If one has any sense. one doesn’t mess with the spirits of a few thousand RAF servicemen. One doesn’t, particularly, thumb one’s nose at them by riding one’s German through-and-through R1100GS onto the middle of one of their airfields, even if they did technically “leave” in 1947.
Sorry, chaps. I suppose I had it coming.
So, there I was, parked up and getting in no-one’s way:
Took a wander round part of the old peri track, took some pictures for you lot and wandered back to the bike. Out to supper with some friends for a birthday that evening. It’s 5 o’clock now and I need to ride home, get a shower and meet them for drinks first. We’re off to Allium in Fairford too, so I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.
So it’s with a happy heart at the prospect of a good evening stuffing my face and drinking decent wine that I stroll back to the bike.
Key in. Swing leg over saddle. Key to “on”. Press starter.
Somewhere, the spirit of an old LAC was leaning against a hangar, mug of sweet tea in hand, pissing himself laughing at me.
Now he was joined by his mates, and they’re all stood around collapsing in gales of laughter. “German bloody engineering – not much bloody good, is it mate?”
They had a point. And I was going to be late.
So I do what any chap as lucky as me would do in the circumstances. I ring The Fragrant Pip, who’s at home (fortunately), and she comes to rescue me with a set of jump leads.
She’s there in quarter of an hour, and so I break out the toolkit (still doubtless watched by sniggering groundcrew from on high somewhere) and set to.
Saddle off, side panel off, allen key out, tank up…
They must have really started wetting themselves when it began to hack it down with rain:
Jump leads on, The Fragrant Pip’s car connected at the other end.
Thumb the starter button.
I’m sure I heard sniggering from somewhere, turning into proper belly-laughter. He’s gone and found more of his mates, hasn’t he?
It’s now nearly 6pm and that meal, the enticing bottles of red, are looking less and less likely.
So I call the RAC instead, and in ten minutes they send a mechanical angel in the form of one Robert Smith in his van.
What an absolutely TOP bloke. He looks at the bike, does what I’d done again and says, “You know what it is mate, don’t you?”
“No, no idea,” I reply.
He then sets about the bike with a will. I now have the sense that the LACs are enjoying watching a fellow pro at work, nodding approvingly.
Rob decides it’s the starter motor, which is getting pretty hot. So, not one to be beaten, he takes it off and tries to fix it:
Sadly, the Allied starter motor (French, by Valeo) ain’t playing. The magnets are completely shot away. So Rob sticks the knackered starter in a carrier bag and we stash it in one of the boxes.
It’s six forty five. Supper’s looking more remote by the minute.
“Right,” says Rob. “I’ve got an idea – let’s bump it. You ride – I’ll push.”
So that’s what we try to do, heading into the sunset:
Rob stops after the third attempt – it’s nearly catching, but not quite.
And try again:
And again, this time with me pushing:
Assembled spiritual groundcrew now rolling around, clutching their sides and weeping with laughter. They’ve got the entire squadron out watching this one and they’re loving it.
Finally, we flag down a passing bloke in a 4×4 who helps us push and the bike catches. The LACs cheer – they’ve had their laugh and are decent sorts.
Rob follows me home to make sure I get back OK, and a couple of bottles somehow find their way into the cab of his van. Top bloke.
We even make it just in time for drinks and supper… And I make a point of raising a glass to Sgt Hancock, the men of 437, 512 and 575 and Rob.