Down and out

This is the last available excerpt from Cyril Green's memoirs. There are, I'm sure, many fascinating extracts that we haven't yet seen, but for now, with Cyril lost in the Russian hinterland, his young wife Francesca has asked for some privacy and the diaries remain under lock and key. Thankfully, her gardener, Claudio, is offering great support, in between bouts of expert dibbing, hardening off and pricking out.

From Cyril's memoirs dated 15 April 2008

Ewan and Charlie, eh? Long Way Down? Great entertainment, but I do wish there had been a camera crew on hand when Mr Unlucky himself, Kevin Stott, undertook his ill-advised trip from John O’Groats to Cape Town back in 2003. Had there been, then I’m sure Mr Stott would not now be on the missing persons register.

Stott’s major problem was a terrible sense of direction coupled with the shunning of “high tech cobblers” such as sat-nav and an almost total inability to read a map or use a compass. Nor was his choice of machinery what many would have considered apt. The oil-cooled GSX-R1100 does, indeed, have an admirable reliability record, but once fitted with a turbo and nitrous things are less predictable. And vast experience over many years on high-powered motorcycles… would have been a help. Unfortunately, Stott’s previous bikes included a customised Kawasaki GPz305, an IZH Planeta two-stroke single and – the machine on which he covered most miles – a 2bhp 1958 Phillips Gadabout. Add to this, according to his brother, that Stott’s mechanical abilities were negligible and his attitude to maintenance negligent, the odds were rather stacked against him.

The journey seemed to go smoothly for several weeks, but then things turned sour. Having been lost for many days in a remote wilderness, Stott’s provisions were almost exhausted, thanks mainly to poor planning and incessant snacking, though basing supplies largely around Sugar Puffs and Dr Pepper was never a great idea in the first place, especially for a 19-stone diabetic. With his petrol reserves almost spent, he crested a hill and saw a settlement in the distance. Crying with relief (we know such details thanks to the survival of his video diaries) Stott descended towards signs of life, no doubt hopeful of salvation.

However, it was clear from the outset that this lumbering, weeping outsider was regarded with suspicion at best, open aggression being the overriding reaction from any of the locals he approached. He didn’t know the language and they clearly didn’t understand him. That night he slept fitfully in the open alongside his GSX-R.

Speaking to his video diary, Stott, apparently affecting the tones of a Victorian explorer, said: ‘I have had no luck in finding either food or fuel. Everyone I approach seems to bare their teeth and bark rebukes, which although I cannot fathom are clearly warnings to stay away. This afternoon, feeling delirious with thirst, craving simply water, I stumbled into what appeared to be a meeting place for males of the community. But although they each clutched a beaker of some strange, dark concoction, I was offered none and the elder, clearly in charge and standing in a small, raised enclosure, failed to understand my pleas. In desperation, I reached for the drink of a younger man sitting nearby, but I was heavily beaten and thrown out into the mud. I shall try again tomorrow, but this evening I have supped on some water from a puddle to help wash down the last of the Sugar Puffs. Thank God I didn’t bring Alpen as my mother had advised.’

Things didn’t get much better, as an entry from the following day testified: ‘Today was terrible. I had left the bike outside what appeared to be a primitive version of what we might call a grocer's and when I emerged, empty handed, I saw the bike being pushed away by a group of dirty, wretched children. As I came near they managed to start it and the largest rode it away, several others on the pillion, gesticulating wildly. I fear I shall not see it again. Later, I wandered into a steamy, filthy shack in which a local woman was stirring all manner of unrecognisable foodstuffs in a vat of boiling oil. But having no money of any kind, I could not convince her to part with even the smallest item, not even by bartering with my Wee Willy. Is this it? Is this where I shall end my days, in this Godforsaken hell-hole?’

