28 Jun 2011

Three exhibitions, a motorbike track event and 2 rugby games

No, this is not a title for a new film in the vein of Three Weddings and a Funeral. It sums up the contents of my weekend, taking into consideration extra-domestic and work orientated activities.

I have already spoken about one of the painting exhibitions seen : it concerns the work of Marc Desgrandchamps, currently on show at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris. Under the same roof, I also visited the exhibition of Van Dongen's paintings, about which I will speak more shortly. In the meantime, here are a couple of the works that I particularly liked in this extensive retrospective. Both are part of his early work, which is not to say that I disliked all of the later paintings.


The third exhibition was of another contemporary (and figurative) painter, called Gilles Sacksick, of whom I had never heard before, and to which I was attracted by posters in the metro. It is quite unusual for a private gallery to adopt this means of getting people to come and see shows and I hope for their sake that this worked out financially. The works were on sale for higher prices than I can afford, but not outlandish by the standards of the ridiculous prices fetched by some contemporary art. Here is one of the painting from the exhibition: it is in fact the one used (partially) for the poster that first attracted me there.

There is something about some of this painter's work that reminds me of Balthus, on account of the timeless, hieratic air that the models, or the scenes (landscape or still life), manage to take on. Much of what I saw in the gallery was not so interesting however, rather mawkish and obviously pretty. Well made, but dull. It is so hard to please all the people, all of the time!

Now to the biking event, which was something called Iron Bikers, devoted to "bikes with character" (like the "character" above?) and held on the small racetrack north of Paris and just south of Roissy airport, called Circuit Carole.

This was not a race, but a 2-day gathering of bikers, some of whom had elected to enlist themselves and their machines for track sessions. The only pre-requisite seemed to be that the bikes had this element called "character" (whatever that means). Therefore most of them were on the old side, whether road bikes, bitzas or out-and-out racers. There were even a couple of Supermotard type machines that tended to run rings around the heavier stuff on corners. Sessions were of about 15 laps (I didn't count them), and mixed all kinds of machines in smallish groups.

The disparity of the machines was sometimes striking, as one could see in the same group 1940-odd Harley 45's with tank gearshifts, a pristine looking Norton Commando, a bright yellow show condition Honda CB 6 cylinder, various Tritons and a very swift racer based on a 450 Yamaha engine in a special frame built by Alain Tailleux (see below : it's the red and silver one).

This bike went around the track like shit off the proverbial and looked like it lapped everyone else twice. If I had the cash, I would get this guy to build me something. The Harley boys, with their string of WL 750's with hand shifts and foot clutches (there was also an Indian mixed in with them), looked like they were having fun too with some fairly wild styles of riding and plenty of angle. Some of the other machines being collectors' items, the riders weren't always pushing them too hard, but all were having fun. Here is the Harley paddock. I like their team name: Frankenstein racers!

And this is how a couple of them looked coming out of the hairpin, with just about everything scraping the floor (the first one especially)...

Not sure the hand shift would have made for easy work coming into the corners, but then these things are like tractors and barely need to be taken out of 3rd (top) gear, and this minor handicap didn't appear to slow these boys down much. They made a hell of a noise too !

I will show you more of this fun event shortly, including some of the goodies I saw in the paddock. My trip included a meeting with Frank Chatokhine who gave me news of progress on the Norton Commando. It should be ready at the end of the month, so watch this space! Frank had blown up his Triumph Speed Twin on the first day and his dad has busted the gearbox on his Velocette, so I didn't see them on the track on Sunday.

And the rugby games ? Well I sadly missed the England vs NZ under 20's world cup final, which saw the All Blacks win by (I think) 33-20 as French TV switched it to another channel that I don't have. Bet they wouldn't have done this had France been in the final! Instead of this, Eurosport 1 inflicted a woman's soccer match on us! No problem with that in principle but I dont' follow soccer at all and the rugby game was a final after all.  The baby blacks are clearly the best and have now won all 4 of these competitions. I did see parts of the two Super 15 games, both played in New Zealand and both won by NZ teams. The other two semi-finalists will be the Cheetahs from South Africa, and the Queensland Reds from Australia.

