The Burning Soldier (6) “Bam-Bam “
Posted on August 25, 2012
The Burning Soldier
Part 6: Bam-Bam
…are so hard to write, not because you don’t know how to write it. On the contrary, you know exactly how to write it. Especially when it’s been bubbling around in your head for nearly four decades. No, it’s more a case that they are threatening to your emotional security. You don’t want to write them, for a deep reluctance to face up to the implication. It’s easier to try and file the experience away, and if not actually forget about it, then at least “minimize” the memory. And hope it will fade a bit. Maybe.
But of course… it doesn’t.
So then one day, reluctantly, you start writing it. You know that many people will have trouble believing you. You know you are still having trouble believing what happened. And you suspect that somewhere, on a deeper psychological level, these events are part of a silent, inner struggle that still plays out today.
There is a cynical part to me. The cold methodical killer side, that has shocked me at times just how cold and angry it can be. And ranged against this cynicism, on the other side, is a different Moggy. Just… different. Not better or worse. But not cynical, anyway.
This story starts with a very young man, in his early twenties, who lived in Dublin. He was madly in love with his first true girl friend. A young man only ever loves like that just once. After that, he may well love, and love deeply, but with a more mature, relaxed loving. Never again that same head-over-heels, singing-in-the-rain and unutterably smitten Total Surrender. I would walk her home, and on my return journey, there would be magic in the night air. The street lamps would glow as if they were part of the props of some enchanted stage. I could hear music on the air, and my steps would bounce off the houses, as if to wake me up from a trance. Her name was Anne, and I would gladly have died for her.
The cynical side of me, caustic and very well developed, is tempted to growl quietly now, and mutter “puppy love, sucker!”, and then make snide, snickering comments about hormones and reproductive genetic programming. But the truth is, call it what you may, there is a depth of feeling in a young lover’s heart that is immeasurably genuine. Heck, I cared. Mightily. In a manner pure as the driven snow. And for a while, so did she.
It was during this time of enchanted bliss, this starry eyed gazing into each other’s eyes, the moonlight walks, the bodies lying on the beach, the closeness, the passion, and the intense feelings, (and even poetry!) that the civil war in Northern Ireland violently revved up it’s dark engine once again. Once again, Ireland was in the grips of tit-for-tat sectarian bloodletting. Revenge knee-cappings, revenge killings, and…
Revenge bomb attacks.
A bomb going off is a strange, surreal experience. One I heard, in the distance, rumbling around the hills, killed eighteen British Soldiers. If you actually hear it, it probably means you have survived it. It must have happened up the road, or around the corner. There were many bomb blasts in Northern Ireland, and some really appalling pub bombings. A crowded pub, which is short for Public House, or what the Americans would call a bar, is a bad place to be if a bomb goes off. In those days, before the taxes on beers went sky high, to pay for continued, failed Social Welfare Policies, all the pubs in Northern Ireland (and the South) did a rip roaring trade. Despite the risks, and the occasional murderous terrorist attack, I don’t think The Troubles ever made much of a dent in the beer distilleries’ profits. The reverse may even have been true, as people just drank to forget. Nonetheless, the risk was real. It is a strange reaction, but the first thing you do, when the walls of the Pub start shaking, and the furniture moves across the floor on its own,and your table is about to fall over, is…. what? Run? Hide? Hell, no. You quickly grab your pint of beer. Seriously. To prevent it from spilling. Decades later, the reflex must have still been with me, for as I experienced a rumbling earth quake in Guam one day, whilst sitting at the dinner table, I reacted the same way. I quickly grabbed my drink, before it spilled.
But on this morning, a pleasantly sunny day in Dublin I recall, nothing was further from my mind. I was thinking of meeting my beautiful girl friend at our usual spot, at our usual time, at the Lincoln Gate. In plenty of time, I headed down to the back garden, where my trusty steed awaited me. My other great love. By the original name of “Bam-Bam”. Named after the hit cartoon character. You know, the club wielding son of Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Him of the very few words: “BAM-bam-bam… “
Bam-bam was an early AJS/Matchless 250 cc G2 single cylinder motorcycle, number plate EZD 253, and Bam-bam going down the round sounded just like this: BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM…
It was that ONE big cylinder that did it. It gave the engine that lovely (if you were a biker) thumping sound. It was also a stunningly reliable bike. There was not much to go wrong. As long as the engine got the three ingredients, air-fuel-spark, you got a “Bam” basically. It might be a bit of a “phut-Bang” or even a “Bangety-bang-phut!” if something wasn’t quite right, but it was hard not to get some kind of noisy life. One night, some green eyed, tiny brained, miserable moron poured a soft drink into the gas tank. I should have guessed, as an empty soft drink can was left on the saddle. Not thinking anybody would have done what somebody had in fact done, I failed to put two and two together. I just put the soda can in a rubbish bin, walked back and fired up. After running just fine for a minute, poor old Bam-bam started to run rough, and misfire, and make terminal wheezing noises. He still took me home. It was only after a while, that the penny dropped (Clunk!) and I got as far as figuring out what had happened. I ended up having to pull the top end off the engine, and replace a broken piston ring. I suppose I’ve often attributed to other people values I cherish myself, and paid the price for my naivety. It never crossed my mind until it was too late, that somebody had cold bloodedly poured syrupy water into my gas tank.
