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.

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