Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Hell for Leather

Last night we were discussing in our local bookshop/bar — and how wonderful it is to have such a thing as a ‘Local bookshop/bar’ — the mistakes, harmless or disastrous, one might make when choosing somewhere to pop in for a drink, and I was reminded of the time I was riding a motorbike — a Velocette Venom Clubman, a serious post-vintage thoroughbred — from Canterbury to Oxford. My route — there are several possibilities — took me through Earl’s Court, and my bike chose that area in which to have a minor breakdown; it rumbled to a halt just outside a pub. It was summer and much of the clientele was drinking outside; many were dressed in leather jackets. ‘Oh good,’ I thought: ‘obviously a biker’s pub.’ I propped the bike against the kerb and got out a few tools to fix what I was sure was a minor magneto problem.

I was a touch surprised when, after a few minutes, no-one had come to offer advice or a spanner, as bikers of course always do. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘they don’t know me; give them a few minutes.’ But in a few minutes I had fixed the problem and, as it was a hot day and I was dripping with sweat inside my heavy leather motorcycling coat, I popped in for a quick half.

A young woman came and sat beside me. ‘I like your coat,’ she said; ‘is it German?’ ‘Yes, it’s actually a Second World War officer’s coat: I’ve had it for years; just the thing on the bike.’ I was a touch disconcerted when she started to stroke said coat, and then the penny dropped: in my innocence I had thought this a biker’s pub, but it was in fact one for leather fetishists.

(Of course, I wouldn’t want to deny the possibility that a Venn diagram of the two classes might show some overlap…)

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