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Printable Version Spud's New Bike

<P align=center><STRONG><U><FONT size=3>Spud’s New Bike</FONT></U></STRONG></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>The bicycle was not exactly new; in fact the general consensus amongst the rest of us was that its original owner had abandoned it when he went off to the civil war. To Spud, however, it was his “new” bike and that was that.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>A neighbour had unearthed the machine from the back of his shed and given it to Spud (this was easier than taking it to the tip). We called these types of bike “Butcher’s bikes” because of the large box or carrier over the front wheels although other traders would use them for their deliveries. The thing weighed a ton as the frame was of heavy gauge tubular iron. A large tin sheet that would have carried the trader’s name was fixed to the angled double cross bar. The breaking system comprised a linked solid bar operating a pair of wood blocks on the wheel rim (rear wheel only). No gears, just a single “fixed” gear equivalent to about 3rd gear on a modern 10 speed. This meant that there was no ratchet effect between the pedal sprocket and the rear wheel sprocket, on downhill runs it was wise to remove your feet from the pedals to prevent being chucked over the handlebars.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>We were a motley bunch in Barrowford at that time (early 1960s), a small sample of the names of the local heroes in our area gives you an idea of this: Ugger, Wogger, Clogger, Booer, Conger, Puffing Billy and Batman to name but a few. Around about the age of 10 we were heavily into exploring the area on our bikes (bikes in as much as we all had two wheels connected in various ways to a pile of scrap-iron). Exploring is perhaps overstating the case, we would set off and see how far we could get before disaster overtook us, as it invariably did.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>One fine morning during July wakes Spud and me were having a quiet Woodbine on his front door step when he mooted the idea of setting off to Bradford to see his aunt. Having no idea how far a trip this was, and being assured by Spud that he didn’t think it was too far, I agreed to get a few of the lads together for an early start the following day. “We’ll have to mend my back tyre first, I’ve got another puncture” he said as I took my leave. The “we” was ironic because it always fell to me to do any repairs on the bikes. Because I was a year older than the rest and, because my dad was a tackler he had a tool kit (3 big keys or spanners, a hammer, a huge wooden-handled screwdriver, a pair of pliers and a knife), this promoted me to the status of chief mechanic! </FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>I duly removed the rear strip of bare canvas that passed for a tyre using my mother’s best soup ladle as a tyre-leaver (an action I would later regret as I got a clout for it) and put a patch over the hole in the innertube. This meant that there was not now a square inch without various sized patches on the tube, it must have been repaired more than thirty times.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>The following morning Spud called at my house for his now-repaired bike in readiness for the outing. I told him about the tube being on its last legs and offered to swap him a new tube for 3 Woodbines or 2 Senior Service. “Don’t you know there’s a slump on”, he had a way with words beyond his 10 years had spud, “I could ride bare-arsed to Blackpool and back on that, no problem”.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>As it happened this was the first public outing for his new pair of spectacles, large heavy black framed efforts, much on the same stamp as his bike. “How are you getting on with them” I enquired, “great – I can see to t’moon and back in these, should have had ‘em ages ago”.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>A couple of the other lads arrived and off we set to call for Leechy who lived at the top of a steep hill. We were pushing our bikes up the hill when we saw a wheelbarrow parked on the pavement outside “Castrol” Ashworth’s house. At this point I should explain that Spud had a dog. Not just any dog but a Baskerville type animal that should have been some sort of hairy collie, like the Dulux dog, but something had gone wrong – Simon had feet like shovels, an attitude like a wolf on steroids and a wandering temperament. He was well known throughout the area (just like Spud). When he clapped eyes on the wheelbarrow at about 50 yards Spud said “hey-up, there’s our Simon, we haven’t seen him for 3 days” We suggested that he took his glasses off and had another look, which he did. “Oh aye, that’s definitely our Simon – SIMON, SIMON, here boy”. Putting his glasses back on he shouted at the wheelbarrow all the rest of the way up the hill. It was only when he got to within a matter of a few feet that the truth dawned on him. By this time Leechy, hearing the commotion of us lot roaring with laughter, joined us, “by ‘ell Spud, yer want some jam-jar bottoms instead o’ them specs”. “Aye well” replied Spud “they’re not run in yet”.