Tribute October 2020.
From Jean-Francois Helias' Antelope report and tribute to Rodney Taylor.
Rodney Taylor, the Antelope club's greatest 'Ambassador-at-Large'
Whatever the weather, whatever the season, even on the coldest days, you could count on the presence of Rodney Taylor at any French rally to which he'd been invited. The harshest weather conditions never put Rodney off and his desire to take part in a good meeting never faltered. The distance didn't matter. He willingly devoured miles of tarmac on his faithful BMW flat twin to join friends for a weekend and party hard together.
1977 Bois Renard Rally - Rod on his faithful flat twin
His good natured spirit and generosity often meant he shared his personal invitation to rallies with other fellow British rallyists and close friends. In this way, over the years we therefore got to know his circle of English riders and friends, some of whom already feature in stories on this site.
The anecdotes and memories from rallies concerning Rodney are too numerous to mention, however I would like to share with you some of those that are etched on my memory almost 50 years later.
These delicious gastropods
The legendary Christian 'Kiki' Blanchot was one of Rodney's French friends, so it was natural that Rod was invited, in the mid-1970s, to two invitation-only MC Dragons, (headquartered in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne) events; (the winter Rallye Neiges and the summer Vercingetorix Rally).
In the 1970s Rodney Taylor was one of the very few Englishmen belonging to the prestigious 'Confrerie des Chevaliers Motocyclistes'. This was a kind of Masonic brotherhood, presided over by Kiki Blanchot, and comprising of around a hundred select 'brothers', all die-hard rallyists, mainly from France, but some from other countries too.
1976 Rallye Neiges - Rodney enjoying a game at the winter, invitation-only, meeting organised in Auvergne by Kiki Blanchot and the Dragons MC
So when British friends travelled to Italy each summer to take part in these meetings, some took the opportunity to stop by Kiki's in Clermont-Ferrand, and spend the night there.
A bon vivant like Rodney appreciated the best things that France had to offer... good old wines from the best vineyards ...
Needless to say, the 'welcome aperitif' session between fellow rallyists, followed by a dinner at a local restaurant copiously washed down with French wine, undoubtedly proved a first-class warm-up to the party evenings in Italy.
...and delicious French cuisine
The abiding memory of one of those evenings, forever seared in my brain was that of a mate of Rodney's, much braver than all his friends at dinner, who finally allowed himself to be persuaded to try, among the dishes offered on the menu, the traditional dozen snails. Although prior to this feat he humorously drew up a brief will on a piece of paper in case the experience of consuming these delicious gastropods overwhelmed him...
A lovely gift from Rodney that is close to my heart
Rodney had a good heart and was close to his French friends as we were to him. I don't remember at what rally he gave me this lovely surprise, a pewter tankard, and almost 50 years later his gift still hangs in my office, prominent amongst a host of other memorabilia, collected during my rallying years, all of which I cherish.
This traditional pewter tankard made in Sheffield which I later had engraved with both my nickname and the name of my motorcycle club at the time.
This tankard has travelled to many countries, done the rounds at numerous motorcycle rally bar counters, and has held during my rally years a vast quantity of alcohol before finally accompanying me to my present home in South-East Asia.
And if my distance from the rallying scene has made me lose touch with my friend Rodney, I undoubtedly and wholeheartedly wish to toast our erstwhile friendship and to wish him good health from the bottom of my heart.
1978 Samara Rally - Rodney breaking camp
I Am With This Idiot
Another amusing memory dates back to 1978.
During this period, every 2 years, I organised an invitation-only rally called the 'Alambic Rally' (whose history I hope to be able to tell you one of these days). Rodney could not attend the first meeting in 1976 but he was there with a small group of his countrymen for this second gathering in the Bourbonnais countryside.
At the very beginning of the afternoon, 'Marco de Toul', an unusual character from eastern France, had arrived at the rally as naked as the day he was born on his Sportster Harley, although he had actually only disrobed for the last mile or so to the great amusement of the spectators.
His exhibition proved enormously entertaining and was met with much laughter and not a few smirks from the crowd. However there was one exception, a local resident near the rally site, apparently rather humorless, and for whom nudity on a moving motorcycle passing in front of his house was a definite 'no-no'.
