Tuesday, 18 September 2012

1992

Our Dave and Donald Blackbourn at KM152 at Drumlanrig Castle in May 1992.
1992 is a bit of a blank for me, no real highlights or major tragedies. I suppose that I was beginning to relax a bit more and enjoy life as best as I could. At last I was realising that some of the grand schemes  I had were not going to happen. I wasn't going to make a fortune from the garage and I wasn't going to be able to retire when I was fifty. It was going to be hard graft from now on and it wasn't going to let up. So my feet were beginning to touch ground. "Not before time" some people would say !

After the usual, rather sombre, festival of over-eating and drinking that was Christmas and New Year the first thing Sandra and I did was to get in touch with a local Alexander Technique teacher. For Sandra, this worked wonders ! She'd suffered really badly with back pains for years. Doctors were of little help. The best they did was prescribe painkillers and offer to go in with the knife....with no guarantees, of course ! But the Alexander Technique made Sandra realise that she could take control her body and she was in charge, not doctors. Don't worry, I'm not going to go into Alexander Technique in detail, all I'm going to say is that it was one of the most beneficial things that Sandra and I learned that year. Even now we still remember the principles and use them when necessary.




Marisol Rodriguez ashamed to be seen with this contraption

Winter that year was pretty dreich I remember, it was nearly Easter before I could get out regularly on the bike. The previous winter, on a mad whim, I'd bought a second hand Moulton bicycle from old Davie Black, one of the plotters from the allotment beside the garage in Cathcart. It was a 1965 model, very basic but complete with tartan rear carrier bag. Of course I paid far too much for it as it was now considered to be a "collectable". If I hadn't been so hasty I would have soon found out that I could have got one practically for nothing by joining the Moulton Owners Club, which I eventually did....more of that later !
I wanted to refurbish it but put in a few worthwhile updates at the same time.
 OK, this part can get seriously boring, so if you're not into bicycles skip forward to the next bit after the photo.

Right, still with me ? First I got the frame powder coated red and then bought some nice 16inch alloy rims and a new Sturmey Archer five speed hub. I fitted a new sealed bottom bracket bearing and a nice new alloy crank set. The front wheel was built up easily enough with stainless spokes and a new 28 hole Zeus Q/R hub.  Building the rear wheel with the Sturmey Archer hub was tricky but I managed it. This took most of the year to do because very few parts were available from local bike shops and this was before the internet.So it was mostly done by phone calls and letters.
In the meantime, jammy Alistair had been given, free, a Moulton Speedsix which was the model that I would have killed for at the time !


A really bad photo of Alistair and his Speed Six

 Alistair got it from an old cycle club member who'd stopped using it because tyres had become unavailable and it had been lying in his garage for nearly twenty years. So late that summer there were two new recruits to the Moulton Owners Club !
Right we'll leave this and come back later.





 Normal people will be wanting to know what was happening back at Minard.

Ricky, Mary and Natalie at Easter Bonnet Party in Minard

Easter ! and at last some sunshine and less rain ! For Mimsie this was always an excuse for a bit of a do. This year she decided to have an Easter Bonnet party, more like a bloody Mad Hatters ball if you ask me. But you can see by the photos what sort capers went on !


Elaine Rose and baby Gillian.
 It was good to see our cousin Elaine Rose with her wee girls, Natalie and baby Gillian. We'd missed Elaine Rose. She was so like her mother in many ways and always good company.





Alistair and Marisol setting up camp at KM152 Cycle Rally

For the May Bank holiday I persuaded the usual suspects to come with me to the Kirkpatrick MacMillan 152 Cycle Rally held as usual in the grounds of Drumlanrig Castle. We were lucky with the weather, no rain.  Alistair and Marisol, Andy and Maureen, our Dave and the Blackbourn twins were in our party. It was the first time most of them had ever been to a cycle rally and the KM152 was a pretty off the wall event with a mixture of hard core racers, veteran cycle freaks and the usual green eco-warriors....and us of course !


A Kirkpatrick MacMillan look-alike on a replica machine.

