Simmer Dim Rally
13th Simmer Dim Rally - Shetland
Unlucky for some
Tuesday 14th June 1994
Yes, it was the thirteenth Simmer Dim Rally and, therefore, my thirteenth trip to Shetland. Perhaps that is why my bike got destroyed beforehand. Whatever the reason, I was on a hired bike for the run up to Aberdeen; a Honda CBR1000. (That photograph was taken in Aberdeen.)
Entirely the wrong sort of bike for me, but it was the only large bike I could hire at such short notice, all the Gold Wings were already booked. Once I got used to being bent double, I found it quite easy to ride for the first 300 miles or so, then my back started hurting.
With occasional stops, including lunch at Kinross services, (traditional stopping place for Simmer Dimwits), thanks to the speed of the bike, I managed to get to Hazlehead campsite, west of Aberdeen, in 10hrs 30mins, certainly a record, (for me, at least). I had to keep my speed down to 110mph because the air turbulence was making my luggage wobble too much for comfort.
One thing puzzled me on the journey, they have taken a string of roads between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, upgraded them to dual carriageway, and renamed them A90. This would have been quicker if I had known about it, (my maps were out of date), but I had already planned my route along the A92 coast road, and didn't find out what they'd done until the A92 unexpectedly turned into the A90 at Stonehaven.
The rest of the evening was spent hobbling round with a 'John Wayne' type swagger/stagger. I stayed up until most of the other Dimwits got back from the pubs in town, though Nev, Mandy and Ian said they had only gone down for a meal. The only other club members attending were Chris & Chris and their kids Hayley and Tim.
Wednesday. The others hadn't seen the bike I had to bring, so they were quite amused the next morning when they saw me loaded up and crouched down, ready to go to the harbour. Ah yes - the harbour.
They thought, since I had been there so many times before, that I would know my way straight there. I realise which road I should have taken, but I relied on some signposts, and got us totally lost in the middle of Aberdeen.
Luckily we found some locals who pointed out the right way, and we rode in to a strangely deserted Aberdeen Harbour. The welcoming smell of fish and diesel was there once again. Since we were too early to book in, and it would have been silly to go to the pub just yet, we decided to emulate Julius Caesar, (almost), - Vene Vidi Vendum, (we came, we saw, we did a little shopping). We nearly popped into Pizza Hut for a quick nosh, but we knew the pub's food would be cheaper.
When we got back to the harbour there were a few more bikes there, but still not as many as I thought there should be. After an hour or two in the pub we wandered over to the kiosk at the harbour gates to book in, there were nearly enough bikes by now but it was obvious that numbers were well down on previous years.
The ferry trip followed the usual pattern, I fell asleep watching the film again, and we played cards into the wee small hours before crashing out. I found out that all the other club members had got themselves cabins for both trips, but I don't need such luxuries, (even if I could afford it).
Thursday. Soon after we docked most of us shot off to the Rally site. With our boarding passes we had been given a request from the police to keep our speed down on Shetland as locals kept having accidents. Some strange Norse logic at work there, (and no, I don't mean Scottish).
By the way, it is now advisable to do as they suggested, as the local police now have a radar gun, (just the one), but not many speed limit signs. Everybody ignored that police notice, and none of us had an accident.
We set up the tents, (I managed to rip a hole in mine), said our hellos, got our badges, and all the usual stuff, then went into Lerwick for some more shopping. Harry's Department Store and The Peerie Shop were visited as usual, ('peerie' is Shetland dialect for small), as was the Co-op, (you have to negotiate the only roundabout on the island to get there), then the others went off to find some jumpers, and I went back to the site.
While waiting for them to get back with my bits & pieces, (no carrying space on the Honda), I visited what had been just an unassuming local store for the last twelve years. It had been expanded somewhat, (Ian nicknamed it the Hypermarket), even more unlikely things were available. (People have managed to get parts for their bikes there before now). It was apparently the money the owner had been making from us up to now that enabled him to do it. Unfortunately building work and a new road through the field mean that we probably won't be there next year. (But we were told that last year as well.)
The Boot Party took its usual toll of rallyists, the only real change this year was when two of the locals decided that they didn't appreciate sitting on the benches provided and drove a car into the marquee, lined it up with the tables, and sat in comfort, (must have made dashing off to the loo a bit difficult, though).
'Swiftnick' from Derbyshire consumed his usual whole bottle of food colouring beforehand, blue this year, to produce brightly coloured vomit during the contest. Some people took exception to the car in their midst, and jumped up and down on it, quite heavily. 'Bat' from Watford was showing off his new tankard - it held four pints! (It 'disappeared' before the end of the rally.)
The survivors of what went before boogied on through the dusk, (remember - no night-time up there in June), helped by a few bands, some quite good, some awful!
After the bands go home, the bar in the marquee closes and the one in the hall opens, and the disco starts up. When I went to bed that morning there was ice forming on the bikes! (British Summer Time!?)
Friday. Having been unsuccessful in their search for jumpers on Thursday, the others set off once more. I didn't bother because it looked like rain and I didn't feel like getting wet as well as cramped. Later on some of my old colleagues from the ABC went to the Voe Tavern just down the road, and so, in between showers, I went down with them. It was here that John Hinckley, another of the four (mainland) 'full attenders', found that his cigarette papers had got damp somewhere, as they had all stuck together.
