London Clear-up, Sunday 22 May 2016
It’s been another injury-hit season. On top of the usual back pain, lethargy, work commitments and other ailments that plague men in early middle age, I fractured my collarbone while participating in a rainy sportive in February – proof that proper cycling is an enemy of the biscuit tour.
Still, it’s not like I’ve been captured by Barbary corsairs, so three months after surgery Dawes and I pull the ice axes from our legs and stagger on. Our first tour since last summer is a clear-up of central London (at least until the next album). This is very much one for the purists, comprising four obscure destinations that we overlooked on our two previous jaunts round the capital.
Starting at Paddington, we bowl through Marylebone to Euston Station (which, we’re told, is mentioned in the backwards section of ‘Christian Rock Concert’ – “The body of Shane Fenton is in the laundry chute of the New Ambassadors Hotel near Euston Station” apparently). We belatedly realise that this is our 100th destination.
Ignorant of the fact that we’ve clocked up our century, we proceed down Gower Street and Shaftesbury Ave into Soho where we struggle with the one-way system, which is neither smooth nor commendable. As we stand on the pavement awkwardly consulting Google Maps on our phones, Dawes wryly remarks that this is the first time he’s sported lycra on Old Compton Street.
We’re looking for the Marquee Club, which doesn’t exist any more, but had various incarnations in the latter half of the past century. We decide that 90 Wardour Street – which of course saw performances from Husker Du, Captain Beefheart, Rush, Meatlof, ELO, Sun Ra, Delamitri and John Coltrane between 1964 and 1988 – is the most appropriate spot, so we take pictures outside what is now the Vapiano Italian restaurant.
Leaving behind the West End, we skirt round Leicester Square and down Charing Cross Road towards Whitehall. Our triumphant ride past Trafalgar Square is greeted by the London Symphony Orchestra blasting out the final strains of Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance’. We can think of no better way for the nation to voice its collective gratitude for the resumption of everyone’s favourite Half Man Half Biscuit themed cycling tour.
Bagging the requisite photos at the top of Whitehall, we hit the Embankment and head northeast along the river, making the most of the excellent new cycle superhighway (in your face, angry black cab driver). There’s some speculation that the Whitechapel that gets a mention in ‘Girlfriend’s Finished with Him’ is the one in Liverpool, but the references to costermongers and an Oi! Revival lead us to think otherwise. So we turn inland at Temple, and ride through the City to complete our afternoon’s work.
Heading back down Whitechapel High Street, we ‘photobomb’ (as I believe the modern terminology has it) a family posing for wedding photos. Pausing to wonder why the photographer decided that what the album really needed was a romantic image of the bride and groom standing by a busy cycle lane, we proceed home, speculating that today might represent a revival in the fortunes of the biscuit tour – if only we can stay injury-free….
Today we cycled to:
“The body of Shane Fenton is in the laundry chute of the New Ambassadors Hotel near Euston Station” (Christian Rock Concert)
“Met him at Prestigious Marquee Club” (Whit Week Malarkey)
“As long as my old man’s about / Scripting Whitehall farces” (Sensitive Outsider)
“An Oi! revival down Whitechapel Way” (Girlfriend’s Finished with Him)