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Old 11-07-2008, 12:53 PM   #91
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Old 11-07-2008, 11:11 PM   #92
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Hey Joey
Reading this thread a rush of memories came back, Id like to share some of those so heres my story.

I started as a Motorcycle courier in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992.
I grew up riding bikes and being a courier seemed like a great way to make a buck or two while doing something I enjoyed. Of course the romance of being a motorcycle courier was a big part of it, I mean there are stories throughout history of 2 wheeled couriers treking great distances with the single mind set of delivering the package at all costs.

I had just moved to SF and had a friend who lived in an apartment where a big pile of rusting motorcycles sat in the courtyard untouched for at least a year. One rainy day I began sifting through the pile and buried at the bottom was a balck 1974 BMW R75/6 that someone had rammed into something head on. I went through the DMV process and eventually got a title. After a few used parts the front end was complete and I was riding around.

I got a job at Quicksilver Messenger Service and my first delivery I got hopelessly lost trying to find a very hidden address. Time went by and things smoothed out and I was mixing it up 10hrs a day in the highways and byways of the Bay Area. I had a Belstaff Jacket and pants, some old school motocross boots and a beat up helmet, topped off with my over the shoulder courier bag. I would ride sometimes +300 miles in a day, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Rafael, Sanjose, it would not be unsual to pass over all five bridges in the bay on a good day.

One of the most memorable jobs I had at Quicksilver was delivering news film for the FIFA World Cup held in Palo Alto. I had full press credentials that afforded me full access and parking permits to park right at the front of the stadium. I would show up at the start of the matches and roam around awhile. I spent time in the press boxes surrounded by a hundred tv announcers screaming GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL in a hundred languages.

At halftime I would run down to the field, collect film from a bunch of photographers and then blaze off to the News Agency about 15 or so miles away and try to return for the final pickup before the game would let out to avoid traffic.

One occasion I returned a little late due to the heavy traffic, Brazil had won and the crowd had flooded the streets in celebration. I rode down the street trying to get to the stadium and the crowd became thicker and thicker until finally, I left my bike in the middle of the street surrounded by celebrating fans and made my way to the pick up. I was acctually suprised to find my bike later and it was stillin one piece on the stand.

On another trip I got jumped by some Secret Service type guys as they thought I was there to kill the Columbian president.

I later went to work for the imfamous Lightning Express (LX) owned by the reknowned Ray Roy and the late Chris Crew.This was the hardcore of Motorcycle companies. Quicksilver had mostly bicycles and drivers and one or two motos to fill the gap. Lightning had 20 motos, 8 bikes and 2 drivers.

During the 89 earthquake that disabled the Bay Bridge, Lightning bought a motorboat and had couriers on both sides of the bay using the motorboat to ferry the packages across the bay to awaiting riders. This was hardcore.

The BMW was a great out of town bike but since I was low on the totem pole at my new company I was doing mostly in-town work. Rookies got in-town short jobs and Vets(Gravy Dogs) got the big runs as it was all commision based. I picked a Honda XL600 and was suprised to find out later that pretty much everyone that worked there had the same bike as a back up. When we were on standby downtown on a slow day there would be 4 or 5 XL's lined up. We would eventually get bored if it was slow and take a group ride to find the best jumps in the hills of the city.

As a rookie I had to take the bottom of the barrel. The day I got the XL 600 was Halloween the year of the dreaded El Nino winter where it rained buckets for 6 months. The bike still had dirt knobbies and the tail/brake light wasent working, but what the hell, I was hardcore.

I had delivered packages in town all day in the pouring rain, when I came into the office at the end of the day (6:30pm) ready to go have some beer and party in the streets. My dispatcher informed me he had 15 packages going south all over the bay area that had to be delivered in 3 hours. This was definatly going to take me far from home and it would be midnight by the time I got back.

I told him I would do it but while I was there in the office I was going to bitch about it. He said I could bitch about it today but not tomarrow. So I proceeded to rant and rave for about 30mins and then set out.

