“Gotta Have One O’ Them!”

I’m looking across the roughly dug allotment plot wondering if it isn’t all just a waste of time. Too, too late, of course: we’ve just paid the allotment rents for another year in one of those rush of blood to the head moments; all fire, plans and enthusiasm. None of which is there as I lean awkwardly on my spade. Predictably my elbow slips and I smack myself on the chin in a most undignified manner. Thankfully nobody seems to be watching.

Back at home, inside a centrally heated room, looking out at the heaving-with-mating-toads pond last night, everything was going to be so simple. Rake out the soil, level it off, sprinkle some lime, line out the rows …

In those marvellous trouble-free visions there hadn’t been a biting late February wind and Storm Doris had never been conceived, then arrived and shattered and distributed three quarters of the greenhouse glass across neighbouring plots, driving one thumbnail sized shard into the side of a shed at eye-level. And the soil had obeyed even the slightest nudge from the hoe blade which sparkled pristinely in the heavenly spring sun. The sun which, this morning, was nowhere to be seen, being masked by racing clouds which every now and then leaked showers of lacerating hurled at the face raindrops.

I had managed to use boards salvaged from skip-dived pallets to make a reasonably – to my eyes, at least – level edging to the plot, neatly, for a while at least, containing the soil and anticipated crops. And I’m in the middle of consuading* myself that the edge actually is spot on when I am joined by a neighbour: Stewpot.

“Nothing like a straight edge to set the plot off well, is there?” he asks, politely, patting me on the shoulder, smiling when I shake my head.

“ … and, er, that is nothing like a straight edge is it?”

Did I think he was being polite? Just a moment ago?

But this banter is the stuff of allotment relationships. At least here, in this part of the UK. Staffordshire that is.

“Well,” I reply, “I was always told nature abhors a straight line!”

“Well ,Nature would be right comfortable on your plot then I reckon.” Suddenly there are three of us; Biker Bob has wandered over. Is looking over my shoulder, squinting, smiling broadly.

Bob and Stewpot have never met: I do the introductions. There is talk about Storm Doris (of course there is, this is England and, as an Italian friend of mine says “it is no surprise you talk about the weather, you ‘ave so much of it!”).

Mobile phone cameras are used to show photographs (and a video) of the wind in action. This technology is truly amazing isn’t it.

Stewpot confesses that he’d love to have a motorbike: preferably a race replica that’ll do nought to sixty in science fiction times and sound like a beast!

But with a partner expecting a child in about six weeks he realises it’s a dream that’ll have to wait.

“Rubbish!” puts in Bob, “you want one, get one now.”

“If they say no, it’s too dangerous then do what my neighbour did. Since he was thirteen he’d wanted a motorbike. Kawasaki’s were the thing then: green meanies we called ‘em. Shit-hot on the tracks but all of ‘em standard green. Bit like your Model T Fords. Any colour … as long as it’s black.”

“His mom said it was too dangerous; his dad’d come off one and had to have a leg amputated. Kept the bikes he did, but had to adapt the controls and had a helluva job balancing for a while. Yu can imagine!”

Then he was sweet on this girl and she wouldn’t ride one ‘cos it’d mess her clothes …”

“… and, if you’re not careful – actually even if you are careful – one thing leads to another and, like him you’re a grandfather and you don’t know where the time went.”

“So, now he’s ready to get a motor bike.”

“But what about the grandkids,” says his daughter, and don’t be so bleedin’ daft says his wife and his mates down the pub laugh and talk about incontinence. So he tells ‘em he’s changed his mind; that he wants a micro light instead. Buys himself a voucher on some web-site thingumajig and they all troop off to the old airfield. It was busy in the Second World war but it’s a massive out of town warehouse site now, like so many of ‘em.”

The find he place. A blister hanger left over from the War. Filled, floor to roof with wings, frames, tools, cabling, karabiners, a couple of broken propeller blades, helmets, sick bags and about twenty certificates in frames on the wall.

Turns out this guy has been a world champion. Stunting, film work, a dozen or so crash landings that he confesses to and a smile as wide as the Amazon in flood.

His daughter takes the pilot guy to one side, gives him the be-careful –with-my- dad spiel. Adds “he’s too old to be doing this kind of thing really but he wanted to try …”

Next thing he knows he’s suited up, sitting in a canvas seat with his butt near-scraping the ground and heading towards a fence at a rate of knots. Then he remembers he can still breath and air whooshes out between his pursed lips. The front lifts up and the fence, the ground, the roads are falling away below him … and he loves it!

He gets talking, over this inter-com thingy to the pilot. Fact is, they get on like the proverbial house on fire. He gets told about the daughter’s “word in your ear” and can’t resist it:

“What can this thing really do?” he’s asking, eagerly.

So he gets thrown through a couple of curves and to cap it all off – a wild, exhilarating loop the loop. He can’t believe he’s actually asked for it, let alone done it: but he has. When they land on the ground his family’s faces are carved from thunder clods; if looks could kill the pilot would be six foot down and long forgotten.

“Gotta get one of them !” he keeps repeating on the silent drive home, “gotta get one of them for myself!”

Next birthday his family buy him …

… a motor bike!





 * That’s a little more than persuasion, with a large dose of con-trickery thrown in (of course!).


4 responses to this post.

  1. If you didn’t have a plot, where would you get your stories??


    • Absolutely correct, a little observation, some dramatic licence … Hope you got as much pleasure from reading it as I did from putting it together.


  2. That’s very funny! My boyfriend is presently trying to get me to pillion on his Harley, but I don’t like anything about motorbikes. Perhaps the solution is to do something insanely dangerous instead!


    • happy that you enjoyed reading it. last year our daughter, following her instinct and her partner, bought a 46 Rossi race replica 650cc (I think) bike.
      Some trepidation here, but …
      Wish you well.


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