20,000 Days on Earth reflects the number of days in Nick Cave’s life so far and this engaging docu / rockumentary starring and narrated by Nick himself looks back over those days and delves into the heart of his creative processes, how he goes about writing songs and then delivering those through magnetic live performances.
I’m a big fan of Nick Cave and have closely followed his musical journey since the implosion of The Birthday Party through to his 15th Bad Seeds album Push the Sky Away, the creation of which forms the primary musical backdrop to the film. I think there are very few artists who have managed to mature so gloriously from such riotous beginnings and none who can match Cave’s brilliant lyricism that can conjure up images of such love and tenderness mixed with downright menace and intensity.
The film covers Cave’s fabulous career to date while charting his meanderings around Brighton (where he lives) for one day from dawn to nightfall interspersed with live recordings, either creating the album in France or taking it on the road triumphantly to the Sydney Opera House. Cave drives round Brighton in the drizzle going to a fictional therapy session (with Alain de Botton) and visiting key Bad Seed collaborator Warren Ellis for some eel stew whilst delivering him a pair of stuffed birds that he has in the back of the car. All the while he is chatting away and exploring his life and creativity and what that means. As he chats people from various points in his career appear in the car with him and join in the conversation before fading away as if figments of his imagination. Ray Winstone, Blixa Bargeld and Kylie all pop up in the car. Of course not all elements of his life are included but through this quite unusual vehicle there is enough for you to grasp what he is about, where he has come from and what drives him.
Cave comes across as a highly intelligent, reflective, caring and funny man but above all someone in love with the concept of creativity through words and this comes across beautifully in many moments of the film, not least when he describes his love for his wife Susie and how she represents the distillation of all the beauty and fantasy that he can imagine. A genuinely touching moment.
He talks of his writing process and how important it is to constantly write, to work on it, to have ideas, that each idea is a small flame and if you nurture it you never know how big the fire might grow, particularly when you hand your idea over to others and to see what happens through collaboration. He stresses the importance of having a go and to trying things as it’s far better to try and fail that not to try in the first place.
I’ve been fortunate to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on a few occasions and there are few people who can match his intensity on stage where for me he appears like some long limbed Gothic karate kicking preacher here to wrangle and writhe and conjure up some Faustian pact before your very eyes. This is captured in the final moments in the performance of Jubilee Street, which as it builds to a crescendo is mixed with flashes of Cave performing at all stages of his career before the film ends, at night on the seafront in Brighton with Cave musing on the flame of ideas.
I’ve seen lots of films of bands I like over the years and most music documentaries are to be honest not that great. This is different in many ways and I was spellbound from start to finish. Whether or not you are a Nick Cave fan go and see this it’s brilliant.
(a fellow ‘rider’ tackles the cobbled climb)
Ride 400 metres up a street, how hard can that be? Very as it turned out when the street in question is insanely steep and cobbled. Saturday saw me and Rob (@chasinsheepMTB) head over to Hebden Bridge for the Up The Buttress challenge, a timed hill climb up the steepest ‘road’ in the town. Now anyone who has ridden over in that valley knows that it is steep sided and makes for challenging riding, whether that be on or off road but this street took things to a whole other level. I don’t know how steep it is but people milling about the registration tent were saying it varied from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5. We had no chance to think much about it as after paying our fee we were lining up ready to roll, I had no idea what I was facing as you could only see the start of it from where we were to set off and that looked like a wall.
There was much talk of tyres and tyre pressure and what was the ‘best’ style of bike to get up it. There were all sorts, hardtails, full suspension, blinged out cross bikes, old clunkers and one dude having a crack while attempting to tow his daughter in a trailer ! All ages were present and it had a feel of a really inclusive event – young or old, good or bad just have a go which exactly as I like it and it should be and everyone no matter the ability was cheered, encouraged and cowbelled up the slope. To add to the air of inclusiveness anyone who got to the top, no matter how you did it, got entered into a prize draw and there were some amazing prizes including a bike from Orange !
As I got ready to go Chipps from the Singletrack crew felt my tyres, “any good?” says I, “you’ll see” was his reply with a knowing look in his eye. Oh dear. I didn’t bother thinking about trying to charge into the bottom of the slope, I thought I’ll just roll to it in bottom gear and then spin away. I’ve recently ridden up some very steep stuff so I thought I’d be OK but I’d not factored the slippery cobbles into my equation. As the wall hit and I started to peddle I thought to myself, yep I can do this and inched up the steepest part of the hill but then just before a lip across the path all my wheels were spinning like something out of the road runner cartoon and I ground to a halt. Jumped off and pushed for a bit then tried to get going again which was a lot harder than it should have been as just could not get any purchase. Finally got moving and felt OK (well that I was not going to die anyway) and plodded slowly along until the inevitable spinning of wheels hit again and I ground to a halt again. I seemed to be now standing on glass as I was actually struggling to stand still but I could not get the wheels to get any grip so resorted to pushing up the hill in a comedy slip / sliding about fashion. As I neared the top the shouts of encouragement rained down but I could not have moved any faster if Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes had been behind me.
