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The Blue Peter Blues

by Kevin Mallone

Episode 1

"Blue Peter" recently showed the latest gadget for cycles: a clip-on engine that will do the cycling for you electrically.  Being a cyclist, sometimes with the help of one of the 1950s' cyclemotors, I decided to tell Sarah, Simon and Digger Duncan all about these petrol clip-ons.  An added bonus was the possibility of winning a silver badge.

I duly sent off my letter and much to my surprise it was replied to.  Michael Cook, the producer, telephoned for more information and I received a letter to the same effect.  A few phone calls later I was told that they might want me on the programme - if I could get my Power Pak to run.

Those inhabitants of Framlingham who remember my Power Pak from when it was on the road last September will be totally surprised to hear that, despite all the crankshaft repairs during half term, I could not get the wretched, sorry, beautiful device to work again.

When phoned again I stalled for time, and on the Saturday - the BBC's deadline - Simon Whitehead lent me his Cyclemaster.  When Michael Cook rang up to ask what I was up to, I was able to tell him that Simon's working Cyclemaster was on my bike, and that the recalcitrant Power Pak was on Mum's bike.

The terror of the next few days was unbelievable but finally I got a call to say I was wanted on Thursday's programme

Thursday morning I was collected at 6:15am by a chap in a Ford Transit.  We set off for London at 6:30.  The Power Pak fell over in Parham, almost knocking the Cyclemaster over.  The rest of the journey was plain enough until we reached the outskirts of Greater London when we took another two hours to travel the last 22 miles.

We reached Studio 2 shortly after 10:25 to see the Hesketh V1000 being tipped off a lorry.  Michael Cook was there to meet me and as soon as all was unloaded and taken into the vast studio he started to introduce me to various people.


New readers start here:

In a studio in a seedier part of London, our intrepid hero was valiantly fighting off three security guards who maintained that Motobécane began by making powered wheels (cf Cyclemaster).  Read on as Peter Duncan stalls a Cyclemaster six times out of eight whilst our brave silver badge candidate attaches a Power Pak to his mother’s bike with a large piece of velvet, a Winged Wheel petroil tank bracket and quite a few expletives...

Now read on:

I was told to call everyone by their Christian names and upon introduction to Sarah, found her to be just as sweet as she appears to be on the programme.  Biddy Baxter, the editor, after discovering that I was not a "Malcolm" thanked me for bringing Simon's and my machines.

During the first part of the morning's rehearsals I watched Peter and Sarah filming a fashion show (a few viewers think that Peter is a trifle scruffy - personally I cannot comment as fashion does not turn my head).

At about 11am, they started rehearsing the cyclemotor slot and Peter was somewhat vexed to find that Cyclemasters do not pull evenly at speeds under 3mph.  Trying to warm the machine up for him proved no aid and used quite a few pencils before lunch-time.

Lunch was a sumptuous meal, in one of the three large restaurants available, with Michael Cook.  An hour later final rehearsals started and even at that late stage all was pretty chaotic.  Through all of it one chap had been sitting quietly and upon investigation he turned out to be an art student who was doing just the sort of pen-and-ink illustration that I cannot.

Final rehearsals became polished as the afternoon went on and a half hour before the programme was due to go out, I was taken to the control room and shown the 'ins and outs' of all and sundry.  A few minutes before the programme started, Biddy told me that they were going to run over time and that the Cyclemaster would have to be cut out along with some of the Hesketh article.  It was a shame that it had to be so but at least the Power Pak was going to appear, although Peter's efforts to master the cycle had been in vain.

The programme itself was very good; the final edited fashion show was very funny and this was followed by Simon trying his hand a cross-country motor cycling.  Then came the Hesketh.  The Hesketh is a sleek and very elegant vee-twin with a beautifully bulbous 5 gallon tank.  Stopping is catered for by two disc brakes in front and a drum brake behind.  The glossy black finish is delicately counterpointed by slender gold coachlines and the Hesketh badge, which looks like a cockerel, or a lion, or both.

Capable of 130mph and being the first new British motor cycle for well over ten years she should be a massive success with all "British cycle" enthusiasts.  After an article on Braille the Power Pak was shown.  Sarah explained it very well and it is beside the point that it almost fell over as she showed everyone the roller and then engaged the drive.  She apologised for that later as she knew that my Mum is very protective about her paintwork but I told her that Mum never gets the chance to use her cycle an thus she would not notice.

Peter closed the day's episode by riding off on the Hesketh with Sarah on the pillion (after she had kicked the stand up for him).  The Hesketh is so large that Peter was unable to reach.

I had a pillion ride on the Hesketh booked up for after the end of transmission but this fell through as it started to rain.  Soon I had to leave - after being awarded a silver badge (the perfect end to a terrific day) - and whilst loading the van up, Michael and I realised that Simon's plug spanner had been sucked up into the innards of one of the television cameras.

A few days later I received a letter of thanks for chipping in and a felt Blue Peter badge each for Simon and me.  At the end of it all, I feel it only right to let you know that the BBC canteen produces gorgeous grub and one day I hope to be able to say the same of their coffee.

This article was first published in two parts in the spring and summer of 1982.  Hesketh went into receivership between the publication of the two instalments.

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