Sunday, 17 June 2007

Mods Hit the Road

A Vespa Sportique. Even Gordon Brown couldn't create a greater swing to the right

Just received an unexpected comment on the blog from Andrew Greenwell, an old friend from nearly 40 years ago. Andy and I went to the same school - Aldridge Grammar - so it'd be interesting to know if he emerged from its strange view of reality as twisted as I did. The English teacher was an American, and the woodwork teacher had a bizarre line in sadism - known as the Titchenor Knock. This involved being summoned to the front of the class. "Cherub" would then mug extravagantly at the expectant throng before driving his knuckle vertically down to the top dead centre of the cranium. No wonder we developed behavioral anomalies.

Following school we both ended up as apprentices at Birlec, where the training school was run by a failed sergeant major irresistably reminiscent of Fulton McKay in Porridge. I took Andy on the back of my Lambretta down to the clocking-in station. This thing was the ultimate in 1968 chic. Front and rear crash bars, flyscreen, backrest, even an aerial with a fur tail at the top.

I gave the scooter a fistful of throttle and about 12hp of raw Italian power kicked in as, with razor precision, I laid the machine over on its silencer box. This was called scraping. What followed was called falling off. Given that I was easily the most talented Lambrettist in the northern hemisphere, I blamed Greenwell for his mediocre pillion skills.

I'd previously sold Andy a 1964 Vespa Sportique, a 60s icon maybe, but certainly the absolute nadir of man's design insight. You see, when the Vespa designers first laid out their new masterpiece, they forgot to leave space for an engine. So they put it in the right hand side panel. Now this thing has to balance on two wheels, so what did they put in the left hand side panel? Nothing. Nada. Naff all. Vespas were unbeatable at turning right, but entering a roundabout took some skill.
So, Andy, my 38-year-late apologies. I sold you a scooter with the poise and balance of Stephen Hawking auditioning for Riverdance. Then I treated you to 30 feet of gravel-rash.
It was good to hear from you.

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