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13th January 2005

Winter Rides 3 - The Matchless Christmas Tradition

As part of our 'what did you do during the winter holiday' series, Duncan Moss reveals that he enjoyed a traditional Christmas...

There is a joke doing the rounds, the punchline of which plays on the fact that when an activity, no matter how extreme, happens for the third time then it becomes tradition.

So it came to pass that this year the Christmas Day run became tradition. In previous year this had merely been referred to as 'you must need your bumps reading'. Now it is 'tradition'. We British are very big on tradition but there is a danger we will have so much of it soon that we will never be able to do anything new!

To be a worthwhile tradition it must have endured through adversity. My token gesture started the previous Saturday on a run to Hart Motorcycles (for all your MoT and servicing needs) to partake in some excellent festive coffee and mince pies. I noticed that the tail light wasn't, while the brake light was (lighting that is). A well known affliction of parallel twins is loose filaments so I worried not, safe in the knowledge that a remedial bulb chop is just a two minute job.

What a pretty bike. Lovely.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve. The collection of twigs in the corner of the lounge sit proud on a mound of green needles, with twinkling lights illuminating the house. In the garage an overdue bulb change fails to produce any corresponding glow from the tail light. OK then, as all the other lights work, fault finding for beginners says check the cables. I do, and discover that the bullet under the mudguard which should be on the tail light fly lead isn't.

No worries, it's a two minute job to apply another…

45 minutes later I emerge from the garage, having fitted a new tail light after experiencing the well known domino effect which cascades from a 'quick' repair.

Firmly embedded with 'tradition' are 'rituals', so I perform the ritual of pushing the bike off the drive to be started (better the breather blows on the road), peer in tank, turning on the oil (a ritual ignored at your peril) and petrol, flood the carb, free the clutch and start first kick (honest, almost every time).

A potential new ritual joined the list -- after 'peer in the tank' came 'frantically shake from side to side'. Contrary to my recollection of the previous evening, that the tank was almost up to the brim, I recall the four outings that followed the last investment in hydrocarbons. I knew from last year that the Shell garage on the A3 would be open but would have to take a different route to the one originally planned. I make a mental note for next year to look at the level and fill up before Christmas Day otherwise the trip to the garage will also become part of tradition -- once you've got tradition you have watch it, it's a hungry beast and wants to grow.

...and you can't beat having a winter tree in a photo.The first indication that this may be a different day is that I am able to pull out across and onto the A3 without hardly pausing. There have been days when I have grown noticeably older at this junction!

A steady run towards Liphook to warm the oil and the road opens up on to a soul-less bypass dual carriageway, where the filling station lives. During the exchange of cash for liquid I notice a small group of people gathered in one corner around the microwave, obviously turkey is not the only lunch available today...

Departing the garage my thoughts slip from the diners (and whether the three wise men stopped at a filling station on their way home for an espresso) to the inadequate design of slip roads, as I do my best owl impression to check for other vehicles... there aren't any.

Following the A3 down to Greatham I peel off on to a clear winding B-road through Selbourne towards Alton and pull over near the Lavender Farm. The fragrance from last summer's crop is long gone, but photographic evidence captures the day's crisp sunshine and quiet road.

Matchless Stuff on
A busy A-road or a quiet B-road? Christmas; the great leveller.

Once in Alton I decide to remain on the B-roads that are clear, debris free and suited to a 1960's 650 twin, and head through South Warnborough and on to historic market town of Odiham -- home to the RAF and their tandem rotor helicopters (Chinook: bless you). The skies are quiet today. It has become unusual to meet any other vehicle at a junction but caution is still exercised to prevent an ambulance ride creeping in to the tradition.

Pressing on along the A287 towards Farnham; the occasional vehicles are travelling faster on this route, the prospect of cold turkey (an activity usually reserved for smokers on January 1st) presumably increasing their velocity! With just under 35 miles covered I drop down Castle Hill into central Farnham where I realise that throughout my journey there have been numerous small family groups of good humoured pedestrians bedecked in big hats, coats and scarves, scurrying along the pavements with an air of joviality, Farnham is no exception.

Another junction, no traffic, and on to the deserted one-way system. Out of idle curiosity I pull into the central car park -- just one car and a heavily chained motorcycle occupy the expanse, looking like last year's discarded toys.

Following the A287, Frensham pond soon slips by silently on the right hand side, reflecting the surrounding common land, reeds and sky giving rise to thoughts of mill pond metaphors. The sun has completed its northern hemisphere contract for the day, retiring somewhere warmer for the afternoon and the cold is starting to bite. I press onto Hindhead and drop back on to the A3, pulling over briefly to capture an image of the junction. Normally a local and national bottleneck with a peak hour number of vehicle movements in excess of 3000 (about one every second), the lights cycle twice through their routine just for practice before a vehicle gives them a reason for existing.

And this must be the A3 junction.

The last mile of the day's 45 delivers me home. The Matchless is tucked up in the garage and given a quick spray with FS365 and I head indoors to challenge the turkey to a thawing contest.

I really must hoover up those needles sometime.

Any more New Traditions?


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