The telly is a mixed blessing, it brings a much larger world into our homes but does so through a prism of condescending gloss and distorts the evidence of circumstance by its own importance. On occasion though there emerge personalities that break through the skin of superficiality and show themselves to be genuine people in a way that may not always meet the expectations of the egos that generally infest the media world. One such event occurred this Easter when Guy Martin, a huge talent on the motorcycle racing scene, made an attempt at the world speed record on the wall of death, a record that didn’t really exist before but he set out to establish a benchmark by which others could be measured.
I have never met Guy himself although he does appear regularly in the motorcycle press and has been cropping up more frequently on the TV of late. However, he had a team around him that had been brought together to ensure his attempt on the record was likely to be accomplished successfully and safely, for the Guinness Book of Records is now rather careful about what feats of human endeavour it associates itself with. Attention seekers parachuting into a paddling pool without a parachute are obviously not to be encouraged which is probably why we see all sorts of silliness like the number of toenail clippings crammed into a matchbox or suchlike instead. But anyway, one of those people helping Guy was a gentleman by the name of Ken Fox who runs three walls in total which he and his family take on tour throughout the UK and the continent and he is someone I have met and got to know a little, and like immensely, when he came to Tipperary over Easter 2015.
Ken is a showman to his fingertips with a great deal to say and he says it with a conviction that broaches little argument, but when you are responsible for lads and lasses whirling round a wooden drum risking life and limb then the troupe needs a god like figure who’s word is law and is not to be countered lightly. Ken fills that role admirably and yet as he berates the general state of society or the lack of practical knowledge amongst today’s youth the realisation slowly grows that underneath it all lies one one of the most genuine fellows you are likely to meet who is fully in command of where he lies in this complex mix of business, entertainment, leadership and family commitments. His family, BTW, are very much part of the show and one of my endearing memories is of his wife cheerfully knitting away next to Ken, sagely nodding or shaking her head in tune with the dialogue, as he sat in his trailer expounding upon the frailties of humanity, yet don’t be fooled, she’s as alert to what needs to be done as any. The squad in fact is the epitome of a family team the like of which is often remarked upon but rarely encountered and their sons carry on the tradition, both being faultlessly polite and well spoken but each deeply aware of what is required and expected of them.
Interestingly enough it was this softer side that came across on the box, Ken was a little out of his place in the studio setting although very much the patriarch when instructing Guy on his own wall, yet he was still his real self, not a five minute wonder glad of the lights and fawning crew as one suspected of the presenter, a character with such strength of personality that I hadn’t a clue who he was and even less interest in knowing! Another great unsung heroine of the affair was Sharon, Guy’s girlfriend, who was obviously new to the glitz and glamour and appeared unsure of quite how she should try to fit in, one can hardly blame her, but equally as obvious was the concern for her man to whom her attachment was so honest and certain that it left the media darlings floundering such is their assumption of superficiality in all. As a lesson in humanity and humility the programme should score top marks but there was also the main business of the day to consider and that was the setting of the record itself.
That the record was set at 79mph and all lived to tell the tale is, in many ways, not surprising as the expense and effort would not have been made if it in any way was considered a doubtful enterprise. Yet we mustn’t take away from what is still a remarkable achievement and Guy deserves our full admiration for his continued efforts in pushing at the boundaries, he is the rough diamond in the goats backside of television and is worthy of our attention for that alone. Beyond that that there were one or two points of note that caused a slight smile to crease my jaw. The first was that in all probability the bike he tried on the first attempt was donated by the makers in the expectation of some bragging rights, such a boast would be priceless when it came to marketing so I wouldn’t want to be in the HQ of Indian Motorcycles this morning as the they digested the news that it was in fact a bike of Guy’s own creation that set the record, and one with a triple engine at that, the most well known producer of which is Triumph, a keen rival of Indian’s in the retro and legacy stakes! Secondly, the programme used a small slice of music to accompany the action whenever Guy was on a wall, it was only a few bars long and was always cut off just when it would appear to get more interesting, I strongly suspect that it was inspired by this, perhaps the best video out there on the web –
A full account of Ken Fox’s wall of death and their visit to Tipperary can be found in the April 16 edition of Irish Vintage Scene.
EDIT: I’ve just noticed that Guy had always intended to use his own bike for the record and it is indeed based on a Triumph.