CAMmag logo

Director's Cut logo


by Mark Daniels

Spectacles and case

Gary dropped the boxes on the floor in front of the battered coffee table, and sat on the threadbare sofa.  This shouldn't take very long since there didn't seem much to show for a lifetime, but it was still hard to believe he was gone.  Uncle Tom had left him everything, but there was little really that he was intending to take, pretty much only personal effects for sentimental reasons.

Just leave all the furniture and general fittings for the council to clear, since the whole house would have to be completely refurbished for the next tenants.  It's years since the place had been decorated.

The Westminster Chimes he'd always admired on the mantelpiece wasn't ticking anymore - no one to wind it up.  Tom had always said "I'm just looking after it for you lad, it'll be yours in time".  Gary opened the back, removed the pendulum, carefully wrapped the clock in newspaper, and placed it in the box.

He opened the doors of the sideboard: full of papers, books and magazines on old motor cycles.  Many hours he'd enjoyed, looking through them with uncle. Tom had always been a keen biker right through to the end, though as he got older, autocycles replaced the big motor cycles, since he couldn't manage them anymore.  Gary put all the books and magazines into a couple of boxes, and started sifting through the papers, throwing out old bills, but stopping to look at a number of faded photographs of Tom's old biking friends.  All long gone, Tom had outlived them all, though he still used to put on his helmet, slip on the tinted glasses he always wore when he was riding, and say "I'm just off for a ride with me mates", then hop onto his autocycle and away up the road.

A packet of registration documents, MoT certificates and the like, some autocycle manuals .... he put them in the box and moved on to the drawers above.  Pens, pencils, stationery, a spectacles case ... he opened the lid and held the glasses to the light - amber tinted, they were the ones - and slipped them in his breast pocket.

Gary lifted the helmet from its peg on the coat rack in the hall, and carried the boxes out to his van.  That was the house done, now drive round the back to the garage.

He lifted the door, and the sun burst in to reveal the usual mess: a cluttered bench, strewn tools, odd parts everywhere, old oilcans.  He gathered the pieces of the dismantled New Hudson and stashed them in the Transit.  The Excelsior was complete and ran well, he'd ridden it with Tom many times, but the tax was expired, so he loaded it aboard.  Tom favoured the Bown autocycle himself, it always went well, and he said it handled best with the duplex frame, but Gary had never ridden it.  The Bown was still road legal, he had insurance .... yes, why not go for a ride?

Fuel tap 'push on', lift the choke rod, tweak the throttle slightly open, let out the clutch, decompressor, spin and release ... and it fires up first time, just like Tom used to do it!  Drop off the choke, latch in the clutch, edge down the throttle, and the Villiers engine beats over, regular as clockwork.

He rolled the bike out of the garage, clipped up the rear stand, and leaned it against the fence to close the door, took the helmet from the box in the back of the van, and strapped it on.  Gary sat on the comfy sprung saddle, and looked up at the bright winter sun.  Reaching into the jacket pocket, he opened the case, put on the spectacles and looked around ... he could see fine, they weren't prescription, just tinted sunglasses!  Zipped up his leather jacket, fingered back the throttle, latched off the clutch, and releasing the lever, said to himself "I'm just off for a ride with my uncle and his mates".

The Bown barked away, down the alley, and Gary cranked it confidently round the corner onto the road.  It felt sure-footed and responded nicely on the throttle, everything Tom had said it was. The glasses shielded the cold air from streaming his eyes, while the amber tinted lenses took the harsh glare from the sun and bathed everything in a warm golden glow ... yes, they were good.

Down Parker Street, past the row of terraced houses, the newsagents, over the railway bridge - as a steamer chuffed underneath!  "I haven't seen one of those on this line for years?"  But Gary's thoughts were distracted again as another autocycle pulled out of the corner at Gasworks Street and eased up on the inside of him.  An all black, post-war Francis-Barnett Powerbike, and its Junior de Luxe motor crackled crisply through the long tailpipe.  The rider, wearing an old-style helmet, white with a red flash, and glass prism goggles, gestured with his hand ahead, and they rode on together past the park then toward the theatre.  Swinging right into River Lane, ahead, two cyclists pedalled off from the kerb, then simultaneously ejected two plumes of smoke and their speed picked up.  The autocycles eased up behind the two cyclemotors, a distinctive Trojan, but Gary was unsure about the other, maybe a Teagle?  Following the road beside the river brought the group to the T-junction, opposite the post office and Red Lion, then pulling away to the right, were suddenly engulfed from the left by a large group of some dozen or so assorted cyclemotors, autocycles and old mopeds.