The answer seems to be yes, as Stott was never heard of again. And the saddest aspect of this tale? He hadn’t even made it out of Britain. The remains of Stott’s GSX-R, stripped to the bare frame, was found in a suburb of Glasgow. But in funny sort of way I’ve been inspired by Kevin Stott to make an epic journey of my own, except I plan to travel north from John O’Groats, deep into the Arctic Circle then strike out east into Russia. Watch this space.


Fannying about

From Cyril's memoirs dated 4 April 2008

'BSA enters sex toy industry' is not a headline you’re likely to have seen, but only because fate dealt the project an early conclusion, to the relief of women everywhere, I should imagine.

In late 1963 BSA was pretty healthy, but the smarter people high up knew that the future held stiff challenges. To that end, a scheme was set up for workers to put forward ideas, which could be as wide-ranging as their imaginations (which, given mid-1960s Birmingham, led to a pretty conservative haul). However, among the two-stroke shopping trolleys and automated dog bathers was a racy suggestion for a, well… a motorised phallus. BSA had a reputation in some circles for being a stuffy firm, but there must have been something in the tea that week because a development engineer was put straight onto it, so to speak. Although phallic pleasuring devices are as old as mankind itself, the first battery-powered ‘widow’s comforter’ was still a few years away, so there was certainly a hole in the market, and BSA intended to fill it.

A lad was sent up to Soho and returned, still blushing, with a duffle bag full of samples ranging from the ludicrous to the frankly unfeasible. The development team disappeared into the workshop and after a few months of intense beavering a fully functional prototype was ready.

Development manager Terry Sheldon presented the creation to a special assembly of the board and managers, but initial impressions weren’t good. Many were surprised by the sheer bulk of the thing, made clear when Sheldon yelped on trapping his finger beneath it when heaving it onto the boardroom table. The ‘business end’ looked normal enough, complete with convincing veins and ridges, but the alloy casing beneath, equipped with steel grab handles sporting fat, anti-vibe grips, made the thing look like a two-horsepower AC generator – with a knob on it – an image only enhanced when, to everyone's horror, Sheldon turned a petcock, grasped a pull cord and yanked the beast into life.

After the initial shock, someone shouted above the din that the banshee wail of a 25cc two-stroke engine running on pre-mix would take some explaining to the neighbours, and by the time the 'Beeza Buzza' had vibed its way across the polished boardroom table, leaving an unsightly gouge, most people had left the haze-filled room
in dismay.

In late April 1964 we were summoned once again and this time Terry Sheldon placed a much more compact contraption on the table. He explained how he’d worked closely with the chaps at Joseph Lucas to come up with a battery-powered alternative, the 'Beeza Teeza'. But initial enthusiasm began to sour when Sheldon produced a battery pack the size of a large loaf. He strapped this to his waist then, using cables and clamps akin to jump leads, he connected it to the 'spinster's companion' which sprang into life with a fizz of blue sparks. Sheldon gripped the thing with grim determination while maintaining a bravado grin, despite quite clearly having his teeth rattled.

Now, I’m no expert on these matters, but I have to say that the movement created by the various cams and cranks would have been sufficient to mix a small batch of concrete and the thought of it going anywhere near a person’s more delicate regions was quite disturbing. Very quickly, the room began to fill with a smell familiar to generations of youngsters, that of burning-out Scalextric cars, and we watched in bafflement as Sheldon, his vision now blurred beyond use, grappled with the beast in an effort to switch it off. Thankfully, the Small Heath fire brigade swiftly brought the resulting blaze
under control.

Unbelievably, Sheldon was given one last crack at it and in early August he brought us together one last time in the refurbished board room. This, it was clear from the start, showed far more promise. Very compact for the day, weighing just four pounds, it gained nods of approval as it was passed around the various members. Then, with not a little showmanship, Sheldon produced an ‘adapted’ honeydew melon, inserted the device, turned a Bakelite knob and off it went, thrumming away happily as Sheldon slid it in and out with some skill. However, batteries weren’t then what they are now, and within about a minute the 'Beez-o-Gasm' was struggling in its death throes like a giant drowning slug.

