Tag Archives: Bikes

Sherwood 11 – The DJ’s Viewpoint

I was slightly surprised that my previous post to this one was back in July when I wrote about Hoggin’ The Beaver. Well, this one is about the same great bunch of people, Sherwood Chapter of the Harley Owners’ Group. This weekend was their annual rally, Sherwood 11. I have written here about a couple of rallies at Woodland Waters, the last one almost exactly two years ago. I was not involved in last year’s rally at all, but they moved into the heart of Sherwood Forest, and into the shadow of the luxurious Warners Hotel, Thoresby Hall.    

Chuffing Hog at Sherwood 11. We didn’t stay at Thoresby Hotel.

This year’s rally was held on the same site, and I was booked to provide the disco for the three nights of the event, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sue and I were invited to stay for the weekend, but after a great deal of thought and discussion, we decided to travel to and from home each day. This proved to be a good decision as I was able to get a good night’s sleep between each evening’s work. I think that this is a point well worth making, that being a DJ is a job that has to be taken seriously. It’s a shame that there are some DJs who don’t do this. 

I rather fear that some DJs at other Harley Rallies may fall into this category because I am always amazed to be told by lots of Sherwood Chapter members that my disco is very good. This weekend, I’m afraid that I couldn’t agree with them on at least two of the nights. Anyway, that analysis can come later. 

The site is stunning. Woodland Waters was a great setting, but Thoresby Park is a step forward. There’s much more space for a central rally area with the bar, a lot of trade stands, food outlets and a large arena, with a great focal area – a large brazier with a welcome fire. The site is almost surrounded by woodland, with the imposing face of Thoresby Hall close by across the field. There is a lot of room for the rally to grow as there is another large field beyond a line of trees that was almost unused all weekend. 

Even before we had arrived on Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the organisation of the rally had taken a leap forward from my previous experience. A set of very professionally made signs guided us into the venue. I commented to Sue that these were much better than day-glo cardboard signs. This impression was confirmed at the gate where we received a warm welcome and were fitted with our wristbands. The medieval-style black and orange tent at the gate, and its twin a few yards away are a step up from the gazebo of old. 

Sherwood 11 - Black and Orange Tents
Sherwood 11 – Black and Orange Tents

We drove across to the marquee, unloaded and started to set up the gear for the first night’s gig. The band, Crusade, arrived soon after us and we sorted out how we could share the limited space. The gig itself was not one of my best. I have always felt quite strongly that I should make the music I play fit in with the style of the band. Crusade is a rock band, so I played a lot of rock that night. Certainly it was good quality rock and I think most of the people there enjoyed the night. Someone who has never been to a Sherwood Chapter event would probably think, “Bikers – rock, what’s the problem?” For me the problem is that bikers can be as diverse as any other group of people. Certainly there are people whose musical taste goes from A to Z – AC/DC to ZZ Top – all rock. But a lot of Harley owners like other kinds of music, so I came away from Thursday night feeling that I’d let them down a bit.   

The complaints about noise from the hotel didn’t help either. We had set up the disco and the band with our PA systems pointing straight at the hotel, so the complaints were justified. When we were staying at Thoresby, we’d have been unhappy if there had been a bunch of noisy, hairy bikers just outside our bedroom window. I’m sure that the lesson has been learned. But I thought that Friday would redeem this. Friday and Saturday night were indoors, in the Riding Hall, Thoresby Park’s beautiful function venue, so there weren’t going to be problems with the hotel. Friday’s band was The Platforms. We first met these guys three or four years ago when the pub at the end of the Hoggin’ The Beaver ride out booked them to play while we were there. They were an out an out glam rock covers band with outrageous make-up to blend in with the Sweet, Bay City Rollers and Gary Glitter songs that they were playing. Absolutely 100% right for the average age of Harley owners. So they got booked for more Sherwood gigs, at rallies and a Christmas Party.   

