Sunday, 9 September 2012

Soapbox Brakin'

Jennospot 79 Soapbox Brakin'


Soapbox racin' in Widdlin'ton ain't loike 'ow they do it in America. We don't usually race down a smooth road in painted lanes loike wot the Americans do; we race where we can, an' mostly zig-zaggin' on steep gravel. Our carts ain't got no brakes neither, wot means yew gotta do sharp slidin' turns ter stop. When Peter showed me 'ow ter do it wiv my new cart, wot is called "Emmeline P", we 'ad ter do it in secret at the Clay Pit, 'cos our gangs ain't supposed ter fraternise. This is 'ow it were:

Peter got ter the Clay Pit first. So 'ee sat down in 'is cart "Lightning" to fink about wot to teach me about cart racing.

We're both small; wot is a disadvantage when it comes to puntin' 'cos yew gotta 'ave long strong legs ter be good at that. On the ovver 'and, when yew're already goin' fast down'ill an' yew can't punt no more, small size gives yew less wind resistance, 'specially if'n yew hug closely ter yer cart. That way, wiv the weight kept low, yew c'n manoeuvre better wivvout turnin' over on the bends. Yew c'n slide round bends by goin' broadside and then quickly straightenin' up again. If'n yew don't straighten' up then yew c'n stop by slidin' sideways.

The gravelly track down from the Clay Pit is good fer broadsidin'. An' so while Peter was waitin' fer me ter arrive, 'ee decided ter practice.

'Ee set off at a run and leapt aboard Lightning just as Oi were a-comin' round the bend up ter where 'ee was. Well, 'ee swung Lightning inter a broadside, balancin' 'er wiv the steering bar, inter a slide terwards me.

Cripes, Oi weren't 'alf startled, an' Oi nearly jumped away as 'ee come broadside on. 'Ee stopped in a cloud of dust just a couple of feet from me.

‘If'n yew fink yew c'n scare me loike that,' Oi laughed, ‘yew c'n jus' fink again.’

‘Sorry Jenno. I didn't see you coming,’ 'Ee said.

Oi continued ter laugh.

‘O' 'corse yew did. Yew done it a-purpose.’

He got off Lightning and stood up. ‘Jenno, believe me— I didn't know you were there.’

Oi stopped laughin'.

‘Cripes— yew're serious! It were pretty good any'ow. Would yew teach me 'ow ter stop loike that?’

‘It's not difficult,’ 'ee said. ‘You just have to get a feel for the steering and how to keep your weight low and balanced from side to side as the cart turns.’ ('Ee always talks posh loike that yew know.) ‘Come on— let's go back up the track a bit. We'll start with simple turns. Find out how your new cart handles before we try anything more difficult.’

‘Emmeline P's goin' ter 'andle real good, don't yew worry.’

‘How can you be so sure? You've never ridden her.’

‘She's exac'ly loike Lightnin' fer size an' wheels an' all; so she'll 'andle jus' the same.’

‘You're probably right, Jenno, but let's make sure— we don't want any accidents.’

Any'ow, that's 'ow Oi 'ad moi first soap-box cart lesson. After that, we 'ad a race down ter the Iron Bridge wot crosses the river. But then, cripes, that's when the catastrophe 'appened! But if'n yew wanna know more about that, yew'd better read Chapter 16 o' "Gang Loyalty".

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