"[S]omething very special indeed .. and it's just an extraordinary, epic song that .. takes you on this rambling, winding kind of storyline, and takes you into strange and dark places .. It’s in a long tradition of English, eccentric songwriters who have this flair for words, and don’t conform to any of the set patterns .. "

Tom Robinson, BBC 6 Music (describing Wolf in a Woollen Coat)

Heart Failure: American Angels, English Ghosts [excerpt]


Blue-John Benjamin


            Dariusz smiled kindly, patting Ambrose's cheek with his paw, as he had once done in the ring.  "I will go with you into battle.  Together, we will greet pain like an old friend, yes?"  He rolled up the screeching, corrugated shutters.

            "I hope not," said Ambrose.  "But thank you."

            The profound, clinging coldness inside the workshop smelled of oil on concrete, cloth impregnated with grease, distressed leather, solvents, and brake dust.

            Dariusz gave Ambrose the flashlight, and pulled back the tarpaulin from his vintage motorcycle.

            "A Hunter S. Thompson kind of machine," said Ambrose somewhat anxiously, finding its contours with the beam.  "The Black Shadow."

            Dariusz wheeled her out.  "Not good at cornering--not rock-steady when thrown into a bend.  A long bike, better with a sidecar."

            "Have you got a sidecar?"

            "No.  You will feel like you are riding a camel.  She is a bouncy beast."  He handed Ambrose a spare helmet, the Red Baron's goggles, and also, puzzlingly, an old, coffee-ringed copy of the Lincolnshire Echo.  Its front page featured a picture of 'Missing Poppy'.

            "Reading material?"

            "Put that under your coat, across your chest."

            "What's her top speed?" Ambrose asked, the 'her' being an affectation.  He could feel a Steppenwolf moment coming on.

            "At the Montlhéry circuit, not far from Paris, they broke the six-hour record with 100.53 miles per hour."

            "When was that?"

            "1952.  Help me push."  Dariusz ran alongside his Black Shadow.  Leaving the limper in a cloud of smoked ice crystals, he swung smoothly over the saddle, and bump-started, man at one with motorcycle, quietly talking to pistons and valves.  He revved and returned in a slowly growled snow-arc, sitting upright as if at an equestrian competition, expertly controlling a docile animal.  "Tonight, she is a 1000cc bobsled."

            "In medical school," said Ambrose, uncertainly straddling the bucking bronco of his wild imagination, "bikers were referred to as 'organ donors'".

            Dariusz opened the throttle.  "Hold tight, Ambrozy."