I’m not sure if sauntering up the road to Clapham Books counts as ‘touring’, but what the hell. Ed, Nikki and Al are lovely, gentle people, who took over the lease of the bookshop where they once worked and are now doing their level best to make it work in difficult times. Clapham Books is my local bookshop – not, you understand, that I live in Clapham – that would be hell. I say they’re lovely gentle people, but frankly, have you ever met a bookseller who wasn’t? I mean, they can be introverted and cantankerous in my experience, but they’re seldom aggressive, and never psychopathic.
Anyway, I read from the book, took some questions, then went off with my old mucker Nick Lezard, the critic, and my dad’s old friend the Reverend Colin MacGregor, for a meal at the Maharani across the road. The last time I ate there was in 1985 with the conga player from Kid Creole and the Coconuts, who was called something asinine like Coti Mundi. Why? Who the hell knows. The Coconuts may be long gone, but the Maharani is exactly the same: a still, brown eye at the centre of the world’s heliotrope vortex.
Then, on Saturday morning, I unfolded the Brompton, cycled to King’s Cross, folded it up again and put it – and me – on the train to Cambridge. The folding bike is perfect for this kind of day. After the Cambridge gig – organised by a very nice woman, Jo Browning Wroe, who was one of WG Sebald’s students at UEA, and attended the seminar he conducted immediately before his tragic death – I cycled back to the station, trained it to London, cycled from King’s Cross to Paddington, then trained it all the way to Swansea, where an equally nice man, Matt (Neil Morrisey’s partner in his Dylan Thomas-themed hotels and restaurants), drove me to the gig in Laugharne.
After the gig, I put the Brompton in the boot of a hire car and drove back to London, dropped the car at the hire place on the Kennington Road, unfolded the bike and prepared to cycle home through black 4am rain. Only to discover that the clip that holds the frame together had been worked free from the Brompton by my speedy passage the length of the M4 and was now locked in the boot of the hire car. But, such is the brilliance of the Brompton’s design, that by pulling hard on the handlebars I was still able to propel myself along.
What I’m trying to tell you here is sod the gigs – the biking was great.