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>Amid much mirth we were ready to set off for Bradford. We let Spud mount his bike first because this was always highly entertaining. The saddle on his new bike resembled the seat of a 1935 Massey Ferguson tractor, huge and independently sprung (the bike frame had not the slightest claim to having any suspension). This was just as well as Spud was a chubby (well built he said) lad for his age but his legs were not very long. Whenever he tried to get on the beast he had to put a foot in the V of the frame and throw his other leg over so as to land in the saddle like a cowboy mounting his horse. Once settled in the saddle his feet just reached the pedals but he had to stretch each leg when the pedal reached its furthest downward travel, this meant his body swayed alarmingly from side to side with each pedal revolution. One wag said that when you followed Spud in full flight it “were like watching a drunk riding a lame pig”! The process of dismounting was almost as funny; because his feet didn’t reach the ground he would pick a suitable spot with plenty of space, stop and then lean to one side. When his foot touched the floor he would leap out of the way of the falling machine. He would then run a few yards so as to keep on his feet whilst the bike crashed to earth with a loud clatter. We had all learned to keep our distance when spud ground to a halt as a safe “landing circle” of at least 10 feet diameter was required.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><BR><FONT size=3>Riding through Barrowford all was well, we were following the route that one of the lads had suggested. Because his dad had a car this gave him a bit of  kudos in the navigation department – “Bradford’s  easy, its in Yorkshire and I know where that is – foller t’road to Fo’lridge and then yer just keep goin’ fer a bit”. The well-oiled bikes were riding smoothly and this was going to be a doddle. I knew it couldn’t last, as we rounded the bend by the George and Dragon there was an almighty bang! I looked round to see what on earth had caused this thunderclap and saw all the lads were following except Spud.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>We walked our bikes back around the bend and all became clear. There was Spud, right outside the Dragon’s front door, entangled in a heap with his bike’s break-lever sticking through his pullover. One of the pedals had become entangled in his braces and all but pulled his short pants off. What a sorry sight he made as he lay there cursing and blubbering at the top of his voice. In fact he made such a fuss that Jack, the landlord, came out of the pub as he thought a car had collided with his front wall. “Get thissen up lad, it’s only pain” he said then disappeared back indoors.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>As it turned out my handy-work on Spuds innertube hadn’t lasted very well, the tube had exploded causing Spud to wobble off. Unfortunately right at that spot the pavement was about a foot below the road level and, of course, our intrepid cyclist wasn’t able to do his usual flying dismount, consequently he hurtled over the kerb and down onto the pavement, banging his head on the pub door for good measure. I think it is beyond the science of mathematics to calculate how many times Spud and me have passed through that particular door in the years since then!</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>We pushed our bikes back home for repairs accompanied by much chunnering, grumbling and dramatic limping from Spud. He didn’t hesitate to tell everyone we met on the way that he had “just been nearly killed in a bad accident” following which they got a guided tour of his injuries. A deal was finally done whereby I managed to extract 3 Woodbines out of our hero in exchange for the new innertube. “I thought yer said 2 Woodies” moaned Spud “aye but it’s now a seller’s market” I replied. “Quisling” was Spud’s supposedly devastating retort to this but, of course, none of us knew what it meant so I set about changing the tube – this time using Spud’s mother’s best soup ladle! </FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>Half an hour later we were well on our way having passed the scene of the recent debacle without incident. Our route-planner took us up Barnoldswick Road, turning right down Red Lane, over the canal bridge and a long push up to the top of the hill. At this point our navigator spotted a sign indicating Foulridge down the hill to the left. “Down ‘ere” says navigator, “ must be a short-cut”. Once Spud was mounted we began the descent down the lane towards Hobstones.