My friend Andrew Vass

Andrew Vass, who I’ve known since he was 18, died on Thursday evening of cancer.

I took this photograph of him just after Christmas. He is already marked.

Here we are in 1980 I think, fixing our bicycles outside a youth hostel somewhere in Germany or Austria on our way to Yugoslavia.


Riding to Snettisham

At last it is warm and sunny and its the Saturday of Strawberry Fayre. (I first went in 1976 I think). I read that the police want this to be a family friendly event this year,unspoiled by the usual crime, drunkenness and drug-taking. So they have put up a big fence around the site and people are searched for anything in excess of 4 cans of beer as they try to go in.

I decided to escape on Belinda and headed off to the Norfolk coast. I had a hope to drop in and visit Kate or David at their totally rebuilt shed on Snettisham beach. Despite knowing they would not be in residence I could not resist the nice ride up the A10 from here. There was a little too much traffic but the road is not bad and the weather good apart from some fiendish gusts of wind. Its 55 miles but it feels further.

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The new shack looks like this. I think it needs a GS parked outside.


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Meeting Ted Simon – big fish in a small pond

Sunday 31st May was an opening at The Adventure Bike Shop down in Suffolk, in Acton, not to be confused with the ghastly Acton in west London where I once worked as a Health visitor. What drew me down there was the hope of meeting and talking to the father of motorcycle travel writing Ted Simon who was billed to be giving a talk. (Read the first paragraph of that biography in the link and you will see that he is an old fashioned person. I don’t think young people go to Paris and ‘fall into journalism’ as he did. Or maybe they do – hopefully). After killing time fingering some Touratech products and trying on a Nexx XD1 helmet (more about that some other time) I wandered into the small marquee where Ted was speaking. He had a computer perched on his lap, was holding a microphone in one hand and every now and then tried to open a bottle of Coke with the other without putting down the mic, giving up and forgetting about it for a while. Because, of course, I respect him so much I was riveted by his account of his memories of both of his travels. His lap top was misbehaving and I wondered why doesn’t one of the organisers sort it out? Ted must have recounted these events and his responses to them many many times by now and there was perhaps a slight sense of weariness – not about having to do the show one more time but, I think, that the world had changed so much since his first trip in the 1970s. I think he is still astonished that his books have brought him such fame. He commented, ‘you don’t have to be clever to be safe on a journey like this, you just have to have the right attitude, one of humility. In fact you can be stupid but if you have some humility rather than the arrogance that can come with stupidity, you are likely to be safe’.



After he had finished I made a quick move to the front and offered him my copy of what must have been a short run, “Riding Home” published by Penguin, (not Riding High as I presume it was later retitled) to sign.

Riding Home by Ted Simon

Ted commented that that edition was not well made but I said it was not badly written. I said that I was sure he was tired of people complementing his writing but added mine. He replied that he had no problem with complements but never knew how to reply to them. I ventured to tell him that I thought his motorcycle writing was unusual in that he actually had interesting and intelligent things to say and he replied, “well, I’m a big fish in a small pond”. That was not the frank answer I expected but I can see that he is aware of the truth of it. I was pleased to have met him. He is over eighty I think, and its unlikely we will meet again – he lives in America. In fact I had tears in my eyes as I turned and walked away, and got on my bike.

The Adventure Bike Shop is only 35 miles and a lovely ride away from Cambridge, just past the beautiful Long Melford. Afterwards I rode through some more beautiful countryside to Ipswich to visit Andrew. I was starving as I had had no lunch and ate nearly all the delicious home made biscuits that someone had brought him. Andrew’s show at Arthouse1 is on my Flickr site here. Andrew was not well enough to attend.

The ride home was a simple blast down the A14 where the bike showed me that it is far happier breaking the speed limit than Bertha.

Adze route to Ipswich via Acton

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

This film by Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour, came to a cinema near me last night. I loved it, especially for the beautiful wide screen black and white and the sound track, curated by the director (who according to Mark Kermode is an ex-DJ). (You can find posts of the music on Youtube). This film breaks genre categories: its very darkly lit and nocturnal noir, its horror and romance, all set in a dystopian supposedly Iranian town called Bad City, though filmed in California.

This is a masterful scene that reminds me of the bar scene in Wings of Desire where Bruno Ganz and Solveig Dommartin (who died of a heart attack at age 45) meet face to face. See here for an interview with SD about that amazing scene. In fact there are very many movie references, direct (the scene from the moving car near the end reminded me of Lost Highway for example) and indirect, with the mood of Nosferatu in places or the industrial background of Eraserhead. The lead is played by cute Sheila Vand. Though a little predictable/corny/romantic in places, it is wonderful and worth seeing.