For the Breakdown Men of the Leamington Spa Vehicle Recovery Office
O breakdown men, O Bob, O Mick, O Roger, when fourth gear
failed to engage on the A46 just south of Coventry,
we were right there, Eileen and I, between those twin keeps,
the castles of Warwick and Kenilworth, and it transpired that chivalrous
men worthy of Elizabeth I still walk, or rather drive,
the asphalt and tar of the low-slung heart of England.
When we attended the conference, Hello Kitty from a Feminist Perspective
at the department of Sociology of a nearby university,
it was suggested in some quarters that academic standards must be slipping.
But standards in vehicle recovery in the South Midlands are, if anything,
clearly rising, O Mick, O Roger, O Bob!
With an exhaustive collection of alphabetized Haynes manuals,
you await the phone in the back office
like three Tibetan Bodhisattvas with a library of ancient scrolls.
And there’s something about your matching waffle-weave polo shirts,
call it a casual formality, but it took only one glance
to know you’d never presume to assume that it was friction disc wear
that left Eileen and me stranded on the dual carriageway,
but would allow for the possibility that the clutch pressure plate
was prevented from sliding on the transmission input splines,
or that you might need to refit the clutch release bearing and lever,
for you combine a sharp sense of the way things should be,
of a job done right, with the purest instinct of those who have laboured
a lifetime in a vehicular environment.
Breakdown men, you know your camshaft from your crankshaft
as easily as I know any two Sanrio characters from one another.
I’d wager your MOT checks are thorough without being overly stringent.
And is it The Specials or Madness or some more obscure Two Tone release
that you play, Mick, on your retro record player with inbuilt speaker
when you go back to your virgin Queen, your Anne Hathaway,
who you keep in Yorkshire terriers and cream leather sofas?
And is it a Ruby Porter or an IPA you gulp of an evening, Bob?
as you share a table in a 1930s brown brick tavern?
O breakdown men, we were brought together by hapless luck,
but our entire lives were one long collision course
to this enormous corrugated box, a testament to metal
where Eileen and I bask momentarily in your benevolence.
Such benign technocracy O Bob, O Mick, O Roger!
What rottweilers, what girders, what stanchions of steel!