On riding someone else’s bike.

About 20 years ago I was riding someone else’s bike from a pub to a party because he didn’t know where the party was (he got a lift). I was really stitched up because his bike was a wreck with no lights and worn-out tyres. I discovered this after the cars had left.

Part-way there I came across a minor road accident which involved a police presence. I was horrified – there I was, full of beer and riding someone else’s unilluminated bike at about 11.30 p.m. I was in teaching at the time and the local paper’s headlines were flashing before my eyes.

Fortunately, the officer who addressed me clearly had better things to do:-

“Excuse me sir, your front light does not seem to be working. Don’t you think you would be better off riding on the pavement?”

“Thank you offisher,” I replied, “I’ll do that and I’ll deal with it ash shoon as I get home.”

On being knocked off my bike

Many years ago (everything sodding well is when you are my age) I was knocked off my bike by HJ 1, the Mayoral Daimler (now downgraded to a Ford Granada limo) of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

The car was emerging v. slowly from Porter’s Lodge, the Mayor’s “official residence”, approaching me from the left. I was on the main road and the driver should have given way. I thought I had made eye contact with him – he looked straight at me – but he carried on moving. He struck me at very low speed, I bounced off the front of the car and ended up in the middle of the road. It hurt: my right elbow was very bruised.

I recall several things happening very quickly. The first was that I was up in a flash, leaning over the bonnet of the car and shouting obscenities at the driver. This was a trifle embarrassing because I was a teacher at the local primary school (only a hundred or so yards away) and the potential for pupils / parents to hear Mr. Walker using four-letter words at high volume was quite strong. I recall a witness handing me his name and address on a piece of paper and me rounding on him “Were you in that car?” I don’t know what I would have done had he answered “Yes.”

The next thing I remember was sitting in the Mayor’s Parlour having my brow mopped by Cllr. Beryl Schofield (now deceased) who was Mayor at the time. She was Chair of Governors of the school but had no idea that I was a member of staff. Falling rolls were her speciality, to judge by the fit of her dress.

I asked for a phone so I could let my wife know that I was going to hospital but was sure nothing was broken (except the bike…)

The ambulance arrived. Before it did, I overheard a police officer cautioning the driver (of the Daimler, not the ambulance).

I was taken to Southend General, wheeled in on a stretcher and left under a skylight with the full sun on me (it was July). After a short while of this, I asked a passing nurse if I could sit up because I had a headache and the sun was making it worse. She replied, “If you can sit up you should be out there (referring to the waiting room) waiting 2 hours like everyone else!” I became rather irate at this point and, still suffering from shock, told her that I wasn’t going to put up with being spoken to like that. I got up from the stretcher and walked home.

By the time I got there, my parents had arrived in response to my wife’s worried phone call. My dad took me to the doctor’s and the Doc told me to go straight back to casualty. I did, and I did indeed wait two hours like everyone else. The same nurse came along and remarked sympathetically “I see you’re back then” or words to that effect.

Two hours and a few X-rays later, I was sent home with the bruised elbow I had already diagnosed for myself.

A friend if mine picked up the bike, which now had banana-shaped wheels, from the Mayoral residence.

I was a CTC member and I received my free legal advice from Dixon Morris, the CTC solicitor. After a few weeks I received more than £300 (1982 money) by way of compensation (out-of court, of course). This enabled me to get Alf Hetchin to fix my Claud Butler and there was enough left over to buy a decent Falcon 531 machine for my wife (to quote Alf, “Gor, she’s a big girl, your wife, ain’t she?”. My wife asks me to point out that she was, and still is, tall and svelte and not hefty in any shape or form.).

I remember how difficult it was summoning up the courage to get back on a bike.

The other thing I learned, which was to become very useful in political campaigning years later, was the force of the first press release. To my amazement, 24 hours later I was receiving sympathetic phone calls from casual acquaintances asking after my well-being. The Mayor’s office had put out a press release the headline of which was “Beryl to the Rescue” and our local rag had published. These bloody politicians don’t miss a trick!