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Blog Date 23 November 2020

This being the Covid times not much is happening on two wheels presently. Sharon and I do manage to take short "recreational" rides of a Sunday and that's about it. So instead I'll regale you with a tale from my chequered 2-wheeled past.

Waaaaaay back in the mid 90s I gained employment as a motorcycle courier. While everything was at least in colour back then it was grainy and I was a poor as any young man could be. I did however have a Honda CD200 Benly and I could hold an A-Z map the right way up, usually.

Don't be thinking "Pony Express" or "Diamond Dispatch" here, the courier company consisted of the owner of a small van, a tiny rented office and myself. We serviced a few businesses in the Bolton area and we were mostly very quiet. A large portion of the day would be spent having awkward conversations in the office, the owner running through hair-brained business ventures and me looking for excuses to shirk any actual work. 

I making around £50 a week but it felt like a fortune after being on the dole. I was also earning a few extra quid on Sundays as a motorcycle instructor doing CBTs. I was rolling in it man!

Friday afternoon, mid winter. There'd been a couple of local jobs around Bolton in the morning and I was looking forward to being done for the week. The phone rings and the owner answers it in his odd woolly mouthed tone. Pick up in Bolton for multiple drops around Manchester. Great. It's cold and wet outside, it's going dark and I'm ready for home. Pffffft.

I arrive at a travel agents. I collect 7 envelopes, each smartly addressed in posh envelopes. I check the addresses. Bolton, OK. Bury, hmmmm. Stockport, urgh. Wilmslow, urgh, Rochdale, hmmmm. Rochdale, good. Goldsborough? Where the devil is Goldsborough?

York? YORK!! That is definitely absolutely assuredly NOT Manchester. Oh yeah, they forgot to mention that one. Poop. Cock. With a heart as heavy as a lead lined nuclear waste container I step out into the cold, dark and now very rainy evening. At least it's not snowing. Yet.

These are private addresses, people's homes. These are apparently very very important flight tickets that must be with these people this evening for flights tomorrow. Important people, business people who absolutely must be somewhere else this weekend. You know the sort. And they live in big houses with driveways and gardens.

This is before the days of sat-nav. Navigation works by going to the right town. Stopping and getting out the A-Z. Finding the street in the index then finding the page in the book then finding the grid on the page then finding the street. Then you have repeat this to find where you are presently. Then you have to work out a route (left, 3rd left, right at the roundabout...). 

Then you put away the A-Z, get on the bike, ride 500 yards, stop to wonder if that road is the 3rd left or is that just a business park entrance. Check the A-Z and repeat. In the meantime it is raining and it is dark and the A-Z is getting soggy and the lining of your gloves is coming out and your visor is misted up and your waterproofs are leaking around your manhood.

Bolton, Wilmslow and Stockport done by 1930. Bury and Rochdale done by 2030. I am cold. I am wet. I want to go home. I have one somewhat soggy letter left in the top box and still over 120 miles to ride. I have an ageing CD200 Benly with over 45,000 miles on the clock that has won several Rat Bike trophies. I am frankly thinking that suicide might be a better option right now.

The UK map in the top box tells me Goldsborough is close to Knaresborough. I've been to Knaresborough before. I could take the motorway but I don't know that route and anyhow, a motorway on such a night is dangerous on a comparatively slow bike. I head north from Rochdale to catch the A59.

Aaaah. The A59. It is familiar because this is the route we'd take to see my grandparents when I was a child. Bolton Abbey and Blubberhouses bring a range of emotions. Happy memories of my grandparents and sitting in the car listening to Abba mixed with the pain from my frozen fingers and terror as I'm blinded by oncoming trucks. 

This is grind time. All you can do, the only thing you can do is ride. Keep heading in the right direction. Keep heading forwards. Just keep on going. Try to wriggle the fingers and bring a tiny fleeting moment of relief to just one minuscule part of your body. Shuffle in the seat to relieve the cold wet numbness. Calculate in your brain how many miles will take how many more agonising minutes at speed X taking into account windage and getting lost.