It was dark, I had no tail light, It was raining and the dirt tire were scary at 70mph in the wet. The deliveries were big houses in the hills with no street lights and very diffcult to find the address. I scared many children, the strange guy in black riding a motorcycle on halloween.

I finally got home at midnight-thirty.

I was frickin HARD CORE. I had proven myself and after that day I mostly got good jobs. I was officially a Gravy Dog!

One day while making delivery's on a misty grey day I was flowing through traffic and came to a stop light, there were cars backed up and I filitered my way to the crosswalk. As I passed the row of cars I had noticed a young kid on a 2 stroke waiting behind the cars. He saw me go to the front and eventually made his wasy to the front in the other lane. The light turned green and he zipped off the line at high revs. I knew the next light would be red from experience and I put-putted along, came to the next line of cars where the kid was sitting at the back. I slowly motored to the front of the line and he, once again made his way next to me.

At this point I had a few minutes to observe him. He was riding a 2 stroke 125 street bike that was tottally illegal and probably his big brothers race bike. He had a Oakland Raiders jacket, you know with the big pirate skull on the back and a helmet adorned with Flying Tigers teeth. I realized that his friends were in the cars around us and that highschool had just let out.

I was sporting my red white and blue Evil Keneviel leathers and contemplating popping a wheelie or something. I decided that this was my work and I didnt need to impress anyone. The light turned green and I laid on the thumper pretty hard to get a jump on the traffic and the sketchy kid. I heard his throttle rev pretty high behind me and I said to myself "dont drop the clutch". Sure enough, the next I heard was a bang and silence and a bang, and then plastic debris flying by my left side. Then the kid came sliding past me on the pavement. Then the bike pogo-ing end over end, front wheel, big bouce, back wheel, big bounce, front wheel. Suddenly it was an arms length away on my left side, I popped up on the side walk and speed away to safety. I looked back and saw the kid skittering out of the way of traffic. He had looped the bike

I have to tell you, I never laughed out loud so hard in my life. Call it cruel but I had a serious case of Freudenschade. I eventually rolled back by and a friend of his was helping pick up the scraps and all seemed ok except a bruised ego.

On another day I was riding through Union Square and came to a stop light, noticed some sort of frenzy and realized there was money flying everywhere. I jumped off the bike and rounded up about $500 in random bills. I soon found out that some one had attempted to snatch a wad of cash from a tourist and the money went flying in the windy streets. I felt bad and gave it back to the guy, you cant have bad Karma when you ride a motorcycle everyday.

I remember the crappy stuff too:
So tired I drafted a semi for miles to stay out of the wind and not think.
I carried a box bigger than me and my bike on the backrack, it was an airfilter for a rooftop airconditioner, lite but big.
Getting sideswiped, Traffic tickets, breakdowns and flats.

Thats all for now, theres more if ya'll wanna hear it.
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Old 11-07-2008, 11:41 PM   #93
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Old 11-08-2008, 01:00 AM   #94
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Tractorking & Britman: Thanks for the stories. I'm really glad to hear from others with the same kinds of experiences I had!

- VERY cool that someone else rode up steps.

- I really wish I had thought to carry a camera or take some pics back in those days.

- I just KNEW that as crazy as I was there were others who were crazier. And it sounds like London in particular was a pretty wild place to be a courier. Ditto for San Francisco!

By all means....please share more stories if ya got 'em. This is GREAT stuff!
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Old 11-08-2008, 06:56 AM   #95
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Thanks, guys. Great stories.
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Old 11-08-2008, 04:41 PM   #96
tractorking
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyBones
Tractorking & Britman: Thanks for the stories. I'm really glad to hear from others with the same kinds of experiences I had!

- VERY cool that someone else rode up steps.

Fun stuff

Speaking of steps we had an address, 1201 Montgomery, that was pretty tricky to get to. The street brokeup several times as the building was located on a steep hill over looking the Bay. The shortest route, end of the street, up a flight of steps, on a street for a block, then up some steps. I loved doing that on the thumper.

