Chapter 6: Halcion days


- Tony

In those halcion days we soared around like knights on winged horses. Stripped to the waist in summer we would ride along canal tow paths, over common and golf course, swimming in canals and Thames.

Uniformity of dress allowed for little variation. Black shining leather was a must. Blue jeans or black Lewis Leather jeans, black polished boots, a white silk scarf and steel rimmed Brando style sunglasses completed the image.

The badges, studs and dangling baubles had not yet arrived on the scene. To wear any sort of jewellery was not considered manly. We wore our hair short. Boston or D. A (duck's Arse) at the back. The front was quiffed back. and the sideboards coaxed down as long as you could get them.

Girls dress was identical to the boys except hair was worn as long as possible so that it streamed out behind. Very thick, dark Dusty Springfield eye make-up was also a definite advantage.

Each evening we would thus regale ourselves and dash off as conspicuously as possible to some meeting point. For me, living in North London, the meeting point was 'The Busy Bee' a large ugly transport cafe.

The tubular steel tables and chairs were bolted to the floor to stop them being thrown about in fights. The tea came out of the tea urn thick and strong with milk and sugar already added.

The 'Bee' however was the place to be seen, a place to arrive at and depart from. On arrival you added your bike to the semi-circular line of bikes round the large curved window.

There was always music from the juke box issuing fourth loudly so that it could be heard some way up the by-pass. My memories of the 'Bee' are always to a background of 'Heartbreak Hotel' or 'Big girls don't cry.

After dismounting you combed your hair dishevelled by the wind (no crash helmets in those days). Next you inspected the bikes, chatting about modifications and exchanging grossly exaggerated exploits about speed and danger.

Then there would be movement, a gang would mount up and peel off at top speed away along the straight by-pass. This was a sort of unofficial signal, after looking at the bikes and surveying the female talent, we in our turn would mount up and dash off to nowhere in particular. 'The Ace Café, 'The 59 Club' it didn't really matter where, the ride was the important part. There were no traffic problems for us, it was straight down the dotted line in the middle of the road, fast lane work all the way. We rarely dropped below seventy and always tried for that illusive, magical ton.

After one such thrash our lot, about ten in all, were cruising through a built-up area when a police motorcyclist mounted on a maroon Triumph slowly overtook us pointing at us individually with a gauntleted finger to slow down and stop.

He halted at the front of our line and by the time he had dismounted, lifted his goggles and walked up to the front rider, everyone else had turned down a side road and made an escape. Bill Price at the front was booked for speeding in a built-up area. The frustrated policeman, cheated of his big nick, told Bill to tell his mates that he would get them next time. We all paid some of Bill's fine and the incident was added to our repertoire of coffee bar stories with the number in the line increasing to thirty and the speed escalating to seventy!

One autumn evening we were riding through Windsor Great Park. Alan was in reckless mood as he overtook us in the mist and vanished into the blackness gesticulating as he passed. At the great gates at the exit of the park we stopped realising that he was not with us. No one had overtaken him so we slowly re-traced our steps fearing the worst.

Sure enough there were skid marks on a bend and the Dominator tank could just be seen glinting amongst the brown, wet ferns. We dismounted and called out for Alan. Bill and I stared into the blackness of the ditch our eyes becoming accustomed to the gloom. Then we both saw it, a small red glimmer like a glow-worm appeared and faded away. There it was again! Alan was lying back comfortably having a fag, waiting for us to return and help him out with his bike!

- Tony Sheppard