Jewish Vikings and Groucho Marx

The Jewish Chronicle Online, 22/04/2010

‘Have you got Trapped on a Small Island by a Huge Volcanic Dust Cloud?” I asked the assistant at Daunts bookshop.

“Who’s it by?”, she asked. “I’ll look it up.”

I got back on my red Vespa scooter, drove 10 yards down the street and parked outside Strada to have a single espresso.

“Got any spare change mate?”, a very overweight youth in his late teens asked, waving a lager can in one hand.

“How can I possibly know?”, I replied. “I haven’t lived the rest of my life yet.” I replied.

I took to two wheels almost two years ago and I can honestly say that, three stolen scooters, one hit and run driver and 3 months of not being able to raise my right arm above my head later (I never was big on Hitler salutes in the first place), it has really transformed my life. I’ve discovered I’m a member of the band of biker brothers .

I’d never have known this if I hadn’t been knocked off in Ladbroke Grove one stormy November night by a young hit and run Porsche driver, who’d suddenly turned right without signalling.

As I picked myself up off the ground, out of the darkness, through the pouring rain, a man appeared, dressed from head to toe in black leathers, with a full face black helmet and driving a 25000 cc Yakakomoshoka ( don’t ask, I haven’t a clue about real bikes ). He was dragging by the scruff of the neck a frightened looking soaked young man .

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Graef mej De lag. Folded yap his” he replied.

“I’m sorry, I can’t understand you. Can you take your helmet off?”

“I see what happen. I chase. I catch him. I bring him to you. We band of brothers. You know that?” he said.

What’s your name?” I asked

” I Vassi.”

Vassi told me he was a courier by day and pizza delivery driver by night. “You biker. Me biker. We look after other.”

I must admit people do give me funny looks at traffic lights. I always wear my suit and tie. Maybe it’s the cigar clenched between my teeth. I look like a cross between a Jewish Viking and Groucho Marx.

There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as narrowly avoiding being crushed to death by a bendy bus on the Edgware Road at Marble Arch in the morning rush hour, or only just missing sliding under the huge wheels of a giant rubbish truck on Baker Street.

Last Wednesday I left the bike at home and used the Central line to get to the City. I was going in to see a client at Merrill Lynch’s offices when my mobile rang.

” PC Broadbottom here, Sir. We’ve found your bike.”

That’s wonderful news, PC Broadbottom,” I said. “But I didn’t know it had been stolen.”

“What? You didn’t know it had been stolen? Well it has Sir. “he said. “If you tell me where you left it, Sir, I’ll tell you where it is now.”

“Why don’t you just tell me where it is now?”l asked him. “Look, Sir, this is how we do it. You tell me where you left it, then I’ll tell you where we found it.” In the end he finally told me it was in Kilburn High Road, parked behind a carpet shop.

“Don’t worry, Sir, it’s quite safe. I’ve put a chain round the front wheel. You can pick it up tomorrow morning.”

Next morning I went in a taxi to collect it. It wasn’t there. It had been stolen again. My bike had been stolen from the police who’d found it.

I bought a new scooter the next day. At the zebra crossing at Grosvenor Square yesterday morning, a man stopped and shouted at me. I prepared myself for trouble.

“You found my piglet,” he said. And then walked off.