Discussion in 'Hobbies' started by Tootles, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Tootles

    Tootles Funster

    Sep 14, 2013
    I enjoy writing stories, not fiction, but true life stuff from my childhood and youth, and, being blessed with a good long term memory, I sit down and write about Manchester and Salford during the fifties and sixties, characters I have met, who have somehow changed my life.
    Included one here. Hope it meets with your approval, and maybe passes a minute or two.

    The Tale of Tommy Two Stroke.​

    I first met Tommy when I was eight. My granddad had an allotment over the road that belonged to British Railways, and was positioned at the side of the main Manchester/Liverpool railway line. The allotment shed was in fact an old railway carriage from the Victorian era, complete with brass handled doors, and drop down windows, but with most of the interior partitions removed.
    The old man grew a few cabbages, tobacco,(yes, you can grow tobacco outside in this country,) and plenty of weeds!
    The carriage was very long, and so the old man decided to sub-let part of it off. I think that it was in June 1958, that this man appeared, with bright red hair, and a stubbly beard, on an ancient Coventry Eagle motorbike. He always wore a flying helmet for riding the bike, which may seem a bit strange now, but was accepted practice then. Without any introduction, this strange man promptly moved in next door, so to speak.
    It was several weeks later, on hearing a great deal of hammering, and a greater degree of swearing, that I ventured through the open door of Tommy's half of the shed. The man himself was hammering a stubborn crankshaft from a flywheel. He looked up. "What do you want, sonny?" Now those were the days when kids were seen and not heard, so I stammered back that I was interested, and could I just watch. He replied with a grunt, and continued hammering.
    That was the start of this fascination, even hero worship, that I developed for this strange guy. These days, a boy of eight being in the company of an unmarried man, would have the parents and child molesting social workers howling in banshee wails, but then it was accepted that the best way for a kid to learn something, was from someone older that knew, and even though my Gran, who brought me up, was not all that happy, it was because I kept coming home covered in grease and assorted filth from old engines, and for no other reason.
    Tommy lived in a neat terraced house, one of many then in Salford, with well swept fronts, and donkey-stoned steps. He resided with his old mum, who only had one eye. She owned a cat called Nelson, who also only had one eye, so between the two of them they had, I suppose, full sight!
    It took me a while to work out Tommy's past. He had been a dispatch rider in an Air Landing Brigade during the war, had glidered into Arnhem, been taken prisoner of war, escaped, worked his way back to Allied lines, recommended for a Military Medal, (which he later got), and been promptly thrown into the guardhouse two days later for getting blind drunk.
    For some reason he had become a bike mechanic after his discharge, and, in the grim days of austerity, he was the guy you went to when your only way of getting to work broke down. He also did a lot of work for a local bike shop that sold mopeds, and soon the old shed got fuller and fuller of frames, engines, cables by the mile, exhausts, and all the rest of the stuff that was needed in those days to keep peoples bikes running. It was Tommy who showed me how to clear a blocked two-stroke exhaust with caustic soda and hot water, strip and repair a bowden cable, dismantle a spark plug, (yes, spark plugs came apart then,) and eventually how to re-white metal a con rod using a simple household fireplace. A finer apprenticeship a boy couldn't obtain elsewhere, and Tommy was the person who fixed my love of motorcycling forever in me, for which I will be eternally grateful.
    As time went by, I saw less and less of him. I was getting older, and my interests were getting wider. I last saw him when I was on leave from the Army, one warm Saturday. I had heard that his old mum had passed away, so I went around to the house to, well, pay my belated respects. He was in the back yard, amongst several tons of bike bits. The old shed had gone, to make way for the brand new M602 Eccles Bypass into the heart of Salford, so he was working now from home. We chatted for a while, had a brew together, and my last ever picture of him was as he rode away, to get some part or other he needed, in a cloud of blue smoke, on his 1938 Franny Barnett, the straps of his flying helmet flapping in the wind.
    Tommy died the following winter from pneumonia. No old mum to look after him, make him a hot meal, insist he wear his coat, I think was the reason. A friendly neighbor had found him collapsed and unconscious in his back yard, surrounded by the bits of old bike that made this great man tick. He had befriended a fatherless kid, taught him the joys of engineering, and given him a love and never ending interest in all things bike, that I have been able, in turn, to pass on to others, including my own son.
    I still miss him to this day.
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  2. Jim

    Jim Ringleader

    Jul 19, 2007
    Sutton on Sea
    Nice story. Sounds like old Tommy was a bit of a lad. :Smile:

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