Colonel Spokes

This is the only known footage of Colonel Spokes, also known as the Rumble Tumble Man, or Ernie Tattles. A familiar sight to motorists of West Sussex throughout the 1970s and ’80s, local legend puts him as the only survivor of a terrible car accident which took his entire family. As a result, he never got behind the wheel again, switching to his famous bicycle, and becoming a roadside spectacle to warn speeding drivers from a similar fate. Or perhaps to distract them straight to it.

Those who witnessed him as children, from the backs of their parents’ cars, will vividly remember passing Spokes at the side of a roundabout, only to see him at the next one too, some miles down the road; bike on its stand, cream suit immaculate. Spot him beside a single roundabout, and he’d be at every one, yet for the adults, each encounter was always the day’s first, never recalling how they’d passed him down the road. “Oh, there’s Mr. Tattles,” they’d say, or “look, children, it’s the Rumble Tumble Man,” and the kids who dared glance up would catch his eye, as they had twenty miles back, and as they knew they would again, craning out of the back window to see his white gloves waving a “ta-ta, for now!” No matter how fast you were travelling, no matter how far you drove, he’d always be waiting.

I saw him myself on a number of occasions, doffing his hat as my mum excitedly told me to “salute the Colonel,” and passing so close as to note the unsettlingly pink hue of his skin; like a child’s felt-tip drawing of their father. Like a lot of kids from around here, I got in trouble for tipping drawing pins and nails all over the road outside our house. I didn’t want to lay in bed at night and hear the noises my classmates talked about. The ding of a bell. A bicycle stand being kicked into place. Jaunty footsteps dancing up the garden path.

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~ by Stuart on July 23, 2019.

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