Monday 25 September 2017

A mixed weekend

Saturday morning saw a fine opportunity to get the oil circulating on the 750 Drum brake roadster, it was a pleasant morning, sun shining and almost warm. I had been abandoned by my dear wife as she was at a Yoga class probably learning the best position to kick start her Commando so I went solo to Queensferry, fine photo opportunity and a wee blether with some of the guys at "Biker Cove" one of the cafe's there.
Saturday afternoon we both went and got the sidecar outfit sorted out and its now for sale to anyone who crosses my palm with £6000.
Sunday and it was a bleak outlook, we donned the waterproofs from the off, I took the T3 with Fiona on the back as it was never going to be a pleasant run. Around Falkirk just past the Kelpies I spied George Martin and passed him with a wave just as the rain began, it turned quickly to very heavy and made riding the bike a dangerous hobby, because of the spray I could hardly see, why do cars insist on passing us then sitting in front at the same speed throwing up plumes of water to make us even wetter and make it more dangerous, some people need basic education out there.
I was surprised to see as many people at St Fillans and some nice bikes, the usual banter and met some guys I hadn't seen in a while, all in all a grand gathering of like minded idiots (who else would go out on a bike in that rain?) Eric Buick even made it from Arbroath, he must have been saving hard to buy the couple of gallons of petrol his BSA needed. Thanks to the Scottish Classic club for organising, unfortunately it clashed with the Distinguished Gentlemans ride so numbers were probably affected but it was good anyway despite the lack of anyone who was either distinguished or a gentleman! The ride home was wet, flooded roads, mental car drivers etc but we got home in one piece, not the best run I've had but I suppose its Scotland and our weather is crap so we have to put up with it!

Sidecar for sale
Could be yours sir....or madam
Commando at rest
Both sides at rest
Davids G5 Sans sidestand, somehow he lost it on the way, how you don't notice a 2 foot long sidestand falling off is beyond me.....
Our T3 with shorter but present sidestand
Nice Ariel Huntmaster
Enjoying the weather although I think David is in some kind of trance trying to figure out when he lost the sidestand
George's trusty A7
Pretty pretty
Not sure why Denis is smiling, it was very wet, Oh and surprisingly his bike started first kick
Plunger BSA
Laverda Jarama, cooking version of the Jota but a beast nonetheless 
Bill and Jim discussing how much a gallon of petrol was in 1968
It was bleak!

Sunday 10 September 2017

Yetholm Norton weekend

Another splendid weekend in good company, thanks to David for the organisation. We left after work on Friday for the shortish run down to the borders, traffic was hell on the Edinburgh bypass but to be fair most people made way for us so we could filter up the middle. The run down the A68 and then A697 was most enjoyable, the traffic all but disappeared and it stayed dry despite the ominous black clouds, we stopped in Kelso for something to eat and made it to Yetholm in time to get the tent up and give the midges something to feast on! Great to see everyone again and once again a weekend of talking nonsense and drinking, not a bad life at all. Waterproofs donned today for the run home but the rain wasn't too bad, just enough to get the bikes dirty again. Pictures paint the tale better than I can........

Fi decided to take the Guzzi
My bike ended up with ALL the luggage!
Enjoying a pre pub beer with the midges
Nonsense being talked
Rab finishes another
Norton talk
More Norton talk
Davey Johnson brought a Brough along
Not many of these lying around
Alans very nice ES2
Sandy arriving
Pretty town
A brace of Atlas's
Day visitor on a nice Triton with George probably asking why he spoiled a good Norton frame by putting a Triumph engine in it
Robin & Forfar John talk Nortons
George burning rubber
Interesting bike
All the way from Manchester area
Sun setting on John Powel's 88 
Forfar John's choice of weapon
Phils Commando
Nice campsite
Rab and Alex on a blind date

