March 31, 2017
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
– Lewis Carroll,
I ignore the phone when I’m driving. I was on my way to meet Gimpo at the 24hr TESCO behind Thurrock Services. I was late. It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards. Who am I? What am I doing? How long is forever? Some questions never get an answer. Gimpo was probably stood on the Tarmac wondering where I was. It was cloudy and 13 degrees. No snow this year. The van had a good, working heater. Sometimes I do things I don’t fully understand.
Gimpo is best known to any KLF fan as the man who filmed the Burning of a Million Quid on the island of Jura in 1994. He drove Bill Drummond and Mark Manning to the top of the world as told in the book Bad Wisdom, and he managed to lose his boat ticket, causing chaos and panic, whilst on a trip up the Congo river in search of the Heart of Darkness. But that’s another story. Gimpo was also the ski-masked person armed with lighter fluid and matches when Rachel Whiteread turned up to claim the K Foundation art award for worst British artist on the steps of the TATE in 1993.
Gimpo’s M25 25 Hour Spin happens on the weekend closest to the vernal equinox. The Spin follows the outer lane of London’s M25 Orbital Motorway, clockwise, for 25 hours. It is not a race. The Spin has happened once a year since it started in 1997, and will cease in 2021. The spin is Gimpo’s idea.
As I descended into Lakeside Shopping area at Thurrock, I could see a figure dressed in a Hi-Vis Jacket stood in the middle of the carpark waving. That’s Gimpo. Always ready to go.
“You’re 13 minutes late” he said with a grin. I parked up. Before I knew it, we were in the supermarket picking up supplies. Bottles, packets, cables, memory cards and a lottery ticket. Gimpo may be a lot of things, but he’s never without hope.
Gimpo’s M25 25hr Spin always starts “top, dead centre” on Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Midday. As you pass between the twin towers at the top of the bridge, the view can pull your trigger if you know what to look for. Nothing seems to be what it is, because everything seems to be what it isn’t. Gimpo’s M25 odyssey begins.
Gimpo makes notes, checks the windscreen camera is working, and climbs back and forth taking pictures out of each window. “23 Mark….go to Toll 23” he shouts from the back somewhere. Anyone who has crossed the bridge in years gone by will remember the tolls. Gimpo always used Toll number 23. But now they’re gone, you have to pay the toll online. Gimpo insisted I move over to the right a bit. He wanted me to drive over the spot where Toll 23 used to be. You’ve got to have a system. Any ritual has an opening ceremony.
This year, Gimpo had acquired new technology. A good friend had furnished him with a high definition camera that could be stuck to the windscreen. The Camera could hold 3 hours footage on a memory card at a time. It was a Christmas present. Gimpo had managed to snap the back off already. It was stuck in a brutal manner, with gaffer tape, where the rear-view mirror might have been.
“Have you got my video Mark?” he shouted over the noise.
“Which video is that?” I replied.
“Concrete Enema. The one of the bloke having concrete poured up his ass.” Gimpo said.
“Not this again. No, I haven’t got your video. And No, I dont know who’s got it either. You ask me this everytime.” I said.
Once upon a time…. I went to the foundry in Shoreditch. I took my friend Richard of Discordian Promotions, the soundman from the gigs I organised at The Old Railway, Rhys, and my work experience girl Jane….. who was on her first day. We had gone to the M25 Spin recruitment evening which hoped to find additional drivers and supporters for the following year. The first year’s spin had been and gone. Gimpo was trying to “find the others” who would join him for year two. We had sat through poems by Wormlady, someone described by Gimpo as a “dangerous pyromaniac who hadn’t taken her medicine.” We sat through hours of footage of the previous years spin. We also sat through a selection of special presentations which included “Concrete Enema.” At the end of the evening, this particular video tape went missing, Gimpo has been searching for it ever since. But anyway, if you know who’s got it, please get in touch.
Back to 2017 and this year’s spin, Gimpo proudly announced “This is spin #20.”
“No it’s not” came the reply. “This is Spin #21. You did the first spin in 1987, count on your fingers, how many spin’s have you done since then?” Gimpo started counting and got lost around 15.
