Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Abnormality

By guest blogger Pete.

Things are settling down again and the normality of everyday living has returned. It's September. The children have returned to school so it's possible to visit the city and not have to walk sideways through the crowds. First timers at their new schools, shaking in their shoes (and this refers to new teachers as well!) have taken the step over the threshold that might well be the start of something great - i.e. becoming Prime Minister or a position of some similar ilk. Poor little devils! Clubs of various sorts are reopening again all over the city and Adult Education class are in full swing. (For "adult" read someone who needs an academic qualification. At one time you could learn French for fun but our city fathers have decreed that you cannot enjoy education because you must take an exam at the end of the course).

But if September marks a return to normality what does it say about August? Is August an abnormal month? My father died during the war and my childhood Augusts were spent with my brother (15 years my senior) and his wife in the smallish Yorkshire market town of Stokesley. If you're in that area keep on the bypass! During those August months I managed to purloin his father-in-law's bike and cycled for miles around the district. One of my favourite places was 2 or 3 miles from Stokesley, a village called Great Ayton. This place has a very attractive village green with a "beck" running through the middle of it. The ideal place to go to avoid having to run errands in Stokesley and, on a hot summer's day, a great location to lay in the grass and read a "Biggles" adventure of the "Just William" book borrowed from the Stokesley library on my brother's ticket.

Tuesday evening's were special during those Augusts. Then my brother and I would make the 12 mile or so journey into Middlesborough and visit the local speedway. I used to be enthralled by the noise of those bikes and the general atmosphere around the track. I was impressed by the bravery of the riders as they went into skidding turns around the bends, sometimes secretly enjoying the odd accident especially if it involved one of the visiting riders. If WE'D beaten the opposition I'd go back to Stokesley "on top of the moon".

Back in Southampton, where I lived, my sister, 10 years older than me, arranged for a friend of hers to take me to the Southampton Speedway on a Thursday evening. Here I found the same magic that I had first encountered at Middlesborough. I can picture that track now but can remember the name of only one of those dare devil riders. That name is Jim Bason. Why I should remember it I don't know. He wasn't anywhere near an idol of mine and his skills never did impress me.

Speedway as a sport was copied my many of my teenage peers in the Southampton area. Any waste piece of ground was quickly adapted into a cycle speedway track, complete with dusty bends so that the riders, with the help of brakes, could go into breath taking slides (even though such skidding slowed them down considerably). Cycle speedway teams grew up all around the city. 'Silly girls' weren't allowed to ride but on occasions when a match had been arranged with another team they could come and cheer us on. If they wanted any of us to speak to them during the following week then it was imperative for them to come and support us. Intense rivalry grew up between the teams but I can recall no occasion when fisticuffs resulted. That intense rivalry was all part of the sport and everyone enjoyed it. It could give you "boasting" rights until the return match had been arranged. If you lost a match then there was always a more than plausible excuse; your best rider's parents had decided, at short notice, to emigrate to Siberia and he had had to go with them.

August an abnormal month? Not really! It was just a different month.

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