Monday, 10 March 2008

#020 Married Life

I managed to win the Nottingham track league once again in 1944, in October Jean and I married so I missed the hillclimb. Getting married was a cultural shock to me, going from a close family background and a high living standard - (I am not a snob) – and moving to a council house where my wife lived, looking after her four brothers, the youngest being 12. Her father who was bedridden lived in the front room; her mother had died some 7 years previous. Food was rationed at the time and the arguments we had over that were unbelievable. Eventually we settled down, I biked to work from there (Longmoor Lane, Breaston). I used an old bike for work and - as I had stored my racing bike - my wife thought I had packed up! She had quite a shock when I started training again at the gym and on the road on Sundays.

Towards the end of 1944 I tried to settle down to married life but found life very boring and finding it difficult to stay in after a lifetime of going on club runs Sundays. I resumed my gym twice a week introducing my brother- in- law Keith to this life, so fitness for cycle racing was still in my mind. Early in 1945 my bike was brought out. I checked it all over and started training with the chain gang, which started from our shop front at 7 p.m. One particular night that year sticks out more than any - that was the night that the future Commonwealth Games champion came out with us for the first time, we went up Donington hill and the “Stairs” towards Ashby. I dropped Ray Booty on the “Stairs”, he never forgave me. (In 1955 I was picked as mechanic for my first International assignment for England. Ray was in the team and on the first day in Prague he asked me to go out training with him, he tore me apart and when I caught them up at a roadside monument - representing the furthest advance of General Patton in 1944-. Ray announced that he got his own back for “dropping him on that same club training spin some 10 years previous, he’s like an elephant!).

My father-in-law had a small win on the pools, £125 to be exact, he wanted a car and his eldest son Douglas found one - a Morris 12/4 in. good condition apart from the tyres, the garage said they would see to them. These tyres were 5.00X19 and at that time were unobtainable, so they fitted second hand. I took my father-in-law out for his first ride, the month was January, and he sat at the back. With topcoat and scarves and a hot water bottle we had moved 20 yds, the nearside rear window was slightly open, a young boy threw a snowball at us, it went through the small aperture of the window and hit my father-in-law on the chest, what a good start.

The following Sunday the whole family decided to go to Skegness, it seems unbelievable now but none of them had seen the sea. We set off early, it was bitterly cold, and we went through Grantham, Boston, on the long straight in to Donnington a loud explosion occurred, the nearside tyre had blown off the rim. On examination we found a patch had been stuck on the inside of the tyre, this had caught on the inside wing arch causing the blowout. We changed the wheel, as this one was useless, we had seven deflations on the way to Skegness! Every one of them was a tyre off chore, what a good job I had brought tyre levers and a large tube of solution plus a 36” roll of Dunlop patching, and we used the lot. Skegness was at its usual winter best, we stayed about an hour then returned home only having one puncture.

The shop was getting busier, parts were becoming a little easier to obtain (1945) and I had written to our pre war suppliers of motorcycles especially BSA, Triumph & Royal Enfield. Replies were received stating that when the war finished they would consider giving us an Agency. Late in 1945 my father-in-law died and the eldest boy left home to get married.

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