Well it was talked about for a couple of weeks and finally settled: Ted Wilkes and myself would sally forth on the Friday night to Oldham to meet up with Barclay Alan (the Banker) and Alan Giddens whose flat we would crash out at after a few pints in the White Swan and puddin' n' chips.
Next thing we knew was there was this human torch with the best part of a pint of 4 star up his back!
Saturday morning the four of us set off for the rally. It was the normal type of run Alan leading and everyone else trying to keep up, stop off for a pint and a bite somewhere before we arrived signed in and put the tents up.
Sid Beaumont had already pitched his tent so we pitched in front and linked flysheets giving us a covered area to sit and cook, as the weather could have been better. We gathered some wood for a fire after the pub shuts and had our normal afternoon forty winks. After a hot meal we made our way to the pub, which if I remember correctly was not a long walk, over a small bridge, pub on the right. There were all the regulars in attendance and a great night was had by all, but we had forgotten to get some potatoes to roast in the fire. Alan managed to talk the landlords wife into letting us have a few so we set off back for the campsite.
On arriving we found that all of our hoarded wood had been nicked for other people's fires, so we set about gathering more, pissed up in the dark and the drizzle. We somehow managed to get enough to try and start a small fire.
The carburettors on a BMW have a spring clip that hold the float bowl on so I emptied the float bowl onto the wood and it was duly set alight. It burned for a few seconds before going out. The process was repeated several times but the fire was reluctant to burn.
"What we need is more petrol!!" A small can was produced and filled with petrol and now we were beginning to get somewhere, throwing petrol onto the wood each time it starts to die down, but by the time I had refilled the can the fire was almost out again.
"WHAT WE NEED IS MORE PETROL!!!" A larger potato tin was produced and we now had the twisted fire starter in full arsonist mode. Full tin of fuel in each hand, as I started to feed the fuel onto the fire with my right hand the vapour ignited and set the small tin alight, which I spotted and threw the blazing tin onto the fire. About 5 seconds later I noticed the other tin in my left hand was also alight. In panic I just threw it as it was starting to get hot.
Next thing we knew was there was this human torch with the best part of a pint of 4 star up his back! Alan Giddens had been behind me gathering more wood when he had a flaming petrol shower. Quick as a flash we knocked him to the ground and rolled him out. The drizzle, which had soaked his clothes, saved him from any damage. I can't remember if we ever got to eat any roasted potatoes.
Ted Wilkes had taken the eye of a young lady sidecar driver from Lancashire (no names) and had been chatting away with her for most of the evening. On reaching the campsite Ted grabbed his sleeping bag and disappeared into the night. He reappeared Sunday morning with a grin like a Cheshire cat that had had all the cream, but he had not counted on us. We had been awake for a couple of hours and the game was on; we were set to wind poor Ted up.
Alan asked Ted where he had been and he replied "X's tent", with a grin. Sid said, "Didn't you tell him Les?" I said "No I thought you did or the Banker had."
"Told me what? " asked Ted with a slightly worried look on his face. Then Alan dropped the bomb "She's got a social disease."
Ted looked really worried for a few seconds, then laughed it off in true Ted style. We all had breakfast and made our ways home.
John Williams ran the bike workshop at the local youth club and he also was a foreman at Dunlop Wheel and Rim in Dudley where Ted Wilkes worked. We thought it was strange that Ted didn't turn up on Monday evening, and even stranger when he also missed Wednesday evening. I told John what had happened and he said that Ted was not his usual bubbly self and had been very quiet at work. We never saw Ted again.
- Les Hobbs