Thursday, 17 May 2012

1991

Citroen CX , British EagleTouristique and tent at camp site in Norfolk.
Before I go any further, please bear in mind that nearly all of this stuff is from memory. The documented stuff won't start for a few years, so if I get anything wrong about dates or places don't hang back ! Correct it in the Comments section, Please !


Right, so where was I ?
Ah yes, in the middle of the first Iraqi War, the first fully televised war on British TV. The Falklands didn't count because of the censorship in force at the time, but most of the TV coverage we were getting of the Gulf War was American and often live, or at least only a few hours old.
My memories of that year were of global unrest and change....interesting times indeed ! 
The Balkan Conflict was about to erupt, most of Eastern Europe had ditched their Communist governments and Russia itself was to collapse at the end of this year. I remember from the previous year television coverage of the shooting of Nicolai Ceausescu the Romanian dictator and his wife, and being curiosly affected by it.
Could it, or should it, happen here ? This was before anyone really knew anything at all about Romanians !
World financial affairs were affecting us badly too. This year the Bank interest rate went up to nearly 15% which effectively doubled our mortgage payments.
This was stressful in the extreme !
 And this was when the nightmares started. Always on the same theme. I'm in a car, usually a BMW, and it's rolling downhill backwards and I'm panicking because the brakes don't work. You don't need a qualification in psychology to work out where a dream like that's coming from, do you ? This dream never left me until I retired, sold up and moved to France seventeen years later. 


 Fortunately we had plenty of work at the garage and money was coming in. But it felt that more of it was going out ! I just couldn't save money at all. 
So much for our plans of retiring early and going to live in France !
Mind you, if it wasn't for that dream I don't know how we would have got through those times. I don't mean the one about the runaway car of course !
Even the weather most of that year was crap ! Windy, wet and grey ! I think we went for two whole months without a bit of blue sky !




Billy Aire
But it wasn't all doom and gloom. One day this sort of apparition strolled down the lane and walked into the garage. This was Peter who lived in a derelict mansion on the other bank of the river. He looked like a cross between John Lennon and Viv Stanshall. Peter had obviously not come through the sixties unscathed ! But this day he was pretty straight and sober. He had a favour to give and a favour to ask. What he was giving, as in  "I don't want any money for this!", was a pretty reasonable old Citroen CX saloon car. Do you remember them ? Big French cars with super complicated suspension and brakes and instruments and controls completely different from anything else. French idiosyncrasy at it's best....or worst ! What he was asking for, was for it to be removed from his drive immediately ! 
Well, I had been without a car for a few months, and really wasn't too bothered , but this was free, it only needed a new battery, and it had a tow ball, so what the hell ! I now had a big super comfortable cruiser to float about in.....if I could afford the fuel !
Cousin Billy Aire was, at this time, a fairly regular visitor to the garage, mostly just for a cup of garage tea and a blether. He was always welcome, he got on well with us all. You would hardly think that, so the story goes, some ne-er do well, spying Billy at his front door, ran and threw himself out of a first story window to escape him.
A couple of days after Peter had given me the car he dropped in to give me the rest of the documents. I should really explain, at this point,  why Peter had given the car away. Peter was not long out of jail because he'd taken the rap for a local gangster, Eric Rowan, who'd actually sold us the garage a few years previously. It was some tax or vat swindle that they were involved in and because poor Peter was homeless and witless he didn't mind too much a year or so in jail, especially as Eric Rowan had said he'd make sure he wasn't homeless when he got out. So this was why Peter was living in this derelict property that belonged to Eric Rowan. Peter was scratching a living by selling scrap aluminium drinks cans and the odd beer keg he could pinch. Somehow or other he'd managed to get this Citroen but of course couldn't afford to do anything with it, so when the battery gave out, it just lay, unused, in the driveway. By now Eric had decided that there was a time limit on his promise to Peter and had given him notice to quit, or in Peter's words "Right you, get tae f*ck!  Ah've jist sell't this place so you're oot by the weekend an' take yer shite wi' ye !"
Cousin Billy was also in the garage. We were fixing him up with a piece of weaponry. This consisted of a meter long rod with an automatic centre punch attached  to the end. Billy was driving a nice Mercedes at the time and the idea was, that when he came across anyone in his bad books, he could just drive alongside them, lower his passenger window, lean across with the extended centre punch and by giving the drivers window on the other car a gentle poke, he could shatter the glass and give the person in it a few home truths ! It seemed to work well, he enjoyed telling us about the times he used it !
Peter came into the garage with the documents in his hand, clocked Billy and froze!  I thought he was either going to run or faint !
Billy looked at him and said " Dancer ya b*stard ! when did you get oot ?" and burst out laughing.
They obviously knew each other !
"No long ago, Billy, but ah'm keepin' ma nose clean the noo, honest !" Then he got off his mark....rapidly !
When Billy had stopped laughing, he told us about the first time he'd come across Peter. Billy was having a Perrier in the Hilton with some associates. Yes, seriously, a Perrier ! Billy is teetotal !
When in floats this Arab sheik with the robes, head dress, Ray Ban shades, the lot ! In dreadful English, he orders up a lavish meal and then loads of drink. Well, the idiots serve him, and it's only when the drink takes effect and the accent slips back into Glaswegian that he's eventually rumbled. Of course it's Peter, just working a scam ! The management were about to call the cops, but Billy and his pals had got such a laugh out of this that they paid his bill and sent him on his way.
Later, Billy was visiting a friend of his who was a guest of Her Majesty at the time in Chateau Barlinnie when he came across Peter again. This is where the name "Dancer " comes from. He told Billy that he just danced to whatever tune he was played ! "It's no sae bad, ah get three meals a day, a bitty dope and a roof ower ma heid. Jist fur tellin' a few lees."
Peter/Dancer was eventually given a council flat nearby and over the years he would drop in to see us in the garage. Sometimes hopelessly incapable through drink or drugs, but he was never offensive so we kind of put up with him. Pitied him really . However he seemed to get his act together eventually and went on the wagon and got heavily involved with satanism. You hardly knew which was worse ! But that seemed to be a phase he was going through and the last few times I saw Dancer he was looking quite the thing. He'd taken to wearing tweeds and a monocle and seemed to be involved with a woman who was looking after him. Good for her, I thought. I always had the idea that with a bit of positive support Dancer could have found contentment. Let's hope so !






