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Bound for Harwich and Beyond

The release of Urge for Offal, HMHB’s thirteenth album, and the first since we pioneered the concept of biscuit touring, has needless to say added significantly to our task. We’re now looking at a 64-down, 140-to go scenario, with the welcome challenge of a journey to the Hebrides, the prospect of Devon cream teas, and a chance to check out Junction 16 of the M6.

After waiting for Chris Rand to transcribe all the songs weeks of detailed listening, we’ve produced what we think is a definitive list of additional destinations:

Westward Ho! Massive Letdown: Westward Ho!, Northam, Bacup

This One’s for Now: Delph, Rock Ferry

Baguette Dilemma for the Booker Prize Guy: Hoylake, Hilbre, Berwyn

My Outstreched Arms: Thwaite (we’re sure it’s the one in the Dales, not one of the two in East Anglia)

The Bane of Constance: Heswall, The British Museum

False Grit: The Antonine Wall

Old Age killed my Teenage Bride: None

Urge for Offal: Harwich

Stuck up a Hornbeam: Crewe, Junction 16, The Apollo (Hammersmith)

Adam Boyle has cast lad rock aside: Dumfries and Galloway, Plockton, Skye, Creetown, Kircudbright, Gatehouse of Fleet (NB there’s also a reference to the Beltane Fire Festival, but Beltane isn’t a place so we don’t have to go there)

The Unfortunate Gwatkin: Mollington, St Lawrence (church near Mollington), Woodside Farm (also near Mollington), the Wervin Turnpike, Borehamwood

Mileage Chart: Arley Hall, Stoke, Ullapool, Deal

So nothing to be done but stock up on Cresta and energy drinks and reach for the mileage chart.

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Update – where we’ve been so far

The London Destinations, 23 August 2014

Nelsons ColumnLondon. Teeming city of millions. Home to over thirty destinations mentioned in HMHB songs.   And it’s where we both have what D-list Paul Ross would call “our gaffs”.   Speaking of whom, can his recent woes be counted as another example of the curse of Half Man Half Biscuit?

Due to the burgeoning public interest in our endeavour, we’d long ago decided that the tour of London destinations would be a collective affair, with our many followers finally getting the opportunity to ride with their heroes. After a sustained publicity drive – Twitter, Facebook, posts on HMHB sites, endorsements from journalists and 6 Music DJs, and emails to everyone we know – we end up with a peloton of….me and Nick.

And so it is that the two of us find ourselvesMillwall Steve at Goldsmith’s College on a Saturday morning. The sun’s shining, and no-one’s coughing up blood – always a good start to a weekend. Goldsmith’s being the kind of place where it’s hard to avoid people saying “graphic design”, there’s no shortage of arty types milling around, two of whom are kind enough to take our photo (no doubt assuming that they’re participating in an avant-garde multi-media art project).

At Deptford market, the demographics change somewhat and we decide it best not to hand the camera to a third party. Pushing off down to Millwall FC – whose battles the Sealed Knot Society still hasn’t tried to recreate – we’re given short shrift by the steward we politely ask to take our photo (even though it’s hours to kick-off and she’s just standing around.)

Upon Westminster BridgeCrossing the river into the City, we arrive at the Barbican, on whose roof Sting is, happily, not singing. We then take Bloomsbury and its Ambassadors Hotel before heading north, bagging Camden Town and the Falcon (sadly now converted to flats) before leaving behind skinny indie kids in favour of Dead Sea bath salts and jog-proof I-pods. Appropriately, our Hampstead photo-op is outside a fishmonger’s where they display the catch of the day (no doubt ethically sourced) in hip lettering painted on the window. Bidding farewell to the Ken Hom acolytes, we turn back south.

Around Swiss Cottage, self-doubt descends upon us. Can Lords, where Fred Titmus had his test debut, and scene of many a cricketing farce, really not be on our list?   After some kerbside googling (which sounds like an offence under the 2009 Policing and Crime Act) we decide we’re fine to proceed without stopping for photos: the Lords where the clean streets of Chatteris were acknowledged is clearly the second chamber of Parliament, and not the home of the MCC – the Wripple Vetivers can’t touch us.