It was quickly decided that 60 seconds with a floundering gastropod would not be sufficient to pleasure even the most desperate of ladies and that far more fun could be had in a couple of miles on the pillion of any of the wildly vibratory BSA range. Sheldon was suspended on full pay pending enquiries.


Splash it all over

From Cyril's memoirs dated 2 March 2008

The Dakar Rally is an awe-inspiring event for many reasons, not least because the desert does strange things to a man. I know - from
bitter experience.

On a scorching day in August 1999, as the sun beat down, I knelt by the side of the XT600, staring at a flat rear tyre. Sweat dripped from the tip of my nose and landed in the dust, evaporating almost instantly. I felt defeated and lonely and for the first time since I was a boy I clasped my hands together and prayed, concluding my silent plea by leaning back and shouting up at the vast azure sky. ‘Why, oh God? Why me? Why now? Why?!’

‘Oh Cyril, get a grip.’ It was Francesca. ‘Drink your tea and then get Stefano over with his mobile tyre thingy if you can’t do it yourself. You have to get it done by tomorrow else you’ll miss the ferry. What a drama queen.’ Three days later, thanks to Stefano, I'd made the trip from my home in the Testa di Cazzo hills and was actually in
the desert.

The trip had been planned for months, a ride through Tunisia, Algeria and Mali to Timbuktu, via Tuat (merely because the name made us laugh). The other half of ‘us’ was Stewart Kidd, a brawny off-road specialist developing Yamaha’s two-wheel-drive 2-Trac system fitted to a test mule. I’d pulled strings to get myself on this trip as it was my final year before retirement and the chance was too good to miss. Let’s not talk about hindsight, it makes fools of us all.

I knew Stewart, though not well, from his regular dealings with the R&D department and he’d always seemed like a nice bloke, if a little intense. Nothing wrong with that, I thought, a serious approach in unforgiving terrain was fine by me, gritty sandwiches and a few beach races being my only sand experience up until that point.

Five days in, deep into the desert, we reached a rocky plain on the edge of a mountain range and set up camp as the sky darkened and brilliant stars began to emerge. We cooked and ate, drank a few tots of whisky, then lay back to gaze at the firmament. I’ll admit that I’ve had my cod-philosophical moments when staring up at the night sky, usually worse for wear, but Stewart suddenly became very
strange indeed.

‘Cyril, do you realise that every time you pleasure yourself, your Lord and God is watching?’

‘I’m sorry?’ I said, startled, but not sure if I’d heard him correctly.

‘The Lord, your God, Cyril. Our God. We all must answer to him at some point.’ His voice had gone all boomy, like a very hammy vicar.

‘Yes, yes, that’s true... I suppose,’ I said, playing for time. ‘Although for now I’d concentrate on answering to Mr Kunasawa, who’s especially interested in the outcome of this test.’

Stewart then stood up and, despite the chilly air, threw aside his jacket and pulled off his T-shirt. In the firelight I could see a sprawling tattoo on his chest and abdomen. It was the face of Christ.

‘Christ!’ I blurted, in surprise rather than recognition, given that the face looked looked more like Elton John's and I only twigged that it was meant to be Jesus because of the crown of thorns. Flippin' marvellous, I thought. I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere with a full-on religious nutter. Great.

‘Our Lord Barry sees all,’ he said, stretching his arms wide.

‘Barry? Is that meant to be Barry Sheene?’ I asked, squinting at the tattoo. ‘I doubt he’d be very flattered if he saw it, Stewart.’

He then fiddled around in a pannier and pulled out a small bottle, proclaiming, ‘Let us anoint our bodies with the sacred liquid. Cyril, cleanse your sins!’ And with that he sprinkled this stuff on me as I cowered by the fire. I wiped a spot of it from my face and took a tentative sniff, wary of what it might be, but there was no doubt about it – Brut 33 aftershave.