Monday 4 September 2017

Norton International and Euro mini tour

This years International rally was held in Belgium, near Staden in the Flemish region, we have a rally here every year anyway but this year it wasn't the "Begonia" it became the "International", the great thing was it attracted more people and Nortons than before but it was more expensive. Of course it doesn't help that the last time we were there the Pound was attracting around 1.4 Euro whereas now its around 1.05 or even parity if you go to some places so it felt expensive anyway. That said it was a fantastic weekend and as always it was very well organised and it was fantastic to meet up with our countless friends from Europe and even make a few new ones.
We left on the Wednesday just after lunchtime and had a meander down the A68, waterproofs were on but only the roads were wet and we avoided any rain, a stop at Corbridge for a late lunch and then on to Thirsk for a stopover at the campsite at Thirsk racecourse (recommended) . A pleasant evening in the local pub and a wee dram back at the tent to get the holiday started.
The following day we rode down the small roads Alan Clark showed us a couple of years ago, stopping at the same excellent cafe's, we even met friends of his at one of them and spent a while chatting bikes before heading to the port of Hull for the ferry. Phil and Jim appeared a while later having just left Perthshire that morning and we had a pleasant evening on the ship.
Disembarking from this ship used to take 10 - 15 minutes to get through passport control but the Europeans are determined to make us pay for Brexit so they now scan all the passports (which of course are scanned in the UK before you leave) and they have two lanes for the whole ship, it was ridiculous, at least 90 minutes if not more to get clear, thankfully it wasn't raining!
We stopped for an early snack at a small town near the port before wobbling down the back roads to Staden.
Lunch at Corbridge
Cool Cinema in Thirsk
Town clock
It's a nice Olde Worlde place
Hovingham breakfast
Good Bacon Rolls
Lodola which the owner described as crap!
At the port
Taking air on the deck
Busy place here
Leaving the UK behind
Church in Lissewedge
This represented a strange shaped woman's bottom
Fi and her bike
Jim and Phil ready for the road
Staden for lunch

We got to the rally after lunch in Staden, signed in and partied, talked, looked at bikes, fixed bikes and all the other things that rallies are about Until the Sunday, we also visited Guy and Anja who we met at the Scottish Guzzi Rally for a superb lunch on the Saturday, this part is better explained by pictures.
Guy's LM1 and home made sidecar (for carrying beer to Rallies)
Silly games, Fi in the thick of it!
Spent much of Friday evening with our new Italian pals Luciano and Tea
He was hoping the Norton tattoo would wear off before work after the weekend!
Fi getting ready for the kickstart competition
Hessel in good form
More of the Dutch guys
Getting ready
Now I am not a fan of lightweights but these two 400cc Electras made it here so that could be a first
Hans's bike
Our recently departed friend Raymond Fockedy's bike on show, nice touch
Yellow Peril bike, serious kit
Paul's very nice Norvil
And from the rear
Famous race bike
Pure class if you just look at the detail
Richard Payne's Commando, he won best Commando, matter of fact since I started going to Norton Rallies he has won the prize more often than not and he does ride it!

We said our farewells on Sunday and headed first for a night in Paris to meet up with my daughter who lives there, another nice night then on the Monday a surprisingly easy exit from the city to the small town of Honfluer in Normandy. Honfluer is a very nice seaside and harbour town, the inspiration for many artists over the years. We found the municipal campsite right on the outskirts and a 5 minute walk from the centre, it was nice, the temperature was 30 + Degrees so we stayed until the Wednesday. Wednesday of course it rained, the first real rain of the trip and although we complained we knew we had been lucky. We headed for the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, famous for being the first town liberated by the allies in 1944 and made famous in the film "The longest day" 
We started off on the small roads that follow the coast but in 2 1/2 hours we managed 28 miles due to the traffic (fecking Motorhomes!!!!!!!!!!) and got thoroughly soaked, Fi's Right Exhaust had come slack and for the first time ever I left without my exhaust spanner which turned a routine 2 minute fix into a bit of a pantomime. Eventually we parked up on the pavement and Fi found a huge rock, passers by must have wondered as they passed what the crazy guy was doing hitting the bike with a huge rock! I used a tyre lever as a punch and it held so that was a result, a few miles up the road we passed a garage which had some classic cars in the workshop so I thought I'd stop and borrow a hammer and drift just to be sure, the grumpy guy kept me waiting for 15 minutes and when I explained what I needed he said no and immediately shut the workshop doors! Thanks my grumpy French f*ck. I have noticed on my travels that 95% of people are brilliant and 5% are arseholes, he belonged firmly in the 5%.
We visited the museum in Sainte Mere and then booked into our caravan for the night (it was pissing down and it didn't seem expensive) then it cost an extra 22 Euro for sheets on the bed, we would have been better in a bloody Hotel, there was also a list of rules longer than the EU book of silly laws, nice campsite but don't book a van for the night!!
For the Thursday we booked a Chateau in Briquebec, only 58 Euros and a proper old Castle, owners were nice and the food was excellent but twice the price of the room.....ooops. The cafe across the road was owned by a nice guy who used to have a Mk3 Commando back in the day, still interested and showed us some photos of guys he knew who were racing on the Isle of Man, maybe we should have stayed there as he had rooms but we found out after the event.
Friday a short run to the Ferry in Cherbourg, very efficient but my God I think every English family were on the ferry going back, 3 hours of being in the middle of a creche, bloody nightmare. The exit in Portsmouth though was super efficient, all passports checked BUT they had more bloody staff on, take Note Zeebrugge port!
We stayed with Martin & Sue in Didcot but Sue was in London so Martin had to put up with us himself, later on we met his neighbour Geoff, another nice guy.
Saturday we had the almost 400 mile run home, it was sunny but the traffic on the M6 was hellish, roadworks, speed control signs, this country needs to get its roads fit for purpose, maybe a start would be to tax motorhomes and caravans to the hilt, that would help!!

