Looking back to the Turbo Years
London had been my playground and my office. Here I was looking over my people from the side of the road at Chelsea by the side of the river Thames, like some super hero, I could simply be here in London and marvel at its beauty.”…millions of people, just living out there lives”*. They had their heads down and their tail ends up (but most of them, tails between their legs). They worked in offices, shops and were chained to the everyday activities of their existence. So much so, that they may have even have despise me for my freedoms. Like a seagull gliding by alongside the ferries and ships I'd observed in Norway years later. I felt I had a deft of touch just the same. The merest, subtlest tip or tilt of my wings allowed for perfect adjustment of my trajectory and I was away an off into the horizon. For me this was the ultimate profession. Doing what you like to do but being paid well to do it. For our breed we were like bounty hunters, treading stories of lost acquaintances and and deadly missions, looking for the most profitable and successful voyages and the various crusades around town. For now when I look back on my life at that juncture I could see that it had taken more than 5 years later, working in the as one of the “battery chicken” before my income would eclipse what I had earned at that point at the beginning of the 90’s. Like the line from the film which asks the question, “who am I?” with the answer “I’m Batman”! My answer was “I’m a Motorcycle Courier”!!!
Yes, believe it or not, I was just that. Due to a bold step after another after a particularly low point in my book of life I had joined the ranks of one of the most hated by other road users and at one time listed as the most stressful careers in the country.
Why's that you ask?
1. We spent hundreds of hours a week criss-crossing the old smoke (London) and surrounds and in my case the whole nation, so we were able to hone our art to the spiritual proportions. We were in “flow” states as we rode. It had all become second nature as we sensed everything around us with jedi reflexes and Spider senses. Near misses were what we aimed for as that gave us the advantage we were looking for. Because it didn't matter how dangerous it was it was, misses were still only that, misses. It's the hits that could be the end of you. Near misses were forgotten quickly forgotten regardless how close we came to death it was just par for the course!
2. Cos’ life expectancy was about 3-4 months at best. The chances of having a serious accident increased with every breath you took while balancing life and limb on 2 wheels. For the onlookers I may as well have been a sea pirate. In fact I did cast a somewhat “Jack Sparrow” like silhouette and existence on the the world around me.
This particular chapter was in the sunset of my career though. The glory days of spring and through to the summer of having my own steed to ride and not only that but also the pride of owning a second bike too, which I loaned to my older brother to ride into battle too. Now it was twilight and by now they had both blown away like the prettiest petals in a chilling autumn breeze.
Looking back to those earlier days London was truly my playground. Back then after making my mark by being the man that seemed to be able to turn impossible to the possible. I was the loveable rogue with the upbeat persona, that always displayed a different view or the world. The friendly face of the bounty hunter. As well as the dude that was ever ready to take on missions at the drop of a hat throughout the length and breadth of England and Wales. For whatever crusade was laid before me, I could squeeze out success from the more possible failure and my name and sight became well known.
That rare sight of the Honda CX500 TC (TC = Turbo Charged), was a site to behold. Built in the days of a better now vanished time, when the word recession hadn’t yet appeared in the news and “5 star” petrol was still available and unleaded was only optional, these were the flagship models to Honda’s armoury. The lower capacity of 500cc meant that the insurance was based on a 500cc bike, even with the high pressure turbo. Performance was similar to my previous 900 Honda machine. It also carried significant weight, for it was built for a balance of speed and comfort. A “Sports Tourer” you might say. I was often able to prove it's pedigree and recall on one occasion when flying up the M1 on OB2 (Obi was the affectionate name I'd given my to bikes and got there names from the word OBRUT displayed below windshield on at the front in bright orange space-aged lettering. OBRUT being TURBO in mirror writing. This was fun as it told cars that a Turbo was fast approaching when they looked in their mirrors. In fact as the bike was big and white they often pulled aside thinking I was Police bike!!! OB2 was my second machine my brother rode OB1). On this mission I ended up cruising beside a 125 intercity train that was running at near full speed on the track beside the motorway. I wasn’t even going all out, but instead sitting and comfortably cruising. I looked down at the turbo gage and the speedo. Speed 120mph. Hmmm, I guess we both still had a bit in reserve still…
But that was then. Since then the winter nights had closed in. The Turbo days had now gone. A series of freak happenings one after the other had caused the chance of future chapters with my non-aspirated friends to be torn out violently. The first was memorable. It was in fact the day before the evening that I was to have my first date with the girl that was later to become my wife. The mission that day, I was again out of London in battle theatre down on the south coast. It was to move south down to Hastings and the continue east on the Nationwide Anglia battle run. A series of events took place that in the end changed many things. First I was stopped by the police. I think it was for speeding. I was heading out of city on the A217 when I was directed to “pull over” by a policeman, at the head of a police check area. I pulled in but after what seemed like several minutes, I still wasn’t attended to. So what did I do? I quietly slipped the Turbo into gear and glided away again. I checked my mirrors and even took a look back but there was no enemy flack coming my way.
I won’t be going into the finer details here. But something caused me to be behind schedule and I foolishly tried to make that time back on the road. Stoking the fires of the OB2 and deploying healthy servings of turbo boost, I was using all the brevity to use the Turbo power to maximum advantage. I was heading towards Littlehampton from Hastings using the southern motorway. I passed a policeman on his small motorcycle that was trying to paddle through some slow moving traffic. I wasn't speeding but at the same time I wasn’t slouching either. My thoughts were on reaching Brighton and that young Jamaican girl I was booked to have a date with that evening.
I reached a large round about and swept round the inside clipping the apexes like a GP pro only to find that the car on my right decide his indicators were for show and he was lucky to have got his drivers license from the inside of the box of cornflakes he'd had that morning. He continued round the roundabout instead of existing as he'd indicated and where I was aiming for. This resulted in him disturbing my exit as the right-hand corner of his vehicle nudged the rear of the bike. I was now directed towards to a piece of road furniture, an exit sign consisting of two upright posts with the sign in-between. As is often the case, reflexes and supercomputer like calculations take place and which made me run a quick status check. There was no way out of a collision it was concluded from the data, but I can still make a decision on what was involved in the collision. I pick a point and aim towards it. I aim to miss a head on collision with one of the posts of the sign, leaning over to avoid. The mental air brakes then came off from my thoughts and calculations, and life flicks to real time. There is huge crunch and it’s done. I’m alive the sign and the bike are badly bent. Shit! Look at OB2… What a mess, but I could be dead and I wasn’t. The car driver is out of his car. He’d switched his indicator now to reinforce his argument. Don’t you just love it in situation like this? Some dude has near killed you but they’d argue their point over your bleeding remains of your dead body if they had to rather than admit their blame…!
Not for the first time I was heading to some hospital in the back of an Ambulance. My armour and split second decision had kept me alive. No serious damage done. The RAC had collected my craft and I was soon back in Croydon though for the life of me I don’t know how I got there!
I had just about enough had enough time to go and meet my date and in fact arrived still dressed in my battle stained armour. I felt a hero that I’d once again avoided death in the field like some fighter pilot of the past I got shot down but survived, she would later revealed that she thought the opposite that I was some vagabond or street urchin or clown. Looking back maybe that explains much…she is no longer my wife this day.
...to be continued