Sunday, 6 June 2010

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

The Better Half, The Prodigy and I are just back from an enjoyable afternoon over in the local park, the Mooragh. Actually, we are just back from the best afternoon of the best week in the year in the best town in the island – unless you’re a health freak, an environmentalist, a Christian or other common forms of misery guts.
Bit different to the usual Sunday afternoon atmosphere today as it’s Mad Sunday. For the non-bikers, that’s the best part of the TT, when the Mountain section of the public road course is kept one way so visiting nutters can emulate the racers in a community where, being civilised, we have no speed limits outside built up areas anyway.
Watching mad Germans and Paddies riding four abreast at around 180 MPH on the fastest part of the course while coppers just laugh is something you’ll never, ever, see anywhere else in the world. Petrolheads, read this and weep.
On Mad Sunday there’s also a ‘run what you brung’ quarter mile bike sprint down Mooragh Prom, which borders the park. So while street legal dragsters are doing that, the rugby pitch is turned into an impromptu bike park and the park is filled with fun-lovers of all ages.
Sadly, this year the usual vintage bike display was missing – not sure what happened there. Still, I did spot one beauty amongst the 21st century Jap technology. A mid-sixties BSA A65. Not even collector condition, but better than that. This one had signs of daily use.
I had an SS80 of similar vintage and condition back when I was 17 – not too fast but black, loud and crude. Never could have graduated to something like an A65, which now (thanks to dull, middle-aged collectors who were too busy studying accounts to ride them when they were new) run at about £15K even for a shed job ‘suitable for restoration’, but I did ride one – just once.
And what a ride that was. In Hunter S. Thompson’s Hells Angels he describes a midnight ride on his BSA, from Ken Kesey’s house in La Honda down the Californian coast right back to Haight Ashbury. When I first read it, aged 17, I wished I could emulate it, and spent my last penny on the monstrous SS80 rather than a practical Japanese bike.
Then in 1992, during a brief visit to California, the unbelievable happened. A friend of a friend I was visiting had a knackered A65, and he let me do it – at midnight on an August perfect moonlit night, on a clear empty road. The fool, the mad, trusting, angelic fool (him, not me)!
The best bit – I got talking to a San Fran journo of Thompson vintage, who told me Thompson never even did it. The ride in the book is the amalgamated experience of a number of rides over that summer. i.e., I had just out-gonzoed the Master of Gonzo.
Anyways, rambled a bit there – back to this afternoon.
There was a metal band playing in the Mooragh bandstand – where they usually have brass bands, folk dance displays and other wholesome entertainment. A proper metal band – three ageing sheet metal workers from Brum by their looks and accents.
Lead guitarist with the world’s longest mullet and deep vein thrombosis, a grimacing drummer with ZZ Top beard, and a bass player catatonic enough to make John Entwhistle look lively. And they were loud, proper rock band loud, with Marshall stacks and everything.
I sat against a pillar ten feet away with a huge grin while the Better Half and The Prodigy were off getting sausage and chip baps, HP sauce, tomato ketchup, sticky buns, ice cream, crisps and a host of other unhealthy stuff (we’d decided before going that it would be that kind of a day – no special diets, no regrets). Later The Prodigy braved the racket enough to join me for her first ‘proper’ rock gig. The social workers can try coming for her later if they like, but it’ll be over my dead (or at least deaf) body.
She got there just in time for the drum solo – a proper one. While ZZ’s stunt stand-in did every drum clichĂ© in the book the guitarist and bassist walked off – and I kid you not here – into the cafĂ©, where they queued for, then sat down and ate, egg and chips. They got back just as the drummer was pulling his final stunt, which involved drinking a pint of Lucozade mixed with Jack Daniels while simultaneously keeping the bass drum ,hi-hat and a ride cymbal going, and as a finale played Wipeout, which meant the drummer had to put in most of the work anyway.
I haven’t laughed so much in years. What very heaven it is to be alive and living in Ramsey on the best afternoon of the best week of the year.
(with no apologies to Willie Wordsworth. Sod him, he had his life and his fun, now it’s our turn)

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