Memories a funny thing and it takes a while for memories to surface sometimes, which is why this personal recollection of the Mayflower Clubs FREE Rally is being written now. I saw the notice in the club papers and mentioned it to Terry my son in law and being patriotic, we decided to attend.
Friday we packed up work early and packed up our camping gear late. It took us all of twenty five minutes to get to the camp site and only twenty minutes to get home. We got lost going, it's at least 12 miles !!
On arrival we stopped at the control caravan and presented ourselves at the window 'We're here' we explained, and handed over a lump of paper we found in 'Pilgrims Papers'. In return we were handed a lump of metal, a wad of non-sticky, thick, fag papers and a pint glass. I knew what to do with the badge and the pint glass (I was told by someone quite graphically what to do with the badge, and pint glasses have a universally known use) the little wad of fag papers turned out to be meal tickets, loads of them. I spoke to the bodies in the caravan, carefully hidden behind a wall of empty beer tins, and enquired what I might get for my tickets, the exact amount of food escapes me, but my dietician is seeking legal advice. We were pointed in the general direction of a field and told 'Camp there' and then another field and advised 'Eat there'. Waving the pint glass about produced another and far more important point of the compass in which to proceed.
As we entered the rally site the thought struck me that we hadn't paid, still plenty of time to sort that out. Me bike refused point blank to go straight to the beer tent (having been abused by parents under the influence of Castrol 'R' in it's early conception) and we were forced to pitch our tents in a sheltered spot in the sun, before we set off in an easterly direction towards the sounds of revelry. Well chinking glasses actually, but each to his own. The beer tent was probably the second most influential sight ever to have carved a track through the memory neurones of my brain. (the first concerns a young lady and popcorn whilst in my last year of school, but I won't dwell on that, my pacemaker won't take it!) 12 or 14 real ale casks lined one end wall with two or three lesser beverages available on the trestle table that spanned the width of the marquee, behind the tables stood three or six extremely happy looking beer donors, you couldn't call them bar keepers, because they didn't keep it, they gave the stuff away, as I found out when I tried to pay.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here, in ignorance, young Terry and myself approached the bar (trestle) and peered myopically at the casks and asked 'what's in them'. Ten seconds later I had fifteen or twenty names running around inside my head, and after seeing the glazed look on young Terrys' face took the responsibility of making a decision, we'd start at top left and work our way along and see how far we'd get. Two foaming glasses of something were put in front of us and I delved into deep pockets asking 'How much ?'. 'Nothing' came the barman's smug reply thinking another two who don't know the secret. I stood looking at him, my hand trying to get out of my pocket but not knowing whether to bring any money with it or not. My jaw working, but not knowing what to say, because as I said memories a funny thing, do something often enough and your get a conditioned response, and I hadn't been conditioned into walking into a bar and not being asked for money.
'Do you mean this one ?' I queried, 'or all of them ?' 'All of them' came the reply of a man akin to god, and he proceeded to explain that it was a free rally and we most certainly didn't have to pay for anything. My blood pressure rose a couple of notches in anticipation and a small tear formed in the corner of my eye. 'We'd best sit down, I murmured to young Terry. We moved to the two chairs nearest the bar so that , should someone change their mind and start charging, we could be last in line of the free beer. It took the first pint for the enormity of it to sink in, about thirty seconds. Young terry's lips never stopped working, he was either drinking or chanting 'free beer'. 'Your round' I said with a smile and off he trotted to get two of the second from the left, top row. When he came back I had my meal tickets on the table, breakfast, lunch, dinner plus elevenses, a four o'clockses for three days, all spread out 'I've got to go to work on Monday' Terry said, a trace of alarm in his voice. 'that's all right' I reassured him, 'We'll be home Sunday evening' , 'this Sunday ?' 'Yes !' 'Not next Sunday ?' 'No !' a pause and then a frightened 'I've got to eat all that in a weekend ?' I explained it wasn't some kind of two day silly rally game and that it wasn't compulsory, so he went off to get an elevenses and came back with enough calories to get a jumbo jet across the Atlantic. The rest of the evening was lost in drinking, eating and talking.