Peer hard through the visor to catch the merest hint of where the road goes next. Slow down when blinded, speed up if there's a straight. All the time I'm asking myself am I a two wheeled hero or a right ####ing idiot. I'm an idiot. I should have stuck at college. I should have stuck at being a bricky. I should have stuck at being a mechanic. No, no I'm a motorcycling GOD! Emotions ebb and flow as the rain becomes sleet over the hills. I am so desperately cold.

Knareborough feels like a haven sent from heaven. Street lights, slow traffic and a petrol station. I fill up, I have no A-Z for this area so I take the letter in with me and ask. The instructions to Goldsborough are quite simple, keep on the A59 then... don't. The cashier has no idea where this particular address is but it's only a small place. 

Mercifully Goldsborough is not far away but now I'm in a tiny hamlet with no means of finding the address in question. I ride around, peering at the street signs with my dim headlight all to no avail. I eventually spot a dog walker wearing a Barbour coat and wellies. She looks as miserable as I feel. No help. 

I stop. Switch off the bike and step off. This is hopeless. Absolutely hopeless. I felt such elation at being here and now I have to find a street without a map. All is lost. Perhaps I should go back to Knaresborough and see if the petrol station sells A-Zs? Feeling like I've made it all the way to the moon with a home made rocket only to find that the moon is closed today I just sit. Just sit. On the bike. In the rain and sleet. In the wind. Hopeless.

Hard times call for hard choices. Across the way a light shines from a window so I walk over to the house and knock on the door. A befuddled chap looks at my forlorn visage and calls his wife. She knows the road, she knows the house. It is but a left turn away.

This must be it. Gate, driveway, swanky modern house, BMW, too much money. It is now 1030, maybe 1100, I don't know any more. I knock and a light comes on, the door opens. Mr Important is both glad I have arrived and angry at my lateness. There is no offer of tea and a warm. There is but a "thanks, why are you so late?". I try to explain but he soon dismisses me and closes the door firmly. I am but a mere servant to his needs.

As soon as I leave I'm lost then I fall back onto the A59. At this time of night the motorway makes more sense so I follow the signs for the A1M. 70 something miles at 55mph should be about an hour and a half back home. I soon find the prevailing winds are against me and I'm down to 45 at times. 

And yet, yet as midnight comes and goes, as the cold sinks in ever more, as the pain continues, yet I feel better. I am going home. I know this motorway. I know where I am and my destination. I have done it. I have completed my mission. Once you're cold and wet you reach a point where you can not be any colder or wetter. 
It still hurts. The downside of the motorway too is there is no relief through a slower town or traffic lights to stretch. Grind time, head down, press on and prey for the bliss of a house and a fire. Bolton can not come into view soon enough.

I cannot feel anything with my hands. It takes a miserable age to get the gate open and the bike locked. Within the tiny one bedroom house I light the fire and try to undress. Elation is mixed with sheer agony as the blood returns to my fingers and toes. I am soaked everywhere, there is not a dry patch upon me. I peel off the layers and toss them in the sink. I towel myself dry and put on fresh clothes. I make a brew and a pot noodle. I fall asleep propped up against the settee in front of the fire.

I awake soon after, shivering in spite of the fire. Sleep overcomes me then awakening with shivers repeats for the next few hours. Saturday is lost to befuddled and confusing thoughts, an inability to focus and a feeling of being lost. 

I'm back at work on Sunday, giving novice riders lessons on how to use a clutch. I never want to repeat that experience again and yet equally I do. It was a challenge and I completed it. 

In these dull Covid times send Ren your motorcycle related products and he'll test them for you.

