Nana Nana 19

This week I broke off from not writing the novel of the year and got chatting to a chap in his 70’s who used to ride very high-powered motorcycles all over Cumbria.

This week I broke off from not writing the novel of the year and got chatting to a chap in his 70’s who used to ride very high-powered motorcycles all over Cumbria.

One summer in the 1980s, in a foolhardy attempt to impress a new love interest, he took her out for a quiet Sunday run.

Hitting a personal best of 135 mph on one stretch of road, when they stopped, his pillion passenger got off the back and said: ‘I don’t know whether I’ve just wet myself or had a multiple orgasm.’

It’s not a complaint I’ve ever heard on a first date.

The fastest motorcycle I’ve ever ridden was a rent-a-hairdryer on the Greek island of Crete.

On our first holiday abroad without parents, myself and a friend hired scooters and fearlessly flogged them up and down the stunning E75 coastal road.

That was 31 years ago now, but rave on Ag Nik 91.

We never gave much thought to helmets and while my memory is hazy, I recall that every mosquito-infested taverna we passed along the shady portside bars of Aghios Nikolaos seemed to be stomping to the Euro Discopop of Heavy D’s Now That We Found Love.

I never found love as I was 19-years-old and more interested in finding an air-conditioned room for the night, ideally with a young woman in it.

Looking back, we were just fortunate to find Greece.

Due to a pile-up on the M6, we missed the plane out of Manchester Airport which incurred the wrath of the big sister who was working out of Ag Nik as a holiday rep and had expected us off the flight and had held the coach transfer for us – much to the ire of her passengers.

We consoled ourselves sitting on our cases in Manchester, swigging Duty Free Bacardi before catching a late-night flight to Athens where we arrived in the early hours.

There, my cousin negotiated an internal transfer flight out to Crete’s Heraklion airport, where we chinked glasses of Bucks Fizz at dawn as sunlight filled the cabin.

Having landed, we then lost a Drachma argument with a rip-off taxi driver and finally staggered into our blistering resort 19 and half hours late – half broke, hungry and hungover – to be met by the Mother of all Bollockings.

The big sister was only 24 herself and she spent the rest of the fortnight openly and loudly introducing us to all her friends as: ‘The Malakas’ before ordering us to down terribly tall glasses of straight Ouzo by way of recompense for frying her nerves.

I’ve hated Ouzo ever since.

But back to my old biker friend. As he told me his tale of his long-gone pillion passenger, the bright headlights of the past appeared briefly in his eyes before they quickly dimmed again.

All I could wonder was what became of his female pillion passenger?

Did she go on to settle down with a reliable Mr Right? The kind of sensible upright fella who obeyed all his speed limits and spent his Sundays revving nothing more powerful than a lawnmower?

Sadly, dear reader, we shall never know, but the story of a lost love, and the horrific news and scenes out of Ukraine this week, brought to mind two songs by Elvis Costello.

Oliver’s Army (1979), followed later by A Good Year For The Roses (1981).

Back in 1984, there was a large anti-Trident demonstration in Barrow-in-Furness which featured a mass die-in on Michaelson Road Bridge.

The late Mam dragged the 12-year-old me along.

After it was over, a rumour went round that Elvis Costello was heading to Barrovia to put on a benefit gig and there was a mass exodus to a local club where his songs were played on repeat.

As the parents swilled cold lagers and limes all afternoon, me and a gang of other urchins kicked a popped football around Forshaw Street to act as lookouts.

Not only did Elvis never leave the building, he never entered it.

Why doesn’t the pop world still produce musicians who write profound and popular anti-war songs? Where’s a Paul Hardcastle when you need one?

Are they all too busy counting their followers, updating their Instagrams and cultivating their best duck face?

I suppose the bean counters in charge of creative output can’t be certain there’s enough moolah in it.

A good anti-war song that takes hold can be as effective as any missile in winning hearts and minds in the propaganda war.

But we will need a lot more than music in our locker to stop ‘Sadimir’ than cancelling his pin numbers or locking him out of internet banking.

What’s next, a mass bombardment of MI5 stinger pronouns? Powerless to do anything, I shall be imposing my own humble economic sanction of boycotting Smirnoff.

And please God, can I be 19 again.

Ideally driving a moped around the cicada-chirping countryside of Crete, blissfully oblivious to everything save the next girl walking by in a spaghetti string bikini.

