Mind your Ps and Qs

Motorcycle shows | Facilities | Portaloos | Ladies and Gents


Ever been to the Battlesbridge Bike Show? If you haven't, you should go at least once before you die.


There are actually two of them. Two shows that is. The first kicks off sometime in July and is a bike-only affair with free entrance to riders and pillions piloting (and co-piloting) classic machines; a classification that actually has a fair amount of latitude and will cover pretty much everything on two (or three) wheels up until around 1980 - and even later if you're wearing a Brando jacket and an open face lid with goggles.


The Greeves boys usually turnout in force at this event (Essex being prime Greeves country, you understand) and they put on a decent enough Moto Cross performance whilst kicking up enough dust to kill all the asthmatics in nearby Basildon.


The Greeves boys also do a pretty decent job of polluting what's left of the atmosphere by filling it with copious amounts of two stroke oil. Not that I mind. If five million years of volcanic activity and X number of atom bomb tests haven't being able to see off the human race, it's doubtful that half a dozen old gits in rugby jerseys are going to make much of an impact.


And anyway, it keeps them off the streets.


You also get a couple of good rock bands banging out the more brutal sounds of the 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s, plus the usual miserable fast food vendors scowling from on high whilst slopping coffee all over you and charging through the nose for thimble-sized donuts.


Other attractions include a motley collection of autojumble stalls (that, along with most of the other national B-league classic bike show autojumble stalls are steadily mutating into stalls that sell everything but autojumble). And (Stop Press!) there's a huge "antiques" centre loosely attached to the site where you can lose your significant other (and maybe the kids) for an hour or two as you stroll around a large field in God's own county in the time honoured tradition.


The second Battlesbridge show, meanwhile, is in September, and that's the Grand Motorbilia event which features both classic bikes and classic cars - along with some not so classic cars, custom cars, and the almost obligatory V8-powered new-age apocalyptic "Mad Max" trikes that are now so familiar that they're in serious danger of becoming less mean and menacing and more cute and quaint.


In short, both Battlesbridge shows are okay.


Until, that is, it's time to answer that call of nature - which is apt to call more often around a cooling September than in did in a warmer July.


If you're male, it's usually not a huge problem. The Battlesbridge site is, after all, surrounded by trees and bushes, and there are plenty of vehicles in the car park when the Essex greenery is otherwise occupied. And anyway, real beer-drinking men (until they reach a certain age) tend to have waterworks built like the boiler room of a hospital laundry and are capable of prodigious feats of H20 retention.


And speaking personally, and without bragging, I can usually cover immense distances and endure many, many hours without feeling the impulse to cock a leg up a tree. And when the need does arise, it's generally sorted out in a matter of seconds rather than minutes - unless, paradoxically, I'm wearing waterproofs.


However, it's trickier for the other half of the species. With women, such things ... well, tend to take longer (and often longer, and longer), which goes some way to explain the often frantic formations of frustrated femininity queuing outside the big, green plastic cubicles that have become one of the less endearing features of the busy bike show season.


"These unfortunate double-X members of the human race are usually wearing expressions ranging from quiet tolerance at the one extreme to desperation at the other."


Battlesbridge, to be fair, isn't the only culprit. And probably not the worst. It's just that it's my local show, and the one I feel most comfortable about criticising (see how familiarity breeds contempt?).


You can, after all, see the same thing pretty much the length and breadth of the country as queues of women shuffle forward in a long, firing-squad line towards their goal, their only crime being that God marked their cards with two X's rather than an X and a Y.


And not happy and contented women either. These unfortunate double-X members of the human race are usually wearing expressions ranging from quiet tolerance at the one extreme to desperation at the other.


From a visitor's perspective, it wouldn't be so bad if the show organisers had the foresight, and good grace, to at least erect a screen - perhaps with a line of padded benches and some appropriate reading matter suitable for anyone preparing to make an urgent rest stop (ideally, nothing to do with water skiing or anything of an aquatic nature).


But no such arrangements were made at this year's show. Instead, it was the same as it ever was; a long conga-line of urgent looking females trampling the daisies and going nowhere in a hurry.


And it looks bad. It says, simply, that the organisers don't give a you know what if fifty percent of their visitors can't even answer a simple call of nature without advertising their predicament to all and sundry. It's a wilful indifference that can turn an otherwise decent day out into trial and a torture, especially for those women who've sacrificed their creature comforts on the pillion seats of whatever Great British Bladder Buster their partner laughingly calls "a true classic".


So I'm with the ladies on this issue. It's gone on for too long. They've got the vote and are even driving cars now (and occasionally managing to park them). They kept the home fires burning when we went to war, and they're not bad at cooking either. I think they've earned the right to take the weight off their feet whenever mother nature comes calling, and the right to do it promptly and with some measure of decorum.


And the solution is simple. The show organisers can either admit fewer women, or admit a larger number of big green boxes. The ratio of two for the girls and one for the boys won't do. It's got to be at least three to one, notwithstanding the vehicles in the car park.


Discreet screens and padded benches are optional.


But I'm fairly certain that the next time I chug on down to Battlesbridge on my own true classic desperate to get my regular July or September fix, the girls will be out in ignominious force square-bashing on their usual spots, figurative pennies at the ready.


Is it just that my advancing years have pushed my sensibilities and sensitivities to some absurd breaking point? Or is it quite simply that someone out there is taking the P?


Cross your legs tightly ladies while you're figuring that one out. It could be some wait.


óDanny DeFazio






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