Saturday, 31 January 2009
Friday, 30 January 2009
Fahrad Fahren or travelling by Bike, in Berlin is easy. Or that is what I believed when I first arrived.
Coming from the knotted congestion of London’s narrow streets, to the vast roads and cycle paths of Berlin couldn’t be more different; but having always cycled, I would say that central London is one of the safest cities to get around by bike; save for the odd Taxi door opening into your face, from my experience, cars hardly ever get any space to build up enough speed, to really hurt you. ( I am sure statistics contradict this personal observation)
Space in Berlin plays tricks on the mind; Because of the lack congestion you cover double the distance in the same amount of time a journey would normally take. This David Blaine type mystery only became clear to me just before Christmas when I was showing a friend a route map of my daily cycle; In the same time that I would have done a 10 to 12mile round trip from Kentish town to Hackney Wick, It was pointed, that I was actually cycling 18 to 20mile on a journey from Mitte, to Kreuzberg to Wedding, and then back?
On the very night this phenomenon was realised, I fell victim to one of the worst aspects of Berlin cycling; The cyclists!
Sanctimoniously, speeding dangerously past with no consideration for the pedestrians. They are the new car drivers; in fact, fat BMW’s recognise their kin, slowing down to usher through threatening packs of bikes. And these are no ordinary bikes; They are, the big- bugger- Amsterdam- Variety. The night I came into contact with one I spent the following hours in the krankenhaus being splinted up with a broken wrist.
I have never been too bothered about cycling in Winter; As long as there is no black ice and you wrap it well, it can be pretty exhilarating. However, these last 3 weeks of January have made me reassess this; The grit that’s chucked everywhere, to stop you slipping; becomes the bike-tyre equivalent, of cycling over broken glass. 3 flat tyres in 5 days is a depressing statistic; particularly the one that occurred in the middle of a snow covered Tier Garten; I found myself tugging the incapacitated two wheeler with a flop-wobbling tyre along the Strasse Des 17 Juni, from the Prussian victory column to the Brandenburg Gate. On this mammoth stretch of road I suddenly found myself in two David Lean films at once; The painfully slow progress along the Strasse, was the approaching Camel in the early desert scene of Lawrence of Arabia. But this was no desert; Dr Zhivago.
Finally to my, brush with Germanys, drink-peddling law. On Sunday evening I met a friend at 7pm in a Kottbusser Tor, bar. He had just got back from a month in Ethiopia and had many stories to tell. Our evening concluded around 1.30am, I would guess that I’d had around 7 Biers. Outside it was about minus 2 degrees. We quickly said our goodbyes and I began my cautious 20 minute cycle North. Having just crossed the River Spree, I halted at a red light. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned round to see 5 Polizei standing there; Immediately, a story came to mind of someone who had been stopped by the police on their bike after they had been drinking and had ended up losing their driving licence for a year.
Been Drinking have we sir?
Yes. There was absolutely no point in lying.
How many would you say?
Well, two maybe three . I did lie at this point
Ok we would like you to blow into this, Yeh? he moves the breathalyser towards my face
Oi Oi Oi I say, oh well this is it , I put my hands up. and laugh a little, because I know I’m done, and there is no way out. Their mood is quite cheery, perhaps because I am taking the whole thing on without hostility, They count me in and then to ten. But before blowing, I somehow decide that I will do it in style; I’m guilty! Why do a stuttering half arsed effort.- For their count of 10, I was an on song Artie Shaw, and I’m sure I detected respectful nods from a couple of them.
They hold the machine up and check the reading. There is a pause
OK your fine, Danke
I can’t understand, what is going on; I’m about to say, but I can’t be , I’ve had at least 7 Biers!
But they are not interested; they’re packing up and getting back into the van.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Saturday, 24 January 2009
Thursday, 22 January 2009
I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to that brilliant recording of Bartoks 6 Rumanian Folk Dances.
That was the first thing I said to Ivor Cutler, when I finally plucked up courage to go up and speak to him in the Street. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen him in Kentish Town; in fact on one occasion, quite by chance he had got on the Tube and sat down beside me; the friends I was with, kept nudging and pushing my arm, gesturing that I should turn and speak to him. But I couldn’t.; he’d been a hero of mine for over 25 years; It was too big a deal.
The Bartok recording was one that appeared on a 1999 EMI compilation, of Ivor Cutlers, favourite tunes; a sort of Desert Island Disc, which I bought when it was released, it has now become a favourite of mine. The sleeve notes didn’t give the musicians names; just that it was arranged by Szekely and recorded in 1930.
On an early summer evening in 2005, On route to meet a friend, I was heading down Leighton Road, towards Kentish Town Tube station, when I saw Ivor Cutler, some distance ahead ,shuffling along in front ,on the other side of the road ; He was alone and moving very slowly. I quickened my pace , and began thinking of something to say to him; Hello Mr Cutler, I have always been a great fan of yours, Hello, Ivor Cutler? I’ve got all your records. Hello Ivor Cutler, you have been a very big influence on me, Hello Mr Cutler, I have all your books. Oh God this is terrible, you can’t say that to him, he’s a hero of yours, Hello Ivor Cutler you are my hero.
During this my head had been slowly rotating to the right as I drew level with him and then ,continued on, leaving him behind as I turned onto Kentish town road and the entrance to the Tube. Fuck!
Turning sharply on my heels I strode back to Leighton Road, saw that he had reached the side of the Assembly bar, where I crossed and blurted out the first thing that came into my head.
Oh, he said with huge grin on his face, and putting a very shaky hand into his pocket, he pulled out a small note book; I’ve just found my book; months of work; I thought I’d lost it; I’d left it at the doctors. Would you like me to read something from it.
I was then treated to half an hour of Ivor Cutler poems, drawings and Stories, interspersed with general talk of his poor health, medication, sex, depression and suicide. He was very frail and a little wandered, but his eyes where sharp; full of life; curiosity. At one point I suggested that he might like to come into the Slade school of Arts Breakfast club as a guest:
Ivor Cutler: Oh, no I can’t do anything like that anymore; it takes up too much energy and I need all of that for my work.
Me: I suppose that’s just like Matisse
Ivor Cutler: Why, what’s wrong with your teeth?
Having remembered that I was meant to be meeting someone else, I was faced with the odd situation of having to cut short our discussion; he looked like he was just warming up.
Is it a Bouy or a Gurl your meeting?
A girl grabbing my hand in his, he lifted it to his mouth and kissed the back of it.
Pass that on from me.