TALES FROM THE YEARS SPENT POLISHING
Chapter 17: Pinner Fair
Singly you were prey, in a gang you were predator. We grouped together in fives or sixes to go anywhere. This was just for protection. Our loose knit gangs never shared ideologies like the named gangs, we just liked bikes.
One warm evening we bumped off the road into Windsor Great Park and meandered through the trees to another group of bikers. I grinned as I saw that one of them was Robbie, taller and broader than he was the previous year. He nodded and offered me a pill. I declined the offer. I had heard of these bombers but wasn't that adventurous. He didn't press the offer as they were expensive and getting hard to come by. Robbie and his mates had formed together a gang calling themselves 'Hell's Angels'. They all wore the same flying jackets elaborately painted with a skull and cross bones on the back.
Robbie must have passed his test because he had an old 750cc Harley Davidson. Perhaps he couldn't afford a Bonneville I thought but I couldn't imagine why he would want one of those heavy old timers from the States. There were more of those Japanese bikes in his gang including a black 500cc Honda that looked almost passable for a real bike if it wasn't for the electric starter! These boys were different from us. Although we had little in common we shared the same enemy, the Mods. Robbie carried a walking stick under his dual seat and had it by him whenever I saw him in cafés. This evening I asked him about it, had he damaged his leg in some smash? He answered by pointing to a wire litter bin stuffed with Kia-Ora cartons from the closed snack bar. "See that Mod", as he spoke he twisted a little silver ferrule on the stick handle. Out flicked a little trigger. There was a loud report and a cloud of blue smoke. We gazed wide eyed at the decimated, scattered litter bin as Robbie jerked the handle back and ejected a spent .410 cartridge from his 'stick'.
Pinner Fair was an annual event we had visited since childhood. It was more than just a visiting fair. Stalls of local charities and a pageant gave it a unique carnival atmosphere. However. this year was different, word had gone round that there was going to be a rumble with gangs of London Mods. Bill and I wanted to keep our noses clean but we weren't going to miss our fair just because of a few Mods!
The main parking area was a damp field. There were lines of bikes some with improvised brick or stone supports under their prop stands where the ground was soft. If there was going to be trouble we didn't want our bikes to be in the middle of that lot! We parked behind a large fairground generator smelling of hot oil as it throbbed in the shadows. We didn't see any scooters as we tucked our gloves in our helmets and pushed them under our bikes. In the glare of lights we wandered around looking at the girls and the rides. We tried our luck on the rifle range where the prizes were dangling on strings. Break the string and the prize was yours! This should be easy as we were both airgun marksmen. Also the only error could be windage as the string hung vertically. Bill aimed at the string of an Alsatian dog plaque, a present for his new girlfriend. I aimed to cut down a black man money box that took my fancy. I had seen them before, you twisted an ear and the cast iron hand came up and swallowed your penny. Five shots each were fired and although the string shuddered with each slug it did not break. We had another shilling's worth and this time frayed the string. We then saw that the string was in fact tough raffia and our pellets were just passing through the fibres which parted each time! I cut my losses and gave up leaving Bill determined to get his prize.
As I walked between the flashing lights and blaring pop music I was aware of a heavy police presence. They seemed to be everywhere in twos. They were not letting groups mass together, as soon as three or four youths grew to five or six they were told to move along and not to loiter.
Broke but satisfied, Bill came up brandishing his chalk dog plaque. We decided it was time to leave, if we went now we might make the Cellar before it closed. Behind the brightness of the rides I switched on my petrol tap and swung down on the kick start. Bill didn't have a kick start so he drew his bike back on its compression stroke, pulled in the clutch and ran to bump start the engine.
As we picked our way across the muddy field that was criss crossed with cables and pipes, we saw small lights, an endless snake of them in single file pouring through the gap at the end of the field. As they came through our headlamp beams we saw scooters popping and futting with menacing determination towards the fair. The number must have been a hundred and still growing as we shot off towards the open road.
- Tony Sheppard