Best laid schemes oft gang a-right also.

The good news is that the bike was ready for action. As I lifted the solitary item leaned up against it, I’m sure I heard it sigh in an eye-rolling, about-time manner.

Not quite the layers of boxes, tarpaulin, timber, abandoned plastic garden toys and spiders that I recalled. Funny how those little pictures build up in the brain, scenarios expanding and contracting. Proof if it were needed that memory can be contingent and unreliable…

Like, also not remembering to check the weather until exiting the house. Ah, forecast schmorecast, I thought, wiping a stray drop from the screen. Pretty much stopped, hasn’t it? Well, it wasn’t raining at the precise second I left… As I sped off, pedalled and sploshed, I did recall, though, how much I heartily heart being on the bike.

The other good news is, it was chucking it down with some insistence by the time I returned 40 minutes later. Chilly, driving rain, getting fat and slushy… Obviously! So, an elemental giggle at the coincidence of intent and environment ensued. Proper, sock-wringing sodden, endorphin tickled. Just what I was after.

“… the winter’s sleety dribble” indeed!

😁 👍🏼👍🏼

Happy news today that the Queen musical We Will Rock You is to finish.


My glee is not due to Queen hatred, nor is it cultural snobbery. Well, alright, it is a bit culturally snobbish. Yet it is my culture, so permit me do weird self-loathing and disdain as I please. I wrote an article about We Will Rock You the musical in 2006, on a previous blog (Slalom Speaking).

After some introductory associative waffling, the main thrust of the article was about what a disappointment Ben Elton turned out to be:

“…This witless combination of hamfisted satire and late 20th century media obsessions kind of exemplifies where it all went wrong for Ben, or Baron Benjamin of Elton as he is now certain to become, thanks to his close links with the Royal Family. When his essentially reactionary jobbing farty persona was revealed to be, well, not a persona. Yes indeed.

Align Left (until 1993)

Align Left (until 1993)

I mean, I let him off to a certain extent because he co-wrote Blackadder. However, the chamber of horrors London West End rock musicals lay like a fat grease spot on a napkin undulating over a contentedly stuffed gut.

It’s not just Queen, but “Tonight’s the Night”, about Rod Stewart (Actual quote: “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy sung by groupies, Hot Legs sung by masseuses, Sailing sung by sailors” – SWEET JESUS!) “The Beautiful Game”, about football… Benny, will you give it up? It’s a short step from “Tonight’s the Night” to ‘Ben Elton announces his new project, a musical about T.Rex called “Dandy in the Underworld”, in which Marc Bolan returns from the dead to show people how we can save the world with glam rock, feather boas and eyeliner…’, and then I’m afraid I shall have to call the police.

Here is my idea for a new musical: “Elton Benny & The Jets”, a rock-musical about a wealthy but washed-up comedy writer in his fifties. Elton Benny has rejected glam glitz and spangly suits and pseudo-political engagement and being funny in favour of novels about banal bourgeois mating rites and doing the book for a succession of feeble yet toweringly successful musicals which allow already insanely, impossibly wealthy 70’s rock musicians to further milk a bored public for their hard-earned readies. Watching some old comedy clips and punk videos on YouTube he rediscovers his political mojo and with a refreshed engagement with reality inspires a new generation of performers, before being tragically, farcically, crushed by a giant eclair.

Featuring the music of Elton John. Starring Jake Shears from Scissor Scisters as Elton Benny. Rik Mayall as The Pinball Wizard (until September). One stalls seat: £274.50.

I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew it was over between me and Sir Lord Benjamin-Benjamin of Eltonia. It was the juncture at which, hosting the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, he turned to the crowd at Buckingham Palace with that familiar elbow-out microphone gesture and upturned shiny face and intoned the deathless phrase:

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, will you please give it up for The Spice Girls?!’

Yes indeed.”


Well, I’m sure that told him. Fortunately, all that tide of bile can now ebb, because the ‘jukebox musical’ We Will Rock You has closed, which perhaps might signal an end to That Sort of Thing in general.

