Saturday, 27 May 2017

Working Out

Colin was showing off, not a feature of his normal behaviour, but encouraged by the prospect of a picnic on the shores of Lake Vyrnwy. It is in his upbringing, you understand. His parents took him, at a far too tender age, to Australia (not something to inflict upon your loved ones, but maybe times were hard) and I suppose memories of billabongs and girls called Matilda had stimulated some sort of instinctive calling in him and, there he was, at the side of the lake with the full kettle boiling over the fire.

He was laid out with an arm supporting his head and the other moving languidly from his mouth as he smoked his roll-up to the middle distance where he gesticulated to embellish some finer point of his argument. The subject of the discussion was whether one needed to explain to people precisely what one meant by the rather vague word cold, or whether bleeding hell or geeee was in fact succinct enough for most of the assembled company. His mate with whom he was having this discussion of semantics was, I thought, in a somewhat better position to make accurate assessments about the situation, as he was at that moment up to his Y-fronts in Lake Vyrnwy itself.

"Don't piddle in that,” someone said, ”it supplies the whole of Liverpool with water.” I said. ”My aunty lives in Liverpool.” ”Well, there you are then.” 'I'm not going to piddle in it," he replied, but all doubted him. It was rather cold and that seems to have an adverse effect upon one's holding capabilities, besides I sensed he was rather ambivalent about the people in Liverpool.

Colin’s kettle slowly boiled and a great lumbering group of men, each looking like a fat old walrus with their moustaches and shiny black leather rumps, lay like a beached colony, contentedly watching Dave as he continued to stand in the freezing cold water. The ruder parts in his Y-fronts slowly receded into some warmer part of themselves and the prospect of his peeing grew more and more remote with each passing moment.

They were at peace The bikes were on their stands, gleaming in the light up above us at the roadside. No one had had a moment’s trouble and everyone was in fine humour. Colin made the tea. i tried to think what it was about the runs that I enjoyed, tried to pin it down. Enjoy was the wrong word for a start. The riding was exhilarating, throwing my leg over the bike and just knowing that I'm off gives me a special thrill, a sort of revenge on the commonplace.

The ride, that was like going on a ghost train, one minute caught in reality — job, house, routines, bills — the next a ride into an adventure, but not like a ghost train with the frightening faces and creepy cobwebs. On the bikes, round corners, infinite sky then suddenly a marvellous vista, a glimpse of the countryside with tiny villages clustered like sweets in the palm of your mother’s hand when you were a child.

Then on, into the depths of gloom, the clouds black, the mountains rising up like tombstones, the excitement, the smell of it (getting stuck behind the Scott and the smell of Castrol R up your nostrils). The thrill of it as the stand scrapes around the bends, that sense of riding round a right-hander where your buttocks lean this way and than that way and you made it. The bike wound open, held in check and then let fly again, the power of it, flipping this way and that.

”if you’ve enjoyed it this far,” said Mike, ”just wait until you see the afternoon route.” And he wasn’t mistaken. The countryside was breathtaking. Along the shores of the lake, dipping and weaving on the narrow roads between the hedges and then riding along the contours of the mountain where the sheep totter precariously on the steep outcrops, watching with their baleful eyes. the valleys below bathed in sunlight.

We rode to Bala and stopped for ice cream, and within seconds old boys were round the bikes, delighted with the opportunity to talk about their experiences on the Beezer or Triumph, glad to be able to identify with what they saw, instead of frightened and intimidated as they were with the modern stuff. You try explaining to some old boy about the Kawasaki racing green and his eyes go cloudy. Bikes were never supposed to be that colour.

Some other bikers came over, their modern bikes standing as proud (and as large) as bulls at a stadium; their power as potentially as lethal. And these macho guys took photos of us. There is always great respect for the individual, doesn’t matter what bloke you meet, if he's on a bike you can bet he’ll be OK.

Admittedly. some of the polish and pose brigade in the vintage movement can seem a bit prosaic, but stick them back on a bike and let them ride it and all the stuffiness is gone as quickly and as suddenly as the houses and towns behind them.

I watched the young guys on their modern Jap stuff and it was so obvious what the fatal attraction was. Then I looked at the guys I was with and saw that they were fifty and sixty. some of them, wrinkled, worn, tubby but only for a little while They grasp those handlebars. kick up the stand, their leg goes over and all you see is those eyes gleaming.

Even with the full face helmets that some of them wear. you can still detect the distinct leer of gratification. the delight of the anticipated pleasure. They are young bucks again and they are the same as any kid on an FZR.

Wendy Oldfield-Austin

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