Friday, 22 April 2016

Birth of an icon

Tomorrow, April 23, is the 70th Anniversary of the Italian company, Piaggio, registering the patent for their first Vespa scooter. Innocenti followed later in the same year with a sleeker version that became the Lambretta ...
Even now, above my desk, there is a canvas by an unknown artist showing a postman's Vespa in a typical Italian streetscape.

However, my ownership of a Lambretta was brief.  I was still living at home with my parents in Mitcham and making a daily commute to navigation school in the East End of London. This involved a bitter walk across the common in an icy and often misty dawn for the 630 trolleybus to Tooting Broadway. Then the Northern and District Line tubes to Aldgate East. 
The novelty of this soon wore off, so I was happy to buy a rather beaten up Lambretta Li 125 for about £60. It was two-tone rust and puke green. Within a couple of weeks and a few cans of Brushing Belco Cellulose it had gained a new red and grey livery. So had my Father's beloved back garden lawn which doubled as my paint shop. He was not happy.
My journey times and costs were halved, I had more freedom than ever before. Unfortunately my route took me through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. I was on my way home on a rainy day. The cars using the tunnel left wet tracks for the first few hundred yards, then the road was damp. Then it was dry. I did not anticipate the effect of these changes on the tiny wheels of the scooter. About half way through the tunnel I fell off. The scooter went on and I caught up with it shortly after a spectacular 20 mph slide on my posterior.
With a mixture of pain, shame and anger I pushed the now knackered machine to a small garage that was then near the south end of the tunnel and accepted the offer of a tenner [as long as I 'threw the helmet in too'] and so ended a three month affaire.

I was more than ready to return to sea and never rode another scooter.
But, I kept my love of Italian design  ... and yes, even an affection for Vespas and Lambrettas.