Long day and great weekend, sun burns and all.

27 Jun 2011

26 Jun 2011

Marc Desgrandchamps' painting

There is an major exhibition currently showing in Paris, at the Musée d'Art Moderne, of the work of a contemporary French painter called Marc Desgrandchamps. If this makes you want to see it, it will continue through the summer until September 4th. I first noticed his work at a smaller show of then recent work, a few years back at the Centre Pompidou. I was struck by it then and was glad to get to see this current show, which is bigger and more retrospective in its scope.

Desgrandchamps was born in 1960 and has been active as a painter for about 30 years. The earliest works in this show date from the late 1980's and have that strange, clumsy look to them of the neoclassical period of Picasso, with a touch of Roualt and bad Matisse. I find them ugly and derivative. For me, his painting takes off as from about 1993, at least judging by what is shown in this retrospective show.

Below is one of the paintings from this period. I couldn't find an image of my favourite work of his in this style, but this one is pretty good. It is a large diptych and introduces what is one of the recurrent themes in his subject matter: the seaside and bathers. Or, more exactly, female bathers usually seen from the back or the side in front of the sea with its horizon. This painting is one of the most litteral of the ones in the show, but these themes will be treated in the years to come with more ambiguity, using transparent colours, often with blues and greens dominant, as in the first painting shown on this page.

As time goes on, Desgrandchamps' use of colour becomes more subtle and his way of working with the suject matter increasingly allegorical, with multiple references to other paintings, movies or personal souvenirs. Often these are superposed in the same painting, and, as the colours are transparent and the paint very liquid, the runs of paint give an ethereal, evanescent quality to the subjects, as in this painting below where not only the women walking in the street are translucid, but the person with the running shoe seems to have vanished altogether!

These paintings rarely have titles, so the enigmas they contain remain unresolved, and it is up to us to do our part by looking and feeling and associating, back-tracking into our own echos of the painter's memory. I like the fact that they are not titled, both for this reason and as it means that some gallery goers do not spend all their time reading the titles and little or none looking at the paintings.

Desgrandchamps does preparatory sketches for his works, but the actual paintwork obviously takes him on a particular journer each time and accidental events crop up through this. The devil is often in the detail, which is sometimes obessive: for instance he clearly has a thing with flip-flaps as most of the women in his paintings seem to wear these.

Horses are another frequent presence (see the first painting here) and he declares in at least one painting his admiration for Stubbs, the English specialist of horse painting, by writing his name (mispelt) on the canvas.

Desgrandchamps is also an accomplished draughtsman and one of the joys of this show is to be able to see some of his graphic work, which includes drawings, lithographs and some interesting collages which operate like a commentary on his paintings. Most of the paintings are big and use oil on canvas, but there is the occasional smaller one, like this gouache.

Take a look also at my article on the more directly figurative work of the American painter Eric Fischl

25 Jun 2011

Adele can sing

I occasionally happen upon a piece of music on the radio that I do not recognise but which arrests me, triggering emotions and a want to hear it again. Yet I rarely am able to find it again. But this happened again just recently and I did hear the song again, and then managed to find out what it was, thanks to a guy in a bar who had some gizmo on his computer (this techno stuff never ceases to amaze me!).

Seems like it is a bit of a hit at the moment. You will have to excuse my ignorance but there is so much older stuff, of varied sorts, that I listen to that I never can keep up with what is being done these days. Bla bla bla, silly old git....

Anyways, this comes from a young London singer named Adele. She seems to me to be of the Amy Winehouse school of blues and soul influenced singing. She also reminds me a bit of Julie Driscoll too, not physically (Adele seems to have a few extra stone!), but for the voice and the sense of pace in her singing. I really like this, and she can write as well.
I show you the video below just for the lyrics as the sound is pretty bad. Listen to the one further down which is much better.

Here is some bio stuff that I took from her official web site.

As soon as I got a microphone in my hand, when I was about 14, I realised I wanted to do this,” she says. “Most people don’t like the way their voice sounds when it’s recorded. I was just so excited by the whole thing that I wasn’t bothered what it sounded like.”

