Sunday, July 04, 2004

She’s A Star 

I’ll never forget the first time I set eyes on Charlie. I hope not, anyway. Girlfriend and me were enjoying what Bridget Jones (no, the other less famous one) would call a weekend mini-break, in a pub in the Yorkshire Dales. I was on my own, Girlfriend having gone up to our room for a jumper, when seven or eight bikers entered the bar.
One biker in particular caught my eye, because her legs went on for miles, all the way down the A59 as far as Clitheroe, and when she removed her helmet, her jet black hair tumbled in slow motion down her shoulders like a waterfall, only stopping when it got to Gisburn.
I was spellbound.
So were the other bikers, and Charlie was clearly the centre of attention, the star of their galaxy. Five foot ten and slender as a racing snake, the only possible way she could have squeezed into her leathers was if she had been melted down like chocolate and poured into them.

Imagine then my surprise when Girlfriend entered the bar, yelled “Hi Charlie, what are you doing here!” and then spent the next ten minutes hugging her excitedly as if she was a long lost twin. They only see each other every day of the week - Girlfriend is Charlie’s team leader at work.
After a further ten minutes of talking and laughing Girlfriend said “Why don’t you come and meet Tim?” as if I was a five year old sat in the car with a packet of crisps and bottle of coke.
“Great. Where is he?”
Only about ten bloody feet away, the guy in the corner with the steamed up glasses, ankle deep in his own drool. I wiped myself down, shuffled unnecessarily further into the corner, and we all got along famously for what turned into a great night.
At one point, Charlie asked if I’d like to go for a quick ride on the back of her bike. By that time I’d already put myself outside several pints of Black Sheep, and wouldn’t be going anywhere in a hurry.
“Go on, I don’t mind if you want to,” smiled Girlfriend.
“I think I’ll pass on that. I don’t think it would be a good idea in my present condition. Maybe next time, yeah?”
Charlie feigned light hearted disappointment, squeezed my knee for longer than seemed appropriate in the circumstances, and whispered in my ear, “Never mind Tim. You and me can maybe go for a ride some other time. I’d like that.”

I mention this now because Girlfriend has volunteered me to give Charlie a lift to Birmingham tomorrow evening, to pick up her repaired bike from a breakdown which happened last Wednesday. Girlfriend only does this to traumatise me. She knows I’m terrified of being alone with strong women.

I often think about the ride through the Dales on that glorious August evening that never happened. Up through the gears out of Clapham and hanging left onto the A65, screaming past Ingleborough rising majestically from the Yorkshire soil to our right, tiny paragliders clinging to it’s outline like multicoloured birds of prey; past lush green fields of dozing sheep, framed like old sepia photographs within dry stone walls, ancient scratches on the landscape which have stood for centuries and will be standing the test of time still when we’re all of us pushing up daisies; faster and faster, past Ingleton, Westhouse, Lower Westhouse, Higher Westhouse, too fast now to read the signs, too fast to breathe or think, faster than the swifts and swallows that dip and dive high above in the inky blue sky; we rush headlong into the golden sun, our shadow stretching behind us for miles like a vapour trail, only fading away in Settle; and now we slowly descend, into third, second, coming to rest in Kirby Lonsdale, gasping for air, exhausted, exhilarated, high on a giddy rush of excitement and the sheer thrill of being alive. Then she turns around and we do it all again.

I wonder if Charlie will want to change into her biking gear somewhere when we get to Birmingham, or whether she’ll want to go all the way with me in her leathers for the full three hours?

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