World Book Day –Scooterboys – The Lost Tribe

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Looking forward to this  – Scooterboys – the Lost Tribe. I’ve enjoyed Martin “Sticky” Round’s writing for years. After all, this is the guy who can make a workshop manual entertaining! Due for release on 28th May, it’s one worth pre-ordering. (If you’ve already ordered an advance signed copy via SLUK, then that will be shipped at the end of April).

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Here’s the blurb; “Scooterboys are the lost tribe of British youth culture. Unrecognised, uncelebrated and unwanted; misunderstood by a general public who mistook us for Mods. We weren’t Mods though. By the 1980s myself and tens of thousands of scooter riders collectively rejected that label. Instead, we took the roadmap of British youth disaffection and carved a new bypass. This route took us beyond the UK’s faded seaside resorts, allowing us to spread our creed across the continents. Tuned and customised Vespa and Lambretta scooters gave us freedom to roam; transport to live for the weekend. Shared experiences of riots, local hostility and police harassment built strong fraternal bonds that endure to this day. Despite decades of two-wheeled rebellion our threat level was never high enough to put us on the national security radar. This low profile has its benefits. We aren’t doomed to follow the same cycle as Mods. First feared, then pilloried, accepted and finally adopted as part of UK’s rich culture. As British as a vindaloo. The cult of Scooterboy has escaped death-by-public-acceptance, simply by remaining too underground. Too difficult to distinguish from what came before. And that’s just perfect. You’ll never see Scooterboys parodied in TV insurance adverts or low budget fly-on-the-wall. The poorly-rendered caricature is always some cliché Mod on a ‘Christmas Tree’ scooter. If you rode to rallies in the 80s and 90s then this book will mirror your experiences. If you’ve never had a scooter then it offers a rare glimpse of life inside the lost tribe of two-stroke terrorists.”

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Available at all good bookshops, no doubt a few bad ones, and on Amazon, here

I’ll be getting a copy, and post a full review when I’ve read it. For more recommendations, see my reading list.

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A Sense of Occasion

A Sense of Occasion CoverFirstly, this is not a scooter book. I think there is one mention of a Lambretta in it, so don’t buy it expecting a insight into scooter riding in the sixties. But, if you’re into the sixties, and the whole mod scene, this book is a must read. It’s the story… or several interlinked stories really… of some ordinary, working class girls growing up in Chelmsford, Essex, and how they make sense of the world.

The whole “mod thing” is not laboured… but is there as a constant backdrop, and it’s clearly how these girls define themselves. Being a mod is the most natural thing in the world. And it’s something that ‘society’ just doesn’t get. At one point, one of the key characters, Linda explains what it means to a confused German… “We’re working class. So people don’t think much about it, I mean except to say “They’re fighting again”. But the clothes are good.” The girls, for once, are the lead characters in these stories, and the male characters very much fall into supporting roles. A Sense of Occasion is a slim volume, but one I thoroughly enjoyed, because it’s beautifully written and because of it’s authenticity. The dialogue is believable and ‘real’, and really gets you into the head of the girls… and you really start to empathise with their lives. If you have an interest in the sixties and the mod scene, read it. You can grab it on Amazon, here.

Follow author Elizabeth Woodcraft (that’s her on the cover at a school fashion show in 1964) on Twitter here… and her blog is also a great read. A follow up collection of Chelmsford stories “Beyond the Beehive” is coming shortly.

Frankenstein Scooters to Dracula’s Castle – The Review

39375c67f1f0b9b391c7039ea18620cf1f540ff9On the strength of my post about the video publicising his book, Martin “Sticky” Round sent me a copy to review. Which was nice. This is a first for me, as it’s the first “freebie” I’ve got through the blog. To be fair to my loyal readers though, I’m determined to give this a fair review, and be as honest and forthright as I can… and not just do a “puff piece”.

This was a tricky review to write. I could sum the whole post up in four words… but that wouldn’t do justice to the book. And I could ramble on for ages pouring more and more praise onto it, because this is simply a great book, but I suspect that my review would come across as a little dull if I did.

And this book is anything but dull. As readers of his work in Scootering will know, Sticky has a fine command of the English language… and he’s had the opportunity to give it full flight in this book. I read a lot. I’ve often got two or three books on the go at once, and I devour everything from biographies to science fiction, and pretty much everything in between. Once in a while, I enjoy a book so much that I rave on about it to friends and family and pass it on, saying “you must read this!” (The last book I did that with was CJ Sansom’s Dominion, btw. Highly recommended). Frankenstein Scooters to Dracula’s Castle is up there. Right up there. I honestly haven’t enjoyed reading a book more this year.

Sticky tells his road trip tale in a highly entertaining fashion. The “scootery bits” aren’t so technical that a non-scooterist would be turned off, and just give an overview of what it’s like to own, ride and be part of the classic scooter scene without assuming any prior knowledge. A opening couple of chapters about building the scooters to take them on the journey could be as dull as ditchwater – but handled with Sticky’s light humorous tone (and the liberal use of the word “bollocks”) it’s like a very entertaining bloke down the pub sharing a great story with you.

