Not the largest motorbike show in the UK, taking just one of the ExCel’s four halls this year, but with plenty of bike art on display. There’s a current fashion for retro styling of new bikes, so including numerous restored “classic” bikes on the stands fits well. This makes an opportunity to explore the visual aspects of motorcycle engineering over the years from a 1938 Brough Superior model SS80, similar to that owned by TE Lawrence, through the first 1970s Kawasaki models to the latest production Suzuki GSXR.
I’m a bit resistant to seeing the label “classic” applied to bike models that I have owned and enjoyed riding but it was fantastic to see - at last - a KH250 virtually identical to the one on which I learned to ride in 1977, passed my test in 1978, and learnt to service my own bike. The KH250 of 1976 looks primitive now: note the kick start. As a 2-stroker, it had a vicious power band that earned it the title of “Fastest away at the lights”; the brakes were ineffective and the suspension harsh but that bike was a lot of fun for me, living the dreams of “If you want to get about, get a bike” and “Live to ride - ride to live”.
A visit with a small group from GBMCC London.
Ragotin in the lake at Parc Borély, Marseille. A plant-eating river rodent, similar to a beaver, known variously as Nutria or Coypu.
Menton Old Town at dawn.
After Monday’s Whiteout, time to taste again the tender charms of sportsbike riding in Provence. My old friend, the road to the Col de l’Espigoulier (723 m.), as twisty for a rider as it is to the tongue. Riding under a clear blue sky with a Mistral seemingly direct from the Arctic so tyres treacherously cold and nowhere near the rev or lean limits this early in the season. But a fun ride out nonetheless, good to feel again a lean and a pull and maybe even a bit of late braking fear once more.
“Through the wind, through the rain, the snow, the wind, the rain... to taste your tender charms again”
Drive all night, Bruce Springsteen.
Whiteout on our trip from Lille to Marseille. Attractive, but not our usual view of farms in the Morvan, Charolais (the Upper Loire and Saône), the forests around Le Creusot or the vineyards of Macon. Colour photographs of monochrome scenes.
This was a great bottle. Classic Margaux. Old enough to be rounded and slightly tawny but not so old as to taste thin or musty. A fine nose, a forward taste in the mouth with a delicious after-taste that complemented roast goose for our Christmas Day lunch and followed on from Champagne Bollinger Spécial Cuvée that was a birthday present (thank you Jon).
This is a bottle I bought and selected myself - we’re moving on from drinking our way through my Father’s cellar. One more bottle of Château Rauzan-Ségla 1994 remaining in my cellar, it won’t be long before it too is uncorked.
The Nutcracker at Covent Garden. They don’t do pantomime of course, this is as near as they get in the Royal Opera House. Peter Wright’s choreography of Tchaikovsky’s ballet score is very family-friendly, there’s a live television relay worldwide of tonight’s performance and showings on television over the festive season. So what’s the point of being here in the theatre?
However much the technology improves, it doesn’t replicate the thrill of seeing these major performers just over there, direct line of sight, nothing in between. There’s no mediation: you see, sense and feel the performance as it is, in its entirety. For ballet it’s about the physicality too, these moves are athletic in the extreme, the concentration and the physical effort communicates directly to us, human to human, both the soloists and in the group pieces - tonight we had principals plus up to two dozen dancers all performing detailed, complicated dances in character with huge grace and in pretty near perfect synchrony.