Crossing the line I realised that at least there were some others who had slipped about, Rob however had no problems right tyre choice and running at an insanely low pressure meant he didn’t slip once, that and he’s a great rider of course. We encouraged a few riders up, got our breath back and then headed down the road to the pub for a few beers before going back to see the winners receive their fantastic prizes – a massive cobble a la Paris-Roubaix and see what our lucky numbers got us in the raffle. Rob got a bottle of beer whereas I got a fantastic Timothy Taylor’s cycling jersey. Sometimes it pays to be the snail.
How do you know where you are? An obvious question perhaps but sometimes finding an answer is not as easy. Can you remember what it was like when you first started venturing out of the house on your own, you slowly got to know your local area both by the buildings and the places where you would play. It was easy to say going to the park or the field (the field for me was where we played football, rugby and cricket next to the school) and then on the way to the river there was the old barn field (it had an old barn in it). We had places like Jenkins field, even though it might have been a long time since anyone called Jenkins had lived in the farm that owned the field. As you start to venture further afield which for me was on a road bike (or a racer as they were known back then) farms became quite key landmarks to navigate with using the good old OS map.
I still like riding bikes and using maps but when it comes to mountain biking, especially riding locally then there are other ways to navigate and that is Trail Names. Anyone who rides regularly with others will have local names for where they ride, names that you won’t find on any map with stories behind them. Often when you are out you will know where you are (in a particular wood for example) but you won’t really know where you are as in where is this wood geographically and it’s here that trail names come into there own. You need to find a way to describe where you are going, let’s head to ….. or where you are meeting up or where you have been and how brilliant / rubbish you rode a particular section which is what trail names give you, they are the framework to provide the narrative for your ride. The names will cover all different parts of your ride off road, could be a long flowy bit of single track, a particular feature or just a corner.
The names grow up organically, often due to some incident or other and they are tribal in nature, so what we might call something another crew will call in something completely different. I’m not a strava user (and am fiercely anti it really) but what it is doing is codifying sections so that slowly everyone will know sections by one name which I personally feel is a shame as I like the hyper localism of trail names. Stava might also prevent the changing of trail names as well, currently names evolve as either riders change, different things happen, superstition takes over etc all of which creates a language of features that only we know. As you start to ride with a crew slowly you will learn the routes, features and names and it becomes a right of passage until you never know something might get named after you.
Here’s a few of our local ones but I’d be interested in your favourites as well and how they came about.
- Last Drag – we often end our rides here. It’s just an incline across a field but it is a drag
- Travelator – classic starting point to many of our rides. It’s just ribbon of mud leading to a steep bank into the woods but like the travelator from the Gladiator TV show, when it’s wet and muddy you can feel like you are going backwards pretty quickly
- Puddle Duck – Possibly one of the best sections of trail in the area, multiple lines snake off the puddle duck through the woods. A place where all will be tested no matter what their ability. Tiz a bit of a beast to ride up though and named after a particular person from Garage Bikes who doesn’t like it. This trail name is a classic in that lots of people ride it but most will know it as something completely different.
- Leon’s Leap – A corner on the puddle duck, Leon overshot it and took to the sky
- The Spa – When you are leaving the woods with the puddle duck in it there is The Spa. Just the muddiest, squelchiest little section. It never drains and is muddy in summer, in winter it requires fatbike like tyres to get through it. You will put your foot down and the mud will ooze into your shoes / boots. Some would pay good money to be covered in mud – hence The Spa
- Better Climb Than Descent – Narrow and a little bit technical but not too technical so all can ride it, however it’s better to go up it. Going down it’s got thorns, barb wire fence, dog walkers etc making it a potential problem
- 5D – (Daz & Deano’s Death Defying Descent) – Bones and bikes broken but they did defy death
- Pinball Run – For me a local route that terrifies me. Very fast (if you want it to be) descent, steep at the top and bits of rock all over the place, get your line wrong and you will be pinged about like a ball in a pinball machine
- Jesus Ain’t Got Shit on Me – One of the best names, the reality is just a mud bank across a reservoir but hit it when the water level is just so and you will appear to riding on water never mind walking
- Collarbone Corner – yep you can all guess what happened to someone here
- Lynne’s Drop – very steep section off one of the local trails discovered by Lynne
- The Death Star Run – another great name, we’ve all seen Star Wars with Luke using the force to storm his way down the trench to destroy the death star. This is our mountain bike equivalent, hit this at warp speed and you will need the force to guide you through
- Dog Shit Flavoured Treacle – just a drag up a field, however the field is surround by houses so dog owners use the field, it also gets very muddy in winter and pedalling is like riding through treacle
- Wiggly Wiggly – classic wiggly ride through trees in another wood
- Knife Edge – a parallel route to wiggly wiggle but is raised with a gulley on one side and a long drop on the other so you ride exposed
- Blood Lane – or Warren’s Lane (which is what most know it as) or The Destroyer. On Strava this will be Warren’s Lane but it used to be known as the Destroyer as it did exactly that to bikes and bodies, superstition took hold and it changed to The Delight as it is anything but. I know it as Blood lane or Bloody lane as it is where the blood drained away from a civil war battlefield that is at the top.
So none of those names will mean much apart from to us, the locals who ride them but new names crop up all the time. Last night we were out riding and after going through a fence gap had to ride up a very steep lane, no run up just a standing start in the lowest gear you have (the granny ring) so that lane is now Grab a Granny
See you all at the top of Blood lane before we attack Wiggly Wiggly then head over to play on the Puddle Duck before taking a dip in the Spa