The camping was fine, nearly everyone turned in early and like good sensible middle-class folk, the campers were very considerate about other campers. So no noise ! Apart from one unknown couple who indulged in a bout of vigorous haughmagandy. Even the catering was fine. We ate in a marque that looked like it had seen service on the North African Front in WW2, but the food was fine, mainly vegetarian.And we had the use of the toilets in the Castle for washing and evacuating. It was quite civilised compared to the York Rally, but then again there weren't as many people there. We met a nice family there who gave us some tips about going to the York Rally in June. Have a good crap before you go and just save it till you get home !
Dave and his French wife and two wee kids were a nice family and we all took to them. Dave had a very nice lightweight trike and none of us had ridden a trike before. So he offered us a shot on his trike but warned us that we would either find it dead easy or very difficult. Alistair and Andy jumped on and right away just flew up the road, did a flashy drift turn and shot back. No bother at all ! They were naturals. It was a different story for me. Two pedal strokes and I was nearly in the bloody ditch ! The damn thing seemed to have a mind of it's own. Dave said it wasn't uncommon, that I was probably thinking too much about it and suggested that I tried to fool my brain by crossing my arms. This might help to cancel out the sensory inputs my brain was getting and it would stop me over-steering. Now remember, I had been on a totally vegetarian diet for the last couple of days. So there I was, surrounded by the usual suspects and Dave and his family, concentrating like mad not to fall off a three wheeler, when I let rip a monstrous fart ! From that moment I became an H M Bateman character...."The man who farted while learning to ride a trike !"
We still keep up with Dave and his family on and off although Dave has probably married and remarried several times in between.



The Usual Suspects on a ride out to Sanquar.

Another character we got in tow with was Shite Foot Vinnie. Fortunately we managed to shake, or scrape, him off ! This was, kind of like most of us, a "nouveau cycliste". He tagged along with us on a group ride out to Durisdeer to see the incredible tomb of a Duchess of Queensberry. He seemed to have taken early retirement from Glasgow Council or some other big organisation which had probably tried for years to get rid of the sod and eventually just paid him to go away.There's a lot of people like that though, isn't there ? They do very little but moan and complain about everything but ask them for a solution and it's the usual "That's no ma job !" 
So here's me moaning about malcontents. Well, I would have a nerve if I didn't have a solution. Shoot the buggers ! Don't waste time and money, just shoot them, society will be fine without them !
OK, wee rant over, back to Shite Foot Vinnie. He was just called Vinnie at this point. I must admit he did impress me by being able to translate the Latin inscription on the tomb. He didn't impress anyone by his constant carping on about how he'd been ripped off when he'd bought his bike. It was supposed to have 21 gears but not all of them worked according to him. We tried to point out that because of the very nature of derailleur transmissions, compromises had to be made. But " No, no, they telt me it had 21 gears and if they don't get it sorted I'm gettin' a lawyer tae them!"
I think the term for someone like him is a "Vexatious Litigant" 
Anyway, after we'd come out of the tomb, Vinnie was blethering so much he never noticed a huge pile of fresh dog turd and stepped right into it up to the ankle ! Instead of trying to clear it off there and then he decided he was cycling back to the camp where he could wash his shoe, and sock and leg. Of course, he then smeared it all over his bike and made a right mess of it. As soon as we were back on the road all of us, without a word being spoken, got our heads down and pedalled like mad to drop him. But there was a tailwind and we could still smell him half way back to the camp. We later heard that he went away in a huff after complaining bitterly to the rally organisers about the amount of shite lying about, and "Can ye no get something done aboot these coos ?" Back in Glasgow, we heard through the cycle trade that he'd got fed up with the whole thing and had given up cycling and was going to take up walking. Pity the poor ramblers !




