“Thank you for the Music”
I didn’t bring any music on this trip. The choice of silence was a deliberate decision – it was a challenge that I set myself. Travelling with music gives you such an option for escape – escape from pain, loneliness, boredom, Africa: anything you want! So I decided to see whether I could manage on my own. But I have failed the challenge of silence: I need music to keep me going.
I have lots of different music in my head and it comes to me in a whole range of situations. Exhausted, determined, racing against the setting of the sun I bellow U2’s ‘Pride’, Eagle Eyed Cherry, Guns ‘n’ Roses, “Don’t let go, you’ve got the music in you”. It’s music with memories – of situations and frames of mind, memories to draw on for strength.
Sometimes I am lonely, or mellowed by the enormity of a sky or the length of a horizon-reaching road. I think of home, friends, better times: Greenday’s ‘Time of your Life’ (“So take these photographs and still frames in your mind… there’s something unpredictable but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life.”), Simon and Garfunkel (“And every stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be Homeward Bound”), Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Dido (“I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life”), Counting Crows (“She’s looking at you… I don’t think so, she’s looking at me!”), Crosby, Stills and Nash’s ‘Pre-Road Downs’, David Gray (“Friday night and I’m going nowhere: all the lights are changing green to red”), and Cat Stevens (“How can I try to explain… I know I have to go away”).
Then, of course, there is jubilation – at being the only person in the whole world, cycling carefree down a deserted road at sunrise: U2 (“It’s a Beautiful Day, don’t let it get away”), The Doors, James, “I can’t wait to be on the road again”, Leeds United’s ‘Marching on Together’ and David Gray (“Saturday and I’m running wild, all the lights are changing red to green”).
After 9 months of silence, shattered only by my tone-deaf, eardrum-splintering, lyrically-challenged warbling I have failed my challenge. Now a good friend, Al Horrocks, is bailing me out and sending me a MiniDisc player! It is an exciting new beginning. What music should I take along with me? Music to inspire, to relax, to prompt daydreams, to renew motivation, to provoke manic lung-bursting mountain climbs, to whisk me away from Africa, to bury me deep into Africa’s soul, to remind me that life really is bloody fantastic! The soundtrack to this journey would make a good story in itself…
Now, here’s a challenge for you; something for you to think about… what music would YOU take on a journey around the world? I would be really curious to know. In fact, I would love it if you fancied sending me a compilation of your choosing: anything that YOU think will help get me round the world! I would really appreciate it…
If you would like to send me a MiniDisc, please send it to:
“Some people say football is a matter of life and death”
â€“ Bill Shankly
The next month of my life (and yours no doubt too) will be governed by a pressing need for a proximity to a television set. Cycling through Africa whilst experiencing the World Cup, Africa style, promises to be a panic-filled series of hunts for a functioning TV. My only stipulation to life for the next month is a television – in roadside cafes or police stations or seedy bars or Gentleman’s Clubs or in the middle of the bush. It really doesn’t matter which. Who can guess what or who I will encounter on my African footballing odyssey?
It is less than a week until the World’s greatest jamboree kicks off. You would never know that here in Tanzania though: no pound-a-pint beer promos, adverts for wide screen TV’s or re-runs of 1966… in short none of the tacky, cling-on paraphernalia that I love so much about Major Sporting Events back home. If I hadn’t been counting down the days until June 2nd since 1998 I could easily be entirely unaware that the World Cup is upon us. Africa seems to be oblivious to the whole thing: will this be the same once the show is actually on the road?
Let me take you back several years. I was too young to really remember 1986 and all of my memories of that tournament, I am quite sure, have been generated posthumously. Italia 90 was therefore my first big one: my Dad, my brother and me all going spare as Lineker put us ahead against Cameroon, David Platt’s volley against Belgium, “in the last minute of extra time!”. The semi-final against Germany… to my everlasting disgust, and to the eternal shame of my boarding school, we were all tucked up in bed as the drama unfolded. Is it any wonder that so many Private School boys turn out scarred for life?! But one boy, several dormitories down the corridor had an illegal, smuggled in mini radio. Whispering, stationary, horizontal, lights-out silence is no way to endure a World Cup semi-final! Never will I know a more traumatic penalty shoot-out.
After Waddle and Pearce, I had 8 years (8 years!) to wait for my next bid at World Cup glory. But wasn’t the outcome of that latest penalty shootout wearily inevitable? I hardly needed to watch. My feeling after that defeat was not one of sadness though: my lifetime hero had screwed up his penalty but (and this is a huge ‘but’) Batts had had the guts to stand up and take his first ever penalty (madness!) and I felt very proud of him.
Now here we go again. I have been cycling for nine months. My final day in England was September 1st, 2001. I hardly need explain the significance of that date, but I’m going to do it anyway! England’s extraordinary 5-1 spanking of Germany ensured that I boarded the ferry at Dover jubilant yet rather fuzzy in the head!
This will be an unusual World Cup for me. Nobody here cares how England or Germany or Argentina fare. Astonishingly, the state of Beckham’s foot is not deemed a Matter of National Importance. I have no TV experts (Alan, Gary, Trevor etc.) to carry out detailed analysis of the players for me which I can shamelessly claim as my own sharp insights. No bonding with random (and usually unpleasant) strangers in pubs, no 16 page pull-outs, exclusive interviews, special offers or needing to skive off work. As I write this, on the lip of the Great Rift Valley, I can see elephants and giraffe grazing below me. No skinheads, no V-signs, no flag waving or TV viewing schedules. Nothing. It’s just Me, My World Cup and Africa.
For the next month I’ll be keeping you posted on my World Cup. I hope you enjoy it. Now, Come on England! It’s getting too close to 40 years of hurt.