Thursday 28 December 2023

Rally - A Seasonal Tale

Thirty years ago my big pal Jaggy persuaded a very good friend of his to have a shot at rallying. His name was Chic Murray and as well as ‘mine host’ of the Bruntsfield Hotel in the southside of Edinburgh, Chic was one of Scotland’s top comedians, not just stand-up, but hosted his own TV sketch and comedy shows.

In fact it was in the Bruntsfield that the friendship blossomed and they became such firm friends that Chic converted two of the tarmac parking spaces outside the hotel bar windows into a nice grassy patch and flower bed. The sole reason for this was that Jaggy’s fall would be cushioned when he was frequently ejected from the premises through the window and landed on his RS.

It has to be said that Jaggy was rather puzzled as he thought his behaviour was perfectly acceptable for such a quaint and historic ‘Auld Reekie’ establishment but Chic regarded his behaviour as ‘drunk and disorderly’ i.e. Jaggy didn’t drink enough and should have ordered more!

Anyway, knowing of Jaggy’s propensity for the sport, Chic thought he would have a go and experience for himself the captivating attraction and adrenaline fuelled thrills of rallying.

He actually wrote an article which was published worldwide (around parts of Scotland) about his first (and last) venture into the world of motor sport and this is reproduced below:

-  -  - Chic Murray’s Guide to Rallying – a Festive Fairy Tale  -  -  -

I awoke with a start. Funny really. I had gone to bed with a finish. I knew she was finnish, blond hair, blue eyes and legs that went on for ever, but there was something funny going on, or else I was hungover. I knew it was a hangover. I was in a garage for airyplanes and they had all been flying around inside my head before I went to bed. It must have been bad booze or bad company that caused me to wake with a start.

Still it was fortunate. I needed a start. The car’s battery was flat and despite putting an airline on it overnight it was still flat in the morning, so I took the start outside and it worked first time, the car fired up. I quickly extinguished the fire and climbed aboard and started off. Handy thing this start, and I was to need it later when I started the rally.

This was difficult too, since I had to start the rally on the drop of a flag, then jump into the car, start it up and start off on the event. Unfortunately the dropped flag wrapped itself around the front wheels and the starting official was flagging me down to let me know. I didn’t stop. I drove past the officer and wound down the window to tell him to “flag off”.

The forests called. In fact it was so cauld the polar bears were rubbing boy scouts together to make fire. But I arrived at the end of the road section in one piece. My other piece was on the window shelf. It was a jammy piece for later refreshment. I entered the forest.

The marshals called. In fact they were so cauld they were frozen to their spots. I offered some advice. Clearasil soap would quickly remove their spots. They were grateful.

The start marshal produced a flag. This was the second flag I had seen today so I was a bit wary. Anyway he gave me a quick countdown. I told him I didn’t like TV games. He shouted ‘Go’, so I went, carefully avoiding the start flag and set off up the forest like a scalded cat. I knew it was a scalded cat. I had scalded it. The radiator had spurted a jet of hot steam on to the Marshal’s pet tabby and the cat leaped on the roof.

I tried to ignore it but it was difficult. I put the screaming noise down to what was under the bonnet, not sticking to the roof. The scream continued to rise almost deafening me. I changed gear. Not an easy thing to do, getting a one piece suit off in the tight confines of a car while driving and then change into something more casual. The screaming continued, so I changed gear again, this time back into something more sporting.

The spectators were besides themselves with amazement but it doubled their numbers. Every time I changed gear it brought a new gasp of astonishment from the assembled hordes as they knowingly spotted the source of the screaming. It was a cat on a hot tin roof.

At the end of that stage I was in the lead. That was to be expected, I was using lead-free fuel and I was now free from pursuit. I could tell I was nearing the flying finish, the marshall was flying. It had something to do with the whisky bottle in his pocket but he dropped the flag as I sped past. I remember seeing him in the mirror picking up the flag, but the finish marshal had already stopped the clock. A face like his would turn milk sour inside a coo never mind stop a clock. He gave me my time, I gave him some of mine, and we parted the best of friends.

I left him behind, which was not surprising as there were already two bums in the car and I didn’t need another behind. I headed for the next stage and the marshal clocked me in. Clocking cars is against the law so I told the marshal not to do it again. He appreciated my advice so I gave him some more: Be kind to your mother – leave home.

