This is my first “From the Saddle” article. It’s a great privileged to have been elected as Chief Observer at the AGM and I have some big boots to fill. My first job is to thank Chris Brownlee for his five years of hard work and dedication to TVAM. I am only just finding out just how big those boots are! Thanks also to the 100+ of you that supported the AGM. There were some good ideas for the Committee to consider going forward.
Next, I thought I’d say a little about me. For those that don’t already know me, I joined TVAM in 2006, being a relative latecomer to biking. I did my Direct Access in 2005 and bought a big bike (a Speed Triple 1050) thinking I could ride it. How wrong I was, and it took many months of coaching from my then Observer, George Green, to get me to a test pass. I will never forget my test: having to postpone the first one on the day as my bike wouldn’t start after filling it up. Walking back up the hill from the petrol station to Taplow railway station car park where I was meeting my examiner, the late Martin White, remarked “Haven’t you forgotten something?” Bless him, he took me pillion back to my bike and stayed with me until the AA arrived. I learned the hard way that Triumph electrics weren’t always 100% reliable and had a new rectifier fitted under warranty!
As my confidence grew, I was keen to give something back to the Club and to continue my learning. I joined the TOb programme, getting my yellow badge in 2009. With some helpful advice on my first TVAM tour, I finally mastered the 3-stage overtake. I received my gold badge in 2010 and my National Observer qualification in 2018.
I was one of the founding team leaders of the RAMS, along with Tony Stanley, who has since left the Club, although his infamous “Tony’s Tours” live on and I’ve been lucky to have been on many all over Europe. Tony and I did three years of leading the RAMs before passing on the baton.
I managed to keep a low profile until in 2016 when the late David Jacobi, who was by then Club Chairman, asked for volunteers and particularly someone who might help out as Club Secretary. Gingerly, I asked Dave for more details knowing that once Dave had you in his sights there was no escape. I had some previous experience serving on charitable boards as a trustee and my day job – I’m a Chief Information Officer for a university – put me in good stead. No surprise, I was co-opted on to the Committee and elected Club Secretary in March 2017, a role I held for 5 years, standing down at the AGM in 2022. My second respite didn’t last long. I joined the Training Team shortly after and, well, here I am.
So, looking forward, I arrive at a time of change. Many of you will have heard about IAM RoadSmart’s plans to phase out the Local Observer role in favour of a single National Observer qualification. We are working closely with IAM RoadSmart to understand the implications of this and will explore that in more detail at the Observer Training Day, which will be held at St Crispin’s on Saturday 4 March (08:30 arrival for a 09:00 prompt start – full details posted in Groups.io).
Another initiative we have been working on is to improve the reporting of incidents, whether major or “just a near miss”. We can all learn from each other’s insight and a new online questionnaire will hopefully help capture this. More details in next month’s Slipstream. I think back to a recent near miss of my own: enjoying the A272 heading west towards the junction with the A24. The sun was low in the sky and I was using my forward observation to assess the junction and traffic lights ahead, which had just turned to green. It took me a little longer than it should to realise the car in front had performed a full emergency stop. Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic and so I was able to safely pass to his offside to avoid a collision. When I stopped, with heart pounding, he pulled alongside me to explain that his daughter had unfastened her safety belt, which he felt justified his actions. I’m not sure I agree but the lesson here is to expect the unexpected and do watch your following distance: two seconds means two seconds and it’s there for a reason.
One final thing. I am not a fan of email as I get hundreds in a day for work and don’t really want to find the same again when I eventually get home. Therefore, if you need to reach me for a swifter reply, please text or WhatsApp me – my number is in the back of Slipstream.
Barrie and I hope to get around all of the local teams over the coming months, to say hello and to take any questions you might have, either on advanced riding or about the wider Club. I look forward to seeing as many of you then as I can and, of course, on the stage at St Crispin’s.