It was just another fine weekend, much like any other in those heady days or reliable bikes and good friends and plenty of good ale. Saturday morning was spent cleaning the bike and making sure you had every thing on hand ready to load up and go.
I used to prefer to travel alone in those days after spending 10 hours going to Rhyl one bank holiday with a bunch of local friends, a journey of 100 miles. I vowed never to get into that scene again where, on pulling up for fuel, two of the bikes would tank up while the rest waited at the side of the road. Out would come the cigarettes, a 5 minute stop now becomes 15. Eventually you would get under way only to be pulled up at the next petrol station by one of the group wanting fuel, and on asking "Why didn't you fill up when we stopped 2 miles back?" The answer would make your mind go numb. "That was an Esso petrol station. My bike runs better on Fina". Yes, the cigarettes would come out again, then it would be stops for the toilet, a bacon sandwich, more fuel, a pint, toilets again and each time the times not riding got longer and longer. So I preferred to be a loner until I met up with a good bunch of lads, rallyists who prefer to put the miles under their belts.
The ride down to the rally site was uneventful, not even bothering to look at the map as I had been there the year before for the first rally. Turn up, sign in, and greet old friends, the normal run of the mill thing. But what's this, a beer tent on the field? We are right opposite a pub, it turned out the landlord didn't want us to drink his beer and upset his locals.
The next nearest pub was a good mile and a half up the road so we had a ride up there after putting the tents up. A couple of pints then it was back to the rally site for a quick couple of hours sleep. Five o'clock came and we were ready for the long uphill trek to the pub. The idea was to be leaning on the pub door at opening time so that you would be sure to get a seat. Pairing up made it better as one would get the seat while the other got the first four pints in. By the time you had drunk two each the wait at the bar had lessened.
There was a new rallyist there a chap I had not seen before. He had come down from Oldham with Alan Giddens, a likeable chap, ex-squadie by the name of Alan Barclay. He was Alan's flat mate and like most of us he was drinking for England. Now having two mates with the same name it got very confusing so Alan Barclay got christened "The Banker" for obvious reasons.
By the time we were thrown out at eleven we were well oiled, staggering back to the campsite but at least it was all downhill. Most of us were hoarse from singing the rugby songs that we used to. This was before the days of the rock discos when people used to talk and tell elaborate tales of deeds, rallies gone by, or whatever. Well being as tired as a newt I went to my tent and was asleep in no time at all.
The next morning I got up and cooked my breakfast. On looking around the organizers were seen to be collecting some stuff together in a wheelbarrow that turned out to be the remains of the beer tent. Some late comers had decided to sleep in the beer tent, while another group of people thought it would be a whiz to undo the guide ropes and drop the tent. I believe that there was a small brazier in the tent. Well the tent was now an ex-tent, just a few iron rings and smouldering remains of poles.
I packed up my tent and loaded the bike, but before I set off on the road I thought I'll just check with Alan Giddens to see if there is another rally on next weekend and where it is. I went over to his tent and opened the door. "Gasp" The smell of stale beer was overpowering. I asked Alan about the rally for the coming weekend and was told there was one up in Yorkshire. I looked across at The Banker (who hadn't moved) to see him lying there covered in vomit. "Poor lad" I thought "couldn't keep up with us drinking. Never mind." I closed the tent and went home.
The following weekend up in the Dales I saw all the usual crew, including The Banker, who I asked if he had recovered from being bad the weekend before and the answer set me back. He hadn't been sick but was lying there just going to sleep when he heard someone retching, he assumed, outside the tent. He then started to get this warm feeling over his back. It's too late to do anything about it now so that was that, roll on the morning.
- Les Hobbs