Mimsie, Blandine and Marguerite in Paris.

As I've said already, the weather for the first seven months of the year were poor. Even in Paris you can see that it was unusually damp and grey. Mimsie and her pal Marguerite took a trip to visit Blandine in Paris and as usual thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I can't remember if this was the trip where they got so involved in last minute shopping that the bus left without them taking all their luggage and their passports. Or whether it was the trip that they were running short of time to catch the plane in Charles de Gaulle aeroport and Marguerite said " Och, stop rushing, Isabel, we'll just get the next one !" We used to worry about letting these two out by themselves, but they always made it home in one piece.








I was beginning to go a bit loopy with the weather. It seemed to be getting personal ! As I've said, I got my new bike in November of last year and I didn't want to use it in the worst of the winter weather so it wasn't till late March that I hopefully saw a gap in the rain one Sunday and took it out for our first ride together. The bike was great, I couldn't fault it ! It was everything I'd expected. 
I, on the other hand left a lot to be desired ! The overlong winter lay-off hadn't helped my fitness at all. So I struggled with the weather to build up some cycling fitness again. 




Richard Neil at Drumlanrig Castle

At the end of May, despite the unpromising forecast, I drove down to Drumlanrig Castle where they were having a cycle rally. It was KM151, after the very successful event the previous year, the KM150. The idea of the rally was to celebrate the 150th birthday of Kirkpatrick MacMillan's development of the hobby horse by adding pedals....actually treadles, but it meant that you could propel the machine without touching the ground. To me the whole thing has an air of the Loch Ness Monster about it, but what the hell, he was a local blacksmith, the Duke of Buccleuch was kindly giving us the use of the grounds and it was to encourage cycling in the area. 
It was a great do ! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and met a lot of interesting people. I found that riding with a group of real cyclists was fun ! I learned a lot. Even if the weather wasn't spectacular.
Then it was back to Glasgow and the rain.





Wheat fields and Sunshine in Lincolnshire.

Eventually, I couldn't take the rain any more and decided to take a cycling holiday somewhere in the UK that looked as if it might have better weather. So I headed off to Norfolk with my Touristique strapped to the back of the Citroen CX. As I booked into my first camp-site I was complaining about the weather we'd been having in Glasgow when the woman in charge said "Blimey, we hain't had no rain for weeks, luv, we could be a'doin with some !"
"Not this week !" I hoped .
And it didn't rain once, hot dry sunny, just what I needed .


Norfolk
Next day I set off with my bike loaded with camping gear and spent the next five days doing a tour of Norfolk and parts of Lincolnshire. 
At one point I had a broken spoke in my rear wheel, which I managed to replace without too much hassle, but this got me thinking more closely about what sort of cycling I really wanted to do. I reckoned that fully loaded cycle camping wasn't what I was looking for. I would need stronger, heavier wheels, but did I really enjoy cycling heavily loaded ? Not really, I much preferred travelling light.


A typical lunch stop.


So in future what I intended to do was to base myself somewhere and do day trips on my unloaded bike. In the years to come I got to love the sheer pleasure of riding a comfortable, responsive lightweight at a good brisk pace for hours at a time. I loved the feeling of being able to cover huge distances using just muscle power !