Back to the site again, and the barbecue this year included quite a large piece of salmon, along with the chicken, lamb, sausages, and burger. There were more bands in the evening, (there are a lot of local bands in Shetland, taking in many musical styles), with the usual pretty good/pretty bad mixture. One thing I noticed was the large increase in the number of people with camcorders.
One guy, from Bexley, had been dancing with a local lass. She left after a while and, having gotten completely rat-faced, he decided to go and find her. Her equally drunk brother offered to drive the bike, but managed to drop it three times trying to get out of the field, so matey took over, got as far as the first bend, quite a sharp one, and didn't make it. Slight bruising and a graze is all he suffered, the bike was a bit tatty before the accident and only slightly worse afterwards.
Saturday. Carnival day dawned, (almost), and again the weather was a bit rough, so I stayed at the site, checking over some of the more interesting bikes in the field, until the games started.
Because of the weather, the games were not quite as planned, indoor stretcher-jousting, which later changed to wheelbarrow jousting in the marquee, after one of the stretchers broke, (fifteen-odd people tried to get on it at once). The well-known drinking machine made its annual appearance, but I was more interested in the afternoon folk band, 'Hom Bru', who are very good indeed, and have toured the mainland more than once. The Vikings came around again, sang to us, drank more beer, and staggered off again, to sober up for the carnival later on, (even one of them had a camcorder).
We took one of the coaches down to Lerwick for the carnival, and took the time before it started to check out a 1914 Norwegian square rigged sailing ship, (Norway's oldest and largest), the 《Statsraad Lehmkuhl》, (no less!), that had arrived in the harbour. A sign indicated that it would be open to the public on the Sunday, so we made a note to go back while waiting for the ferry.
After the carnival procession we made our way to a cafe, where we could kill some time while we waited for the coaches to go back to the site. Everything on the menu seemed to be in batter! Unfortunately for Ian, the only food that was off was the smoked haddock, and that was the only one he wanted, but he made do with something else fishy instead. We couldn't stay there too long so we went to a pub we knew would not be too crowded, for a drink before catching a coach.
Back at the rally site the disco was in full swing as usual, you have to be fit to enjoy yourself up here!
Sunday. The organisers give you a little time to recover before serving the last meal, and giving out the awards, (Tim won 'Youngest Rallyist' at eleven months old), but then you are asked to help them take their marquee down. It had got a bit battered in the wind Saturday night, but this didn't hamper us too much. A bike had been put on the roof of the hall again this year, but as it belonged to one of the locals this time there was no rush to get it down again. (I still want to know how they do that with nobody seeing them and in the drunken state that they usually seem to be).
When we got down to the harbour we had a good look round the aforementioned 《Statsraad Lehmkuhl》 before settling down at the ferry terminal. When we got on the ferry I asked at the purser's office what video would be on that night. The purser gave me the choice! I chose a bit of culture - Much Ado About Nothing - mainly because I hadn't seen it yet. I didn't fall asleep during the film this time because I hadn't taken any seasickness pills, (mainly because I had run out), the only problem with that was when I started feeling quite queasy. I found that indigestion tablets worked almost as well without the drowsiness. Afterwards, since the bar had already shut, we just sat around for a short while before going to our respective sleeping places.
One amusing thing happened on the boat - one of the snack vending machines had developed a fault and was giving out each item for just 10p each. It was soon emptied. (Somebody told us that it had been like that on the trip up as well - though nobody told us about it then), several people were seen with pockets bulging with crisp packets.
Monday. As I had already taken more days off, in one segment, than was normal, I had to get home as soon as possible. This meant back in one day, much the same as the way up. At the end of the day, it took me only 9hrs 56mins. It would have been even quicker, but I missed the turn off for the Edinburgh ring road, and had to go through the city centre, (this, however, reduced the mileage considerably).
Armed with the knowledge of the road changes, I knew the route back should be easier. In England it turned out that I was stopping at the same garages that I had stopped at on the way up. At one of them I even used the same pump! There was one nasty moment, which still makes me shiver when I think about it. Whilst shooting down the motorway, I had a very minor coughing fit, nothing to worry about but it made my eyes water quite a bit. Then the wind, even through my goggles, caught this and made both my eyes sting unbearably, causing me to shut both of them, (this has happened to me before, but it usually affects only one eye, enabling me to pilot the machine to safety and deal with the problem). I forced myself to open my eyes in flashes, despite the pain, in order to filter back through the traffic, as I had been in the 'fast lane', to the hard shoulder, and sat there for a few minutes recovering from the shock.
The next day I took the bike back to HGB and got a cab home, arriving just as my hire car arrived from Avis, (cars are cheaper to hire than bikes, and even if the insurance will eventually pay for all the vehicle hire charges, I have to pay out first). Then I went to work - luckily I was on late shift. It felt like I had never been away.
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley
Now you've read the book and seen the photos, sit back and enjoy Phil's video.
Me and my mate Sy (who's going this year) rode over night from St. Helens, Lancashire to arrive at the port at 8.00am and the ferry only sailed at 6. We ended up in a pub in Aberdeen at about 8.30, having beer for breakfast, then into the pub on the docks till we sailed. Don't know how we did it but we did. The party lasted all week.