Monday, 7 November 2011

Nels Cline

Cycling with Waywo Bassey
This week, Holesgrow ~ Stabwater

Last week, I stopped over in the picturesque village of Holesgrow. You'll remember I was very 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! Been asking some questions, have you?" "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. That's all I need to know.

And that's what I'm doing today, snaking around the winding, undulating route between Holesgrow and Stabwater. Challenging going, but no problem to a serious cyclerider. Just a couple of miles shy of my destination the trees and hedgerows open up and the hills drop away, giving out on a delightful patchwork vista of meadows, lakes and factories - HMP Lobfoot over there, look - and right at the centre of it all, the gorgeous Stabwater. I stop for lunch at the famous Barrister's Fist, a charming little gastropub. 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. Ext.: ski lodge. Somewhere European and exclusive. Int.: sauna. Red-hot, sweating flesh. C.U.: eyes, meaningful looks. Their lips almost touching. You see it go in. He winces. Bad angle. Torn frenulum. Copious bleeding. UK sales of Campari shot up 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 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, idles 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, drawn by my gasping.

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 this 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. That's not always gay. He gets up and rummages in the hedgerow behind me, comes back for one last look, my mangled bike on his shoulders. Then he leaves. Leaves me here to wait, until someone else stops by and calls me an ambulance.

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