“Mark…..stop the van…I need to count. I get to 17, and then I get lost.”
We drove to Cobham services and stopped the van there. Two things followed. Gimpo and I put our hands flat on the dashboard and we counted from 1997 to 2017. 21. This year was Spin #21. Then Gimpo jumped from the vehicle and started putting the signs up. Gaffer tape in one hand, signage in the other, he carefully worked his way round the van. The artist worked.
“OK, we’re ready, let’s go!” He said. The laptop was plugged into the AUX on the stereo. Volume set to 23. The music started pumping. The 21st Spin was under way.
Gimpo jumped about in the back, laughing and wildly taking pictures and providing a non-stop commentary on everything that passed. I began to consider life. Some things cannot be explained. A man in a worn out, high vis-jacket bearing his own M25 Spin logo, armed with a camera phone, pointing out palm trees, crane lifts, pylons and road signs. And all while shouting instructions to the driver, to be sure to get the best picture. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
“Mark! Let’s open both the side doors” Gimpo shouted above the music.
“No Gimpo, you’re not doing that. You’ll fall out. Theres another 24 hours to go” I said.
There was a pause. I could hear Gimpo falling about somewhere behind me. “I am the artist here” he shouted. “I’ll do what I want!”
At 6.36pm the Master Chaos van began a “Timed Lap.” Some things I do for money, Some things I do for free. Some things I cannot explain easily. In the philosophy of language and philosophy of science, nonsense is distinguished from sense or meaningfulness, and attempts have been made to come up with a coherent and consistent method of distinguishing sense from nonsense. Driving Gimpo around the M25 needs careful handling. Nonsense refers to a lack of sense or meaning. To Gimpo, his M25 25 Hour Spin has meaning. You cross the Greenwich Meridian twice on a single lap. You go back in time, before going forward in time. East to West then West to East. Gimpo travels clockwise keeping to the inside lane. He is careful to travel the outside of the M25 whilst travelling the inside lane on the motorway. There are many contradictions when you travel through the Vortex. There is method to Gimpo’s madness. The timed lap was completed at 8.39pm. One complete Orbit took 2 hours and 3 minutes. Work it out. Nothing happens by accident.
“Colin is going to flash us from the Bridge!” Gimpo shouted, as we descended from Queen Elisabeth II bridge and headed over the tarmac where Toll 23 used to be and started the next lap.
The story followed of how Gimpo knows Colin. I can’t repeat it here. After nearly 9 hours on the road, the mind starts to wander. Where is Gimpo going? Why is he doing this? What is he thinking? How did I end up as the driver? Are we alone? What’s the square root of the M25?
Looking out of the windscreen, the cars pass as they do on any day of the week. Behind me I can hear Gimpo jumping from one seat to another, a running commentary just 9 hours in, and the endless photography and documentation of the trip continues. “Mark, we are the only ones left!” Gimpo shouts. “I’ve got to send the pictures to Todd. How do you spell Todd? It’s ok I’ve found his email now. What time is it? Follow the signs. Tell me when you see the bridge. Colin is going to be there in ten minutes.”
I’m trying hard to drive and not consider any other issues. The hypnotic passing of white lines and road signs keeps me calm. I read every sign as it passes. I read every number plate. Looking for a meaning in all this. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I can’t help thinking about the philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality. And then Colin appeared.
“There he is! That’s Colin!” Gimpo shouted as he climbed headfirst into one of the co-pilots seats, his boots in my face, the light on his mobile phone almost blinding me for a moment. Gimpo took his position in the co-pilots seat and started waving frantically. And banging the windscreen. I beeped the horn as Gimpo pointed and shouted “There’s Colin!”
A small white dot shone down from the bridge. Some people want to be lost. Gimpo and I felt alive, we existed at last, someone was waving from the bridge. Albert Einstein is reported to have asked his fellow physicist and friend Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, whether he realistically believed that ‘the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.’ To this Bohr replied that however hard Einstein may try, he would not be able to prove that it does, thus giving the entire riddle the status of a kind of an infallible conjecture—one that cannot be either proved or disproved. Gimpo’s M25 Spin is not that dissimilar, until someone like Colin waves a torch from a motorway bridge.
