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Being in a four apprenticeship with the National bus company was a good experience however after earning below half of what my mates were taking home I decided it was time to spread my wings and do something completely different.
While looking through the motorcycle news, adverts for motorcycle dispatch/couriers kept on popping up with banging titles like EARN £500 A WEEK.This was 5 times what i was taking home back in 1986 and so with that thought in my then very inexperienced brain I went and traded my old 70k mile BMW sidecar outfit for a one year old 5k mile Yamaha XS850.
The BMW was a dog, people rave about them but they were slow, unreliable, noisy, heavy and expensive on parts, It looked good though and I thought if I got over a grand for it towards the Yamaha I would be happy.I rode the old Beemer to East kent and found the bike shop in question that had the Yamaha for sale,
No shit nav then, just maps and follow that bus.True to form the old dog was dripping oil so I quickly had a clean up and parked the outfit in the bike shops yard, Over in the corner was this shiny Yamaha XS850,
It was the latest model and the teething issues had been sorted out from the old XS750 making it a much better bike.
The leather clad bike shop owner with the standard issue fag stained beard came out and handed me the keys for the three cylinder purple beast and with a quick thanks I jumped aboard and took off for a spin.
Fucking hell this bike was quick compared to old slug that i had just rocked up on, It was sewing machine smooth and pulled like a train, It handled well around the lanes and when you kicked it down the acceleration made you hang on to the bars like an alcoholic with a special brew can.
After a good half hour test trash I rolled into the bike shop yard and knew I wanted the bike, Now was the elephant in the room, How much could i get for the old BMW.
The owner of the shop was sitting on my bike and told me the best deal he could do was a straight trade plus £150, Without trying to look like a 4 year old that had been given the key to a sweet shop I jumped at the offer and we went inside the show room to exchange details and log books,
However just as I went to my battered old wallet to hand over a wedge of hard earned cash the owner gave me £150 and the keys to my new bike.I nearly wet myself with excitement, A free bike and £150 cash.....Christmas had come early....
That was it, the start of my motorcycle dispatch rider days, the freedom, the money, the crashes and the repair bills.
Sitting a stride my new polished and very powerful Yamaha I headed off to the first news agent that I could find and brought the latest copy of motor cycle news.
I scanned the job vacancies in the adverts and found a courier company in Maidstone Kent called Jet carriers.
They wanted a long distance dispatch rider, 20p a mile and a guarantee work load of 1000 plus miles a week, The only issue was the motor bike had to be over 500cc.
This was the one for me, I took the 10 mile trip to over to their head office and with in half an hour my first job, Not a big one to start with....Only a fucking trip to Liverpool, a round trip of over 500 miles,
Wow this was the bollox, getting paid to ride my bike.
I had to collect a package from Ashford Kent and then ride to Liverpool and drop it off at an office in the city center, once there find a call box and ring my office to see if there was a collection on the way home, If there was I could double my money.
All this sounded easy however back in the late 80s the mobile phone and sat nav did not exist, Uk maps were a must and you needed a pocket of 10p coins for the piss stinking phone boxes.
I left around 11am and after I picked up my very first package set north to scouse land around midday ... Me being me had to do things the hard way, It was the middle of November and fucking freezing,
I did not expect to start straight away and had very little on in the way of winter protection.Half way up the M1 the heavens opened and the leathers i had on were about as waterproof as a bloody teabag, I had water running out my arse and my gloves were like a pair of chamois leathers.
It was still pissing down when I dripped into Liverpool and after asking directions eventually found the brightly lit, bronze glassed and marbled floor reception of a very swanky solicitors,
I sloshed my way across the polished floor and handed over the damp jiffy bag containing a pile of wet documents..."SIGN HERE PLEASE" I asked the stuck up receptionist and with a snotty gaze from over her glasses she told me step away from the counter as I was making it wet, She signed my paper work and then asked a fat geezer in a suit to escort me to the door....Sadly this was the attitude of most office staff towards dispatch riders and only on a few occasions was I ever offered a cup of tea or coffee.
Out side the rain was still hammering down, It was now pitch black and getting colder, I found a phone box and called the office, luckily there were no more collections however could I go to the office in the morning at 6am to get the paper work for my next road trip.
