I’ll stop with the gratuitous use of semicolons now – I’m doing it deliberately to annoy the grammar-police. One of only two headmasters whom I have ever worked for who actually deserved the title “Headmaster” once became quite cantankerous when proof-reading a programme note I’d written for a high-profile musical event which I was about to direct in Westminster Hall. Richard exclaimed “Maestro, if I see another semicolon it will drive me to drink!”
In case you’re wondering, the other decent headmaster died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism whilst in the gym in 2003. I rue the day Paul Wormleighton ever got on that bloody rowing machine.
The reason I’m digressing so much is because that’s what I’m doing here in Goa – thinking – about the past 17 years in music education, how what seemed so urgent and so significant to people at the time seems so very insignificant now.
So the week in Goa came and went quickly. It started and ended with barbequed Kingfish and bottles of Kingfisher. I spent the first couple of days fixing the screen mounting brackets on the bike. The first fix in Mumbai had given way within minutes so I needed a stronger solution:
- Contact adhesive to hold them together
- Much more araldite around the join
- 24 hours of chilling / setting / Kingfish-ing
- Wrap the new joint in chemical metal – a remarkable compound which comes out of a tube and sets as hard as aluminium!
- Another 24 hours of chilling / setting / Kingfish-ing
A couple of days later Phil, David and I go for a short pootle down the coast to Palolem beach, guided bar a “local” French dude called Axel, to find a barman who can feed Phil and Axel’s herbal habits. It’s only a ten minute ride at scooter speeds so other than a helmet we don’t bother with the full heavy gear, after all, the whole of India, including the tourists, ride around in shorts, shirt and flip-flops. And so starts salutary tale No1. Most Indian car drivers receive their driving licence for free when they buy the car, or save up some tokens on the back of a cornflake packet, they certainly don’t understand any basic road sense or preservation of life. Driving cars, trucks and buses also seems turn what, I’m quite sure, are nice, humane, law abiding men into testosterone driven maniacs. To be overtaken is an affront that they seek to avoid to the death. To overtake is the embodiment of superior power, strength and masculinity. The overtaker will execute his manoeuvre on blind bends, over hill crests, at junctions, over grass / dirt verges, indeed anywhere where there is a spare bit of space that they can put their vehicle. They don’t brake or pull back to their side of the road if they see a bike coming, they just push us into the ditch or drive straight into us. The overtakee will do anything and everything in his power to stop the overtaker’s success. So imagine the annoyance when Axel overtakes a shiny new Hyundai (a prestigious vehicle here) being driven ridiculously slowly in the middle of the road, when Phil overtakes the driver is incandescent and weaves wildly, Dave decided to go round him on the wrong side as the driver takes to spending most of the time on the other side of the road. I’m watching all this play out thinking this guy is completely crazy, I need to avoid him, we’ve slowed to about 40kph, but I really wasn’t expecting him to emergency stop for no reason on a corner with gravel. My front wheel fought for grip but there was little place to go other than to park my bike in the back of his car, which I did, which then caused the bike to go over sideways with me now a slow unwilling passenger on a one-way ticket to the tarmac. The other guys heard the sickening crunch of breaking plastic and bending metal and turned round to assist. The car driver was now all nice and smiles! The back of his shiny new car was fairly impressively stoved in, his entire rear light cluster was in tiny shards on the floor, his rear wing and bumper had not fared well against my steel crash bars. He surveyed his damage, shrugged and drove off! I’ve got some battle scars; a bit of plastic fairing has snapped off, some scuffs on the crash bar, some minor scratches on my upper fairing. I also picked up a couple of reminders of bikers’ mortality; I’ve got a gravel burn down my left arm and a bent bit of pride. Only yesterday Brett was mocking me for having a brand new bike in India, and it isn’t going to stay that way for long. I said I have no intention of letting my bike hit the ground. Less than 24 hours later I’m eating words, picking my bike up off the road and figuring out how to glue it back together again!
With my broken bit of plastic fairing strapped to the back of the bike we continue. David and I go off-roading to look for Butterfly beach which we believe is down a load of dirt tracks South of Agonda. It turns out that David is quite good at off-roading. In Switzerland he was a downhill mountain bike racer and trick rider. He set the record for the longest jump on a bicycle in 2005 (22m). In his words backflips on a bike are a cakewalk. I’ve never understood that expression, how do you walk on a cake? And how do you backflip a bike? Anyway, we get very lost and have a lot of fun in the tiny dirt tracks and stunning countryside although we can’t find the beach. The track gets too narrow and more like a dried out waterfall, complete with impassable rocks on a near shear decent. I tell him I’m done with dropping my bike today so we had back, ensuring we slide the back wheel out on corners whenever possible, it’s getting near beer o’clock. David is so Swiss that he made a Swiss fondue with Yaks cheese, some Indian white wine and a pot of fondue spice blend he's been carrying around since leaving Bern, it tasted remarkably authentic, complete with the fondue pot that he's carrying in his bike pannier!
I had originally intended to go “dry” when I got to India, life in Surrey had become a little too reliant on liquid lubrication, but having met a bunch of guys who love food and drink now seems like a bad time to give up beer, especially with New Year’s Eve coming up! On 29th December we learnt of Lemmy’s death so celebrated his life by taking over the Audio Agonda bar, putting a playlist of Motorhead and other assorted metal on their sound system and drinking cheap rum until the early hours. Yiri and Spiros the Greek backpackers joined us. They are trying to get around the world using as little money as possible over about two years. Yiri, small wiry guy with long straggly hair and a beard used to be an IT engineer but apparently he’s always looked this unkempt and he got rejected from several job interviews on the grounds that he looks like a hobo. Spiros is a little more turned out, he spent 15 years being a barman in Greek tourist resorts, he’s quite charming and prefers to walk around without a shirt! In a short week I have developed quite a bond with these guys so feel a little emotional when I decide that there’s more to India than mooching around a beach in Goa so on 2nd Jan I decide to head inland to Hampi, then down to the South West coast to Kerala while Phil, David and Brett wait for Laurence to return from Switzerland. Hopefully we will all meet up in a week or two in Bangalore, well, that’s the plan anyway.