Thursday, 20 December 2012


Bligny in Champagne Region.

OK, from memory this year started off wet and windy but mild . I remember distinctly going out on long Sunday morning runs in January on the Moulton APB. I'd set off from Minard, pass Ibrox Stadium and head out to Renfrew. From there, I'd take the Greenock Road to Bishopton then turn past the Monkey House and climb over the old road to Kilmacolm and then turn back via Bridge of Weir, Houston and Renfrew, a distance of 55km. And it was always into a headwind ! But when I turned and headed for home I absolutely flew with the wind behind me. Rather ambitiously, I'd intended to try riding the qualifying runs for the next year's Paris-Brest-Paris  1200km Audax Cycle ride.  I would have to qualify by doing a series of 200km, 300km, 400km and finally 600km rides before the end of July that year. Well, it didn't happen. What with pressure at work, poor weather, lack of motivation and God knows what else, I missed the first 200km ride in March and then the 300km in May. So all I could do now was to try and do the whole series of rides in a fortnight while I was on holiday in France in June. I must have been mad !

End of January and it was Mimsie's 65th Birthday. We couldn't let that pass without making a bit of a fuss now, could we ? Aunty Rena and Uncle Alec were all for it ,especially Rena ! I doubt very much whether it was a surprise or not but Mimsie enjoyed it, possibly a bit too much ?

Mimsie and wee Gillian at Mimsie's 65th Birthday
One of the few cakes that Mimsie DIDN'T make.
Uncle Alec, Elaine Rose, Mary and Alex McKay
Elaine Rose with Mimsie and Natalie both looking a bit worse for wear !

Right now, this next bit's going to be quite technical so just skip it if you're not really interested in cars and garages and that sort of've been warned !
Back at the garage,things were getting quite serious. We'd made a deliberate decision to concentrate solely on BMW's even if it meant turning work away. As you can imagine this was not easy, but we had to do it if we were going to get anywhere as BMW Specialists. After much deliberation, I decided that we needed better diagnostic equipment. Cars, especially BMW's were getting more and more complicated and we needed all the help we could get. Since the introduction of the BMW E36 Three Series in 1991, all BMW's were being fitted with a form of On Board Diagnosis which meant that fault finding needed some sort of computer. Ideally, we should have got a BMW Service Tester machine but that was out of the question. Even if we could locate one for sale, it would have cost £40,000 !  Instead we went for what we thought was the next best thing, a Snap-On Counsellor. This, including a built in state-of-the-art gas analyser and printer, was going to cost over £12,000. Could I justify it ? Would it pay for itself ?  Time would tell ! 
Things had changed drastically from the times when practically the only electronic component in a car was the condenser in the ignition system.

Old fashioned Distributors with points and condensers, but no Lucas ?

Diagnostic tuner with analog Oscilloscope, great piece of equipment in it's day.

 Now all I had to do was to find enough work to pay for Andy and Stephen's wages, the mortgage, the insurance, rates, electricity, payments for the van, tools and equipment and now the Snap-On Counsellor ! And if there was anything left I could have some too.

Snap-on Digital oscilloscope similar to ours. Good tool, but rapidly became obsolete !

Part of the package with buying the Snap-On Counsellor was a four day training course on using the machine....supposedly! The course was in Basildon, Essex in March. Alistair Rickett, kindly gave me a loan of a Lancia to drive down in, otherwise I'd have been turning up in the Suzuki works van. Nothing wrong with that really, but it would have been pretty miserable sitting for hour after hour in a wee Suzuki van ! So Alistair's offer of a bit of luxury was kindly received. Because I could dismantle my Moulton APB into two parts just by removing one bolt I took it with me hoping to get some training in while I was away, perhaps even cycle in to the training centre ?  When I got to my digs, the Barge Inn in Battlesbridge, I quickly realised that this was not safe cycling country. Even what used to be quiet lanes were used as high speed rat runs most of the time. I managed a couple of hours on the bike but that was about it, there was no way I was going to cycle in to Basildon !  It seemed to me that the whole area was being destroyed by cars. I can't describe the feeling of claustrophobia that came over me when I was there, it was horrible, just horrible ! This wasn't the first time I'd felt that there were far too many cars on UK roads. Something, don't ask me what exactly, but something was being destroyed, and what I was seeing there in Essex was the future for nearly everyone.......Get me out of here !!