I arrived home that night around 10pm, I was soaked through to my skin and there was no item of clothing that I had been wearing that had an inch of dryness on it,
After a long warm bath I crashed out and in the morning had to rummage around for any old bike gear that could get me through the next few hours until a new set of water proofs could be brought.
My next job was a trip to the dreaded city..LONDON..and collect a parcel destined for Brighton, Not a big job but after yesterday it would give me time to buy some much needed warm waterproofs.
Over the next few weeks all went well, I was warm and dry in my new padded trousers and jacket, the gloves were lined with some sort of foil and that kept my hands warm and dry,
The bike had been fitted with better tyres and fully serviced.
I had covered over 3000 miles a week and earning good money, life was good, cold and wet but still good.
Christmas had come and gone, there was now snow and ice on the roads which made every job take twice as long, some days it was below freezing when i set off and being a motorcycle courier seemed less of a dream job than before.
Every day I had a letter run, this was from an office in Maidstone called acco Europe to their sister office in south benfleet Essex, I collected mail from Maidstone, took it to Essex and returned with the mail for Maidstone, It took around 2 hours and I did this every morning before a big job came in usually at around 9am.
They say familiarity breeds contempt and I took this trip for granted every time I went, I knew the roads, the junctions and the pot holes but could never have predicted the fucking idiot that reversed out from a shop forecourt right in front of me while I was doing 40mph along a main road.
So there i was, snuggled up in my warm wet weather gear, the bike singing from the exhaust, head lights on and me thinking of the next long run up north or down towards the west country when all of a sudden this fucking dark blue Vauxhall Astra reversed right in front of me onto the road from my right side.
FUUUUCK....I grabbed at the brakes but it was too late, I hit the drivers door with such a force that I knocked the lady driver into the passenger seat and i was propelled like a champagne cork over the car and luckily for me (but unlucky for the old dear) landed on top of an old lady pushing her weekly shopping.
With a leap like a high jumper on steroids I jumped up and picked up the old lady, by now a few people had gathered around and were comforting the old dear,
I was wearing a silver winter suit from frank thomas and a bright red crash helmet, the poor old girl thought I had fallen from space, Now I knew the old lady was ok I went over to the very shaken female driver.....
I let rip with a barrage of words that are unrepeatable on here and when she started to cry I felt sorry for her and helped drag her out the car,
The drivers door was touching the steering wheel and my bike was buried in the side like a tunneling mole so she had to climb out the passenger door,
A huge crowd were surrounding us and in the distance blue lights appeared, It was Essex finest,
The muppets in blue arrived with sirens screaming and straight away they headed for the dispatch rider..me..
How fast were you going, Why didn't you see her, Have you got a licence and Insurance.....For fucks sake I was the injured party here and getting the third degree.
A man came forward and told the police what had happened, He had seen the whole thing and when plod asked the female driver if she had any documents she broke down in tears and told them she had borrowed the car from her boyfriend and had no licence or insurance.
COSMIC....So there i was a bike that was going no where fast, a stunned old lady that now believes in Flash Gordon and a young lady driver that wishes she had walked the half mile to the shops instead of nicking her boyfriends car.
The bike was collected by the AA and taken to my house where i quickly stripped it down and sourced another bike for spares,
Two days later i was back on the road and heading for the young ladies house, I was told that her boyfriend was going to pay for the damage and could I forgive her....I rocked up at this council house and banged on the front door,
The door was opened by this bloke so big that he filled the opening, He asked me very politely if i would except £650 as this was all he could get, It was his holiday money and an advance on his wages,
I couldn't argue the case could I, If he offered me £20 I think I would have taken it and run away....I did feel sorry for him and said that it will do and I would not be taking any further action.
With a pocket full of notes I carried on my way for the mail run that morning and headed into the sun for my next adventure......
Whats needed in a motorcycle couriers life is warm waterproof clothing, a large ruck sack and top box, lots of coffee but most of all a spare bike and parts.
After the episode with the careless un-insured driver I decided to find a couple of worn out XS 750/850 Yamahas that could be used as parts donors for my now tired looking bike.
A search of the local breakers and free-ads papers got me 2 heaps that had enough usable parts to keep me on the road for hopefully another few months,
My mileage was creeping up weekly and the odometer was now showing 35k. My office had received a call on a very wet morning in March from an industrial clothing supplier wanting some gear taken to North London from Croydon, Sounds like a job that I could get done in the morning and hopefully pick up a return parcel on the way back...double bubble.