I also ripped straight across Golden gate park many times, for those that dont know, it a pretty big park, about 3 miles long and a mile or two across.
If you were in the Richmond and had to get to the Sunset, you could go the long way through the streets, but if you were in the right place a nice rip across the grass and dirt through the trees was quit a blast.

Chris Crew was a legend in San Francisco. He was one of the owners at Lightning and was notorious for being chased by the police.

Chris would haul ass with the cops in tow and if he made it to the city they were toast. He would rip into the garage, spray paint his helmet a different color, change his bag and his jacket and finish out the day delivering packages.

On one occassion all the couriers were hangin out at a local dive called Harvey Wu's Place.

Harveys was a small store with a little kitchen counter and was owned by one of those older Chinese mafia types. Harvey cashed paychecks for messengers and everyone had a tab for buying beer and food during the week before payday. The best analogy of the place and the characters is the Cantina scene from Star Wars. On a Friday you could cash your check, pay your tab, get a 40oz and pick up a little herb from the guys out front. Harveys had it all!

So we are all standing around on Friday night around 6pm, drinkin and smokin, when Chris Crew comes ripping around the corner with his gal on the back. He pulls up, she jumps off and they casually exchange a hug and chat for half a second. In the distance police sirens were coming closer. Around the corner comes two police cars squeling tires. all light and sirens wailing. Chris drops the clutch and takes off in a wheelie, right hand on the throttle and the left hand high in the air giving them the finger.

Apparently they had tried to pull him over and he bolted, got some distance so he could drop off his gal and then headed out to ditch the cops.

Cant get away with that stuff these days.

tractorking screwed with this post 03-25-2014 at 07:30 PM
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Old 11-08-2008, 06:14 PM   #97
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Some messenger friends left Delta to start their own company. Holborn Globetrotters (amazing the names you can think of after a spliff or two). The company is still going strong 25 years later http://www.londononline.co.uk/profiles/78073/ although Ken left to live the hippy, organic life in Wales or SW England somewhere. As far as I know Keith (he of the Special Branch stop mentioned earlier) is still running the company.

Located a few blocks east of the British Museum this more central location was great for in town jobs so I bailed from Delta and worked for them. No radios which was a bummer, but no weekly fees which was good. By now all the receptionists in London knew messengers wanted to use a phone so no radio wasn’t too much of a pain for the riders. It did mean the little Hitlers aka dispatchers really had to ramp up their game to make sure all jobs were picked up quickly. A BIG plus was that a higher percentage of the jobs were cash – luverly jubbly – shaking out yer pockets at the end of the day and adding to the jar on the chest of drawers. Very fiscally responsible and all declared to Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Ha ha.

What a bunch or rascals and vagabonds we were. A very tightly knit group who really looked after each other. Bikes were fixed, lent, stolen from each other, sold, resold so that everyone could keep ripping up the streets of London. Fuck Baker Street and Gerry Rafferty – nothing to do with the thread just hated that song. Baker Street was a real pain to use.

The police used BMW’s and they could really cut through traffic. Seemed to be used for escorting The Royal Family and visiting heads of state. The lead rider would have a whistle to get road users attention and if you heard the whistle you’d better move cause they would steam roller you out of the way. One day one of the local street characters, a little old guy nicknamed Titch, was doing his usual traffic directing act from a traffic island in the middle of Clerkenwell Rd when a bike cop pulled up next to him. This cop was a large beefy, red faced, red haired S.O.B who I’d seen around town quite a bit looking officious. Well he pulls up next to Titch and his best cop voice ask “What the hellareyou doing” cause of course only cops can direct traffic. Titch in his best Titch voice calmly replied “Why don’t you fuck off” and gave him the English bird. Well the cop went bright red as all the onlookers laughed. Sensibly he decided to go fight another battle and gathering all his dignity rode away with that straight backed posture that only Beemer riders seem to have.

Didn’t think anything of finishing work on a Friday night and riding a couple of hundred miles to visit friends outside of London. The riding became such a part of a messengers life it just seemed natural.

