Pompeii – yobs on scooters

Four-minute story

Pompeii – yobs on scooters

It was the first time I had seen someone attempt a wheelie on a motor scooter. With their footboards so close to the ground you would think that it would be too much trouble for them to raise themselves upwards and risk turning over backwards. Not from them surely the menace of a motorcycle with its rider tightly astride, urging it on to surge, perhaps, over some obstruction then turn sharply and slide to a halt in a controlled and impressive skid.

The girls in our party, a school from somewhere in the south-east, were spending part of their Easter holiday near Pompeii, on a classics tour, and were learning how to ignore the teenage Italian boys who appeared as soon as we left our hotel and took to the streets. It was as if the word had gone out and that every male between the ages of thirteen and sixteen in southern Italy felt obliged to provide an escort for our charges wherever we took them.

It was not as if we had no escorts of our own, for the group came from a co-educational school and our boys had raised their game in the face of really determined attempts by the Italians to get the attention of our girls. When necessary they did interpose themselves between our girls and our hosts, in ways which they did not like, but which were necessary, in tightly controlled queues for example where Italian boys calmly climbed over barriers to squeeze themselves into the queue, thrusting themselves between and against our girls whenever they could.

Away from the queues, walking back from the ferry from Capri, the road widened and our students relaxed and spread themselves out a little as we returned to our coach. We were passing a row of cottages, rather English looking with their long front gardens and that’s when it happened. From somewhere behind us came the sound of a motor scooter trying to sound like a motor bike, revving hard and fast but failing to achieve the tigerish snarl of a motor bike unleased.

We turned to see a squadron of these machines, classics of the Italian motor scooter industry, the Vespas and Lambrettas. As they drew level with us their riders pulled hard on their handlebars and leaned backwards. It was a strange and worrying sight for with the effort of raising their front wheels from the ground their riders lost much of their control and veered dangerously towards us. It would not have been difficult to push them sideways from their steeds as they brushed past us, but I think we were so amazed by this procession that we simply stood to one side while they passed.

One of the last of our group to be passed by this sorry cavalcade was my wife, whose Italian is excellent and whose anger at this crass display of machismo escaped in a torrent of abuse flung at these silly male children in words of their own language.

Just to one side an old man had paused from his work in one of the cottage gardens to look over his wall at all the fuss. As the last item in this procession passed us he turned to my wife who was shouting still at the retreating Italians. Clapping his hands together he nodded in her direction: “Bravo signora.” (Well done madam.)

What differences does the writer see between motor scooters and motorbikes?
What differences are shown between the Italian boys and the British boys?

Why do you think the old man was so pleased with what the writer’s wife said to the riders of the motor scooters?

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