Then, with no further ceremony, but with an air of urgency, Stewart rode off into the night and I had to make my own way home. Ten days later he turned up at Yamaha HQ in Surrey as if nothing had happened, filed his report and no more was said about the incident. However, when Barry died in 2003, they found Stewart in his own back garden, attached to a huge crucifix wearing a set of vintage Sheene Heron Suzuki leathers. He was perfectly okay (physically), having climbed into the leathers after nailing them to the cross – sacrilege in itself, some might say. The whole scene reeked of
cheap aftershave.


Booby Prize

From Cyril's memoirs dated 25 January 2008

It’s the Cyril Green Review of 2007. Absolutely worthless, just like most of the recipients. Just in case these memoirs ever see the light of day, I shall have to undertake a certain amount of fudging (as a former GP racer once said to an unfortunate brolly dolly).

Stupidest Factory Test Rider Prang
We’ve all ogled a nice pert bottom while riding through town (though when I moved to Italy the pertness and ogle-potential went off the scale and after several near misses I now ride under a self-imposed gawp ban), but we’re not all testing the new fuel injection on a Triumph Thruxton. Witnesses say that in March a certain GD was still eyes right as he jammed the bike into the back of a Whippy King ice cream van just outside the otherwise sleepy Sheepy Magna in Leicestershire. Local plod initially shocked and confused by significant raspberry sauce spillage.

Most Drunken Executive

The Germans do quite a few things very well indeed. Among them sausages, marching, stringingwordstogethertomakeanewword, boxer engines and beer drinking. Thankfully, BM’s upper management has changed since the Gunter Blasen penile-jousting incident [see 'I want to show you my big cock', December '08], so in May I was lucky enough to be invited to a closed test session near Hamburg for the BMW HP2 Sport. At the close of a celebratory dinner to mark the end of pre-production testing, I watched through rather ‘refreshed’ eyes as SK tapped his glass to attract the attention of the room, declared his love for everyone there and proclaimed the HP2 Sport as the sexiest bike he’d ever seen. He then stumbled across to the display bike, sitting on a low plinth, took out his old chap and inserted it in the exhaust pipe, attempting to clamber aboard from behind, trousers round his ankles, feet scrabbling on the back tyre like a randy terrier trying to mount a labrador. Within seconds he was asleep, slumped over the bike and ignored by everyone.

Most Ridiculous Law
Here in Italy, we motorcyclists narrowly avoided being electronically tagged in the war against crime. Alarmed at the number of attacks or getaways in which bikes or scooters are involved, Romano Prodi’s government proposed the insertion beneath the skin of the upper arm a data chip identifying the rider and linking he or she to the bike they’re on. The plan was scrapped in June when it turned out that of the 15 people involved in the six-month trial, one’s identity continually registered as a 73-year-old woman who’d died in 2004 and four had their arms cut off by mafia gangs keen on identity theft. All’s now gone quiet after talk of ‘teething troubles’.

Most Futile Record Attempt
In August, Kurac Shupcino from Split made a bid to enter the Croatian Book of Records as the rider to have completed a lap of the Zagreb ringroad in the shortest time while eating a king-sized govno (a spicy pasty and local delicacy). Not only did Kurac die in the process after a chunk of crust blew down his windpipe at 140mph as he crossed the line, but he was robbed of posthumous glory as the new record was deemed invalid due to the pasty being beef and onion rather than the regulation mutton and beetroot.

Biggest Waste of Money
In November, it came to my attention that a certain Japanese factory had finally washed its hands of a failed project having spent more than 340m Yen (£1.5m) trying to perfect a viable on-bike urinal – working title, the Eezy Weezy. Apparently, they were finally scuppered by the crazy safety lobby when unable to demonstrate the safe extraction of the John Thomas while on the move. What ridiculous killjoys.

