Mid-winter morning I lug bloated bags through the door,
still frowning from encounters with mums and their toddlers,
unruly as puppies, to be greeted by ‘Shouldn’t have left me
your laptop displaying a motorcycle for sale whose retro looks
stirs memories of past bike loves, and ‘is a steal’.
Suddenly, all previous tutting at middle aged men
on bikes ‘they can’t handle’, mutterings of
‘Trying to recapture their youth’ are forgotten.
Replaced now by ‘It will help my back’, ‘Get me exercising’.
But I have known by the way you ogle bikes in car parks,
this is an itch you must scratch.
By Friday it is parked outside.
First fine day you armour up in a leather jacket
reinforced like a knight’s brigandine,
select a private road at the rear of the house
to get to grips with: ‘wing mirrors all wrong’,
‘brakes on the wrong side’.
I tip toe up the path, peep through a crack in the fence
as you go through the protocol of ‘lid’ on, then Raybans,
under which disguise, you time travel back to your 20s.
You mount, and after decades out of the saddle,
roar off down the road with Steve McQueen cool,
leaving me behind. And jealousy abrades
at this old passion rekindled,
as if I have reluctantly agreed to an infidelity,
because I have nothing comparable in my past
to give me this Woo Hoo! high.
Dancing once, perhaps, but not now with my disobedient body.
Suddenly, I understand why those Whitstable women
don wet suits and take to wild swimming with whoops,
rather than seek their thrills amongst the WI.
I retrace down the path, noting the garden chores
that are pending, to coffee and online solitaire.
The hat and dress I fussed to find for 60th
birthday bash remains box-bound. Instead,
I am kitted out with biker armour,
donning the dead weight jacket with a grunt,
all fingers and thumbs with the helmet.
But, I won’t take you out until:
you get the measure of the machine,
become road-savvy for local ruts and drain covers
that might unseat; feels like a reprieve,
suspecting that your fantasy of me as pillion will fizzle.
Not for you refresher lessons, but a once a biker
faith that it will all come back to you,
as if riding was an autonomic function,
and for several weeks its, I’m off on the bike with
back in tones giddy as rekindling an old love affair,
then suddenly, I can take you out now .
First ride, I hide beneath my helmet, the Let’s get it over
expression, usually reserved for facing, without flinching,
monster credit card bills, mammograms …
My 60 year old legs struggle to develop over the seat
that I must perch upon, no bigger than a bar stool.
For now, I have permission to place my arms
around you but generally you dislike it,
since it feels more boa constrictor than sexy biker chick
As the bike moves off, the winter pitted roads wind me
so that my body screams for a seat belt,
first encounters with buses, HGVs,
I mentally crouch, missing a car’s metal carapace.
Once on the by-pass you accelerate, the velocity
hurricane buffets me, but simultaneously,
my own driver’s instincts kick in as I peer over
your shoulder, scanning for oncoming jeopardy .
The first corners present like the fairground rides
I have always avoided, my instinct is to pull against the tilt
in self-preservation. Fortunately you are experienced
enough to compensate for my wrestle with gravity.
But there is a moment, up Courtney road, where
the road’s camber is airstrip smooth,
and the woods seem to keep pace like running children.
I notice donkeys in a field, a coy cottage hidden behind hedges,
details overlooked in my car as, music blaring,
I bowl through the present, eyes fixed on the road ahead.
Back home I am fizzing, and receiving your blue riband
praise I didn’t even know you were there,
swagger up the garden path.
You must trust him, he knows what he is doing.
So I wrench my eyes from on-coming cars,
avert my gaze as buses scrape past us,
look at the sky whilst you negotiate doddery cycle riders,
allowing you to lead me in this riotous quick step.
Until, an argy bargy with white vans on roundabouts,
I simply smile and shrug He’ll sort it,
giggle as at traffic lights we weave past stationary
four-wheel drives, as if waved through like VIPs.
Follow his shoulder line on corners and, at first, I
through each curve as if to a nervous child,
but over time given the snakey or dual carriage way option,
I chose the Herne Bay twists that over the weeks
we take lower and faster like our personal TT.
And sometimes we blast up the M2 doing a ton,
wind rattling my lid, battering my jacket,
in the wing mirrors, grinning at each other in cahoots.
She has a retro glamour. Your What do you think of
is deaf to my response, and Shall we go and have a look?
rhetorical, so I know that I have competition on my hands.
To be fair, you say that you won’t purchase unless I ride
as a teenager I was warned against rough biker boys who were
as dangerous as their machines, so have never even sat on a
So, you construct a mock-up with stool, chair, sofa arm;
instruct me in
the protocol of mounting. I sit astride. Would you feel
comfortable on that?
I nod, forgetting that this cycle simulator is not moving at 80
You joke about joining gentlemen of a certain age, previously
tutted at for trying to recapture their youth on thoroughbred
they don’t know how to handle. Now, you buy T shirts with
complicit in the lark of old bikers returning to the saddle.
And just as I followed you onto planes to daredevil destinations
friends purse their lips as you get me, at 60, on the back of
and from the off, what was meant to be your affair becomes a
as I watch the weekly weather report for the next fine
and our holidays hijacked, we hop on the bike and race out of
Our diaries are torn up that March.
Your internet searches to find some way to mark
my 60th are all dead ends.
But, in the two months since you got the motorbike,
I have learned to take corners so low I could tag the tarmac,
compensate for shunts at junctions and lights
by leaning back against the sissy bar,
adjust my position when pot-holes wind, with a wriggle,
even chat at raucous night club volume, as we motor along.
So, I decide a blast down to Margate,
for chips and ice cream on the seafront, is gift enough,
because your coaxing me at 60,
on the back of a motor bike, is the new adventure,
every bit as exotic as my eyes scaling
the great pyramids, and still part of you,
pivoting my life 360 degrees.
If you have any thoughts on these poems, Fiona Sinclair would be pleased to hear them.