She is a fan of artists such as Jill Scott, Etta James, Billy Bragg, Peggy Lee, Jeff Buckley and The Cure (not all of whom I have even heard, but it makes me curious)

I’ve got no problem explaining what my lyrics are about,” Adele says. “I really like poetry: I’m not very good at reading it, but I love writing it. Singers like Jill Scott and Karen Dalton are amazing; proper poets.”

And here is a video using footage from recording sessions for this track in California. I prefer it to those silly mimed clips that totally invade musical TV channels these days, not that I ever watch these.

This lady has something folks!

24 Jun 2011

Who is this star?

A clue?

No, we are not at Cannes, but at Vinexpo, the world's biggest international wine trade fair.

21 Jun 2011

Wine of the week: a perfect Champagne ?

Ok so we are being a little elitist here, as this retails for over 100 euros a bottle, but I cannot but speak my admiration for this bottle of Champagne that I shared with a friend last week. After all, I do also talk regularly about wines that retail for less than a tenth of this price, so let's be a little self-indulgent for a minute. And who knows, maybe some of my readers have money, or a rich uncle, or get lucky one day. Well, if you do, and you feel like celebrating, you could do worse that going out and buying a bottle of this stuff, if you can find one. It will make you feel very good indeed!

Bollinger RD 1997 is the latest(?) in a line of vintage Champagnes that this excellent house (Bollinger) releases after some length of time spent in its cellars. I would say the right length of time for a decent Champagne, but some might find this to be a little extremist. The term "recently disgorged" means that it has been kept in the producer's cellars until quite recently and only then has had its yeast (used for the second, in-bottle fermentation that characterizes Champagne) removed and the final cork pushed in. It is the top of their range.

Before anyone says that "recently disgorged" does not mean quality, since Champagne needs to rest after such a shock,  I would agree but add that this bottle was "operated" upon on July 15th 2009. So it had been disgorged almost 2 years before I tasted it.

I won' t bore you with tasting notes. This has everything you could want from a Champagne! Power and finesse, vibrating freshness and satisfying ripeness, full on the palate and also long, lingering and so refreshing. Not all Champagne tastes like this, and many others are very good, but this is something special.

19 Jun 2011

Kawasaki Z1000sx bike test

I was recently lent the bike you can see below for a week by Kawasaki France. Having ridden two-cylinder bikes for a long time (in fact almost forever, as anyone who follows this blog will be able to see for themselves), I was a little wary in anticipating this experience. Was the thing going to scare the shit out of me, or, on the other hand, was it going to bore me stupid?

Bikes have certainly changed a bit since the days of this Matchless 500, seen in Burgundy during our trip with the Kawasaki, and which was, at its time, a prime choice for a touring bike (note the floor mat to receive the oil!) 

The Kawasaki Z1000 sx is a "civilized" version of the very fast and snappy Z1000 roadster. By civilizing the thing I mean that Kawasaki have altered the riding position to make it more comfortable, slightly thickened the seat, taken a tooth off the front sprocket to make the engine rev a bit lower and hence consume less, increased the fuel capacity, installed a fairing with an adjustable screen, and produced a set of side cases as shown below.

I have already expressed my reserves about the aesthetics of this machine, which pays constant hommage to the current fad for the angular and the bulbous in virtually every detail of current motorcycle design. The image below shows something of what I mean.

Actually the above picture (the photo is mine) makes it look better in detail than it is overall. Yet, I have to say, the look of the thing actually grew on me over the week I had it and rode it. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that it is such a good bike. But we will get to that. Aesthetics, as always, are highly debateable, and I should say that Kawasaki have succeeded in making their fast tourer look quite similar to their faster sports bike, the Z10. The fairing is well integrated and offers pretty good protection and the screen can almost disappear or be made more prominent and protective for motorway riding. One can even turn the thing easily at a halt or slow speeds as the bars slot into gaps between screen and fairing.