Reader's Comments

Snod said :-
This could've been a UMG article, if only the CD had done 145,000 miles instead..!
23/11/2020 14:05:44 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The venerable CD200 seized it's crank at 70 odd thousand miles, primarily due to owner ignorance. I have a lot of good memories on that vehicle.
23/11/2020 14:50:11 UTC
Upt'North said :-
You're our God Ed, yes you are.
We're you so cold it felt like someone was pushing sowing needles in the end of your fingers after beating them with a lump hammer or WAS that just me.
Oh the joys of motorcycling.
On the other forum someone said it was too cold to ride today, it was only 60, and it might shower.
That's summer!
23/11/2020 15:24:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
That's quite a good description Upt', I like that. It feels as though someone has pumped frozen acid into my fingers at 60psi as well as the needles and hammer action.

60? At 60 even I wouldn't ride. Oh 60 degrees Faren-blooming-heit, wassat in Engrish, erm, Google! 15.5 real useful degrees Celsius. Scorchio! Blimey that's just 1 light jumper under my jacket weather that. Just been out for a bit of shopping, I'd say it's 8 or 9 degrees presently, cool but perfectly acceptable. And it's not raining.
23/11/2020 19:04:47 UTC
Bogger said :-
The joys of dispatching. Nah not for me ta. There must be more stories of derring do Ed? Or stories of you getting soaked, lost and cold, we can have a laugh at.

25/11/2020 07:24:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I shall trawl the depths of my turgid brain and see what I can come up with Bogger. Thank you for the moral support. Pfffft.
25/11/2020 10:21:45 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The worst experiences make the best stories.....

I have to say I've never been reduced to those straits but have had some horrendous trips in awful conditions.

Mention of Blubberhouses reminds me that when I was a mere toddler our family would travel from County Durham to Farnworth (Plodder Lane if you know it Ren) to spend Christmas with my mother's family, passing over said pass whose name was uttered in hushed tones. No motorways or even dual carriageways in those just-pre-war days.

Our transport was a well-worn pre-war Norton 600cc single with a child-adult sidecar. Although I'm too young(!) to remember it, one tale was of having to constantly refit the knackered rear chain which kept jumping the sprockets (as well as being impecunious my dad was not the most gifted of mechanics although he did have perseverance). Another was finding a downhill road coated with black ice and sliding down the snow-covered grass verge sideways.

My mum must have had the worst of it stuck in an unheated sidecar with 2 small children.

I suppose my addiction to Norton singles must date back to those days. This is me trying to reach the gear lever on the outfit.
Posted Image
25/11/2020 12:16:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Plodder Lane! Yes I know it all too well, I've been up and down that road these last 30 years with friends who live in "Farn-uth" and used to do the bike training around there.

By'eck Ian, 'twere black and white when you were a kid. Are those happy memories ("we wus poor but we wus 'appy") or was it all grimy and grim? I reckon we tend to remember the past through rose tinted glasses all to often.
25/11/2020 12:33:58 UTC
Bogger said :-
The only dispatching story I have is from many moons ago. Early nineties from recollection.
At the time I was working in Uttoxeter, in charge (Ha) of the aftersales departments at a Motor Dealership
We used to undertake body repairs for vehicles belonging to Armitage Shanks. The bathroom and sink manufacturers.
Somehow their marketing department got wind of us and we got a steady stream of work painting mock-ups of toilets, sinks, baths etc for photo shoots for the forthcoming catalogues.
Any road up, they gave us a massive order, baths, toilets, shower trays etc to paint in various colours. There was a strict deadline for the items to be painted ready for collection by the haulage company.
It was all sorted on time and off it went to London to be photographed.
The next day one of the top Bods from Armitage Shanks rushes into the reception with a toilet seat in his hand in a state of panic. They had forgot to get it painted and if it wasn’t in London by tonight the photo shoot would be cancelled costing thousands of pounds.
We painted it straight away and informed them. They said they would send a courier to collect it.
Sure enough a motorcycle courier turns up to collect a ‘small’ parcel for London. When we produced the Seat he looked somewhat perturbed to say the least and started to look for hidden cameras. He thought he was being set up and we were literally taking the p***.
It took us ages to convince him it was legit. He tried to strap the bog seat to his bike, but it was too awkward. He ended shoving it up inside his biking Jacket. The poor bloke could hardly move and when he sat on his bike the hinge part was hitting his chin.
Ah well mate, only 150 to go and you’ll soon be there. We did feel sorry for him but God we laughed.