Branxton near Flodden Field.










Flodden Battlefield






































I enjoyed my wee Norfolk adventure, especially being able to ride in sunshine ! On my way home I decided to spend a day or so in Coldstream, the name seemed strangely familiar somehow ?  This will be revealed later !
I found a great wee municipal camp site with shower and toilet facilities laid on. I took an unloaded tour southwards and came across the Flodden Battlefield where the Scots and English had a bit of a disagreement. I suppose the only good thing to come out of that was the songs "Flower of Scotland" and the old pipe tune "The flowers of the forest". While I'm on about flowers, I passed a wonderful thing on the trip back to Coldstream. Someone had planted a whole field with different coloured flowers in a pattern that re-created Van Gogh's Sunflowers painting. Truly spectacular !




1963 Ford Anglia and 1965 E type Jaguar in Delvin Road Garage.
So back refreshed to plain claes and porridge !
At least I had some interesting work to do such as the museum dodgers in the picture above. Certainly never made any money out of them ! But a bit of a challenge and a change from the usual spark plugs, oil and filter changes we were doing.




Alistair Rickett and Marisol Rodriguez with Alistair's nice E21 BMW 520i


Now here's a photo of Alistair and Marisol going to a wedding. Alistair had become a regular visitor to the garage ever since we press-ganged him into the Gate Stealing Squad. 
As you came perhaps make out from the photo, the gate to the premises was a disgraceful ramshackle wooden affair. I certainly couldn't afford a good stout metal gate and security fence, but one day Charlie O'Neil came in and told me that if I wanted, I could have the metal gates from the allotments that he was being evicted from. That is, if I took some tools to dismantle them and a van to collect them right away, otherwise they would be taken away for scrap. Just as we were getting the van loaded with tools Alistair dropped in on his bike after a training run. 
"Right, you'll do as well, we need some muscle to lift these things!" And Alistair was bundled into the van as well ! 
It really didn't take long for us to dismantle the gates and posts, especially as Charlie was rather anxious that we hurried up before the site owners came back ?
The penny dropped a few days later when we heard that the police were looking for a gang of scrap metal thieves who'd stolen a set of gates and posts from a building site. They were almost certainly Gypsies as one of them was wearing multi-coloured tights ! 
It turned out that Charlie was peeved at being turned out of the allotments where he had quite a thriving business going, and this was an act of revenge against the developers of the site !
So from then we started seeing Alistair socially and he started getting everyone out on the bike. Andy and Maureen, Douglas Reilly and even, eventually, John Stoddart, and our Dave !


I was really, by this time, wanting to start stretching my wings and had decided to go out for a run with the local branch of the Cyclists Touring Club, some of whom I'd met at the KM151 Rally at Drumlanrigg Castle in May. Alistair, Marisol, the Blackbourns and Douglas had all turned up early on the Sunday morning to go out with our Dave on the bikes and Alistair persuaded me that it would be much more fun going with them, rather than the CTC.
"Och, they're just a bunch of po-faced haddies ! All they ever talk about is bikes, they wouldnae know a good filthy joke to save themselves !"
So, needless to say, that was the start !


The first time I'd ever encountered Alistair was a few years previously. I was in a seedy Glasgow night club with George Morrison, the Porsche man, when I saw a naked figure leap from the balcony and land right on top of a particularly foul-mouthed drag artist !
"Good god ! Who on earth's that ?"
" Ach, that's just Alistair, he's aye daein' stuff like that"
George wasn't in the least perturbed by this, but pandemonium then ensued ! We all got tossed out, but to this day, Alistair still maintains that it was because somebody had slipped a truly filthy VHS tape onto the machine that fed all the TV screens in the place!




Marisol, Ian McGivern, and Dave and Alistair at Aberfoyle




































Here's a picture of a wee group of us in the carpark at aberfoyle just about to climb the Duke's Pass and then ride round Loch Katrine. A good wee run! We did that many times over the following years.


Montrose Street Glasgow.


And here's us watching one of the city centre cycle races that Channel 4 were sponsoring at the time.


It came as a bit of a shock to me, I don't really know why, but all of a sudden our Dave was 40 !
I really am a poor party person and would not thank you for a surprise birthday do, but Dave's a bit like Mimsie, loves a party....but then he usually slinks off when he's had enough and leaves us to cope with the drunks and debris !


Blandine at Dave's 40th Birthday


Well we started off with some practical jokes like filling his car the night before with balloons, but the best thing was we had invited Blandine unknown to anyone else. So yes, we had a bit of a do !




Cousins Ian and Sylvia.


















Lucy, Greta, John Neil and Blandine.
Ricky, Mimsie, me and Mary.




