The second stage used to be a drover’s road so I drove steadily, the third stage was full of hairpins but they came in handy. They kept the hair out of my eyes. The fourth stage was a blinder. The Notes didn’t work so I drove it blind. The fifth stage was flat-out all the way – my seat back broke. The sixth stage was a real blaster. I put that down to the Tunnock’s curry pie with extra helping of beans.

There was just one stage to go, so I went. It was a very nice stage. In fact I cleaned it. That meant it was even nicer still. No-one else cleaned it so it got dirty again very quickly. This upset the conservationists. Still, it was no place to build a conservatory. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

At the rally finish, the marshal had another flag. It was either white with black squares or black with white squares but I avoided any entanglement. Then a very coarse clerk approached and told us to climb on to the roof, gave us two bottles of champagne and told us to spray it all over the place. I couldn’t see any fish, maybe the cat ate it, so I drank it instead.

The bubbles went up my nose and the liquid went down my throat, then the world turned upside down and I went to bed after the finish.

… I knew she was finnish, she had blond hair, blue eyes and legs that went on for ever … I awoke with a start ….

P.S. This is an abridged version of the full tale as those of a ‘woke’ and sensitive nature may be offended.

P.P.S. Anyone who doubts the honesty and veracity of this account may need counselling. Regular readers will know it’s all perfectly trew!

Sunday 24 December 2023

Rally - Murmurs on Mull

Daft idea time … Mull’s Holy Grail! You’ll never guess what I’ve found whilst working on the next chapter of the ‘Scottish Rally Championship’ history. The first book as many of you will know (currently available to purchase now!) covered the 1980-1989 decade whereas the one that is currently underway on will cover the 1990s.

This meant a return to the loft where the meticulously filed records (boxes stacked high from rafters to roof beams and from which all the sticky contents labels have fallen off!) have been stored patiently awaiting this great historical undertaking. 

Anyway, amongst the 1993 boxes I came across a little bit of ‘lost’ history – the 1993 collection of ‘Mull Murmurs’, the very first year which this on-event scandal sheet was first introduced, compiled, published and produced on the island. This means I now have the complete set covering the period 1993 to 2010 and I don’t think anyone else has a FULL set? 

With that in mind I had the daft idea of compiling them into one wee book and just wondered if there would be any interest in such a publication?

It wouldn’t be as glossy as the planned series of Scottish Rally Championship books currently underway but it would provide a permanent and written record of more innocent times in a far-flung land.

The late Brian Molyneux’s books covered the period from the first rally in 1969 to 1994, so the ‘Murmurs’ volume would bring the story more up to date covering the years 1993 to 2010.

The idea I’ve had is to print them as they stand. Complete with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, there would be no corrections, because this would mirror the actual conditions and timescale under which the original ‘newsheets’ were produced.

For those of you who don’t know, information was gathered during the actual running of the rally itself and every time there was a lull in proceedings, this information would be typed by manual typewriter on to ‘skins’ which were then wrapped around the ink filled drum of a Gestetner or Roneo duplicator machine. This was then handcranked to print off dozens of these rally updates for distribution around the route to both spectators and marshals as well as dropped off in hotels and restaurants where they could be picked up free of charge by everyone and anyone.

This was in the days before mobile phones, the internet and social media and came from an idea invented and pioneered by Brian and Liz Patterson who provided an on-event Bulletin service for most Irish rallies as well as the British Rally Championship and on the RAC Rally.

Distribution was made by volunteers visiting spectator areas and from cars running ahead of the rallies to drop supplies off with Marshals for onward distribution to spectators. If it sounds a bit of a Heath Robinson operation then it very much was, but also, it was a very effective way of providing all those involved in this wild and nomadic sport with fairly up to date information on the progress of a rally and who was winning, who was not and why not!

As such it served the Mull Rally rather effectively during that 18 year period. It wasn’t so much a planned system as more panic-driven. First of all the information had to be gathered either by interviewing crews at stage finishes or catching up in service areas, then quickly compiling the notes, typing them up and printing them off in time to get ahead of the rally cars and keep folk informed. Hence the many mistakes and typos which featured in the final bulletins, but most folk forgave such idiosyncrasies as it was the only means of on-event information available at the time. I was also told that was all part of their charm!

Anyway I reckon a nice simple wee book could be compiled for a reasonable price if I thought there would be a demand - and all profits generated would help out with my main task of recording the history of the Scottish Rally Championship!

So, what do you think?

Thursday 21 December 2023

In search of Santa

There’s such a cairry-oan around the Santa Claus and Christmas business these days and it seems to start earlier every year with fairy lights sparkling in the shops and Slade gie’n it laldy in the sound systems even before they’ve sold out of Hallo’een lanterns.

