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A Weekend In France

Dave Benson

Having given a glowing report of the May 2002 motor cycle display and autojumble at Montlhéry to my mate Frèderic Jean, and both of us being into VéloSoleXes, and Fred into everythng French and 50cc, he suggested we go to the meeting held in early October.  So at 2am on Saturday morning, Fred was outside the house in his Saxo, and we left Peckham via Old Kent Road and the A2 to Dover for the 3:45 boat to Calais.  They still hadn't fixed the hole on Blackheath Hill, so after the diversion around the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, we cracked on down the A2, until we met more diversions at the Medway Bridge, taking us through Chatham.  Time was now against us and Fred shot us down to Dover, where we missed the boat by 2 minutes...

Eventually we got to France and set off round the Calais Ring road, which was empty, as we were first off.  We picked up the péage ticket and Fred got us moving at a fair rate of knots, and after avoiding someone driving towards us on the wrong carriageway we got to the banked racing circuit about 11 o'clock.  Unfortunately, despite the blistering sun, there weren't many stalls and certainly not as many as at the meeting earlier in the year.  But, we both bought things for SoleXes, with Fred looking out for Mobylette, Griffon and Peugeot 104 spares.  He also got something he calls a "Bee-Bee" or sounds like that anyway.

We got talking to a stallholder who had stacks of SoleX stuff, but he was a bit expensive, and it took a bit of translating by Fred, who pointed out that I'm a factory trained VéloSoleX engineering mechanical expert and restoration genius - that was what it sounded like to me anyway - and with my South London charm he started to release the stuff at more realistic prices.  It was him who asked if we would be going to the Grand Prix tomorrow, as it was a specialised autojumble for the smaller stuff.  Fred got some directions off him, and I asked which Grand Prix he was talking about, but Fred wasn't listening or didn't understand, as sometimes he switches off his English and laughs at my attempts at proper French, whilst correcting me afterwards.  He finally explained that the place where we ought to be on the Sunday was a small village named Grandpuits, just north of Nangis, east of Melun.  We set off to find a hotel closer for the short hop next morning.  Five attempts later, we found one in Rozay-En-Brie, which was a bit run down, and was probably why we were the only guests, but the beer and restaurant were excellent, and with the room, four couses at dinner, a bottle of red and a gallon of beer, my bit cost £32.  We should have stayed longer.

We got to the autojumble about 9 o'clock the next morning and were delighted to see more stuff in our world than was at the banked circuit, including our mate who had gone home and found some of our requests at more reasonable prices.  Fred saw another Peugeot 104, which helped identify some of the missing bits off his own, and we managed to find some of the very rare bits which he needed.  Incredibly, this 104 was £50, which dropped to £40 later as we continued to show an interest, and I only mentioned once to Fred that if he could see the future he wouldn't have paid £180 for his own one a month before...

There were of course an incredible number of machines for sale, but what I wanted was a 6000, which I grew very fond of when I was responsible for their import in 1973 at ScootAlong in the Old Kent Road.  I had staked one up at Montlhéry, but the stallholder wouldn't sell it until Fred agreed on my behalf to £200, but then I declined, as various rare parts were missng.  The same dealer had a Flash, but again I declined.

So that was the trip over - almost - until we got a lot further north.  Somewhere near Béthune on the Route Nationale roads, Fred banged on his brakes and executed a very rapid U-turn, followed by another very rapid U-turn, explaining while I hung on that I would understand in a minute.  Apparently they have days in France where the dustmen will take away anything you want to chuck out and this includes barbeques, washing machines, and, a 1955 Mobylette!  So, having unloaded the contents of his hatchback, we persuaded the Mobylette to fit with only a bit of handlebar sticking in my neck, and put everything back, all in the space of about 7 minutes, and cracked on to Calais.

The ferry was OK, and the M2/A2 was open, and Fred dropped me off and unloaded about 12:45 early Monday morning.  The bargain of the weekend was from some French Rockers who just wanted to get rid of some SoleX bits which filled a large box, and included an engine bottom half for about £10.  I've already used a left hand front mudguard stay unexpectedly, so if I charge £10 for that, it all makes sense, doesn't it?

First published, June 2003

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