Post by mikeos
Favourite moment? the lovely Brough Superior SS100 Lawrence was riding.
Lawrence races an airplane with his Brough:
THE extravagance in which my surplus emotion expressed itself lay on the
road. So long as roads were tarred blue and; straight; not hedged; and
empty and dry, so long I was rich.
Nightly I'd run up from the hangar, upon the last stroke of work, spurring
my tired feet to be nimble. The very movement refreshed them, after the
day-long restraint of service. In five minutes my bed would be down, ready
for the night: in four more I was in breeches and puttees, pulling on my
gauntlets as I walked over to my bike, which lived in a garage-hut,
opposite. Its tyres never wanted air, its engine had a habit of starting at
second kick; a good habit, for only by frantic plunges upon the starting
pedal could my puny weight force the engine over the seven atmospheres of
Boanerges' first glad roar at being alive again nightly jarred the huts of
Cadet College into life. 'There he goes, the noisy….…,' someone would say
enviously in every flight. It is part of an airman's profession to be
knowing with engines: and a thoroughbred engine is our undying
satisfaction. The camp wore the virtue of my Brough like a flower in its
cap. Tonight Tug and Dusty came to the step of our hut to see me off.
'Running down to Smoke, perhaps?' jeered Dusty; hitting at my regular game
of London and back for tea on fine Wednesday afternoons.
Boa is a top-gear machine, as sweet in that as most single cylinders in
middle. I chug lordlily past the guard-room and through the speed limit at
no more than sixteen. Round the bend, past the farm, and the way
straightens. Now for it. The engine's final development is fifty-two
horse-power. A miracle that all this docile strength waits behind one tiny
lever for the pleasure of my hand
Another bend: and I have the honour of one of England's straightest and
fastest roads The burble of my exhaust unwound like a long cord behind me.
Soon my speed snapped it, and I heard only the cry of the wind which my
battering head split and fended aside. The cry rose with my speed to a
shriek: while the air's coldness streamed like two jets of iced water into
my dissolving eyes. I screwed them to slits, and focused my sight two
hundred yards ahead of me on the empty mosaic of the tar's gravelled
Like arrows the tiny flies pricked my cheeks: and sometimes a heavier body,
some house-fly or beetle, would crash into face or lips like a spent
bullet. A glance at the speedometer: seventy eight. Boanerges is warming
up. I pull the throttle right open, on the top of the slope, and we swoop
flying across the dip, and up-down up-down the switchback beyond: the
weighty machine launching itself like a projectile with a whirr of wheels
into the air at the take-off of each rise, to land lurchingly with such a
snatch of the driving chain as jerks my spine like a rictus.
Once we so fled across the evening light, with the yellow sun on my left,
when a huge shadow roared just overhead. A Bristol Fighter, from Whitewash
Villas, our neighbour aerodrome, was banking sharply round. I checked speed
an instant to wave: and the slip-stream of my impetus snapped my arm and
elbow astern, like a raised flail. The pilot pointed down the road towards
Lincoln. I sat hard in the saddle, folded back my ears and went away after
him, like a dog after a hare. Quickly we drew abreast, as the impulse of
his dive to my level exhausted itself.
The next mile of road was rough. I braced my feet into the rests, thrust
with my arms, and clenched my knees on the tank till its rubber grips
goggled under my thighs. Over the first pot-hole Boanerges screamed in
surprise, its mud-guard bottoming with a yawp upon the tyre Through the
plunges of the next ten seconds I clung on, wedging my gloved hand in the
throttle lever so that no bump should close it and spoil our speed. Then
the bicycle wrenched sideways into three long ruts: it swayed dizzily,
wagging its tail for thirty awful yards. Out came the clutch, the engine
raced freely: Boa checked and straightened his head with a shake, as a
The bad ground was passed and on the new road our flight became birdlike.
My head was blown out with air so that my ears had failed and we seemed to
whirl soundlessly between the sun-gilt stubble fields. I dared, on a rise,
to slow imperceptibly and glance sideways into the sky. There the Bif was,
two hundred yards and more back. Play with the fellow? Why not? I slowed to
ninety: signalled with my hand for him to overtake. Slowed ten more: sat
up. Over he rattled. His passenger, a helmeted and goggled grin, hung out
of the cock-pit to pass me the 'Up yer' Raf randy greeting.
They were hoping I was a flash in the pan, giving them best. Open went my
throttle again. Boa crept level, fifty feet below: held them: sailed ahead
into the clean and lonely country. An approaching car pulled nearly into
its ditch at the sight of our race. The Bif was zooming among the trees and
telegraph poles, with my scurrying spot only eighty yards ahead. I gained
though, gained steadily: was perhaps five miles an hour the faster. Down
went my left hand to give the engine two extra dollops of oil, for fear
that something was running hot: but an overhead Jap twin, super-tuned like
this one, would carry on to the moon and back, unfaltering.
We drew near the settlement. A long mile before the first houses I closed
down and coasted to the cross-roads by the hospital. Bif caught up, banked,
climbed and turned for home, waving to me as long as he was in sight.
Fourteen miles from camp, we are, here: and fifteen minutes since I left
Tug and Dusty at the hut door.
I let in the clutch again, and eased Boanerges down the hill, along the
tram-lines through the dirty streets and up-hill to the aloof cathedral,
where it stood in frigid perfection above the cowering close. No message of
mercy in Lincoln. Our God is a jealous God: and man's very best offering
will fall disdainfully short of worthiness, in the sight of Saint Hugh and
Remigius, earthy old Remigius, looks with more charity on me and Boanerges.
I stabled the steel magnificence of strength and speed at his west door and
went in: to find the organist practicing something slow and rhythmical,
like a multiplication table in notes, on the organ. The fretted,
unsatisfying and unsatisfied lace-work of choir screen and spandrels drank
in the main sound. Its surplus spilled thoughtfully into my ears.
By then my belly had forgotten its lunch, my eyes smarted and streamed. Out
again, to sluice my head under the White Hart's yard-pump. A cup of real
chocolate and a muffin at the teashop: and Boa and I took the Newark road
for the last hour of daylight. He ambles at forty-five and when roaring his
utmost, surpasses the hundred. A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood
in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its
logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to
excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness. Because Boa loves me,
he gives me five more miles of speed than a stranger would get from him.
At Nottingham I added sausages from my wholesaler to the bacon which I'd
bought at Lincoln: bacon so nicely sliced that each rasher meant a penny.
The solid pannier-bags behind the saddle took all this and at my next stop
a (farm) took also a felt-hammocked box of fifteen eggs. Home by Sleaford,
our squalid, purse-proud, local village. Its butcher had six penn'orth of
dripping ready for me. For months have I been making my evening round a
marketing, twice a week, riding a hundred miles for the joy of it and
picking up the best food cheapest, over half the country side.