Meanwhile back at Minard, somehow or other we managed to get a lodger. Looking back, this should never have happened, or at least it should have been nipped in the bud !
I've already mentioned Lucy's beau at the time, John Neil, a thoroughgoing, waste of space ! I shouldn't have minced my words then so I'm making up for it now. To us he was always a sort of shy almost furtive presence. No personality whatsoever ! We couldn't understand what Lucy saw in him at all. But we gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought that perhaps his quiet personality would balance Lucy's. At this time he was working, I use the term loosely, in Safeways Supermarket as an assistant manager. So we're told ! But it turns out that he's being bullied, because he's a Freemason, or a Protestant or whatever, and his parents don't love him ! So Lucy decided that the best thing would be for him to lodge at our house temporarily so that he could get away from the terrible influences from Airdrie and maybe get a new job and then get a flat of his own in Glasgow, and then go to college and get qualifications to get into university, get a degree, get a fabulous job, become rich, get married , have at least four kids.......the whole fantasy !!
So Lucy gave up her room and moved upstairs to the wee maids room instead of him moving there. Lucy's room was never the tidiest, always a sore point with Sandra,but the very first thing the idle sod did was to turn it into a bloody health hazard. Bottles, cans, half empty bottles and cans, half eaten bits of food and takeaways and god knows what else soon mounted up. And of course he immediately gave up his job ! It was the smell that alerted us. Till then I often didn't know he was even there. I was beginning to think that the shyness thing was going a bit too far because we all remembered how a girlfriend of our Ricky's had carried on a number of years earlier. She'd managed to alienate him from his family while living under the same roof, so we didn't want this happening again! But Lucy always managed to make excuses for him. He's having a hard time just now adjusting to being away from his parents, you don't know the psychological damage they've done to him, he just needs a few weeks on his own to get his head together, maybe a few months ?
So like bloody idiots, there we were putting a roof over his head and feeding him and allowing him to loaf about as he pleased. He never once offered to help with anything. Keeping the room clean, helping Mimsie, doing anything at all was just beneath him. No wonder I give our Grandson Richard such a hard time, I dread that he'll turn out like his father.
I actually asked him out for a couple of beers occasionally, to see if I could strike up any kind of relationship with him. I took him once to Michael Heraghty's Golden Star, a fine old fashioned men's pub, but he was so overwhelmed he was overcome by paranoia and we had to leave early.So the next time we went to the Old Toll Bar at Paisley Road Toll as it was a bit quieter and you could usually find a corner to sit in and carry on a conversation in a normal voice. A total waste of time ! And anyway, after one pint he turned into a gibbering drunk and all he went on about was how the whole world was against him, his grandparents, his parents, the Freemasons, everyone ! I learned later that he was taking huge amounts of pills prescribed, not by a doctor, but by his mother. Depressants, antidepressants, painkillers, the lot. And he also probably swallowed a bottle of wine before we went out !
I'm ashamed to say that I let this go on for months, I should have told Lucy that this just wasn't acceptable. Fortunately Mimsie had the sense to collar him one time when he crept out of his lair and told him straight what a waster he was and demanded to know just exactly what he intended to do about himself because we weren't going to put up with a cuckoo in our nest any longer.
He upped and bolted back to Airdrie to his detested parents within the week !
Enough of that blackguard for now, believe me, there will be plenty more to come about him !!


About this time I fulfilled an ambition of mine. I cycled from Glasgow to Carlisle in a day ! As I kid I remember reading accounts of hard riding tourists and was always taken with the idea of riding to a different country, in this case England.
On my British Eagle Touristique, I set off at 7am and rode through Rutherglen, Hamilton, Larkhalland turned off towards Douglas and then followed some minor roads to Sanquar. Then it was straight down the main road to Dumfries and then pick up a network of minor roads running parallel to the A75 and crossing the border near Gretna. A few miles along the A6 , no Motorway then, and I was in Carlisle and heading for John and Irene's in Talbot Road. At that time I had a lot to learn about endurance cycling. I'd done about 120miles in 10hours, but I'd not eaten properly. So when John and Irene fed me the rapid rise in my blood sugar level nearly caused me to pass out. Fortunately I managed to hide it as it would have caused a bit of an upset in the Dunn household. Once my body chemistry stabilised I was fine and slept like a log that night !