*RIP to Gary Brooker of Procul Harum.

My Bloody Valentine

To the doctors then this week for an ‘MOT’ and judging by my blood pressure this 50-year-old banger shouldn’t be undertaking any sudden long journeys.

To the doctors then this week for an ‘MOT’ and judging by my blood pressure this 50-year-old banger shouldn’t be undertaking any sudden long journeys.

The very nice nurse suggested that I make more of what she kept calling ‘healthy choices’.

Reading between the lines, this seems to involve cutting out all the things that make life worth living and doing more of those that make it worth not.

Cutting back on fine wine and good food shouldn’t be too difficult – given that I have no money to pay for any.

As I limped away, the overall message seems to be ‘live longer, less enjoyably’.

And how crushingly familiar it felt to have this advice imparted to me by a member of the fairer sex.

I know in my heart of (irregular) heartbeats she is right, but her ticker would be playing up too if she’d seen my annual pension statement.

Another factor she could never understand is that this old reporter has spent far too long in the fast lane of too many newspapers, when really I should have spent more time idling in the features section having my tyres pumped up and an oil change.

The paper trade comes with a heavy toll on mind, body, wallet and women, and there’s no rest for us double divorcees at weekends either.

Last Sunday, as I woke up on the morning after the fright before, the base of my skull genuinely felt like I had been hit from behind with a snow shovel.

This wasn’t entirely unfeasible given that I vaguely remember a young half-cut Everton supporter at the bar being of a mind to duff this old Liverpool one up.

Thankfully, Saint George the Barman stepped in and refused to serve him any more drink.

But on Sunday the pain in my skull and neck was so intense that I couldn’t move my head left at all.

I had to place a bag of frozen petits pois on my carotid artery and I spent the day wondering if I had been brain poisoned by the big sister’s cinnamon-spiced Tennessee Fire by Jack Daniels.

She is rehoming her entire drinks cabinet before the move to Spain and passed a bottle off as a present on my 50th birthday last month.

I have been avoiding it ever since, given that cinnamon should only ever be used on mince pies or egg custards.

When I got in last Saturday, I foolishly decided it might make a cosy nightcap.

But by Monday, the pain in my neck was so sore I was still unable to turn my head left at all.

The only way I could do so was by adopting a complete swivel of the upper body from the hips – like how Robocop walks.

I spent the day hunched up like Gladstone Small – not what I had in mind for Valentine’s Day.

Then at the end of the day I walked home – taking my regular shortcut through the pleasant churchyard – only to have a single bloody magpie bound eagerly towards me like a puppy returning a stick to its owner.

So, in the interests of superstition and living a long and tedious life, I have resisted all pressure to socialise and stayed alone in the Butchelor Pad.

Watching old episodes of Hammer House of Horror – which is a damn sight better than being married to one – and shivering by a cold radiator with nowt stronger than tea in my It Is What It Is mug.

The only other voices in the flat come from my wireless – the self-satisfied interviewees who now entirely dominate BBC Radio Four.

They included professional tennis bore Novak Djokevic who droned on interminably about what he was and wasn’t prepared to put into his magnificent body.

It appears that everything which passes his lips has to be researched, measured, quantified and then approved by committee.

Only this can give him the greatest chance of elite athletic performance. While his record shows it has worked, it must be tedious living in a test tube.

For some reason, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins sprang to mind.

A boyhood hero of mine when the world of snooker seemed full of characters – Alex was the hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-everything People’s Champion.

I looked up Alex on YouTube and had forgotten how great it was to watch him whizz around a 12ft Riley – with his twitches, vulnerability and logic-defying long pots and five cushion rebounds.

I’d much rather be rooting for an entertaining underdog like Alex than the tedious professional who takes himself and his balls far too seriously.

The trouble is that the Novaks all prevail now. None of them look like they enjoy it.

Still, the two cards I received for Valentine’s Day this week has proved that somebody out there must know my new address.

I received two from the same person and the prime suspect is Strong Independent Woman, although she informs me a ‘lady would never tell’.

It makes me wonder if there is still enough life left in the heart for a few more laps?

Maybe, providing I pass the MOT and keep swerving that bloody magpie.

PS: If any of my three readers would like a free bottle of cinnamon-spiced Jack Daniels, please get in touch.