PlanetariumAnd so we cycle backwards at peak hour down the Edgware Road, making a detour to the old London Planetarium – now annexed by Madame Tussaud’s – noting that it does indeed look uncannily like Brian Moore’s head.  The next place she said we have to be is Notting Hill, where the cocaine is fair trade.   Our decision not to display a Buena Vista Social Club CD here has caused a few raised eyebrows. By way of explanation – we decided against it because featureless TV producers prefer downloads these days – it wasn’t at all because we forgot to buy one beforehand. Lunch stop is a gastropub in Ladbroke Grove, which would be a great place for an interview with the NME, and which lives up to all stereotypes (we have hake tempura surrounded by comedy sloans.)

Then it’s on to the Albert Hall, but there’s no timeMet Altercation to inspect their most famous exhibit because we have to clown by the Serpentine and cause an altercation at the Met Bar.  That done, we get some bemused tourists to take our pictures at Trafalgar Square, upon Westminster Bridge, and at the Embankment. By the time we’ve snapped at rakish heels at the Groucho, looked at the sign outside the Gielgud, and arrived at the Borderline, it’s well before ten past nine.

 

She said it was the place she needs to be

For some time now, we’ve been promising a mass cull of London biscuit destinations, possibly as a group exercise.   After much deliberation, we’ll be attempting this route next Saturday.

If you fancy helping us expand our peloton beyond the usual two people,we’ll be kicking off at 10:00 am on Saturday 23 August outside Goldsmith’s College in New Cross (hopefully not coughing up blood) and finishing before ten past nine at the Borderline.

Along the way we’ll be taking in Deptford, Millwall, the Barbican, Bloomsbury, the New Ambassador’s Hotel (Euston), the Camden Falcon (for some weak lager), Belsize Park, Hampstead, Edgware Rd (backwards at Peak Hour), Notting Hill (for some fair trade cocaine), Ladbroke Grove, Earl’s Court, Chelsea, the Albert Hall, the Serpentine, the Met Bar (Park Lane), Parliament, Westminster Bridge, Embankment Tube, Trafalgar Square, the Gielgud Theatre (Rupert St) and the Groucho Club.

Let us know if you’d like to join us, and snap at some rakish heels…

Year Two Progress Report and some Breaking News

It’s safe to say that the 2013-4 Biscuit Touring season (NB they run from June to June) won’t go down as one of the classics.  The capture of Torquay and Dawlish in July (on a four-man tour marred by jobsworth ferrymen) was followed by a six-month period of inactivity, largely the result of the growing decrepitude of our middle-aged bodies, and the toad work squatting on our lives.

DawlishDiscovering new resolve in the new year, we bagged Norbury, Shepperton, Farnborough and Aldershot on the Super Saturday of 25 January, but sadly the light at the end of the tunnel proved to be the light of an oncoming train, with Dawes’ Tyrolean knockabout dampening any hopes of a mid-season turnaround.

However, the year wasn’t completely bereft of reasons to be cheerful: we managed a couple of non-cycling tours, seeing Blackwell et al at Brighton and Leamington Spa, where we met some of the growing number of biscuit tour groupies.  We also have a new Twitter account, which has attracted some kind support from Eliza Carthy, Gideon Coe and football journalist Laure James.  (we’re working on Nerys Hughes and Lynette McMorrough). And we finally updated the map showing where we’ve been.

Most importantly, Dawes is reporting improved mobility in his shoulder, and the ability to cycle for several miles without searing agony, to the extent that we feel confident in announcing that a tour of some or possibly all of the London destinations will take place over the August Bank Holiday weekend. All will be welcome, but we’re still working on strategies and logistics. We’ll bring you more details as they emerge.

Yours in the hope that this newfound optimism doesn’t strike you like junk mail addressed to the dead.

Harman and Dawes

 

Tyrolean Knockabout, 22 February 2014

Nick writes:

ImageIt is with great regret that due to me having sustained a quadruple fracture of the right shoulder and a fracture of the left wrist, the HMHB bike tour known as Halfmanhalfbikekit will be experiencing an enforced hiatus over the coming months.

On Saturday 22nd February I succumbed to a rather nasty skiing accident, best described as a Tyrolean Knockabout. Indeed, the irony of me having sustained the above injuries in a HMHB destination is not lost on me, although the idea of such places being cursed is something we’d already begun to explore.

Only two hours into a brief bout of skiing before a work trip in Kitzbühel, I was happily moving along with images of goading D-List Paul Ross in my head, when I took a severe tumble.