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>Pleased to be mobile again after the long push Spud began to pedal like the clappers down the hill, expecting it to level out at the bottom. As the rest of us were edging slowly down on our breaks we watched Spud thrutching from side to side in his saddle and drawing ever further away. When we were half way down the descent we saw the back-end of Spud’s bike giving out a cloud of blue smoke as he desperately jammed his one and only break on. By this time the pedals were revolving far too quickly for his little legs to keep pace (due to the fixed gearing) so he had taken them off the pedals and had them stuck straight out at right angles to his body. We later realised that the smoke was caused by the wooden break-blocks catching fire.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>Our hero disappeared from view around a bend in the road, as we came to this bend there was a strong smell of charcoal. We checked the hedges and walls fully expecting to find the tangled remains of an ancient bicycle buried up to the pedals, no sign however. We followed the smoke trail and as we came out of the bend all became clear. Good old spud had careered into the ford at the bottom of the hill at full chat, no doubt all would have been well if he could have cleared the water and come out the other side. Spud being Spud, however, his front wheel hit a large stone submerged right in the middle of the ford and he went arse-over-head into the depths.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>We arrived at the scene feigning mock shock at this stage, we didn’t want to laugh our socks off until we had assessed the damage. Navigator shouted “ey-up, look at ‘im, he’s drowning”. Spud was flat on his face in a foot of water attempting what looked for all the world like the breast-stroke, arms and legs going like bee’s wings. I grabbed the back of his pants to try to pull him clear, “gerroff, I’m tryin’ ter find me specs” was all the thanks I got.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>Having extricated Spud, his bike and his glasses from the torrent we assessed the damage The bike was almost unscathed, just a buckled front wheel that a couple of clouts with a brick soon straightened out. In sheer frustration at how his day was turning out the Wet One leapt back into the ford and, pointing at the offending stone, started to do a little war-dance. Hopping from leg to leg he railed “look at the big b*****, couldn’t be over there, or there <EM>or </EM>there! Oh no – b***** had to be smack in t’middle, waitin’ fer ME”. With that he hoisted the stone above his head, a bit more dancing, then threw it with all his might. The stone, rather than sailing through the air for a great distance, as he would have liked, landed in the water about a foot in front of his feet. At least his little outburst seemed to placate him.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>Spud survived very well, his knees were badly skinned, he was soaked to the skin and had ripped the side of one of his shoes. Apart from his general bad temper we were all of the opinion that he had been lucky. Of course he didn’t see it like that “wait ‘til I gerr‘ome, me mam’ll kill me – <EM>and</EM> me 3 Woodbines in me pocket are soaked”. Casting round for something comforting to say to him the best I could come up with was “well there’s one thing – at least it’s cooled yer break-blocks down!</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>At this point we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and voted to abandon our trip into deepest Yorkshire. Not only did one of our number resemble a drowned rat we were also ready for our tea. Someone suggested that Spud took his clothes off (except his pants and shoes so as not to frighten the horses on the way home) and drape them about his bike. With any luck they should then be dry by the time we arrived in Barrowford. We tied his jumper, vest and socks to the carrier on the front of the handlebars and set off. Needless to say that on the return down the steep part of Red Lane the vest became entangled in Spud’s front wheel which ripped it to shreds. Fortunately, as he was a touch shaken, he was only travelling at about 10 yards per hour which averted another tumble. Surveying the damage he was bereft “I’ll have ter stay at your ‘ouse tonight, I daren't go ‘ome, me mam’ll definitely go besrick”. “Don’t be soft” I replied “tell ‘er yer were sunbathin’ and a dog ran off with yer vest an’ yer ‘ad ter chase it through a barb-wire fence”. I could see the cogs going around in his head whilst he mulled this over. “Wot am I goin’ ter tell ‘er about me bein’ sodden wet through and full o’ bruises”? Navigator joined in “say t’fence were next to t’river and t’dog dragged thi right across t’riverbed”. This seemed perfectly reasonable to Spud so he decided to go home fully confident in his story.