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Elvington Air Museum Classic Motor Cycle Show

by David Stevenson

Sunday 9th July

Looking back over the many reports of events I've written for Buzzing, they all begin with the weather, collectively making me sound like a two-stroke powered, pedal-assisted Michael Fish.  Nevertheless, this year's Classic Motorcycle Show was defined, like most English summer events, by the weather.  A grey July was forecast to get even worse on its second Sunday.  Large numbers of the entrants on larger machines never arrived and it was a credit to the NACC that ten bikes took their place on the starting grid of David Casper's circuit of the local lanes.

The clan Hart was there in force, Chris riding the Albino Slug, a Motobécane X1 folder, design speed 22 miles per hour, and Neville and Russell the famous Hog, still getting shinier and more demented each time I see it.  Hog disgraced itself at the last run but has been rebuilt to sparkling form.  There is a threat that the third man Hart will shortly also be motorised.  You have been warned.  Peter Fairburn was riding the Mini-Motor he had just put back on the road.  This performed well, although Peter suffered the self-inflicted problem of almost all novice Mini-Motor riders and had turned the air mixture to 'weak' thinking the strangler on the front of the carburettor was simply a choke.  The writer had much the same problem.  Controlling the mixture to obtain the best performance is one of the most satisfying aspects of riding a Mini-Motor, contrasting well, for instance, with the necessity to corner in the wet at relatively high-speeds on a bicycle with the equivalent of 14 bags of flour piled on the rear carrier.

David himself was riding a red Honda PK50.  The man at the traffic lights on a stylish crimson Honda VFR 750 seemed not to hear when David suggested it was a coincidence that they were both riding similar bikes.  Dave Jackson was on a Raleigh and I know I'm going to get in trouble if I try and tell you which number amongst his extensive collection it was.  Anyway it's red and white, has a dual seat and rubber band leading link front suspension.  Ooh, it's just like a quiz, isn't it?  John Bailey was on his NSU Quickly.  No, I don't know what number that one is either.  It has a dual seat but no rear suspension.  Sheila broke the similar one I had when I was 19 at Grantchester Meadows where Rupert Brooke's clock stays stuck forever at quarter past three.  At Elvington, Sheila was riding the Ambre Solaire Mobylette Luxamatic whose most recent trick had been to back-fire and blow the end of its silencer off during the run at Elsecar.  The Maths Adviser was riding the Bown (the writer here makes the sign of the cross and mutters a short Armenian curse).  Her recently released sequel, 'Son of Maths Adviser', was riding the ex-David Scott, ex-Phil Nuttal, ex-Honda Novio, ex-moped, the 'Clockwork Orange'.  Steve was telling me how much he's enjoying his association with the NACC this year; it takes all sorts doesn't it?

There's not much more to say.  The rain held off, nothing broke down and nobody drownded.  It was wonderfully relaxing and ridiculously satisfying to be out in this damp rich green summer.  Back at the airfield Sheila and I popped in to look at the Air-Gunners' Museum.  It is a brightly lit, cheerfully laid out and totally chilling little corner of a place that never feels short of ghosts.  At the end of the line of flimsy, machinery-crammed, Perspex covered gun turrets was a matter-of fact notice explaining that rear gunners generally removed the central Perspex sheet in order to see better.  Beyond the turrets was a display cabinet filled with different types of machine gun bullets.  It was hard not to feel a little of the nightmare that the gunners must have endured staring into the droning, dangerous dark, straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of the radar guided night-fighters that searched them out.  Knowing all the time that if the night fighters saw them first, hung in space like a game bird in a cage, their unprotected chests awaited the crashing entry of the first cannon shell.  Let's all say a little prayer of gratitude for being allowed to dawdle from a misspent youth into the green lanes of middle age.

First published - August 2000

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