Our Dave at York Rally

Then it was off to York for my first of many trips to the Cycle Touring Club's York Rally. This was the biggest gathering of cyclists in the UK and has been going since the end of the last war.
I certainly didn't know what to expect despite what Dave Pullinger had told us at Drumlanrig Castle. But it was great ! I really enjoyed it. The trade tents were perfect for picking up bargains and I met for the first time Steve and Allison Mundie at the Moulton Owners Club Stand. Remember I was in the throes of rebuilding the Moulton I'd bought last winter. I also was introduced to Bob Jackson who was a real character and told us some hilarious stories about his visits to the United States selling British Lightweight bikes in the late sixties and early seventies.


Happy campers at York Rally

 I also caught up with Ron Kitchen whom I'd met at my first KM151 Rally a couple of years previous. His book "A Wheel in Both Worlds" is well worth a read if your interested in early 20th century social history, not just cycling. He in turn introduced me to the famous Beryl Burton. So there you are, my claim to fame, I had a nodding acquaintance with Beryl Burton ! We also, amazingly, bumped into Dave Pullinger in the toilet queue.
Oh, those toilets ! In those days there was one line of toilets for thirty thousand people. It was just as well that in those days cycling was by now a decidedly middle class slightly left wing thing to do.


Enthusiasts returning from a church service in York Minster.

So, especially at the York Rally all those pleasant, if quaint, values were on display. Courtesy, consideration, moderation and a sense of fraternity. Very High English, but with Scots, Welsh and Irish wholeheartedly welcome. My attitude to York Rally was to enjoy it, this was a nice class of people, and they're disappearing fast ! 








French guests at Minard

Just before Sandra and I went off for our summer holiday, we had guests from France. Blandine and Ghislaine had brought one of their friends Frederic to visit Scotland. Frederic is a real character and we all took to him instantly. So apparently did Ghislaine ! I think Mimsie acted as a bit of a matchmaker while they were with us, as very soon we heard that Ghislaine and Frederic were an item, as they say.




Ghislaine at Minard





Now, I've no idea how we were talked into this, but Marisol mostly, had come up with this idea that we would all just love a week cruising the canals of the Western Midlands in a Barge ! So we signed up, Alistair and Marisol, Andy and Maureen, myself and Sandra and Donald, one of the Blackbourn twins. I had a memory of the canals from when I was a kid growing up in Wolverhampton and tried to disabuse the girls of the notion that it was going to be a cruise from quaint teashops to picture book shopping stops.


This is how the girls thought it was going to be...

 I tried to explain to them that canal cruising is as slow as treacle running, but they didn't believe me...at first !Well, we drove south and picked up our barge at Stourport on Severn and after a 10 minute course in barge driving we were off !




Look at the size of the damn thing !

The first thing we did was to ram several other barges and run into the lock gates. Then the weather came on to rain just as evening set in. No one was going exploring looking for a nice restaurant that evening so it was beans and sausages in the galley that night.
The weather was better the next day and breakfast afloat was made 
quite hilarious by Alistair frying his hand in a hot frying pan.This was caused by some one at the tiller ramming the bank and throwing Alistair off balance, the only thing to stop his fall being a hot frying pan !


Alistair nursing a fried hand....

I think it took us two days to get to Wolverhampton and a pace like that definitely put the tin lid on a tour of the Midlands. By this time mutiny was rearing it's ugly head. Will I describe the toilet ? OK, I won't ! All I'll say is some people went on a liquid diet because of it. One chemical toilet for seven people for a week ? Doesn't bear thinking about ! And the shower was a real laugh too, it would go from boiling to freezing in seconds. You knew someone was using it by the screams !
 In Wolverhampton we got the cludgie drained out, while Sandra and I were wondering about jumping ship and going to stay with some of our relatives. We could have had comfy beds, good food and plenty of Banks's beer....and proper working flush toilets ! It was a close thing for a while.
When we were getting our training on barge handling what they did stress was that it was possible, if not probable, that the propeller would get clogged by weeds or debris at some point. Well that's exactly what happened later that day.