25/11/2020 14:37:45 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Bogger, small world.
I worked out of Utcheter until September 1991, Balance Street. Well I say worked, more like attended really.
Where did you work Buddy, Sheards?
If we've already had this conversation, put it down to old age and Malt Whisky.

25/11/2020 15:14:19 UTC
Bogger said :-
No it was Fryers. A really fantastic place to work. The owner Geoff Fryer was a real Gent, old school. Sad to see it's been demolished now and houses are in it's place.

25/11/2020 15:42:47 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Was that on the Derby Road, Ford Garage.
25/11/2020 15:51:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I arrived at a swish glass building on a cold wet day, to collect a small package for a trip from Bolton to Darwen or something like that. While dripping in reception and getting dirty looks of the pretty lady on the switchboard an on trend youth arrived with a long tube, about 5 foot long but only 6 inches wide. Of course it was urgent. Of course he could not wait. Of course he was not willing to pay the extra for a van. He was sure it would fit on a bike.

Said tube was cardboard and contained costly artwork rolled up, presumably on paper. I did manage to persuade him to cover it in black bin bags to keep the rain off, I bungeed it to the side of the bike and rode with one leg out over the roll. It was only a half hour ride but the roll felt a tad squishy upon arrival. I dumped it on the desk, got a signature and got the hell outta there.
25/11/2020 16:02:15 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Actually it was post-war not pre-war although the Norton would have been 1935 or so. I'm not that old! But it was grimy and grim. 'Appy? Yes, mostly.....
25/11/2020 16:29:32 UTC
Bogger said :-
Yes it was Upt the Ford, Vauxhall and Isuzu dealer.

25/11/2020 20:45:44 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , I never did any dispatching (or is it couriering?) but in the past I've definitely had the cold hands , cured at the time with handlebar muffs , not so much a problem nowadays , gloves and the finances to purchase them have improved since the 70's/80's or else global warming is real!
29/11/2020 20:55:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's funny you say that nab301. I still get a few cold-finger rides in these days but nowhere near as much as I seem to remember.

Is this because
a) I have better kit, I know how to keep warm better, I have hand guards and a screen too.
b) I ride less often.
c) Milder temperatures (ie Global Warming).

I suspect the truth lies between all 3 of these possibilities.
30/11/2020 08:11:08 UTC
nab301 said :-
Locally after a benign if rather wet late Autumn , we seem to have had a lot of sub zero overnight temperatures in recent weeks . Are the clearer skies (lack of aircraft) allowing the heat to leak way overnight? Maybe global warming will be scorching days and freezing nights with cataclysmic storms / hurricanes and associated flooding, hold on a minute , didn't we have all that this year with a global pandemic thrown in for good measure?
06/12/2020 16:49:18 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The BBC was warning this week that snowy winters in the UK may be a thing of the past. Of course I believe in Global Warming due to human actions. Of course such rapid change cannot be good. I do believe we really need to sort ourselves out. However I regret I must admit the thought of less snow did not trouble me as much as it ought.
07/12/2020 09:10:39 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Short memories?
Does no one remember the BeaST from the East, two years ago?
The BBC, they lie like cheap watch.
My views only of course.
And, yes, you've guessed it, the hills are covered in snow.
07/12/2020 09:44:14 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Come on Upt, they're talking about the end of the century NOT tomorrow. People always make the error of confusing weather (which is variable day by day) and climate (which is longer term - decades or even centuries).

You can of course behave like a certain (thankfully) ex-POTUS and call it all fake news but there is more than enough hard evidence of global heating already.