The next day, to clear our heads, we set out on the bikes with the usual suspects for a drum up on Cameron's Muir.
"What's a Drum Up ?"  Click on this  "The vanishing art of Drumming Up"    and all will be revealed.






Douglas, Ian, Andy,Marisol and Dave at Camerons Muir.




Blandine and Dave at the drum up.


We cycled there but Sandra and Blandine drove there so that we could show Blandine what a drum up actually was . 
I think she was bemused ! Perhaps a bit amused , but definitely bemused !




As the year drew to a close, Alistair came up with the idea of a trip to the Lake District to buy up some used Mountain Bikes from a hire company. He'd heard that if we went and bought four or five as a job lot we would get them pretty cheap. It was a bit of a gamble of course, some of the bikes would need plenty of work, others might have just come from the workshop and could be ridden away as they were.So one day in November Alistair, Ian McGivern and Douglas Reilly, I think, and I drove to Ambleside over the spectacular Kirkstone Pass. This was the first time I'd ever been to the Lake District. I'd always thought of it as too twee and over-hyped to be worth bothering with. Just shows you, doesn't it ? Try it before you dismiss it !
Well, we picked out a selection of Saracen mountain bikes and got them for a reasonable price although they all needed some work. The rest of the day we spent wandering around Ambleside and this was when I became aware of just how well known Alistair was. Several times we were stopped in the street by people catching up with him.
" Alistair, haven't seen you for ages ! When are you coming back?"
Alistair, by this time in his early thirties, was single, no commitments, no mortgage and a fair amount of disposable income was a great believer in disposing of income ! So he'd frequently just jump in his car head off with a girlfriend and spend weekends in places like Ambleside or Harrogate. 
Alistair likes twee !  And so do I as it turns out !
He's one of these people described aptly as "weel kent"
So it was Alistair that suggested that we get a group together and book a short holiday in a house he knew in December. Even in the Lake District, December can be pretty quiet so the owners of the house would be quite glad to let us have it at a good price.




Chapel Stile in Langdale.


We arrived in darkness, but this is the view from the kitchen the next morning. Very, very cold but dry and sunny. The accommodation was fine, cosy and well equipped. And Wainright's Inn was just across the road, so good beers and good food. We also got access to a local health spa to use the swimming pool and saunas. This was great !
I can hardly remember who was all there, Alistair and Marisol, Sandra and I, Andy and Maureen Blackbourn, our Dave and John Stoddart and Douglas Reilly. 
The days were spent out on the refurbished mountain bikes and evenings in Wainrights and then high jinks in the house.


Sandra and Dave in Chapel Stile
Sandra had spent the last year changing her diet and losing a fair bit of weight. She was pleased at that, but she was now suffering badly from pains in her back. As usual she never complained but I could tell she was not getting as much out of life as she should. By sheer chance I came across a book on Alexander Technique in Ambleside and over the next few evenings read it through.  I was vaguely aware of Alexander Technique but this was the first time I'd studied it, and it made sense. At this point Sandra would have considered almost anything rather than becoming dependant on pain killers which was all the medical trade were offering....or the knife....with no guarantee ! When we got home to Glasgow, I found a local Alexander Technique teacher and we both felt as if we were given a new lease of life. I'd better not start rambling on about this, I've still to tell you about "Sweatin' like a chief!"


John Stoddart and Marisol Rodriguez




Here's John Stoddart, with perhaps just one too many shandies, being tormented mercilessly by Marisol Rodriguez !












Maureen, Andy, Dave and myself at Chapel Stile


Us fuelling up before a day out on the bikes.






















Douglas Reilly at Chapel Stile


Douglas Reilly getting set for a night of scoffing sweeties and watching "Die Hard"
...over and over again !














Alistair can be full of funny remarks and one time he came away with the fact that he was "sweating like a chief !" When we asked him about this he told us that it came from an apprentice he'd had  with a fine turn of Glaswegian phrases. One particular day the apprentice was perspiring heavily and he'd recently watched the Richard Harris movie "A Man Called Horse" So, with that peculiarly Glasgow affinity for the Wild West, he'd remembered the scene where the Indians were introducing Richard Harris to the delights of a steam bath and henceforth perspiring heavily was to him " Sweatin' like a chief !"






So that, more or less, was 1991 !













































Friday, 11 May 2012

1990

James and Agnes McGowan








This year really started the day before, on Hogmanay. Gordon Stoddart and I, and an old pal I hadn't seen for years, Danny Millar decided to climb the Cobbler at Arrochar and toast the year to come at the top. We were lucky with the weather. Although it was reasonably mind, it was misty near the top and threatening to snow. But we made it and had a grand day out. Sadly that was the last time I was ever to see Danny. He was a truly talented artist with a temperament to suit. Life had given him some pretty hard knocks over the years so later he decided he'd had enough  and went for the swim that needs no towel.