This was followed by a full week’s residence at Innsbruck Medical University , where I was very well looked after indeed, although during the night after the operation, a malfunctioning automatic pain relief delivery machine made me seriously consider taking the train to Zurich (not the TGV as I was in Austria) and throwing myself off the roof of Dignitas. Come to think of it, the hospital in Innsbruck is many floors high and would easily have sufficed. (Does anyone know how high the Dignitas building is anyway?)

I’m pleased to report that I’m now back at home, although having already booked train and B and B accommodation for the April 11th Leamingon Spa gig and following tour of Nortons Chipping and Brize, Uffington, Wantage, Aylesbury and Stoke Mandeville, this is all most frustrating. Given the rest and rehabilitation I need, I fear it’s going to be at least two months before I’m back in the saddle.

Norbury, Shepperton, Farnborough and Aldershot, 25 January 2014

Image‘Fisher went to work as a researcher for the BBC Education Department; Rented a flat in Norbury, South London’

The Ballad of Climie Fisher

‘It’s about an hour’s drive
To Shepperton from ours’

Soft Verges

Penned by the burly physio
Of non-league Farnborough Town’

Improv Workshop Mimeshow Gobshite

‘Sheepskin nose-band, kids in Aldershot’

Them’s the Vagaries

After a six-month hiatus, during which we’ve pursued a range of experimental side projects (moving house, changing jobs, skulking round seven inch import sections, goading Paul Ross, etc)  we’ve decided to get the biscuit tour back on the road.  Nothing serious, just enjoy it, see what happens, kind of thing.

Restored to the original 2012 line up of Harman-Dawes,  the first destination on our comeback tour is Norbury, South London, which is of course where Fisher of Climie Fisher rented a flat while he took a job as a researcher in the BBC education department following the duo’s turbulent demise.

Unless it’s let itself go since 1990, Fisher’s BBC years must have been tough – because this is no place for an author of sensitive sophisto-pop ballads, a point underlined by the sight of a man staggering down Fairview road, pausing every few yards to vomit onto the pavement.  However, there’s no gravel to be seen, which perhaps accounts for Fisher’s attraction to the place.

Exiting rapidly, we proceed southwestwards as far as Wimbledon, where the day’s first mishap Imageoccurs, Nick suffering a double whammy of flat tyre and broken pannier.  Fortunately, we’re close to the excellent Action Bikes, who deal with both problems effectively and courteously, and join with us in some hearty condemnation of their incompetent rivals – Evans Cycles.  They even decline to charge Nick for replacing the pannier part, although this may well be because they recognise that the massive PR exposure they’ll get from a glowing mention on this blog will outweigh any financial recompense.

Passing through well-heeled Kingston, we bag Shepperton, which has few features of interest save a well kept little roundabout island, where we take the requisite photographs.   Around Chertsey, we’re forced to change route due to flooding (perhaps if more of us were to follow Blackwell’s example and switch the kitchen light off with our chins,  we wouldn’t have climate change, and the biscuit tour wouldn’t have to contend with so many severe weather events).

After the day’s only real climb, we stop off for lunch at the White Hart in Chobham – another of those places that should be in a HMHB song, but isn’t.  On re-mounting we note that it’s a bit nippier out, and later discover that if we’d hung around too long, we might have fallen victim to a mini-tornado that later claims two cats.

ImageHoping to arrive in time for kick-off of their crucial mid-table clash with Tonbridge Angels, we press on towards Cherrywood Road, home of Farnborough FC, formerly non-league Farnborough Town (they’re still non-league, they just dropped the town).     On approach to the ground, Nick convinces me that the noise of the traffic from the nearby M3 is the roar of a particularly vocal Skrill Conference South crowd, but in fact the game’s been postponed due to water-logging.   There’s no-one around at the ground apart from a teenage couple snogging, or sniffing glue, or doing whatever disaffected youth do these days, so it’s on to the day’s fourth and final destination.

Musing on Aldershot on his excellent HMHB lyrics site, Chris Rand reaches the reasonable conclusion that the home of squaddies only makes it into ‘Them’s the Vagaries’ because it rhymes with “apricot”.    We come across no evidence to the contrary here. This is no place to end an odyssey, and so our voyage of self discovery must continue.