Gimpo ordered a stop at Cobham. We took a relaxed break consisting of tea, a comfortable seat by the window and a discussion of the problems Bill Drummond was having with emissions from his land rover. It’s what you do at 11pm on the M25. We tried to blend in with the other late night service station users.
We left Cobham feeling good and ready to drive into the small hours. If only it was that easy. We found ourselves preparing for battle stations as Gimpo pointed out the signs confirming the worst: Only one lane open ahead.
The traffic ground to a complete standstill. Gimpo rolled the side-door back, jumped out and started marching down the hardshoulder. I had to put the handbrake on, and leave the engine running. I jumped out and followed him. Never get out of the van. Worried drivers behind us peered through their windscreens at the man in the high-vis jacket. “What are you doing?” I shouted. Gimpo turned and looked at me.
“There’s traffic officers ahead, they’re blocking the road. I’m going to tell them to move. They’re making us late!” he said.
“Get in the van before we both get run down” I said. By the time the words had left my mouth, Gimpo was already distracted taking photo’s of the nearby road sign. An artist never leaves their work once they are on to something. I shut the side door once Gimpo was back in his seat. The driver of the car behind gave me a look similar to that, which I imagine, anyone would give to a baboon as it prepared to tear their windscreen wipers off. Terror mixed with calm acceptance of what is about to happen. I made sure I gave them a smile and a wave. I always show courtesy to other road users, you never know what might happen. Then I climbed back into the van and considered whether I should have allowed Gimpo to talk to the traffic officers after all. We looked like we were going to be here sometime and at least Gimpo may have made some light entertainment, until the van got towed away and crushed.
I didn’t follow the signs. I found the next exit and headed into the darkness. Any route would do. After a wild safari through West London to avoid the traffic, and providing context to the M25 orbit we had been in all day, Gimpo announced he had a plan. You can’t open the vortex without causing a few ripples. Somewhere between Cobham and South Mimms, Gimpo announced he had come into posession of the keys to the vortex. It was his 21st Spin after all. “Mark, I’ve got the keys to the Vortex. I can do anything I want now…..”
“Really? That’s great. Don’t open the side doors, you might lose them.” I replied.
I could hear Gimpo rummaging around in the back in a frienzied state. “Stop at J23, we’re going for a walk.” he shouted. By now it was getting close to 4am. Strange things happen to your mind around 4am on the M25. Reality starts to melt. You are past tired, your body is in a state of confusion. You look out of the window, beyond the reach of the headlights and think to yourself “Have I been here before?” Scientific approaches reject the explanation of déjà vu as “precognition” or “prophecy” but rather explain it as an anomaly of memory, which creates a distinct impression that an experience is “being recalled”. This explanation is supported by the fact that the sense of “recollection” at the time is strong in most cases, but that the circumstances of the “previous” experience (when, where, and how the earlier experience occurred) are uncertain or believed to be impossible. This of course, is wrong. Colin has proved the Spin’s existence, and I know from the mileage, time on the dashboard and Gimpo jumping about that we have indeed been here before, probably 8 times by now, all at different times of light, darkness, position of the sun and the moon. And my mental health is past caring. We have been backwards and forwards through time as we cross the Greenwich Meridian twice on every lap. Everything looks different but strangely the same. The white lines have blurred and the street lights are starting to look like serpents streaking past the window. The road is flowing backwards. Insanity is stalking the corridors of my mind. I am not the re-incarnation of TC Lethbridge. Ritual Sacrifice. This was not my idea. Have I missed the turning? Le Mans is 24 hours, the spin is 25, it’s one louder. All the people I’ve let down. The prison without bars. Time travel. Unpaid parking tickets. Quantum mechanics. Burning money in phoneboxes. Chuck Berry has passed away. The freedom to daydream makes it easier to reconcile the servitude which is forced on us. There will be hell to pay for all this. What now? The forces of darkness have me cornered. I can’t find my way out of the maze. Let me out.