We didn't wake with a hangover, hangovers come after being drunk and we weren't over being drunk yet. We walked about the campsite in a mixture of haze and sunshine, on our way to the food hall, taking pictures of the bikes as we went. This changed Terrys' chant from "free beer" to "that's the one I want". Suitably stuffed we thought we'd walk to the town centre, between one and thirty miles away, depending on how fit you are. So we loosened our belts to let our breakfast digest and removed our headgear to let some of the brain bound alcohol evaporate, and meandered westwards, through a maze of Brookside look-alike turnings to Ba-yawn-sildon. Ten seconds of civilisation (!!!!) were enough and after a few minutes watching a man in the process of making a totem pole, turned to retrace our steps home.
As we neared the fields that surrounded the campsite we passed a house that had a very nice AJS lurking outside. I know they lurk because the first bike I ever bought (for 50P) was a 350 and it used to lurk inside the shed where I was "tidying it up" and it would smother me with oil and grease whenever I so much as opened the shed door, and then me mum would look at me from the corner of her eyes and when me dinner came up burnt she would explain that she was doing the cooking but it took so long getting me clothes clean that sometimes she got quite carried away with it and forgot the dinner "Some mother do 'ave 'em". I was the "'em" that had a "Mother". Anyway, I was pointing out to Terry about AJS's and Matchlesses and jampot suspensions when a distinguished looking gentlemen emerged from the house and introduced himself as the chairman of the local vintage MCC, he gave us a guided tour of his "Tardis" of a garage, showing us more bikes and a car that was being rebuilt. He also showed us the original "John O Groats" sign post rescued from someone's garden after the local council had decided to replace it with one that conformed to EEC Regulations or something . The AJ was being prepared for a trip to the Isle of Man and was going to be ridden in some Trails, I think. We spent about an hour being entertained by this man with bikes older than me and reluctantly said goodbye after telling him where we were.
Back at the site we found that we had to catch up on our eating as it was lunch time and as elevenses had passed we "made do" with a snack that consisted of half a French stick packed with most of the produce of a combination of a medium sized market garden and the EEC Dairy Mountain. This slowed the drinking down a bit, but as the boy (Terry) had told me we had sampled all of the real ales the night before I didn't feel so bad, well I did, but not in that way. Afternoon slid into evening and we did a few more laps of the site with our instamatics. We even took a photo of the shower, a hose with a rose. Late Evening found me talking to lots of new found friends, some of them even listened I think. Sometimes I talked to myself but as I knew what I was going to say there didn't seem much point in listening. Late Evening slid into be and I followed it.
Sunday was the most difficult day to face, probably, I woke and laying on my back I strained to look through the doors at my feet to see how sunny it was, my sleeping bag was in the way and I pushed it down, only to meet the solid resistance of my tummy. I turned and fumbled through the pockets of my jeans, extracting my meal tickets I breathed a sigh of relief .... only two to go, and I had all day. I exited from the tent on all fours through necessity and pointing my belly at the toilets made my way over. the return journey saw me kicking my heels and bidding everyone a good morning. I gave Terry a quick kick and after a similar performance to mine, he stated his readiness to continue battle with the boy scouts manning the Meal Marquee. We tried, but we couldn't eat faster than they could cook. There was some noise from the Bar Tent so we wandered over, munching, to watch the prizes being given out against a back drop of empty beer barrels "Did we do that" I whispered, Terry muttered "no, but I think we helped". There were lots of awards and raffle prizes handed out, including some donated by our overseas friends, far too many for my addled brain to remember, oh ! and Young Terry, the boy, won some Allen Keys which are happily settled in my garage. There was a collection for the 'Make a Wish' Foundation, at the end, which is a really good cause which I was grateful for because at last I could get rid of all that small and large change that I had grabbed from the mantle piece on leaving home. A spot more lunch and a short ride home to be greeted with the words, "Hello dear, have a nice time? Your dinner's in the oven !"