Ride On

Being on my Jack Jones at present means it’s my responsibility to keep the place stocked up on supplies, which means when I knocked off work at 8pm and headed home the larder was bare, just like Little Ron Hubbard and his curds of whey.

Five minutes I was back out the door and pedalling through the steamy summer night in search of sustenance. For some reasons a lot of places in my area start closing up around 9pm and all that is left are a few street vendors who look about as hygienic as an NHS A&E waiting room.

So I stocked up on supplies from the local supermarket, always good until 10pm. I was patiently waiting in line observing the antics of my shoppers, who in turn were taking advantage of a good stare when my back was turned, when I became aware of a sound that was one part groan and another part whine.

My initial instinct was to look overhead for evidence of imminent structural failure; Chinese construction efforts are not always as reliable as they might have you believe, particularly when it is known the world isn’t watching and I was standing within a high roofed meccano like assembly; all metal girders hurriedly bolted together with a minimum of effort and bolts.

You might accuse me of overreacting, but as a kid I used to go inside a large corrugated shed (by large I mean about 40ft high) that was used for storing materials and machinery when they were building the M275. Once the work was finished, they took the remaining goods but left the building, sealing it off with a large hand painted “Danger – do not enter” sign. So of course we did and would stand in the middle listening to the sounds of it breathing as it twisted and swayed in the wind. It finally collapsed one stormy night and a B&Q was constructed in its memory.

It was these types of noises that was making the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention and seriously contemplate making a run for it.

I was on the verge of commencing my cowardly exit when I realized the noise wasn’t coming from above, and that there was also a hint of grinding metal against metal that was making itself more apparent with time. I finally determined the clamour was emanating from a lone kiddie ride located behind the checkout and the sound was bouncing and scattering off the ceiling.

By the time I had paid up the ride had stopped and shoppers enjoyed a moment’s respite before the next child clambered aboard.

I never experienced these rides as a tyke, mainly because my Mother considered them a waste of a shilling and now I can afford to pay my own way they’ve lost their appeal, although an experiment at the Castle Mall in Norwich evidenced I can fit into one at a squeeze. However, I can see why kids like them; they are modeled as spacecraft or cute animal and when you insert your Queen’s shilling they move up and down, lights flash and music plays. For a little kid it’s a sensory overload.

This ride, however, seemed to be rather lacking from a stimulatory perspective. It comprised a faded squirrel who was slightly off kilter and who looked like it had taken one LSD trip too many and never come back, all the lightbulbs decorating the edges were blown and the speakers sticking out of its ears were broken.

All that was left to excite the passenger was a rather solemn and very jerky trajectory. The whining noises I had heard earlier were from the motors kicking in and trying to coerce the un-oiled gears into some kind of circulatory motion. As the assembly moved back and forth there was a jolt as the upper part slid across to catch up with lower chassis; there was a smell of burning coming from somewhere around the anal regions.

For some reason a passage from the book” Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway” sprung to mind.

two torpedoes struck the port side, the first at 16:20 and the second hit minutes later. The carrier had been mortally wounded; she lost power and went dead in the water with a jammed rudder and an increasing list to port. The list continued to increase and when it reached 26 degrees, Buckmaster and Aldrich agreed that capsizing was imminent and ordered the ship to be abandoned.

As the rodent slowly rocked forwards and backwards the little kid stared forwards with a blank expression and waited for something else to happen; he may have been re-enacting the final hours of the USS Yorktown but there wasn’t the thrill of an imminent Japanese attack. Finally he stared over the side to see if there was a button or lever that would kick Mr Squirrel into overdrive, or maybe he was just trying to locate the burning smell. Eventually he turned and gave his Mum an appealing look but she was too engrossed in her cell phone to notice. He finally resigned himself to sitting things out wearing an expression like a driver stuck in traffic on the FDR freeway in New York City.

And we wonder why kids spend all their time playing video games.

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