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.

No comments: