Route: M2, Nelson – Burnley (full route is Colne – Clitheroe)
Operator: The Burnley Bus Company
Frequency: Every 30 mins (Mon-Sat); Every 2 hours (Sun)
Time: ~25 mins
Cost: £2.70 (-ish)
Date Of Trip: 23/6/18
Nelson was home to of one of the great lost bands of our time, a genre-mashing bunch of visionaries called Element, or latterly, tRANSELEMENt (they had to change their name due to a German metal band getting the funnies, if memory serves). Loved by John Peel, me and not many others, they swashbuckled their way through a few albums of oddball rock and did the decent thing by splitting up as soon as the last note was played on their ‘(______) Is Missing!’ album in 2004.
A masterpiece of a swansong, the album itself went missing for a few years, with a handful of three track promo CDs lending a tantalising glimpse of what could’ve been. It was quietly released as a free download in 2010 and more than exceeded expectations; tE occasionally meandering down paths that were a bit too outré even for my tastes, but this album caught them at their focused peak, including an incredible version of ‘Shipbuilding’ which somehow manages to rival Robert Wyatt’s perfect original.
They were also on the bill at the only music gig I ever put on. They turned up at The Witchwood in Ashton-Under-Lyne in furry orange suits and, befitting of such a stand-out sartorial choice, were incredible. Admittedly, there were only around 16 people in the room, but that was mostly down to Anti-Product, who were due to be headlining, very kindly pulled out of the gig just as we were going to bed the night before.
tRANSELEMENt frontman, Jay Stansfield, is still very much involved in making new music. All of it quality, of course, and you should definitely give him a follow on Twitter.
The First English Team To Beat Real Madrid Away
Nelson is a town which neatly intersects with one of my other saddo hobbies: non-league football. Founder members of Division Three North in 1921, Nelson won the division the following season, and embarked on a summer tour of Spain to prepare for life in Division Two.
You’d have thought that beating Real Oviedo (2-1) and Real Madrid (4-2) would’ve set them up perfectly, but they were relegated straight away to back from whence they came, which set the tone for their subsequent slide into quiet obscurity.
They’re now in the North West Counties League Division One North, playing at a ground the locals call Little Wembley. Its hallowed turf was graced until recently by Adnan Ahmed, a former pro with Huddersfield, Tranmere and Ferencvaros in Hungary, who doubled up as the captain of Pakistan’s national team, even while playing at Step 6 on the non-league pyramid.
Nelson is also the name of every English Bulldog, male or female. One of which I once saw disgrace itself on a pub’s carpet in Scarborough.
It turns out that the connection that we’d planned to get here only runs every couple of hours, so not jumping off for that impromptu pint in Barley has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works. Then again, it’s getting on for 1pm, so let’s crack on and hotfoot it over to Burnley on the M2.
It always seems a bit peculiar to have a route ‘number’ that starts with a letter, but we got on one in Southend once which was called the Diamond. Actually, it was just the shape of a diamond, a bit like Prince’s symbol, although shamefully, the X30 which now ploughs that particular course towards Chelmsford, isn’t called The Bus Formerly Known As Diamond.
Go-Go-Gadget Bike Arms
The highlight of the journey comes near enough as soon as we leave Nelson’s interchange. A man reclines in a low-ride push bike, which looks like a malevolent home brew experiment to cross-pollinate a Raleigh Chopper with a Harley Davidson.
His arms are fully extended, almost to Inspector Gadget lengths, to reach the handlebars which loom barely in reach diagonally above. It’s a battle to steer, and although a tiny engine behind the chair (it’s definitely not a mere seat) is going to make the pedal uphill along the A682 that bit less testing, the bike manages to achieve the rare trifecta of being uncomfortable, ridiculous and a danger to life all at once. I love it.
It’s a short four mile trip into Burnley which passes without incident, save for a toddler hassling her gran and trying to swipe away her glasses.
“Is she bothering you, Joan?” asks her dad, who thanks to there being standing room-only by time we get to Brierfield, is sat sideways behind the driver.
“To be honest, love, yeah.” comes the matter of fact reply, and they swap seats. Dad is unencumbered by spectacles, and gets through the remaining 15 minutes – which includes a short linger outside Burnley FC’s Turf Moor stadium – with the minimum of mither.
We’re homeward bound, but there’s plenty more adventuring to be done. We’re heading to Todmorden!