Danny Miller and Gordon Stoddart on the Cobbler
After the usual New Year do at Minard, I was watching a TV play on the evening of January 1st, about an old guy who, fed up with the boredom of being retired, makes up his mind to walk the length of Britain from Land's End to John o' Groats. I can't remember the name of the play, but Joss Ackland was the main character in it. Now, whether I was still befuddled from the night before, or suffering from a lack of sleep or whatever, I made the mad resolution to set out from Land's End on my bike and see how far I could go.




Gordon and I on the Cobbler




Well, we had no holidays planned this year and finances were taking a bit of a hammering with one thing and another. So this year, no spending ! It was all I could do to keep myself afloat in the garage. As fast as I was earning money, I was having to spend it on equipment to try to keep us up to date technically. BMW were going deeper and deeper into electronic engine management. It was getting to the stage where, if you didn't invest in diagnostic equipment you were getting left behind and the Main Dealers were taking over. As far as I was concerned, this wasn't going to happen, if I could help it !








I'd went into a sort of informal partnership with Jim Bryson about this time. Jim Bryson had been for years a kind of semi-legendary local BMW guru. Somehow or other he was able to supply replacement parts, like brakes, filters, engine parts etc, much, much cheaper than Fairbairns or Henry Brothers, the main BMW dealers.  Jim's premises were out in the back of beyond in the hills between Hamilton and East Kilbride. So much so that even people in Glasgow preferred to have their orders delivered by mail. He worked from home and his workshop and stores were big wooden garages. It was really handy to be able to get second hand parts from him too. Gearboxes, manual ones anyway, rear axles and things like this were so good that they rarely gave trouble, but when they did, the quickest, cheapest repair was by fitting a second hand unit from Jim Bryson. For example, an exchange 5 speed gearbox from the dealers would cost £700 plus fitting. We could strip and repair the same box for about £250 but the car would be in the garage waiting for parts for over a week. For the same price we could fit a second hand box from Jim Bryson and return the car in the same day ! Because our workshop was so small, we didn't really have the room to have cars lying about, so this was often the preferred  way to get the customer back on the road. 






The Workshop at Delvin Road....not a lot of room !
























Jim had started repairing BMW's about twenty years beforehand but now, because of the amount of sophisticated electronics involved, he was wanting to earn his living from selling parts rather than doing repairs. Unfortunately for Jim, Euro Car Parts, a London based firm, were now selling the same parts even cheaper than Jim. And because Jim just refused to become VAT registered, I couldn't reclaim the VAT on anything I bought from him which made his parts so much dearer than Euro Car Parts. Within a year or so Euro Car Parts had a branch in Glasgow and I became one of their biggest customers. Euro Car Parts were set up in London in the early eighties by a family of Sikhs who'd been expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. I really liked dealing with them, they were forward thinking and gave me great service when I needed it. I later met some of the family when they invited me down to London, actually to try and sell me some stuff, and they impressed me with their hard work and straightforward attitude.






A lovely old BMW 2002tii ....Jim Bryson's favourite !


The winter that year was mild, windy mostly, but mild. I was using my bike as much as I could and at weekends started building up the mileage I would need to be able to do come summer. The Sustrans Cycle Route from Glasgow to Loch Lomond had opened in the last year  so I would spend most Sundays riding to and from Balloch on Loch Lomond , a total distance of about 80km. At first I thought I was going to die ! But as I built up my stamina I gradually started to increase the distance I covered. I remember one Sunday ploughing my way into a constant headwind  to Ayr but being rewarded with a tailwind all the way home via the Ballageich hill over the Eaglesham Moor. On the descent I got up to 70 kph, I was flying !








John Neil, Lucy, Maureen Blackbourn at the Drovers.


Around about March, or maybe April, a bunch of us had a pretty lively weekend in the Drovers again. Lucy brought her new beau, John Neil, for the first time......more, much more about this blackguard later, so watch this space !! 
This was the time they all say that I was so overcome with something that I fell off the stool into the open fire. The truth is I was probably just knackered ! At least I never quarrelled with the geese and had to run for my life, like some people !

Andy Blackbourn and Terry  fleeing the Geese !


The Guard Geese at the Drovers Inn






































I'm sure there was also an incident with a donkey, but Andy Blackbourn could give you the full details about that !


Apparently when they pulled me out of the fire they put me to bed but when I woke it was pitch black and I'd no idea where a light switch or even the door was. You can imagine the shock I got when I found a door, opened it.... and stepped into a wardrobe ! Fortunately the chamber pot was in it's usual place, under the bed.




