I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Well, I took HHnB's advice and sent the ESG group hug photo to the "Hug" website. So it is now there for all the world to see!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Well - Vita always has such great bike pix on her blog - so that's my excuse! Here is my old friend the BMW - we have been together for nearly 25 years and have got to know each other very well. A few days ago we rode down into my favourite hunting grounds.

A "day of days " (thank you John Betjeman) in crisp Autumn air, swinging across Salisbury Plain in golden sunshine. Dive down through tunnels of trees just beginning to take on their autumn colours. Open the throttle to surge up hills, beat of engine changes to a harsher song, feathering off as we crest the rise and the rolling downlands spread beneath us. Switchback - up, down, up down. Buzzards lazily circling in the downland thermals. Drop gears and lean into corners, grass verges coming up to meet us. Brake for little downland villages and pobble through on light throttle. Stop off at country bakers' to buy pie and cake, carefully stowed in pannier for later delectation at the target spot.

Lovely bend swinging through the Vale of Pewsey , then we rustle in to the ancient town of Devizes, through it and up onto the top of Roundway Hill. Here is lunch stop and where the photo was taken. Far reaching views back over the Vale of Pewsey - clean wind blowing - settle into cosy spot and dig out contents of pannier. Pie, cake and hot coffee: bright, clean sky: panoramic views: thoughts of the reverse enjoyment of 170 miles going home. Could life be better at such a moment? This is why I have ridden motorcycles for 50 years!

This ride also had a particular attraction for me. 50 years ago to the day it was here, at Devizes I joined the army and down in the valley below the hill are the relics of the army camp where I did my training (now a vast business park, but I can still make out some of the drill square amongst the buildings). 50 years - gone! For about 3 months then I was the youngest squaddie in the British Army (17 and a bit). That gives my age away - but days like this, with the bike, keep me young.

(Thank you HHnB for explaining linking to me - it works, as you see)

Monday, October 09, 2006


I sent the "Free Hugs" video to the whole membership of The Ermine Street Guard. Those attending our last display for 2006 (gets a bit cold around the knees after October in the UK)decided to go for a mass "hug-in" for this blog. (You see, Valonia, we really are quite nice, off duty!)

Sunday, October 01, 2006


We were invited to attend the 8th Römertage event at this Limes Fort Site near Stuttgart. Some 35 members flew out to be met by a coach at Stuttgart airport, whilst Russell and Terry did sterling work trucking a very slow lorry across half Europe with all the kit.

We were billetted in a Youth Hostel in the woods above the town. Built in 1937, the "Hitler Youth" swastika symbol had been carefully chiselled away from its stone plaque, but one could easily imagine the enthusiastic, lederhosen clad youth assembling and swinging down the woodland road singing appropriate marching songs.

The Guard preferred to mill around then shamble down to the town in odd groups – some staggering back in the early hours suitably uplifted by a more alcoholic stimulus.

The burgomeister of Aalen welcomed us on the first evening and we were presented with a very handsome bronze votive statuette of Eros and a stone head of Aalen’s genius loci.
We set our static camp display up on the site of the Limes cavalry fort, together with other groups and traders. The activity display area was very small and was surrounded with houses on three sides and the display tents on the other. We were thus diffident about shooting our artillery weapons. However the organisers were completely blasé about this. We loaded the onager and ballista with melons and oranges instead of the usual hard stuff, but could not shoot the catapulta with its lethal delivery. A German group’s tent was in the firing line, but when we warned them about this they said they would buy us a drink if we could hit it! (We managed it) Such is the laid back attitude to the same European health and safety laws which we in the UK "gold plate" so stiflingly.

Some 13,000 people watched our displays with repeated and enthusiastic applause. Outside the display ground was a large square which had been turned into a beer and refreshment area for the event. As we marched away at the end of the day, back to our changing area, we passed through this square and the whole crowd of several hundred people rose as one to cheer and applaud us. Such spontaneous appreciation sent a frisson down the spine.

Off duty and in the evenings we sampled the excellent pavement bars and restaurants.

One evening Exeter John did his best to promote international harmony when he became the object of a very friendly young German male in a bar. They had just got to the stage of exchanging tee shirts when he was quickly rescued by other Guard members who, with the benefit of being onlookers to the encounter, realised that the German wanted to take home not just the teeshirt, but John with it! Our last day was free and Juri, the organiser arrived at the Hostel to walk us up to Aalen’s famous thermal baths for free immersions. We asked him how far this walk would be – about two and a half kilometers was the reply – it turned out to be more like 3 miles and halfway up a mountain. For some this was the last straw after a physical weekend and hectic nights and the relaxing baths were sorely needed by the time we got there.

We were very fortunate in having a German girl, Muriel, as our minder. She spoke excellent English, often smoothed our way and gave a very efficient German commentary during our displays. She became very much part of The Guard and we gallantly presented her with a bouquet of red roses on our goodbyes. She subsequently sent an email saying that everyone at Aalen thought the success of the Römertage was largely due to the participation of the Ermine Street Guard and how she was envied by everyone for her job working with us. She thinks that, once fed, we are an amazing group.

By common agreement this must go down as one of the very best events The Guard as ever attended. Perfect weather, good billet, enthusiastic audiences, excellent organisation and relaxing beer gardens and restaurants. Here’s to the next time!