Gladiator is on ITV2. The last time I watched it was New Year’s Eve on my brother’s mahoosive telly with surround-sound, in solitary splendour with a cheese bun and a bottle of Little Creatures beer. My brother and his children (who I am not allowed to mention) had gone to a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party somewhere else in Perth and I wasn’t back from picking up my replacement hire bike in time to go with them. I could have sat on the Chair that Must be Kept Clean but didn’t want to risk the children getting the blame for my crumbs. So I sat on the sofa with three remote controls lined up – one for the TV, one for the DVD and one for the hifi. In my family we are all about the gadgets.
Gladiator and my biking history are woven together more closely than this one occasion. The film came out in 2000, a time when I was struggling to find reasons to ride. The 10 miles between Chesham and Jarman Park, through Bovingdon and past the pub owned by a bobsleigh racer, were about as big an adventure as I could muster. Gladiator was the excuse for me to get on the Triumph. I may have gone more than once but that would make me look like a sad person so I won’t admit to that. The film plays fast and loose with history but it has awesome lines and it has Russell Crowe looking buff so I suspend my disbelief and enjoy it. Though these days I tend not to watch it all the way through. I watch the Battle of Carthage and stop after the fight with the tiger guy, when Maximus is still winning. And then I usually raise a glass to Oliver Reed for going out in such style.