We stopped at South Mimms and left the van in the car park for a walk. There’s a pathway at the back of the Ramada Hotel. You can follow it back towards the Motorway and theres a stream and a walkway that runs underneath the M25. As we walked through the chill night air, our steps seemed to be almost calming after the long drive. “Let’s go to the dark side of the road” Gimpo said. In my mind, for no reason, I started to remember a poem called “Invictus” by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903). The third verse goes
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears, Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years, Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.”
Gimpo, the man who filmed the burning of a million quid in a disused boathouse on Jura, led the way.
Humans live through their myths and only endure their realities. If you know anything of the idea of the hero’s journey you will know the cycle…..walking through the tunnel I started to think about roundabouts and circles drawn on bits of paper….at the top: ordinary world. First exit: call to adventure. Put your phone away: refusal of the call. Junction 30 Thurrock: meeting the mentor, Queen Elizabeth Bridge crossing the threshold, tests, allies, enemies….it’s just a habit of mind. Junction 23 South Mimms: innermost cave. then….. ordeal. All I could think of was “Entropy requires no maintenance” – Robert Anton Wilson. Gimpo walked. People think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. I followed. What did Nelson Mandela and Timothy McVeigh have in common? I can’t stop my mind considering the possibilities. Here it comes.
From the tunnel, I snapped back into reality for a moment. Gimpo led the way up a flight of steps to a pathway that ran alongside the motorway. My darkest thoughts ran like a film in reverse through my mind. I couldn’t hear the birds singing any longer. Everything bad I could imagine ran through my head in the seconds it took to walk the path. “Look at that” Gimpo said. He stood at the wooden fence. “The M25 from the dark side. You can see the island from here. The road is deserted, there’s no traffic.” All time stood still. No cars. Nothing. Silence.
Gimpo started taking pictures. The road was empty. The island stood in all it’s majesty just three lanes away. Gimpo looked. I knew what he was thinking. One day Gimpo’s going to plant an Argentinian Flag on the island. Gimpo was lost in thought. Robert Anton Wilson once said: Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Gimpo considered the dark side of the road. Hell is just as bad as you imagine it to be. This place was all his.
I returned to some sort of sanity as I crossed back to the other side. I had lost 20 minutes. As I walked back across the tarmac, I felt like I had crossed to the other side and back. But I had lost all memory of it. Nothing could stop us now, the road back lay ahead. The Spin was past the tipping point. Time to get a cup of tea from the service station. Time flies.
The Mileage for one lap was 123 miles, from 212960 to 213083, I wasn’t about to try and count that on my fingers. We headed into another orbit. The M25 becomes a strange place at 11am on the Sunday of the Spin. Where has the time gone? How did we get here? We must have done another lap. My sense of time had completely broken down. I’m sure we had been here before.
People were already on their way back from the car boot sale that started at 6am. People were on their way back from holiday, others were just starting. Take a walk into Cobham services and order a cup of tea from Greggs. As you wait in the queue your mind wanders. What are you doing? Not now, not today, but generally? What are you doing? Then you remember a book you read 25 years ago:
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere” ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.
You order a cup of tea, and then the number 23 appears. Reading the menu reveals a reminder: Don’t answer the phone. “The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, ‘Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched……And so it starts.” ― Joseph Campbell. The mad hatter hands you your cup of tea. The doormouse offers you milk. Everwhere you look, flamingoes walk past. The queen of hearts sits in the window with a starbucks coffee. The queen of spades is queuing at Macdonalds checking her phone. Gimpo is hanging around the Krispy Creme Donuts waiting for anyone to show interest in a tray of ten. Some things cannot be explained. In the carpark the van is parked up next to an AA Recovery truck. The markings on both hide the contradictions. Then Gimpo shouts “We’re late, we’re late!” Many people have come and gone round the M25, but only some discover what it’s about.
Gimpo is trying to make the worlds longest road movie. He wants to know where the M25 goes. He already knows what it’s about. He wants to know where it goes. And he intends to document it.