1978 Alambic Rally - Marco de Toul and a good looking female rallyist enjoying a beautiful summer day in the Bourbonnais countryside
This rather dour individual telephoned the local gendarmerie who quickly sent two gendarmes to investigate. These two lone policemen must have felt very isolated in the middle of a crowd of rallyists and who had no particular liking for the police.
Rodney and his English friends took advantage of this unexpected opportunity to take a series of very funny photos.
1978 Alambic Rally - Yours truly (center) escorted by two gendarmes, who came to investigate the incident with the rally organiser.
One of Rodney's friends luckily wore a T-shirt with the logo 'I Am With This Idiot' on it and an arrow on the chest pointing at the person next to him. One of the two gendarmes probably did not understand English since he readily agreed to pose alongside the English biker for some souvenir photos. Rodney later showed me these unforgettable photos that I wish I had in my collection today.
'Alouette, Gentille Alouette'
If I think of the song 'My Way', Frank Sinatra springs to mind.
For the French children's song 'Alouette, gentille alouette', (yes, you know the one), my immediate memory is that of Rodney Taylor at the end of an evening, perhaps a little merry, singing this traditional song at the top of his voice, whilst at the same time mimicking how he was going to pluck that poor lark alive.
Je te plumerai la tete ... et le bec ...
Antelope Rally 1978
To conclude this humble tribute to my old friend, I must thank him for his warm hospitality when we travelled to England and stayed at his home in Rugby.
I would also like to thank him for all his good advice concerning which British rally meets to attend. Thanks to his recommendations, I have had the privilege of taking part alongside him in rallies in which I would not have otherwise been privileged to attend.
From these four Long Distance Awards I won at British rallies, three of them (Antelope 1978, Tamar 1979 and Old Timer 1982, were down to Rodney's recommendations.
So thank you Rodney Taylor, for your friendship, for your generosity of spirit, for all the great moments spent together and above all for the lasting memories I treasure to this day.
Rod... The best day of his life!
Rallyist Thierry Garnier was Rodney's closest French friend and the two shared a strong and lasting friendship for five decades. In July 2015 Rod confided in a letter to Thierry how much motorcycling had influenced his life and has been the catalyst for so many meetings and friendships during his travels:
You see, Thierry, I was thinking about the other day at the village festival.
Now I know. At the time I didn't know, but now, with time, at my age, now that I have very little to live, I know...
The most beautiful day of my life... it's the day I bought my first motorcycle...
Yet, when I told my mom and my colleagues at work; all of them said it was dangerous and that I would have been better off to buy a car...
But, you see, Thierry, I am sure now... I know that day... that day it was the most beautiful day of my life...
Because, thanks to this motorcycle, and all the bikes that followed, I could discover my country, England, and then all of Europe, France... and I had friends... friends from everywhere, some are no longer here... but I think of them... incredible friends like you who invite me to your home every year… it was all thanks to the motorcycle...
Thanks to all the friends I meet with the motorcycle...
So, now, I know, the best day of my life, it is when I bought my first motorcycle!
- Rodney Taylor
At 81 he had hadn't lost his sense of humour!
For many people getting older isn't funny, but keeping your sense of humour as you age has been proven to help us cope with the changes, challenges and unexpected obstacles of ageing.
Anyone who knew Rodney knows that he had a good sense of humour which he liked to use when the occasion called for it.
Proof of this is in a letter sent two months before his death, on August 30, 2020, to his friend Frank Grimley.
I have received an appointment to visit Rugby hospital on September 16 for an X-ray on my left knee joint for them to consider progress to solve the problem or whatever.
Thierry (Garnier) has suggested that he has spare parts from repairs to his lawnmower and with luck it should be possible to knock up a metal knee joint.
After some thought I've rejected the idea because of our inclement weather and I fear corrosion.
Still it is good to know even after Brexit we can rely on the French.
- Rodney Taylor
This drawing was a gift Rod gave Frank Grimley. It shows Rodney on his trusty BMW, on which, between 1975-80 he had clocked up several hundred thousand kilometers. With such a high mileage it was obvious that his German flat twin bike had suffered major engine and gearbox problems. The double 'R' on the sign post stands for 'Rolls Royce', a company for which Rod worked for nearly 40 years.
- Jean-Francois Helias
A couple of photos from Heather MacGregor of Rodney at the Elver rally in '76 and Jubilee Weekend at Ripponden '77.
Photos purloined from Facebook.