I am back tracking to around 1962/63 (hence the odd page number) because I have to tell you about my Mum and her Lambretta – 3 Short Stories!
Back in the early 1960’s, my Dad was looking for a financially feasible method of getting from Peterborough to Clacton and back every weekend. We lived in Peterborough but he was now working in Clacton. It was about 100 mile cross-country drive typically taking 2-1/2 to 3 hours, and he decided on a 175cc Lambretta scooter.
Later, it was decided that Mum should also have a Lambretta, so they bought the 125cc model for her. I really don’t think that it was Mum’s idea to have one because she was never very enthusiastic about the idea although, in fairness, she did get a lot of mileage out of it!
Story No. 1: Around 1962/63, Dad picked up Mum’s Lambretta and decided to use the “sink or swim” method of teaching her how to ride it. Valerie and I were outside anticipating that anything could happen in this situation. We were not disappointed.
He first showed her how to change gears which, to a non-mechanical person, probably made little sense but, to my Mum, would have made no sense whatsoever. It was agreed that for her first ride, she should just stay in 1st gear. The next part I will always remember!
She managed to get it into 1st gear and was clearly nervous about driving it away when my Dad, in his wisdom, said “Remember….this machine can kill!” That was not what she wanted to hear and, I think out of panic rather than by design, she opened up the throttle and let go of the clutch. The scooter leapt forward and accelerated down the road with my Mum just barely hanging on and trying to stay upright.
She was clearly not in control as the scooter weaved its way down our (fortunately) empty street, but then we saw it turn to the left. To her left were curbs (sloped periodically); walls (with gates periodically), and houses with small gaps between them. We don’t know how she survived that ride, but she managed to get that scooter up a slope and into a driveway that had its gates wide open. She then steered away from the fast approaching house, and ended up falling off the scooter and onto the home owner’s front lawn! The only casualty was the lawn, and it wasn’t long before she would relate the incident with lots of giggles.
Story No. 2: She decided that she and I should go to Leicester as shoes were needed, and they would cost much less there. On the approach to Leicester, our road (one lane in each direction) had a series of sharp bends while climbing quite steeply. Mum had by now mastered gear changing but, because it took all her concentration to synchronize the throttle with the clutch, it was only done out of necessity.
We were in the highest gear as we approached the winding hill, and there was a truck in front of us. As a rear passenger, all I could do was listen to the truck as the driver started to work his way down through his numerous gears. Mum only had 4 gears in total and she was clearly determined to stay in 4th! As the truck got slower and slower, I was very much aware that Mum had to do something otherwise we would stall but no, she was going to hang on a bit longer.
Needless to say she waited just a little too long and, just as she decided to fathom out the sequence to get into 3rd gear, and given the quite steep hill, we simply came to a gentle stop and rather gracefully fell over! Fortunately, there was grass on the side of the road. In true Mum tradition, she had a good giggle at the pair of us on the grass before continuing on our journey (after waiting for a quiet spell in traffic!).
Story No. 3: In the early part of 1965, Mum gave me a lift from Colchester to where they lived and the route included a steep downhill, with an “S” bend at the bottom, and a steep climb up the other side. Mum had clearly mastered gear changing by now because she was very confident as she drove us out of Colchester.
When she was at the top of the downhill section, she suddenly changed from 4th gear to 2nd and opened the throttle as far as it would go! What I heard was an engine in acute pain as it screamed its way down, around the “S” bend and up the other side. Once she was at the top she went to 3rd and then to 4th gear and we coasted home.
Once we were home, I just had to ask what on earth she thought she was doing to that poor scooter. She was totally puzzled because screaming mechanics meant nothing to her. She said it always made that noise when changed into a lower gear!
However, there was a perfectly logical explanation! Mum recognized that her gear changing was rather slow (possibly remembering the Leicester trip) and so, knowing that the climb up the hill would involve getting into a lower gear, she simply planned ahead. From her perspective, it was simply that . Forward planning! She knew that she would need 2nd gear so why wait (she said with a big smile).