The spin finished 25 hours after it began. “Stop the van, stop the van!” Gimpo shouted. We found ourselves not far from the M40 turning. The van pulled onto the hardshoulder and Gimpo found the nearest road sign. He had fashioned a sticker that read “Gimpo’s M25 25 hour spin finished here 19/3/2017” After the celebratory pictures had been taken we both jumped back in the van. Where does the time go? The pain of our subserviance is never eased. Tomorrow is just a word. Not all who wander are lost.
Gimpo Gimpo http://www.gimpogimpo.com/m25spin/
Gimpo’s M25 Spin 2017 photos https://flic.kr/s/aHskRprd5t
December 5, 2014
A witness statement from Iron Man Records 2014.
I didn’t get much sleep the night before, I had been working on the release of the new John Sinclair record “Mohawk.” By the time I climbed into the car and started the engine it was 10am. I drove to London and dropped the car in Brentford, West London. I picked up the keys. I had a 9 seater VW Splitter van on hire from DYC Touring and headed to Shepherd’s Bush. I wasn’t due to meet the band until 3pm so I had a bit of time to park up and make phone calls.
If I was applying for a job I’d probably tell you I’m a tour manager, a music manager, I can drive a splitter van and tow trailers, and I have a clean driving licence. I could tell you I’ve been running a record label called Iron Man Records for 18 years, I play in a couple of bands, I run a few websites, I work freelance and so on. In reality, I don’t apply for jobs, employers find their way to me on personal recommendation because no one else, in a right mind, will take their work on. The day was looking no different to any other. The phone was ringing.
I have to do many things on a daily basis just to keep things moving, some of it for money, some of it for free, some of it because I have no other choice and some of it for reasons of pure nonsense. Don’t ask me to explain.
Gimpo was due to start the 25 hour M25 Spin at midday, so by now he should have completed a lap and be half way round the next one. The time was 2pm and my phone was lighting up with messages from people asking if I was on the Spin this year. No, I wasn’t on the Spin, I was driving a band called “Tenterhook” to Hereford for a gig at The Jailhouse. They needed a driver and had a small budget to work with. I had no money, and on that basis I was “available” to do the work. Gimpo was planning to do the M25 Spin solo this year. You can’t reason with someone like Gimpo. He thinks things up and goes and does them. No Discussion. No Explanation.
I had decided to leave him to it for now. For various reasons Tim, who usually drives the van for the whole 25 hour M25 Spin, was unable to make it this year. Sharon, who handles Navigation and supplies while Tim is at the wheel, was stuck in Guatemala with no money for a plane ticket. Todd, who looks after the website www.GimpoGimpo.com was in New Jersey, I already had several messages from him asking “What the fuck’s going on?”
Did I know what was going on? Can anyone know what’s going on in Gimpo’s mind? I managed to speak to Tim, he had been in touch with the man himself. Gimpo had made a start, but had only got half way round. Tim was worried about progress. Gimpo hadn’t got very far and Tim had been questioning Gimpo at length. “Half a lap? What are you doing? Selling Ice Cream? Get a move on, there’s work to do” It seemed to me that Gimpo was having technical problems. Gimpo was driving his own car this year in an attempt to do the M25 Spin solo for the first time. This might all sound pretty good, but the reality was a little different.
The CD player was broken in Gimpo’s car and the radio doesn’t really do it these days. Gimpo had fixed up the video camera with cable ties, and had a stock of blank mini DV tapes at the ready. But, there were a few other issues that hadn’t been thought through. You cant drive and text can you? You cant drive and take pictures can you? You cant drive, take pictures, text, answer the phone, send emails or reply to requests can you? So what was Gimpo to do? He was already on the M25 spin. Solo. No support. And how was he going to document the event? He had stopped at Clacket Lane Services to discover this was going to be a long and complicated day. He had an iphone, with a SIM card, which gave him free internet access but the camera on his Nokia phone was better. For some reason the Nokia wouldn’t send emails so Todd wasn’t going to get any picture updates for the website.