I set off towards Croydon and on arrival was taken around the rear of the shop and given a cardboard box so large that you could have put a fridge in it.
"what the fuck do you think i have outside" I told the fat sweaty bloke in a high viz jacket.
He looked at me holding my crash hat and laughed,
"I just asked for a courier and never thought about a motorbike" he replied.
With the thought of double bubble and an easy ride around the North Circular I peeped inside the box and saw a couple of dozen bright yellow hard hats.
I managed to get 10 hats in my ruck sack which now protruded a good couple of feet above my head and another 18 (yep 28 hats) in a smaller box strapped to the rear seat and top box by bungee cords, string and luck.
Talk about over loaded, The address I had to go to was a convent near Wembley stadium and I had to get a shift on because building work was being held up because the nuns were mooching around and had no head gear to wear.
The old Yamaha was fired up and I took off like a wobbly new born giraffe, the drag from the wind on my over filled rucksack was breaking my neck above 60mph and I was forced to ride at a steady 45-50mph, this was fucking sole destroying.
After what seemed like a lifetime I rocked up at the convent and handed over the bright yellow hard hats to the queen penguin, She handed these out to her colony and every one was happy.
This made me chuckle and was a proper funny sight to see, even the old nuns were having a giggle.
I left the nuns hitting each other on the heads with sticks and found a piss stinking call box to let my boss know that all went well and to see if there was another job near by.
Get in there...A job had come in an hour ago, it was just down the road and was urgent, There I was 40 minutes later in front of this steel door with a sliding hatch, it looked similar to a prison cell door ( ive seen them on porridge with Ronny Barker ) and there was no bell or knocker on it, just a number.
It was getting late in the day and I hammered on the iron door "FUCK OFF" came a reply from behind the hatch.
" Jet carriers here, Ive got to collect a parcel " I stuttered.
"YOUR FUCKING LATE" the reply came back in a strong London accent.
The hatch opened and a scar faced ogre looked me up and down and handed me a fat brown jiffy bag covered in parcel tape, He told me that it had to be handed to a geezer in Pimlico near Vauxhall bridge,
Scar face handed me the address and said in no uncertain terms that it had to be delivered now so best I get on my bike and Fuck off.
Thats what I liked about this job, the way the customers spoke to you, No messing about.
The address in Pimlico was about half an hour away on a good run, I weaved in and out the buses, the taxis, the suicidal pedestrians and arrived 20 minutes later at a very smart looking office door,
There was a large brass knocker that invited a good thump and the door was opened by what I can only describe as a Victorian butler.
"yes, how can I assist you" he asked"
Ive got a parcel for you" I handed over the package and when I asked for a signature the door was slammed in my face.
I never did know what was in that package but Im sure it wasn't a bloody copy of Horse and Hound.
What a day that was, I had picked up a double bubble and was now only an hour from home.Quickest route back was over Vauxhall bridge and straight down the A2,
With a stab on the starter button I fired up old Yammy and shot off home bound,
Vauxhall bridge was just around the corner and as I stopped in front of the lights a Porsche pulled along side me and the driver gave his motor a rev, he looked over at me and nodded,
The lights changed green and we accelerated away like a drag race at Santa pod. Only difference was Santa pod never had a bloody milk float doing 5mph half way down the track.
Bollox this was going to hurt.
I hit the back of the float at around 40mph and was launched into hundreds of full gold tops, My bike was sent spinning across the road and emptied its petrol tank all over the road.
To this day I dont know how I walked away from that and to top it all never had a scratch on me.
The rasta that was driving the milk float asked me if I was ok and then jumped back in his wagon and drove off into the sun set , Im sure he had stolen it.
That day I was on the Radio 2 travel report because they had to shut Vauxhall bridge for an hour causing long delays to allow a clean up and the removal of shards of glass from the road.
The now very bent Yamaha was relayed back home and I spent the next week rebuilding it in my shed from the pile of spares I had accumulated over the previous weeks.
I carried on dispatch riding for a further 5 months, I managed to destroy yet another bike, was crushed between two London buses and after 65 thousand miles decided to get a job coach building again as my life expectancy was getting shorter by the hour.
Now If your out and about in any major city please look out for that motorcycle courier and think to yourself........Good job we have a national health service because they could well be the next organ donor....Its a tough job but someone has to it