I was quite excited at the prospect of being able to play a lot of sixties and seventies music to fit in with their fun, party style on the Friday. I always ask the band for their set list so that I can try to remember to avoid playing the songs that they are going to do. When I was given the Platforms set list on Friday night, my heart sank. Sure enough, the first set was pretty solid seventies glam rock, but they ended their first set with a nondescript heavy rock cover. Worse still, most of the second set leaned towards hard rock, so I couldn’t use my 30 minute interval set to do much more than thrash out more of the same.   

I can understand that a band wants to move on beyond playing the same set for ever, and maybe they had fallen into the trap that bikers = hard rock, but neither I, nor many of the crowd were very satisfied with Friday night. Frankly, the shortage of chairs in the room didn’t encourage people to stay (on either Friday or Saturday night).   

Saturday’s band was Bootleg Blondie. They are the only Blondie tribute band to have played at the home of Punk, CBGB’s club in New York and both the band and “Debbie Harris”, the lead singer were great. They put a lot of effort into their sound check, which paid off with a great sound in the room and underlined their experienced, professional approach. The first set was a fantastic flow of Blondie’s hits from “Denee” through to “Maria” and a show-stopping rendition of “Heart Of Glass” as their first set encore.   

Sherwood 11 - Bootleg Blondie on Stage
Sherwood 11 – Bootleg Blondie on Stage


But I felt almost embarrassed that, for most of that first set, the audience just sat there. Even the applause between songs was lacklustre. I didn’t play between the two sets as this is the time when awards are presented and thanks given. I realise that this is an important part of the weekend, but it may have gone on a little bit too long. I must give the organisers some credit for cutting down on the time that it takes to draw the raffle, but even that backfired because the mass exodus from the room as the band started the second set was dreadful. I feel partly responsible for this because I announced that the raffle prizes were on a table just outside the room. Doh! Bad idea.   

The band’s second set saw a little more dance-floor action to some great cover versions of eighties party classics such as “Enola Gay” and “Going Underground” and after they had finished, I played for another three quarters of an hour, which I believe to have been my best set of the whole weekend. Did I really play Dean Martin’s “Amore”?   

Whilst I was thanked profusely, my contribution to the rally was not as good as it should have been and I know that I can do better. I’ve already been told that I’ll be there next year, so I’ll do some planning between now and then.   

I’ll return for a moment to Saturday afternoon. This was one of my professional and personal highlights of the weekend. I provided a PA system on the field for the arena and other activities. This was to promote the Bike Show, to provide commentary for the games that turned into an international “It’s A Knockout” between a great bunch of HOG members from Belgium and a motley bunch of Englishmen (with an American as well.) This was enormous fun and afterwards, the comment was made that my commentary helped the audience to understand what was going on. However, the real high spot of the afternoon was the arrival of the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance helicopter which flew in to the empty field that I mentioned earlier.   

Sherwood 11 - The Air Ambulance
Sherwood 11 – The Air Ambulance


They came to accept a cheque from the Chapter’s fund-raising activities. Most people there were amazed when a cheque for £9,500 was handed over; a brilliant effort by the Sherwood Chapter and friends.   

For my perception of the rest of the rally, I return to my theme as we arrived. As an (almost) outsider looking in, I saw a superbly organised event with a great atmosphere. There have been something of an upheaval in Sherwood Chapter over the last few months and I believe that some of the issues that were bubbling when I left the chapter two years ago have now been resolved. I really hope that the dust finally settles because I saw a renewed Sherwood Chapter this weekend, one that is moving forward with a united commitee and good leadership. Indeed, Sue and I have been talking about rejoining the chapter when our economic situation improves.   

My thanks to everyone in Sherwood Chapter for making us feel so welcome.   

Ride Safe,


Ride To Shackerstone

Sunday afternoon saw Sue and I partaking of two of our favourite pleasures. (Steady on, this is a respectable blog. Anyway, at our age, we don’t do THAT sort of thing.)

We took a trip out on the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail that just happened to take us to a heritage railway that isn’t too far away from us in Leicestershire.

The Shackerstone Railwayis also known as the Battlefield Line because its southern terminus at Shenton is adjacent to the Bosworth Battlefield.