I rang Gimpo, as time was moving on, to find out what he was up to. Gimpo would not be stopped by anyone. Gimpo was doing the M25 spin and he would do it solo with or without anyone knowing about it. I had to go, it was nearly 3pm, the band needed to be in hereford for 6pm. I told Gimpo I would come and find him when I got back after the gig. He would have to go it alone till then.
3pm arrived and I found myself collecting a band, who are being managed by one of the few capable music management companies I know. They look after Madness, so no joke, they are going to do good things with this lot. The band are actually a singer and songwriter with a great voice who plays the guitar and goes under the name of “Tenterhook,” he’s 19. He works with some other musicians who play drums, guitar, bass and keys. The van was loaded and by 3.15pm we were on the road, to Hereford. The gig was just like any other I’ve been to. Headliners took for ever getting their soundcheck done, they didn’t really speak to anyone and then vanished. The lot I was with sound checked and agreed last details like set order, start and finish time, and made a start on the limited rider provided by the venue staff.
By now there was a long list of messages and emails asking what the fuck was going on? Where was Gimpo? Was he ok? What did I know? Had I heard anything? The Spin was on, nobody needed to know. Gimpo was at the wheel and with that thought in mind, it’s probably better not to know what’s going on.
“Tenterhook” didn’t go onstage till much later than planned. The band had a good one, it was their first gig and the applause gave the band the endorsement they were hoping for.
Outside the band members gathered to load the van while people came out of the the venue to chat and find out who they were, and where they had come from. It was their first gig together.
On the way back to London the beers opened, and the talk poured over the gig and what had just gone on. The band knew how much work was ahead but it seemed like a good start to the process.
I dropped the band back at 5am and taxis were waiting to take people home from the meeting point. “Where are you going now, where are you staying?” came the inevitable question. I unloaded the gear and handed it to the exhausted band members. “Don’t ask, you don’t want know” was my reply. I could see there were a load of messages that had come in on my phone while I was driving back from Hereford. I dared not even look till the van was parked, the gear unloaded, and the band already gone.
The phone was full of madness. I called Gimpo and found him at Clacket Lane Services. He had just pulled in to try and send some pictures to Todd. No change there then. I suggested we meet at Cobham services, only 30 minutes further round, to talk through what was going on.
I arrived at Cobham around 6am having dropped the splitter van back to DYC Touring on the way. The parking at Cobham is free for 2 hours then its £25 for up to 24 hours. As I despaired at the parking situation Gimpo arrived, “Don’t worry about parking Mark, lets book a meeting room for £8 the parking is free with that” I wasn’t about to try booking a meeting room at 6am on a sunday morning. Neither of us looked in any way believable and if we booked a meeting room and then vanished it may generate suspicion. We defaulted to the only option available, a cup of tea from Greggs and a meeting in the comfy chair area to work out what sort of plan might be possible under the circumstances.
Gimpo started emptying his pockets of leads, head phones, charger cables, car keys, phones and assorted other items. He explained the problem. “Ive got this iphone but you need two hands to work the camera. This Nokia has a better camera, and you can work it one handed, but I can’t get it to work. I can’t send emails to Todd.” I looked at both and tried to have a go at getting the Nokia to work. It was full of pictures, but no, the internet wasn’t working and I couldn’t work out how to get it to send and receive.
We finished the tea and returned to the vehicles. Gimpo spoke first. “Lets drop your car off on the A3, I know a place where Bill and Jimmy took a load of Journalists in the middle of the night. Ockham Common, It’s where we showed the money nailed to a piece of wood”. Back to reality, that sounded like a great idea even if no one would even remember or believe the basis upon which the suggestion had been made. I digress. I refused to pay £25 to park my car, that’s a waste of money isn’t it? I followed Gimpo back onto the M25 and just one stop further on we turned off onto the A3 and headed south for a few minutes. On the left is Ockham woods and there’s a car park with free parking. I parked my car and took what valuables I had with me. The early morning doggers looked on as Gimpo explained at length and in detail about his previous visits with Bill and Jimmy. I listened with interest as the story poured out and I transferred my stuff to Gimpo’s car. I didn’t have to time to think about the rest.
