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MEMOIRS 1939 to 1945 - Stacey Simkins

Some Bicycle Incidents

We also used to go out cycling when we were at home because - as I said before - I used to spend quite a number of weekends up in the Fire Service. Because of the fact we always seemed to find somewhere to stop where there was a load of sheep, we called ourselves the Baa Wheelers. And that's where the story of Bert Impey's bike came into play!

It was the summer of 1942 and Bert Impey had just bought a new bike, and had only used it once. Dougie Crump was a year older than most of us and was an L.A.C. in the RAF. He was on leave and decided he would like to come with us on the Sunday, but he didn’t have a bike. As Bert was not coming with us that weekend, we persuaded him to lend his to Dougie.

So we set out in the morning and all went well until late afternoon when we were in the Bishop's Stortford area. Dougie suddenly realised what the time was and exclaimed "Oh Christ, I've got to go back for me dad's band!" - to explain, his Dad ran a small dance band and Doug was his best trumpet player.

We were on a main road and he saw a Green Line bus stop, and as (bad) luck would have it, a bus coming. This bus went to llford so was just right for him. "Look after the bike!" he shouted, and scooted off to the bus. This left us with a bike to get back. We tried riding along with one hand on our handlebars and trying to steer the other bike alongside with the other, no go! So we had to take the bike to bits. Luckily we had some spanners with us. So off we went with bits of bike tied on our backs.

In the meantime, Bert had decided to go to the cinema, so he got ready and started to walk down his road. In the distance he spied a figure in shorts coming the other way.

'That looks like Dougie" he thought, "but it can't be, he's out with the lads." The figure disappeared into a house before Bert reached him, so he thought no more about it. He only started worrying when his bike failed to reappear that evening. However, during the course of the next week, lads kept calling at Bert's house whilst he was at work, and saying to his Mum "here's Bert's wheels/pedals/etc." Bert never lent his bike to anyone again, in fact I'm not sure whether he ever put it together again!

There was another occasion when we were out by Theydon Bois where there's a steep hill, called Owl Hill if I remember rightly, with a T-junction at the bottom, so the idea was if you went down you had to turn left or right. But somebody didn't turn left or right, and went straight on into the ditch!

Fortunately, the ditch was dry but we discovered that the front wheel of the bike was slightly out of shape - almost bent double in other words! We had a bit of a job on our hands, with one person with only half a bike. We tried all sorts of things and in the end we managed to get the front wheel out and attach the forks to the axle of the back wheel of another bike.

That was a bit dodgy for several reasons - firstly, the axle had to be long enough for the nuts to go on, and even then they didn't screw on very far. Secondly, whoever was on the back bike had to restrain themselves from pedalling; and thirdly when going round corners, not being a tandem which is rigid, the back bit had the habit of trying to go straight on! After a lot of trial and error, we did manage to get back.

Whilst we were doing all the bicycle repairs, there was some local lad sitting on a five-bar gate and watching us, and he had (funny how I remember this!) a cigarette case, and all he was doing was sitting there pointing at people, and saying "bang!". It was really getting on our nerves, so just before we were ready to move off, somebody went over to him - as he went "bang!" he just gave him a gentle push and he fell backwards off the gate - which we thought was highly hilarious at the time!

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