Worst Home Mechanic
Finally, in December came the story of the DIY servicer who, during an oil change, poured almost four litres of 15w 50 into his Ducati’s filler before realising that it was forming in a pool beneath the bike as he’d forgotten to replace the sump plug. Stepping back in horror he trod on the edge of the tray of waste oil, spilling the lot on the floor, before slipping on the mess, knocking over the bike and breaking his thumb (much to the disappointment of his energetic young wife). Step forward, please, the idiot that is Mr Cyril Green of Montemona, Italy.


The Japanese VIP

From Cyril's memoirs dated 4 January 2008

The freakishly wonderful Suzuki B-King has brought back mixed emotions. You see, I once had close dealings with a certain Haru Jakamashi from Suzuki HQ, who went on to be a key figure in the B-King’s birth. When we set off on a road trip together in the spring of 1996 it should have been the start of a long friendship and a fruitful working relationship. Instead, it was a disaster.

Mr Jakamashi doesn’t have a motorcycle licence. He raced in his youth, but for our journey to a European Suzuki summit in Valencia he was to ride pillion. He was flying in from Hamamatsu and I was to pick him up from Heathrow on a then newly-launched 1200S Bandit. However, I have a confession.

The maintenance department had entrusted me to carry out the bike’s first service myself at home and, of course, I left things till the evening before the trip. By 11pm I was all done, when, having changed the oil as part of the service, I decided to recheck the sump plug. I’d lent out my torque wrench so I was using guesswork as I applied a little... more... pressure to the spanner. It's quite odd, looking back, that the thought of stripping the thread and it actually happening seemed to occur simultaneously. A sweat broke out down my back.

I’ve always been a bodger and opted for one I’d once used on a Kawasaki Z900. I opened a bottle of plonk, poured myself a glass, poured another, then, after a little trimming I screwed the cork into the sump. So long as I didn’t cane the Bandit, and I had no intention to with a high-ranking Japanese suit on the back, I felt sure the cork would stay in place till I got back.

There hadn’t been time to fit hard luggage except for a top box, so I used soft throwovers. At the airport, Mr Jakamashi and I had a bit of a tiff straight off when he insisted that the panniers be adjusted way down so they weren’t interfering with the backs of his thighs. Maybe he had a Cordura phobia, but eventually he was happy and off we went.

The overnight crossing from Portsmouth to Bilbao was interesting. The demure Mr Jakamashi found his voice after a bottle of Chardonnay and several large cognacs, and we spent two hours in the karaoke lounge duelling with some footie lads on the way to a game. When we staggered back to our shared cabin (an administrative error we decided to endure) my honourable Japanese companion rounded off the night by chundering into my shoes.

The next day he was moving very slowly as we set off across Spain. Twice he fell asleep against my back before I insisted on bungeeing him to the top box for his own safety. Later, on the A68 just north-west of Zaragoza, people started flashing us as we overtook them. Disgruntled do-gooders infuriated by our speed, I thought. Until, in the right mirror, I noticed the flames.

It’s remarkable how long it takes to get a bungeed fat bloke off the back off a bike, especially when he’s hung over and panicking as flames from a burning pannier lick at his right buttock. Moments later, as we stamped on smouldering clothing on the hard shoulder, my suggestion that it was his fault for insisting the panniers were adjusted down so far that one had touched the exhaust didn’t go down too well. It was salt in the wound, given that the charred remains were all his. My clothes were in the other pannier.

The rest of the ride down was tortured. We hardly spoke. Then on the last evening after the conference we made friends again in a drunken haze. Mr Jakamashi had cheered himself up on a shopping spree, feeling especially proud of a hugely expensive pair of hand-made Spanish shoes. Once again we took to the karaoke, duetting, in a fit of hysterics, to Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’.

The next morning, I was outside the hotel checking the straps on what was left of the panniers as the Bandit warmed up on the sidestand. Mr Jakamashi emerged, looking very swish in all his new clothes, ready to take a taxi to the airport. We shook hands across the thrumming bike.

‘We have good time together,’ he smiled, and I could see a rosy future for me at Suzuki after all. ‘I like this bike very much!’