In a few minutes Gimpo was back on the M25 and the Spin continued. Gimpo looked worn out but determined. This was his M25 spin, he was the artist here, and no one was going to stop him. This was his first solo M25 spin. The phone rang and Gimpo activated his hands free set, it was Tim. Tim sounded like he was checking in to be sure that nothing had gone wrong, Gimpo passed the phone across. “Hi Mark, is everything all right?” he asked. Tim and I chatted a while longer and I handed the phone back. Gimpo continued on with the story about the phone, versus camera, versus driving solo problem. And then Tim was gone, and the spin continued.
Next up was “Give Peas a Chance” Bridge, just north of J16 where the M25 crosses the M40. We headed North while Gimpo endlessly flipped from one radio station to the next, attempting to find anything worth listening to, whilst broadcasting his irritation at the fact the cd player was broken and he had no “modern music” to listen to.
Gimpo drove at a steady 56 miles an hour. “The price of bloody fuel these days Mark, it’s a rip off” He said. “The spin gets more and more expensive every year, the only thing I can do is drive at what the car manual says is the most economical speed. 56 miles an hour. It’s not a race.”
Gimpo turned off at J23, South Mimms, he wanted to get some fruit juice and have a driving break. He parked up and as we both walked into the services he spotted four “Beat The Street” double decker tour buses parked up. “That’ll be Elton John or some other shit I bet” he said. “Who do these people think they are?”
Once inside I got a dissertation on the pros and cons of Krispi Kreme Donuts and Gimpo’s theory on who buys them, how, and why.
Back outside Gimpo showed me how he had stuck his signs to the roof of the car with gaffer tape. Only the truck drivers or bus passengers would see. We got back in the car and Gimpo set to work labelling and loading the next tape to go in the video camera. We headed back onto the M25 and I got the full account of Spin Island, the only island on the M25. Gimpo wants to plant an Argentinian Flag on it. He says he’d like to buy it and give it to the owners of Stott Hall Farm, between J22 and J23 on the M62. The story goes they refused to sell up and move house when they built the M62 Motorway over the Pennines so by rights, they should have spin Island too. Gimpo says there’s a hot spring on Spin Island. That’s why they had to split the motorway to go around it.
Onwards through a couple of tunnels then it was up over the Queen Elisabeth Bridge. Traditionally the spin starts at midday on the Saturday, top dead centre on the Queen Elisabeth Bridge. Descending on the other side Gimpo only uses Toll booth number 23. Gimpo paid the toll and as the barrier went up it was almost exactly 9am.
Next stop was Clacket Lane Services, “Doggers Delight!” Gimpo declared. “They put a rat trap in the hedge just there but the rat dug a hole underneath it.” More fruit juice and a quick driving break before moving on to Cobham and the lap was completed. Gimpo still couldn’t find anything to listen to on the radio. He switched it off in despair. “Where’s Tim?” he shouted, “He always has the music, we need Tim here to put the music on.”
Gimpo explained he wanted to do the last lap by himself so he dropped me back to my car. A committed artist. I collected my car and followed Gimpo back onto the M25. Some things just can’t be explained. Gimpo is making the worlds longest road movie. He wants to know where the M25 goes. His plan is to drive round the M25 every year on the closest Saturday night/Sunday morning to 21 March each year for 25 years. Gimpo has 7 years left to completion.
I looked across at the other drivers as they passed by on their way to nowhere, circling the nation’s capital. Another ruin of a world city. Gimpo was ahead at a steady 56mph, unmoved in his commitment to the work. Who would know who was in the car in front? An artist alone at work. An artist without a name or a country. An artist who has nothing in common with you. An artist filming the world’s longest road movie in an attempt to find out where the M25 goes. An artist with no gods and no masters. The M25, the London Orbital Motorway, 117 miles of open road where Gimpo is the artist. One man, just getting into it for himself.
Mark – Iron Man Records. 2014