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>When we arrived back in Barrowford the Park Chippy had just opened so Spud did his usual flying dismount outside. “I’m just nippin’ in ter tell Frank about me accident”. Having put his still sodden clothes back on (wearing the remnants of his vest as a belt), in he went followed by the rest of us. Frank, the proprietor, took one look at the bedraggled Spud, “wot the ‘ell have you bin up young Spud, ‘ave yer bin fishin’ agen”? Spud proceeded to relate his misfortune with great relish, how the ford depth was at least 5 feet and raging and how he’d had to have the kiss of life. “’Ere tek these to warm thi up” Frank passed double fish and chips over and Spud took them without hesitation. “Cheers Frank” were his parting words as he ran out of the shop. </FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>A full minute later, when Spud had demolished the whole lot, a thought occurred to him and he shot off into Old Gert’s sweet shop at the end of the row. Ever since I could remember Spud’s entrance into this shop was always exactly the same “hiya Gert ‘ow much are yer penny ice-lollies”? This wasn’t even funny the first time but Spud always though it was hugely witty and left the shop doubled over with tittering each time he did it. He must have tried a different tack this time as he returned with a massive bag of humbugs, Gert had obviously taken pity on him as Frank had. “’Ere ‘old these - I’ll not be a sec” with this he disappeared into Percy Rushworth’s grocery, reappearing with 2 pork pies. Then into Willie Holmes’s paper shop – 3 packs of Murray mints. He came out of the Post Office with a large roll of brown wrapping paper, the reason for which escapes me. Parkinson’s store yielded a tin of ham and a packet of brandy snap biscuits. Returning from the cake shop across the road he had a look of disgust on his face. “Wot’s up Spud, empty ‘anded”? Navigator shouted as Spud dodged the traffic, “naar, a bag o’ almond slices but I can’t stand ‘em”.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>The bounty was loaded into the carrier on his bike and almost filled it, not bad for a walk of a hundred yards and a sob story. “Ill just nip in Jackson ‘n’ Hanson’s garage on t’way down”. By this time the rest of us were fed-up and hungry, the smell of fish and chips was getting to us now. “Come on” I shouted after him “I’m ready fer me tea, ‘sides which yer nearly dry and yer story won’t work any more - I’ll come to your ‘ouse and back yer tale up” (secretly I wanted to see his mother’s reaction, always well worth watching when Spud was in bother). I hurried him down the road and in his house we went. As it happened his mother wasn’t in but she’d left him a big plate of salad for his tea. Eyeing his armful of goodies and then the salad there are no prizes for guessing which we got stuck into. Having finished the lot in due course (Spud had slowed down a bit by now having recently scoffed double fish and chips) we sat back well satisfied. “Yer know, all-in-all it ‘asn’t bin a bad day” he said. Following a burp which seemed to emanate from the bottom of his clogs he promptly fell asleep.</FONT></P>
<P align=left><FONT size=3>As for Spud’s new bike the last I recall of it was when he took Batman for a ride, he sat him in the carrier with his legs sticking straight out in front. Batman must not have known of Spud’s famous dismounting technique because when they came to an emergency stop he was thrown out of the carrier and broke his wrist. The accident also tore his Batman uniform badly and, as this was the only clothing he possessed, he didn’t have anything to wear for school the next day. This was the last straw for Spud’s mother and she made him get rid of the bike, I vaguely remember that he sold it to Barmy Bobby Bones up in Nelson for 5 shillings. I think that his mother’s intervention in making Spud and the new bike part company, thus averting many more accidents, is largely the reason that he is alive today!<BR></FONT></P>

 Hits:  5948
 Rating:   Rating:8  Votes:6 (Rating Scale: 1 = worst, 10 = best)
 Added on:  09/06/2004
 Author/Source:  BarrowfordJohn
 Author's contact:  n/a
 Posted by:  BarrowfordJohn
 Comments:  5 Comment(s)

  By: Stanley on 09/06/2004
No wonder this site is doing well! Brilliant bit of writing, thanks very much, I enjoyed that.

  By: Ringo on 09/06/2004
Brilliant tale, I think most of us got into scrapes like this but not all of us can put it in writing so expertly.

  By: Stevie on 10/06/2004

Absolutely brilliant ..what I'd like to know now is ..... Why isn't Spud a member of OGFB! Are you still in touch?

  By: Doreen on 14/10/2007
What a good story,and well told. loved it.

  By: timgord on 02/09/2008
i lived at hobstones in 1958/9, dad died 1974, mum left soon after. it was owned by the bleasdales.i knew the ford before it was concreted over for easy passage. i followed spud's path(safely) thru the ford many times. tim gordon

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