And with that he gave the throttle a slightly cack-handed twist, the revs hit the limiter, there was a dull pop and three litres of hot oil disgorged themselves onto Mr Jakamashi’s brand new tan suede monkstrap shoes. I left Suzuki in the autumn of that year.


Binky's Folly

From Cyril's memoirs dated 11 December 2007

‘Gentlemen, it is our destiny, our duty, to present the world not merely with the bike of tomorrow, but with the Bike of the Future.’ Fine, all very Raymond Baxter, but when I tell you that those words echoed around the boardroom not of Suzuki when perhaps planning the new Hayabusa, of Yamaha or even Hinckley Triumph, but of late Sixties Meriden Triumph then you’ll understand the irony. And for once, my freakish friend Peter Cartwright (of dog shaving, turd harvesting and duck pond rampage infamy) wasn’t involved, though thanks only to a court order.

It’s hard to believe that project Jet Bike was ever allowed to take off. Had things gone differently, who knows? We could all now be hurtling around on 350mph hovering missiles with all the control of a discount supermarket trolley stacked with white cider and pushed by a crack-whore teen mother.

The fun began in autumn 1968. Triumph was on the brink of financial disaster, plodding away with outdated designs and haunted, on the eve of its debut, by the overhead camshaft Honda CB750. Many of us at the firm thought that work ought to be progressing on a DOHC four, but people higher up had rather more ambitious ideas.

Harry ’Binky’ Tuttle was a recently appointed development engineer and, being middle-aged and with his biological clock ticking loudly, was desperate to make a name for himself. Ex-RAF, he claimed to be a close friend of jet engine genius, Frank Whittle, and bamboozled the Board into assigning him a small team and large budget.

Suspicions should have been raised within the first month. An aircraft hangar just outside Coventry had been leased and was surrounded by secrecy. However, word got out of dangerous experimentation, terrible near-misses and a reckless attitude to test rider safety. Then suddenly the plans were shelved and nothing more was said about it, but about 20 years later at the NEC Show I bumped into one of the chaps who’d been drafted in to work on the project, Keith Potts, and after a few pints of slop from the NEC bar, he spoke freely about those dark days.

The thing was a shambles from the start, he told me. Tuttle’s child-like impatience clouding any judgement he might once have had. The Jet Bike was an awful lash-up. What you might imagine to be something perhaps slightly larger than a modern-day jet ski was, in fact, a huge turbine fitted with rudimentary controls. The rider straddled it, like sitting over a large barrel and, influenced by the relatively new Hawker Harrier ‘Jump Jet’, swivelling vanes at the side allowed a vertical take-off. All very well in theory.

Within the first two weeks of testing a ‘working’ prototype there were several regrettable incidents: one rider was hospitalised after ascending ‘like a bleedin’ rocket’ and hitting the hangar roof; a visiting Triumph manager was rushed to casualty when a fierce blowback melted his Terylene trousers to his legs; a technician required first aid after a pork pie was sucked from Tuttle's hand and through the turbine, thwacking the man in the face and knocking out two teeth; and Biggles the aerodrome cat was ‘hoovered up like a rag’ and deposited as a multicoloured mural on the hangar wall.

However, the project continued, draining Meriden’s already paltry funds, until the day the Board came to see the Jet Bike in action. Remember, this was meant to be the prototype of a big-selling street bike and although the idea of hovering had by then been quashed, the thing instead using wheels, it was still far from viable. The directors watched in horror as a man dressed in a fireproof suit used a small stepladder to mount the beast, perching precariously on a thick asbestos saddle. Retractable outriggers kept the machine upright, as the rider’s feet were now a foot or more above the floor. The jet was fired up, its turbine hit a high wailing whistle and the directors stared slack-jawed as the monster moved slowly forward. Unfortunately, only one of the outriggers retracted correctly, the other snagging at the ground as the bike rapidly picked up speed. The thing went into an writhing death-weave but continued up the two-mile straight, by now hitting well over 150mph and still accelerating.