So in summary, a great International, fantastic holiday, excellent to meet old friends and great to make new ones, mostly sunny and the Nortons were great, what more can I add.

Barges on the Seine in Paris
Sunset from our restaurant 
Lunch in Honfluer deciding where to stay
Old churches of course
Tower outside the campground
Honfluer, old and nice buildings
and in Black and White
The Harbour
This went like a fair........
Nothing better, sunshine, camping, looking at bikes, wine!
Entrance to the port
Monet took much of his inspiration from here
Pont Du Normandy, very impressive
Something missing?
Eateries were packed
Lat time we were here there were around 5 people!
Get thee behind me Satan
Interesting architecture
Paying homage at sword beach, statue of Bill Millin

Bill Millin was the "Mad Piper" who played allied commandos ashore under heavy German fire at Sword Beach in Normandy on D-Day, on the extreme eastern flank of Operation Overlord.
He was the only piper to lead allied troops into battle that day following a War Office ban which said pipers would attract sniper fire. But his commander, Brigadier Lord Lovat – Simon Fraser, hereditary chief of the Clan Fraser – was a law unto himself. "Ah, but that's the English War Office, Millin," Lovat told him. "You and I are both Scottish so that doesn't apply."
Millin recalled: "Lord Lovat said this was going to be the greatest invasion in the history of warfare and he wanted the bagpipes leading it." On the landing craft sailing out of the mouth of the River Hamble in southern England, "he said I was to play and he would worry about the consequences later."
The "Mad Piper" label came from both Millin's own comrades and the German defenders of Sword Beach at Colleville-sur-Mer, who said after capture that the only reason they didn't shoot him is that they thought "he must have gone off his head."
Although one man was shot dead alongside him on his landing craft, and he saw many of his comrades floating face down in the surf, he said the sound of his pipes drowned some of the gun and mortar fire. "I didn't really notice I was being shot at myself," he said. "The water was freezing. The next thing I remember is my kilt floating in the water, like a ballerina." He launched into one of Lovat's favourites, "Hielan' Laddie", as he waded ashore. Lovat, firing his old non-service issue Winchester rifle and brandishing a walking stick, gave him a thumbs-up.
On the beach, in the heart of the battle, Lovat asked him, "Would you mind giving us another tune, Millin? How about 'The Road to the Isles'?" Millin half-jokingly replied: "Now, would you also want me to walk up and down, Sir?"
"Aye, Millin, that would be nice. Aye, walk up and down."
The piper recalled the tremor of mortars in the sand as he walked up and down Sword Beach three times amid thick smoke and dead and wounded comrades yelling for medics. "When they heard the pipes, some of the lads started cheering but one wasn't very pleased and he called me 'the mad bastard'. Well, we usually referred to Lovat as the mad bastard but this was the first time I had heard it referred to me."
The Church in Sainte Mere Eglise , a dummy hanging from the roof representing John Steele who got caught wounded here in the invasion
Gliders that took the airborne division in
Mainstay of the US army
Bomber that took men and gliders in
Partroopers bike
John Steele, hanging around
Again from the campsite
Our Chateau in Bricquebec
Archway to the town
pretty place to visit
Queen Vic came for tea
Nice place to stay
Dining Room
Fi catching a nap before the ferry
Bikes at rest in Didcot
Saying goodbye to Martin and Geoff