This is us, touring round France and Spain on a brand-new Honda Blackbird CBR 1100 in the summer of 2001. Happy, innocent days, when Islam really was a religion of peace (cue manic laughter)
It was March 2001. My girlfriend at the time (Lynne) and myself had been planning a trip over to the continent for several months. We had just bought ourselves a brand-new silver Honda Blackbird CBR 1100 as a reward for reaching our goals in establishing a viable computer maintenance business and retail outlet, following four long years of hard struggle in an unforgiving commercial environment. We had decided to leave our manager and two employees in charge of the business while we disappeared abroad for a couple of months on the motorcycle tour of a lifetime.
What could possibly go wrong?
I had kitted out the Honda Blackbird with the latest in the state-of-the-art equipment – heated handlebar grips, lockable panniers and top-box, tank cover with multiple zip-up bags and transparent map-holder, dual rider / passenger intercom, waterproof heavy duty leathers, waterproof over-covers and matching helmets. We were going to be the coolest dudes on the road that summer, and the devil take the hindmost.
We left home and drove down for one last visit to our retail outlet in Hednesford, Staffordshire on Thursday 14 June 2001. We were given a resounding send-off by the manager and our two employees, whose names I shall refrain from publishing for reasons that will soon become clear.
The first thing we found – after about five minutes – was that the dual rider / passenger intercom was ineffective over speeds of about 20 mph due to wind noise. This would not have been an issue if we had been participating in a “slowest rider wins the race” competition. However, in an environment where the optimum speed was 80-90 mph just about everywhere (other than the obligatory stops for petrol, MacDonalds, and powdering one’s nose, not necessarily in that order) the lack of a functioning intercom system meant that we had to devise our own means of communication, which meant Lynne (in pillion position) punching me violently in the kidneys every time we approached a motorway service station so that she could disembark and answer the call of nature.
As a gentleman, I felt it inappropriate to comment on the violence employed via this method of communication, even though blood appeared in my urine during the second week and continued throughout the holiday. Lynne (I felt) was one on those rare women whose every command must be obeyed without question – and the imminent possibility of death from a traumatic kidney infection was a small price to pay for the privilege of her affections.
We traveled southbound along the M6, M1, M25 and M20 motorway, with my kidneys becoming progressively more bruised and lacerated, until we reached the port of Dover, at which time Lynne disembarked and critically examined the motorcycle.
“You need a GB identifier” she said.
“WTF” says I.
“You need a GB identifier, otherwise we could have the motorcycle impounded.” she said.
I hate it when women are right. I know I shouldn’t. I know I should be grateful for their advice, but I can’t help it. In the end, I bought a couple of GB stickers for the panniers, and I dare say it saved us from a lot of grief from the French gendarmerie, but the seeds of resentment were sown.
We crossed over on the ferry, sipping mugs of cappuccino as we watched the Port of Dover slipping away behind us, and then there was nothing but the open sea. I looked across at Lynne, her classically beautiful high cheekbones and her blonde hair curling around her shoulders, and thought how lucky I was to have her as a companion and as a girlfriend.
That feeling lasted approximately forty-five minutes after we disembarked in Calais.
“No, that way, that way, you idiot!” – you have to remember this was before the Sat-Nav became the universal tool for direction-finding in the Western hemisphere. The pummeling in my kidneys continued unabated until we reached the outskirts of Calais and picked up the A26 to Arras, and then the A1 to Paris, a beautifully fast, smooth road that allowed me to really open up the throttle and put the Honda through its paces.
We stopped off at a roadside hotel just outside Paris and enjoyed a typical French meal of beefburger and chips. I was too tired to object – I had visions of a candle-lit meal with wine and some of those cocktails with little umbrellas in them – but we ended up in a down-market burger joint playing loud Arabic music and with a bunch of sickly-looking Tunisian waiters randomly sneezing onto our plates prior to serving. These people were definitely not going to get a good TripAdvisor rating from me, I can tell you.
I wish I could say that we had a good night’s sleep – the trouble was that whenever Lynne found herself on unfamiliar territory she became incredibly sexually aroused – so I spent a large part of that first night’s holiday barricaded in the bathroom in an attempt to avoid being brutally ravished. (I gave up at about 4:30 a.m. and surrendered myself to her insistent caresses on the basis that it was better for me to keep her subdued than to unleash her onto the unsuspecting Parisian population.)
To be fair, I was truly smitten with her at that time, and would have done anything for her. (This was a state of affairs that continued until she distressingly developed a plethora of Left-Wing tendencies in 2006, at which time I decided that I would either have to leave home or to suffocate her with a feather pillow from Waitrose.
To be continued……..