In fact, the whole book is like that. Only they interesting bloke down the pub usually gets a bit boring after a couple of pints. Sticky’s book never wanes. While sharing his adventure of crossing Europe, from the Adriatic Coast to Turkey (and back), the entertainment factor never lets up. Sticky didn’t do the trip alone, he took his 11 year old son, Sam, and wife along. His wife, Tracy was riding perhaps the most Frankenstein of the Frankesnstein scooters, a Maicoletta with a 400cc Suzuki engine shoehorned into the old scooter bodywork. They met up with another name well known to the Lambretta scene, Dean Orton from the Rimini Lambretta Centre. Dean was riding the least modded bike… (and ultimately the most reliable of the scooters) a moderately upgraded Indian GP. And he brought his daughter, Kimberly along for the ride too.

Undertaking a challenging journey on highly modified vintage scooters is not a thing to do lightly. Let alone when you’ve got the wife and kids along. Sticky’s attitude is prepare well, and hope for the best. Things will generally work out and when they don’t, well, that’s character building. Seems to have worked for him. Still, with the author of the Lambretta repair and maintenance bible The Complete Spanner’s Manual: Lambretta Scooters and the owner of the RLC, an accomplished Lambretta mechanic in his own right, both veterans of many rallies and road trips… they were going to be alright if anything did go wrong with the scoots.

To get back to that bloke down the pub, that you initailly find the life and soul, and who you then discover is just someone who likes the sound of their own voice and has found a whole new audience in you… Well, you often find their worldview is a little blinkered too. They say travel broadens the mind, and to an extent I think that’s true, but I think you’ve got to be pretty broadminded to begin with. I found myself nodding along and agreeing with most of what Sticky said in the book… and, being Sticky he always has an interesting way of saying it. His “Dickhead Theory” I found particularly insigtful.

The trip, through Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey (and back via Greece and Albania) give Sticky ample opportunity to expound on everything from his theories on parenting to his attitudes to other cultures… with a handful of remincenses about previous scootering adventures, and a soupcon of local history along the way. His summing up of the Gallipoli campaign made interesting reading in light of all the recent celebrations surrounding the 70th anniverary of D-Day.

The book ends with Sticky being a bit down as the trip reaches it’s conclusion… and that’s how I felt as I reached the end of the book. I was enjoying reading it so much I just wanted more… Finally, there is some advice on how to plan your own adventure… and if you don’t feel inspired to at least start planning something, even if it never gets past the plannng stage, I suspect there’s something wrong with you.

Anyway… I’m not going to witter on and spoil the book for you. Suffice it to say it’s a damn good read. One that, in my humble opinion, deserves to break out from the scootering world into a general readership… You don’t have to be a scooter fan to enjoy a book this good. After all “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (basically a roadtrip book with a bunch of noodly half baked philosphising thrown in) became a classic… and it’s a far less entertaining read.

If I had summed the whole review up in four words they would have been “Excellent read. Buy it”. Actually buy two, give one to a friend. It’s that good.

It’s out on Kindle now, at a unfeasibly reasonable £2.95, a price that almost makes it worthwhile buying a Kindle. The paperback is also available from Scooterproducts, Amazon, and eBay. The perfect last minute gift for Fathers Day!

Bonus points if you can find the other video featuring (a very young) Sticky on this site. If you do post your answer in the comments.

Frankenstein Scooters to Dracula’s Castle

Video about the road trip written about in new scooter travel book ‘Frankenstein Scooters to Dracula’s Castle’ Italy to Istanbul on 400cc Suzuki-engined Maicoletta, and a couple of Lambrettas …by Martin ‘Sticky’ Round… watch out for a review of the book soon!

Book review: Mods! By Richard Barnes

Mods! by Richard BarnesI had this book back in the day, shortly after it was published. It became my bible… a revelation, an eyeopener, source of information, and the definitive reference work when it came to solving arguments. I bought it from the sadly missed ‘Books, Bits & Bobs’ from Kingston-upon-Thames, a cavernous place that sold a vast array of pin badges, patches, books, comics, posters and all sorts of other ephemera… and they weren’t picky, the mod stuff was intermingled with the 2tone, punk and heavy metal patches. It was across one road from the cinema where I first saw Quadrophenia, and across another from Jack Brendon’s, the clothes shop that sold an unlikely mix of Mod and Teddy Boy gear.

But I digress. Back to the book. Firstly, it’s worth buying for the pictures alone. And there are a ton of them. In fact most of the 128 pages are pics. And they’re great. A lot have been reproduced over the years in various other formats, and all over the internet, but there’s nothing like having them together as a collection. And they close inspection! There’s a load of scooter pics, as well as clothing, hairstyle and music shots. There are also a fair few reprints from 60’s newspapers, lots about the the seaside battles of Brighton, Margate, Clacton and the like. The text is insightful and although the author, Richard Barnes, was by his own admission not a mod himself, he was at the heart of the scene and saw it happening all around him. In fact, being a slightly removed, dispassionate observer has probably made this a stronger, and less biased book.

To finish my story, this book became a part of my library in the early eighties. Much read, much loved. And then, in a clearout it ended up in a charity shop. Doh! So, for many years, I didn’t have it. And then, my lovely wife got me a copy for Christmas. Only then I realised how much I had missed it!

I know more that most, that being a Lambretta rider doesn’t automatically make you a mod, and you may even hate the tag. But you’ll more than likely have more than a passing interest in the scene. A scene that has not only become a integral part of British subculture, and cultural history… been at the root of many revivals over the years, and passed on essential elements to many youth cultures that have followed it. Do yourself a favour, and add this book to your library.
It doesn’t tell the whole story of Mod as a movement, and there are other books that deal with other aspects of the scene. But this book was the original, and as mods will know, the original is often the best.

Get it here on Amazon