Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bank Holidays In Days Of Yore



Way back in the mists of time when I was a teenager,  Bank Holiday weekends meant endurance tests.

As part of a scooter club you were expected to go on scooter runs. There were a series of National events organised throughout the year, with the Easter Weekend, usually seeing the first and then periodically until the last at the end of October and all bar one would be south of the border meaning that the Scots always had a considerable distance to go.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the delights of riding Lambrettas or Vespas, so I think I should explain a little.

These feats of Italian engineering  usually have an engine capacity  between 125 and 250 cc and a top speed in the region of between 70 and 80 miles per hour. They are designed for zipping in and out of traffic in Italian cities not for riding twos up with a load of camping gear, supplies of buckfast and a change of clothing (if you were like me and had some semblance of personal hygiene) from say, west central Scotland to the South Coast of England.

As a result of the design of the scooters and the punishment of travelling such long distances an AA or RAC membership or preferably both was as essential to a scooterist as 2 stroke oil and it was not unknown for scooterists to attend runs courtesy of the RAC and then get home with the assistance of the nation's forth emergency service and vice versa. When traveling to runs it was common to see groups of scooterists performing what is the mechanics version of open heart surgery on the hard shoulder to their beloved machines. There was one member of our club who did away with luxuries such as a tent or a change in clothing in order to carry with him all the components of a spare engine.

When you did eventually get to the camp site, which was usually the shittiest bit of waste ground in or near the town, the real problems began. Who's got the tent? was the first cry and if the person who was supposed to bring it remembered and it hadn't fell off the back of the scooter during the trip you were off to a good start. Where are the poles? What do you mean you haven't got them? This I hasten to add was not as rare an event as you would think and resulted in  some novel methods of tent erection being employed.

Once the tents were up, it was time to find somewhere to drink. This  usually entailed trying to get a couple of thousand scooterists into the 2 or three pubs in the town which hadn't barred us before we even had a chance to do something wrong.

When all else failed you ended up spending a couple of days drinking warm cans of lager and eating crap from the dubious burger van on the camp site, using what could only in the loosest term be called washing facilities and not sleeping due to the real chance of being run over by some drunken scooter boy who has decided that it is a good idea to ride up and down the camp site in the middle of the night after drinking Buckfast and lager all day while also toking on more weed than your average Rastafarian will consume in a week.

Then after a couple of days without sleep and after drinking too much it was time to get back on your machine if it had not been bundled into the back of a van during the night by some shady guys, (you know who you are) and ride the two to three hundred miles home praying to god that you don't hole a piston or have a seizure on the road home.

As you can probably guess scooter runs weren't my favourite weekends away. Being a lightweight who enjoys the finer things in life such as a flushing toilet, running water and a bed, going on these expeditions wasn't high on my list of priorities and I attended 2 to 3 a year if really unlucky. I did have friends such as Stiff, Gordon and Mick who would try not to miss any, always had a ball and came back with some brilliant tales of hedonism and pure stupidity that if I were to re tell them would not be believed but all did in fact happen. They even made the trip down to Margate, a particularly gruelling journey only to find that the scooter run was actually the following week!

So in celebration of Bank Holidays of the past, here is a particular favourite northern soul track of our scootering fraternity, the LSC (Lanarkshire Scooter Club).

R Dean Taylor - There's A Ghost In My House

5 comments:

david said...

Well said Drew, nice post.

There's another side to Vespas though - I lived in Italy for a few years, and one of my first acts was get myself a classic Vespa, confident in my skills honed over many a weekend run.

Only then did I discover just how un-cool I was compared to the natives. Only after much practice was I able to master the vital skills which all Italians seem to be born with: riding a scooter while simultaeously smoking and using a mobile. KTF

swiss adam said...

Top post Drew.

Artog said...

I spent half the morning trying to come up with a neat comment on how much I liked this post. But yeah, top post.

drew said...

Thanks guys.

David, never perfected the smoking while riding due to my preference for a full face helmet.

dickvandyke said...

Smashing words and pictures, dear Drew.

I can see the badges, hear the rattle, smell the body odour, taste the 2 stroke and feel the cramp.

The music was the journey's end.