Mopedland Stories

Mopedland > Stories > Hourglass


Mark Daniels

Always an active cyclist, Don had a long career at the helm of various cyclemotors, battling the elements in the face of all adversity, he had always stopped to help fellow motorists stricken along the wayside by mechanical maladies, using his lifetime skills and mechanical knowledge to return them upon their way.  But relentlessly, as it does, the hands of destiny move slowly round the dial, as the clock of time ticks ever onward into the 11th hour.  From a peak of fitness in the heady cyclemotoring heydays of the early 1950s, half a century of riding saps the kick from any legs, and now the call of morning is only replied by the aching cries of rheumatic joints and cracks of arthritic bones.

Don accepted the reality of increasing age, but battled daily to continue his 2 wheeled passion, till one day he knew the life long ride had brought him to the last crossroad.  No going back, and three dead ends.  The mind was willing, but the body was now weak, and he knew the challenge of cycling was becoming too much.

The Power Pak Synchromatic cyclemotor had become a faithful friend in his later years, as its clutch function helped more at junctions and in traffic, so mounted on his beloved Humber Royal bicycle, this would be - just one last ride.

An important decision, where to go?

Don sat and thought, remembering back to where his love of cycling seemed to begin, before the war, with his father, cycling the Fenlands and old towpaths of the Norfolk Broads.  He was resolved, where it all started, there should it also end.

He prepared for his trip over the following week, and on Tuesday morning struggled the loaded cycle down to the rail station where a cheery porter checked it into the goods carriage, and helped him onto the night train.  Arriving in the early hours at Ely, the bike was unloaded, Don stowed the pannier, and set off into the cool morning mist, with a plan to ride the Anglian borders from the western Fenlands to the eastern broads.  The motor purred quietly at a gentle 15mph or so, leaving a light smoke trail hovering above the ground.  Timeless fens stretched away into the distance, the rhythmic lapping of the motor only occasionally broken by the cries of startled waterbirds taking flight along the adjacent canal.

As the morning progressed, arable flatlands gave way to the green avenues of Thetford Forest, Attleborough, Wymondham, Brundall and the glorious Broads, across the Yare at Reedham Ferry, south over the Waveney to Beccles, Ringsfield, and on through Spexhall.

Wisps of condensing moisture seemed to rise from the adjacent waterways, as Don pushed the Power Pak into the lengthening shadows, urging the motor onward to make Stradbroke before night closed in.  The fading light however came early this evening, as the thickening mist quickly became a fog.  The dim cycle lamps made little impression on the gloom, while neither was Don's eyesight what it once was, and the bend seemed to come from nowhere.  There were flashes of recollection as the ground came up to meet him; the Humber spinning away in a stream of sparks as the Power Pak crankcase ground away on the road, igniting the fuel spilling from the petrol tank.  Then out of the darkness, someone dismounting from another cyclemotor, reaching out to him, a glowing arm - a figure of light!

Over the months that followed the accident, his kindly hosts in the hospital saw to his every need and helped with gradual therapy to get him back on his feet and walking again. Don's convalescence in his new surroundings seemed to suit him well, and within a while he felt his fitness returning - in fact, he began to feel better than he had for many years.  Getting up in the mornings, he would go for a stroll around the gardens of the hospital before breakfast, and slowly began to recall events that brought him to this place.

In the evening, young nurse Mary brought his tea, as she always did, and he asked her what became of his bike.

"Oh, that's all fixed and waiting for you.  Mr King at the local cycle shop is storing it till you're ready to ride it again".

Don was most surprised, "But where did he get the parts? I saw the engine was destroyed"!

"That's no problem, he always has all the parts to fix a Power Pak".

Don was further amazed that Mary even knew what the engine was!

"We all know about that sort of thing around here" she said, "You're in good company in this place".

As Mary sat opposite, Don told her the tale of his crash on the bend in the fog, and the ghostly rider that came to his aid.

"Oh, yes," said Mary "What you saw was the Spirit of Cyclemotoring, and you wouldn't be here otherwise - none of us would".

Don looked blank, in stunned disbelief!

"You're quite well recovered now, and you'll find you should continue to get stronger and fitter over more time.  You're probably ready to look in a mirror now".

Don was startled by this remark, had his face been smashed too?  It didn't feel like it had, but he realised that he hadn't even seen a mirror since he arrived.

Mary returned and held the glass before her, and Don looked silently upon his new reflection ... How could it be that he appeared 10 years younger?

The following day, after breakfast, the doctors discharged him from hospital, giving him no more than a card with an address and a set of keys.  "This is where you'll be living from now on".

Mary stood at the entrance and waved him goodbye as, in a daze, Don walked away down the drive and wandered through the village, until he came across a street sign with the name on his card.  Crossing the road to the odd numbers, he walked along to the cottage 'Lucky 7', and turned the key in the door.  Everything inside was just as he might have wished it to be, and a small silver gilt frame on the mantelpiece held an old sepia picture of him as a lad with his father on cycles by a broadland waterway!

Throughout the morning, Don struggled to gather his thoughts, but could not grasp the strange series of events.  In the afternoon, he resolved to explore his new surroundings.  Everyone was quite friendly and greeted him with a welcome as he ambled up the high street, looking in the shops.  A Phillips Panda Mk1 whirred delicately by to gently stir the lazy day.  He stopped to look over a smart red and black New Hudson Autocycle standing at the curb outside an inn The Philosopher's Stone, to a church at the top on the corner, where along the joining road hung a sign - 'A.R.King Cycles'.  Before reaching the door of the shop, a man flagged him down an alley at the side, to a large barn.  "Mr Donald Brown I presume, I've been expecting you for some time."

Mr King hauled aside the big wooden door, and inside, leaning against the wall was the Humber Power Pak, looking splendidly restored right down to every detail in shining new paint and fine gold coachline.  Don was overcome, "It's superb! What do I owe you?"

Mr King reached Don's helmet from a nail on the wall, "Never mind that for now lad, why don't you take her for a spin and see what you think?  You can ride out any time you like, but you can never leave.  All roads lead back to the village whatever way you go".

More mysterious words, and a little apprehensive, but he felt well, and it seemed so right, Don pedalled off and the Power Pak fired up right away, and as he rode back down the high street, people turned, smiled, waved and even clapped him!  The atmosphere made Don feel the best he had felt for many years, and he returned their welcome with a cheery wave.  Along narrow streets with old terraced houses, then the road opened out to green lanes on the edge of town.  Don opened the throttle and the engine eagerly urged as it pulled away up the shallow hill.  It felt wonderful and, as the back of a sign approached on the other side of the road, he looked back.

So that's where he was... 'Mopedland'.

First published in Iceni CAM Magazine, January 2008

Mopedland > Stories > Hourglass