My first reaction to riding this Kawasaki was how easy it was to handle, and how very civilized it is in its behaviour. No tear-away wheelies when you open the throttle, good progressive braking and so easy to roll onto an angle, depite what must be a weight of around 230 kilograms, and probably more with the bags on it. This green gremlin behaves like an urbane slickster when treated gently. It can be trickled through traffic with ease: more so one up, as the front gets a bit light with a heavy passenger. One does need to watch the width a bit when the side cases are fitted as they are some way wider that the spread of the rear-view mirrors. The bags, by the way, are quite well-designed: easy to open and close, they are capacious in their internal space with no encroachment from the very bulky (and ugly) silencers that look like ray-guns.

The mirrors provide a good view of what is behind you beyond your elbows and are easy to adjust. Their forward situation on the front of the fairing takes a bit of getting used to (and makes them a little vulnerable) but it actually makes sense when on the road as one's eye needs just to flick from road to mirror.

This bike sets out to combine the best of two worlds: the speed and overall performance of a sports bike with the comfort and long-distance cruising capacity of a GT. And I think it succeeds in this difficult enterprise very well.

The motor is very progressive and the bike pulls away very smoothly from as low as 2,000 rpm. It seems amazingly elastic as well, and continues to pull strongly and continuously up to 10,000. Above 5,000 it can get quite ferocious, but never seems vicious. The frame is perfectly adapted to all this power (albeit restricted to 106 bhp under the silly French legislation): the bike stays on line perfectly in corners and on all road surfaces, even with two on board. It loves taking angles, and the tyres fitted (Pirellis) were very re-assuring. The suspension is also suited to GT use, soft and progressive enough to spoil the passenger, and firm enough to keep everyone on the not necessarily straight and sometimes narrow and bumpy. 

Speaking of the passenger, my daughter, who spent quite a few hours on the back seat, found this reasonably comfortable and appreciated the passenger grips well placed on either side of the seat. On the down side, the protection provided by the mud-guard at the rear is quite insufficient in rainy conditions as your back gets wet very fast (you can just about see the tyre below the seat and understand what happens).

So would I buy one of these if I was in the market for such a bike? Yes, without hesitation. It is fun to ride, re-assuring in its safety aspects, reasonably comfortable over long distances (apart from some high-pitched vibration in the footpegs), can be ridden in town with ease and has some good practical features. It would just have to get itself a new paint-job and probably some other silencers!

Go for the open spaces....

14 Jun 2011

The wines of the Chevrot family in Burgundy

There are wines and people that mark you instantly. And there are others that grow upon you gradually, by their sincerity, their modesty, their constant attention to detail, and their consequent steady progression up the scale of what we call, for want of a better word, "quality". The wines of Domaine Chevrot, at the southern extremity of Burgundy's Côte d'Or, in one of the villages bearing the name of Maranges, are of the latter category for me.

Pablo (on the left) and Vincent Chevrot in front of some of their vines and, in the background, the slope of Maranges which forms the southern tip of the Côte de Beaune. You can see this hillside clearer in the picture below. The vineyards, like in all of Burgundy, are divided amongst many different producers, and the Chevrot family only own very small patches of the vines that blanket these gentle hills.

Pablo and Vincent have pursued their own way, improving and progressively refining their range of wines, following in the footsteps of their parents. They were not born with a golden spoon in their mouths. In other words, the domain is quite small and does not boast any prestigious appellations. The most expensive wine in their catalogue retails to consumers at around 25 euros per bottle, whereas the entry price is around 6 euros. Who said that all Burgundy was expensive?

Pablo in his cellar

The Chevrot vineyard is organically farmed, but there is nothing dogmatic about Pablo's approach to this or to winemaking. He is experimenting with adding very little sulphur to his wines but these are perfectly clean, with none of the fiendish attacks of brettanomyces (nasty animals that make some wines stink like a dirty barnyard) that sometimes plague certain wines from over-enthustic and under trained organic farmer-winemakers. In fact the Chevrot wines are a joy for the purity of their flavours. So which are the good ones?

Well I do not really like telling other people what they should like, but I give below a short list of my favourite wines from this tasting which only covered a small part (in fact the least expensive wines) of the total range of some 15 different wines (this is Burgundy folks, where even a small estate has a huge range on account of the division of land and the multiple appellations: too many in my opinion, but try selling that to the French!).

