Thursday 29 March 2018

Unexpected Packages

Shortly after I bought my first motorcycle as a teenager I rode over to visit a friend. Turned out that they weren’t in but expected back shortly, so their father invited me in and offered me a cup of tea while I waited.

Along with the tea he brought along an old metal biscuit tin which turned out to be full of black & white photographs of old motorcycles and motorcycle racing. He’d seen the helmet and thought I might be interested. Needless to say, I was.

They were from meetings at race circuits and cafes all over the place, as well as the Isle of Man TT races, and a lot of them featured a much younger version of the elderly man standing in front of me, clad in a leather jacket and boots and sporting a rather natty rocker-style quiff. They were a veritable treasure trove of fifties biker culture and the British Motorcycle industry at the top of its game.

It turned out that his first job out of school had been to collect motorcycles for a local dealer in Aberdeen. In those days customers were expected to order a new bike, pay their money, and wait patiently on it being delivered to the dealers. As the north of Scotland wasn’t exactly a big market no one was going to deliver the odd bike all that way, so the shops were expected to make their own arrangements.

He used to get his mum to make him some sandwiches and a flask of tea and he’d catch the early train down to the factories in England and then ride the bike back home to Aberdeen. The bike should then be nicely run in and, after a quick service, it would be passed on to the lucky customer. 

This sounds great if you are getting the chance to ride big powerful bikes like Norton Commandos, BSA Gold Stars and Triumph Bonnevilles, but less so when you consider that most of the bikes would be a lot more pedestrian. I’m not sure that I’d fancy riding a small capacity Bantam over 400 miles on minor roads at riding-in speeds in all weathers in the days before helmets and decent waterproofs. Still, I’d assume that it beat working in a factory or going down a coal mine, the other options open to a young man in his position.

Needless to say, marriage and fatherhood put paid to his riding days, but he got all misty-eyed telling me the story and seemed to remember the period with fondness, or maybe it was his youth he was remembering?

(Not the *actual* photos, but a flavour of what was in that old biscuit tin)

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Van Van

Citroen Type H 600
 These vans seem to be the go-to vehicle for festival catering these days.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Thursday 22 March 2018

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Time To Get The Bike Out

Nearly a year gone by
and in the shed I spy
the bike, still and out of use,
unavailable for road abuse

Insurance lapsed, MOT expired,
no tax and partially rewired.
Can I show at the annual meet
without it and admit defeat?


Is this really the end?
surely not, old friend.
Memories of a neglected hack
slowly come swimming back...

Starting technique, full choke,
lots of noise, clouds of smoke.
Blurred mirrors, tinkling sound,
long silencer, close to the ground.

Curtains twitch, ‘It’s that old git’,
‘Do you think he is mentally fit?’
They don’t know, they can’t see
how nice a motorbike ride can be.

Red light, change down,
past the camera and out of town.
Twist the grip, through the gears,
visor down to stop the tears.

Bright weather, quiet domain,
pleasantly scared, twisty lane.
All the togs, whistling air,
of life’s worries not a care!

Three more miles, going well,
burnt two stroke, lovely smell.
The joy of biking far outweigh
no matter what neighbours say!

Words & illustration by Ian Douglas