The Nickname

It’s the gases you can’t see that kill you.
The author on his Honda VTR1000 SP-1 at Eastern Creek Raceway

I’m seventeen, and no matter what my Mother says, I’m buying that motorcycle.  I’ve got my licence, got my gear, bitten the bullet and entered the world of high-finance.

I’ve sold my soul to the Devil and borrowed money to buy a bike. That lifelong partnership most of us have with the filthy Capitalist establishment – I guess it has to start somewhere.

February 1974. A brand new Suzuki GT250 two-stroke pulls into the car park at North Sydney Technical College – with a pimply-faced, long-haired lout as pilot in command. That would be me.

There’s a whole swag of us in the same boat today, all looking lost and bewildered as we try to make sense of the rigmarole of enrolling as Trainee Technical Officers. We’ll be working for a mob called OTC – Australia’s International telecommunications provider. I was going to be an Industrial Chemist paying my own way, but OTC’s promise of a wage during training initiates a career change – it was just too good to refuse.

There’s a whirlwind of activity as we drag ourselves from classroom to classroom, meeting our new teachers and writing lists of books and tools we’ll need. Everything’s strange, and we all feel the pressure escalate as each teacher in turn takes delight in reminding us that if we fail a subject we’ll be out on our ears.

“You’ll have to get a real job then.”

Day One finally ends, and like Brown’s cows we wander out to the car park to gather around our various machines. Confused, dazed and overwhelmed, none of us seem confident we’ll make it past first year, let alone graduate.

I’d read somewhere that bikes were more than just cheap transport, and much more than a quick way to get through traffic. Far from it – bikes could transport a person in more ways than just the physical. Motorcycles, it was said, could nurture the spirit, taking one’s mind away from the white noise of the here and now.

And it was with that in mind, and a flamboyance befitting my audience, that I heaved down on the kick-starter, awakening the machine from its slumber.

The cloud of smoke was a sight to behold. Thick, white and sweet-smelling it hung heavily in the still afternoon air – Castrol’s finest hydrocarbons providing the substance, Japanese technology providing the heat.

Revving the engine adds to the perfumed fog, but also produces a noise you could not describe as “fulfilling”. Sounding more like a sewing machine on heat it irritates the eardrums and rattles the teeth. It tingles the spine and numbs the arse. It stabs the nerves with pointed needles of sound.

And thus I am anointed with the nickname that has stayed with me for life. My legacy from the first friends I made out of school. Something I cherish and have used ever since.

They called me “terrytacho”


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