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Of the Albino Slug and Other Matters

by David Stevenson

Psychiatrists have been aware of Minimalist Motoring Mania Syndrome (from here on referred to by its modern acronym "M-Cubess") since the very founding of modern psychiatry.  Indeed, Sigmund Freud's case study of Count Otto von Karbontetraklorid's obsession with a collection of motorised brass filigree roller skates was published as early as 1913.

To some extent all members of the NACC are at risk from this vehicular anorexia nervosa but there are definite warning signs of which all should beware.  An inexplicable desire to buy Mini-Motor spares or the purchase of a fourth incomplete Cyclemaster wheel may be a whim of the moment; the hoarding of these parts in the bedroom "so they won't go rusty" calls for an urgent visit to your GP to discuss the matter.

Real sufferers can be seen unloading three or four mopeds from a 2CV or heading off for the coast in a Reliant with a six-berth caravan in tow.  If you are advertising for a single-speed Corgi or a clutchless Cyc-Auto or are seriously considering fitting a dual seat on the Raynal autocycle, this could be the moment to take up cheese-label collecting.  To the correspondent who wrote to me that he was in the process of welding up a chassis to put a Busmar double adult sidecar on his Bown, I say publicly: "Stop that NOW or the inevitable outcome will be a prolonged stay in hospital".

My therapist has urged me to issue this warning as a preamble to my description of my love affair with the Albino Slug.

I thought I was too old for this sort of thing, but the early summer sun was shining on the may down both sides of the lane when my friend Geoff Burrage of Hull pulled up and said "I've got something for you in the boot".

And suddenly she was standing there, so tucked up and neat, like a croissant on a blue china plate.  I unpacked her long sinuous handlebars and locked them with the little lever.  I pulled up her saddle, matching its height to my inside leg.

"Go on then" urged Geoff.

We were off, our first time.  Of course her belt slipped and she had an early morning cough, but we pottered off up the lane together, my hand on her grip.  When we got back I sidled up breathlessly to Geoff.

"Can I have her?  I haven't the cash at the moment but..."

"Of course" said Geoff and he sounded almost relieved.

She was French and she was mine, every little bit of her, from her dainty mag-alloy wheels along all her tiny tubes and up to her superbly soft grips marked the little "M".  The compensator on the front wheel brake, which prevents an ignominious dive over a locked front wheel, was mine.  The combined decompressor control and twist grip was mine.  The knurled knob which screws out to let air into the fuel tank and always lets off pressure with a delicious hiss as one prepares to mount was mine, all mine.

Motobécane Moby X1

People laughed at us.  Small children on their way to school dropped their Postman Pat bags, tripped headlong onto already grazed knees and lay on the pavement in helpless paroxysms of laughter.  Old ladies danced round their walking sticks in a palsy of merriment.  Youths and girls ceased vandalising bus shelters for a moment to point a derisory finger as we meandered past.  I didn't care.  I smiled benignly on them all.

Man of woman born is not destined for such happiness and came the inevitable day.  We were returning from a short run together when she stopped and simply refused to turn another wheel.  I cajoled.  I pleaded.  Harsh words were spoken.  I pedalled her home and threw her into the back of the shed.  Her tax ran out.  Her MoT expired.  We have been ignoring each other for months.

Sometimes when I'm pottering about in the garden, I give her cobwebbed form a long slow smile but she never returns any sign of recognition.  I think she must be the strong silent type.

Last month my therapist finally said that she believed I was completely recovered from M-Cubess and that, after a suitable period of recuperation, I would be able to lead a completely normal life.

"Have you ever heard of a bicycle sidecar?" I said.

They've promised to let me out again in a few days.  I wonder if my little Slug has waited for me.

Motobécane Moby X1

First published, June 1991

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