Standing by the tea hut alongside Chelsea Bridge, cradling a cuppa in my hand and facing west, I found myself creating an old black & white biker movie in my head.
To my left I’d have a dozen British machines accompanied by a murder of black leather jacketed rockers, all with ‘Creatures of the Night’ emblazoned across their backs. Terry, their blonde and ever so Brylcreemed leader would suddenly jump onto his Triton and kick it into life shouting, “C’mon let’s race to the Ace!” and the rest of the gang – including pillions in stilettos and mini-skirts – would rush to their bikes in a Le Mans style start, before roaring off across the bridge and disappearing into the smog
After a short interlude involving lots of sped up film, close-ups of maniacally grinning bikers in front of fast rolling backcloths, and a whole load of cars, cabs and removal vans (all complete with hat wearing, fist-shaking drivers) skidding and swerving across wet cobblestones to avoid being hit by the suicidal helmet-less tearaways, they’d screech to a halt at the Ace, before stumbling inside laughing and slapping each other heartily on the back. Just as they reach the counter there’s a commotion in the car park as the “Road Bats” turn up with a roar.
They’re lead by Johnnie whose blue-black hair drips as much oil as his Vincent. He stands in the door frame, filling it with his broad shoulders and the whole cafe fall’s silent aside from the hiss of the coffee machine and Petula Clark warbling Downtown on the jukebox. His smouldering dark eyes come to rest on Terry’s girlfriend, Susan (Rita Tushingham wearing an outrageously high blonde beehive that has apparently survived the trip from Battersea to Stonebridge without leaving a single hair out of place) and after a moment she starts walking towards him like she’s in a trance. Terry grabs her wrist and has a ten second screwing match with Johnnie before turning away and looking deeply into Susan’s triple-lashed eyes. He snatches up his keys and pushes roughly past Johnnie in the doorway. Pet finishes, the jukebox clicks and whirs, and Twinkle starts wailing Terry as the two bikes scream off into the night.
Everyone in the cafe has their nose pressed against the windows, before rushing out into the damp night air.
The race across northwest London would of course involve close-ups of the combatants gritting their teeth at each other while they ride less than six inches apart in front of even faster back drops, a whole shit load more careering vehicles, and a police chase involving a big black Wolseley with a ting-a-ling bell.
They survive all the near misses and heart stopping moments on the treacherously greasy roads and even manage to shake off the old Bill; and as the Ace comes into sight in the distance, both riders have their chins on their alloy tanks as they race along neck and neck with their respective machines. Finally with less than fifty yards to go Terry has pulled out a five-yard lead and is looking back at Johnnie grinning as a fuel lorry approaches the junction. The crowd in the car park roars with excitement and as the truck driver turns to see what the noise is, he sails straight across the give way line.
Seeing the blind horror in Johnnie’s eyes, Terry turns back just in time to follow his bike through the thick metal of the tanker, which instantly explodes into a spectacular fireball. Johnnie lays down his bike and manages to slide under the inferno, coming to a halt right outside the cafe. Both he and the bike are pretty mangled but when Susan rushes through the crowd and gently cradles his head in her lap, thankfully he doesn’t have a single hair out of place.
He’s A Rebel plays through the open doors of the cafe, as the mist descends and the film fades to titles.