Ides of March

boots in tent with snow

motorcycles in a snowdrift

My pride and joy was my motorcycle, a Suzuki GS750 from 1978, now a classic Japanese bike, which I used to travel to and from work and at weekends to travel for camping and motorcycle rallies. I owned the bike for five years and put 60,000 miles on the clock during that period.

Several of my friends were mechanical engineer apprentices and together we became the Aire Valley motorcycles club and travelled to bike rallies around the UK mainly in winter. Among the apprentice engineers, one’s mother opened an account with Grattan, the catalogue club based in Bradford which provided everything in the catalogue on weekly payment plans. 

Of course, the catalogue ended up being shown around at work, and the apprentices decided what they really needed for camping was a plastic Wendy house, complete with painted on curtains and a painted owl on the chimney. Duly ordered for the princely sum of 50p per week for 12 weeks, the Wendy house made its first (and last) appearance at the Ides of March rally.

The Salford Centurions MCC record on their website the following: -

“One year (1979?) at a site just above Littleborough there was a row of bikes in the pub car park that disappeared under a snow drift. The unlucky ones were under more than ten feet of snow! I went there across the M62 because the moor road was impassable. After I squeezed past an accident blocking the motorway westbound near Outlane, I rode on virgin snow and didn't see anyone else until I got to the Lancashire border. All the cars were stuck going up the long hill eastbound and a team of police were trying to clear the way for the gritters to get through. After watching the police range rovers pushing and pulling fully laden articulated wagons up the hill in the snow, I made a mental note never to buy an ex police vehicle!”. The experience of getting to the rally was one I shall never forget, the apprentice engineers were camped in the Wendy house, which was last seen atop a motorcycle and rider driving across the field.

Some six weeks or so later, I (as an experienced apprentice now trusted to do smaller works without supervision) arrived in Leeds at a small bank to alter the system. 

The manager caught me eating in the vault and sent me to the staff canteen, we did not like using staff canteens because you were always sat in someone else’s seat, or accused of using their tea/coffee/sugar/milk etc. which they had to pay for. 

However, on this occasion only one staff member was using the canteen, so I sat down. The other chap was reading a copy of a motorcycle enthusiasts’ magazine and when he reached the centre spread it had a photo taken at the Ides of March rally. 

He turned the magazine around saying, you’re a motorcyclist like myself, have you seen these idiots, pointing to the Wendy house with boots sticking out from underneath partly buried in the snow, I replied that I knew the occupants and that I was one of the “idiots” in the Wendy house at the rally, his first instinct was not to believe me, until I pointed out my motorcycle parked next to the Wendy house, with my registration plate clearly visible.

The engineers who had ordered the Wendy house, now owed the Grattan catalogue owner for the item, despite the bill being just 50p a week, and there being eight of them, the poor lad whose mothers account had been used never got a penny of the money.