The point of that story though, is to prove that my Bam-bam was indestructible. He would even run, after a fashion, on Coca-cola, for flip’s sake. That was one hell of a tough old bike. I wonder where he is today. And what he runs on now. He’s probably graduated onto the hard stuff. Whiskey and water.
So there I was, whistling happily, in plenty of time to go and meet my lovely, lovely girl friend for our lunch time appointment. I had my leather jacket, my helmet, my boots and my leather gauntlets, as I expertly whaled on the kick starter. Normally, I should add, Bam-bam fired up first or second kick. The procedure was always the same.
Choke: a little.
Tickle the carburetor.
Throttle open a crack.
SWING on the kick starter…
So, on this particular morning, very confidently, I performed the above mentioned routine, and whaled on the kick starter.
Oh, well. Readjust leg and foot on kick starter. Whale like hell.
Oh, well. Readjust leg and foot on kick starter. Whale like double hell.
And so on, and so forth. Nothing. Nada. Zip. What..???
Soon the helmet had come off, the jacket had come off, and perspiration was beginning to form. Bam-bam WOULD not play. Now I was getting cross. What-in-fux-name…?? This didn’t make any sense. I checked: I had petrol. I checked, I had air. Or else I had quit breathing. Spark? Yep. A nice, big fat spark.
So what is your problem??
I changed out the spark plug. Just in case the spark was collapsing under compression. No difference. I drained the fuel out of the carburetor, just in case water had somehow got in. Nothing. I pushed the bike, ran alongside it, hopped on board and dropped the clutch. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Fuk you.
After twenty five minutes of sweating, kicking, pushing, praying, getting mad, whaling on the kickstarter..all of a sudden, for no apparent reason:
You guessed it…
Smooth as silk. Purring like a kitten.
I drove up the road, hot and bothered, and none too pleased. Now I was well late for my lunch time appointment with my beloved. What a pain. I drove quickly down Moyne Road, through the district of Ranelagh, and up over the hump back bridge over the old canal. Then, in the distance…
Soon my progress was stopped. Blue lights, everywhere. Sirens. Police. Ambulances. Consternation.
Three bombs had gone off in the city center, almost simultaneously. Timed to go off at lunch time, in order to create the maximum amount of bloodshed and mayhem. There was no getting through, so I turned around, and went back to my apartment. Switching on the news, I soon established that one of the bombs, that had killed people, had gone off at… Lincoln Gate. Our meeting place.
It was to be several more frantic hours, before I knew the answer to her fate. She had waited patiently for me, and eventually, giving up, she had turned around, walked through the gate, and behind the protection of a very high, very old, and very thick stone wall. No sooner had she arrived there, when…
The bomb had gone off. Causing deaths and severe injuries.
She talked to me with tears in her eyes, and related how, for many hours, she had also wondered about my fate.
For my part, I can only assure you that Bam-bam never again offered such a strange, stubborn, scientifically impossible refusal. The cynic in you (and me) will remark that it was an extraordinary stroke of luck.
Just an amazing coincidence.
The other part of me, has wondered all these years.
One other aspect of this story I must relate: I have recounted this story orally many times, although this is the first time I have entrusted it to paper. I have been surprised at one fact in particular:
the really large amount of people who have afterwards quietly, but with a very strong conviction made this statement:
“Francis… that was NOT a coincidence…”
And you may wonder, if you care, what happened to my lover, the beautiful one, the one I adored. Eventually, growing simply tired of me, she eloped with a Medical student. Not that I blame her. I promptly suffered my first and only case, ever, of Unrequited Love Sickness. Loss of sleep, loss of appetite, misery, loneliness, heart break, the end of the World. … it sucked for six weeks. After that, I was reborn. Older, wiser, tougher.
Maybe, (I don’t know), meaner.
With some serious soul “scar tissue “.
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 25, 2012, 4:54 pm