I struggled to come to a decision about which car to include next in this series of posts.
I wanted to mention one which played a significant part in my life and that was proving difficult because, as I have said, I spent many years at sea and moving from one shore base to another when at home, so there was little point in owning a vehicle to leave it sitting idle for several months on end.
Which means I skip several years or so, until 1975/78 (ish), to continue these blog posts. Also, I am not writing about a car, but a Motorcycle.
You see, with me being away so often and for so long, I deemed it easier for storage and running costs, to buy an easily maintainable and reliable motorbike. Nothing fast or fancy, simply a small bike I could run errands with, pop down to the beach or for a run into the countryside, do a little shopping, commute and so forth.
£300 bought me a one-year-old Honda CB 200. A bargain.
For those who don’t know this model, it is a four-stroke, twin-cylinder, OHC, 2 valves per cylinder. 196cc, air-cooled, coil ignition, 5 speed, chain-driven, electric start, 124 mph high revving but very reliable roadster.
Now, back in the day, it was legal to ride up to a 250cc motorcycle without passing a motorcycle driving test. All you needed was to have ‘L’ plates displayed and off you went. That is precisely what I did.
After a few ‘test drives’, over the weekend; when I took the bike to the garages situated at the rear of my house, where I self-taught myself starting and stopping, getting used to the throttle, gears and breaks, I took the bike out onto the local roads in the part of the city I was living in. All was well and went without incident.
My next journey was one of around thirty-five miles. This involved driving out of the city, along a major route, skirting two towns and two villages before heading out into the countryside, along some narrow and twisty country lanes to a military installation, which never officially existed, at least not until it was decommissioned and sold off to a housing development company.
Anyway, this became the regular journey I made for several months, most times twice a day – there and back. I only had two incidents, both minor.
I only mention the first of these so you can laugh at me.
It was during a very cold and icy spell in December. I rode the bike that morning very cautiously, with due consideration for the weather conditions. It snowed during the night, a layer of fresh powder laying atop yesterdays melt, which was now a hidden sheet of ice.
As I approached the last couple of miles I needed to decide which of the possible two roads to take. Neither were main routes.
The first choice was to stay on the larger road and hope I could climb the steep hill and negotiate the final part, which was little more than a rough track.
My second choice was to use the smaller, twisting lanes. The advantage was, although longer in distance, this route skirted the hill, which I was concerned about due to the ice and only having two wheels.
I went with my gut instinct and took the back roads. I made the right choice, as I later learnt the hill route was closed due to the ice making it impassable. However, this also meant all the traffic heading west was diverted along the narrow lanes in the direction I was heading.
While I intended, when taking this route, to creep along at my own steady pace, I now had vans, cars and trucks moving far too slowly as they jostled to pass one another. I was managing fine, keeping a measured distance from the vehicle in front, until the whole line of traffic came to a halt.
Now, the bikers among you will know, once you come to a complete stop the rider must also contend with the weight of the bike along with its balance. To do this generally means taking the machine’s weight by bracing it with a leg. On ice, on a cambered road, this means the bikes centre of gravity alters, the tyres no longer have any grip and, on this occasion, neither did my well-placed boot.
The outcome is the bike slid out from under me and I hopped a couple of times before slipping and falling flat on my arse.
Righting a fallen machine on sheet ice is no easy task either.
Thankfully, the driver following me was patient. He smiled and nodded, letting me know he would wait for me to pick the bike up and get moving again and not mow me down. Although he declined to get out from the heated comfort of his car and help.
Personally, I think he found it the whole episode amusing and would, once at work, tell the tale of the biker taking several attempts to pick his bike up and then mount it and ride on. For myself, I felt I was auditioning for the Keystone Cops, stand up, grip the handlebars, pull, fall over. Do the same and with the bike halfway upright, the back wheel decides to slither off in another direction… and so on. All in the middle of a road with halted traffic, the drivers watching in amusement tinged with some annoyance of being delayed further. I admit it was one of the few time I have ever felt embarrassed.
Eventually, I managed to get back on the bike and complete my journey… but only in 1st gear. When the bike toppled the gear lever was bent upwards. meaning I could not select any other gear. Later that day, armed with a house brick and a hammer, I managed to straighten the lever, the intention to replace it once home.
I never did… because it worked better than before. The gear changes were easier, sweeter and more precise. This Luddite type repair proved effective enough to last the entire next few years I owned the motorcycle and, possibly many years after.
That’s the end of this week’s story.
So, I hear you asking, what has all that to do with writing?
Well, quite a lot really. I believe this tale proves at least two points.
The first is, many, probably most of us, are not trained writers. We have not a master’s degree in English literature, nor do we hold any journalistic diplomas. But we are writers and authors, professional ones at that and some of us hold a wealth of knowledge which simply cannot be taught in a classroom.
Just ‘doing it’ is very much how I first learnt to ride my motorcycle and then the following experience I gained from riding in snow and ice. I am now, by the way, an ‘A’ class driver (I have the certificates to prove it!)
So, achieving a high, professional standard of authorship is, I believe, within almost anyone’s grasp so long as they are willing to take the opportunity. Accepting they will fall off now and again but will get back on and complete the journey.
No one said it would be easy, comfortable, or without incident, but by golly, it is an awful lot of fun.
My second point is this; not everything in this world needs to be brand new and shiny. Often imperfect is as good, if not better. As was my Luddite repair to the gear lever.
Too often authors strive for literary perfection. While I’ll not say this is wrong, I do think the telling of a wonderful and captivating tale, one which connects to the reader drawing them deep into the (un)reality of your fantasy world, is far, far more important than having every genitive case or article in a perfect place.
“Jeffery Archer’s agent once told him, (in reference to Kane & Able); you will never be a great literary writer, but you can tell a damned good tale.”
For those of you who may not know of Jeffery Archer, he was a British Conservative politician, who fell from grace and was sentenced to four years in jail for Perjury. He is a survivor of prostate cancer.
Archer was almost bankrupt when he wrote his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, in the autumn of 1974. This was followed by Kane and Abel in 1979, his best-selling work to date. Many of Archer’s works were adapted to radio, television and films.
To date, Archer has written 36 books; his international sales are estimated to exceed 330 million and have generated him more than £250 million GBP.
So, I guess writing a damned good tale is where my focus is, maybe yours should be too?
You can find some of my ‘damned good tales’ in my latest book, a collection of short, and not so short, stories, Within the Invisible Pentacle
These stories explore the depths of human character, the quintessence disposition of living and of life itself. Questions we shy from, the ones we are afraid to ask ourselves are unearthed, revealed, brought screaming into the daylight of recognition.
The prevailing factor is, they are written with consideration for our fragile human propensity; the fears, the dreams and wishes, the uncertainties and self-doubts we all carry inside ourselves, the human elements of love, of life and of survival.
This is a collection of poignant, emotive, yet entertaining stories everyone should read, at least once.