Still, I like Queen a great deal – so do lots of people, they’ve sold squijillions of records. Which was why I suppose I always hated the idea of the musical. My sister saw it. She said it was enjoyable crap – terrible dialogue and story, but Queen songs. I’m pretty sure she said there was no way she would have gone if it hadn’t been someone else that paid for the tickets. We-Will-Rock-You-at-The-Dominion always struck me as a bit of a tawdry cheat, when you could just stick on a Queen album. Or, as anyone who has read Good Omens will tell you, any tape at all in a car, seeing as they will over time transmute into a Greatest Hits of Queen.

So, happy news. Besides, whenever I feel sad about anything, I just pop on this version of ‘Somebody to Love’, recorded at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1982.

Free, I tell ya.

Glorious summer sun in York, about 10.30am, as I arrived for day two of the book sale at St Edward the Confessor Church in Dringhouses.


Regular readers of The Mortal Bath will have an idea of the extent of my bibliophilia, but to those dipping their toe in the waters here for the first time, my book lustings are extensive and entirely incorrigible. Nothing sets my nostrils twitching like a second hand book sale, and if you throw in a bit of church architecture as well… you had me at ‘book sale in a church’.


St Edward’s is a building I have passed often enough but never made time to pop into as I’ve toiled along Tadcaster Road on cycle or in car. Taddy Road, the A1036, is not really conducive to passing trade. Often absurdly busy at rush hour, it turns into the A64 (river of death) shortly after the Askham Bar park and ride, which abuts one of York’s growing number of superTescos…

Yet there is a fair bit of green belt/garden suburb here as well. A lot of leafy and pleasant (Valley Sunday) residential streets vein off the slightly furred arterial road. Those on the south side, by St Edward’s, back on to the Knavesmire, York’s racecourse. Away from the main thoroughfare it is a delovely locale for a walk or jog, and there are cycle routes around and about the place, leading to Fulford, Bishopthorpe, Selby. And, to counter my passing trade mumbles, there is a Co-Op, a petrol station (both massively undercut by Tesco, of course) and two pubs here that seem to do quite well, in particular The Fox and Roman, for ale and food. I cannot speak for the The Cross Keys as I’ve not been in, but it is currently being refurbished.

The pubs form a triangle with St Edward’s, framing the junction of the A1036 and St Helen’s Road. The Church was built in 1850, all in one go, unusually, and under the watchful gaze of Frances Barlow, local dignitary and recent widow to Edward, one of the church’s namesakes. She then got remarried in 1851, which seems to be a sensible approach to the grieving process.

The building has been extended in more recent times, with an extra aisle space screened with a movable partition, for meetings, societies, band practices and so on. Apart from the primary school a short step up the road, Helen the book sale organiser told me, it is pretty much the only community resource in Dringhouses – not vending ale or BOGOFs, of course.

Today’s book sale was not in aid of the worthy cause church fund, however, but the worthy cause Feed the minds, a charity aimed at promoting education and literacy. I did say you had me at ‘book sale in a church’.


My intention had been to bike to the book sale across Hob Moor and along one of the aforementioned cycle paths, but I got me bike out to discover an aggravating slow puncture. With such a lack of compunction it pains me, I drove across town, radio tootling Classic FM to amp up the ponce factor, and parked outside the church, thereby adding to the furring and, book fever’d, giving not two shites about it.

Hey, the roads are quiet at that time. And look! Books! In a church!


Entering the cool of the building, I spent a few minutes getting some snaps before settling down to the serious business of splurging my daughter’s inheritance on inessential tomes.



Purty! Being the second day, there was a feeling that one might have missed a few bargainous volumes, although I imagine that Saturday will see some new leaves turn up. There was a good selection of paperbacks. I was strictly budgeting, however, and I forced myself to forgo some Will Selfs with scarcely a whimper.

The pricing system was colour coded stickers, as seen on the large sign at the door, reproduced in miniature on pretty much every table, handily, for every time I looked up trying to keep a running total of the teetering pile in hand.


The books were mostly yellow stickers, or the ones I picked were, anyway.


Complete works of Saki, and a selection of pre-Shakespeare English plays (‘Ralph Roister-Doister’ ‘Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay’ &c) are the two hardbacks in the middle. Third title down is heading for J.C. Greenway at ten minutes hate, to make up for a previous second hand literature event, from which she enjoyed a complete absence of any booky goodness.

Any road up, as no one says here: Feed the Minds benefited to a moderate extent, and I had an edifying chat with the volunteers staffing the cash tubs, about books, buildings, bikes and balmy weather. Then it was out in the sun to tootle home, via a brief stop to procure a puncture repair kit in Tesco. Very well, I am a critical mass of contradictions. Blame it on the book fever.

