National Rally 2012 update

I reckon there should be a theorem somewhere to explain car rallies, something along the lines of “The bigger the rally, the more opportunity for cockup” or something like that. The National Rally is obviously the largest event we manage each year, and as such the organising ‘team’ tends to expand year on year to include volunteers, conscripts, various vagabonds and ne’er-do-wells, and just about anyone else who can work out which way round to wear a hi-vis vest.

Although much ground work has already gone on long before, I don’t get involved until the Thursday before the rally weekend, and when I showed up around lunchtime most of the crew had already assembled. In the absence of any information otherwise, I drove through the entrance gates to Kelmarsh Hall and wandered around aimlessly for a while before deciding to phone for advice. Sue answered and helpfully pointed out that I was in the wrong place, as though I hadn’t guessed that already, and then told me where I should be instead. “Right, there’s a sign, follow the sign. It says… hang on, what does it say?… Ummm….” Click. Brrrr. You know, some people are only alive because its illegal to kill them. I picked a random direction and pootled off and found them in a field half a mile away.

Having had the compulsory cup of tea, I suggested that it might be useful if we put some signs out on the main road, because while its fun to watch people getting red-faced at their satnav’s it does seem to lead to a sense of humour bypass. Out came the pile of signs and we commenced the annual game of trying to find enough signs with arrows in the right direction before setting off to affix them to road signs, trees, fences, slow moving pedestrians, etc. Pretty much all the signs we had pointed left, which wasn’t helpful since all the turns were to the right, and I did consider just hanging the signs upside down but was outvoted. Back to the caravan for some more tea.

Then we set about working out the parking areas for various categories. This consists vaguely of adding up the number of cars booked into each category, adding a random number of spare spaces for anyone not booked, and then pacing out two large steps for each car. I’m 6’2″, and Dorothy is about 5′, and having run out of tea we’d resorted to opening some beer, so the measurements did tend to be somewhat arbitrary. Still, two hours later, we had a vague concept of where all the cars would line up, so we retired for the day and drew straws for ‘nominated driver’ to ferry us all out for dinner. Unfortunately dinner was less than satisfactory, aided in part by our waitress deciding that Andrew and I were a couple (that’s happening more and more often lately), partly by being sat in the conservatory during a torrential downpour which made shouting and sign-language the only possible forms of communication, but mainly by a particularly unfortunate-looking lump of chicken masquerading as a Kiev.

Back to the site, and after listening attentively to the instruction that we needed to be up and ready for cars from 6am, we set about the bottle of whisky secreted in Chris’ caravan. If you know me, you’ll probably know I have a teardrop caravan. If you’ve ever spoken to me, you’ll probably know that I spend twenty or so nights a year in it on various rally fields. If you know me well, you’ll probably know that each of those nights is the equivalent of a stay in a Russian labour camp. Its 4″ shorter than I am, its hotter than the Mojave desert within 20 minutes of getting in, and the memory foam mattress serves only to make sure that I sleep in the same contorted position that I did last night again tonight. Thus it was with some reluctance that I left their caravan and returned to my own at about 1am. 5.55am the following morning a cup of tea appeared outside my caravan door, provided by the only person on God’s earth who looked worse than I felt. Fifteen minutes under a hot shower, two gallons of tea, and various mutterings about never drinking again later, we pronounced ourselves fit to book in vehicles and sat hopefully waiting for our first victim, who showed up about midday…

I had a good day anyway, roping off the main arena through Chris’ truck, wrapping Malcolm’s car in striped tape, and (allegedly) stealing some chocolate biscuits from Andrew’s van, but wisely decided to withdraw when Dave suggested I’d be tied to a tree if I didn’t go away.

Those who did arrive were complaining of poor signs, so we went out again and added a few more, some even facing the right way, and then we all checked our life insurance policies before risking Sue’s home-made ‘chilli burgers’ and more beer. The camping area was filling up nicely, but some of the marshalling was a tad haphazard due in no small part to Malcolm’s discovery that the Northern lot had brought beer with them and were happy to share. We booked in some poor bloke in a large van which looked like it had been used for target practice by a bunch of drunken scouts with catapults, who had apparently been through a hailstorm on the way which had punched four holes in his windscreen and left his roof beacons as nothing more than shattered bits of plastic. Thank God he didn’t come in a convertible! Entertainment was provided by watching Keith battle with someĀ aluminiumĀ poles which, if unfolded correctly, should resemble a folding chair. Christine and Dorothy had a go too, and Sue and I watched and had side bets on whether Keith would swear. Evening festivities were brought to an abrupt end by the noxious fumes emanating from Chris, who was finding out that beer and chilli burgers made unhappy bedfellows in his stomach and were protesting.

We didn’t stagger out of bed until 8am on Saturday and demolished half a pig’s worth of bacon sarnies before braving the rally field, so predictably it had all gone wrong already. Someone had parked their Minor neatly in its designated row and we would have been very impressed if only he hadn’t parked it facing the opposite way to everyone else. The signs we’d carefully placed for Branch Avenue had been adhered to, but we’d neglected to indicate which side of the marker posts each area was for, leading to a hole in the middle. Much discussion ensued about who would have to dismantle their gazebos and move along one space before some bright spark had the idea of simply moving the marker signs instead. Saw hardly anything of Saturday’s events as too busy elsewhere, but I’m told everyone enjoyed themselves. Time to get ready for the party [wpdm_file id=1]

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