by Jim Gillan


ĎMany thanks for your contribution. There has been some confusion about the Top Ten issue. This will be the end of the year freewheelin, i.e. December 2002, i.e. number 208 - to reach me by about 7th Jan. 2003. Hope that's OK. Keep up the words..í


The above is from a recent email that I received from He Who We Freely Wheel Around Ė aka The Wholly Spoke. But before attempting to address the monstrous task set by his hubness it seems particularly appropriate in this season of goodwill to acknowledge the work that John has put in to Freewheeliní. But how to do this? HA! Why not by observing a minuteís silence? OK, neither the printed page nor the Internet are vehicles that lend themselves to a respectful interlude, so can I suggest that instead we contemplate the following for the requisite sixty seconds?


Well, thanks for that. Iím sure John values our thoughts, however confused, as much as he does our (well, some of us) contributions. Whilst on the subject of the Spoke, itís also appropriate to pay tribute to his fortitude, as well as to the tolerance he extends to us scribblers, who between us embrace everything from the serious to the surreal, with possibly the odd (especially so in my case) element of the cerebral flung in for good measure. Anyway, to business.

Reading that email with eyes that could be gates to the sole, but which eighteen pints of Old Horizontal have rendered utterly legless, I pondered. The shattered matter that on 31 January 1998 passed at approximately seventy feet per second through a space some five feet above the Otley Road, Leeds, stirred and restlessly swirled. Slowly, from out of the miasma an IDEA took shape. It was a parallelepiped. Which as any fule kno is a prism whose faces are all parallelograms. And, for those who care but donít yet know, the volume of a three-dimensional parallelepiped is given by the scalar triple product. What the hell, itís ALL beyond me.

LISTS! Where would we be without them? An essential in every social and professional context, they are something we so routinely use that often we donít register their presence. But try getting through the day without them and see what happens! Chums, the brain canít function without them. Amongst many other things, a list brings order to chaos, helps establish methodology and is a powerful aide memoire. They are so commonplace that most times we take them for granted and, in doing so, too often reduce them to the absurd.

Todayís (29 December) Observer newspaper is jam-packed with lists. All of Ďem splendidly absurd, though some, notably those dealing with international affairs, are perhaps intended to be VERY SERIOUS INDEED. And IMPORTANT. Well, for sure, when the subject matter is the possibility of an attack on Iraq, or GWís musings on matters military, then the topic is indeed massively significant. Why, this time next year we may be either dead or listening very carefully to ĎA Hard Rainís a-Gonna Fallí. But human nature being what it is, I suspect that most folk are more worried about what to wear to the New Year party, and/or about Januaryís credit card bill.

Quite why even the terminally vacant (that reminds me, seasons greetings to Michael Gray) might be interested in someone elseís opinion of what constitutes best film/book/CD/holiday destination/fashion accessory/blah/blah of 2002 escapes me. OK, Iíll come clean. The idea of reading any Ďtop tení of the year/decade/millennium fills me with horror. But exceeding even that is the grotesque notion of contributing to one. Itís all too much. Iím off for a shudder. Well, what an amazing experience! No, not the shudder, fun thoí it is when it results in hair unkempt. I mean instead the following, which I overheard when a crack opened in my personal space-time continuum. This resulted from dropping the glass containing the 19th pint of Old Horizontal. Itís not just the Stones who had a nervous breakdown. I wonít try to write down all that I heard, as I may need material for a future opus gropus - opus (Lat) : any artistic work; gropus (Lat) : to search uncertainly (for inspiration).

Mr. Dylan, would you mind telling our readers what your favorite five books of the Old Testament areÖ

Iíll spare you Bobís exact response, but I suspect that you can guess. Now, at this point I need to make it clear that I do not expect others to share my views on Ďtop thingyí lists. In truth I prefer them not to. But not because Iím inherently anti-social, or have any notion that being out of the main stream is the better place. Nor do I think that Ďdifferentí is Ďbetterí, especially as one of the many follies of the human condition is to view Ďdifferenceí as a negative. All the entirely undesirable -isms can be traced to that, as can oppression, exploitation and conflict.

Well, perhaps itís all too serious, so as itís the Spoke who spake, Iíll give it a go. However I canít be doing with a time frame of just one year, as thatís an arbitrary step too far. So then, in no particular order, here we go with my TOP TIN OF THEN ĎTIL NOW...

Ballad of a Tin Man
No Tin Was Delivered
Tins Have Changed
Tinny Montgomery
Buckets of Rain

Hímmm. As puns go itís fairly excruciating of course, though Iím quite pleased with myself for working ĎBucketsí in to it. And yes, there are only five, but if you are so minded, they might all want thinking twice about. Actually they donít of course need any thought, since the opportunity cost of spending time on this nonsense is time lost to something more useful, or fulfilling, or simply entertaining. This list (and, I contend, all Ďbest ofí lists) manifestly fails all three tests.

As I write, Iím listening to Johnny and Jack singing This World Canít Stand Long. Good song, nicely interpreted by Bob. And, in itís own way a useful reminder that for all the frivolity, froth and festivity, not to mention the concerts, CDís and commentary, that it all takes place on a planet that is, sadly as ever, on the brink of Something Very Nasty Indeed.

Maybe it wonít make an iota of difference to audiences at any future shows if Baghdad burns whilst Bob sings. Or to know that whilst some scream with pleasure, elsewhere others scream in pain. Things can be different, though itís hard to see how real change can take place given the backdrop of vested interests, prejudices and egos that afflict so many, most particularly those who believe they have a destiny to fulfil. But it can be done.

Itís not enough to live in hope. Others canít do it for you and nor should they. We may not all be part of the problem, but we must all be part of the solution. Because we are all affected. And every gesture, however small, really does matter. There is an anti-war rally in London on 15th February.

Amnesty and others could use more support. There are Ministers, MPís and local Councillors to lobby. Letters to write. Attitudes and mindsets to change Ė so much to do that you may need to make a listÖWhat was it you wanted?


Bob DylanBob Dylan
His world is turned a little upside-down.