The course itself was a bit of a waste of time. It covered the basics of diagnostics but no expert guidance on the use of the Snap-On Counsellor, as a matter of fact I don't even think there was one there ? There was another trainee in the same digs as myself and he was not at all pleased with the quality of the course. It would have been fine for a second year apprentice level, but we were looking for something much more advanced than that. So not only was I bored to tears during the day,in the evenings, I had to put up with this guy ranting about what he was going to do to his Snap-On dealer when he got hold of him. 
I remember most of the training courses I had been on. Most of them were really good. Indeed, all the BMW courses in Bracknell were first class. Not like the Borg-Warner automatic gearbox training course in Birmingham years before ! That was pretty poor. I remember thinking how filthy the place was and the attitude of the trainers was dreadful. Borg-Warner automatic gearboxes in those days were a piece of cake but they had a dreadful reputation for being impossible to fix when something went wrong. It's not that they were hard to fix, it was just that you couldn't get the bloody parts !

This is NOT a BMW workshop !

The BMW courses were in a different league. The training workshops were immaculate and the instructors, even Ivan the Terrible, were inspiring. I was doing an advanced electronics course  with Willi Reisner  the instructor, when I needed a couple of centimetres of electrical cable to make up a link and was looking  under the workbenches to see if there was some scrap cable lying about. "Herr Weaver, what for do you look ,"
"I'm just looking to see if there's some scrap cable lying about, Herr Reisner"
"Herr Weaver, this is a BMW workplace, we do NOT have scrap of any description lying about ! Scrap goes in bins ! There is a man here who's only job is to keep the floors clean, if you need cable you go to Parts Department and request cable, you do not have to search !"

This IS a BMW workshop with a classy old BMW 3.0CSi on the ramp. Check the floor !

And apart from the theory, on a good course you picked up lots of good hints and tips from the other trainees. I remember one Arab guy from Oman showing us all how to fix the problem with glowing alternator lights on BMW 7 series. Officially the remedy for this was very expensive and involved replacing a big chunk of the engine wiring harness. But the alternative cure that this guy had devised was so simple and effective it was eventually adopted as an accepted BMW repair technique. I think he eventually got an award, the equivalent of £500.00, from BMW Munich. BMW were good to have dealings with in those days, they had a deal of respect for engineering. Nowadays, I fear it's stylists and accountants that run BMW....mark my words, the bubble will burst eventually. Look what happened to cuckoo clocks !

Mimsie, John Harrison and Sandra at Alex and Elaine Rose's Farewell do in the Hundred Acres in King's Park.

May 1994 and my wee cousin Elaine Rose, her husband Alex and their two wee girls, Natalie and Gillian left for Australia. Mimsie said " I feel as if I've just got you back and now you're away again " We were all sorry to see them go but it was the best thing they could have done for the children. I know they had it very hard at the beginning in Australia but they've done well....because they've worked hard !

A rare photo of cousin Russell Gill with Dave and myself at Elaine Rose's and Alex Farewell do.

Last ever photo of Mimsie with Natalie and Gillian.  May 1994

End of May and Alistair Rickett and I went to  Drumlanrigg Castle for a Kirkpatrick MacMillan Cycle Rally.  Alistair had been feeling a bit low as he'd  split up with Marisol Rodriguez towards the end of last year. Shame, because he was more than fond of her, but it just wasn't going to happen. For me, the saddest part of it was how some people took sides which I didn't think was fair, it was between them, no one else, as far as I was concerned. But he's a good man Alistair, you can't keep him down too long and he was lucky to meet Diane Dawson who was with us on the weekend. The weather was pretty poor so we only really got one good run out of the weekend. But it was pretty good ! We were climbing the vicious 1-in-5 hill out of Moniaive to Tynron and nearly everyone got off to walk at the steepest bit. I was determined to stay in the saddle and was grinding away through a red mist when I heard a voice behind me. "By gum, this is a stiff 'un !"
I looked over and saw Fearless Frank, an old lad in his seventies from the north of England, riding a decrepit old three speed Raleigh. As he drew level with me, I could see that he wasn't even breaking sweat, whereas I didn't even have enough breath left to reply.
" I'm not walking because of me bad foot, you understand, but I'll wait at the top!"
Sure enough, I'd noticed that Old Frank had a bit of a limp but didn't realise that this gave him difficulties walking. He definitely didn't have any problem cycling by the way he sailed past me !
I eventually caught up with old Frank waiting at the top, and when the others arrived and we started down the equally steep other side, I found out why they called him Fearless Frank. He just flew away from everyone ! What a demonstration of downhill riding ! Amazing !
But I'll never forget the look on Diane's face as she negotiated the downhill.....I wish I'd had a camera then. It was a look of total terror. She was riding a bike that Alistair had got for her and when I asked her how she was enjoying the ride she said "Fine, but I just wish I had a bike with brakes !"
I think that this was also the last run we ever had with "Pinky."
John Pinkerton was a hugely influential character in the Veteran Cycle world, and a really interesting character. He died a few years later but his influence is still felt because of the publishing organisation he set up specialising in cycling history. Fascinating stuff .....if you're into that sort of thing.

