As I am the only person to have done all fifteen GPOs, (none of the organisers can claim that), they sent me a free ticket this year, but, as I had to get a lift there, (in the middle of a six-month ban) I felt it only fair that I paid for Mac to get in, thus eliminating any financial incentive I may have had for going.
I had been warned about Mac's - erm - unique riding style beforehand, but I was still getting worried about how close the cars and, more importantly, lorries were getting as we streamed though the jams in the pouring rain. Mac's cry of "Don't worry, the umbrella is the widest bit, and it's still clear", (Mac brought a golf umbrella with us, although we never used it), calmed me down a bit, until my bag hit a lorry on the exit from the M1, destroying a packet of crisps. I would be the first to admit, however, that I am not the world's best driver, or I would not be in need of a lift, so maybe my opinion doesn't count for much in this area. I decided that the adage "out of sight, out of mind" fitted the situation, and spent much of the rest of the journey with my eyes shut, opening them only to direct Mac the last couple of miles to the site.Luckily the rally was in almost the same place as last year, so I could find it without the map they sent, which fell apart in the rain the first time we needed to refer to it.
We arrived - surprisingly in one piece - around six-ish, and booked in.
Most organising clubs provide an information slip upon arrival, just so everybody knows what is happening at what time. The Barrel Bikers provided what could only be described as a brochure. This detailed not only the planned events, but also contained a potted history of the 14 previous GPO rallies, (which mentioned me!), and provided the menu and pricelist for the catering tent.
The steady rain had now reduced to showery, so we got the tent up between bursts. Mac, due to his cold, then decided to have a nap. I, meanwhile, went to the marquee to see if anybody I knew had arrived.
While I was there the organisers started laying straw down due to the muddy ground. This could only mean one thing - straw fights later on!
After a time some members of the Gatecrashers Trail Bike Club turned up. These were the other three founder members of the Four Eyed Gits MCC that I unsuccessfully tried to start up recently. They decided to walk down into Shutlanger to The Plough Inn, so I decided to go with them, as I knew there was a phonebox nearby, and I wanted to let a certain someone know that I had arrived OK. As it turned out, one of them was also on a ban, but as it was for drink driving I wasn't too impressed with him.
After a couple of hours or so we decided to head back to the field. When we got there the band - Smeggin' Blues Co - were just starting their second set. They were awful! They definitely needed a change of vocalist - preferably one that could sing in tune with the rest of them.
Soon after our return Mac surfaced. He didn't even know I had been away. He soon got chatting to the Gatecrashers about trialy/traily type things. Mercifully the band packed up, accompanied by a great cheer from the audience, and the disco restarted.
There was evidence that several straw fights had, indeed, occurred, (bits of straw sticking out from jumpers, etc), and brief struggles continued to occur every now and then, right up to closing time. Admittedly the bar never actually shut as such, they just put up a sign saying "Closed" but carried on serving for as long as there were customers.
Those who felt so inclined sat around the bonfire awhile, as the rain had cleared. There were a group of Scots there, one of whom stood solemnly clutching a cassette player that pumped out a bagpipe lament before he went to bed.
I managed until just after 3am. Mac, due to his rest earlier, went not long before, and was still awake when I retired. He says I kept him awake later with my snoring, but I'm not convinced.
I awoke Saturday morning, close to the side of the tent, the airbed having slid down the very slight slope we had camped on, and it was raining again. I wandered over to the marquee to get a bacon sandwich for breakfast while Mac tried to catch up with the sleep he says I lost him. The rest of the morning was spent talking to old friends and associates, and walking around the field looking at interesting bikes, whenever the rain let up for a minute. I couldn't go on the run out, under my own power anyway, but it was soon time for the silly games, held in the marquee due to the weather.
Mac decided to enter nearly all of them, but entered as part of the Northwest London MAG teams. There were some changes due to the altered venue, such as 'musical bikes' played by the 'riders' on piggyback, (much cheating when the 'bikes' helped the 'riders' find the cans of beer in the straw).
The throwing contest consisted of throwing a paper bag, (more difficult than it sounds). Mac showed initiative during the pillow fight by rugby-tackling his opponents, (see photo), but this was not appreciated by the referee.
Later on I took it upon myself to lead Mac to the Plough via the direct route across some fields - not the best decision due to the mud everywhere - on the way back we kept to the road. When we did return, after Mac had beaten me twice at bar-skittles, the marshal on gate duty informed us that there was a pub just a couple of hundred yards away down the canal path. Why couldn't he have been on duty when we left? The Plough was at least two miles away!
Luckily we managed to get back just before that night's band - The Peartree Bridge Family started. I say luckily because they were great, all stuff from the 60s & 70s. All the things that were wrong with Friday night's band were right with Saturday's. Well-known songs played competently, (and sung in tune), with subtle apropos alterations to the lyrics.
The straw fights continued and even a couple of real ones started up, but the organisers quickly calmed these down. The various trophies were handed out, and there was a raffle. I don't know when they were selling tickets, but I was never sold any. And so it went on. I even managed to get a compromising photo of BMF President Steve Bergman.
After the band played their last song, the night followed the pattern of Friday, ending up around the bonfire. One of the guitarists from Friday night was leading a sing-song, which was quite enjoyable, Why he wasn't singing the night before instead of the alleged singer is anybody's guess. When Mac went to bed at about 2am, I felt it was only fair to follow suit, so as not to disturb him too much later on. In fact I was disturbed myself a couple of times during the night, by Mac dropping his leather jacket onto my head in an effort to stop my snoring.
In the morning, as is usual with this type of weekend, it finally stopped raining. In fact the sun was shining, and the outlook was for a nice ride home. I can only assume this was the case because, although the traffic was a lot lighter than Friday, I kept my eyes shut for most of the trip again.
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley