Oct 11

Coffee, Books & MOTs

In the ancient and murky back streets of Ludlow, somewhere near the old town wall, there lies a well-kept secret. A specialist motorcycle MOT Centre. The garage is sited on one of the most expensive bits of real estate in the town and, for me, brings to mind the slightly run down Speedy Motors garage in The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The proprietor (and engineer) could easily be Mr J L B Matekoni from the books. A delightful man and apparently un-phased by the un-predictability of vintage mopeds. Having navigated your way around the medieval grid pattern of narrow, artisan named streets, you turn off your bike and enter the sacred portal. Only to be asked to start your machine so the engineer can check the faint glow from your advanced lighting system. From years of experience he knows that it is totally pointless trying to start a vintage moped that is not your own. There is a knack for each and every moped. Unfortunately, the knack often eludes the owner, too; so, when the bike inevitably refuses to start, and with its rear wheel raised expectantly in the air by its stand, you pedal like crazy while the engineer peers myopically at the lights to identify any sign of life. This introductory ritual over, you are then informed that the MOT will take 45 minutes, and your beloved moped is wheeled off into the inner sanctum where unspeakable tests will be applied. Why 45 minutes? The only things you can check on a moped are the lights, tyres and brakes and the lights have already been done! Anyway, it is always 45 minutes so you are now a stranger in a strange land, bereft of your means of transport. A rather wonderful and liberating feeling. It has become my personal ritual to go to the Olive Branch for a cup of coffee. This may seem an odd choice unless you are a devotee of The Olive Branch but, on my first MOT, I just happened to go into The Olive Branch by chance, sit in one of the comfy chairs in the alcove under the stairs and pick up a battered copy of Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. Every year since, I go back, have a cup of coffee, read a bit more of Notes from a Small Island and entertain the other customers with my poorly suppressed laughter. This year I reached the reason why there is a battered copy of the book in The Olive Branch – Bill Bryson also had a cup of coffee there! Amazing what you can learn when on a 45 minute holiday.
Back to Speedy Motors to collect my, hopefully, certificated moped – and find the next customer, owner of an 850cc BMW, oohing and arrhing over my 49cc rusting heap. Very satisfying. Out of the sacred portal of the garage with a glow of pride and mild disbelief – and quickly round the corner before I try and start the bike (so the owner of the 850 doesn’t see me fail).
The Defective Trevor