White wines
I consider 2008 to be a far better vintage than 2009 for white Burgundy.
Chevrot Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2008
This wine is finely perfumed, precisely fruity and quite deliciously, lightly balanced. It is a negociant wine (made from bought grapes).
Domaine Chevrot, Maranges 2008
Very delicious and friendly, with savoury fruit flavours and good length. This added length and intensity distinguishes it from the previous wine.
Red wines
For red wines, the 2009 vintage clearly has the edge on 2008, on account of the extra ripeness it shows.
Domaine Chevrot Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2009
Plenty of flavours here in a wine which has the roundness to make it pleasant drinking already. The fruit rests on a bed of firmness which will enable it to hold in there for several years.
Domaine Chevrot Maranges "sur le chêne" 2009
A wine from a single named plot which is not a premier cru. It has far more depth than the previous wine, with stiffer tannins that are wrapped with more intense fruit. Excellent length too. Fantastic value for a village Burgundy, as this retails for about 14 euros!

Pablo and his wife Kaori. They have named their Bourgogné rosé "Sakura", in honour of the Japanese oranamental cherry tree whose incredibly bright and brief flowering symbolises the fragile return of life in spring in that country which appreciates Burgundy more than most others.

If you want to help the Japanese Red Cross (and you should do) then the Burgundian producers have given masses of wine for a charity auction that is currently under way on the internet (until June 30th). Take a look and bid up as much as you can on this site :

Unfortunately they haven't thought to translate this excellent initiative into English.

13 Jun 2011

The strangeness of Odilon Redon

The painting and graphic work (a lot of it using pastels) of Odilon Redon has fascinated me for ages. It is strange and almost eery at times. He was part of the symbolist movement in France about which I know little. There is a major exhibition of his work on in Paris at the moment and I really should go along and learn more. Here is something to look at in the meantime:

11 Jun 2011

Hats off to Guy Novès

If you live outside of France, and especially of you are not particuarly interested in the glorious game of rugby football (rugby union football to be more precise), then you will not have heard of this man. He has been the manager and/or chief trainer of the Stade Toulousain rugby club for the past 18 years. Previously he had played 13 years for the same club (left winger), winning  the French championship in 1985 and 1986 with Toulouse, as well as being capped several times for France.

Novès was born the grandson of a Spanish refugee from the civil war and his father was a manual worker. He began his sporting career in athletics and held a French junior record over 1200 meters, before taking up rugby at the age of 20. He is still, aged 57, obviously very fit and apparently does a lot of bicycling.

But the real life achievement of Novès has been that of associate and then chief trainer of Toulouse, certainly the most successful rugby club in Europe of the past 30 years. He was voted, in 2010, the best European trainer of the past 15 years and his record speaks for himself. Under his guidance, Toulouse has won the European championship 4 times and the French championship 8 times, having been in the final 10 times. And he has always taken his team at least to the semi-finals. Nobody has ever done better than that, and probably never will. He is clearly not only a great tactical master, but also a fine manager of men. People talk of him as the next trainer for the French national team and many, including myself, wonder why he is not already in just that position.

I do not know the man, but I bumped into him on one occasion, and the anecdote shows that he is also a great sportsman. The team I support, Stade Français Paris, played Toulouse in a championship semi-final a few years ago. The match took place in Lyon and it was foggy that day. Toulouse won the game, quite narrowly, and mainly because a penalty kicked by David Skrela, who was the Paris fly-half at the time, was not allowed by the goal referees. As I was sitting right behind the posts, I could see that it had actually gone between them. The referees' mistake cost us the game. Shit happens! Coming out of the after-match reception, and on my way to catch a late train back to Paris, my path crossed that of Novès who was coming from the changing rooms to the reception. I congratulated him on Toulouse's victory. His reply was: "we didn't deserve that victory, you did. I hope that you have a safe journey home".

Hats off to somebody who is always interesting to observe and listen to, who is humble and yet has his convictions, who sticks to his guns and yet adapts constantly to changing situations, and who is loyal to his players and staff. I know that I will be berated for saying that he is the best, and I agree that the expression is fairly meaningless, so I won't say it!