One day I’m in bum fuck can’t remember where in the countryside on a roller coaster 2 lane road. It’s 4.30 in the morning and I’m heading away from London on THE cash job of the day. Summer time, not raining, and the sun is peeking. I see a single headlight in my mirror and figure it’s a guy on the way to work so I keep ripping up the road. The bike behind zips by me and the rider gives me a thumbs up. It’s a cop on a cop bike and if I’m doing 20 over he’s got to be doing 50 over. So I tuck in behind him and get escorted for about the next 25 miles. We zip by other vehicles like jet fighters.

Slowly an undeclared war developed between messengers and other road users as traffic became more congested. Leean had a swift answer to road rage. She had a 1lb lump hammer secured in a clip on the gas tank of her MZ. If someone pissed her off she’d pull up next to them at a stop light. As the light went green she’d smash their wing mirror and zoom away.

I never resorted to those tactics I’d just move the mirror so they couldn’t see out of it.

Lots of messenger companies sprang up with riders thinking they were going to get off the road and earn big money. They’d hire anyone on 2 wheels and most couldn’t ride a bike let alone cope with the demands of city traffic. I soon got to recognize the sound of a bike wrecking. There’s something unmistakable about metal and plastic hitting blacktop. I’d say that 95% of the time it was rider error. They’d see a gap and try to squeeze through or they’d hit pedestrians stepping into the road. Too much pressure from the dispatchers and not enough common sense.

Note my riding had got more sensible or I’d just got much better. I swear there were days when I could feel the vehicles around me and see pathways through the traffic before the gaps opened. It was a very meditative state of mind. Hard to explain without sounding like a complete nut job. I don’t remember being on the brakes , on the gas, on the brakes, on the gas. Speed wasn’t always your best friend it was being able to read the traffic flow and use the road accordingly. BUT you know there were days when I’d be completely fucked without a drop of adrenaline left in me and those days were good. It just felt much safer to be weaving through the traffic rather than being stuck in a hole with no way out.

Most of the time as a messenger was pretty boring but looking back it was some of the best working years of my life to date.

The people I rode with were in the main outstanding riders, not at the same level as track riders but as street riders. A completely different breed.

I worked from 1983 to 1988 and quit at the age of 35 when I had to be dragged off a Black Cab driver in the Wandsworth one-way system. The bastard had tried to push me into the fence at the edge of the sidewalk and I snapped. Too many close calls with people trying to kill me. Yep I honestly believe most of the Black Cab drivers would try to clip you cause we had taken a lot of work from them. So I got a real job and moved to the countryside. Gave the bike I’d been using, a CB200, to a friend who wanted a small bike to restore. Don't knock the CB200. It took me through France and Italy on riding vacations. I racked up 35,000 miles on it. Do remember 35,000 miles was about only 35 weeks of work at about 200 miles a day and it would cruise at 65 whilst sucking a gallon every 60 miles.

Didn’t ride again until 2002 when I bought a Valkyrie. Sold that and got a ST1300 in 2006. Have ridden over 120,000 miles in the US and Canada in the past 6 years.

Have a feeling in my blood that I need a KLR or DR or something to get onto the forest roads.
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Old 11-08-2008, 06:49 PM   #98
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Jeez

I actually worked for that pair at Holborn Globetrotters for about a week,couldn,t live with that no radio crap.But I do seem to remember drinking in a hole called The Thunderer across the street from their office.I seem to remember I went to work at Mach 1 in the mews between John st aand Grays inn rd.
Just to add a touch of flavor,John st changes name half way up,can you remember the name of the other part? and my old mate Mark Vatcher who was the controller at Rueter Brooks at the time lived in that street in the house where Charles Dickens wrote all his greats!!!
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Old 11-08-2008, 07:06 PM   #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theturtleshead
I actually worked for that pair at Holborn Globetrotters for about a week,couldn,t live with that no radio crap.But I do seem to remember drinking in a hole called The Thunderer across the street from their office.I seem to remember I went to work at Mach 1 in the mews between John st aand Grays inn rd.
Just to add a touch of flavor,John st changes name half way up,can you remember the name of the other part? and my old mate Mark Vatcher who was the controller at Rueter Brooks at the time lived in that street in the house where Charles Dickens wrote all his greats!!!
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John St becomes Doughtry St. I still have my old A-Z

