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.