Simmer Dim Rally
20th Simmer Dim Rally 17 June 2002 Islesburgh MCC
At work, I was under a manager who was quite pleasant to work with, there was just one quirk that only exhibited itself after ten years. He preferred people to NOT have the same holiday every year. As soon as one of my colleagues mentioned he would like the same weeks off that I needed to take for the Simmer Dim, he was given priority, as I had taken that time for the last few years. Because of this, I was forced to miss the rally I had attended for fifteen years! After that, there was much less urgency the following years, as there was no way I could have made up for the missing one, so I didn't bother. Until staff changes and other things meant the opportunity resurfaced in 2001. Unfortunately, due to the Foot & Mouth outbreak that year, it was decided not to hold the rally, so it was postponed until 2002.
On Monday night, it is to my shame that I admit to not camping, instead resorting to a B&B near to the Dalwhinnie Whisky Distillery that I was visiting, as a friend had asked for a specific single-malt that I knew I could get there. It was also close to what was reported to be the most dangerous road in Britain, the A889, which appeared remarkably safe to me. Perhaps the danger materialised after visiting the distillery? My excuse was that the 544 miles took me 11 hours to get there and it was raining.
Tuesday, after visiting the two aforementioned points of interest, the sky over the A9 was somewhat overcast, but the rain held off and it was quite sunny at my second stop in Stonehaven. The campsite here was the last stop before the ferry, as the Council had shut down the Hazlehead campsite, to the east of the city, since I was last here. Quite a few other Dimwits used this as a stop as well, and there was soon quite a group of bikers next to the rows of caravans. This included a bunch of lunatic Irishmen, who provided a great source of amusement throughout the rally. The evening was spent in a harbour-side pub in the middle of town.
Another nondescript-but-grey Wednesday saw all the rallyists assemble in Aberdeen harbour. I parked my Norton Rotary next to Stuart Todd's. I put the fact that his was a lot cleaner than mine down entirely to the fact that I had to drive up from west London whereas he only had to get there from Thurso, several hundred miles nearer.
After a few hours in the pub just outside the harbour gates, (or wandering through the town, if you wish), we loaded the bikes onto the ferry, then back to the pub for awhile, then got ourselves and luggage back onto the ferry. And off we sailed into the North Sea just as the skies cleared, promising a smooth crossing.
Fourteen hours later, Thursday morning, after a trip that had, indeed, been smooth and peaceful, we arrived at Lerwick harbour. When we got to the site, in Vidlin and received our badges you could, just about, make out where the date had been changed. This year there was a special 20 badge for the three people that had done them all. I was no longer included in that group, of course, having missed the last four years. Much of the printing and badge designing had already been done for the last year, so the organisers - not actually the original Islesburgh MCC any more, just a committee - still used what they had with a few minor corrections and over-prints. It appeared the long-promised rebuild of the village hall/primary school annexe had been completed, which was always being mentioned while I had been going there.
As occasionally happens, the organisers waited for us to arrive, so we could help them put the marquee up. I, as usual, helped by taking photos of the operation. Afterwards, I went off for a little bimble, to see if much had changed in the five years since I was last there, but if there was a difference, I didn't notice it.
Back at the site, the first item on the agenda was the boot party which claimed its usual number of victims, leaving more room for the rest of us to boogie through the short night. The Irish contingent didn't appear to have been adversely affected by the boot party, despite participating fully in it and they were larking about all night, providing great amusement.
On Friday I went with Dave Cooper to check out the Iron Age structure 'Mousa Broch', (opinion differs as to what they were used for - house or fort?) which required a quick ferry trip, then back via an apparently disused MOD listening post.
After the barbecue, consisting of various barely edible charred animal remains, the party continued through the not-really-dark-at-all night-time and into the daylight.
On the Saturday, we had the customary Viking Invasion. I'm sure it's the beer that attracts them.
A particularly dangerous drinking game consisted of the participant/victim, having a clear bucket-sized device fixed over their head. This was then filled with beer, so the head was submerged and the clock started. I don't think anyone has drowned yet, nor managed to drink all the beer to avoid it. There was usually a shower of beer as the participant threw their body forward to empty the bucket and breathe.
There were also the traditional disgusting eating and throwing games, dizzy-sticks, tug-o-war, etc., for the rest of the afternoon. As the coaches into town for the Island Festival were now an added expense, (used to be included in the rally ticket price), a fair few of us didn't bother leaving the site and had a pleasant low key start to our festivities which got into full swing when the rest of the rallyists got back from Lerwick.
On Sunday, those who could be bothered helped the organisers take the marquee down before settling into the free lunch during which the prizes are given out. Then everybody shot off to visit any points of interest they may have missed so far and then headed down to the harbour to wait for the ferry. Once on the boat we all waved at the islanders, who waved at us, (no eggs or other missiles seem to be thrown in either direction any more), as the boat gently drifted away and powered off back into the North Sea.
Monday morning, another fourteen hours later and we nudged our way back into the parking spot and everybody rode off, either to continue their holiday or, like me, back home. I managed slightly better progress than the upward journey, covering 577 miles in just over 11 hours as opposed to 548 miles in roughly the same time a week ago.
In writing this report I found my list that detail the petrol usage and found that the cost was usually less than 80p/litre - and we were complaining about that!
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley
We were told that this would be the last year that P&O ran the Northern Isles ferry franchise after having run it for more years than anyone can remember. The new operators, Northlink, may be offering a discount scheme for the rally, but the details were still to be sorted out. At this point in time, they hadn't even built the boats that would be used. No longer would the Shetland ferry be called the St.Clair, (mostly tourists, alternating with the St.Sunnivar, which was more freight-oriented), as the last dozen-or-so had been, the new ones were to be called the Hjaltland and the Hrossey.