By the way, Toulouse won their 18th title and the 9th under Novès' training era, just a week ago, quite narroywly defeating Montpellier in a very taught, defensive and unspectacular final by 15 points to 10. Finals can be like that!


8 Jun 2011

a change of ride

I have just been loaned a bike for a week by the Kawasaki importer for France. Very kind of them and I think I will enjoy the experience very much.

This must be the first time that I have ridden a large new 4-cylinder Japanese bike since those days way back in the early 1970's when I used to test ride for the British magazine BIKE. And even then I used to test mainly European bikes. All my personal machines since those days have been either Italian or British (or Spanish or Swedish in the case of off-road bikes). I have occasionally put my leg over other bikes, but only for brief spins. This article will not give a full test account of this Kawasaki Z1000 SX (see picture below). That will have to wait until I have had it for a week and done some distance on varied roads. Good timing for this as this weekend I will be taking off for 3 days into Burgundy and back to Paris. No, this is just a short "first impressions" thing to say just how different two modern bikes can be in the sensations that they provide.

This is what this Kawasaki looks like, complete with the removable side bags which are fitted to the machine I am using. I have to admit that I am not a fan of its looks, although it looks aggressive enough! This angular style of so many contemporary machines does not appeal to me and I hate the garish green (which is of course a signature colour for Kawasaki). The machine is also available in black, which would certainly be better in my opinion. I tend to like black on a bike, as these shots of my two current road bikes will show:

Now I won't start comparing a 1970's Norton Commando to this 2011 Kawasaki. That would be silly. But the Ducati Multstrada dates from 2005 and so can be considered as a modern machine. Apart from any obvious visual comparisons, the first thing that strikes me is the difference in the noise! The Ducati is renowned for sounding like, well, a motorbike. It also emits a characteristic clattering sound from the dry clutch that makes it instantly recognisable. In fact some innocent bystanders point to the living heart of the Duc as if it had serious mechanical problems (which it doesn't). And mine has had its catalyser removed and special exhausts fitted which makes the sound that much more cavernous. The Kawasaki is so discreet that I had to check the rev counter to ensure that the engine was running at first! So much the better for the neighbours!

This bike is also incredibly easy to handle from the outset for such a big machine. I don't know how much it weighs, but certainly more than the Ducati, yet its centre of gravity is low and it feels lighter at low speed. We will see what happens when things pace up a bit. The riding position seems very comfortable so far, with handlebars fairly flat, as I like them for a road machine, and the footpegs set back a little.  

Parhaps the main difference lies in the progressive, almost linear feel of the motor. No kick in the seat of your pants when you twist the throttle, just a steady pull and a delusive impression that you are just trickling along, when in fact you are already close to the legal limits. Will have to watch that! Whilst the Ducati usually makes you aware that you are riding quite fast, the Kawa feels rather like you are sitting on a smooth and sedate sewing machine, albeit a very fast one. The sound is so well muffled that it doesn't give you much of a clue as to your speed and the gears are quite close-set so that I found myself rapidly seeking an inexistant 7th gear. Everything else works well. The front brake seems powerful and the handling, at least at the very reasonable speeds that I have used so far, is very sure-footed.

Watch this space for much more in a week or so, and ride safely....

6 Jun 2011

What is a true Triton?

There are several official definitions of the word Triton. One is a form of reptile, similar to a Salamander, such as the one above, of the species Ichthyosaura alpestris. It is a direct descendant from certain dinosaurs.

Triton is also the name of a mythological Greek god who was son of the sea god Poseidon and Amphitrite, the sea goddess. In Greek mythology, Triton played the role of herald to his mother and is usually represented as a merman, with a mainly human upper body (although he had a scaly back) and the tail of a fish. If you have ever wondered (like me) how mermaids and mermen make love, this tender picture below will only give you part of the answer!

You will also notice that Triton carried a Trident, which could be a connection to the latter part of this story.

The word Triton can also be used to decribe a single-valve shellfish, or, again, a three-tone interval in music. But we are not yet at the end of the extraordinary versatility of this word.

For anyone versed in motorbike lore, a Triton is one of the bike world's most brillant hybrid machines, initially put together by amateurs in the England of the 1950's and 1960's to improve their bikes by taking parts from a Norton (the frame, the forks and other bits and pieces such as the tank) and the engine from a Triumph. This was usually a 650 Bonneville, often tweaked and bored out to improve its top speed and acceleration.

