When car and motorcycle ownership became available to the masses it developed alongside the ‘make do and mend’ attitude that we were taught by our parents, therefore soon after our first motor vehicle – in my case it was an old BSA C10L motorcycle in 1963 – we quickly learned how to carry out basic maintenance. I was lucky to develop a friendship with a group of other bikers who would share problems, mishaps and remedies.
As we were just starting out in the world of self-financing and not relying on spending money from our parents, we quickly discovered how the ‘make do’ system worked for us, but most of the time many of the ‘mends’ were really bodges.
The art of motorcycle maintenance
The annual service was easy: oils, filters and spark plugs. Due to the fuels available and the engine design at the time there was a certain amount of carbon build-up around the top of the piston/s and valves and a de-coke and re-grinding of the valves was required every year.
On a rare occasion it became necessary to carry out major repairs like main and big end bearings and piston rings, all this could be carried out with a little initial guidance and a fairly standard tool kit.
The Vauxhall Viva, the white Bedford Astra van and the GT 550 and GT 750 bikes were all easy to work on. One can argue that it’s a good job they were because they were less reliable than modern family vehicles and 100 thousand miles was very high mileage in those days, I didn’t own any vehicle that could achieve those sorts of mileage until well into the 1990s.
Fare thee well, trusty Haynes manual
Things are very different now, the advent of better engine design and metals used in the moving parts and bodywork allows some cars with basic regular servicing to easily achieve twice that mileage now. However, the only thing an owner can carry out for themselves is tyre pressures and topping up fluid levels, although changing any of the fluids seems to have been made deliberately awkward so that only professionals with a special tool can do it. Some manufacturers have designed their cars so that just changing a light bulb is a major task.
Things have become so complicated that just experiencing a minor accident in one of the more fancy cars might require the exterior cameras and sensors to be re-calibrated and would become so expensive that insurance companies write off a perfectly good car just because it has a damaged bumper.
And don’t get me started on electric vehicles, this is a whole world of nightmares.
Fare thee well, Anglo-Saxon England
I’m sure you have wondered, like I, how our world would have been different if King Harold had access to motor vehicles instead of a forced march from London to Yorkshire to fight a battle and then march down to Hastings all in less than two weeks. This was approximately 440 miles and at least 27 miles per day with a battle in the middle. Perhaps this question isn’t something that has filled your day, but it’s really just a tenuous and desperate link to my next part of this ramble.
There have been troublesome times for the British royal family over the centuries, none more so than in 1066. Some had maintained that King Harold Godwinson had claimed the English throne falsely and William the Bastard made preparations to invade England to right the wrong. King Harold got wind of this and made his own defensive preparations.
If this wasn’t enough, he also got wind of another invasion up north by Harald Hardrada and his own brother Tostig Godwinson. Tostig was appointed Earl of Northumbria and as he was a southerner with questionable diplomatic skills, he was not popular with the locals and had much trouble keeping order and collecting taxes, therefore had his own agenda in forcing his subjects into line. He first approached William to help him fulfil his petulant and jealous needs but didn’t appreciate William’s timescale and then approached King Hardrada of Norway instead.
Careful with that bow and arrow, Toland!
King Harold also noticed that the southern invasion from William was slow in the coming and abandoned his defences down south and rushed up to Yorkshire to face the Viking invasion at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Hardrada and Tostig were both killed and Harold was having a bit of a breather paddling his feet on the Scarborough beach when he learned that that Bastard William was at it again.
He was just about to rush off down south when he noticed a local chap named Kenric knocking seagulls out of the sky with his arrows – ping went his bow, squawk went the seagull, ping, squawk, ping, squawk – he never missed. Knowing that he was going to need all the help he could get, Harold approached Kenric and said:
“Look here my good man, I have noticed that you are quite good with your bow and arrow, and I would like you to accompany me down south”.
Kenric had never been outside Scarborough before so he said to Harold:
“I’d luv to av a trip out lad but it’s like this ear thasees, I promised mi Mam that I would alliss look after mi brother Toland ear and am non bunt to leave im on is own, I promised ar Mam thasees.”
This was even better for King Harold, two brothers with these sort of skills was more than he could have hoped, so Harold said:
“Of course, Toland can come along, do you think he could show me his skills with the bow also?”
“Well, it’s like this ear thasees lad, Toland was dropped on is ed as a young un and ees niver bin quit right sin, but we can av a go!”
Ping went the bow, splash went the arrow about ten feet away into the water, ping went the bow, thud went the arrow behind him, ping went the bow… he hadn’t put the string in the arrow notch.
King Harold was disappointed but was keen to get Kenric into his army and said:
“Yes, your brother certainly shows signs of being dropped on his head but you can bring him along anyway, but you must keep him close by at all times, he’s not safe, he’ll have someone’s eye out.”