The ‘Feed the Minds’ book sale continues at St Edward’s on Saturday 8th, and throughout the summer in York.

May the days be as glorious, sunny and packed with reading as today.

The Kindness of Trees blog has been running an excellent series of cycle-related pieces. There is something really reassuring in the descriptions of bespoke(d) equipment, provenance, history.

Cycling culture, on or off road, is not something of which I have any detailed knowledge. Not the serious ‘as a sport’ aspects, I mean. I’m aware of its importance to millions of people, and I love the abstractions, the sort of chivalric mix of romance and cynicism exemplified by the Tour de France, for example. In 2012 I was diverted by the attention lavished on BBC Sports Personality of the Year and knight-in-waiting national hero Bradley Wiggins. As “Le Gentleman” winner of Le Tour, and Olympic gold, it was a very sunny period for him. With the Mod stylings added in, he can be seen perhaps as an avatar of enthusiasm for retro-styled, oily-handed, but sharp, honesty.

Perhaps. In yet another sport that is tainted by commercial interests, he represents a need for oily-handed honesty, at least. Doing it because it’s it, sort of thing.

So: Two Wheels Good. I’ve loved whizzing about on a bike since as long as I can remember. I got a National Cycling Proficiency Certificate in 1985 and since this legitimation have only looked back over my shoulder to check the oncoming traffic when turning. As mentioned in a previous blog, apparently written by a persona more willing to indulge the semi-colon:

I can’t not cycle, it’s a joyful thing.

I think my true love of cycling comes from very early bezzing about, freewheeling, pretending to be on hover bikes, finding shortcuts to adventures, all the way through to the days of whizzing past traffic in various cities throughout the UK. Working to facilitate the commute. Locomotion for fun.

This winter has been very grey and wet in Yorkshire, one of a number of easy reasons to let my bike sit in the shed waiting for me to go and play. The few times I have ventured out, the winds have been unfavourable and my wrist/shoulder discomfort pronounced. Old man, take a look at yourself. So, part-inspired by The Kindness of Trees, I have shaken off this torpor and am dedicating January to reinvigorating my love of the bike.

With all this in mind, when asked for ‘ideas for Santa’s elves’ (by my mum), what I really wanted were some bar ends. I received with gratitude a pair of Specialized Targa contour grip combis:

This weekend I made time to fit them. That’s them in situ on the bike. There is nothing like a shiny new piece of equipment to help you feel like you’re devoting attention to something. Yet in fitting them I realised how little attention I devote to this ‘truly central’ bit of kit (see Bruce Sterling on ‘truly central’ bits of kit). Here’s the rest of my bike:

It’s a Ridgeback Cyclone. It was bought under the criteria of cost and being able to withstand the rigours of London commuting. I like the lightness, the robustness and the speed. It serves me very well. But, but, looking at it through the camera lens, I was struck by what an ill-treated mongrel it is. Witness this manufacturing mash-up:

That’s actually four different logos visible, I forgot to include the new bar ends. And fair dos, Shimano gears are fairly ubiquitous. The handlebar, however – I’m struggling to identify the brand – was a budget-ish replacement for one that I bent out of shape by interfacing with a tree, cycling home drunkenly. My thighs had a superb handlebar-shaped bruise for about a month after. Moving along, in every sense, we see a lot of corrosion on the stem and a very rusty bell:


…both of which descriptions have me sniggering like Finbarr Saunders in Viz. There’s also corrosion on the forks, from where they’ve been bashed by locks and leanings.

I felt slightly worn myself looking at it. So, I booked it in for a service. During the next few months, I intend to replace all worn parts and get it looking cared for again. And in the spirit of promoting the notion of ‘two wheels good’, I shall post some regular cycle-related updates.

This was my inaugural bike ride of 2013:
About 14km

Sorry about the squinty image, you can click to see it larger. Along the yellow line, taking in Hob Moor, Cycle Heaven on Bishopthorpe Road, then a turn round York City Wall, then back via Clifton Moor, was about 14km.

Just a short one, I’m still feeling the mince pies a bit. Very, very satisfying to be back in the saddle, though. Fnarr! Fnarr!