Riturrrn Of Tha Track pt 2

Ellingford Road is quiet and narrow. It is lined with plane trees at its western end, where it meets the brick arches of the Overground lines, commuter-veins taking blood back into the dark heart of the city. It is a road that must have witnessed much, over the course of the two centuries it has served as a tributary from the commotion of Mare Street to the oasis of green of London Fields. The wail of sirens during blitz night-raids, many a love story, the odd broken dream, one almighty 1966 street party, and the whistling of numberless kettles boiling water for cups of tea, milky remedies for the arrival of news of every sort.

All this of course becomes irrelevant when you're tailing a 7ft crackhead down it.

A mountain of a man with dreadlocks well down below his shoulders, atop what you're almost sure is your mate's stolen bike, one that was taken a month before from outside a coffee shop. And right now you're hyperventilating, experiencing the shrinking of the nutsack that all face-downs with crackheads must rightly involve, while your mate is on the line all of 300 metres away, talking you out of the defining heroic moment of your life, on account of a pint he has to finish.

But i know something Wilma doesn't.


Unless one is after some crack, one might struggle to think of too many situations where following a crackhead anywhere would seem like a good idea. Not me. Like a fox about-turning and beginning to chase an entire hunting party back to the stables, i grit my teeth and hurtle down Ellingford Road after the oppressor, with my balls by now vying for space with my Adam's apple.

The aforementioned plane trees and remnants of broken dreams fly by, and before i know it i'm nearing the black brick of the railway arches. Passing under the overground i find time to capture an artistic photo of my handlebars in a wild dance with their shadow, in silhouette against the sun-splashed tarmac.

Stammering updates down the phone to Wilma, we hang a left onto Martello Street and ride up past the Pub on the Park, running parallel to the edge of London Fields. There are people in the beer-garden in full cheer, enjoying the sunshine of their youth. But this is no time for a pint. As i follow it dawns on me that our man might be heading directly back into the Lion's Den, in some macabre revisiting of the scene of the crime maybe, the exact place where Wilma is sat drinking his beer on Broadway Market.

Just as my hopes pick up speed and begin to take flight, turning languidly right onto London Fields he ignores the thoroughfare going left towards Broadway, and continues straight-on, bisecting the park westwards towards DalstonFuck.

I hazard a guess from his dreads that he is of Afro-Caribbean origin, that and the fact our man has settled on an average speed unlikely to set any velodrome on fire. But it makes tailing him even more difficult, for in my excitement i keep unintentionally catching up with him, suddenly remembering to keep my fucking voice down unless he starts getting suspicious of some white dude doing a running commentary down the phone of each and every one of his pedal strokes. 

Back in Jason Bourne mode i refocus, and remain glued to his back wheel from a distance of 15 metres, whispering coordinates to Wilma. In this fashion, we edge westwards across the park, in the direction of the council estates that line the western edge and whose alleyways and stairwells form an impenetrable web running deep into their heart. 


The genuinely scary thing about this was that i had absolutely no idea where he was going. And knowing at the same time that alone, i stood no chance whatsoever of getting anything from him, apart from a personalised gift requiring a fair amount of stitches. My word against his was nothing. You can't just accuse someone of stealing a bike in plain daylight. Especially not someone with a vested interest in testing out a kitchen knife on your upper leg.


I press on, and hear Wilma on the other end of the line, mumbling what sounds ridiculously like someone reading a pint of beer its last rites. And then, his voice changes. Right where the fuck are you.. keep tailing him, i'm legging it to my vespa right now. In the knowledge we have just doubled in number, my fear subsides a little and my balls drop down a few inches. I explain to him as best i can the direction in which i think we're headed. The line is shitty, i can just make out the sound of an engine spluttering into life, and as i strain to tell him we're still moving westwards... he cuts out. Fuck.

I'm on my own

The immortal line from Shawshank echoes around the haunted attic of my mind.   

