Friday, 28 January 2011

The Toughest Motorcycle In The World: Part One

 So, I'm out of work and shit out of luck.

Only one thing to do in these circs, hit the phone and try and dig myself out of this mess.
I spent a far from merry day calling every single parcel company I could think of. 
I begged and blagged, trying to get just a couple of days behind the wheel of someone elses truck. 
I knew that If I could get that break, my family would eat. 
Being a multi-drop parcels driver is an art. Its not trucking, but something else entirely. If you can steer with your knees, read a map, eat a burger and smoke a fag at the same time and have an innate sense of direction and can read a road (a skill biking teaches you) put in 12 hour days plus, then you can be a multidropper. Good ones are hard to come by.
I phoned TNT, City Link, Tuffnells, Nightfreight, Interlink, Parceline, Carryfast, Fed Ex and a dozen independents but was knocked back every time. There's a recession on. Parcel deliveries are down.
Everybody is hanging onto their jobs like grim death. (sound familiar?). 
Last of all I called Parcelforce.
Parcelforce, the parcels wing of Her Majesty's Royal Mail, never needed drivers.
The waiting list for what was back then a good, solid job for life with a pension from the Post Office was a mile long. 
It took interviews, aptitude tests and marriage to the managers ugly sister.

"Hello, is that Parcelforce Pontypridd?"
"Yes, can I help you?"
"I wondered if you were recruiting drivers?"
"Have you done it before?"
"Yeah, for about five years, I..."
"Can you come in tomorrow?"
"For an interview? what time?
"No, come in a six a.m. with your licence. Do you know Cardiff?"
"Yeah, er..."
"Great, see you then."

I turned up the following day and along with eight other blokes, found we had been the beneficiaries of an entire parcel depot's dishonesty.
What had happened was that the drivers in the depot had all been fiddling their parcels manifests, writing down that they were delivering more parcels than they had been, and getting a bonus for this non-work. 
Investigators had come in the day I phoned up and fired all but two - who hadn't been fired because they hadn't been at work when the manifests were checked, and who were walking around looking very nervous.
They gave me the keys to a Leyland 7.5 tonner. I cleared the days parcels by 1pm and came back for a second load.
Gord bless yer, yer majesty.
We were saved. £170 a week, plus bonus. 

The rusty Fiat Panda was on its last legs, though . 
The MOT was about to run out and I needed wheels, good ones, and fast. I put a month in, bought some grub, took two weeks wages, and started looking for a motorcycle.
And that was when I bought the toughest motorcycle in the world.

It's a sought-after title one would assume, and one would also expect it to be held by some overweight behemoth from BMW or Harley Davidson.  
But in my entirely biased opinion that title belongs to a mass-produced, 250cc four stroke parallel twin produced by Honda in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in their tens of thousands.  
And I'm biased because it was a Honda Superdream that kept a roof over our heads, heat in the radiators and food in the larder for two long cold winters, and one wet summer.
I hold the Arts Council, Kevin Costner and Whitney  Houston 100 per cent responsible for teaching me this.   
I had already owned a Honda Dream,  and this time I bought an  example of its upgraded model, a CB250NB Superdream, in black.
This 250cc motorcycle was incredibly  popular in the early 80s and  there were hundreds of them still running.
I paid £300 for one in pretty good nick, and it came with the decaying carcase of another to  be cannibalised for spares as required.
Well its not exactly a pre-unit Bonnie, Sporster or a 916, I admit. But bear with me...

Neat little bike, passable handling, moderately rapid if you threw it about – certainly quick enough for valley roads.
It wasn’t going to be raced, It was going to be blatted through Ogmore Vale, Tonyrefail, Llantrisant and Treforest each morning at stupid o’clock, and blatted back again in the early evening. It would do just fine… For six weeks…   

I should explain that I was stuck up at the top of a Welsh mining valley and it was a 25-mile ride to the Parcelforce depot every morning.  
The valley was stuck in a time warp, round about 1968. It really was the sort of place where you could leave your back door open without getting burgled, your car outside without locking it up, and there were more communists living there per head than there were in Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War.   
Then the Arts Council  arrived.
They splashed half a million converting a workman’s hall three doors down from me to a spanking    new arts centre, which was run by Bristol trendies. They would put on community plays and paint murals about how “terrible it is now the mines have gone”.
This was not an opinion that the former miners, who had paid off their miniscule mortgages with their redundancy payments really agreed with, as they were happily living “on the sick” with vibration whitefinger and what was euphemistically called  the “cough”, which was killing quite a lot of them, quite slowly.  
As my neighbour Tudor once said: “You wouldn’t get me underground again for a million pounds.”    

The Arts Council also opened a cinema in the hall – and the first film they showed was The  Bodyguard, with Mr Costner and Miss Houston.  
bunch of arse

The cinema was the only one at the time between Swansea and Cardiff and the opening night queues of local young scallies were huge.   
And I woke up the following  morning to find that some little cineaste bastard had decided to ride off on my Superdream after the show.    

But this was far from being the end of the story of Me and My Superdream. In fact, it was just beginning

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