Quality over quantity indeed.
That said, I may as well join the also rans with the following chaff among the wheat:
The telephone rings on a Friday evening in mid 2011. “Big Man, it’s The Elf”. Now I hadn't heard from The Elf in a decade, last reports were that he was married with children and living in Norway. This was a surprise to say the least.
Now The Elf was famous for his friends – Action Jackson, the Alpine Dustman, the Nurse Hughes - plus sage advice such as "you've got to respect the distance, Big Man". He was also known for comments less based in fact, delivered out of the blue with utmost certainty - "don't get a Cannondale Big Man, you'll break the back axle". Was this call to be more of the same? How had he got my number? What did this all mean? And who invented liquid soap and why? As my mind whirled, thoughts of The Elf transported me back to Summer 94......
It was a sunny morning in June with Chaka Demus and Pliers pumping out of the transistor radio when a knock on the door revealed The Elf, carrying a grello Yo frame and fork, a greasy carrier bag and muttering darkly to himself and, then, darkly to me. It turned out that he'd been in Covent Garden on his Dynatech when he had been approached by a chap with a Yo who wanted to broker some sort of frame part ex (don't ask, these things always happened to The Elf). What we had on my doorstep was an eye searingly bright frameset I'd only seen in magazines plus an almost complete XT groupset save for some Grafton cantis. Oh, and some XT thumbies that The Elf had swapped for some XT STis just off the Old Kent Road - I did say that he was that sort of chap.
Now, I've never been particularly mechanically talented and 17 years ago I had even less experience than now. However, accompanied by nothing more than a couple of allen keys, a screwdriver I'd found in the road, the encouragement of The Elf and a naive sense of my bike building skills, I had at it on the front step of the not quite condemned house I was sharing. And something magical happened - the sun shone, every part fitted (even the cup and cone bottom bracket went in smooth and tight, adjusted sweetly by the stubby screwdriver and half a brick) and the bike was built within a couple of hours. Perhaps it was magic, perhaps it was the Tony Di Bart (in the days before he returned to fitting bathrooms for a living), who knows. But that day the colours were brighter, the strawberrys tasted sweeter, D:Ream predicted "Things Can Only Get Better" and the future was full of possibilities as The Elf pedalled off to “continue my race series Big Man”.
With a jolt, I realised that The Elf was still talking and although I’d been reminiscing on those halcyon summer days of youth for what seemed like ages, when I’d returned to the present only a matter of seconds had passed. The Elf continued to mutter about gear ratios and the like and when I asked after the Yo it turned out to have long been stolen (along with all that youthful ambition?). After an enjoyable catch up we concluded the call and I sat with sadness weighing me down as my mind reverted back to those halcyon days. Suddenly the here and now felt monochrome, cold even.
In an attempt to cheer up I flicked on the DAB radio and heard Pato Banton imploring his baby to come back – coincidence or a dream within a dream? Looking round I saw my trusty screwdriver, the connection to 17 summers ago, countless botched builds and surely my talisman. Reaching for it I slipped on the wet flagstones, hitting my head.
Next thing I remember is Pliers exhorting “Woman your love is like burning fire in me soul” as I respond to the knock at the door. Glancing down at the screwdriver in my hand I smile – it was going to be alright, it really was going to be alright.
Poll up mid next week so still a chance to fight for that coveted top spot......