You don’t see many wheelchairs at TVAM. “Thank goodness,” I hear you say. However, there was a very visible one at the August TVAM meeting, and I was sitting in it. So how had this sad state of affairs come about? The August meeting was my last as leader of the Meet and Greet Team. I was determined to be there to “sign off,” as it were. I was also looking forward to the Sausage Fest and the Slow Riding Competition in the afternoon. So what was stopping me? Sciatica, that’s what. This has been a growing problem for me for some time and has now reached the point where walking and standing can be uncomfortably painful and I could envisage a fair bit of both on that Sunday. A wheelchair seemed a possible solution but where could I get one at short notice? “Google” suggested The Red Cross. They have a place in Yateley which holds a stock of wheelchairs and other equipment available to borrow in return for a donation. They are only open on weekdays between 10.30 and 12.00 and this was Friday at 10.30. However they did have wheelchairs in stock so off I went. The lady volunteer on duty gave me a rundown on how it all worked. Paperwork completed and donation duly made I had the solution to getting around on Sunday.

Come Sunday morning, my son Andrew (Andy to all but his Mum and Dad!) and pillion granddaughter Sarah, a frequent helper on the Meet & Greet desk, arrived to swap his Triumph RS for my Honda NC700S which he was going to ride in the afternoon’s competition. They followed me to St. Crispin’s, got the wheelchair out and pushed me to the busy Meet and Greet desk, where I welcomed my last two newcomers before one of the M&G Team suddenly whisked me off to the hall and pushed me on to the stage. So there I was, somewhat embarrassed, in a wheelchair, the centre of attention for a few minutes as kind words were spoken and a card, with lots of lovely messages and some leisure vouchers inside was presented. The rest of the morning passed quickly and it was time to head across the school grounds to the Sausage Fest and Slow Riding Competition area. By this time daughter-in-Law Karen and Sarah’s sister Amy had arrived so I had plenty of willing helpers to push me along. Sausages were duly chosen and consumed, and very nice they were too, as we waited for the main event. I had a surprisingly comfortable seat in the wheelchair and a good view.

The slow riding was a lot of fun. A good course had been set out requiring riders to make some some fairly tight left and right turns, including two figure-of-eights, as they went along, all to be ridden as slowly as possible. There were penalties for putting feet down and for touching the course markers, with the spectators encouraged to boo or hiss depending on the penalty incurred. I was impressed by the expertise demonstrated by many of the competitors, particularly those riding huge bikes such as the BMW GS. I also admired the competitors riding sports bikes, with their restricted steering locks making life difficult. And what about the enormously long Harley? Well done for having a go on that! Andrew’s effort looked pretty good, considering he had never ridden the bike before. And then someone said, “How about riding the course with a pillion?” Sarah wasn’t too sure at first but between us we persuaded her to have a go. Andrew’s run, with Sarah on the back was, I believe, quite a bit slower than his first run had been. He was pretty pleased with both. With no results available on the day it was all over. Once again TVAM volunteers had come up with a good event enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike. We had all enjoyed a really grand day out.

John Collins

First published in Slipstream September 2018