The DVLA have just sent my road tax reminder for Bella, my 1973 Vespa Sprint. This annual letter is my cue that summer really is on the way. Soon, I'll be removing Bella's two waterproof covers, washing off the protective film of WD40, pumping up the tyres and cleaning the carb. A few prods on the kickstart to get some petrol into her system and she will wake from hibernation in a cloud of white and then blue smoke. I'll let the little engine warm up for 10 or so minutes, then I'll be off round the block. I look forward all year to this ritual.
Bella is my pride and joy. She came to me via Scooter Emporium in Brick Lane, who in turn got her from Weston Scooter Parts in Somerset. Nothing is known about her previous Italian history, only what I've deduced. Her many scratches show that she was originally bottle green, and then repainted in her current beige. Given the patina, this colour must have been done when she was quite new. Maybe green wasn't a popular colour in 70s Italy? The toolbox sidepanel is 'crazed' leading me to believe that she was regularly parked with that side exposed to the sun. Across the legshield is the tell-tale scuff which shows that a windscreen with one of those peculiarly Italian 'skirts' was fitted for a long time. When I fitted a new seat I had to remove the rear wheel. In the cavity above it was an impacted mass of sandy soil and leaves. And that's it. All other recorded history starts with me in 2001. For some reason I get the impression that the previous custodian was an old chap who had her for a long time, possibly from new. He may have died or let the scooter go through ill health, any grandchildren being more interested in a twist-and-go 'ped than nonno's old shopping bike. I'll never know.