Donald Blackbourn just before the trouser leg incident.

 We were using a less-frequented stretch of canal to get us to Birmingham when the barge shuddered to a halt. We opened the hatch above the propeller, reached down and pulled away handfuls of weed. Once the prop. was clear off we went again only for the same thing to happen a few minutes later. So we slowed down a bit hoping that we wouldn't get clogged again when the bloody barge slowed down. It was Andy's turn this time, so he gingerly fumbled about the propeller. Next thing, he howled out "It's a f***ing leg !!" as he pulled out a pair of trousers filled up with, as it turned out, weeds and water ! At first he thought that we'd come across evidence of a gangster killing and dismemberment. Not so, but we all decided that the last thing we wanted to do was fall into the canal.
I was actually enjoying myself, I'd decided to just switch off and go with the flow. But I know that the girls in particular were dying of boredom by this time. It shows you how bored they were when they got all excited about a trip to the Cadbury Factory in Bourneville. I skipped it and contented myself by getting quietly drunk !


What I did when they were at Cadbury World !

Eventually we pulled into the centre of Birmingham at a big sort of barge marina. We decided that we could surely find somewhere civilised to eat within walking distance of the barge so off we set. Alistair will have fond memories of the Italian Restaurant we eventually found. It was actually OK, the food was good and not too expensive. But someone had ordered one of these dishes on a sizzling hot cast iron platter, and just as the waiter was setting it down on the table Alistair turned round and branded himself on the ear with it! Oh how he squealed ! Oh how we laughed !


Birmingham Canal Marina

There was more hilarity to come though. We staggered back to the barge to bunk down but forgot to check that the barge was moored fore and aft. Andy, always an early riser, was first up the next morning, found that we were only secured at the bow, and that during the night the barge had swung out and was blocking the canal. So naturally enough, he thought he would pull the stern back in towards the bank and secure it. However, as he was drawing the barge in, he noticed some ducks and ducklings in danger of being crushed between the barge and the bank. As he leaned in to gently kick them to safety (?) he overbalanced and fell in with a monstrous splash and a few ripe curses ! It was the splashing and cursing that woke everyone else.  Now, Andy'll admit to having a rather volcanic temper at times, and this was one of those times ! So while he was in the hot/cold/hot/cold shower nearly everyone else scattered from the barge to a distance where we could laugh our heads off. It was days before Andy could see the funny side of it himself, but now, I'm sure he remembers it being as funny as some of the other stunts that holiday.
Then there was a time when we had to sail through a mile long tunnel. Jings, that was creepy ! but even worse was the diesel exhaust fumes ! We were all just about sick with it and never so glad to get back into the open.


The Scary tunnel ! That white spot on the left is the end of the tunnel !

At this point we were running a bit late because we had to get the barge back by a certain time. One of the problems we had was that we had to navigate a stretch of the River Severn which was tidal and this meant that the lock into the marina at Stourport was going to be closed at a certain time. But between us and the River Severn were the Tardebigge Locks ! This is a series of thirty locks, felt like three hundred ! over two and a quarter miles and drops you a couple of hundred feet. We had hoped to clear them in an afternoon but had to give in as darkness fell.We were in the middle of nowhere but it was our last night together on the barge, and we thought a celebratory drink was called for. According to the maps we had, there should be a pub nearby and sure enough there was a solitary light showing in the distance. So we got ourselves together and set off towards the light. Only to find, an hour later that it was an outside light on a barn ! It was even worse going back because we hadn't left a light on in the barge to guide us back. When we eventually got back we were all to tired and grumpy to do anything else but collapse into our bunks !
Which was just as well, because the next day was as near to a dash as you can get in a barge. Navigating the canal barge on the Severn was pretty hair-raising but we managed to negotiate the last lock gate with minutes to spare.


Andy opening the last lock at Tardebigge.