I'll be dead before the worst effects but feel sorry for young people who will suffer.

Re beast from the east - remember the unprecedented summer heatwaves over the last few years?
07/12/2020 10:02:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Well you can read the BBC's report on the link below. In my opinion the Beeb are merely reporting the Met Office's thoughts.
07/12/2020 11:38:53 UTC
Upt'North said :-
If Climate Change is a thing, and I'm not saying it isn't, we're doing nothing to stop it.
Look at new houses being built here and abroad, out of date non renewable construction methods.
Check on the amount of coal fired power stations being built around the world, you may be surprised.
Despite the stats (lies, damn lies and statistics) my memories is of much better weather 50 years ago, warmer summers, the sun always out and cool crisp winters, but that's just memories and rose tinted spectacles.
Like many here I may be affected by new legislation but the water won't be lapping at my door anytime soon.
07/12/2020 12:03:41 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"doing nothing to stop it"

Our (in)glorious prime minister has a plan. I think it's a bit like his plan for an oven-ready brexit deal.....
07/12/2020 12:16:37 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Now your politician, they're a different beast altogether.
But getting back to climate change, I don't think we can blame BoJo for that (?), the Kyoto Protocol was adopted 23 years ago this week.
Having read said protocol, God help us, because that won't. Just check what countries do and don't have binding agreements and which countries are likely to reach binding agreements; not forgetting the countries that have already left the protocol long ago.
I suppose as motorcyclists we could all stop riding our smelly old motorcycles, stop buying fuel, oil, grease, new tools which we'll never use, plastic parts, motorcycle clothing probably made in China where the energy will not be renewable and go back to our velocipedes. But of course we won't.
We're all doomed, woe is me.
I'm glad I drink at times.
07/12/2020 13:06:57 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I really don't think there is the political will anywhere to do what is required as it will be unpopular in the short term, and it's short-termism that's got us where we are in so many ways.

By the time people are prepared to do anything it will be too late. But as I say, it won't affect me. And as we have no children (which in fact are the greatest contributor to climate change, far outstripping our vehicles) I have no personal axe to grind.

In a few millennia there will probably be no people left (or maybe a few tribes eking out a living) but as far as other life is concerned it will evolve and "find a way" to quote the bloke in Jurassic Park. It's all just a mere blip in the wider scheme but unpleasant for those living through it.
07/12/2020 15:06:09 UTC
nab301 said :-
From a biking perspective, short term if we all bought 125's we could reduce our petrol consumption to maybe 30% of what it currently is (based on me doing exactly that) ( assuming we don't own a CB500x and ride it like Ren does.) I did cycle full time in the mid 90's for about 3 yrs but with the increased calorie intake and all that extra showering and laundering of bike gear I'm not sure whether it really saved the planet... I certainly spent nearly as much on physiotherapy as I did on petrol prior to cycling.
08/12/2020 11:17:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's a fair point nab301. We all like to think we're "doing our bit" by putting the right rubbish in the right rubbish bin, turning down the heating or walking to the shops. Then I will go for a 160 mile leisure ride which will use 2 gallons of fuel, with no purpose other than pure entertainment. The holidays we take, the unnecessary bike bling we buy, the parts we use even the gloves we require, they ALL emit carbon in the making, the using and the transportation.

For a person to have net zero emissions you would need to have a large patch of land that you farm by hand to feed yourself. A forest to grow your own trees which you could use for firewood and building. With over 6, coming on for 7 billion souls on the globe I doubt there's enough land. I'm with Mr Attenborough, there's too many peeps.

In an ideal world I would like to see education and governments steering us towards population reduction through simple birth control. I fear it will come through war, famine and pestilence.
08/12/2020 12:41:44 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Your last sentence is almost spot on ED.
Just change will to is.
08/12/2020 12:58:08 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cheery bloke ain't ya Upt'.
08/12/2020 19:23:23 UTC

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