Pointed Nipple Rally
Free Spirit Riders MCC - Downham, January '98
I knew that the traffic would be awful going to the rally - the M25 is always terrible on Friday afternoons. I also knew that 4:30pm is possibly the worst time for attempting such a road - but, as I finished work at 3:30 and wanted to get started as soon as possible, (so as to get as good a pitch for my tent as possible), I had little choice. At the other end of the motorway, however, I had to keep referring to the map the organisers provided, as I was unaware of the area, and took a couple of wrong turns, (one caused by the map having the wrong pub name on it).
I found the pub that the rally was being held at and booked in, then had to carry my tent and stuff into the field, the bike remaining in the car park. This is when my non-detachable panniers become really annoying. It's a good job the bikes weren't allowed onto the grass, as the ground was extremely wet and muddy - the organisers must have scoured the area to find a ground just like the one at their old site.
The rally proper was held in the 'Tudor Barn' across the car park from the pub, where there was a small bar, but no food was for sale, or even allowed. It was also not as warm as the pub, so the migration of people from pub to barn was rather slow, some remaining where they were until chucking-out time, which was 11pm prompt. The disco pumped out some good music though, mostly old favourites, with a few modern ones thrown in. Outside, instead of the promised barbecue and bonfire, there was just a brazier. This was, however disappointing, at least well supplied with wood.
When I finally got up on Saturday morning, (after a mostly sleepless and very cold night), I spent most of the morning wandering around, chatting to people I hadn't seen in ages, and looking at some of the interesting bikes. I had purposely avoided breakfast, despite being quite hungry, because of the extortionate price the pub landlord was demanding. I assumed that at lunchtime, when more of his regulars would be in the pub, he would be charging more normal prices than he was when it was just us around. This appeared to be the case, as a steak & kidney pie with chips & peas cost around the same as the plate of lukewarm beans, bacon, and other unidentified fried objects, which seemed to be the only variety of breakfast available to those willing to pay for it.
As is customary at many pub-based rallies these days, there were no silly games Saturday afternoon. I should have used the time to go to the nearest supermarket and buy some reasonably priced drink, but I just couldn't be bothered. I passed the time talking to people at various points around the site, some in the middle of the bikes, some over by the brazier, (which the organisers promised would be a barbecue that night - so long as we brought the food to cook). But mostly I drifted between the pub, (huge gas log fire), and the barn, (huge gas-powered radiator).
As the evening drew on the disco started up again, by way of variety this was supported by a group. Most of the stuff they played went down very well, especially with the guys crowding down the front to get a good look at the female singer. During the break one guy's club decided that, as he escaped being properly 'christened' at his first rally, some years ago, it was time to do it now. He was led, partly willingly, outside and well doused with beer, flour and eggs in the time honoured tradition. He was allowed back in only after brushing most of the flour off.
Then we all went in for the rest of the band's set, marred only by the landlord who insisted on interrupting the last couple of numbers to announce last orders and such. We had to be out of the barn by 11pm again.
So there we were, standing round the brazier once more. As nobody had got any food to cook, or maybe the organisers hadn't managed to get a barbecue, we just burnt more wood. I don't think I'll be returning to this rally unless it returns to more congenial surroundings in the future.
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley
Footnote: - One of the organisers tells me that they had no idea the landlord was charging such high prices (didn't any of them buy a drink all weekend?)