So apart from hard work in the garage and training on the bike things were pretty quiet over the next few months.
This was the year I first took part in an organised long distance cycle run from Edinburgh to St Andrews. I think there were something like seven hundred people on this run that year. I thoroughly enjoyed it ! Alistair Rickett, Ian McGivern and some other suspects were there along with Douglas Reilly. We'd set off from Edinburgh with a police escort out of town and spent the whole day riding from pub to ice cream shop to pub again. The route was superb, the weather was good and the hills were climbable. I had no idea at all what I was going to do when we eventually reached St Andrews but after a good meal of chili con carne and several medicinal beers later, Ian McGivern managed to get us a berth for the night with a girl friend of his. And the weather even held out for the ride back to Edinburgh the next day ! Great fun ! Pity there was no photos taken .






Foggy start from Land's End at 7am.


Almost before I knew it , it was time for holidays and my big adventure. My first experience of this was a couple of years ago when I'd cycled across Scotland following the Southern Upland Way.
I took a train from Glasgow Central to Penzance on a one-way ticket and I was surprised at how expensive it was. Anyway I baled out the train at Penzance about six o'clock in the evening, damp and overcast but mild and no wind . The last time I was in Cornwall was in 1983 on my motorcycle and then I'd used the main road. This time I was going to use quiet back roads to the camp site at Land's End. It was only 20k away !
Well, I wasn't even out of Penzance before I was toiling on the hills. Mind you, I was carrying panniers and full camping equipment so I shudder to think what the total weight of the bike and luggage was !
That was probably the slowest, hardest 20km I've ever cycled ! I don't think there was a single piece of flat road the whole way. If it wasn't a 1:4 descent it was a 1:4 killer climb  and no respite at at all till I reached the camp site.
I was done in before I'd even started, but there was no way out now, I had to just get on with it. So, tent up, a bite to eat and crawl into my sleeping bag.


6am, I fill myself with porridge, pack up, photo of the fog and I'm off.....on the main road ! to hell with the scenic route !!
Actually it wasn't too bad. It was early on a Sunday morning so the main A30 road was quiet. Still foggy and dreich though !
I'd spoken to Sandra's father, Jimmy McGowan, about my trip and he'd told me to split my daily ride into 50km then 25km then 15km stretches. I managed to do the first 50km and stopped for lunch in Perranporth but when I set off again the heavens opened ! And it rained !! I thought it was a judgement for cycling on Sundays or having impure thoughts or something !
By this time I was going over the bleakest part of Bodmin Moor and really beginning to flag. It was a combination of a poor recovery from yesterday, lack of sleep, poor diet and weather. I'd forgotten that there were no camp sites in this area and there was no way I was going to camp wild in these conditions. 
This was not at all fun ! I just managed to make out through the rain , a sign for a B&B at the side of the road. It could have been the Bates Motel from Psycho as far as I was concerned, if they had a berth, I was staying here tonight !
Well they did, and as soon as I'd set my clothing out to dry I collapsed and slept for ten hours. Nothing to eat, just sleep !


Next morning after a fine athlete's breakfast of bacon, eggs sausages etc, I was on the road by 9am. Not raining, thank goodness and a bit of a tailwind springing up. The sun actually came out by mid morning. This was more like it ! I was fairly bowling along by now and got my first 50km done pretty quickly. This was where I made a basic mistake, I never ate enough when I stopped and 25km later I really thought that there was something seriously wrong with me. I could hardly walk, let alone cycle and I was dizzy and feeling nauseous. I staggered into a pub for a sandwich and began to realise that I was suffering from the "knock"more commonly known as low blood sugar level. I hadn't paid attention to my diet and I was paying for it now ! Although I struggled to eat it, the sandwich perked me up enough to do another 15km to a nice camp site in Tedburn St Mary where pitched for the night. I still had no appetite but I forced myself to eat as much as I could and slept like the dead for over ten hours.


I woke the next morning feeling ravenous. So I stuffed myself with porridge and dried fruit. This morning I felt transformed !
Still had a bit of a tailwind, so after stopping in Exeter for chain oil, the rain having completely washed off any lubrication, I carried on till mid morning then stopped at a Truck Stop for another breakfast, heavy on protein this time. I was off the main road by now but still on decent roads, no Cornish switchbacks. My natural appetite was back by now, so when I felt hungry, I stopped and ate. After about 140km I found another good camp site in Weston Super Mare.




Looking at Brunel's suspension bridge in Bristol.


Next day, having got my diet and pace sorted, I reeled off another 120km. Stopped briefly in Bristol then got fed up with the heavy main road traffic so turned left and just got lost for a diversion. I ended up in a wee village called Oldbury on Severn and spent a pleasant afternoon just digesting and soaking up some sun. I felt as if I was in Wicker Man territory, very pleasant though. I hope it's still like that, but I doubt it !


Town Hall, Oldbury on Severn.


I got back on to the main road heading north but couldn't find anywhere decent to camp for the night near Cheltenham so ended up booking myself into an expensive roadside hotel. If I hadn't paid cash up front, I think they would've turned me away. It's always been an unpleasant aspect of British life, unwarranted snobbery ! It's not like that in France, turn up at a smart hotel on a bike and not only will they lock it up for you, they'll offer to have it washed !
Different country, different attitudes.
Mind you I did enjoy soaking in a large bath for a couple of hours, most relaxing !


After the price I'd paid I felt justified in making a big attack on the buffet breakfast, I think some of the staff were beginning to feel a bit uneasy. Maybe they thought they were next ! 
Within an hour or so's cycling I made a totally unplanned change to my route. I was going to go through Shrewsbury and head north, but I decided to drop into Wolverhampton and catch up with some relatives.
I took a detour off the main road and had a pub lunch in a pub old enough to have had people wearing armour as customers. It's a strange feeling I get in some old places where the original character of the place still remains. Good lunch, nice beer and good company. It was there that I first became aware of the curse of the morlocks. The barman told me that they were going to be closing in the evenings at weekends because teenagers and folk in their early twenties were just coming in to get as drunk as they could as quickly and cheaply as possible. This was putting older people off and completely destroying the ambience of the village pub. No wonder villages are dying and turning into dormitories.
So another 100km done today by the time I reached Wolverhampton. It really was a bit of a slog though on the main roads. I was now getting a clearer idea of what I wanted in a bicycle. Dropped handlebars and a more responsive frame for a start. Then better, lighter wheels and tyres. And more bottle cages. I found that I was running out of water too quickly and I had to keep stopping to unpack bottled water.




Once Uncle Barry and  Aunt Anne got over the shock of having me turn up unannounced on their doorstep, they couldn't have done enough for me. Fed like a fighting cock and pumped full of Banks's Best Bitter. Some things never change, or so it seemed at the time. I spent a couple of days with them and with Aunt Muriel and Uncle Sam so when I set off again I was feeling pretty fit.


This was a long day, over 150km. I stayed the night in a B&B near Preston and just ate on the road. The weather continued fine, if anything a bit too hot, and I was beginning to burn around the edges.


Then it was a long slog over Shap to Carlisle where I invaded John and Irene's home for a day or so. Dragging myself over Shap really made me long for a more suitable bike. It was my hands and fingers that were giving me most problems because of the straight handlebars. I'd nowhere else to rest my hands and as a result I was losing the sensation in some of my fingers and developing pains in my shoulders.
I'd decided to drop in to Glasgow and take a day off and dump a lot of stuff I found I didn't need so that I could travel lighter if I was going any further.




Jimmy McGowan.


I was hardly in the door when Sandra got a phone call to tell her that Jimmy, her father, had died.
We all knew he wasn't in the best of health but it still came as a great shock to all of us. 
James Taylor McGowan, they just don't make them like him anymore.
I first met Jimmy McGowan in 1964 and immediately thought "He's a dead ringer for Kirk Douglas !"  Nearly twenty years later, and he still had that sort of military bearing about him. As I got to know him, very occasionally, he would tell me bits about his wartime experiences. He was among the last off the beaches at Dunkirk and among the first into Normandy. He would tell me about diving into roadside ditches to avoid enemy shelling by "moaning minnies" and sometimes being the only one alive to get back out. And how they had to use piles of dead bodies as bridges to cross rivers going into Germany.
Jimmy worked for Black and White Whisky and he certainly liked a drink, for men of his age it was almost compulsory, like smoking. Personally, I just can't stand whisky, but I was seriously impressed when Jimmy was asked to do a blind tasting to identify blended whiskies in his local pub, the Spring Inn. Not only did he correctly identify them but he could tell what malt whiskies they were blended from. 
Like a lot of men of his generation, and who could blame them !, he occasionally had a bit too much, but never once was he seen showing the signs of too much drink. He always marched home in a perfectly straight line !
But I used to love Saturday mornings, when Jimmy would make breakfast for us all, and then, when it was just Sandra and I in the kitchen he would talk......about anything and everything ! About cycling before the war, about every single shop on Sauchiehall Street, about sport in general, everything. He was a treat to listen to !




As you can imagine, everything else then was put aside. We had other things to do.




So I never went any further on that trip, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, even the bits when I was nearly weeping with despair. Character building I think they call it !


