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8th January 2003

Some people seem to know the price of everything, yet they value very little. Rowena Hoseason wonders whether three quid is too much to ask...

It's not that Rowena is small, just that the BSA has a seat height of 54 inches...Backfired!

Olde Uncle Jim Reynold's annual bash at Cleobury Mortimer is just the finest way to finish the summer. If you've never been to it then you have missed a treat. While our old Big Breakfast at Prees starts off the riding season with a frenetic, freewheeling high-calorie kick, the Cleobury Show is a more laid-back finale, a relaxed stroll among friends as the shadows lengthen and the evenings cool down. It's one of the last events of the year where you don't need to zip-in the fleece lining to your jacket; the last show of the summer where more people arrive on bikes than in cars.

Jim always puts on a good display; two halls full of motorcycles, lots of them unusual beasts of a calibre you don't normally find at a 'local' show. The parents and teachers of the school where the event is held produce oceans and mountains of tea and stickies, and you can count on there being some unusual spares for sale in the autojumble. A good show, and easily worth the three quid admission charge.

So why is it that so many people won't pay?

What's three quid to you? It's the price of a good magazine, obviously enough. It's the price of a pint, it's the price of a packet of cigarettes, and I think it's somewhere near the price of a gallon of petrol although I'm so confused about pence-per-litre that I can never really be sure. Three quid. Not much, surely?

But it's too much to pay for many motorcyclists, who turn up to Jim's show (and other events, too; I'm just using this one as an example because the phenomenon is not an uncommon) and browse around the bike park, look at the pretty ridden-in machines, buy some spares from the external traders and then clear off without going inside because they don't want to pay. You always hear someone at the door bleating; 'No love, I'm not paying to get in, I just want a cup of tea.'

Excuse me?

There wouldn't be a playground full of bikes to look at if there wasn't an event. There wouldn't be any traders to buy things from if there wasn't an event. There wouldn't be a cup of tea and some homemade sticky buns if there wasn't an event. There wouldn't be an event if Jim didn't organise it. And there wouldn't be an event if some people weren't prepared to pay for it. When is three quid too much to pay?

When all's said and done, the Cleobury Show is even in a good cause -- the money raised goes to the school. The parents and teachers and Jim and his helpers all donate their time and efforts to that end. And Jim and Co are rewarded for their hard work by some folk who turn up and partake of the general bonhomie while making sure that their short arms don't reach the bottom of their long pockets.

I think there is a word which means 'partaking of something for which you have not paid.' You probably know what it is, too.

And here's another thought. What if the show wasn't for charity? What if it had been organised by someone with the sole intent of -- gasp -- making a profit from the proceedings? Would that make it OK to attend without paying? Would that make it OK to enjoy the facilities, enjoy the activities and enjoy the old bikes without actually shelling out a few shekels? Because people do it all time at events and to such an extent that the whole structure of the massive Stafford Classic Shows had to be changed. So if you were stuck in the traffic queue outside the Stafford Showground twice this year, and yearn for the good old days when you could just drive straight in, then you know who to blame. Blame the people who just drove in, just looked around the outside, just bought a few spares, and then just drove off again without paying anything towards the whole shebang.

If we -- 'we' meaning all of us because, yes, if Frank and I attend an event then we usually pay the admission charge, unless we're actually being asked to judge or do real work -- if we don't support these events in the most straightforward way there is, then there will be no events to support. It's that simple.

Is three quid really too much?

Oh yes. One other thing. If you pass your bike magazines onto a friend after you've read them, on a regular basis, which saves him or her from buying their own copies, well then...


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