Fear can hold you prisoner.

Fucking right fear can hold you prisoner. I can hardly move. I calculate i'm about another 25 metres from urinating powerfully down both trouser legs, and try to remember the the rest of the line.

Hope can set you free.

What the fuck use is hope to me now. Hope might have worked for Andy Dufresne and his rock-hammer, but hope holds no sway in this situation whatsoever. Hope isn't getting my mate's bike back.

Right now is the time for screwface.

With no way of knowing if Wilma knows where the hell i am, we start moving back in the direction of Broadway, back the way Wilma is now moving away from. Then out of nowhere, our man takes a right on a path i didn't even know existed, and doubles back in the direction of the council estates and their very heart. It dawns on me he is taking me into the mouth of the Lion's Den. His own.

He edges out onto the road, me behind him.

I'm bricking it. I have no idea which direction Wilma has gone. One man alone can't face up to another. Not in this situation. This is of course not strictly true, but when they're over a foot taller than you and used to killing people, it is a point that carries some validity. Just as i'm about to faint, my terror is pierced by a noise some way off to my left. I think it might just be the sweetest noise to have ever met a pair of ears. Like siren-song to Odysseus, it is a sound of such purity it sends me into a dream state, a sound i will take with me to the grave.

It is the sound of 150cc's careering towards me at just under the speed-limit.

Like a surging rapid of white water, Wilma appears on the horizon, rounding the corner in a cloud of burning rubber. He full-throttles towards us. Even from a distance of 30metres i can make out the expression on his face. His jaw is clenched in granite-like determination. He looks at me and nods. 

It's on.


Time Future

While i sit here locked in combat with thought, knuckles bloodied from fist-fights with memory, lacing words into sentences into paragraphs between therapy sessions trying to find the right way, the only way, to do justice to the end of the stolen-bike story, here's a photo of my mate's mum in Venice.

Riturrrn Of Tha Track

Five weeks ago, my man Wilma went into a coffee shop on Broadway Market for a cappuccino with extra chocolate sprinkles. When he came out two minutes later his trusty steed, the bike he'd left propped up by the bench outside, was nowhere to be seen.

Having semi-digested the awful sandwich of surging adrenaline and sinking-feeling that being on the receiving end of any theft serves up on a plate with one of those pointless ribboned-toothpick things, he put a call out on his instagram to the London bike scene.

Jensenparsonss's vow to 'look carefully' and reverblondon's promise to 'keep an eye out for the c&nts' were laudable but in the end fruitless, and no white Brother track frame ever did surface. Poor old Wilma was left to curse his luck and resort to busting around town on his old school vespa, which although less tiring, doesn't come close to the daily dodgem-esque thrill of blazing around London on a push bike, as he ruefully imparted to me over languid sips on another cappuccino with extra chocolate sprinkles.


Like the apple falling from the tree and coming to rest by Newton's side, or the permanent residence of Toni's mountainous stash of bugle, legend tells that when all was thought lost, the solving of Columbo's greatest case emerged from right under his nose.

And so it came to pass, that almost a month after the tragic incident, fate found me on a lovely friday evening of late summer, cycling down Mare Street with the extemporal nonplussedness of a man in sync with his surroundings, high-fiving the twilight in the manner of a cat whose shit is kept at all times strictly on the horizontal, no doubt on his way to an outdoor screening of some genre-bending silent movie from the 20s. Which i was.

And looking to my left i see a tall man half-standing, perched in animated conversation with his homey who is seated on the bench pictured below. Perched i say, because he is rocking slowly back and forth, while resting his forearms on the handlebars of a white bike.

Ah cool, i think, as i always do when i clock the familiar branding of my friend's bike company on the down tube. Another Brother in the wild spotted out on the streets of London town. I wonder how many there must be out there now. I feel pride in my mate and his endeavour and his achievement. And then, out of nowhere in true Columbo style, the double-take surges up from deep inside me and sledge-hammers me across the temple. 