The Battle of Bosworth was fought on August 22nd1485. Henry Tudor had marched with his force from Milford Haven in Wales where he had landed with about 2000 men. The Battle of Bosworth is one of England’s defining battles as it ended the reign of Richard III and led to Henry Tudor becoming Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs, a dynasty that lasted to 1603 and included the reign of two of England’s most famous monarchs – Henry VIII andhis daughter Elizabeth I.

From: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_bosworth.htm

Our route took in some familiar roads as we headed south on the M1 and west on the A42. After a stop at McDonalds at Ashby for a coffee and Deli of the Day, which was bacon & chicken, we continued along the A42 and then dived south into the wilds of darkest Leicestershire. After some winding and narrow lanes, we finally arrived at the very sharp turn onto the old railway trackbed which was very reminiscent of the approach to Peak Rail‘s Rowsley South station.

However, this junction was littered withloose stones that made negotiating the turn on two wheels a somewhat hairy experience. Somehow we got roundwithout ending up on our sides with a bike on top of us and as we went down the roadway, it occurred to me that the surface itself was in much better condition than the deeply potholed track at Rowsley.

Shackerstone station is in a strange location. I couldn’t work out how it could ever have had any access in the days when the railway would have been using the existing access road because the old Station House occupies the area where I would have expected a road to come in and the Ashby Canal is also just a few feet away from the station’s main entrance. Our arrival was perfectly timed to see the tail lamp of the train disappear under the station footbridge and off towards Shenton. This gave us plenty of time to look around before the next departure.

The station building itself has been beautifully preserved and restored by the Shackerstone Railway Society and we recieved a warm welcome from the volunteer in the ticket office who had to go and ask what to do with our Heritage Rail pass.

The beautifully restored building at Shackerstone Station

The beautifully restored building at Shackerstone Station

With this dilemma resolved, we wandered into the museum.

Chuffing Hog in the museum at Shackerstone Station. Sue was amazed that they let the this bit of living history out again.

Chuffing Hog in the museum at Shackerstone Station. Sue was amazed that they let the this bit of living history out again.

This was an experience in itself. Two rooms of the station building contain what must be thousands of railway artifacts that range from signalling equipment to cigarette cards. These have all been collected over many years by John Jacques who used to work at Shackerstone Station in BR days as signalman. The man himself was in attendance at the museum, although I didn’t realise who I was talking to until I returned home and looked at the railway’s website.

The museum alone was almost worth the trip for me, although Sue was keen to capture some photographs of the station itself, and we were both in need of a cup of tea.

The station is also host to the Victorian Tea Room where we obtained proper cup of teas – from a proper tea pot on a tray with china cups. These were accompanied by enormous slices of the most delicious carrot cake.

Eventually, the train returned – on the far platform from where we were all standing. This was an astute move because it forced us to use the footbridge across to platform 2 where the railway has built a new building that is in use as a shop, but is very much in harmony with the whole “feel” of the place.

31101 arriving at Shackerstone Station on Sunday 5th April 2009

31101 arriving at Shackerstone Station on Sunday 5th April 2009

One of the down sides to our visit was that this shop sold whistles. Of course, a couple of children had been bought them and blew them continually for the whole time that the train stood in the platform. Fortunately, this particular family got into a carriage further down the train from us and we didn’t hear them again until the train arrived at Shenton, where the symphony continued. We were also left in (comparative) peace by a family with an excitable young son whose idea of expressing excitement was directly related to his volume. Even he didn’t stop Sue having a few moments shut-eye (if not actual sleep).

Was she pretending, or actually asleep?

Was she pretending, or actually asleep?

The journey itself was behind the immaculately turned out Class 31 Brush diesel loco 31101 in Large Logo rail blue. It was different to have a diesel in use on a weekend that had not been promoted as a diesel weekend, but the lack of steam traction didn’t seem to put any kind of cloud over the enjoyment of the railway’s visitors.

I was a little sad to see Market Bosworth station looking somewhat forlorn and out of use as we ran straight through it. It is obviously getting a periodic coat of paint, but I hope that the railway is working towards bringing this station back into use one day.

As we only had time for one round trip aboard the last service of the day, on our return to Shackerstone, we took our leave and headed home using the back lanes through to Coalville before picking up the main roads to Nottingham .