What year/years did you work as a messenger?
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:32 PM   #100
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Britman,

I had very similar sensations as you. If I woke up feeling really smacked by a hangover, as soon as I got on the bike I felt completly normal and well.
It was like I was more comfortable on the motorcycle then walking.

Quote: "Have a feeling in my blood that I need a KLR or DR or something to get onto the forest roads."


Funny you should say that, I have one of each, both 650s, one was a work bike I still have and I just got a newer KLR recently.
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Old 11-10-2008, 03:08 AM   #101
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Just had to join ADV so I could add to this thread. You should write a book Joey, your writing style is great and brought back a lot of memories.

I was a DR in London from 78 to early 80s, Pony, Delta, West 1, Chameleon and Holborn too! I must know some of you guys, was well known in the Pakenham at one time!

Nearly 30 years on I can still remember so many stories, but my lasting memories will always be the people, what a bunch of blokes they were.
Its my eternal shame I cant remember all the names, but in all my life since I have never met such a bunch of characters and unique individuals as I knew on the circuit.

The most amazing thing about them really is that although mostly certifiable lunatics admittedly of advanced riding skills, the level of professionalism was so high. It takes balls to do it day in and day out, rough and smooth in all weathers with no one to motivate you but yourself. Reading the various posts from old couriers all over the world, Thanks, you have brought back some great memories. Different cities, even continents but the same mind set.

Was there a better controller than Ken Couchman anywhere? I can hear his "6 yeah" or "free mots at piccadilly and Air St." even now. Or anyone more off the wall than Grant Burger?

Dont mean to hijack the thread, just say thanks to all posters.
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Old 11-10-2008, 06:53 AM   #102
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Quote:
Originally Posted by messenger 68
Just had to join ADV so I could add to this thread. You should write a book Joey, your writing style is great and brought back a lot of memories.

I was a DR in London from 78 to early 80s, Pony, Delta, West 1, Chameleon and Holborn too! I must know some of you guys, was well known in the Pakenham at one time!

Nearly 30 years on I can still remember so many stories, but my lasting memories will always be the people, what a bunch of blokes they were.
Its my eternal shame I cant remember all the names, but in all my life since I have never met such a bunch of characters and unique individuals as I knew on the circuit.

The most amazing thing about them really is that although mostly certifiable lunatics admittedly of advanced riding skills, the level of professionalism was so high. It takes balls to do it day in and day out, rough and smooth in all weathers with no one to motivate you but yourself. Reading the various posts from old couriers all over the world, Thanks, you have brought back some great memories. Different cities, even continents but the same mind set.

Was there a better controller than Ken Couchman anywhere? I can hear his "6 yeah" or "free mots at piccadilly and Air St." even now. Or anyone more off the wall than Grant Burger?

Dont mean to hijack the thread, just say thanks to all posters.
Did you know Mickey the Bastard?
Russell?
Mike Gillette?

My name is Paul. I was a friend of Keith and Ken from Pony Express/Delta days. I was "Messenger 60 here" at PonyExpress.
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Old 11-10-2008, 12:06 PM   #103
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I remember Mike Gilette, a consumate profssional.

My strongest memory of him was following him down Regent st. one day, he was riding that Kawasaki 1000 he rode around on and had his wife on the back, when some geezer opened the door of his mark 3 Cortina not 20 feet in front of him. He hit the door square on and I swear knocked it straight off the car and down Regent st. he was so in control there was not even a wobble. The bloke in the car was still holding the door handle at the time, and I think shat himself. Mind you I nearly did just following.

