In 1977 I bought a new motorbike for the first and almost certainly the last time. It was a Honda 400/4. I think it was the best-selling motorbike the company ever made and I bored a lot of people by explaining why it was so good. It was beautiful to look at, sparsely furnished with a minimum of chrome. It handled well. It cost £729. This figure was critical. Had the cost been £829, one’s enthusiasm for all the other features would have been choked off. It is inconceivable to me that this bike could have been produced by a socialist economy. It was trying too hard to be perfect.
The bike served me well. When I went mad and lost my cab licence, I drove it for 25,000 miles in London’s traffic. It never broke down. When I was deemed to be no longer mad, I resumed my former occupation as a perfectly sane cab driver. I then made the mistake of having the bike rebuilt. It was turned into a ‘cafe-racer’. No longer turbine-smooth, it rasped everywhere. Eventually I part-exchanged it for a second-hand BMW Rl00S .
The BMW is a much larger, lazier bike. It is now fourteen years old. Suzuki make a bike of similar capacity which can be driven at 160 mph. Bikes are now produced which are so fast that they are marketed with built-in de-tuners to tame their top speed. No doubt the men in white coats from Brussels will sort out this madness.
Riding down to Hastings in search of peak experiences, it occurred to me that I will probably never buy another motorbike: my BMW Rl00S will see me out.
I wonder whether Labour will win the next election because capitalism has become superannuated by the age and inertia of its population. Politicians go on about ‘confidence’ as the essential precondition for recovery. What about covetousness – the lack of it – as a countervailing force for stagnation? Today I learn from Lord Archer that 35 per cent of the UK population is retired: in 2020 the figure will be 49 per cent. These figures were quoted to justify the argument that people should take out private pension policies. Never mind that. We are running out of people who want to buy fast motorbikes – and much of the other paraphernalia of ‘advanced’ capitalist economies. An advertisement for the new Toyota Lexus, a luxurious motorcar, tells me that it has a quieter boot-lock and, more significantly they say, improved suspension for high-speed driving. The Lexus has a maximum speed of 146 mph. Where can you drive at such speeds?
This may of course be the high-minded whingeing of a man who is busy averting bankruptcy. My friend Hank has been unemployed for three years. He is about to become rich, having patented a product which stops cats from crapping on flowerbeds. He seems very cheerful indeed.