After some wrestling with a very important Word file for a couple of hours, we popped over (in the car) to see my mum late in the evening because Sunday was also her birthday. It was great to be able to see mum and a pleasant surprise when one of my brothers and his wife turned up as well.

Overall, a good day, with a good ride and a most enjoyable visit to a great railway.

Ride Safe

Good Weather – Good Riding

Another biking milestone was reached today (actually yesterday – it’s now a few minutes into Saturday as I write this). Sue and I got out on the bike together for the first time in 2009.

 Sue had been awake for most of Thursday night, so took the day off work sick and slept for much of it while I went off to the dentist and to do some work. When I got back in mid afternoon, Sue was up and feeling a lot better, so we kitted up, got ourselves astride the Heritage Softail and hit the road.

We started out by heading out to East Midlands Airport in the hope that there might be a few planes to watch. We sort of saw a Ryanair jet land in the far distance, but couldn’t get into the closed Aeropark, so remounted the Harley and set off down the old A453 which runs parallel to the bust A42 through the Leicestershire countryside towards the wonderfully named Ashby-de-la-Zouch. This quiet road was a dream to ride and all too soon we came down to Flagstaff island at Ashby. There is a McDonalds there, so we took advantage of the fact that I had a full coffee loyalty card and stopped for a drink and a deli of the day.

Suitably refreshed, we headed out along the Burton road – my daily route to work, but rather than turn down into Swadlincote, we continued through Woodville and took a right turn at the Mason’s Arms towards  Repton and Willington. Both of these villages were quite busy as we landed there during the peak of the school run with countless women in Chelsea tractors collecting their little darlings – and one or two giving their mobile phone conversations far more attention than a couple of bikers aboard an apparently invisible Harley.

I did feel slightly better after yelling “W*nker” into my helmet lining as one idiot in a Mercedes narrowly failed to kill us.

After this, the open road of the A38 towards Derby felt like a welcome relief. This was short-lived because my impeccable timing had managed to hit the start of that fair city’s rush hour traffic. This is where a bike’s ability to filter through the queues really comes into its own and I am grateful to the unknown rider of a red and white Kawasaki who led us, and two or three other bikers, through the melee.

We took the familiar tarmac of the A6 northwards through Duffield, where the Kwak turned right and left us to it, on to Belper (more filtering) and out through Ambergate, Whatstandwell and Cromford.

It was great to see a good number bikes lined up in Matlock Bath outside the Promenade Chippy, but we pressed on into Matlock itself where our destination was Sainsbury’s petrol station. After a quick consultation with my pillion, we decided to go no further northwards, but to head back via Tansley, Wessington and Alfreton onto the A38 and back via the M1.

We arrived home at about 6:15 and after one of Sue’s speedily produced stir fry dinners, we both crashed out for a sleep that ended sometime after 10pm. Our day finished with a cup of tea in front of the TV and me sitting down at the computer to write this ride report sometime after midnight.

It was a good ride, and all the better for having Sue on the back. Here’s to many more of them.

Ride Safe

Another Ride

I have no real wish to bore you with daily accounts of my commuting to work, even when this is aboard the Heritage Softail. However, for the second time this week, the bike has had a airing yesterday.

This included a ride through the lanes of South Derbyshire on the way to Chesterfield for a work meeting.

It was a day that started with some fairly dense fog, but ended up warm, dry and sunny.

I’ll try to add some more to this post later today, if I get time.

Ride Safe

At Last

St Patrick’s Day saw my first ride aboard the Heritage Softail this year.

OK, it was a ride to from Nottingham to Swadlincote to go to and from work, but it was a ride. It was inspired by the fact that yesterday was a warm, sunny spring day and as I drove the now familiar route to work, I found myself wishing that I was on the bike rather than cocooned in the car.

Today, of course, was nowhere near as good. It was dull and overcast all day, but it stayed dry.

The bike got a reaction from most of my work colleagues. Jackie and Alison appeared in car park as soon as I pulled up at about 8am and later in the day, Saira and Chris were both sitting aboard the bike.

I think they were quite impressed.