Middle of June and I get a phone call from John Dunn in London. We've got a visitor. Someone I last saw boarding a Freddy Laker flight to America from Prestwick Airport twenty years ago.
Ronnie Marr !!
Apart from a few letters and the odd (!) phone call we hadn't had contact for twenty years. 
Ronnie was a good friend since 1967, the week after Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band came out. Alan Spence was coming round to our flat in Battlefield on the Saturday night and he asked if he could bring along a friend he'd made at Glasgow University.
Alan and Ronnie turned up, Ronnie looking brilliant in a pre WW2 Royal Naval Surgeons uniform jacket with all the gold braiding and crimson ribbon on the cuffs. And of course a bottle of vodka in the pocket !  But no briefcase at this point ! 
Well, we hit it off right away, I could see what Alan meant when he said he was "interesting". He could be hilarious too !
I remember him saying at that time that we should all have a potted history of ourselves printed on a card so that we could hand them out to new people we met. This would mean that we didn't have to waste time finding out the basics, we could just proceed straight to Hilarity!

Ronnie Marr in 1967 watching some silly sod strangle a set of bagpipes.

There's an awful lot I could say about Ronnie, and I almost certainly will, given time !  But just now I'll try to concentrate on what happened when we met up after a gap of twenty years.
Ronnie had met up with John and Irene Dunn in London and they were travelling north to Carlisle, so it was arranged that I would drive down and collect Ronnie from their house. I remember walking in the back door to the kitchen in Talbot Road and there was Ronnie looking practically the same as when I'd seen him last.
He was still Ronnie Marr, totally unchanged, still the same droll sense of the ridiculous. It was as if we'd just met after a couple of days absence.
It was great to see him again !
So I drove him back to Glasgow to his sister Janice's house where he was staying.
Janice, we hadn't seen for years either, but here she was married with three boys and living in Bellahouston, practically round the corner from us. And it was great to meet up with her and Gordon  too!

Mary wondering "How did he end up here ?"

Sandra and I, along with our Dave and Ricky and Mary had booked a Gite in the tiny French village of Bligny in the Champagne Region for our summer holiday and we were due to travel that week. It was the first time that I can remember myself and both my brothers being on holiday as adults. It was going to be interesting, decidedly so ! 
Especially as... now, I still don't know how this happened..but Ronnie was with Sandra and I as we drove south to Hull to catch the ferry to Zeebrugge , and next thing we know he's on board sharing a cabin with our Dave .
It just seemed to be one of those things that often happened when Ronnie was involved .
Sandra and I both remember back in the sixties before we were married, Ronnie would finish work in the Glasgow Stamp Shop on a Saturday and he'd come over to my mother's flat in Battlefield for his tea. We'd spend the rest of the evening listening to records, talking nonsense and drinking the odd bottle of sherry. Then we'd walk over the hill to Shawlands for Ronnie to get his bus home to Househillmuir Road in Pollok. But we'd be blethering so much that we frequently got on the bus with him to carry on the conversation. Not only that, when we got to the terminus in Pollock, and Sandra and I were getting the bus back to Shawlands,instead of Ronnie going home, he would get back on the bus again with us still blethering.
Next thing we'd know was Ronnie's back in the flat in Battlefield unpacking his pyjamas, cravat and silk dressing gown from his briefcase and getting ready for bed !
This was a regular occurrence in those days, so it was hardly a surprise to find that he was coming to France with us too.

Well, any ideas I had of serious cycling went right out the window. To hell with that, I'm just going to have fun ! 
And we did. 
What a riot that holiday was !