I'd brought my bicycle with me in Sandra's car because I was intending to ride from Stourport on Severn back to Glasgow stopping in at Wolverhampton and Carlisle on the way home. The ride started off well enough and I made good time to Wolverhampton, actually beating Sandra in her Honda ! It was good to get back to civilisation at Aunt Muriel's house ! Somehow or other we got press ganged into attending one of our cousin's kid's christening....weird ! So as Sandra set off for Glasgow, all on her own ! I set off for Carlisle. I felt kind of wabbit after a while, so rather than doing the ride in one long day, I stopped for the night in a B&B in Warrington. The next day took me over the climb of Shap in the pouring rain and by the time I reached John and Irene's I was pretty done in. I told you I still had a lot to learn about long distance cycling ! I dumped the bike in John's garage and next day took a train home. John dropped the bike off the next time he was in Glasgow.




 Next thing, back at Minard, we were busy getting ready to attend a couple of weddings. Mimsie was in her element ! She just loved weddings, especially if she'd made the cake ! And she'd made both of the cakes for these weddings.

Aunty Rena, Donna, Uncle Alec, The happy couple and Mimsie's cake.

The first one was Aunty Rena's youngest daughter Lorraine marrying a fine Irishman, Tom Butler. Rena excelled herself and put on a grand reception at the Glasgow Hilton. A good do it was too !


The arrival in style ! Donna, Natalie and Nicole....Thanks Donna !

I don't really know how we were persuades into this, but Dave, Ricky and I ended up dressed as refugee bandsmen from a sectarian flute band ! Well, it was better than monkey suits, wasn't it ?
The photos will describe it better than I can....


No, this isn't the band !





















Mary, Aunty Rena and Elaine Rose
A rare photo of cousin Russell Gill and our Dave
Ian McLeod, Marie and Sylvia McLeod.





Then there was a wedding in Chester With My cousin Ronald McLeod and his fiancee Catherine. To be honest, this was a gloomy sort of affair, the weather was poor and the atmosphere just wasn't comfortable....shame !
Ronald was the youngest son of Mimsie's cousins Ian and Sylvia McLeod. As I've probably mentioned before, Ian I could take or leave, but Mimsie was always obliged to be civil to them. I couldn't help feeling that they were using Mimsie for their own purposes. But anyway Mimsie always said "Family's Family !" so we had to go along with that.
Cost me a bloody fortune that wedding did, pity I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Lorraine and Tom's !
Anyway, here's some pictures....

Myself,Sandra, Mimsie and Dave at Chester
Ronald and Cathy McLeod with the cake that Mimsie made.





We'd just recovered from that then it was our Lucy's 21st Birthday.
As you can see from the photos this was during her somewhat Gothic phase !


Mimsie,Elaine Rose and Lucy, and another one of Mimsie's cakes.

For me it came as a bit of a shock, I still thought of Lucy as our wee girl. But here she is all grown up. Jings, did I blink and miss something or do most parents get this ?





In early October, Alistair and I, the two new Scottish members of the Moulton Owners' Club travelled south to Bradford-upon-Avon for the annual rally at Alex Moulton's stately mansion.


Moulton Hall  The Rubber Baron's Lair


This was our first time, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Even the B&B we stayed in was full of character. Our room actually overlooked Alex Moulton's Archery Lawn ! Alistair and I often shared a room when we went away to keep the costs down but the thought frequently went through our minds, "maybe they think we're an item ?" Neither of us could have cared less what they thought, but sometimes when it was becoming obvious that this was the assumption, and to prevent any awkwardness, Alistair would put them right. If my memory is correct, this was the time when Alistair was down first for breakfast and the wifey asked if his friend would be joining him, with just that little hint of an emphasis on "friend". " Oh sure" he replied, "but he's not my friend, that's my grandfather, and old people need their sleep !" 
The joys of maturity !


