WITH NEL AND I... PART 2 (The Lizards Green Tour of England)


During the tour I kept a little notebook where I scrawled salient details of events as they happened. For some years I lost the notebooks. But later found them in a box in the attic. I decoded and edited them.





Mon( 7th October '89)


Up –homesick before I left. Said goodbye to Woolly Wulf.(my border collie) Cycled to Nel's –stopped at Andy's (Records?) to deliver sleeves and at the Camping Shop to pick up bunjee straps.

First stop on the road to Bury. Service station for sweets and canned drinks.

Stopped at Long Melford for x-pensive Ploughman's £4 or £5. Made cheese rolls out of the surplus – which were later to save our lives. Last stop just outside Bury. More sweets and orange juice for our water bottles. Directed round Bury Ring Road, a right pain in the arse. Into Bury and to the Tourist Information Board. Made contact with Caron, who'd got us a B&B. Met guy from Bury Free Press, who had us posing in our tailcoats with two little girls looking at us. Then off to Saxon Radio…a news quickie apparently. Slightly apprehensive bespectacled guy. Played a song in their carpark. V. strange! Then did the interview, invited in for coffee. Met the "very professional" heavy metal d.j. Dropped us like a hot penny when he realised we were Indie rockers.


Peterborough (Tues)

Right in the middle of the very black Fens... Slightly discomfited to find that Caron hasn't managed to get us a place to stay. Did Hereward Radio with Mick and Sarah Jane, a clean-looking couple but very sharp and good presenters. Blagged some phone time and got a place to stay. Refused service in empty Indian restaurant.

Stayed in a damp chilly mobile home. £10 each. Mrs. H. peered at us through strange bi-focal glasses. Wanted money up-front. Treated us like space aliens. Locked the bog and basin room up at ten pm. Had to piss (and nearly threw up) in garden later.

Ate at Deep Pan Pizza. Drank in an empty Fun pub. No one we met had anything good to say about P'brough. " A town that finks it's a city." was one skinhead's quote.

Very good cycle-lanes however. Next morning up to do an interview with local press,

Busked in The Queensgate Centre and a TV appearance. Should have shown it tonight Wonder if they will? Bit sad if they don't.


Coton (Near Cambridge)

Young hearty students in the local pub. Harmless enough, but destined to be the next yuppies. Interesting blend of jeans-as-part-of-uniform. Names like Ben, Luke, Nathan. Locals visibly avoiding corner that the students occupy.


Nel constantly worries about money running out. He's got a bad knee -which is rather worrying. Cambridge was great. An easy ride there. Miraculously quick. Did a busk, an interview and a BBC radio thing. Lovely town! Put me in a great mood after P'borough. Stayed in a wonderful place. Landlady absolutely brilliant. A Mrs Young.

An almost classic country yeo-woman. This morning(Thurs) Nel's pannier rack was broken and I had a puncture. She got Nel some tools and opened up her absent husband's workshop for us and helped me with my puncture. Even gave Nel an elastic bandage for his bad knee. A great pub –good cheap food and a nice ride, three miles from C'bridge to Coton. New panniers already beginning to wear out in places…v.shoddy.


Nel reckons between his pessimism and my optimism, we just about get the right answer to things. Think we've done about 170 miles by now. Best time on the road is the first 10 or 15 miles. We're always laughing and joking then. Lunch in Chatteris,

Home of Dave 'Boy' Green, the famous boxer. Found a wholefood shop. Tough being a veggie on the road.


After lunch, being on the road is a bit more of a strain…followed by a panic. Nel's knee plays up. My back hurts. We bicker about the mileage and the maps. I got us lost on Tuesday. My God , Tuesday was bleak. Quite a good day (Thursday) except we cycle the whole 30 miles into the fucking wind. Did some busking and blagged a gig at a beer festival. Bedford's not a bad place. Quite a luxurious B&B Colour TV. Tea and coffee. Radio alarm clock.


Milton Keynes (Fri)

Makes Colchester look like Florence. Busked for a while. Dreadful ride into the wind from Bedford. After a local paper interview and a production-line interview at Chiltern Radio. Caron's got us a place to stay in a farmhouse. Bedford was alright.

Milton Keynes is bleaker than Peterborough. The shopping centre is full of retail drones buying what they're told to. While we were busking, opposite The Point( and what Is the Point?) saw some bloke being busted by 5 security guards and two coppers –probably for shoplifting. Rather over-the-top we thought.

