Simmer Dim Rally

7th Simmer Dim Rally 15th June 1988


- Phil the Spill

Prior to this year's Simmer Dim trip, I decided to spend a couple of days with my sister and her family in North Wales. So it was a relaxed trip on Monday up to meet with the rest of my club, the ABC, at Kinross services, off the M90 out of Edinburgh, just North of the Forth Road Bridge. This was used as a stop-off/gathering point for rally-goers, up until the mid-nineties, when overnight camping was stopped, due to 'travellers' over-staying their welcome. It was a useful place as, in addition to the 24-hour restaurant, (with shower facilities), it was only a few minutes trek into the town to a selection of pubs who were used to seeing us on our annual pilgrimage. (Usually visiting a kids' playground on the way to or from the pub.)

On Tuesday, when we got to Aberdeen, the campsite we were expecting to use was shut. We found a very useful council-run site just to the west of the city but, as they were unsure of a 'gang' of bikers invading their well maintained facility, we were told to camp just outside it on a rugby field. This was no problem for us, after all, we are used to camping on surfaces far worse than this. We soon located the nearest bus stop that led in and back from the town for the evening. Those that wished to stay behind after the last bus could get a taxi.

On Wednesday, we all rolled into the Harbour parking area and some of us went shopping in town, the rest immediately installed themselves in the pub just outside the gates. One guy turned up with a badly adjusted exhaust pipe, or perhaps the end had fallen off somewhere, as the blast had melted its way through a Krauser pannier and scorched a lot of his spare clothing. The drinking in the pub was interrupted, as usual, by the 'get boarding pass', 'load bike' and 'load self' games, and suddenly it was 6pm and the boat left for the high seas.

There were the usual hi-jinks, bad dancing and, of course, drinking of beer for the next few hours. They even let us supply our own music, which was nice. Many of the ABC are pretty good musicians, and several of them had brought their instruments with them on the trip, (a couple of guitars and a flute), and so, it appears, did a few other people, who produced music-making devices from the depths of their luggage.

After a relatively smooth fourteen hour crossing we arrived in Lerwick on Thursday morning. Upon arrival at the rally site in Vidlin, we once again had to help the organisers erect the marquee, after putting up our own tents, (or before, depending how long our tents took). Not too long thereafter, the Boot Party took its usual toll of participants and they were allowed a few hours to recover before we 'enjoyed' the cremated remains of what was laughingly referred to as a barbecue. (Actually, this was just warming up food that had been cooked sufficiently in the ovens of the hall beforehand.) Those of us who had chosen to spectate instead of participate just mucked around for the next few hours, as well as helping build the shelter that was going to be used by the barbecue. This was the first instance of the weekend of shaving foam wars, which tended to break out during periods of inactivity. Also the ABC musicians had another bash, this time on Terra Firma, which seemed to go down well. After the food, a couple of the local bands did their thing as we partied into the small hours.

Friday was the day of the annual trip around the islands. The mile-long convoy threaded its way along the narrow roads on the islands and via two ferries on to Unst, the most northerly of the isles. We did pretty much the same as we did last time we came up this far, paddled on the most northerly beach, posted cards from the most northerly post office and visited every other 'most northerly' thing we could, before returning. There was a bit of a hiccup at one of the ferry terminals, as it was time for the boat crew's break, so we had to stand around for nearly an hour, hoping we would still be able to be fitted around the cars queuing up for the southward trip. One British-bike rider took the opportunity to shorten the suspension on his saddle - with a hacksaw.

We eventually got back, just in time to get prepared for another night's partying, (it would be nice to think they waited for us, but I doubt it). For some, no doubt valid, reason, many people were wearing toilet-roll bandages this night, but this didn't interrupt the ritual wetting and removal of clothing.

I decided to forego the fun and excitement of the silly games on Saturday morning, and went for a bit of a lone wander about visiting Twatt on the western side of the mainland, but made sure I was back in time for the annual Viking invasion. They arrived in a very un-Viking-like coach, but soon joined in with the singing, dancing and, just by chance, drinking for a few hours before setting off for another part of the island, presumably to do the same elsewhere, before leading the Simmer Dim Carnival Procession in the Shetland capital, Lerwick. Meanwhile, we danced, sang and drank some more, and were visited by the local Vintage bike club.

As usual, we made use of the coaches laid on in the evening for us to get into town to join in the festivities, and larked around outside, inside, and sometimes half-in a few pubs, before catching the coaches back to the hall, to party on well into the morning. (It's a hard life, isn't it?)

Packing up on a Sunday morning is always depressing, especially after such a long rally as this one. At least there is a lunch cooked for us in the early afternoon, when the various awards get handed out. (Even if half of Miff's lunch ended up stuck to the ceiling of the hall.)

Due to the fact that the bar at the Shetland Hotel, just across the road from the ferry terminal, is usually open, most riders do, in fact, head straight for the terminal, instead of having a last ride around the island, although some of us prefer the more civilised atmosphere of the cafeteria in the terminal building. As the temperature was almost into double figures, some of the more northerly mainlanders took the opportunity to do a little sunbathing, for the few hours we had before the loading operation. As I have reported before, at the Shetland end of the ferry operation, all the loading gets done in one smooth operation and we had soon located some seats to call our own for the trip, many of which, strangely, seemed to be in the bar area. (Even stranger, some seemed to be outside in the fresh air, but I think they made their way in when they sobered, sorry, woke up.)

There were some non-bikers on board and they were well equipped with binoculars for searching out sea birds, which we were surrounded by, so I imagine they were happy. The almost clear sky led to a really nice sunset, which my camera did not properly capture. The night wore on as we chugged southwards across the North Sea and ring pull chains were constructed, as were pillars of empty cans, to keep the ceiling up, of course.

At eight o'clock on Monday the boat docked back in Aberdeen, and the bikes streamed out into the harbour, before grouping up, or not, and heading out. Some were going home and some, like my club and I, were continuing their holiday elsewhere. In our case, we were heading to the Lake District, like we often did, but to a slightly different part than usual.

- Phil (the Spill) Drackley

As Phil says, the story continues in the Lake District.