Mid-afternoon at West Wick roundabout: the approaching weather front with its snow-laden clouds had meant staff had been advised to leave school early. Perhaps it was the early departure that meant seeing the motor cyclist, perhaps he went through the roundabout at that time every day. The motor cycle was a Honda 50. It was a “G” registration, “G” at the end of the registration number. Rough calculation suggested that the Honda had first been taken on the road in 1968-69, fifty years ago. How many journeys had it made in half a century?
A low-sided rectangular box was fastened to the motor bike behind the rider’s seat. Its sides were the height of a Jack Russell terrier, this was apparent because there was a Jack Russell standing in the box looking at the other cars at with an air of indifference. Had the rider been wearing a flat cap instead of a full-face crash helmet, the scene might have been one from the first days of the Honda 50’s journeying.
Hoping to get a shot of the canine pillion passenger, I edged forward but the lights turned green and rider, Honda 50 and Jack Russell set off towards West Wick. No-one else seemed intrigued at a dog who rode contentedly through busy traffic; perhaps it was a familiar sight, perhaps it was something they didn’t think noteworthy.
It seemed a moment that captured many moments from the past. A favourite uncle who had worked for ICI in Cheltenham had been a keen rider of a Honda 50. He worked on shifts in the factory: 6 am-2 pm or 2 pm to 10 pm. Riding to work for an early shift one morning, he had seen a workmate standing at a bus stop and had sounded the Honda’s horn. Anyone, who has ever heard the horn of a Honda 50 will know its sound is more a tweet than a blast, yet my uncle found himself stopped by members of the local police force for sounding a vehicle horn in a built-up area before 7 am.
The dog evoked many more moments. Farmers would rarely have gone anywhere without their dog. It was not necessary for the dog to be needed or for the dog to have work to do; the dog expected to be present. At the sound of car keys being picked up, the dog would have leapt into the back of the Land Rover or onto the passenger seat of the car. To many bachelors, the dog was a constant friend.
Perhaps the West Wick Jack Russell could have told many stories of its own. Perhaps it could have told of all the places it had taken its owner.