Eyup ! It's been a while . . . . and I have to say, it's been weird not doing my regular column for the mag. That said, I've still been getting myself into a reasonable amount of mischief over the summer.
A bloke came up to me at the Cadwell Park BSB meeting and said he'd heard that I was interested in aviation . . . . . I told him that yes . . . on the(short) list of 'Whitham's favourite things' planes would be snuggled in just below 'bikes' and just above 'a nice cup o' tea' or 'masturbating'. He said that being the case I might want to have a private tour round his place of work, and no, that wasn't, as I first thought, a euphemism for some kind of sexual activity. Turns out this bloke 'Cleggy' is in the RAF and works as a mechanic for the 'Battle of Britain memorial flight' based at RAF Conningsby. Didn't take me too long to decide that I would indeed like to have a look round his workshops . . . . the BBMF run and maintain several historically important and in most cases very rare old warbirds (the modern term for old military aircraft) . . . including four Spitfires, a Hurricane, and a Dakota. The star of the show however is undoubtably their Lancaster bomber, of the 7000-odd produced during WW2 this is the only flying example left ! . . . . it don't get no more 'rare' than that !
Most of the lads who work with Cleggy are into bikes as well, and to stand round in a hangar talking about bikes and racing whilst surrounded by WW2 fighters and stripped down merlin engines was utopia for me . . . . . but things just kept getting better. I was told the 'Lanc' needed to be 'ground run' after undergoing some engine work and I could sit in the co-pilots seat if I wanted. . . . once in a lifetime stuff this is. And before the anoraks amongst you start pointing out that the Lancaster was a single pilot plane and therefore didn't have a co-pilots seat, the civil aviation authority requires this one to have a second pilot aboard during all flights, so dual controls and a second seat have been retro-fitted . . . . . so there !
The Lanc is without doubt a big aircraft, but because the inside is full of clutter, oxygen bottles, cabling, hydraulic lines, radio equipment, ammunition belts etc, etc, just getting from the entrance hatch near the tail to the cockpit is no easy task . . . and that's in daylight, while wearing everyday clothes, with the thing stood still on the ground. Trying to get out of one, wearing bulky flying gear, whilst being shot at, with the thing spinning towards the ground, in the dark, possibly with the fuselage swimming in hydraulic oil and aviation fuel doesn't even bear thinking about . . . .
Sat in the cockpit with the four 1400 horse-power merlins revving away and the whole aircraft chomping at the bit, straining against the brakes was as near to a religious experience as I'm likely to get I reckon. . . . And most of the aircrew in bomber command who flew opperationally were young. . . . some only 18 ! . . . at that age I wasn't even allowed to take control of the TV remote or the family's MK 2 Cortina . . . and these blokes were sent halfway across Europe in one of these things loaded with ten tons of high explosive . . . . . . . respect !
The recent "Foggy n' Whit-givin' it gas tour" went better than either of us could have immagined. Six nights pretty much sold out at places as diverse as Llanelli, Penrith, and Scarborough. Anyone going along thinking they'd see your average bike night chat show was in for a surprise. Most of the things we talked about were new to the audience, with the emphasis being on humour. The reaction from the crowd was mint and people got to see a side of Carl they wouldn't have known existed. I've been mates with Foggy for 25 years, but even I was shocked at how nervous he got, especially before the first night.
Here is a man who won world championships, who possessed rock-solid faith in his own riding ability, who could sit on a World Superbike grid without showng the slightest fear or emotion, who cared little for what people thought of him, and yet, faced with three hundred smiling bike enthusiasts in a theatre, he almost passed out !
As the week went on he realised people wanted to hear what he had to say, he also realised that when he relaxes he's a funny fella. For my part I loved it . . . . talking shit is my specialised subject after all ! We also raised just a tad short of six grand for local charities into the bargain.
Managed to finally get hold of some piggy-back Ohlins shocks for the back of my Triumph scrambler. They don't do anything off the shelf for the scrambler, only the standard Bonneville . . . . which are too short. But one of my old race mechanics now works for the main Ohlins importers, Harris performance. He made me some up based on a set for a twin-shock MX bike but with heavier springs to cope with the trumpets 200+ KG bulk. . . . . and they work a treat ! . . . . . well, when I say "work" what I really mean is "look" a treat. . . . . To be honest, no matter what you did with a Scrambler you'd never make it into a great handling bike when compared to something with more modern geometry . . . . and for me that's part of the fun. You can act daft on one and ride near the limit at half the speed that you'd be doing on a sports bike. Not only that, unlike when you're on a modern lookin bike, most people you filter past or overtake on the trumpet smile at you. . . . . well, with the exception of the bloke on the CBR 600 I went slithering underneath going into Stocksbridge bypass roundabout the other day. . . . . I bet he didn't smile !
Class Jimbob, I've been riding an old nail for a while and there's not many better feelings than watching some shiny new object getting smaller in the mirrors. It's probably going to be a growing market. Landmark bikes like the old 'urban tiger' cbr or an r1 mk1.
Get yourself a facebook, I'd join.
Posted: 27/09/2010 at 18:16
Enjoyed that, especially about the Lancaster.
Like you and many motorcyclists, I too have a keen interest in aircraft, must be something to do with the noise and speed....
Sadly this now manifests itself in a passion for radio control model aircraft.
In terms of "streed-cred" this is regarded as right up there with train-spotting, particularly by the ladies, so the subject can only be mentioned in hushed tones when in mixed company.
However, i now understand that not only do the Haslams senior and junior mess about with these boys toys, no less than Fast Freddie is equally enthralled. (as was the late Ayrton Senna)
So maybe i am not quite so sad after all.....maybe...
Posted: 30/09/2010 at 15:47
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