With a twist of the throttle, I was free.
All thoughts were forgotten as soon as the wheels started turning. My mind was left to focus on the passing sounds and sights of my journey.
Each pop and gurgle of the engine revealed a part of the scooter’s personality. It was enjoying the sea air blowing around it and the roads warming its tyres. The scooter was a Vespa Primavera 125cc, 50th anniversary edition (or ‘anniversario’, as Vespa call it), commemorating 50 years since the Primavera was first released in 1968. Often people will give their Vespa’s a human name, but I am not one to over-romanticise a piece of machinery. I’ve had conversations with traditionalists who say that automatic scooters lack personality. This is simply untrue. Once the engine starts, the Vespa comes to life.
As soon as I saw it in the showroom amongst the navy, black and brown (yes, brown) scooters, the light blue pastel colour jumped out at me. It was electric and illuminated that section of the room, and much to my dismay, having gone to the shop just for a look around, I left owning a Vespa.
I made my way down Southend seafront, slowly pottering along and catching fleeting glimpses of the sea. I could have been anywhere.
My first stop was Old Leigh, what remains of the old fishing village in Leigh-on-Sea. The Vespa jolted rhythmically on the empty cobbled streets. In the height of a summer’s afternoon, the pubs and cockle-sheds which line the river are always heaving with customers. Today I was early, and there were only a few people out running or walking their dogs.
Recently, people have spotted seals by the marshland and mud-banks which jut out into the Thames Estuary. Apparently, the fishermen throw out their offcuts to them. I came to a stop and had a look, but there were none to be seen.
I spun around in the car-park by The Mayflower public house and headed out of Old Leigh.
The sun was out and a gentle breeze blew across the estuary as I returned to the seafront. As the afternoon was approaching, the streets were becoming busier and the air was getting warmer. I could smell the salt from the sea. The tide was slowly receding and children were making the most of the shallow water.
I pulled into the motorcycle bay by Rossi’s. Rossi’s is the home of ice cream. It is a regional speciality and has been based in Essex since 1932. From the ice cream parlour, the original vanilla flavour is the one you must try, based on a traditional Italian recipe of fresh milk, double cream and butter. It’s still served scooped from the tin (avoid the soft-serve ice cream distributed from the machine).
I sat outside, with my 99, and looked at my scooter and the sun-soaked mud-flats behind it. This was the Vespa life.