Gueugnon Rally

Part Three: Bad to nurse

There were three machines on the road that day for this rally. If I remember correctly, Pascal Salvert was riding solo and was part of the group of five motorcyclists we formed that weekend. I can't remember with any certainty who the other two were, but the few distant memories I have, lead me to believe that it was either Alain Malardier or Philippe Durand on a Honda CB250 owned by one of them, but as to the passenger, I haven't a clue.

The 85 kilometre ride from Montlucon to Moulins was pretty much trouble free apart from a minor mechanical problem with the Jawa. I think it was a problem with the chain or a rear wheel puncture. Anyway, we had to stop and repair it in order to continue our journey towards the neighbouring department of SaƓne-et-Loire. As it happens though, the fact that I had to get my hands dirty with grease, as you will see later, created unexpected consequences.

"All of Europe within your reach with the Jawa 350" claimed the advertisement in the 1950s. I doubt this claim included Jean-Jacques Carvhalo's machine, which once again required roadside repairs.

The Demi Lune bend

Given the excesses of youth at the time, I must confess now with the benefit of hindsight, that the three machines were going too fast for the conditions and the road itself as they approached the entrance to the town of Moulins. The competitive spirit of each rider meant that no one wanted to be last or be left behind. There was a very sharp bend, (I think it was called the 'Demi Lune' - Half Moon bend), which the two Japanese bikes in the lead passed faster than wisdom would have advised and at a steep angle. Jean-Jacques in third place on his puffy, heavy Jawa, with infinitely worse handling also went into the corner faster than was sensible. The metal of the muffler rubbed on the asphalt at too steep an angle. You can guess the rest ! The machine suddenly stalled, went down and we found ourselves sprawled on the ground.

The incident induced more fear than harm. Carvalho got up without a scratch. The Jawa had not suffered too much damage, except for a few scratches, although the headlight had been dented. The only one left on the ground was yours truly. The tumble I had abruptly ended when I banged my chest on the curb. Breathless, I was completely winded. A crowd of onlookers had formed, as they usually do in such circumstances, and I was advised to stay put and wait for the fire brigade and an ambulance to arrive and take me to the hospital in Moulins.

Saddle to hospital

The police arrived along with the fire brigade; the former taking statements and the latter carrying me onto a waiting stretcher. In my heart of hearts, for many reasons, I really didn't want to go to the hospital. On the one hand, as a rally fanatic, I wanted to keep going so that I could take part in the Gueugnon meeting, and if I was hospitalized, I knew that I could say goodbye to my participation in the rally.

But even worse, if my parents found out that I had had an accident, I would have to face their wrath, a situation that I dreaded. My mother would obviously try and persuade me not to go on any more motorcycle adventures; and my father, with his alcoholic temper and abusive nature would certainly subject me to a fierce beating.

I well remember once falling from my moped on gravel, seriously spraining my ribs and being scratched all over. Returning home after a short stay in hospital, sore ribs or not, I was ritually beaten up by my father with fists, slaps and kicks, mainly because I had damaged the moped.

But the firemen gave me no choice. I had to accept a ride in the ambulance. They reassured me that if there was nothing wrong, I could continue on my way. My club mates were going to visit me in the hospital anyway, after they had finished giving their statements to the police.

At the hospital I had an examination and an X-ray which fortunately revealed nothing broken. I was already feeling much better, apart from my chest, which was still sore from hitting the curb. But, if on the physical side there was no serious problem, other different and crazy problems were about to manifest themselves.

A Demon for a Head Nurse

Our meeting was already off to a bad start; what followed was to go 'from bad to nurse' !

The head nurse who was apparently in charge of my case either didn't like young people or didn't hold motorcyclists in high esteem. This became evident from the outset, and was vividly demonstrated in the way she behaved towards me. I soon realised that there was no love lost between us. This old harpy with a stern face who hardly ever smiled, did nothing to endear herself to me. She was no oil painting either, with the physique of an Eastern European heavyweight wrestler which did nothing to help her cause.

I heard that dispensing with underware would make my glans rub the inside my jeans and reduce its sensitivity, thus permitting longer love-making. Thereafter I went "commando". Something else disapproved by the head nurse.

After I had undressed and put my helmet, gloves, and all my clothes in the locker, I was treated to a severe rebuke from her because my hands were extremely dirty and full of grease. I of course tried to justify the fact, explaining the repair work carried out by the roadside, but my explanation did nothing to alleviate her bad mood.

She made it very clear that she was unhappy about having to clean them for me, but this would avoid any mess on her clean white sheets. She was all the more annoyed because grease being grease, even if you rub it hard with pharmaceutical alcohol or anything other than petrol, it doesn't come off easily. You'd better believe that it took her a long time before my hands could finally pass her personal cleanliness test !

The Great Escape

For me there was no doubt, I was going to be able to leave with my friends for Gueugnon as I had no serious fractures or injuries. I lay on my bed, biding my time as best I could, waiting for my friends to come and get me. Suddenly I recognised their voices in the corridor outside. My joy at hearing their voices was quickly shattered as it was drowned out by the demon nurse exclaiming:

"No, no ! You can't see him. Visiting hours are over."

My blood froze at this unjustified claim and I immediately jumped out of bed and went out into the corridor to talk to them. The demon nurse, seeing me appear, called me out and, in an almost military tone, ordered me to go back to my room. As if that wasn't enough, she exclaimed in front of everyone that I wasn't allowed to leave, and that my parents were the ones who would come to pick me up at the hospital next day.

In a split second my brain told me that I was in double trouble: not only was I going to miss the Gueugnon rally, but I was also going to be beaten by my father.

It was undoubtedly going to take some cunning and finesse to turn this dire situation around. After sweet-talking her as best I could, she finally agreed that my mates could see me for a few minutes but only in my room. This though proved enough time for me to explain my escape plans to them. They had to give me a good fifteen minutes to get dressed, and then I would wait for the right moment to make a run for it. Their job was to wait for me downstairs in front of the building, with the motorcycles ready to go.

Black eye as a bonus

A few minutes later, like a Red Indian on the warpath, I crept out of my room, looking for the stairs and the exit. However, at that precise moment the 'devil' appeared from nowhere, coming straight towards me !

Panic-stricken, I retreated and ran quickly in the opposite direction, but in my ignorance of the layout I ran into a blind corridor. There was nowhere to go, and I was trapped like a rat.

Adrenaline was now coursing through my body, but I had no other option than to turn back. As I did so, there in front of me in the middle of the corridor, appeared a human road block ! To my surprise there were three people blocking the way. The demon head nurse had secured two male nurses as reinforcements.

I had split seconds to make my next move. I'd had enough of this ghastly nurse and her nasty temper and my patience had run out, (no pun intended). The time for politeness and good manners was over; it was time for action. I took off my basin helmet, grasped it with my right hand and brandishing it in the air I bolted down the corridor straight towards the oncoming threat, brandishing it and shouting at the top of my voice.

My bluff worked, and they jumped aside just as I reached them, managing to force my way through and escape. However, in all the chaos of the moment, I failed to see the punch thrown by one of the male nurses, resulting in a beautiful black eye that lasted for days. This extra injury together with my sore ribs would later initiate a rather funny misunderstanding. But that's another story.

I ran at full speed down the stairs, through the main doors and reached my mates who were impatiently waiting for me outside. The motorcycles were kicked into life and we fled like a flock of startled sparrows. I had no idea if the hospital would notify the police. All I knew was that I was now free, it was dark, and that we had to hurry to Gueugnon if we wanted to make the most of the time we had left to party...

- Jean-Francois Helias