Dear Bella Bathurst
5.09.11 by Buffalo Bill
You included a short section about messengers (couriers), featuring an interview with me, amongst others, in your bicycle book The Bicycle Book. I’d like to say that I was flattered by its inclusion, but that would be wrong. I wasn’t exactly offended, but I was slightly miffed by your description.
We meet in a coffee bar on Charlotte Street; he’s wearing a better laundered version of the archetypal messenger kit: baggy rolled-up jeans… …and a shirt with a flower print. The look has obviously been worked on. In person he’s wary, not particularly friendly, asks for money halfway through – his eyes stay cold, and he’s quick to take offence. We get off to a bad start when I ask him about alley-cat races… at the end he gets up mid-sentence and vanishes.
‘Wary’, yes, when speaking to journalists or writers, with good reason1. ‘Quick to take offence’, probably one of my faults, agreed, but ‘better-laundered’? I never wash my jeans (ask Anna). Also, ‘the look has obviously been worked on’? The flower print shirt I think she’s referring to was given to me by my sister; it’s from Arles, the city in which my mother grew up, and reminds us of childhood holidays. So the clothes I was wearing that were so ‘worked on’ were a pair of well-worn, and not particularly clean, jeans, bought new from Uniqlo, and a cheap snap-button shirt, also bought new from a street market in a small French city.
In fact, when I was working as a messenger, I never wore jeans, always wore lycra and / or wool, and generally had much more of a Captain Spandex look than is common amongst messengers today.
It’s true that I did ask for money. I make no apologies for that. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. After I was asked to participate in a brief discussion about cycling on Radio 4, Jack Thurston asked me whether I had got paid for it. I hadn’t realised that you can ask for, and get, contributor fees for appearing on BBC Radio. It doesn’t amount to enough to take a day off, but it pays for a pint or two.
And, as I explained to you, you were assembling material for a book for which you intended to charge money for. I have no problem with you charging money for your book – it’s actually well worth a read – but I don’t understand why you should find it worthy of mention that I asked for payment.
At the time of the interview, I told you that everything that I was likely to say to you in interview, I would already have written & published on this site – it is all here, pretty much, every coherent (and some not so coherent) thought(s) that I have had about messengering, all available for nothing, so where was my incentive to dredge up some more words about messengering solely for your benefit?
As for getting up mid-sentence, well, sorry about that. I had to leave to go & do the job that I actually get paid real money for.
1 For some good reasons why I am wary of journalists see this article.
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