These bikes were/are often raced, like the ones above, and the look and general philosphy of racing motorcycles of that period clearly inspired these early builders of what are now known as "specials". This meant getting rid of any parts that were not strictly necessary, lightening the weight as much as possible, and improving the performance of the mechanics (engine, gearbox, clutch, brakes and suspension).

Tritons, with their Norton featherbed frames and Triumph engines, were/are often turned into show machines, highly polished in their deepest corners and made to look like shiny gods of modern times.

The racer look was part and parcel of this, even if the bike was often only ever "raced" between London's Ace café and the M1, or occasionally down to Brighton, thus getting them the name of "café racers" which has stuck and even become a modern revival fad with its own clubs, magazines and web sites all around the world.

Modern versions of the Triton can be very nice looking and are probably more carefully prepared than the earliest ones, chiefly because their owners have far more money to spend on them than did the working-class rockers of the 1960's. Many consider them to be the ultimate "classic" British machine.

Tritons often got together with mermaids too. What they do then is up to them.

A French outfit from Toulouse called Southsiders recently decided to do a very modern version of the Triton, which they named (somewhat pretentiously, but then they are French, so one has to excuse them) the "Ultimate Triton".

I think this bike is very interesting aesthetically, and it is beautifully finished from what I have seen. The builders have taken the mechanics from a modern Triumph, which almost certainly makes the thing more reliable, although it will probably offend the purists. I find that the tank is too flat and I just hate those silly fat tyres, especially at the front. These tyres will almost certainly prevent the bike from steering and cornering as a real Triton should do. They come from a different nostalgic stream that can be traced back to US bikes like Harleys and Indians and their fat front tyres. But those never handled either! This fad is annoyingly present in a lot of current custom bike design and just shows that such machines are primarily conceived for looking at, not for riding.

Now take a look at this, which, although it is not a "true" Triton since its frame was purpose built and not taken from a Norton, has the philosophy just right as the builder has pared down the wieight and the bike is tuned to go around a race track at decent speed. He has also made it up-to-date with disc brakes that should stop the thing. According to the recent article on it on Bike Exif, it also vibrates like hell, which can be annoying or rassuring, depending on what you are looking for! It also has nice detail work and an unusual colour to frame and fairing that I find very attractive. I suppose you could call it duck egg green.

As to the Trident mentioned at the inset if this article, this became the name for the last Triumph model to be created by the Triumph Meriden factory before it finally went bust in 1983 (and well before its subsequent revival elsewhere thanks to John Bloor). Meriden is near Birmingham and is often referred to as the geographical centre of England (see plaque below).

The Trident was of course a three-cylinder machine that was also often tuned for racing and which provided inspiration for the contemporary three-cylinder Triumphs. So Triton lives on, prongs and all.

4 Jun 2011

Blow up again?

The first thing that comes to mind when I read this term is not necessarily the title of one of Michelangelo Antonioni's (see above) films. It is something bad happening to the motor of the vehicle one is using. Like this event below for example :

(image courtesy of the very creative Spanish site 8negro)

But then nothing is totally bad, is it?

The other sense is of course an enlarged photograph, which may, in some cases, reveal something that was not visible to the naked eye, like this one which provided one of the themes and the title for Antonioni's film made in the "swinging" London of the mid-late 1960's (which was indeed the other theme of this film). This was a time when I was a student in London and I remember it well.

Did the photographer really witness, unknowingly, a murder scene in the park?

The other main theme of Blow-Up was the superficial but attractive lifestyle of a fashion photographer in London at a time when open sexual (and insouciant nouveau-riche) behaviour was a relative novelty, and the world of fashion was also emerging from years of rigidity. When one sees this film today it seems very dated and, somehow, innocent. I am not too sure what today's 20 something year-olds would make of it.


I was both fascinated and, at times, bored by Antonioni's films. Maybe it is time to take another look. I was also quite fascinated by the actress Monica Vitti who played in many of his early films, although not in Blow Up.