I don’t know how many Mission Impossible movies have been made so far, but we had our own version today, so let’s just call ours Mission Impossible 4¾: The Day of Steve. Today we had a few tasks to accomplish for Steve, so the mission was accepted and we began preparations! Steve put on a grey track suit, put a white towel around his neck, did some rapid jogging on the spot, punched the air a few times, puffed out his cheeks and loudly hummed the Mission Impossible and Rocky theme songs. I peeled myself into some black lycra and did some squat poses with my arms outstretched, practised looking left and right while simultaneously raising my right eyebrow and then did some tumbles around the room through simulated laser beams. We were ready!
Mission 1: Go to Birmingham and Collect a Replacement Bike Saddle
We were up early enough, had breakfast and then walked down to the Nuneaton train station. We then took two trains out to the area of the Brooks bike saddle factory in Smethwick, alighted from the train and walked the 2km to the factory. After some looking this way and that, walking in this driveway and that, our secret agent skills eventually took us to the right door and we found our way in.
Our secret agent Steve found the Brook’s Steve, who secret agent Steve had been in contact with and handed over the broken saddle. Brook’s Steve did indeed agree that the rather large piece of metal that was no longer attached to the bike saddle, warranted the diagnosis of “it’s broken!” We were taken onto the factory floor, where the broken saddle was handed over and placed in the skilful hands of the lady at the workstation, whose job it was to attach the metal frame to the underside of the saddles. She swiftly reached for her hydraulic screwdriver, removed the remainder of the broken frame, reached for a replacement and with a fierce and purposeful RRRRRR…RRRRR…from the screwdriver, the saddle was good as new. Obviously recognising us as the covert secret agents that we were, Brook’s Steve showed us around the factory for some additional recognisance. The factory churns out about a thousand bike seats a day! A day! There was no conveyor belt production line, but instead each person had their own work station, where they performed a specific task in the assembly of a bike seat. Someone was cutting the leather, who then passed it onto another person who moulded it, who passed it to another person who punched the holes for the rivets, who then sent it to the person who punched the rivets into the holes…and on it went until the seat arrived at the person who had the unenviable job of attaching the small metal brand plate to the back of each saddle, before the saddle went to the person who boxed and barcoded each one. It was a fascinating operation and our surveillance was most educational.
Mission 1: Successfully Completed! Check!
Mission 2: Find a Radio for Steve to Listen to The Ashes Cricket While Cycling
We caught the train back into Birmingham city centre and, as it was now early afternoon, decided that even secret agents require sustenance at some point. So after a stop off in the nearby Tesco to purchase some sustaining food and beverages, we walked up the street to the park by the Birmingham Cathedral to fuel up, ready for the forthcoming mission.
After eating, we gave each other a full-face stare, to psyche ourselves up, did some star jumps, shrugged our shoulders up and down a few times while puffing out our cheeks and then set off back down the street to the electronics store. We strode in, scanned the shelves, found the small section selling radios and began our search. There were a few options…which one to choose!? A member of staff soon arrived, whizzing around the corner of the shelves on his small, handle-free segway and braked by our side. After asking if we needed assistance, he answered Steve’s carefully chosen questions, to elicit as much secret agent information as was required in the shortest amount of time and without further ado, selected a radio that was small, relatively lightweight, could be charged with both a wind-up handle and solar power and, he was assured by “segway riding man” would provide excellent coverage of the cricket in all parts of the country.
Mission 2: Successfully Completed! Check!
Mission 3: Find a Small Portable Tripod to Replace the Original One We Had That is No Longer With Us
I had some misgivings about this mission. Did we really need this? We have really only used the tripod for the occasional elevenses photo and, I felt, we could survive the remainder of our journey without this piece of equipment. However, Steve felt its inclusion as a piece of secret agent equipment was essential and so we walked back up the street, around the corner and entered the photographic store. Steve had done online research and, in the style required of graduates from the ‘Howard Hoozerflugan School of Secrecy and Spycraft’, strode straight to the shelf and identified the required item on its hook. After alerting a member of staff, the item was unlocked from its secure position, placed in Steve’s hand, the financial transaction was completed and the tripod was now in our possession.
Mission 3: Successfully Completed! Check!
It seemed we were on a roll! Steve was certainly having a bonza day, with all required tasks being successfully and efficiently accomplished! The mission then deviated slightly, for a short and very simple focus on a teeny mission for me…go to an outdoor store and find an enamel mug so I could have a decent sized drinking vessel for tea and cuppa soup! We walked down the street, found the store and there on the shelf was the perfect white, metal mug, worthy of Grizzly Adams himself, hanging on the shelf for a mere £2.50! Success! It was then that I suggested upping the stakes and going all in for Steve Mission #4!
Mission 4: Find a Pair of Trousers for Steve!
Steve didn’t have his heart in this mission, but as his partner agent, I strongly suggested that since we were in an outdoor store, nothing could be lost by doing some scanning of the racks and the range of items on offer, of the trouser appearing variety. He selected a pair and headed for the change rooms. I then found another two pairs, of brands he was yet to attempt and passed them through the curtain. I waited in anticipation. He eventually emerged and held up a pair saying, “Oooh, these were close! Very close! I probably just need the next size.” However, as he was saying this, it was clear that he was heading to the rack to return these trousers and then exit the building. I suddenly had the astounding notion, that I swiftly shared as a remarkable suggestion…how about actually trying on the next size!!?? Steve’s reply was, “No, I’m a bit over trying on trousers!” I was stunned, shocked, aghast and astounded. After weeks of searching and endless complaints about trousers that were sinking too far and fast towards earth whenever they were worn, here he was giving up when the end was in sight! You do not abandon a mission at the final hurdle! Even if confronted with retina scanning and palm printing, you continue and see the mission through to the end! But no! That was it…Steve has left the building! So I am hereby closing my ears to all future moans or complaints about the precarious situation with trousers and will hear not one moan, complaint or wish for a rectification of such a situation! The chance had presented itself and it was abandoned! No future communication on this topic will be entered into! He did say later, the size he needed was not on the rack, however he did not ask the important question, of whether or not the size was available “out the back” or in another store location! That’s just giving up! We did, however, leave the store with other items unrelated to the mission, which Steve saw and felt we required post-haste, so purchases were made!
Mission 4: Unsuccessful…Failed…Sabotaged!
The final outing for the day was a more sedate one. We took the bus out to Lodge Hill Cemetery, where there was a small Commonwealth war cemetery. Thank you Gennie for telling us about it! We walked through the peaceful surroundings and found the small WWI section, with the names of soldiers and nurses who had died in this war. We read names of people from the UK, Canada and Australia and spent some time peacefully walking around the plaques and taking in the significance of the site. We then caught the bus back to Birmingham, hydrated with a cuppa and then took the train back to Nuneaton.
So…I feel the day belonged to Steve! He finished the day weighed down with goodies and with bags loaded with purchases and gadgets for hours of technological play! He is also now in the possession of a good-as-new bike seat, that should assist in the recovery of his painful rear-end! And myself…I had the pleasure of finishing the day with a large mug of tea in my tin mug, while I paid respects to Grizzly Adams and Charles Ingalls and felt I belonged in the Little House on the Prairie and had finally joined the ranks of the campfire crew with my authentic metal beverage receptacle!
A successful day! With missions complete, we will now hit the road in the morning and continue our journey north. I feel, as I am now in the possession of a ridgy-didge metal mug, that I can now conclude with the appropriate words…wagons roll!