I have been neglecting this blog. The weather has been unusually good, flaming June has given Northumberland a taste of Tuscany or, should that be North-umbria. These images, which have all appeared on Blip, explain the neglect – there will be plenty of time to sit at the keyboard over the winter months 😦 – frost and snow are not conducive to bikes or golf:
December in old England has been mild and easy, the quiet before the storm? I am still playing golf, walking with the camera and, very occasionally, venturing out on two wheels. At heart, I am a fair-weather rider and there are plenty of reasons to keep the machines safe in the garage – ice on the roads, salt that creeps and corrodes and, not least, the wind chill factor when riding at 70mph into the face of a cold northeasterly.
Nevertheless the desire to be out eventually over-rides common sense and off I go – only ninety miles this month, better than nothing. These are some images from the month to date, including yet another timelapse sunrise across the fields. Northumberland has finally lost its autumnal glow:
The last time we were in Bologna we took the train to Modena, the home of Ferrari. This time passions have realigned and we took the number 13 bus from Via Delle Lame to Borgo Panigale to worship at the shrine of Ducati. The trip to Modena was about unreachable dreams – a museum, the distant view of a test track and too many souvenir shops. There was no chance of passing beyond the heavenly portals – the factory gates.
Ducati is about reality and the attainable. If I didn’t have a strong sense of self-preservation I could probably acquire their top of the range machine which would be more than capable of blowing away the road-going hardware emerging from Modena. Even my modest 696 will out-gun most ‘performance’ cars. Pete Lyons, a journalistic hero from my teens, explains it all very succinctly – “certainly there is risk, and that’s part of why riding a bike on the road gives me a sense of adventure that it takes a race track to make me feel in cars … Feel smug about your really fast street car? If you haven’t clamped your knees around a hyperbike and yanked it open, you have NO IDEA what real acceleration is.” However, the real art of riding is not in a straight line but the ability to corner at speed – when it comes to bends, cars have the advantage if not the balletic style; in this respect at least, four legs good, two legs bad.
The factory tour was the highlight of our trip – nothing staged, this was the real McCoy. Mechanical works of art slowly take glorious shape on production lines where the emphasis of the creation process is the human rather than the robotic. The finished product surpasses anything we saw the next day in MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna. Umberto Eco may have thought Giorgio Morandi’s art made the dust sing but Ducati’s art makes the heart soar. “Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul.”
As I have mentioned elsewhere, I had only two complaints about the factory tour – a) no photographs allowed and b) no free samples 😉 Consequently, all the images are from the museum:
Finally, there is a stylistic connection between this bike, the Ducati 750 Imola Desmo, and my 696 Monster:
A few nights in York has been swiftly followed by four nights in Bologna; we are back after an absence of thirteen years. I feel a great affinity with this working university city of the Italian north and last night I worked out why.
It has been raining for much of the last two days, the roads and piazzas shine.There is constant movement, a chaotic rush towards the future. The dimly lit streets bustle, umbrellas in the dark queue in long lines for over-full buses or wander across empty squares overlooked by architectural monsters – Basilica di San Petronio’s façade is deliberately unfinished. The buildings wear the dust of age, they are purposeful, lived-in and not prettified, The view upwards towards the twin peaks of Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda is obscured by trolley-bus wires.
Rain, the dirt of ages, dimly lit streets, continuous movement, this is Manchester in the 1950s – rough around the edges but safe, solid, secure.
Today we did the Ducati Factory tour at Borgo Panigale – you can guess what is coming next 🙂
Snow was forecast for the weekend so it became a matter of urgency to ‘escape’ on one of the bikes, however briefly. The main incentive was to try out the GoPro chest mount, not trusting the sticky mount on my helmet – it is expensive equipment to see bouncing down the road in the rear view mirrors.
So, for those who do not suffer motion sickness, here is another slow TV episode, this time a brief ride around Hexham, taking in the Abbey, the A69, A68 and Stagshaw roundabout. The backing tracks are royalty free and include:
Cataclysmic Molten Core – the Jingle Punks
Namaste – Audionautix
Mean Streetz – MK2
As I enter the A69 and head for the A68, Mean Streetz is replaced by the ‘music’ of a V-Twin on full song – with accompanying wind noise 😈
The still is “me and my shadow” on the A69 – see below for the video – hold on tight 🙂
This may occasionally look quick but no speed limits were exceeded – the buzz comes from the acceleration, not top speed. Nor were any animals/creatures harmed in the making of this film – one of the advantages of winter riding – a bug free visor 🙂
… you would not think to look at him
That he was famous long ago
For playing electric violin
On Desolation Row
There is nothing that connects the above image with the next other than they are both block mounted, both have been yellowing in the attic and both were taken around the same time, in the late 1970s/early 1980s. I would guess they were taken with a Praktica L using one of the many lenses I carried together with my Dad’s Mamiyaflex – humping that lot about was like going to war and not conducive to capturing Cartier-Bresson’s ‘moment decisif’. This tousle-haired snub-nosed cherub is my eldest, Patrick – taking the controls of a helicopter at a Cornish air museum:
And finally, this one has absolutely no connection with the above. On Thursday I made the annual pilgrimage to Birmingham for the Motorcycle Live Show at the NEC. This young lady caught my attention – I cannot imagine why 😉 A modern day Loren, she could only grace the Ducati stand:
As I type this, the wind is blasting around the house, the rain lashing at the window and I fully expect the power to go off at any moment.
Over the turbulence of the world
flies the bird that stands for memory.
No bird flies faster than this one,
dearer to me
than the dove was to Noah – though it brings back
sometimes an olive branch, sometimes
a thorny twig without blossoms.
Norman MacCaig – August 1984
Some photographic memories from an unsettling week: