From the Bummel, May 1969 …..
EASTER ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT
Sunshine, strong winds, good food and sparkling company were some of the ingredients which went into an enjoyable Easter trip to the Isle of Wight. The group set off in two parties; five cycled down to Inglesham on Thursday, and five of us motored down to Salisbury hostel the same evening.
On Good Friday we left the cars in Salisbury and cycled down to Southampton and the Cowes ferry. On going aboard at the B.R. Terminal, Ed, John and Sue parked their bikes on one side of the deck, and Heather and I on the other - both groups hemmed in with cars. When the boat reached Cowes the trio on the starboard side were able to step ashore easily, we had to wait for the cars to shift. Unfortunately, none of the cars drove off at Cowes and the next thing we knew the boat engines surged with life and the ferry began to move slowly away from the quay, leaving Sue, John and Ed in a state of puzzled amusement.
No it isn't everyone who has the good for to be holed-up in a B.R. ferry on a Good Friday evening with Heather Fear - and bound for heaven¬-knows-where (for we couldn't see out very well). One wondered where the next port-of-call would be; Cherbourg, perhaps, or beyond? Oporto, say, or Lisbon? Imagination began to run riot. I could just see us together in some exotic continental setting, sipping the local wine beneath the palm trees.
The ferry had stopped again. Lisbon already? Surely not! It's funny how time flies when you're happy. No, it wasn't Lisbon, or Oporto, or even Cherbourg. It was East Cowes. The cars rumbled ashore and we followed. A tuppenny fare on the floating-bridge brought us back across the harbour to the others.
The five from Inglesham crossed on the next ferry having fared pretty well for incidents with two punctures and a blow-out on the slog down. We all met up at Cowes Hostel.
It was at Cowes that we first encountered two female secret agents from Russhhhh-you-know-where. It may have been the relaxing effect of the boat journey or the balmy island atmosphere, but sitting in the common room before supper we succumbed to an ostensibly innocuous opening from the two agents and were soon telling them about our forthcoming trip around the island.
All seemed quite harmless until the two girls told us that they, too, would be going to Whitwell, our next hostel, for the following two nights. It may have been this coincidence or the slightly foreign overtones to their speech, or perhaps it was the hammer and sickle tattooed across their foreheads, that finally made us suspicious. Suffice it to say that security Chief Dubber (Doddy) lost no time in compiling Top Secret dossiers on both girls.
That same evening, President Nixon, I mean Skinner, was discretely informed that two agents were at large on the island. F.B.I. men had tracked them down to Cowes hostel and had discovered their plans. Their dastardly aim, as President Skinner explained later, was nothing less than the complete take-over of Cheltenham Y.H.A. Group. It all fell into a pattern, first Poland, then Hungary, Czechoslovakia next, and now Cheltenham group. Where would it stop?
This particular operation was designed in three parts; infiltration, exploitation and final domination (the coup d'etat). Infiltration was to be effected by the seduction and subsequent brain-washing of the two pure and innocents of the group, Premier Bob Wilson and myself. Typical of the man, when Wilson heard of the plan he braced himself in a stout-hearted manner, jaw set in a firm line, recalled that "England expects every man to do his duty" and fled into the night.
Ed, however, had left nothing to chance and all ports and airfields on the island had been closed. Later, Wilson was picked up in the Solent with his bike strapped to his back and swimming strongly for the mainland.
Back at the Hostel, after five helpings of supper and eighteen cups of tea, Bob bravely decided to "see it through".
Next day the group was able to relax a little and cycle down to Alum bay for a look at the Needles. After a laze in the sun and a paddle in the icy-cold water, there came a tough ride into the wind along the coast road to Whitwell Hostel. The agents had already arrived. Later, they skilfully positioned themselves among the group for supper. Operation Infiltration was underway. Wilson didn't blink an eye. He couldn't. He was scared stiff.
That mighty stalwart Maher made a bold move at the pub that evening and took both agents on single-handed in an attempt to thwart their plan. Even for Colin, however, the strategy proved too exacting and next evening he took to his bed right after supper to recover from the ordeal. His effort was not without effect, though, for thereafter the two cunning agents spread their effort on a broader front and both Security Chief Dubber and President Skinner himself found themselves singled out for attention by the enemy. Harey Jill came to the rescue of Rod, but Ed, forced to fend for himself, was under intense pressure.
Things eased up a little on Sunday when we spent the day at Ventnor defying the waves (and losing), eating, burying a few people on the beach, eating, roller-skating, eating and playing crazy golf. The Boucher-bird put in an impressive performance on the skating rink that day; his skates seemed bewitched and not content with just carrying his feet horizontally along the rink, they would (at frequent intervals) shoot up vertically into the air leaving John no option but to collapse on his rear end in a peal of cackling.
Relaxed after our day in the sun we journeyed back to the hostel (half the group travelling back by taxi!!) and back to harsh reality. The second night at Whitwell was crucial; if we could hold out until morning, then we would probably pull through; if not …. the results were too bitter to contemplate.
Together, Premier Wilson and myself formulated a series of plans to cover any situation that we could envisage over the next twelve hours. Plan 'A' involved that voluptuous maiden of the velocipede, Fearless Fear, who, for Sunday evening agreed to become our devoted, our one-and-only beloved. The plant was successful introduced at supper that evening.
At pub-time that evening, the plan was supplemented by some unbelievable good luck in the form of Ian (The Talk) Davis. Ian, by the way, was almost one of the group; he shared a dorm. with the Cheltenham boys and always had a cheery word with us at breakfast time, before disappearing for the day, to return again around pub-time each evening.
Ian took the enemy, already visibly shaken with Heather's performance, down to the pub and played a hero's role that evening.He dosed them up with Ginger Beer, clobbered them with details about his girl friend and eventually knocked them right out with some religious dogma that would have had the Pope reeling.
While this drama was being played out, Heather, Ed, Bob and myself waited anxiously in an adjacent tavern. Bob, in a particularly shattered state, was actually drinking lemon and lime! (And there were three witnesses).
Ian's effort seemed to take all fight out of the enemy. Next morning, they abandoned their mission and, looking very much a broken force, left for home (in Surrey, they said). Later that day, a submarine from the Soviet fleet surfaced off St. Catherine's Point and two figures who had put out from the shore in a small dinghy were taken aboard.
Cheltenham group returned to the mainland on the Yarmouth-Lymington ferry and cycled up through the New Forest on the warmest day we'd had yet. Hopes ran high for a cream tea in or around Ringwood, but the town was very dead - even allowing for the Bank Holiday, and the treat was denied us.
As Cowes had seen the gathering of the group, so Salisbury saw the dispersal. On Tuesday morning, three of us - Bob, Rod and myself - rode into the city for the cycle run home. Before leaving we took a look around the Cathedral with the tallest spire (404 ft.) and oldest clock (ask Bob Wilson for the date) in the kingdom. The clock was in actual working order when we arrived, but we couldn't keep any eye on Bob all the time; a piece in the works was just what he had been looking for for his bike, which now not only squeals and groans, but chimes cheerfully on the half-hour!