No really, listen… ‘Fragile’ might not be the first word you think of, you might choose to think ‘Scary’ or ‘Smelly’ or ‘Fond of wholesale deviant sexual practices’ or ‘Annoying’ (especially when they filter past you whilst you’re stuck in a traffic jam – Which is perfectly legal BTW – And, whilst we’re on the subject, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic.) And you’d be 100% right 95% of the time… Bikers can be all of these things, I know, I are one sometimes… I used to be one a lot more often, but I just don’t have the disposable income anymore – it can be an expensive way of life, especially if you have the mechanical aptitude of a dead sloth.
But ‘fragile’? Well, let’s take a minute to think, when they’re barreling past you on their back wheel with their hair on fire, it looks like all fun and games, right? But (and it’s usually a big, hairy butt) it all comes to a shattering halt when the pedophile in the long-wheelbase Transit van at the front of the traffic queue turns right without checking his mirror because he’s seen a schoolgirl. And because our Barnaby* is minding his own business, tearing down the white lines, with his wrap-around shades and the bluebottles bouncing off his chin, whilst he hums Steppenwolf hits to himself. He doesn’t have time to do anything about it. There’s a banging noise, a biker shaped dent in the side of the van and the insurance brokers start circling the site like pinstriped vultures.
Which also explains why a lot of bikers limp, or have interesting scars or bits missing… Arms, legs, fingers, eyes, that sort of thing. And it also explains why there are a lot of groups who exist to try and get bikers riding again after they’ve taken a sideway excursion along the Queen’s Highway, or through that ‘wire and post’ safety barrier that the Highways Agency are so fond of, or under a steamroller… Most of them are great, but some are just money making cons – and the one I used to be involved with was a mixture of the two (I found this out later, I’m not saying that I was knowingly conning the recently badly crippled in their time of need… Not on this particular occasion anyway)
There was this one time, about 20-25 years ago, that this group had organised to have a trade stand at the Scottish National Motorcycle show… And because I was all bouncy and keen and just nodded when people asked me to do things, and at the time, I had a girlfriend who had access to a big van, the decision was made to travel the 300-odd miles north, in what became the ‘Support van’… I say 300-odd miles, because we had arranged to take a torturous route, picking up members (easy Tiger) along the way, who would either ride their own bikes, or cadge a lift in the van – We’d also arranged to take in a rally or two that were not completely out of our way. I can’t remember any names… And as the story unfolds, you’ll understand that that’s probably for the best.
Our first pickup was fairly close to home. The young gentleman in question had a wheelchair, but wasn’t permanently wheelchair-bound and he was the proud own of a ‘Nippi’ which to the uninitiated, is sort of a three-wheeled scooter that you could load a wheelchair into… There should be a picture around here somewhere.
He decided, quite rightly, not to attempt the journey in that and we helped him up into the van – I’d never met him before, but he came across as a bit needy. Which is something you don’t usually like to say about people with disabilities as obviously there are things that they can’t do, or have difficulty doing for themselves – it’s the nature of the beast. But he just struck me as, well, ‘high maintenance’ (You all hate me now, right? Just keep reading – I’m actually a hero - sort of)
The next pickup was a brilliant guy… Really liked him – He had some terrible degenerative bone disease and I understand that he’s no longer with us… But nothing was too much trouble for him, If you saw him out on the road, riding his silver Honda Goldwing (I think) you’d never know that he was any less able than you or me (well than you at least, I’m falling apart and will probably be shot next time I go to the vets for a checkup) – You’d only know that there was anything different about him when he stopped for petrol. You see, he used to seize-up when he rode for over five minutes. We all do that to an extent, us old people, but I’d say about half the time, he couldn’t get his feet down in time… And… Well, he used to topple-over. His wife rode a similar bike, and she used to pull up next to him, until he got the feeling back in his legs and could get off and fill up… She didn’t make it every time though, or sometimes she’d lose her balance and go over too – And it never ceased to be funny. Especially as when I suggested that he get a trike... He replied that they were 'For girls'.
|This is a Goldwing|
One of the other members had a false arm (you literally cannot make this stuff up) and because he’d had his handlebar controls modified in a particular way, he used to wear a hook, rather than a prosthetic hand (it was a different time) And… He would occasionally help this guy pick his bike up off the ground… With his hook… Now, I don’t know whether my mind has filled in this memory, or it actually happened, but I’m fairly sure that during one such forecourt recovery at a motorway services, his arm came off… We couldn’t do anything for a good few minutes then… what with all the laughing and the needing the toilets as our bladders thawed.
