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Part 13

Dedicated to..
About me
1980 4 idiots
Shpshd 4 dummies
Press Release
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23
Part 24
Part 25
Other work by Mark!

"Bikes, bogs and garden sheds"


Once upon a time in Shepshed stood a shed, not just any old shed, but a quite extraordinary one. It was on fact a Monk-family heirloom. My Grandad Harry had sadly died in 1975 and my Dad had lovingly moved his treasured timber-shed, blackened by time and highly toxic creosote from Sutton Bonington to Shepshed – where it had been re-assembled in all its splendour on the black garden of number 30 Blacksmith’s Avenue. It also came with its glorious fixtures and fittings, a couple of horseshoes for good luck and the lettering “The Ale House” where apparently my late-Grandfather brewed some of the most potent home-brew beers and wines known to mankind, including a delicious 1972 “Plum and Ginger” that was knocking around for many years.


I must have a look on Google Earth to see if “The Ale House” still stands in all its glory! I very much doubt it. In 1983, when we left Blacksmith’s Avenue my Dad did not take it with us. Maybe he feared it would not stand the trauma of another de-commission and re-erection!


But as in its glory days of Grandad Harry and his squadron of demi-johns, it was more than a humble-shed. When some kids in another street proudly unveiled a tree-house, I just had to have one but was handicapped by the fact we did not have a tree in our garden!


So the shed became our "den". Amidst parental concerns of not disturbing the sharp tools, turps and paint tins, we tidied it up, cleared away the cobwebs and re-laid the carpet off-cuts into some form of cosy order where all our games of domesticated family bliss ala Happy Days and the Walton’s could be played-out.


The bliss must have lasted for at least two days! What happened was, one of the younger members of our clan had to answer the call of nature in real life and much to the disgust of my mother, who had to clean it up, he left the toilet in our house in a bit of a sorry state – not quite resembling the kind of toilets I have seen at say football stadia up and down the country but she was a bit vexed to have to scrape a turd off the seat – put it that way!


The next day, he got caught-short again, so we told him to “go” down the gap between the ale-house and the fence and we would pass the it as the dog's! My parents were not that stupid and Shepshed's mini-Walton clan were evicted.


This pseudo domestic bliss lured me into a somewhat lassez-faire attitude regarding the contents of the shed, including my silver Raleigh Striker bike. Back in the days when Raleigh turned out the most beautiful of creations from its Nottingham works (indeed a couple of years ago, I opened the box containing a Raleigh bike for one of my sons and wanted to cry at the badly cast, cheapo, far-east made plastic things they have become), they had a series of pre-BMX bikes called Boxers, Strikers and Grifters.


Boxers were for small kids, I had missed this entry level due to my age and went straight on to a silver/grey Striker. On this I learned how to ride without stablisers and would zoom down the hill between Countrymans Way and Blacksmiths Avenue believing I really could clock up speeds of 181mph!


It also had a specially designed transistor radio on the handlebars. I loved thaty bike,  however stupidly I left it out one night during our occupation of the shed and it was nicked.


Back then, Bike theft was a sufficiently serious enough crime to warrant a uniformed Police Officer coming to the house and taking a statement! Nowadays I am told you are lucky if they turn up when somebody robs your house! However the crux of the issue was it was my own stupidity to have left it out of the shed and I would have to make do without a bike until at least Christmas.


Christmas came, 1982 and no prizes for what was on the top of my shopping list. A Raleigh Grifter! But no, my Dad said and he thought I was ready to graduate to a proper bike, a Racer. We went to Halfords and a bike called a Thunderbird caught my eye. I dropped enough hints and that Christmas Eve, I could barely sleep for the excitement. Eventually I nodded off and woke about half one, convinced Santa had been and gone and made my way downstairs and was already planning slipping out into the moonlight on my Halfords Thunderbird when I was confronted head-on by the latest model from….Lighthouse cycles – Kegworth.


No disrespect to the engineering ability of Lighthouse cycles, Kegworth, but it was not the bike I wanted. It had their name emblazoned in white on a blue background, but the worse bit was the full-length mudguards and the fact that they had thrown in a free Lighthouse cycles hi viz-vest.


My Dad always had an eye for a bargain, and still does! The amount of stuff he gets from Makro is legendary but I digress!


I hated it. It was those clumsy, horrible looking mudguards that did it for me. Racing bikes back then, proper ones had tiny little mudguards but according to my Dad they would be ineffectual so he had got the boffins at Lighthouse Cycles (who I pictured as being a bunch of bearded, hippy types, all sandals and real ale – for some reason) to put full-length ones on to do just that, guard mud! Functionally sound but they looked so bloody daft!


I was tempted to leave it outside the shed, but I was convinced that no-one in their right-mind would nick it. The fact that it was cold and icy that Christmas spared my blushes for a few days, but when I did get round to riding it outside the other kids in the street would point and laugh. One sympathetic friend, who knew a bit about bikes told me to tell my Dad that they were wholly unsuitable from a mechanical and not just aesthetical point of view, that eventually they would bend and catch the wheel but he was having none-of-it.


It was not until the Christmas of 1984 that I would be rescued from “Monkey’s crap bike” hell and get a BMX, but that was a BMX 2000 which according to one so-called friend at the time was at the lower-end of the BMX market.


What became of Lighthouse Cycles Kegworth, one can only guess? I think it is an Indian Restaurant now - do I really care after the trauma of Christmas 1982?

"Having been careless enough to have my Raleigh Striker stolen my Dad's eye for a bargain was undoubtedly the biggest punishment yet!"

Life in Shepshed, 1980-1986