The rat

The rat

I was born into a world before the advent of health and safety, in places UK roads were still somewhere you could drive as fast as your car would allow though admittedly most cars would wheeze to 70mph back then, seat belts were not fitted to most vehicles and when you did eventually parang your car it went to the local scrap man or on occasion driven to the local dump and abandoned, if the engine was shot it would be left in the street, eventually becoming a plaything for the local kids.
As kids we would play on these dumps, they were a world of wonders and you never knew what you would find, even at the age of eleven I would head down once or twice a week with an airgun on the hunt for rats, my mortal enemy after one particularly plump individual had jumped off a wall as I rode by on my MKI Raleigh chopper hitting me full on the side of the head.

During one of these ratting trips we came across a cache of WWII gas masks, a fine haul for a bunch of eleven years olds and one we didn’t think could be bettered until, as we left, I spotted some handlebars behind an upturned car.
Clambering over there lay before us, at the bottom of the slope it had been pushed down, a Lambretta LD, battered but complete.
This was the early seventies and motor scooters of all varieties were a common sight on the roads and I had never really paid them much attention but, as a pre-teen, to find one lay abandoned was like finding a pot of gold.
In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t seem more dumped, back then the Lambretta was pretty much worthless when it reached the end of it’s life unlike today when they command a premium and frankly ridiculous price.

The big problem was getting it out of the dump which like most was invariably a big hole in the ground that was gradually filled, we were at the bottom of one of these holes.
An hour or so of dragging saw us back at ground level with a scooter that surprisingly still had air in it’s tyres and seemed pretty sound.
Not thinking we could ever start it we took turns being pushed up the back alleys of inner city Manchester, scaring cats and toddlers alike though we soon tired of pushing and it got dumped in the garden.
One of the older kids in the neighbourhood spotted it and asked me if it was a runner to which I replied in the negative, imagine my surprise then when after 15 minutes of fettling it spluttered into life, the game was back on!

The summer of 73 went by in a whirl of wheels and two stroke smoke until school re-opened and the Lambretta was once again pushed over the side of the dump where it probably lies as landfill to this day, I believe they built a tram terminus on the site sometime in the nineties.

I never forgot that scooter though and when I hit sixteen my father bought me a new one as a surprise, he had absolutely no idea what was cool but it was mine and street legal so I didn’t really care.
Since that time with a few exceptions I have never really been without a scooter, I tend to go for ratty looking specimens as I am not a polisher or preener, I just love to ride, maybe it is an unconscious homage to the old Lambretta that put me on this path.

The above shot is of my current ride, an LML Star 2T which to the uninitiated is a copy of the Vespa PX built under licence in India, Vespa purists hate them but I find them to be more reliable with thicker gauge steel to cope with Indian roads, and half the price of a similar PX!

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