Our first night away was spent in the van, at one of the rallies that I mentioned… Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever been to a biker rally, but it usually involves music and beer and assorted idiocy… Importantly, sometimes there are Portaloos, and sometimes there aren’t. On this occasion, there were, but they seemed to be miles from where we’d parked the van. At precisely stupid o’clock in the morning, I got shaken awake…
“Dandy? Dandy? Are you awake, I really need the toilet!” – Now, I was in the front of the van, and our sometime wheelchair using friend (for it was he) was in the back.
I said, “Right, hang on, I’ll open the back doors.” So, I got out of the van, went around to the back and opened one of the doors. He moved to the doorway, and then looked back into the van – His wheelchair was covered in people, only some of whom I recognised… He looked at me like a kicked puppy,
“There’s no time, I’m desperate – You’ll have to carry me.” So I took a minute to compose myself, he put his arms around my neck and I lifted him out of the van. We’d gone about 50 yards when he said, “I need to go now… Find me a bush!” – So, being the caring, inclusive beast of burden that I am, I carried him to the nearest hedge and set him down, unsteadily, on his feet. He just stood there looking at me.
I said “What?”
He replied, “My fingers are numb and I’m wearing leather jeans…”
I stood there for a minute opening and closing my mouth for a minute or so, before snapping it shut like a pelican at a Wagamama as I realised what mixed messages I must be giving out.
“You’re going to need to give me a hand, so I don’t get it all over me.”
Now, I’m going to leave the next couple of minutes to your imagination, but I did fall back on all my experience gained from de-gibleting a fresh chicken. He managed to do himself up afterwards, and – truth be told, I needed to do a similar thing myself, but I had no intention of manually operating ‘Little Dandy’ without giving my hands a good, hot bleaching. I carried him back to the van, and then sat and had a cry before ‘Blutoothing’ myself (I relieved myself in the same hedge, but did it handsfree, which is a trick you learn if you’re often slapdash with superglue when you're repairing a carb-rubber)
The rest of the trip to and back from Scotland was fairly uneventful, we picked up a Goldwing a couple of times and had to tighten the straps holding someone’s arm onto their body more times than I would do normally on an average weekend. In fact, the only real item of interest came at our next overnight stop… Which was at our one-armed friend’s house. We’d all had more Jack Daniels that was good for us and things were getting decidedly philosophical. He’d removed his arm and smiled at me.
“So, did he get you to get it out for him?”
“His d*ck? Did he get you to get it out for him so that he could…”
“Well, he was…”
“Having difficulty with his jeans? Was about to have an accident? Yeah, he does that – It’s like a rite of passage for people he’s just met. He sees how far he can push them… He only does it to blokes though.” He saw that I was jumping to a conclusion about his sexual orientation, “Oh, no, nothing like that… We’ve just told him that we’d beat the crap out of him if he tried it with a girl. We warn them anyway, just in case he forgets.”
He touselled my hair as I sat there and then went off to bed, saying, “You’re one of the gang now!” with a huge grin on his face.
One of the gang? Maybe, but he didn’t think it was quite so funny when he woke up in the morning and tried to put his jogging-bottoms on… We’d sewn the feet holes up you see… he was hopping all over the landing with a hangover… Then he fell down the stairs…
If it taught me nothing else, it taught me that disabled people are just as likely to be little sh*ts as able-bodied people are.
*Barnaby Wilde – a fictitious ‘everyman’ biker – Like a ‘John Doe’ type character.