I was pretty pally with David Walsh who owns Clarkston Cycle Centre so I asked him to get me a new bike and we could do a bit of trading to pay for it. Davy's a great guy and would do anything for you, but some things just take time, so it wasn't till November that I got my new bike. It was a British Eagle Touristique in a dark grey metallic colour.  It came with drop bars, indexed downtube shifters for the 27 speed Shimano gearset and cantilever brakes onto 700c wheels. And it had a rear rack and two bottle cages. And it was quite light ! But I never rode it till the next year !
Meanwhile, I'd decided that cycling was a thing that suited my temperament, especially long distance cycling. I used to love reading about people taking long trips on a bike and started reading things like New Cyclist and the CTC Gazette. I couldn't climb, I couldn't sprint and I couldn't race but I could get great pleasure out of doing long solo rides. I was really inspired by reading an account of a ride in the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonee by Jock Wadley. Jock Wadley was passable racer in his day in England but had become enchanted by the French attitude to cycling  as a way of life, not just a furtive, semi-masonic activity as in Britain. This was the kind of cycling I wanted to do, long distances on a nice lightweight bike with minimum luggage at a brisk steady pace, either solo or with one or two like minded companions.
But I needed to build up a year round base fitness, which was no bad thing, after all, sensible exercise is good for all of us, is it not ? So I worked out a 50km route I could use whenever I wanted to. It took me from the house , down through Govan, past Ibrox Football Ground, out through Renfrew and Inchinnan, then onto quieter, hillier roads past the Monkey House and climbing over  into Kilmacolm. Then passing Houston and the rhubarb fields to complete the loop to bring me back home through Drumoyne and Govan. This became a favourite regular training run for me. Later, I would be up at 5am to get some training in before a day in the garage and often before an Audax event I would get extra training in by doing this run in the dark late in the evening.
Did it become obsessive ? 
Read what happened in the later years and judge then !
At first Douglas Riley would come along with me, and he could be quite an entertaining character on a run. I must give him credit, he could have been a much better cyclist than I would ever be ! He was tall and didn't carry any excess weight, although he could eat like a bloody horse ! But although he could fly past me on any climb, he somehow or other, couldn't get his head round riding steadily for a long time. It was tortoise and hare stuff. He would often sprint off into the distance, lose me, then take a wrong turn and get lost. And by the time I'd got to where we were supposed to be going, I would have to wait for ages until he found his way there. He was a scatterbrain ! But I liked him.
He loved music ! And he got me to listen to things I'd just dismissed, like Abba and Bee Gees and loads of other stuff. He was like Jimmy Muirhead in that way, he could just sense good music !
And he was open to listening to absolutely anything.








Maggie, John Aire and the other young John Aire.


The next big thing that year was young John Aire's wedding in Renfrew. It had seemed like ages since all the Aires and McGowans had got together for something enjoyable, and this was it ! In this photo are Maggie, who turned out to be Mary's sister, Sandra's cousin John Aire who had become a multi millionaire through the motor trade, and Cousin Billy's young brother John who's wedding it was.


Sandra's Uncle William and cousin Billy Aire.
Here's cousin Billy and his father Uncle William. I hadn't seen Billy for years and I was pleased to see that he'd done very well for himself....and his wives, ex-wives, numerous children and adopted children ! We did a fair bit of business together, Billy and I. I actually sold the BMW 316 that we used to go to France to one of Billy's wives. He became an entertaining regular at the garage.


Sandra with Billy and Aunty Rita.
Here's a photo of Sandra and Billy. You can almost tell by the look on his face that he's about to do something hilarious ! 
Don't worry, there'll be more stories about Billy Aire in the future...














Mimsie, Cousins Greta and Sylvia at Millport.


Mimsie's cousin Greta was by now a regular weekend fixture. I actually quite liked Greta and I know Mimsie was fond of her. Her brother Ian McLeod and his wife Sylvia started to be frequent visitors to Minard around this time too. Cousin Ian could be the life and soul of a party at the drop of a hat. And Mimsie just loved a party ! So I was pleased to see her enjoying herself even if they were behaving like senile delinquents at times.


Lucy in the kitchen
Lucy, by now had decided to pursue Law as a career. She really was an admirable daughter, she decided that she was going to work full time in Safeways supermarket and gain her qualifications by doing part-time degrees in Caledonian University and later Strathclyde University. Lucy has never had any illusions about money. If you want it, you work ! Simple as that !
It was a pity that the creature she was now involved with could never figure that out !


Dave and Blandine were still a kind of an item and Ricky and Mary were thinking about setting up home together. Although we didn't know anything about it until it was done ! Typical !
We could have helped, and as it turned out we all did, but that's for later !


River Cart in full flood !
So the last major event for me that year, was when the river Cart, running along the back of the garage, decided to flood. It's a poor picture, I know, but you might just get some idea of the extent of the flooding when you realise that there is usually a gap of 5 or 6 meters underneath that bridge ! 
If it hadn't been for us building a wall to link two of the buildings,the garage would have been a meter deep in water. As it was it was just about to come in the windows ! Fortunately the tide turned and we were saved.
Years later, at huge expense, a series of high bankings were put in place along the River Cart hopefully to avoid situations like this.


We'll see !!


Next year, more cycling and more Alistair Rickett !