The Road's editor
Off to Oxford in an electric vest for the Fred Hill run. In addition to this luxury I've now got a legitimate helmet with a flip down visor on it for times like this and it's absolutely amazing. I was doing 70mph at times on the M4 in February and I wasn't cold! This may seem normal to many of you but for me it came as a revelation.
February found me doing a few days on the MAG stand at the Ally Pally show which always fills me with a deep sense of depression.
Standing for hours on a stand studying the faces of people floating by and trying to fathom out who is best to approach becomes a bit of an art. My maxim is to go for people who look intelligent and it tends to work. The human race is propelled by intelligent people with the vast majority, as my father used to say, simply turning good food into bad manure.
Anyone who joins a pressure group is likely to be more intelligent than the average in my view and my guess is that MAG attracts the more intelligent members of the motorcycle population as dim people just don't care about anything. Like the simpler life forms they don't think ahead and simply respond to immediate stimuli like light and heat. I often wonder what it's like to be one of them, to think about almost nothing, to stumble along with the herd in our increasingly oafish civilisation where the trivial has displaced the significant.
I did an interview with BBC TV the other day and it was cut from about one minute to 15 seconds which compares pretty unfavourably with ten solid minutes viewing the twitching feet of a sleeping contender on Big Brother. I suppose some might consider me pompous to imagine that what I had to say was more important than a man breathing regularly, but actually I do, I mean, at least I'd managed to form words out of my exhalations, something which used to be a requirement for TV appearances.
I believe that the human mind can be elevated or depressed by its environment and the cultural influences to which it is exposed.
The oaf bike press prioritise 'wow corrr wheelie' to the exclusion of anything with meaning and depth which they view as boring. It's the tabloid approach to journalism in which the spectacular, the extreme, the perverse and the outrageous occupy pole positions. I reckon that the brains of readers who are exposed exclusively to this kind of journalism, atrophy, just as those which engage weightier subjects grow in sophistication.
The ROAD is not, I hope, a po-faced magazine devoid of humour, there is certainly a place for the absurd and the humourous between these covers, laughter is good, but those elements will be balanced by serious material which is designed to provoke, inform and empower riders and I intend to see it develop as a beacon of enlightenment in an ocean of banality.
So far reaction to our publication has been fantastic and I intend it should get better.
Now then, I'm careful not to abuse editorial privilege by gratuitously trying to make people look foolish but I have been taken to task for doing just this. The writer had implied in his letter that I hadn't thought something through which is just a bit too condescending to swallow without a mildly critical response which he got.
So please take note. If you want to say you think we're wrong, go ahead and say why, but if you want to accuse people of not thinking about things, make sure you can read minds faultlessly first.
While I'm on the defensive, there is something else that needs explaining which concerns the expectations of people, some of whom are not even members. So many people now have email and can effortlessly contact groups like ours that without our discipline and their restraint, things get out of hand.
I had an email recently from a woman to whom I responded by asking if she was a member. In the rather terse reply she asked if one 'now had to be a MAG member to just talk to me.' The short and honest answer to that is - well yes actually. OK it sounds pompous but look at the statistics. We have over 10,000 individual members and 40,000 affiliates, the majority of whom probably have email by now, and that's without all the non members out there who think they have a call on our time simply because they are bikers. Can you imagine calling the RAC and asking them to come and pick you up on the grounds that you've been thinking of joining? Apart from admin staff and event staff, MAG has two full time employees, myself and Trevor Baird. What percentage of our membership emailing us would it take to totally stop any political work or the publication of this magazine? Email has revolutionised publishing and I value it, but it's a double edged sword. Can I sit reading a 5000 word account of the life story of someone who tells me she will join MAG when she has the money? Is that a fair use of my time that MAG members pay for? However deserving someone may be of sympathy, that does not turn 24 hours into 240. Even if you have paid for membership that doesn't entitle you to a one-on-one counselling service.
We are a lobbying organisation that runs on a modest income with the kind of efficiency that Government departments can only dream about but we are still very few, though we do have a much larger body of volunteers in the shape of our reps and local group activists.
So there we have it. Grumpy pomposity, conceit, arrogance and pretentiousness all in one page. I trust that people can see the simple truth in what I'm saying however.
Now for something almost surreal. I received a strange phone call recently from a lady called Leslie who wanted to know if I had a huge teddy bear for sale. It so happened that I did and in return for handing over 'Fathead' I was transported to the London meeting of the Gold Wing Owners club where I gave a brief presentation on MAG and signed up three new members, welcome aboard.
Off to Westminster to provide Lembit Opik MP with a motorcycle for a photocall for some political magazine that needed a portrait of him on a bike.
A week later I was back in his office to discuss the bill that you can read about on page 59. Never a dull moment.
Ian 'visor man' Mutch