Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Bibio

7th December 2009

In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;

If 2008 was the year of regular walks across the fields near where I lived in Sedgley in the black country, then 2009 was the year of the bicycle.

It’s great when you and your friends discover the joy of something new simultaneously. Like when you obsess about an album and want to get your friends to also convert their faith, and they do. Back in 2008 a friend of mine bought a fixed gear Bianchi Pista bicycle, brand new, shiny, beautiful. He’d previously chatted to me about it in the pub. I was aware of a single-speed thing happening down in London, but this isn’t London, this is Wolverhampton where little happens, or when things do happen, they feel very little, rare and special. So my friend Nick brings his new Bianchi to my favourite pub in Wolves – the Combermere Arms in Chapel Ash, I go out to look at it chained to the wooden gate, I instantly saw the appeal. I think the following nights I literally dreamed of riding a skinny-framed minimal classic looking bike. So the hunt was on, I did my research, being previously ignorant about this genre of bicycle. Another friend, Andy (of Letherette), phoned me from work and he said “what you up to?”… I replied “looking at single speed bikes on the internet”… “haha, really? So am I”. So to skip forward a little, me and my close circle of friends all got skinny bikes with the more road-friendly 700c tyres (we’d previously being slugging up hills on mountain bikes with tractor tyres). It was the first time I owned such a machine and now I find it hard to understand why I, and why anyone, would ever take a heavy mountain bike to the road. Spring had arrived, and I had moved house earlier in the year. Now I reside in a different end of Wolves, surrounded by more countryside, country lanes and even a vineyard. A bit later in the year, I decided that I wanted to own a bike frame with some history, and maybe local history. I managed to find a 1960 Mercian frame, made in Derby. I found it on the old ebay, and then I was to go through the frustration and struggle of building up a bicycle on my own… finding out such and such doesn’t fit, or this and that needs to be 0.2mm narrower etc etc. So eventually the cycling continued. Favourite routes were around the canal, through the mossy lanes towards Trysull, where we’d rest at a nice pub called The Bell, next to a church and graveyard in a rather quaint and pleasant village, with still some thatched rooves to decorate the skyline.

One memorable day was when Nick, myself and the Letherette boys (Rich & Andy), cycled out to Ha’penny green vineyard, bought a bottle of English white wine, got 4 plastic cups and found a spot on the long grass amongst the vines. The sky was cloudy and dramatic looking with the threat of rain, the air wasn’t what you’d call warm, but that just added to the novelty of drinking English wine in a vineyard only a few miles from my home. Watching the summer develop, and the vegetables in their patch in our shaded garden, was a delight. Every morning I’d go out and check the state of the veg, top up the pots of beer as an offering to the slug gods. Things happened slowly due to the lack of sunlight, but one delight I did sample several times during that summer was bright yellow courgette flowers. Preferably freshly picked, stamen removed, little black beetles tipped out, washed and then stuffed with diced red onion and small cubes of goat’s cheese, then I’d make a beer batter, dip them and shallow fry them in olive oil. Yum. If there’s been a soundtrack to 2009, it was “I don’t wan’t to set the world on fire” by the Ink Spots. If the weather was fine, I’d listen to Ink Spots 78s in the garden on my wind up gramophone, accompanied by scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a pot of ceylon silver tip in my fly fishing themed china mug. It’s all about cream teas and sunshine.