16 Dec, 2008 Look Out Kuala Lumpur!
I remember the moment clearly. The Sun was shining, there was blue skies all around, and it was such a glorious early autumn day. Hyde Park in London, which lies adjacent to my hotel was ablaze with dying leaves in all colour of gold and maples.
And then it happened, surfacing out of nowhere, violently abrupt and without any previous calling, the thought arrived absolutely unannouced, somewhat like the sudden appearance of a sharks fin on the surface of the calmest waters.
Whatever brought it on, I have no name for it, but right there and then I had what others may refer to as a death wish. Admittedly thay may all seem a tad dramatic, but how else can you refer to it, when a sudden and inexplicable desire takes a hold and out of nowhere and you decide in that moment that you are going – to buy a bicycle to ride round central London with. That’s right a bicycle of all things! And a bicycle that is to be used to ride around among the maelstrom that is passed off as traffic flow in one of the world’s largest cities.
I am going nuts or what? Is the question I asked myself volubly when a mere twenty minutes later I found myself heading off down High Street Kensington destined for the huge bike store, already having already decided that I too wanted to own a Brompton bicycle of the type that English author Will Self had shamelessly plugged a couple of months back in one of his columns for the Independent newspaper.
Yes, Will Self of all people. I mean I admire his work a lot but he has past form that would normally lead me to doubt anything that came out of his mouth. And yet despite the fact that over the last years more than 34,000 people were involved in bicycle accidents reported by data released by Transport for London, here I was falling hook, line and sinker for Self’s proposal that all of our lives would benefit much from being the owner of one of those odd looking little foldaway bikes that you can take with you anywhere, or in my case around the world as I am now in the process of doing!
And therefore was it a death wish so to speak, and if not, then just what was it that made me decide – like other “bicycle enthusiast, musicians types” such as Eno, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne and Kraftwerk to name an illustrious few – that two wheels in motion was to be the preferable mode of transport for me?
The answer to that is that far from being any death wish I was certain that indeed my life would be greatly enhanced if only on the grounds that I have absolutely had it with hanging around in the the appalling slow moving traffic that is a damnable feature of all cities these days.
Secondly, whenever I am touring I do like to get out and around by wandering off into the backstreets and not so obvious paths into which tourists are pushed.Never one for sitting holed up in my hotel room, thankfully the sights and sounds of most of the destinations in which we have found ourselves have failed to pass me by and I am enriched as a result.
In addition and without wishing to invite bad luck on myself, but with regards to safety issues etc. The busy roads may be treacherous and definitely you would need to keep your wits about you to avoid becoming a cropper as a cyclist.
But given that I have spent the last decade harrying around Sicily of all places while sitting atop a dilapidated vespa, then surely I am well versed in the dangers of insane traffic and how to survive it.
And so having taken the plunge, bought the bike, and desperately keen to get on the road with it, the experience of the last few months has seen me pedalling in all kinds of brutal weather – without being dressed in lycra I hasten to add – while touring around Belgium, Holland, and finally quite a few of the UK’s major cities.
In doing so I have loved every minute, no more so however than over this last week when I have been in sunny California and accompanied by my little orange coloured bike, made my way up and down a small part of the Pacific Coast from Malibu to Venice beach – and all with a constant loop of the music of some of my favourite albums from this year.
Elbow. Seldom Seen Kid
Grace Jones. Hurricane
MGMT. Oracular Spectacular
With that kind of music and more, including our own new album buzzing round my head, my travel is set to continue early next year when with my little Brompton I will be burning rubber in Malaysia and possibly Japan. Hardly Formula One but that was never for me!
Look out Kuala Lumpur!