Tom Simpson Memorial Plaque at Moulton Hall

The Rally was great fun though, we made quite a few new friendships. Alistair even offered to buy Alex Moulton's Citroen ! We weren't in the actual house itself  (and never will be, after the incident a few years later !) but the grounds with the bike factory and personal museum were fascinating. It was a weekend of  English eccentricity of the highest order. There were definitely scenes straight from Alice in Wonderland in it. The Mad Hatter's tea party comes to mind !


The Great Man, Alec Moulton himself on the red bike


On one of the afternoons, we hired a couple of the then new Moulton APB's and rode to Bath and back along the Avon and Kennet Canal path. Lovely afternoon, full of lasting memories ! 
I enjoyed it so much I actually bought a new Moulton APB for myself within a few weeks. At the Moulton factory in Bradford-upon-Avon they make uber-expensive bikes like the Moulton AM range. A surprising number of them go to Japan. You wouldn't get much change from £5000 buying one of these ! Even second-hand they're worth a fortune. But the APB was made by Pashley in Stratford on Avon and although it had most of the features of the more expensive bikes it wasn't hand made and much more affordable. Actually I was more attracted to the APB because of the wheel size, 20inch, rather than the odd 17inch. This meant tyres wouldn't be a problem !



My Moulton APB in it's 2012 guise

I've still got the APB and still ride it fairly regularly....an interesting machine ! I'll maybe write a history of it for another blog someday ?


Back in Bonnie Scotland, the weather at the end of the year turned quite nice and we had our last drum up at Camerons Muir in late October.

The peculiar coming-and-going photo
Lighting the fire for the season's last drum up on Cameron Muir


I even managed to get Sandra out on a bike for a while. She quite enjoyed it but she wouldn't ride regularly because of the traffic. I couldn't blame her. Why is it that the lower orders of society, especially behind a steering wheel, hate cyclists so much ? This has always struck me as a peculiarly northern trait. The further south you go the less obvious it becomes. Strange ?


Sandra and I after a wee run on the bikes

In this photo you'll get a glimpse of Lucy's Skoda Estelle. I bought this for Lucy from Ian McGivern for several reasons. 
At the time, Skoda cars were an object of total derision. This was before their take-over by Volkswagen and their subsequent reincarnation. This was the original Czech built, rear engined, basic Estelle. Cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, comfortable to drive, these cars were in my opinion, superior to the iconic Minis and Morris Minors and even Citroen 2CV's.


 They didn't have an Image !
That was the problem. So I wanted to impress upon Lucy that a car is much more than an image. Depending on the amount of money you're prepared to spend, does it do what you expect it to do ? Sure, for twice the money I could have got her a VW Polo or something like that, but it wouldn't have had four doors, it would have been more expensive to insure, more likely to be stolen and would have been more expensive to maintain. At that time Skodas were so cheap that they were throw-away cars. If the worst happened, you just disposed of it and got another one !
I know Lucy's heart sunk when she got it, but pretty quickly she changed her mind and if you ask her nowadays she'll tell you that she got to appreciate the car for what it was. She was actually quite upset when a few years later it was run into and destroyed one evening. But it didn't break the bank !!


This brings us up to Christmas, always a pain in the arse as far as I'm concerned ! I've never been a good gift giver. I can never tell what people would really like as a gift. Especially with Sandra ! I once bought her a fine pair of fur-lined boots for Christmas and got the bloody cold shoulder and the evil eye for months ! If I just went out and bought the first thing that came to hand, I was accused of being heartless and uncaring and the present was taken back and exchanged. If I thought about it and worried myself sick choosing something it was still taken back to the shop for exchange. I can't win ! So this year I asked straight what she wanted. "Oh, a bag and a pair of gloves !" she replied thinking that there was no way I was going to turn up on the day with the right gloves and the right bag.
Well, I got her this time, I bought her a pair of boxing gloves and a punch bag !


Sandra about to use her new gloves

And she loved them !


P.S.  After Sandra had read through this she reminded me that creepy John Neil, when asked by Mimsie why he was still infesting Minard, replied that he was there to protect Lucy because she was scared of her Mother.....!
Over to you Lucy !


That's all for now folks, you shouldn't have to wait so long for 1993.