Simmer Dim Rally
18th June 1990 - Islesburgh MCC
On the MONDAY, after making my way from my sister's place in North Wales, (282 miles), I met up with my club and some other 'Dimwits' at Kinross Services, where the party could start again.
It turned out a couple of us were having silencer troubles. Both of mine were patched up with that paste substance which never lasted for very long, no matter what you did with it, and another guy had jubilee-clipped an empty, perforated, Coke can to the end of his pipe.
As was the custom, we set up our tents on the grass verge in the services enclosure, (it was still allowed back then), and trekked into the nearby town's pubs until chucking out time, whereupon we could get a night time coffee at the services' café before bed.
On TUESDAY, it was a quick 100 mile blast to Aberdeen, via a lunch stop at the Finavon Inn, (now a Café/Hotel), where we installed ourselves in the Hazlehead campsite, a Council run place just to the west of the city, (no longer running). This being a proper campsite, it had a laundry room, which was handy if you had been on the road for a few days, as most of us had. From here you could catch a bus into Aberdeen centre to visit any of the pubs, or eating-houses you should wish.
On WEDNESDAY we had a much more relaxed schedule. The ferry terminal is only a five-mile hop away, and we don't need to get there before noon. However, since there is a pub just outside the harbour gates, and it is open all day, this seems to be quite an attractive place to go to wait before loading the bikes onto the boat. Once the interleaved activities of loading bikes and consuming beer have been sorted out, the time comes, (about six o'clock), when we are required to get on the boat ourselves. Many people head straight to the bar, others to their cabins, (if they could be bothered to shell out for one), or just sorting out a place to stow your gear where there should be enough room to crawl into when the bar shuts.
On THURSDAY morning we woke up to see Fair Isle drifting past the window. Nearly there now! Just enough time to grab a hearty breakfast from the on-board café. After unloading there was a twenty-mile trip to the rally site, which didn't take too long due to the island's 'relaxed' attitude to speed limits, (and the almost total lack of police). After checking-in and getting our badges and beer-tokens, we put our tents up and helped the organisers put the marquee up, so they could begin the festivities.
First on the agenda was the Boot Party, seen by many to be a thinly disguised attempt to consume as much alcohol in the shortest possible time. Since this can cause a little, erm, stomach upset among the participants, it is not unusual to see a more than usual amount of vomiting performed by those seated around the table. This is because missing your turn, for any reason, will incur a fine. Swiftnick, from Derbyshire, was well known for drinking a bottle of food colouring before the contest, to add some variety. This year, it was green, as can be seem from the photos. Others preferred the natural approach. The winner is declared to be the one still drinking at the end.
After the wreckage was cleared away there was a bit of a barbecue, (basically, partially warmed-up food recently cooked in the kitchen. Before the evening entertainment started, there were a few hours, during which we could do what we wanted. For some this included watching some football match on an extremely small TV set.
At some point in the afternoon there appeared a device known as the 'dust-pipe'. One was supposed to blow down a tube into a container at the end, from where a nozzle appeared, which propelled a mini windmill-type attachment. Why one would want to achieve this function was never explained, it was just one of those things that we had to do. The owner of the device showed how easy it was, so several people tried to do it as well, after having examined the thing carefully. Each of them got a face full of powder from the container. What everybody had missed was that there were two holes at the end of the pipe that went into your mouth. One of them led to the nozzle, and would turn the fan. The other led to the container full of powder, which was pushed out of another nozzle into your face. Once you knew which hole to cover with your tongue as you blew, the messiness stopped.
The evening slowly, but surely, staggered into life and people danced, consumed even more beer, and possibly even sang. Some people from 'the North' performed a strange form of mating ritual, involving slowly bumping their stomachs into each other, for quite a while, which didn't seem to establish anything. All rather baffling really.
FRIDAY happened at some point during the party, but this didn't seem to stop people drinking. However many times I go there, I cannot get used to going to bed in broad daylight. A few hours later, Swiftnick, who had apparently recovered from the effects of the food colouring, was performing the time-honoured ritual of rebuilding the bike in the car park, presumably to adjust whatever may have gone out of line on the trip up. Due to the early hour, the only audience seemed to be a couple of gulls, so I left them to it.
It was a bit of a dull, wet day and, when people got back from the run around the island, a pillow-fight game was constructed over the muddiest spot in the marquee. As you can imagine, this ended up with quite a few messy people wandering about. This was just the start of the day's party, so nobody really minded.
Several hours of drinking later there was the still-popular clothing-removal games, for which some people demanded to be made wet first. This was followed by several hours of even more beer and music, mostly in the hall, but some still in the drier parts of the marquee.
More people were rebuilding parts of their bike on SATURDAY, with the help of the amazingly well-stocked corner-shop, that must have also had a workshop around the back, as they managed to replace the entire drive mechanism on a Norton.
This was the traditional Silly Games Day, when we were also visited by the local Viking Squad and Vintage Motorcycle club. During the day we were regaled by traditional folk music and dancing in the hall, which is always helped along by the Vikings, who also help with drinking the beer.
One thing the Vikings do not get involved with is the first rallyists' initiation. There are usually quite a few virgins at this rally. They are herded into an exclusion zone and tied together by cling-film. Then vast quantities of brightly coloured evil smelling gunge are thrown over them, along with the traditional flour and eggs. Everyone is then given a few hours to prepare themselves for the trip into town, for today is the day of the Simmer Dim carnival.
Coaches are laid on to ferry us down to Lerwick and, hopefully, back again thereafter. This is a fairly standard carnival type event, with a procession and a massive town-wide pub-crawl. I spotted a tourist with a camcorder who obviously thought we were as interesting as the procession. After visiting a few pubs in town - guess what - it's back to the hall for more partying.
This, unsurprisingly, carries on well into SUNDAY morning, and only really stops when we are turfed out of the hall so the organisers can set it up for the final lunch and prize-giving.
The morning is also spent packing up our own camping gear and helping lower the marquee. After a while it is time to relocate to the harbour or, more accurately, the bar of the hotel opposite the harbour, (or, if you prefer, the cafeteria in the terminal building).
At around 5:30, we are loaded into the ferry all in one move - none of this back-and-forth we are subjected to at Aberdeen - and repeat the stow-gear-and-stake-a-claim-in-the-bar-area routine. Pretty much all the cabins are booked well in advance for the homeward trip, many people wanting some assured sleeping space to prepare for the long journey they probably had the next day.
The party wasn't quite so 'hearty' as the trip up had been, but we kept on into the small hours as usual. The 'homeless' made do with any chair or floor space we could find, and probably had as much rest as the cabin-dwellers. My club was only going as far as the west coast of Scotland, so we didn't need that much rest, anyway.
MONDAY throbbed into existence, with the thrum of the engines as we approached the mainland, with just enough time for another hearty breakfast in the café before we docked. Upon disembarkation, we all assembled in the harbour area, our group heading west towards Balmacara, instead of south this time.
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley