“I could sit back and enjoy the views.” So writes Sarah Hague, known aka St Bloggie de Riviere.
And she’s not talking balcony in sunshine with a glass to hand. She’s writing biking – riding pillion on a motorbike for two hours on backroads. Presumably bendy, twisty backroads. A thought that makes me sit down swiftly in a four-legged, stable, stationary armchair. For I am a two-wheeled travel wimp.
The bicycle was bad enough, with it’s hard, intrusive saddle, perpetual punctures and violent brakes. But it was a daily necessity during my teenage years for travelling to and from school, and more importantly, to the stables. This was nothing, though, compared to the nightmare of the Lambretta owned by a hefty girl where I worked. With references showing she had worked as PA to the Beatles, she landed the plum job as secretary to the General Manager, who spent his working week playing golf, leaving her to deal with his correspondence and spend the rest of the day reading. She was held up as a model of efficiency, and never had he had more free time. She was known, rather unkindly, as Large Miss Wonderful.
One Saturday lunchtime she offered me a lift home on her scooter. For a few minutes I felt rather racy in my mini-dress, sitting nonchalantly on the back as we weaved our way through Nairobi’s traffic. Ahead, the traffic policeman stood on his raised platform, khaki shirt and shorts, puttees, red fez. As we approached, he raised his arm into “Stop” mode. Large Miss Wonderful had turned her head to say something, and didn’t notice the car ahead of us had stopped until we were about to crash into it. She jerked the Lambretta around sharply, and it tipped onto its side, depositing us both on the hot tarmac. The policeman blew a whistle loudly and waved his arms wildly, attracting attention to where we lay. LMW heaved and writhed until she freed herself from the machine where it lay upon us. She hoisted the Lambretta upright, and I scrambled up with as much dignity as was possible with the mini-dress rucked up around my waist. Back we climbed and set off again, and as we approached a corner I was sure the machine would tip over again, so with all my 6 stone weight I leaned as hard as I could in the opposite direction. LMW shouted something as she fought to make the turn, and never offered me a lift again.
After she left the company, her replacement noticed a large bump beneath the carpet in the office. Pulling it back revealed several hundred unopened letters.
Later, a rather handsome Greek boy invited me out to dinner. Dressed to the nines, mini-skirted and stiletto-heeled, my heart sank when he roared up on a motorbike. But handsome Greek boys were scarce, so hoiking up the skirt I climbed aboard. Off we thundered. I clung to his jacket like a limpet to a rock. As we approached the first bend, I anticipated and leaned out of it, using all my strength to pull him upright, as he tilted the machine at a perilous angle. When we reached the restaurant he asked if I’d enjoyed the ride. No, I said, not very much. Could he please keep the bike upright on the way home. He chuckled and advised me to wrap my arms around him very, very tight and go with the flow. I tried, but it wasn’t for me, handsome Greek or not. My naked knees seemed to almost touch the ground as we took the bends. I wrenched at his jacket and leaned away from the bends. He didn’t ask me out again.
Years later, I went riding on a pacer. For non-horsy readers, a “normal” horse trots on the diagonal, so whichever front leg is going forward the diagonally opposite hind leg is also going forward, while the other diagonal is earthbound. A pacer moves differently, with both legs on the same side going forward at the same time. That old familiar feeling overcame me. We were going to fall over. Once again I found myself trying to apply my weight to counterbalance the horse.
There’s something unnatural about turning a corner at 45°. It’s like sitting on a chair with only two legs.
So chapeau! St Bloggie. Nice gold lame knickers, too.
- The Importance Of Being Upright (epicahealth.com)
- Travels on a Lambretta (lambrettista.net)
- Lambretta Record Racer (dailyicon.net)
- Lambretta World Land Speed Record Scooter (lambrettista.net)
- The Scooter Diaries (lambrettista.net)
- France: 10 hours endurance race at Magny-Cours (vesparade.wordpress.com)