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Biker poet

May 29, 2012


Living longer, with bus passes, pensions and the NHS, the problem with retirement is the ending – so make the most of it.

After a brush with bladder cancer, and a hang-gliding heart attack, poet Noel Whittall (more here and here) did just that. Age 73, anticipating death as a mild surprise rather than a tragedy, he didn’t feel up to any more open-craft flight, so last year he rode his 1918 Triumph Model H from his Leeds front door to John O’Groats, Lands End and home again.

His 102 mpg failed to impress me – my Skoda estate almost does that!  But environmentalists will approve the minimal planning and lack of support teams, tinkerers enjoy the mechanical details – Brummer belts, and priming cocks unwisely soldered closed – and racers the stories around Ivan Hart Davis’ 1911 record-breaker. Along the way he notices war memorials, ponders Hazel Blears dodging reporters in her cute leathers, and grumbles about bishops, royals and disappearing pubs.

He’s a bit of a lefty, but let’s forgive him. Hazel Blears is sexy, and although we’ll miss Noel when his mild surprise comes round, one less vote will soften the blow.

A Stupid Thing To Do! Noel Whittall. Propagator Press. Leeds. 2011.

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