That looks a hell of a lot like Wilma's bike. 

I recalibrate, and focus once more on the bike's current custodian. He is a tall black man with dreadlocks, a beanpole two inches shy of 7ft tall. I immediately rebuff the heinous stereotype materialising in my head telling me that a black man in scuffed jeans on a track frame must be a thief. 

I circle, getting another good look at it, and lifting my bike onto the pavement about fifteen metres downwind, i focus every single atom of my body and channel my best Jason Bourne. I instantly feel myself fading into the surroundings, fusing into the street furniture. When in a matter of seconds a troupe of schoolkids and an old biddy almost run me over, it becomes clear. I am invisible

I call Wilma, who picks up. Bro i think i'm looking at your bike. I describe the details of the bike and he corroborates. A pause on the line. Fuck, he says. And tells me by total serendipity he happens to be three hundred metres away, drinking a pint in the sunshine on broadway market. What the fuck do we do. All with the air of someone who would rather be left alone drinking a pint in the sunshine on broadway market. Just as he's about to tell me he'd rather be left alone drinking his pint on broadway market, our man comes to the end of his conversation with his homey and starts moving off. Fuck he's moving, i whisper... i'm gonna tail him. To gasps from onlookers who literally see me appear out of a brick wall, i unfuse myself from my surroundings and start following from a Bourne-esque distance of 20 metres.




Time Out this week had a piece in it about Mayor of London Sadiq ‘I went to fabric when I was younger, i don’t want it closed down’ Khan, and how when walking around town he has to field a constant barrage of selfie requests from the baying populace.

'Hey, it's a nice problem to have..' rallies Sadiq, a clear contender for another top position, Mayor of the chill-out zone. But it got me thinking about selfies. And that the name bestowed upon them, now listed in the Collins English Dictionary, is more apt than might initially be obvious. Selfies aren't just a photo taken of oneself, by oneself. In the current day's oversharing electronic interconnectedness of everything, the purpose of selfies are resoundingly for oneself. Gettysburg shit.

The people clamouring for selfies of Sadiq aren't in the hunt for a framed 10" glossy to adorn the mantelpiece. They're doing it to seek immediate validation from whoever might see the photo once its uploaded onto the internet. Likes are the new gold stars on the board at prep school.

Food-blogging i can tolerate, selfies with Sadiq, but the thing i can't get my head around is the following. If you’re having brunch with friends, out in the beer-garden of a gastropub on a sunday for example, what possible need do you have to tell two hundred other people about it. The truth of the matter is this. No-one, nobody, looks at the photos of your brunch and thinks how nice.

Everyone looks on at that brunch and thinks shit

My life is deficient. They must do this every sunday. Why don't i ever do that shit. They look like they're all having a great time. Hey, i know a few of them. Why wasn't i invited. But they didn't think of me. Maybe there's a reason they didn't invite me. Maybe they don't like me. What did i do.


Why this need to interrupt an intimate setting with friends to take a photo of it, with a view to publicising the setting and its intimacy, therefore rendering it anything but intimate. I'm mystified. And the only explanation i can come up with to justify this behaviour, is that folk are posting these photos of their brunches to counter the fact that everyone else is telling you about the brunch they're having with their friends that you're not at, and you feel the need, nay the pressure, to keep up appearances. 

So what emerges is a thinly-veiled one-upmanship that in its essence makes you feel inadequate, out of control, and unhappy. Longing for a less loaded time, when you could sit there twiddling your thumbs in blissful ignorance of anything going on anywhere other than the place where you might find yourself in that moment, bathing in the calm of merely being present, and looking forward to seeing people and learn what they'd been up to straight from the horse's mouth, because they would tell you. 

This is well trodden stuff and way too boring and depressing for a friday afternoon, but like my turkish electrician Redjeb told me on thursday morning, The End of Days is closer than we think.