Sorry this is late, took a day off to catch up and visit James’ brand new son.
Friday evening began on the tube with Frank; we were heading off to the Coach and Horses in Soho to meet Den, Bill, Roge and my bro. Den and my bro were already there and we caught up over some ales, Bill joined us later with his assistants, he’s a rather accomplished fashion photographer but doesn’t bear the scars of being a conceited little prick as so many in that business do. After a while we said a fond farewell to our friends and in my case family, Bill and I went on to the Theatre Arts Club to carry on our Friday. Bill lives in Paris and was staying at a plush hotel off the Tottenham Court road. After more drinks at the club (a dance, even, I was getting pretty squiffy, I don’t do dancing) we grabbed some greasy food on the corner of Oxford Street and headed back to his place.
The following morning Bill and I chatted as our heads cleared with tea on the vast balcony overlooking London to the East and West. Waking up hungover in a hotel in your hometown offers one the chance to see ones city through alien eyes, London seemed extraordinarily beautiful and fresh, it was mild and sunny and walking back to the tube it almost felt as if was a tourist enjoying experiencing a place for the first time. After I arrived home I took a long bath and did some writing prior to the usual Saturday shop, my intention following was to stay in and watch movies but Jamie called to enquire of my movements in the evening, there was no way I was turning that down. Our attempt to find a pub that wasn’t showing the Rugby was fruitless so we found a place that wasn’t stuffed full with too many no necked skins and got ourselves ensconced. As luck would have it Frank arrived with his missus, none of us being Rugby fans we followed the ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ mantra and decided to enjoy the match with derogatory comments from our little group at the expense of players and fans alike. It was even rather nice when England eventually won.
Because I had to get up early the following day Jamie and I didn’t go too over the top with the beers, we had a can each and a couple of joints with some Hawkwind on our return but were in bed before 1am. I was up by 9am, Myfwt arrived shortly after and I made breakfast for everyone, by 10am, Jamie had gone and Myfwt and I were getting ready to sit on the black bitch.
Unless you have experience of something its very hard to know how it actually feels by proxy. Take yesterday for example, being absorbed into a pack of forty bikers on the M25 all heading for same destination on powerful machines with similar bhp, braking and handling capacity. The pace was frenetic, most cruised at 100 to 120 with the odd machine flying past at breakneck speeds and backing off until the pack was once again uniform. Along the way, other groups and riders joined the melee, some filtered through, some clung on. It’s virtually impossible to convey this euphoric sensation unless you’ve experienced it; for the riders yesterday it’s innate, a given, by the very fact you’re on board a powerful bike and heading for Brands Hatch means you all have a fundamental understanding of ‘it’ and each other, in its purest of form it’s a brotherhood.
The final round of the British Superbikes was always going to be a charged affair, season enders always are and the sublime October weather just added that little extra, when out of the bike gear I spent the entire day in a t-shirt in the sunshine. Myfwt and I met my dad after we arrived at Brands glowing from our journey. We had tea and settled down in an area between Paddock (a sweeping left hander that drops sharply away) and Druid’s (an unforgiving hairpin at the top of the hill) to watch the racing.
The best part of any motorcycle race is the start, the huge crescendo of sound as the revs redline to time the split second the lights go out, the roar as the power is applied in unison and 50 machines thunder into the entrance of one tiny corner is enough to make the biggest and hairiest of motorheads swoon. Where we were stood we could see the pack enter turn one, Paddock, drop onto their right knees in horizontal succession to ride the corner before partially straightening and applying the power down the short hill that dips and rises up to meet Druids.
Dad first took me to Brands when I was 4, on my first visit I saw a photographer get decapitated by a formula 3 car when it’s aerofoil broke and it lifted off catching the unfortunate chap in the neck, I was saved the rest of the graphics by my dads large hand covering my eyes. Despite this I’ve been at least once every single year of my life, always with the old man and on occasion, the odd guest. It’s a very special place, I’ve been lucky enough to ride on the circuit, indeed Mywt and dad have ridden it too, the former in the latter’s sidecar and it’s generally regarded, when all is said and done, to be the best circuit in the world.
We were perfectly positioned to watch three high-speed spills, a combination of extreme danger, physics and poetry. On every occasion when the riders stood to their feet following the fall the crowd would heartily applaud their survival. Annoyingly a crowd favourite, ‘Shaky’ Sean Byrne binned his Kawasaki as he was about to take the lead off the now new BSB 2007 Champion Ryuichi Kiyonari, the bike flipped him off (it’s called a ‘highside’ dear reader) as he excited Paddock and Shaky slid through the gravel trap at 120mph before coming to a rest a few feet from where we were stood, the accident was so beautiful I nearly burst into tears. He got a standing ovation.
After each race some of the riders would gather in front of us on the circuit and light up their rear tyres (known as a burnout, the front brake is applied and the rear wheel spins on the asphalt) and amid plumes of tyre smoke politely waved at thousands of grinning faces.
I was enjoying myself so much that I had a pre-emptive strike of nostalgia, as I was stood there with my dad beside me and Myfwt sitting on the ground watching the bikes roar past I knew I was having a day that would be one of those that flashed before my eyes in my final seconds. After saying bye to dad the ride back home was the icing on the cake. This time I took point, I spearheaded dozens of bikes setting a rapid but manageable pace down the motorway, I warned the group at signs of police and they responded, when I felt it safe to perform iffy undertaking manoeuvres they followed. Myfwt, the perfect pillion, was also providing some sort of entertainment by displaying the top of her buns to the bikers behind. But perhaps the best part of all was when I slowed to come off the M25 for Dorking and they all passed waving us goodbye.
We shot through Surrey picking up a few Sunday riders coming home from Boxhill and kept the pace up until hitting a crowded A3. I was stuck behind some little twat in a hatchback sitting in the outside lane at 50 gassing to his bird, I flashed him, beeped but he still refused to move over so I was forced to aggressively undertake the prick making it clear that I was displeased with him with gestures. Myfwt later said he and his girlfriend looked petrified, which delighted me, and we raced off leaving him miles behind in seconds before arriving home exhilarated and sated in equal measures.
My granddad once told me this. ‘Claret for boys, Bordeaux for men and Champagne for heroes’. Champagne it was then, with roasted duck and potatoes for dinner followed by a Bob Dylan odyssey on BBC4 which moved me to tears. I was emotionally charged you see, I reckon I’d just had one of the best days of my life.