This morning I had the great privilege of spending time in Richard Smith’s workshop, getting to know more about Smith-Watkins, the instruments, Richard’s scientific research and of Derek’s part in the company.
Most intriguing were Richard’s experiments into brass instrument performance, especially the revelation to me that it was not necessary for any air to pass through the instrument for it to make a sound. The vibration of the lips is causing the air within the tube to vibrate, with a bell taper to amplify the sound. This was demonstrated with a modified mouthpiece on a trombone, containing a membrane and an exhaust for air to escape side wards from the mouthpiece. It blocked air from going through the instrument whilst maintaining a vibration from the lips through the membrane. The trombone sounding was therefore proof that air going through the instrument is actually not a requirement, but that the air is the fuel for the vibration.
Another interesting experiment was where Richard had attached microphones at the nodal points on the instrument. With this he was able to detect the natural resonances of the instrument whilst being played. Along with Derek, he was able to prove that ‘super C’ does actually exist as a note on the instrument with a natural resonance like any other natural harmonic below it. Until then it had been thought no true notes existed beyond the limits of a high C. Although it is small the note exists as a true resonance, not just a squeak as some thought.
This morning was also a time to remember the brilliance of Derek Watkins. He is truly one of the great all time trumpet players of his particular specialism. There cannot be many greater respected studio lead players, and not many that can also play such wonderfully melodic solo lines as well. His stamp is on every James Bond film made to date, but he also had such versatility – if you are a brass player and haven’t heard his album ‘First Brass’ with Allan Botchinksy, go and listen to it. This is also brilliant… (so is the suit!).
Richard Wright, the other member of the production team, then demonstrated some of the work in process. All but the components requiring specialist production techniques are made from raw brass tube on site. The bell flares and valve blocks are ordered to specification. Richard demonstrated how each of the lead pipes are constructed to exact measurements, by pulling the tube over a precision manufactured mandrill by hydraulic action. Cornet leadpipes are then shaped around a jig. There is a ‘no-bling’ approach to the manufacture – all the attention to detail is in the performance of the instrument.
I got chance to try some of these instruments for a while too. The soloist model cornet comes with interchangeable leadpipes, which along with the mouthpiece changes the sound and response of the instrument to suit a variety of purposes Eg. brass band/wind band/orchestral cornet playing. Unfortunately having been on a bike for a week I wasn’t in the best shape to be judging these differences too well so the tests were short lived. I decided to give up on this before it was too embarrassing! Back to the practice room in force next week then!
By noon it was time to start thinking about getting back to the trail. I’m afraid this is where I cheated slightly. Having already cycled the 30+ miles from Selby to Sheriff Hutton I decided that the return trip was an unnecessary step too far on the final day, and one which may lead to failure in reaching Hull in good time (another 30 miles from Selby) or possibly even at all. Richard agreed to run me down to Selby to pick up the trail for the big finale. This turned out to be a great enough challenge in the state I was, experiencing quite a bit of discomfort on the saddle by now as well as sheer exhaustion of 6 days straight long-distance off-road cycling. I was happy to come to this compromise. It meant I should finish as planned, I wouldn’t miss out any of the trail, and it would give me more time to spend at Richard’s place, soaking up as much knowledge as I could.
So the grand finale began. The East Riding isn’t known for inspiring landscapes, but at least it was flat. Some of the trail here was flat and straight to the point of being tedious. Landmarks seemed to come in the form of church spires, each a few miles apart and clearly visible from one another. Within a few hours I had made it to the banks of the Humber. A few miles around the corner from here was my first sight of the Humber Bridge, looking like a gigantic finishing line on the horizon at last.
There are some very attractive small villages amongst this bleak landscape. I stopped in Welton for dinner and a water refill, which had a quaint village church and duck pond. A little further on was the fairly affluent village of Ferriby, where I would again pick up the riverside path and my final approach to the Humber Bridge.
I was unprepared for the tide of emotion that would hit me as I came into view of the clear path to the bridge. It was a majestic sight anyway, but because it marked the end of an emotional 250 mile journey I have no shame in admitting I couldn’t help but burst into tears of total joy. It dawned on me here that despite a number of ‘dislocated expectations’, I had achieved everything I had set out to do. Plans had been scrubbed and new ones kicked into action, contingencies had been made and my luck had well and truly been ridden. Cycling towards that bridge will be a long lasting memory, a moment where I felt a real accomplishment was being achieved.
I was shedding tears of pride, not just for what I had done over the past week but because I had also been so well supported. From my family, close friends and all the people I met along the way, I had felt true selfless generosity. The messages that kept me going, the kindness shown by the hoteliers in helping me store and clean the bike, the selflessness of the man who appeared in the remoteness of Charlesworth when I needed him most, all the bandsmen who had willingly given a few minutes to pause for a photograph, the two Richards at Smith-Watkins who went out of their way to help in many ways, the lady on reception at Shafton school who looked after the bike and helped me find my phone when I was exhausted and confused… all these tiny moments of generosity had made the difference in my journey and I was proud to have rewarded them with a successful conclusion to my mad adventure.
Four miles on from the bridge, I had ridden on and in to Hull. I had booked myself a deluxe room in the Mercure Royal which backed onto the train station. and I would be able to roll out of bed and onto the platform in the morning! I took advantage of the situation by ordering a bottle of red wine and a cheese board platter to nibble on whilst I soaked in the final post-ride bath of the tour – my first sip of alcohol in over 2 weeks. Turns out I needed little over half a glass to send me off to sleep, but it kept well for the celebration on my return to London!
The journey might have finished, but the fundraising effort continues. My fundraising page is open until the end of September. I’ve done my bit, now it’s your turn. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this please consider donating at www.virginmoneygiving.com/tptsolo