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17th June 2016

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Famous Last Worms 38: Classic Motorcycle Shows

Classic bike shows are exciting. Aren't they? Frank Westworth indulges in a little show and tell...

‘Someone’s having a clear-out.’ I was leaning wearily against a steel pillar on the magazine’s stand at the recent most fabulous Drastic Motorbicycle Show at Stafford, and a very nice man was talking to me. I nodded. Politeness is my middle name. It was 0909 on the Saturday morning. Already I was dreaming of Cornwall’s sunny beaches, littered as they are with toothsome tanned surfers rather than the stand opposite, littered as it was with rusty old magnetos.

‘Aren’t they magnetos?’ wondered my friend. I agreed that they were. Probably were. Whereas others may pretend to a knowledge greater than they actually possess, I prefer the reverse approach. Pretending ignorance and stupidity comes easily to me. Especially at shows. 0910. Not long until Monday.

‘Do you ever wonder where all the spares come from?’ Although my friend was plainly struck by wonder, my feet were already threatening to ache. It is hard to argue with feet. But I confessed that in fact I rarely wonder. And almost never about spares, rusty or otherwise. The steel pillar was surprisingly comfortable. Solid. Reassuring.

My friend revealed that in his shed there are many spares, and he already knew that The Shed where I keep the rusty rubbish which infests my otherwise pristine life is also cluttered with junk. Or ‘spares’, if you prefer. He began to muse, which is always a worry. 0913.

‘Don’t you think that if we all sold all the stuff and spares we hoard then there’d be loads more classics on the road?’

Famous Last Worms 38: Classic Motorcycle Shows

This odd notion caused me to shift from one foot to the other, to finish consuming the mysterious hot water drink he’d brought with him from the alleged bar, and to think. This is never easy at such an appalling hour on a Saturday in Stafford. Or anywhere else. But in fact I do not think that. I think that if we all sold the rusty junk* / valuable rare spares* (*delete as appropriate) they would simply migrate from our sheds to other sheds, and that very many autojumblers would make millions of pounds acting as selfless intermediaries in the process. My friend thought I was joking and wandered off, chuckling. People laugh at me. They always have. I have no idea why. 0918. Not long now.

A far-too-slim man with a ponytail zoomed up the stand and handed me a Champion Plugometer. I had never even heard of one before, and I am very old, so it must have been a well kept secret, the Plugometer. This was a new one, too, although also very old. I doubt that Champion still produce the Plugometer, and the world is a poorer place for that. You don’t know what it is, do you? Look it up and gain enlightenment. I was delighted (genuinely), and shared this with the slim man. He went away smiling. 0923.

Bike shows are a great excuse to stand in a vast over-heated cowshed in Staffordshire. In fact, I can think of no other excuse. I enjoy them. Where else would a slim man present me with a Champion Plugometer?

A loud burst of Scottish interrupted my pleasant reverie. I knew it was Scottish because I could catch about one word in three, only half of those were expletives and in any case he presented me with a haggis. In a tin. An armoured haggis. And you think your life is rammed with thrills and excitement? I was of course beside myself – my favourite position – with delight at the haggis. Had he, I wondered innocently, stolen it from a food bank, or was he merely taking pity on us poor English? The same generous gentleman once sent me a large part of a Norton rotary engine. I treasure it to this day; it’s in the spare bedroom holding the door open for the cat. The virtual cat. Is there any other kind?

After much verbal jousting, my Scottish friend (who was born in England but relocated northwards for the better weather) departed and it was lunchtime, so I walked about the place looking at motorcycles. There were a lot of them. Over the years I have come to expect this at motorcycle shows. Smart, me. I had a list of Things To Buy for my bikes. I bought none of them. Not one. A great day for the wallet, then. Success.

Famous Last Worms 38: Classic Motorcycle Shows
Silent BSAs on ...

All too soon it was Sunday afternoon. 1612 on Sunday. Brilliant bikes to see, more brilliant guys to tell tall tales to, bonhomie abounded. Really; a great weekend. I was in a superb mood, looking forward to sitting stationary in the van on the M6 and the M5 for hours and hours while the rain lashed down and the bonnet steamed. My final hour was unexpectedly completed by A First – something entirely new, something without precedent.

You know all the jokes about the ‘WH Smith reading room’, where clever chaps go and read magazines rather than buy them? This is as it has ever been, and the show equivalent is common too. A chap appeared.

‘Do you have an issue with a 1947 Norton ES2 in?’ he asked, only a little ungrammatically. Sadly we did not, but we did have one with a 1947 Norton Model 18, which is different in only one way, as you know. I passed it to him. He stood and read it. I gazed on benignly. Then he took his camera from his pocket and started to take photographs of the feature. The magazine cost a startling £2. I revealed this to him, encouragingly. ‘Oh’, he said, and carried on taking pictures. I took back the magazine, bemused as you’d expect. He looked up. ‘Do you have an issue with a…’

1701 Sunday. Time to drive.


The next Stafford Show is on 15th and 16th October 2016, by which time FW may have recovered. See

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