Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Yesterday I saw a Viking

Yesterday I saw a Viking in the last place you would reasonably expect to find one.

But first let me set the scene. For the last five years, my old motorbike has been languishing in a garage. Every now and then we have started it up and driven it up and down the road to give it some exercise – blow away the cobwebs I believe is the technical terms. Apart from that, it has been hibernating the uneasy sleep of motorbikes that are too valuable to scrap, too old to sell and too slow to excite.

In a crisis however, things change so my old bike is now, funnily enough, more desirable on the second-hand market. The time came to invest some cash in getting it reasonably ready for market. The bike however decided otherwise, wanting to continue its hibernation and dreams of yesteryear by refusing to start – even after installing a new, fully charged battery.

The solution lay in phoning the insurance recovery service and getting a tow truck around to take it to El Pirata, my local, 100% trustworthy, motorbike repair shop, despite the bucaneering name.

So along came the tow truck and out jumped a muscular blond mechanic with Celtic tattos on his arms. Blond Spaniards are not as rare as you might think – both the Norsemen and the blond Berbers came to Andalusia in quite large numbers about 1,000 years ago.

After the customary greetings, comments on the good and bad points of my model of motorbike etc. the mechanic wheeled the 150-kg bike up the steep incline out of the underground garage as if wheeling a pushbike along a level road. He then pushed it onto the extended bed of the tow truck and holding it unsecured with one hand pushed the remote control he held in the other. The extended bed began to rise none too smoothly back onto the chassis of the tow truck and it was then that I saw the Viking.

He stood holding the bike unconcernedly in one hand and the remote control in the other while looking forward, a mechanic transformed magically into an imperturbable Norseman. Standing at the bucking prow and holding one of his longboat’s shrouds in one hand and his battleaxe in the other, the Viking gazed unconcernedly forward as his ship breasted the waves, bound for conquests new.

Eventually, the tow truck bed crested the zenith and began its descent. The prow of the longboat slowly settled and the dragon ship started to wallow on a completely flat sea. The Norseman left his lonely post in the prow and the mechanic took shape again. Suddenly I was back in 2012, the waves and spindrift replaced by the heat and humidity of an autumnal Sevillian afternoon

The motorbike safely secured, the mechanic jumped down (once again the ghost of the Viking accompanied him, doing the same but jumping from the longboat onto the unsuspecting sands of a new conquest), asked me to sign all the necessary documentation and set course for El Pirata.

Never would I have imagined that something so mundane as an old, recalcitrant motorbike could transport me to the heaving waves of the North Sea 1000 AD and enable me to witness an actual Viking land from his dragon boat, tie down a prisoner and then carry her off to a Pirate’s lair.

Where will it the take its rider when it works? 


  1. Vikings and motorbikes make interesting connections and there is something of the Viking to those leather-encased and often eccentrically-helmeted folk known as bikers. They always strike the fear of Thor into me, anyhow. There is a further connection in that the annual TT races are hosted by that Viking nation, the Isle of Man.

    My father was a motor mechanic and always had motorbikes, never a car. My mother could recount some hair-raising anecdotes. He died before I was of an age to take an interest and the one time I thought of going for a bike, my mother stopped me so I never knew the delights - if such they be - of motorcycling.

  2. Motorcyling can indeed be great fun, but as your mother opined, the risks too are tremendous.
    A few years ago. I was working evenings in Cádiz and as I had to leave Seville during the early rush hour and arrive in Cádiz in the late rush hour, the only option was to bike it. One particular week I was (pleasantly)surprised to see that all of the motorway bridges were lined with youngster and not-so-youngsters cheering me as I went past, something rather odd even if, truth be told, gratifying.
    It was only after the second group of bikers thundered past me en masse that I realised that it was Jerez GP week and bikers from all over Europe were gathering to watch the races and soak up the atmosphere.
    Pondering later upon the cheering crowds on the bridges, I could only conclude that large numbers of bikers together must inspire the same sort of enthusiasm as a military parade - and for much the same reasons: colour, noise, and a sense of contemplating people risking their lives on a "heroic mission".
    Obviously, in the case of bikers risking life and limb is a personal decision and they are not representing anyone but themselves but the concept of reckless bravery somehow stirs people - even if their actions are truly mindless and a danger to others.