Ronnie, Mary, Our Dave, Ricky and Sandra just getting started, by the looks of it !

Sandra determined to track down the Phantom Soup Maker !

I don't know what the funniest bit was, whether it was Sandra and Ronnie playing hunt the soup pot or Ronnie having us in absolute stitches doing a stand-up routine whilst doing the ironing, or him "stealing" the complimentary mints from the restaurant.

"Who on earth belongs to THESE ? "  The Iron Duke in full flight.

The time I showed our Dave a field of cannabis was hilarious too.

The Field of Cannabis.
Dave's reaction to it !

As was the time Ronnie got Blandine to model some of his feather Mardi Gras masks.

Blandine modelling one of Ronnie's masks.

Or how about the time we all went to Troyes to meet Blandine at the station. We were waiting in a cafe at the square and decided to have a drink while we waited.
"What's that you guys are having ?"
"Ok, Garcon, I'll have beer too....with ice, please"
"Ah Messieur, on ne prend pas de glace avec de la bière !"
"What do you mean, no ice ? Dammit, I'm an American and if I want ice in my beer I'll have ice in my beer !"
So " Garcon" comes back and hands me a beer, hands Dave a beer, hands Ricky a beer then hands Ronnie a beer.....with NO ice, then hands him a small dish with ice in it.....and not a word.
 In effect, if you want to have ice in your beer, you Philistine, put it in yourself !
"Garcon" got a round of applause from us all for that, even Ronnie.

Ronnie waiting for his beer ......"with ice please !"

And then Ronnie develops toothache so we take him to a dentist in Bar-sur Aube. After the extraction, the dentist is writing out a prescription for a course of antibiotics. At the mention of this Ronnie goes a bit wobbly and gasps "that means no drinks, doesn't it ?"
"Messieur, this is France, of course you can have drink, a few glasses of wine with your repas is necessary, is it not ?"
I thought Ronnie was going to kiss the dentist, and he did !

I must admit, looking at the photos and casting my mind back to those days I'm horrified at the amount of drink we got through. Thank goodness we've all cut back a huge amount since those days.
If I had all the money I'd spent on drink....I'd spend it on drink !
No, not really,  but Colonel Rawlinson would.

Did we drink ?  Damn right we did !

A great, great holiday ! We still talk about it. And who would have thought then, that we would be back to practically the same place six years later ?

So back to Glasgow, ready for another stint.
We had Ronnie round to Minard for a mad Sunday dinner. Mimsie was delighted to see him, he always was a bit of a favourite with her.

Although I'd abandoned any plans for doing the qualifying runs for PBP that year I did a few shorter Audax runs.
The first one was a 200km CTC Birthday run from Hurworth-on-Tees across the Pennines to Langwathby via Alston, one of the highest towns in England. A stupendous run ! I remember nearly falling off my Moulton with shock when I caught a glimpse of my heart rate as I was climbing to Alston.  190 bpm !! I should have been dead !  Mind you, there were a couple of bits on the return leg where I might very well have been dead, I was going so slow.
However, I did it, just within time and got a medal.  And lots of memories.

Then there was the Kellogg's Tour of Britain Cycle Race making a rare visit to Glasgow. Ian McGivern and myself took some time off work to drive up to the Campsies to watch the race go through. Very low key compare to what we saw during the summer of 2012 !

Ian McGivern at the Tour of Britain in the Campsies.
Ben Luckwell  (I think ?) leading the stage of the Tour of Britain in the Campsies.

After that it was a lot of social runs with Alistair Rickett and his new friend Diane Dawson. Wee Di was a treat, unlike Marisol, she was a good cyclist. And by now she'd got a bike with brakes ! So we actually got some good, long, interesting runs in.

Di Dawson and Alistair Rickett on a run to Samye Ling Buddhist Temple from Lockerbie.

Towards the end of the year, Alistair and I persuaded the girls, Sandra and Di to come with us to the Moulton Owners Club meeting in Bradford-upon-Avon. We would spend the weekend there and then a couple of days in Bath, seemed like a good idea.

A couple of Moulton afficionados and Alistair Rickett at Dr Moultons courtyard.