It took me about the same length of time for the journey, but I think I used slightly less petrol in the bike than in the car. However, a 1440cc engine is always going to be rather a thirsty beast.

I fear that tomorrow I will have to go by car for a couple of reasons. One is that I put a lot of petrol in it on Monday that needs to be used up. (Don’t ask, it’s a long story.) The other is that I have to find my way to a place that I don’t know in the village of Hilton.

Well, this year’s biking has finally started – let’s hope there lots more miles and lots more rides to come.

Ride Safe

A Mid-Life Crisis Or Two

For a long while now I have joked about my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the Sportster, as the manifestation of my mid-life crisis.  This feeling continued into the era of the Heritage Softail and I am increasingly convinced that this is very close to the mark.

In fact, as I look back, I must have been having a succession of mid-life crises for more than 20 years now!

I used to think that the mid-life crisis was exclusively a male thing, but now I’m not so sure. It seems that it the majority of people showing the classic symtoms seem to be men, but I have seen enough women who also do this.

So what are these symptoms?

Essentially, it involves dressing up in some kind of tribal fancy dress.

Some years ago, I had good reason (the love of a good woman, to be precise) to get into the live country music scene in the UK midlands. Now let me make it clear that I have always liked country music on record and CD, especially the rocky end of modern country. (Although I have never been too averse to Dolly Parton or a few other of the more traditional artists – and not entirely for the reasons that jumped straight into your mind). No, my observations were made around a small(ish) circuit of singers, musicians and occasionally bands who would turn up and play covers of American country music, with the occasional bit of original songwriting thrown in that gave the British scene a modicum of originality.  It was not these artists who were earning honest fees for their perfomances, but the fans in the audience.

Other than a mid-life crisis, why would otherwise sane adults of a certain age, dress up as cowboys complete with spurs, six guns and stetson hats? It made no difference at all to their enjoyment of the music, but instead gave them a sense of belonging.

Similarly, I was on the outside edge of the Rock and Roll scene for a while in the late seventies and early eighties. Again, it is the the fans who spend a great deal of money, time and effort on dressing the part. I have also been part of the Northern Soul tribe, community radio groups, a canoeing and sailing tribe and I went through Scouts and was, for quite a few years, a scout leader. I’ve done my share of “belonging”

So on to motorbikes, and to the world of Harley-Davidson in particular. Why do I have so many Harley T-shirts, jumpers and other clothes? Why did I wear a leather waistcoat covered in Sherwood Chapter and Harley Owners’ Group patches and why did I ever go to rallies and chapter meetings wearing this kit?  After all, my best riding has almost always been with Sue on the back and no-one else on the road. Group riding was just part of the tribal aspect. 

There seems to be something of a trend here. The tribe is really about showing that you belong to something.  It is also an escape from the everyday grind of life and work into a fantasy world where you can pretend to be a cowboy for the evening,  recapture what it might have been like to be a Teddy Boy for a few hours or play at being a “Hells Angel” rebel biker for the weekend before putting on a suit and going back into the office on Monday morning.

In each case, alcohol helps to fuel the fantasies. However, it really doesn’t matter if the cowboy falls over drunk and a pissed-up Teddy boy is little more than a joke, but it is rather more worrying that many of the weekend biker rebels guzzle a dozen pints on Friday night then ride a motorbike on Saturday morning.

Now that I have left the chapter committee and have not (yet) renewed my chapter membership, I am looking dispassionately at this particular tribe and at tribes in general. Does this mean that I am now in a post-mid-life crisis period of my life. If so that’s a bit worrying because after mid-life, I guess, comes old age and I’m nowhere near ready for that yet.

Actually, it’s OK. I still dress up as a guard when I go to play trains volunteer at Peak Rail – I must still be in mid-life. Phew!

Ride Safe

Why I Resigned From Sherwood Chapter Committee

I served as membership officer of Sherwood Chapter for almost a year. I enjoyed this volunteer role a great deal and I believe that I made an effective contribution to the chapter during this time. However, in late September, soon after the Sherwood Chapter Rally, I resigned from the committee. This post is my attempt to address the reasons behind this resignation. I am sure that Sue, my wife and the former chapter secretary, could add more to this, but as this is my story, let’s keep it that way for now.

