Nun on a Harley - Bikers: game for anything and afraid of nothing Image
Motorbike Miscellany

Nun on a Harley - Bikers: game for anything and afraid of nothing

When I was presenting the Channel 4 TV series called “Fortean TV” back in the late nineties, I never knew what wildly unusual ideas the Director would come up with next. We went to haunted houses; we filmed haunted castles; made programmes about hypnotic dogs; we recorded conversations between cats and experts who claimed they could speak cat as if it was a real language. We took on miniature skeletons that were allegedly cursed.

Image of Floating Nun

Our Director had a pretty sound idea that most bikers were game for anything – and afraid of nothing. He also suspected that most bikers shared a way-out sense of humour — like mine. I think he had that right too! So with a biker-presenter, who was also a martial arts instructor, the Director felt confident that there was practically nothing he couldn’t do. Maybe he also knew about the wide range of first-class replacement bikes available from Webuyanybike in case I needed one.

“Fortean TV” specialised in unsolved mysteries – but they were often the weird and wacky kind – and they were usually tinged with black humour. One day, the Director heard about the strange mystery of the Floating Nun who meditated in water at the Wat Than Mangkon Temple in Kanchanaburi in Thailand. Quite how the apparent mystery was worked, no one was sure at the time. Maybe a load of salt or sugar was dissolved in the water where she floated ever so calmly as she meditated. Maybe it was a genuine miracle. She certainly looked more as if she was lying on a mattress in the temple grounds than lying on her back in a big pool of water – but the evidence was there.

This deeply religious lady dressed all in white robes floated effortlessly on her back as she meditated.

Once my Director had got the idea of a floating nun and a rough and ready biker-presenter locked firmly together in his mind, he just had to think up a script that would involve nuns and bikes. It struck him as totally incongruous – and therefore funny – to think of a nun roaring around perched on the back of my Harley. Whether she was supposed to meditate at the same time was another matter. All he could think of was a nun sitting behind me with a crash helmet perched on top of her habit.

Broad-minded and accommodating as many modern nuns are – brave girls willing to take unselfish risks to help a good cause such as buying food and medicine for those in need – we couldn’t find a real, live nun to put on a crash helmet and leap on the pillion. Bikers are well into charity too.

An Attempt To go To Thailand

That was when I had what I thought at the time was a great idea. I tried to persuade my Director to take the film crew and me to Thailand. To try to persuade the floating nun at the Wat Than Mangkon Temple in Kanchanaburi to dry off and climb up on to the back of my Harley. He seemed to be wavering when the accounts department said “No!” so loudly that they could have been heard in Kanchanaburi. But I still think it was a great idea!

Image of Floating Nun on a motorbike

The Director’s last resort was to hire an attractive young actress. Who was more than willing to put on a nun’s costume, crash helmet and leap upon the pillion. As far as I can recall, her first comment, while we were filming, was: “Please can we go faster?” So I did my best to oblige. I love speed! I’d only been taking it steadily for her sake! The engine roared. The tyres smoked. I was enjoying myself. She was delighted. The Director was satisfied – an unusual condition for him. We also got good feedback from viewers when that particular episode went out.

To this day, I’m not sure whether the nun in Thailand floats miraculously. Or, as a consequence of lying on the salty water. I'll always remember filming episode she was featured.



13 Feb 2012

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