Simmer Dim Rally

7th Simmer Dim Rally 13th June 1989


- Phil the Spill

On TUESDAY, after spending a few days at a campsite in Richmond, Yorkshire, and one night camped at Kinross Services, just North of Edinburgh, my club (ABC) and I arrived at the Hazlehead Campsite, just to the West of Aberdeen.

It wasn't long before a few more Simmer Dimmists, (Dimwits?), started to arrive, this being in an ideal location for the Harbour in the morning. One of the vehicles there was an immense V6-powered trike with 6ft-high exhaust stacks. The group that arrived with it, including a couple of trikes of more modest dimensions, used one of the stacks and an adjacent tree to erect a plastic cover that shielded their tents from any excessive rain that might fall before we left. They had also spent a few days getting there, and we all made use of the site's laundry room. As far as the ABC went, this was an ideal opportunity to do the obligatory engine rebuild, the tarmac-covered walkway of the campsite being easier to locate missing engine parts on than a rally field.

On WEDNESDAY, there was no real rush, since the Harbour was only about 15 minutes away, and we didn't need to book in until the afternoon. After packing up, we extracted Al from his Bivvy-Bag and headed straight for the Harbour and, some think more importantly, the pub just outside the Harbour gates.

The next few hours were spent drinking, booking in across the road, drinking, loading the bikes on the boat, drinking and finally collecting our luggage from the ferry terminal and loading ourselves on the boat. Those with accommodation located their cabins, the rest of us located the bar.

The first few years, the bar didn't open until the boat sailed, but when P&O finally accepted that we weren't going to let a little thing like a shut bar stop us drinking, and we were quite prepared to bring our own supplies on board with us, they re-scheduled their opening hours, so as to get more of our money. We did pop out of the bar to wave goodbye to those of our friends who weren't coming with us, the ABC had a member who was a student at the local university, other clubs had members who didn't fancy a 14-hour crossing and who would carry on with a mainland-based holiday, or return home early.

The P&O flag had been taken down and stored, to prevent it being taken as a souvenir like it was on the first rally. Since a number of us believed that you shouldn't have an unused flagpole, they brought their own flag to hoist for the voyage, but this was taken down soon after we sailed. Apparently the skull and crossed bones flag is not an approved decoration these days!

As far as we were concerned, the rally had already started, so we had our party. The on-board musical entertainment had learnt a few extra songs for their playlist, which made it even more like a rally set-up.

The (fairly expensive) restaurant and (cheaper) café provided food that was a step above usual rally fare, there was also a video cinema. When suitably entertained, people without cabins would just crash out where they were sitting, or on (or between) the reclining seats, if they could get that far before collapsing.

Despite the exertions of the previous night, the vast majority of passengers had a hearty breakfast before the boat docked at the Shetland capital, Lerwick, on a surprisingly bright and sunny THURSDAY morning. After docking, there would be a brisk thirty-mile blast to the rally site in Vidlin. Not to be outdone by the sun, some of the locals had sourced some hideous dayglo shorts, (worn over their jeans, of course). The weather even prompted me to wear my severed-above-the-knee denim shorts!

After the booking in, setting up and then buggering off for a quick tour around the area rituals, the scene was set for the traditional start to the Simmer Dim - the Boot Party. See the pictures for what always happens during this. They show why it was only held in the hall on its first appearance at the rally, and always in the marquee since then. This is the only time during which the Food/Drink tickets, included in the price, are not needed.

Unfortunately one of the speaker stacks got doused in beer, meaning it had to be dried out before it could be used by the first of the many and varied local bands that played throughout the weekend. The survivors of the boot party are treated to an array of incinerated animal remains, sometimes referred to as a barbecue, although many prefer paying for burgers from the van. Shortly after this, the music starts up and the partying starts.

We had the customary visit from the only motorcycle policeman on the island and the trike riders gave a few people a run around the field on the back of their vehicle, or sitting on a pallet tied to it.

On FRIDAY, it became clear that my club were not the only people who like to take their bikes apart at rallies, as there was a BSA with a completely disassembled engine outside the hall. The shop across the road has a workshop and spares collection that can almost recreate a bike from parts, and their help was obviously being sought to solve a problem deep in the machine.

I cannot remember what else happened on that day, but it is likely there was a run around the islands and a buffet lunch provided in the hall before the partying started once again.

The Vikings invaded the site once again on the SATURDAY, during their visits to villages all over the island prior to the midsummer festival in the capital, Lerwick that afternoon.

While they were there the silly games started, during which all tug-of-war teams cheated massively, using a transit, a fence and at least twice as many people as there were supposed to be on each side.

There seems to have been only three first-time rallyists there this year and they were cling-filmed to some chairs and had all manner of noxious fluids poured over them. Somehow it's more fun when there are a dozen or so virgins.

The coach took us into town for the carnival but, this year, after the procession itself, my club got itself invited onboard the Fisheries Protection Vessel SULISKER, rather than join the rest of the population in the massive pub-crawl that seems to envelop the town. We were given a guided tour of the ship, during which one guy was sure he could detect one of the valves was slightly out of time with the others. Then we were invited to the bar, where the alcohol was completely free! I was convinced we would be shanghaied and wake up somewhere in the Arctic, being forced to work our passage home, but we were let out, still in the harbour, well in time for one of the coaches back to the site where, guess what - the partying started again!

SUNDAY morning staggered into existence at some point during the session and there were a few fragile people around as the tents were packed up and a cooked lunch (probably corned beef hash and mushy peas, with left-over salad - it usually was) provided, during which the many awards were handed out.

There was little point heading straight for the ferry terminal, as the boat wouldn't be loading for hours yet, so we took our time. There was even a chance for some sunbathing outside the terminal's café. There were the usual cheering masses seeing us off, (must have been glad to get rid of us for another year), but no chucking of messy substances.

The party on board for the return trip was less riotous that the one at the start, due to the fairly long trips many of us would be making after we unloaded, (and partly due to the fact that most of our budget had now been spent), but there was still enough to decorate the bar with ring-pull chains.

My club and I were heading off to Ambleside in the Lake District, for our traditional week of relaxation.

- Phil (the Spill) Drackley