It has been quite difficult to identify when things started to lead up to my departure, but in the almost three months since I took the decision to resign, I have had plenty of time to think about it and I have realised that this was probably inevitable from even before I took on the job. I had swapped a number of emails with a former senior member of the committee about the way that the chapter was being run, mainly in support of Sue, my wife’s, efforts to get the chapter committee behaving more like a democratically accountable voluntary organisation.

At that time, there were no agendas being prepared for meetings, committee members were aloof and out of touch with ordinary members and financial reports were presented from scribbled notes on scraps of paper. Even before I joined the committee, I realised that all was not well with the organisation. Maybe my mistake was to say so.

I certainly played some part in this senior committee member’s decision to stand down and I believe that this, in turn, influenced another senior member of the committee to resign at the same time. This left a couple of vacancies on the committee. One of which, the secretary’s role was being filled by Sue, another was that of membership officer, which I only agreed to take on to support Sue and Pete (Clifford), our new chapter director.

During my time on the committee, it became very clear that there was a faction within the organisation that strongly supported the former senior committee member. It was also clear that for him, resignation did not mean leaving the newly elected officers to get on with it. Indeed, at every turn, he and “his”  faction within the committee were effectively a shadow cabinet, discussing committee and chapter business among themselves.  I am convinced that the shadow cabinet had a fairly long-standing plan to find an opportunity to take revenge on me for my email exchange. 

Their opportunity came with a discussion on the rally that had been organised at a time when I could not get to a very poorly attended meeting early one evening at the Hog’s Head pub. However, Sue did go along in time to hear an attack on both of us for charging the chapter to provide the disco for the two nights of the rally. This attack was led by Pete and Carole Wright, both good friends of the former senior committee member.  The gist of their argument was that we were paid for working at the rally while everyone else was volunteering. 

If our only involvement at the rally was being paid to do the disco, even I might have had some sympathy with this view. However, Sue and I put in many voluntary hours at the rally, along with some other members of the committee. We both spent a long time on Friday and Saturday on the gate, along with Assistant Director Kev Taylor and others. After we had done our fair share of volunteering, we went to work.

Perhaps Pete and Carole simply failed to see that we earn a substantial part of our livelihood in the entertainment industry.

The Wrights, in particular, were conspicuous by their absence throughout the time we spent on the gate. I have tried to discover just what they spent their time doing other than drinking and talking to friends, and have unearthed the fact that they were involved in decorating the function room for the Friday night and selling a few raffle tickets.

Even this minimal volunteering didn’t extend to them putting any effort into decorating the space outside where the Saturday evening band played and where there was a fantastic atmosphere despite the lack of decoration. Nor did they turn up to take the decorations down from the function room on the Sunday morning.  The site owner spent quite a lot of time asking for this to be done before it was, eventually, done by a small team of people.

I have also tried to find out just how many other members of the committee are expected to do what they do for a living for nothing – and have found no-one else that had ever been put into the position that the Wrights were trying to put me in.

It may also be that some people are unable to recognise that there is a very significant difference between providing entertainment and being entertained. I am fortunate that I have job that I am good at and that I enjoy. However, it is still a  job and has to be approached as one.  If I were to drink even half as much as many of the people at the rally, the disco would have been a disaster and the Wrights would have been 100% justified in saying so. However, I approached this job in the same professional way that I approach every job I do.

Whatever the ultimate motivation for The Wright’s attack on Sue and I, it did the trick. I emailed Pete Clifford that same evening and resigned. I later found out that the former secretary was going to stand against both Sue and I to try re-take the two roles that she had walked away from a year earlier. For a while I toyed with running a campaign to stop her and also to get rid of Pete Wright as treasurer of the chapter, but frankly, I had stopped caring enough to be bothered.

If this was a chapter in a book about governance of voluntary organisations, it would end with a paragraph or two about collective responsibility and the importance of keeping a committee united. For me it ended with an unpleasant experience and a determination not to volunteer for Sherwood Chapter again in the future.

It only took two people to get rid of a couple of good volunteers.

Ride Safe