It's a Funny Life

Pictured - Norton Model 50 c1959


Although based on some personal experiences the following article is entirely fictional and non-autobiographical, any resemblance to real people and actual events is purely coincidental. No animals were harmed during the “chicken run on the A580”.

picLike other teenagers in the late fifties Henry idolised the film star James Dean and along with many others of the same age would try to create the hair style and the mean, moody, slightly menacing facial expression with the contemptuous curled lip in homage to their hero. His two brothers were naturals and really looked the part when they put on their black leathers and joined the crowd which congregated around the juke box at Lil’s Cafe on the A49 at Coppull Moor most nights of the week. They were well respected amongst the local biker community and of course had the right machinery, a Norton Dominator and a BSA Gold Flash, to compete on equal terms with other members of the ton up club there. Unfortunately and not for want of trying Henry never quite made the grade when it came to “the look” when he put on the black jacket, there was something half hearted about his efforts with the fashion accessories and the nonchalant swagger. Despite sporting a somewhat slower but newer and more impressive looking Norton Model 50 in British racing green, except for the odd person riding a Francis Barnet or BSA Bantam he always felt different and more than a little inadequate, amongst the assembly on the weekly pilgrimage to Rivington Barn every Sunday, strutting their stuff like peacocks before the admiring crowd of girls, with a credible impersonation of Marlon Brando. Blessed with a rather diffident manner, uncompromising Victorian values and an overdeveloped sense of Christian virtue, he presented a stark contrast to the others, resembling more a motorcycling vicar tending his flock rather than the leather clad rebel he was trying to portray, and to make matters worse he would become incredibly tongue tied when in the same room as a pretty female face. Why was it so difficult to turn on the reservoir dogs charm like his pals could and did every Friday night at the Ritz cinema when, looking like trouble, they invited the ever watchful manager to throw them out? Never able to comprehend the adrenalin rush you could get on Sunday morning from multiplying the speed limit by three, racing up Wallgate into Standishgate and getting airborne over Market Place, the “Chicken Run” on the East Lancashire Road or baiting the police to chase you on the A49, he sometimes felt he had more in common with the sandal wearing folk singing fraternity. He listened with horror as the ton up club told blatant lies about their background to impress the pretty girls they attracted, doubling their meagre wages and giving themselves job titles two steps above anything they were actually likely to achieve, exaggerating their wild exploits and experiences with many a flamboyant mostly fictional anecdote of bravado. But hey street credibility is important to a young guy looking for love and excitement, and the girls were so difficult to please. He was desperate to run with the herd and hunt with the pack but how could he hope to catch the eye of the stunning blonde with the pony tail when the local ‘Fonz’ had a Triumph Bonneville. Would he ever be able to cut the mustard? He so badly wanted to, and worried about it a lot, today I suppose he might consider having counselling to cure his insecurity, or bolster his rather lack lustre personality by joining a drama group. He did have a steely determination though, like a terrier with a bone he didn’t like to be beaten. picEvery now and then there would be incidents which allowed his true vocation to shine through, he could remain cool in a crisis when everyone else flew into a state of panic, he was in his element being the Job’s comforter, providing the voice of reason and wise counsel when members found themselves in a police cell, a hospital bed or even worse with bereaved families when there was another fatality. However some time later after another idiot’s close shave with the Dunlops of a Leyland Comet in Wrightington, Henry began to ask himself some serious questions: why was he craving excitement and adventure; would he ever be at home with the wild horsemen of the Apocalypse; did he enjoy their company; was he looking in the right place for kindred spirits? Thoughts which were to put a different perspective on things and lead to a new epiphany, he would soon grab hold of life by the scruff of the neck and move on. Yes, settling down to married life with a girl from the church choir and achieving some success in gainful employment safely within the bounds of respectability, all previous childish dreams of daring-do having been firmly confined to nostalgia in exchange for morris dancing knee britches with bells, clogs, slippers and pipe.