The tour is definitely underway now. We've become veterans. Wish Nel would hurry up in the phone box. I want to use it. Waiting for some bloke from the local paper but he hasn't turned up yet.


Stayed in a farmhouse just outside Winslow. Woken by geese. Brilliant place. Good breakfast. Went for a highly reasonable vegetarian at a lovely old pub called The Shoulder of Mutton. Talked to some people and found that one was in the Green Party. Landlady of B&B very nice, but a Sun reader. Nice end to a horrible day.


Oxford…Saturday. The Big One.

Arduous ride to Oxford followed by a bit of filming. Started raining and I got a flattie. Met up with Andy McQueen with the film crew: Tom the film-maker( who's doing the documentary about the tour) and Shu (Capain's mate) who was helping out. Good gig at the Co-op Hall but not very well attended. Stayed with Richard, who organised the gig. Nice chap. Managed to use their washing machine for a clean shirt.

Inner-tube fell apart and had to buy a spare. Mudguard nut flew off on the road. Had to tie it with string. People are very friendly and hospitable to you when you're on a bike. I suppose because bicycles are such innocent and blameless conveyances. I'm feeling very fit and well and morale is high, even though we don't know where we're staying in Swindon yet. Oxford was a really good place.


Swindon...Sunday/Monday

Very cold but quite pleasant ride to a place called Fernham where we had a ploughman's in a lovely old pub. Met McQueen and Tom about six miles out of Swindon and did some filming in a field. I was a bit anxious about not treading down the winter wheat and said so . Townies don't understand that sort of thing. Took us a while to get into Swindon. Did a radio interview and quite a lot more documentary footage. The interview was filmed too.

Went into a tiny museum near the BBC and snuck a picture of me on a Penny Farthing bike. Was filmed doing a spiel by the mural wall of Swindon's most famous people. The entourage adjourned to a dodgy hotel whose clientele were generally a bit rough and having some kind of a private party. I drank too much strong lager on an empty stomach. More filming upstairs in our rather dingy room. An amazing rap with Shu.


Nel went out to get curries. Streets full of boneheads in noisy cars and the music in the sleazy public bar was way too loud. Retired to room to eat. Absolutely whacked out and a bit drunk. Ate and crashed out. Woke up with my head next to a curry stained plate and a half finished pint of St Ella.


Bath: Monday

Nel's knee still very bad, so after a greasy breakfast went to Swindon shopping centre to busk. Made a few quid and very reluctantly took bikes to train station. Decided that a day off will help Nel's knee to recover…otherwise, end of tour. Saw some young bike thieves eyeing up the bikes while we were in the buffet. Went out and got talking to them Both rough-looking kids, bunking off school. Gave one of them a cigarette and talked to them. Said they'd already nicked a couple of bikes that morning. One of them had a skinhead haircut and his head was bruised and scratched. Felt a bit sorry for them really. Probably both headed for DC ( Detention Centre)

Got to Bath about lunchtime. Lol had prepared a spread. V. good to see him! Did another photo session and another busk. Spent the money on wine and beer for the evening meal. A good evening. Two pubs, a good meal and then home to listen to each other's tapes. Don't remember how I got to bed last night.


Bristol-Tuesday

Along this amazing cycle path on an old railway line all the way to Bristol (about 13/14 miles) Spent hours hanging about in traffic near a rather soul-less shopping centre. Didn't busk. Had to keep phoning Deltic to find out what was happening –v. frustrating and tiring. Nel staying with some bohos... people he knows. I wanted to go back to Lol's. Bloody had enough of Bristol city centre. We did one interview and photo-session with a real bonehead reporter who asked us:

" Wouldn't it have been easier to do it by car?" (!!!)

Nel patiently explained that the whole point of doing a Green tour was that we did it all by bike.

Bath is a lovely old place. Wouldn't mind living there. Maybe a bit snotty but great for busking. You need a license, apparently. Got a live radio phone-in with GLR tonight.

Come all this way west so I can speak to someone on the phone in London. That's showbiz. Got two interviews tomorrow, one in Bristol and one in Bath in the afternoon. Looking forward to a quiet night in with a couple of beers tonight. A bit tired and slightly disorientated by now, which is to be expected I suppose.


People don't seem so different as you cross England east to west really. Some friendly hippies and punks and some unfriendly androids. Most of the newspaper people have been very nice.

Record company well-pleased with tour...


PART THREE TOMORROW


Pic: Nel and I busking in Bath

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