Well it was, mostly. Apart from the fact that we got put out of the Moulton Owners club !
Nothing to do with me, by the way ! It was mostly Alistair and Sandra that caused it, and Di just encouraged them. 
I turned out that the B&B we were staying in in Bradford-upon-Avon was owned by the wife of Alec Moulton's Private Secretary. We didn't know this of course, until later. There were a few other Moulton enthusiasts with us in the dining room that morning when Alistair and Sandra started wondering why Dr Moulton had never married ? And of course, came to the conclusion that he batted for the other side. Then the conversation got really ridiculous. They started to speculate about some of his behind-the-veil activities. And with Dr Moulton's family association with the rubber industry and his inventiveness they decided that in his wardrobe there would be rubber suits and other rubber items the like of which had never been seen in public before.....and probably never would !  By this time, half of the dining room was in fits of laughter. But the other half, bloody po-faced lot, were hurrying away as if they'd found themselves in the company of heretics.
And I couldn't understand why the B&B wifey had all of a sudden turned grumpy and was fairly banging down our coffee pots.
But we'd all had a right good laugh, not just us, but the rest of the folk that stayed in the dining room. So off we went to spend the rest of the day footering around the grounds of Dr Moultons estate and looking round the factory where he made the really expensive Moulton bikes.

Alistair  leading out the group run to Laycock on his blue Mk lll Moulton.

Eventually it was time for the Moulton Owner's Club Annual Dinner which was being held in a function suite in Bradford-upon-Avon. We were early and got ourselves seated at a long table almost in front of the top table. We were joined at the table by a bunch of Moulton Fan Boys who had very a similar attitude to modern day Apple computer disciples. Totally blinkered !
Actually they were a bunch of f*cking arseholes ! But I'm usually pretty tolerant of people like that, I'm not going to have to spend the rest of my life with them and they're harmless really. The kind of eccentrics that you'd avoid given the chance. They were there early because they wanted to get as close to Alec Moulton as possible. They tried, in their Asbergery kind of way, to have a bit of a conversation with us, but it was about the world of Moulton  and nothing else. Alistair was explaining to one group that while he enjoyed riding his Moulton, he also enjoyed riding other kinds of bikes and on the other side one guy was asking Sandra what kind of Moulton she rode. You could actually feel them drawing away from us as if we had the plague, especially when Sandra said she wouldn't be seen dead on a Moulton. But the clincher was when Sandra asked the rest of them if they'd ever ridden a REAL bike. 
Jings, talk about an awkward silence !
At this point Alec Moulton and the rest of the top table started taking their places.The fan boys grabbed this opportunity to start talking amongst themselves.
"Oh look, that's Shaun, his great nephew, and there's his personal secretary ! Oh, and look, the personal secretary's wife pointing at this table and she's saying something to Alec ! Oh dear they don't look very pleased, have we done something ? "
So I couldn't help turning around to see what they were on about. 
There she was, our landlady from the B&B, muttering something to Alec Moulton and the whole of the top table glaring daggers at us !
Oops !

So maybe it wasn't too much of a mystery when we never got our membership renewal forms in December.

Di, Alistair and Sandra outside John's Bike Shop in Bath.

The next organised cycling event was a short 100km Audax run in Fife that I did with Alistair and Wee Di. I'd fitted really fast Haro slick tyres to my Moulton for this run and they really were fast but jings, they were noisy ! Alistair and I were descending a long hill into Falkland at a fair rate of knots and passed quite a number of fast riders. At the bottom of the hill as we regrouped one of the rides said "Christ ! I just froze when I heard you two coming up behind me on the descent. It sounded just like a peleton on tubular tyres going flat out. I couldn't believe it when it was just the two of you that passed me, I was expecting thirty or forty riders to go hammering past me !"

Brevet card from Fife 100km Audax run.

A good run though, good roads, good memories !

So really that was about it for the highlights of 1994. 
Mimsie seemed to have settled down at last and I didn't worry about her as much as I had done earlier.
Ricky and Mary seemed to be doing just fine in their flat in Paisley.
Ricky had eventually left House of Fraser and was now working for a Swedish organisation called Miller Bathrooms. He now had a company car and was having to do a lot of driving all over Scotland and even the north of England. What he didn't like was when he had to fly to some of the Islands and land on beaches and main roads ! But he seemed contented apart from that.
Sandra was still at S&D Properties and I was busy at the Garage. 
It still felt as if more money was going out than was coming in though !

So let's see what next year would bring....Lucy has an announcement to make and we find a hidden treasure in Minard.

Keep reading !

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