A Power-Pak, James Superlux, Rudge, an HEC!  Two Norman Nippys, a Phillips Motorised Cycle, Lucer Ondine, NSU Quickly, Norman Model C, New Hudson, Hercules Grey Wolf, and Scott-powered Cyc-Auto!

They rode the lanes, jockeying for positions, snaking through the bends, the different exhaust tones coming on and off load, the thrill of the smoke.  For several miles the game went on, as Gary eased back in the group, then crept forward again to look at the old machines and their riders - all older men that gestured to him as if they knew him?  Some reminded him of faces he may have seen on his uncle's old photographs, but maybe not.

Opening up the throttle, the Bown pulled strongly to open a gap and the pursuing machines dropped away, one by one.  Confidently picking lines through the bends, the duplex frame proved the master of the remaining faster machines, and when Gary looked back again, there were no longer any to be seen.  Pulling over after the next bend under the shade of the trees, he took off the sunglasses and waited for the other riders to appear ... but none came.  Now later afternoon, the evening sun was falling behind the hill, and Gary followed his tracks back to town.  There were no side turnings for miles off the road they had come, but there was no sign of anyone from the autocycling group.

Going back over the railway bridge, a dirty diesel loco shunted a line of empty wagons below, then back to his van and loaded the Bown in the back.  Unlocking the door he settled into the driver's seat, squinting into the sunset directly ahead.  Reaching into the jacket pocket once again, to open the case and put on the tinted glasses, he happened to glance down just before snapping the case shut, and something caught his eye.  Opening the case again, he'd not noticed it before, some golden letters in the lining ...

I. Seymour - Opticians
Bell Lane
Mopedland 216.

The sun dipped below the horizon, so Gary took off the spectacles again, and putting them back in their case - the lettering was gone.

Spectacles and case

[Story © 2009 M Daniels.  Illustrations © 2009 A Pattle.]
First published in the April 2009 edition of Iceni CAM Magazine

Making Spectacles

With the publication of Hourglass in IceniCAM edition 4 back in January 2008, there were several passing thoughts, and a couple of unfinished drafts toward a Mopedland 5, but the most promising and original idea grew from that simple phrase "rose tinted spectacles", and the thought that, maybe, a wearer might be able to see some things that other people couldn't.

The developing concept hovered around for a year, until there was enough outline in mind to draft the story together, then in exactly the same manner as the preceding four Mopedland tales were created, the whole text was completely written in one marathon overnight seven hour session, finishing at 5:30 in the morning.  Spectacles taps the imagination with its own unique twist and, in common with the other episodes, hurtles the reader through a string of images and emotions within just a few brief paragraphs.

True fans appear to be getting wise to the style of these stories and seem to spot them coming now, but say they still love to read through to the smile of the trick in the tale.

Spectacles had one final trick up the sleeve, as this became the first Mopedland tale with a 'Directors Cut'!  One wouldn't have thought it was possible, but Andrew deserves all the credit for this inspired contribution of digital trickery.  We were toying with a few other picture possibilities to go with the text and even got as far as sourcing pictures of a steam train and a diesel train at the same location to match the trains in the story.  However, nothing really seemed quite suitable.  Then, remembering that there was a pair of Second World War vintage spectacles in the IceniCAM props cupboard, the final idea occurred only after all the hard copy magazines were printed, though it's questionable whether the fine detail would have come out clearly enough in the printed version anyway ... it's oh so subtle, look closely at the pictures...

Lindsay Neill, EACC North of London Section, keen Moby and IceniCAM article enthusiast was tipped off that episode 5 had been written, and immediately stumped up sponsorship of the article to bring it forward to publication - such is the magic of Mopedland!

| CAMmag Home Page | List of articles |