The fireball that rose on the horizon seemed a poignant illustration of Meriden Triumph’s fortunes, and before anyone had the chance to sack him, Harry Tuttle had scarpered, never to be heard of again.


Longmore Way Down

From Cyril's memoirs dated 4 November 2007

‘Cuppa tea mate?’ Those words, in an unmistakable Black Country twang, were uttered to me a few years back by Lee Longmore, swiftly followed by, ‘Wait there mate and arl getcha a bacon sarnie. Brown sauce or red?’ All of which would have been extremely welcome if at the time I hadn’t been trapped beneath a Yamaha R6, having been skittled off in a South London street by, I kid you not, a transvestite dwarf on a minimoto. Lee Longmore was not that dwarf. He was far stranger than that.

I first met Lee in a San Francisco coffee shop. Well, I say I met him, but in fact he sat across from me on a low sofa, dressed in running kit, including very short shorts, his legs sprawled wide in a rather forced show of masculinity. It was difficult to know whether or not his genital display was accidental or for my benefit (maybe my leathers had caught his eye?), in any case, the boys were certainly out of the barracks and remained so until the arrival of a young couple he knew, the woman looking rather unnerved having, on her approach, also been treated to Lee’s ‘last turkey in the shop’ impression. I rode away from the coffee shop and didn’t expect to see Lee again, so when I came round in that Clapham street and found him standing over me I was relieved that his full leathers covered all eventualities.

Since that day, I’ve got to know Lee pretty well – linked, as we are, by a love of motorcycles. He was one of the first to buy a Triumph Daytona 675, putting in his order after reading the pre-launch article in Bike (foolhardy given his renown gullibility. He once spent an evening drinking Tennant’s LA, assuming it was a trendy beer named after the Californian city, and was confused as to why he remained sober). Shortly after buying the Triumph, he rode to Italy to visit me and Francesca and I found him a slightly freakish guest. At one point I could have sworn he was wearing bike boots as he clomped around upstairs, but it was his normal, bare-footed Frankensteinian stomp.

He also brought along several Airfix kits, over which I’d catch him hunched in the small hours, like an obsessive elf. He brought a rope ladder, which he attached to the balcony of his attic room and kept rolled but ready for action, ‘merely as a precaution, Cyril’. And he insisted on ‘tweaking’ my computer, claiming to be a professional who wrote Triumph’s ignition and fuelling maps (a blatant lie). It cost me a packet to have the labyrinthine chaos unravelled by a real professional, who handed it back with a pained expression, saying that unravelling the mess had been like ‘peering into the mind of a psychopath’. Perhaps Lee really should write fuelling maps.

But you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer psychopath and that week, while Lee stayed with us at our modest house in Montemona, we went on some great blasts together in the Testa di Cazzo hills, he being a brisk and smooth rider, though far too keen to advertise his Advanced Motorcycling certificate (‘Cyril, you might think, What’s that child’s bike doing there? I think, Where’s the child!’).

It was rather sad what happened to Lee Longmore on his return to London. His behaviour became increasingly erratic, he put on weight and would be seen cruising the streets on his Daytona wearing overly-tight designer clothes better suited to a man half his age, and, in warm weather, a large and unsightly sweat patch swamping his back. He rigged up a PA system to the bike and would ‘talk’ his route for the benefit of the general public, spreading the Advanced Motorcycling gospel.

Then one day, this normally mild-mannered man simply flipped. Approached at traffic lights in Cricklewood by a tramp asking for spare change, Lee stepped off the bike, letting it crash to the ground, threw his helmet to the floor and challenged the shocked tramp to a fight. When the tramp backed away, Lee took out his frustration on the bike, laying into it with fists and boots. When the police arrived the bike was in flames and he was in tears, squatting in the gutter stripped to his underpants, trendy clothes burning along with his beloved Daytona, sobbing ‘I shoulda bought a f***** Mini’. If only I’d been there to offer the poor chap a nice cuppa tea.