Anyway, Wee Jaggy was getting a bit sceptical about it all, so he turned to Big Jaggy and asked if they could go and find the real Santa and sort out this mythical fairy story once and for all. So off they set, rally boots on feet, wrapped up in warm rally jackets and woolly bunnets clampit oan the heid to face the cold and wintry weather.

They headed north following the trail of warm steaming pats left behind by the reindeer as they migrated north. With stars twinkling overhead and moonlight glistening on the frost encrusted fir trees they slipped and slithered along the ice encrusted gravel tracks hiking ever northwards through the inhospitable highland terrain and the forests. 

Stopping every now and then for a sustaining slice of Lady B’s porridge (ye cannae sup this wi’ a spoon) washed down with Irn Bru they trekked on, the road winding away ahead and disappearing into the distance.

Silence reigned in the forest, not a sound was heard as the snowy blanket absorbed the cracking of ice underfoot and deadened the sound of the wind whistling through the branches. With the wildlife in hibernation mode, even the sounds of the talon clawed haggis scuttling through the undergrowth searching for whisky groundnuts was but a seasonal memory while the growl of prowling Bears was absent from the silent soundscape. Not even a sleepy snore was carried on the breeze.

The intrepid duo walked on soon to be enthralled and tantalised by the celestial dancing colours of the Northern Lights as their destination drew ever nearer.

Eventually, rounding a corner in this silent, glistening landscape they came upon a low, white-capped log cabin highlighted by a bright lone star hanging high in the heavens like a big Cibie Super Oscar (ask yer faither!) piercing the darkness. A herd of reindeer was gathered in a paddock off to the side where a wee eerie red glow was spotted moving amongst the group. A big red open topped, box sided trailer was parked in a lean-to beside the cabin. It was already fitted with big long ski-runners affixed to the tri-axle Ifor Williams frame and an out of date MSUK/FIA bucket seat with full harness (but still legal for inflight reindeer powered use) bolted up front.

There was no bell on the stout wooden door (and no door-cam) and the actual door knocker looked awfy like the bobble on a toorie bunnet but was made of brass, or was that solid gold? Anyway, the door was answered and as we looked down we could see a tiny wee chap clad in red and green with pointy hat and funny curly slippers asking what the twa weary wanderers wanted. Wee Jaggy piped up: “We want to see the REAL Santa?”

“Oh,” cried the wee, wee chap, “you doubt that there is such a personage do you? Well come away in and see for yourself.”

And that we did, bearing gifts for the great man, a tin of Walkers Shortbread, a multipack of Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers and Teacakes and a bottle of Louise Aitken-Walker’s 33 year old special whisky - not to be touched until after his endeavours on the 24th!

So you can tell your own weans and grandweans this Christmas there really is a Santa Claus, because the twa Jaggies have been there, seen him for themselves and shook his haun’ in person. Just make sure the lum has been swept or there is a Santa welcome mat at the back door.

Merry Christmas everyone, and wishing you all a Happy, Safe and Successful 2024.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

Rally - Frustration

Grrrrrr! … For those of you have been frustrated in trying to order a copy of the book “The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989”, you know the old saying – If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!

Over last weekend a total of five potential customers expressed frustration at being unable to place an order but I have been assured by the ‘ChatBot’ at Square who manage the website that the matter has now been resolved. 

Following that, I have been informed by one of the five customers that he managed to place an order on Monday and this was posted out yesterday but in the meantime I have been having a wonderful time (Yeah, right) trying to resolve this issue without actually speaking to and conversing with an actual human being. Such is the way of on-line life these days.

And here was I thinking that pre-ChatBots, Call Centres were originally the invention of the unscrupulous to be inflicted on the innocents. Maybe they weren’t that bad after all. On the other hand maybe not, have you ever noticed that if you want to buy something on line you get a smooth talking efficient sales person eager to serve and advise, but if you have a complaint you are shunted off to some remote switchboard which is staffed by folk whose accents are thicker than axle grease and who don’t understand English - wot like we speke ‘ere! The bigger the firm the worse they manage their complaints processes.

So maybe the ChatBot isn’t such a bad idea after all – we’ll see.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Rally - Christmas Present

The book ... If you want a copy of the 'Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989' for Christmas or someone else's Christmas, then the dreaded day is only two weeks away. The Royal Mail is getting awfy, awfy busy these days, and Santa's sleigh is already overloaded so better order sooner rather than later.