Modern History


A part of my modern history. This first album was released in 1983…

A couple of things this week have conspired to make me feel my age.

Firstly the eldest daughter came home and announced she is studying the 80’s in history. The 1880’s I asked, no the 1980’s, she dryly replied.

Since when has my childhood become part of history? I am reliably informed that 30+ years is sufficient to make my childhood an historical event and worthy of exploration by the keen young minds of today.

Later in the week we had a family trip out to watch the school musical production of Beauty and the Beast. Again I was transported back to my own memories of half-cocked school productions. Keen players, willing audiences and forgiving scripts could not prevent any production being much more amateur than dramatic.

With this reference structure, and not having been to a school production for 30 years, my expectations were low. I figured that occasionally you had to man up, grin and bear it and smile through whatever gets thrown at you.

Bloody hell! What I experienced was as close to a full on West End production as you can get. Firstly the school orchestra set the tone by playing all the notes (in the right order) with confidence and gusto. There was a wonderful set that transformed you from a village in France, through the Forest and into the Grand Castle. The cast were superbly dressed and delivered their lines with the confidence of professionals.  Every toe tapping song was delivered as any West End theatre director would have demanded. Not a bum note, missed line, or a step out of place all night! Standards had certainly lifted from my day.

Bravo. Bravo indeed!

There was only one slight quirky observation that distracted me a little. Something that the largely Australian audience would not have been aware of, but for any Ancient Brits in the audience it was a little disturbing. The Beast, admittedly this was from a distance, did have a striking resemblance to Bungle out of Rainbow (a kids TV show that I grew up with in the UK).

That’s where the similarities ended, I don’t remember Bungle being able to sing or act quite as well.

Bungle or the Beast

Bungle or the Beast?

For those uninformed you can watch the video below to see what I am on about. I came across this as I was trying to explain myself to the girls. I am not entirely convinced it is the real deal, part of me thinks it has to be one of those fake productions given the subject matter and all the double entendres. Real or not it teaches us all a universal history lesson – what appears to be normal today,  will undoubtedly be the fodder for the good folk of tomorrow to look back on, study and conclude, “what the hell were they thinking?”


The Italian Job

imageThere is no better way of experiencing what a country has to offer than by going for a bike ride. You get to see first hand the countryside, the architecture and, if you have enrolled in one of their most popular sportive’s, meet the locals and observe how they like to ride to their bikes. In Italy they like to ride their bikes fast, just like they drive.

I travelled to Bormio in Italy with my friend Anthony and a group of his bike riding mates from the UK to participate in the Granfondo Stelvio. They had organised everything and I was incredibly fortunate to just be able to tag along. Great roads, good company and all I had to do was ride my bike.

Travel broadens the mind and it also highlights the differences between cultures. I have ridden in France, this weekend was the full Italian experience. Having spent the day amongst the locals here is what I observed:

A MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) would seem to be a generic look regardless of their nationality. The Italians just do it with more style and panache. From the coordinated club casual wear, down to the team kit, there didn’t appear to be a fashion faux par anywhere.

The Italians love fluro colours, yes it may seem a little contradictory to talk about style and then mention fluro in the same breath, but somehow it seems to work. The brighter the kit the better from what I could see. If it was you or me wearing it we would look like some sad 80’s throwback, on a well groomed Italian with designer stubble they get away with it.

Bells and Whistles
Italians like their bikes. I have not seen so much expensive carbon on a start line before. Normally on these mass participation races you get a segment of hardcore cycling enthusiasts who ride their steel bikes and do so with pride. I only saw one steel clunker yesterday and it turns out the rider was from London.

Only in Italy could you be greated at the top of a climb with a man with a tray of focaccia and pizza. I almost looked around for the red wine and was willing to call it a day there and then. It doesn’t matter if you are on top of a mountain there are standards to uphold and at every rest stop the food and drinks were marvellous.

The Mortirolo may only be 11km in length but it is brutally steep. Lots of switchbacks have you weaving up the mountain on a single track road. Then once you are near the top, the road becomes a concrete path; super steep and slippery. Most people have the sense to get off and walk. There are a few riders who demonstrate their strength and bike handling skills and ride up this “goat track” and there are others like me try to emulate them and fail. For a while I was looking good, shouts of bravo from the other walking cyclists echoed around me as I ground my way upwards. Then I lost traction, hit a rut and next thing I am on the deck. Fortunately I was going so slowly you couldn’t say I crashed, I just fell sideways. I am not sure what the others were saying as I lay on the ground still clipped into my cleats, but I sprung up, dusted myself down and pretended like it never happened. I even thought about trying to get back on but opted for the far safer option and started to trudge to the top with the others.

Nature may be accountable for the stunning scenery but at some stage somebody has to decide to build a road up it. The Stelvio pass is as picturesque as any. An iconic climb for any cyclists and it does not disappoint. A 20km climb, it tops out at 2,750m with snow still on the ground. Any other nation would have left it to its own devices. The Italians built one of the highest paved road in Europe up it. Tunnels, numerous switchbacks and crazy Italians climbing and descending (once you complete the race to the summit you have to rug up and descend back down) only adds to the fun.

imageIt can be difficult not to make generalisations and revert to nationalistic clichés when you describe different cultures. The reality is that these observations are grounded in the truth and that is why they stand the test of time.The Italian bike riders (men and women) like to ride with determination and intensity. I have never been overtaken on the descents by so many people. I am at best a cautious descender. I can normally hang onto a bunch but not this lot. Maybe it’s their superior bike handling skills or familiarity with the the mountains, either way they race down them as though their life depends on it. This passion was evident all day. Without understanding a world of Italian, if you listened to some of the conversations going on in the bunch you would have sworn there was about to be a punch up, then there would be a cheerful “ciao” and riders would move on. They were probably discussing the quality of the focaccia at the last stop.

All bike riders love riding their bikes, the Italians just seem to do it with a little more style


Hitting the town after we all completed the race. Cheers gents!