I stopped over in the lovely little village of Holesgrow. You'll remember I was quite taken with the place. Well, not so much today. I ride out into a glorious summer morning. Little bleary. Didn't sleep well. Must be the heat. Pass a bench on the way out of the village. Group of boys sitting on it. They get up, make gestures, shout things.

"Oi, gayboy! Asking the big questions, are you?" "Are you sleepless with deep wonderings?" "Yeah, gonna find out the ultimate truth later, innit!"

Idiots. I don't ask questions. I ride. It's what I do. And hey - they'll probably be dead of heroin in a few years. But I'll still be here. Riding.

Like today, riding down the beautiful country lanes between Holesgrow and Stabwater. Just a couple of miles shy of my destination, I stop for lunch at the famous Barrister's Fist. Gorgeous little pub restaurant. World-class cheeseboard. World-class waitresses. I take a table out front, order Barry Barrister's Fistful of Meat Sandwich and a foaming pint of Nels Cline. She shoots me a look. I know what that look means.

Now, that sandwich might be from the kids' menu, but it's a man-sized serving, OK? And I'm stuffed. The waitress sashays over, picks up my plate. Dessert? Oh, I couldn't eat another morsel! Then she mentions the cheese. Little minx. I raise an eyebrow. She smiles, bites her lip.

The vibe is pure Campari advert, 1977. Exterior: ski lodge. Somewhere European and exclusive. Interior: sauna. Red-hot, sweating flesh. Close-ups on eyes, meaningful glances. You see it going in. He winces. Bad angle. Torn frenulum. Copious bleeding. UK sales of Campari increased by 80% that year.

But back to that cheese. And what a selection! Shropster Grand Unutterable, Cock Hamilton, quarter-wheel de Mini Babybel and Golden Booty Hits of Miami. I swear I've gone blind by the time it's finished. Head's swimming. But I've got a schedule to keep. Time to get back in the saddle. Bad idea.

Less than a mile down the road. Stabwater in sight. Somewhere behind me, I hear the psychedelic rock stylings of Octave Mirbeau. An engine. Getting closer. My head's so clouded with cheese, I don't think to pull into the side. But that's OK. The driver will se...

Mucus Daniels, the man behind the 1977 Campari campaign, made his final public appearance in front of the Hotel d'Angleterre, Geneva, spring of '82, naked and screaming: "WHAT is it FOR???"

... Those words are tumbling in my skull like a cosmic tombola. I'm not riding anymore. I'm looking up at the sky, numb with shock. I hear the car somewhere further down the road. Slows down, crawls for a second or two. Speeds off. I'm alone. Numbness gives way to sickening pain. Screaming silently in the dead-still summer afternoon. A cloud of midges descends.

Minutes later, I hear footsteps. A thin, pale man leans over me, face locked into a scowl. Part of the back of his head is missing. He fixes me with his eyes. Scowling, sunken eyes. They soften. He puts his hand to my face, tear rolling down his cheek. There's kindness in his gesture, but I feel something leaving me. Something he knows I won't need any more. The pain subsides. We share a moment. Nothing wrong with two men sharing a moment. He turns and walks away. Takes something else, too. He comes back for one last look, my mangled bike on his shoulders. Then leaves. Leaves me here to wait, wait for someone else to stop by and call me an ambulance.

The ambulance takes me to Blankhead Royal Infirmary, where I will later die of complications.