Looks Like A Job For …… BICYCLE REPAIR MAN!
by Ian R Thorpe
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: bike, bicycle, repairman, monty_python,mechanic,transport, education, children, career,comedy,humour,humor
One of my favourite Monty Python sketches though it is remembered by few other people which proves either I have an amazing memory or am more of a Python geek than I thought, featured a Superhero called Bicycle Repair Man.
A bike mechanic superhero? you might well ask incredulously. Yes, well the comic premise was that in a world populated by super humans with amazing powers that enabled them to run faster than a speeding train, leap tall buildings at a single bound , fly into space at many times the speed of light and stop the bi-weekly asteroid-on-a-collision-course-with-earth by will power alone; where supershapeshifters who could turn into a tropical rainstorm and douse forest fires, turn into a fiery furnace and evaporate flood waters, fart against the wind and stop a hurricane in it’s tracks (no, sorry – that’s Johnny Fartpants from Viz) or do any miraculous deed that was necessary to save the world averted catastrophe on a dally basis.
The only things these superheroes could not do apart from spotting that the shaven headed guy who sneaked around bursting into evil laughter (“MWHAHWAHWAHEARHURRRR”) and was always accompanied by an entourage of unfeasibly ugly henchmen and a Marilyn Monroe lookalike totty with unfeasibly large breasts was up to no good, were utterly mundane tasks like changing a light bulb or mending a fuse. In such a world an ordinary bloke who knows which end of a screwdriver does the business can be a superhero. And as it is possibly a post oil world too, enter BICYCLE REPAIRMAN. (view it on YouTube)
Apart from being funny at the time (as you will know if you followed the link) the sketch was eerily prescient, predicting the success, fame and celebrity world in which we now live, a world where superheroes are ten a penny and celebrities even cheaper; we even have celebrity house cleaners, celebrity tightwads and celebrity slappers but decent plumbers, electricians, joiners and blokes who can mend bikes are a impossible to find.
Back when the sketch was first broadcast at a time when the world seemed to be surfing towards a Utopian future on a tsunami of technological progress – stone me, that is such a brilliant phrase I almost had an orgasm as I typed it, I think I’ll do it again - a time when the world seemed to be surfing towards a Utopian future on a tsunami of technological progress… oooh! …; when we all looked forward to zooming around in our personal hovercraft or popping down to the offie on a rocket powered space hopper, bicycles were curious, anachronistic devices. Now they are increasingly essential transport.
As this story comes hot on the heels of yesterday’s post which reported the launch of a college course in growing cannabis you are expecting us to tell you it is now possible to take a University degree course in mending bikes. Ha! Of course we’re not, that would be silly. The highest academic qualification available for wannabe bike repairmen is a City and Guilds diploma. People are queueing to enrol on special Bicycle Repairman courses however, about 40 are graduating as qualified bike mechanics each month.
Now if you are of my generation you will remember the traditional ways to become a competent bike mechanic were : (a) Get a bike for passing your eleven plus, ride it for a bit, decide to make it go faster and dismantle it; (b) inherit a bike from an elder sibling or cousin in which case your bike was a family heirloom (a bit like cars in our family) and you dare not even look at it while holding any kind of bicycle repair tool OR; (c) having failed your eleven plus or been born into a family so poor you only got a Mars bar for passing the eleven plus you could head down to the dump with your Dad’s spanners and glean bits off discarded bikes to build your own.
In case (a) if you failed to reassemble the parts into a rideable bike your Dad beat the crap out of you: if you managed to put the bike back together successfully you were a qualified bike mechanic who could adjust the chain, oil the crank and tweak the brakes. You were now ready to move to advanced level, fitting your own Sturmey Archer three speed gear system. The great secret of all mechanicing was yours; if it doesn’t work how it should spray some WD40 on it, if that does not work, hit it with a hammer.
If you took path (c) to bike ownership and ended up with a rideable bike your Dad probably beat the crap out of you and sold your bike for beer money.
Those whose bikes came to them by route (b) tended to have unhappy childhoods as they dared not do skids, wheelies or ride through puddles. "That bike has to do somebody else so don’t go ruining it, now think on,” they were told whenever they looked to be in danger of having fun.
This training in mechanical engineering coupled with a few workshop manuals stood me in good stead through all my early driving career from the 1952 Morris Minor I bought for £5 in 1968 to the point where I became so affluent I only needed to get my hands dirty for fun. I rebuilt engines and transmissions, set hydraulic brakes, fitted shock absorbers, everything without so much as an hour of formal training. And I’m not dead.
The man who campaigned to persuade the City and Guilds vocational education group this course should be run is adamant that cycling is the future; he wants bike mechanicing to be made a proper profession like accountancy, electronics engineering, burger flipping and selling dodgy investment packages. It’s only a matter of time before there are demands that bike mechanic be a degree entry career. That would be so sad, is there no human endeavour left that enables people to experience the satisfaction of discovering without formal and strictly controlled training including a module in the health And Safety related aspects of the activity.
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