And obsessive Phil at Holborn, used to change the oil every Saturday morning on his CB550. Never missed a Saturday change in 2 years, once changed it, went on holiday for the week and when he got home changed it again, hadnt even started it! He dismantled the engine after 100K because he thought it must be worn out by then, and it had hardly any wear at all, just a very slight ridge and about a half the cam chain tension used. He never had time to put it back together either.

Grant was always good value, He lost his digs once for some unlikely reason, and for a few days had a tent on the back of his bike and tried camping in Hyde Park after working all day. Got scared off by wierdos so he moved into his brothers garage but as his sister in law hated him so much she wasnt allowed to know. Worked fine for about 3 weeks, he was up and away at 7 before the house woke up and was always first to call mobile, and the last to sign off. Went wrong the day he overslept and was still asleep in his sleeping bag under her car when she got in it to take the kids to school, the scene when she started the engine and he shot out from under the motor was one I would have liked to see. His answer to the housing crisis was to take a job as a night security guard at a block in Tralgar Square, but after 3 weeks he overslept again and missed his security checks, police got hold of the keyholder and they found him asleep in the directors office. He got some serious ag from that episode !

At that time he had a 650 Kawasaki that he couldnt stop cleaning every time he stopped, it looked, from 15 feet away, like a new bike, but it was so knackered in every department apart from appearance a scrap merchant wouldnt want it. One day he got so fed up with the oil consumption he parked it outside a Honda dealer, and the salesman offered him top money trade in on an FT500 without even going out the door to look at it, within 2 hours he had done the deal and riden away, he didnt even dare take it back for its first service, they would have not have been happy.

My mate Ray Hosker, 66 at pony, got me into it and I couldnt get out of the habit for years after. I remember the IBM run, I lived out in Berkhamsted at the time so never got in early enough for the good stuff, it was always the Cosham run I got.

I remember Alistair at Pony giving me a Hatton Garden to Sheffield for cash once, there was a foot of snow on the M1 and I rode it on a GT250 and suffered like a bastard with the cold, couldnt take a train because the cash was at the other end and I thought I was superman anyway. Thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes, possibly the worst ride I ever had.

Racing home to Battersea after the pubs chucked out with Mark Brown, me on an XS1100 him on a 400 Honda auto, both pissed. Got pulled on Chelsea bridge by an RT 100, and the copper giving us such a coating and threatening such penalties Mark actually started to cry! Then all of a sudden he shut his book and started chatting about how he liked to see bikes ridden hard and congratulating Mark on holding me off on a much more powerful bike. He was a good copper alright, didnt meet many like that and he was right too, Mark had more natural motorcycle ability than anyone I have met .

Steve Billingham riding through Brighton, West to East, very early one morning, picked up an unmarked BMW car around Hove. He knew full well it was the law, but felt bloody minded so he raced it, cosistently over 100, right through Brighton and on towards Shoreham when he was stopped by a roadblock, rode straight up to the biggest copper, dropped the bike and screamed for help as he was being chased by some lunatics who wanted to kill him, he actually held the policemans legs as part of his scared act! And he got off scot free in court too!

Dont remember mickey the bastard, wish I did though, what a name. And I remember a Guy who died late at night on the A3 when a Belgian artic did a U turn in a silly place, he was a lovely bloke who just wanted to ride his bike.

What I suppose did it for me was an incident with the wanker jeweller Gerald Ratner, who tried to knock me off the bike in Mortimer st one day, no reason at all other than I hooted the git when he pulled out on me. Wouldnt open his window to talk to me at the lights then tried to have me off again when they changed. Got him back at the next set and in temper because he wouldnt get out whipped the car with its aerial I had broken off for the purpose. That got me nicked ( although the judge threw out his damage claim) and the unfairness of it all made me think it was time to get out, so I did. Great days.
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Old 11-10-2008, 12:34 PM   #104
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This is a really great thread.
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Old 11-10-2008, 12:36 PM   #105
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Just read that last bit aloud to my roommate. Great copy.

Reminds me of old days in tanks...but nothing else to compare.
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