Registering That Empty Space...

 

My 9th bicycle has been stolen, and I am angry. I heave a deep sigh when passports, phones, money and jackets are nicked, but it is always the bike that stings. My van barrel-rolled down the side of a hill, my car was totaled when parked on the street, and my scooter was chewed up by a truck. But none of those things felt more like a slap in the face than last week, when I registered that empty space where my bike once was.

 

 

Like many Londoners, I have experienced the full range of bike thievery. From mindlessly leaving a lovely blue Raleigh unlocked and unguarded, to emerging a little sauced from the pub, scratching my head and slowly realising that the entire segment of railing to which my bike had been attached, had been removed and placed in a truck. They have their ways these thieves. Their wily ways.

 

 

The incident that hurt the most occurred when I locked my bike up for half an hour outside Ravenscourt Park tube station (never lock your bike up outside Ravenscourt Park tube station). At this point my knee injury (see scooter above) meant I couldn’t walk without considerable pain, but I could cycle to my hearts content. Not to be overly dramatic, but when that bike was stolen I felt like someone had robbed me of a wheelchair. I limped awkwardly home, crying and cursing the scumbag who had just made a quick £80. 

 

 

Keep that in mind when I tell you that today, I nearly did a very bad thing. I have been riding my chopper since my last bike was pilfered. Yes, it looks awesome, yes I pick up guys left right and center, but it is incredibly slow, it can’t manage hills and lets be honest… I look like a bit of a dick. And so today, I took to Gumtree to navigate the sea of stolen bikes. I told myself it was just for a little peek, but I was soon deep in negotiation with Mathew, a 17 yr old from Kilburn. Luckily for me, his wife had recently purchased a Specialized Sirrus Sport and wanted to immediately rid herself of it for a quarter of the price. I was all ready for the rendezvous, money withdrawn, morals ignored. 

 

 

 

And then Mathew cancelled; the Sirrus had been sold. And you know, I felt only relief. What had I become? I had been about to propagate the very activity that had caused so many angry, long walks home, so many internal rants and imagined punched-in faces. I was about to give Mathew £120, and without a moments thought to the miserable, bikeless being who’s ride it rightly was… shame on me. 

 

 

So I ask myself why, why is quite so outrageous when your bike gets stolen? Why am I merely miffed when my phone gets nicked? It is because my bike is not just another possession. I have visited more places and seen more things on my bike than with anything else I own, or any one person I know. The focused image of my feet revolving as the ground shoots by in a blur is more familiar than my front door. When things get euphoric, I am inevitably rolling through an interestingly lit landscape on two wheels. When I am angry, a fierce ride makes me feel better. My bicycle enables me to go exactly where I want, when I want. I am not at the mercy of train times and expensive oyster cards, nor am I limited to the slow speed my own two legs can muster. I know what I sound like, and no, I do not want to have sex with my bike, but please allow me to be pretty fucking pissed off when it gets nicked.

The British Festival

 

 

Britain does festivals well. This summer, there are on average over 30 festivals every weekend. Small, grandiose, established, shiny and new, achingly cool, adorably disheveled, diverse or niche… Each summer we find ourselves on one hell of a party Island.

 

Perhaps this is because the British Summer is revered, a thing to be treasured and celebrated. As the sun warms us well into the evening, we shed a stuffy, zipped up mentality that is the product of British character passed through a British winter. The year’s middle months unleash an explosion of creativity and semi-rebellion. The plethora of UK festivals represents and reflects all facets of this release.

 

True, we do not have a festival as insane as Burning Man in the US, but then again we don’t have an environment as insane as the arid Nevada Desert. Burning Man, with its manned robots and crippling dust storms is a festival for Urban Americans who live in the high-pressure hodge-podge of conflicting origins and ideals. Our rolling hills and green fields give rise to a different kind of celebration. Hence we spend our winters looking forward to a more ethereal, mid summer night dream kind of escape. As can be seen from those we hold high in literary esteem, Britain yearns to fall down the rabbit hole, step beyond the wardrobe, investigate Lyra’s Oxford. There is a strong desire to find the magic in our familiar environment.

 

This philosophy is epitomized by the increasingly popular Secret Garden Party, its very name suggesting a hidden yet familiar place for us to get lost in. This year at Bike2basics, we are organising our bike tours to the most magical of English Festivals. Secret Garden Party is of course high on our agenda, but we are also pedaling our merry way to its sister festival, Wilderness. It would be hard to find a festival that emulates more of a Mid Summer Night’s Dream feel, ‘‘banquets under canopies, tented talks, midnight masked balls, barefoot dancing, parkland processions and ritualistic revelry.’’ Where as at Glastonbury, Bestival and SGP you expect to look very different coming out than going in, Wilderness is a festival for those who like to get Wild, but keep their hair mudless, their fairy lights bright and their fancy dress immaculate. Last year we soaked for hours in a lake-side hot tub made of Rose wood, banqueted at endlessly long tables, and got very merry on mead.

 

Bike2basics gang at Wilderness 2011

 

The festival scene changes as fast as we do. There are hundreds of small new festivals to keep up with, and we like to try our best. In the spirit of embracing this change we have chosen 3 festival-etts to pedal to. Firstly we are delighted that Playgroup Festival graces our summer program: 3 days of insanely good music, magic and miscellaneous fun. Playgroup take pride in not being a big festival, and purport they’re about ‘making new friends, being kidnapped by aliens, learning taxidermy, being part of a marching band, creating giant sculptures, and listening to the best in live Electronica, World, Funk, Reggae and Swing’. Lewis Caroll would be most pleased.

Now get geared up to meet Golden Down, a new Festival in Hampshire that has truly landed on its feet. Salivate over the line up and congratulate them in knowing what the UK festivaler wants; the dance tent is housed in an enchanted woodland, the chill out area is nestled in a beech wood high above the music, and the whole festival is woven within the excellently named Black Bush Valley. June can’t come quickly enough - I want to dance my socks off throughout the night and collapse under the Golden Down sky.

Lastly we present the tiniest festival on the Bike2basics calendar; Brain Child. There are only 300 tickets available for this mini adventure, and that’s one reason we’re going. We’ve been to tiny festivals before, by the end of which, my God if you don’t feel popular. The organisers of Brain Child profess that big things can happen from tiny thoughts and a little imagination, and that’s what new UK festivals are all about. We look forward to exercising our little grey cells as we dance we this particular weekend away.

At Bike2basics we have a many more festivals up our sleeve, for instance we haven’t yet touched on a major dance festival like Cream Fields or Global Gathering. The chaos of a metal festival has a darker appeal, the long-established Cambridge Folk Festival is a must at least once, Green Man is for anyone that relishes verdant fields and excellent music… I could go on forever.

 

Join us at one of these excellent festivals, or go yourself. Enjoy the British summer in the best way you know how. We needn’t go abroad to feel like we’re on holiday. Just jump on your bike and pedal to another world…  

 

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