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  • December 01, 2020 4 min read

    I’m going to change it up a bit for this edition of chair’s chatter and start with the congratulations first and then end with a tale of a weekend rocked by mud flinging and a terrible, nay disgusting conclusion, that ended up so low I had to question my own situation as to whether I wanted to continue and no I am not talking about the recent audit which the group passed with nary an orange jumpsuit in sight.

    Congratulations to Hugo who passed with a Masters F1rst, to Caroline Raihan, Richard Gunn and John Slayford who passed their tests achieving a F1rst and to Alan Snowden – well done all.

    Caroline also won this year’s Associate of the Year which was announced at the AGM and voted for by the Training Team, well done Caroline and both this and the F1rst are a reflection of the effort you have put in to achieve these results.

    Well done to Norton Hawes who was voted Observer of the Year and it is a fitting reward which marks Norton’s decision to step down from the Training Team. I understand the voting was very close amongst all candidates and thank you all who voted and responded to the mail chimp.

    Thank you also to Aidan Grehan who is also stepping away from the Training Team, to Jim Arnold who has moved away to Wales in order to not continue as group Treasurer, leaving behind a jam chair of pennies and the cheque book for Diogo Camoez to inherit as the new Group Treasurer and a final thank you to Andrew Hill who after two years as Progress Editor is handing his quill over to John McNally. Welcome to the newbies and goodbye to the oldies stepping down.

    And finally, Congratulations to LAM itself because we received a healthy score from our group audit or to give it its real name - Deep Dive and I am pleased to say that considering we are all volunteers and have lives and concerns outside of the group, we run a pretty tidy ship and this was reflected in the comments from Stuart Haythorn, our Area Delivery Service Manager for the IAM and with whom the officers of the committee and a few committee members spent a Tuesday evening going through accounts, succession plans and how we market ourselves to name but a few.

    Was it the most thrilling event? Well I’m not going to lie to you, the most exciting thing that happened was when a mysterious plate of food suddenly appeared out of RBD’s zoom background! Oh and Jim had to ask his mice to run faster in their wheel to get his rural Welsh broadband to work.

    Well done to all of you who take an active part in running the group, be it bacon butties to getting soaked on an October OR. We are a great group and fortunate to have a healthy flow of new associates and members who are out there keeping the miles rolling and the laughs coming.

    We got through it and I for one am delighted that I won’t be going back to prison; not that I would because I’d have just grassed Steve Pratt up (he was our chair at the time the audit pack was assembled).

    Time now for the promised tale of mudslinging, skulduggery and what I now know as overcompensating, which sadly saw one of LAM’s most competent observers, for want of a better word – DONE FOR!

    I am of course talking about Phoenix Trail Riding, which was kindly offered to LAM by our former chair Mark Jaffe for the low low price of £10 each and which Jane and I attended along with Lynn Sammonds and what a great experience we had.

    Phoenix have a new fabulous purpose built off road training track which is used for level 1 but their base has easy access to legally useable tracks and trails (BOATS and UCRs) that run through the Kent countryside. You use Phoenix gear and motorcycles and they have bikes to fit all shapes and sizes and their instructors are fully qualified and (in our case) taught at a speed dictated by your own learning.

    Our instructor Adam, had us standing up, leaning over the front wheel, clearing railway sleepers and resident foxes.

    You start on tarmac, move to grass and then on to the dirt as you gain confidence in the concepts of off road and how different it is to what our IAM teaching has us do in certain situations.

    Our 250cc Bikes tackling our incompetence and the ground conditions admirably but not without the odd scream, tumble and face full of flung mud – don’t follow the bike in front too closely.

    Was it worth the £10 (or the £50 it should have)? Absolutely, remember what it feels like riding your bike when it feels that the back wheel has slid a mile to the left or to the right, well off roading gives you the ability to experience that and learn the skills to correct it and to realise what a real slide feels like so that the next time it happens on the road, it doesn’t make you panic.

    At Phoenix, If you get it wrong, you get it wrong in mud which is soft and all you do is get back up, get on the bike and off you go again.

    So what of skulduggery, well, being of modest height a 250cc Honda dirt bike is an easy machine to ride when you have a 32 inch leg and off road boots on, and this means you get to go first, you are first on the mud, first into the ruts and when you add in the 14 and half stone prop forward weight, you can really move the bike around creating little presents for the following rider to deal with and that ladies and gentlemen is how Jane ended up so low as to talk to the remaining blades of grass and looking like she just finished a mud run and I had to decide if I wanted to do it all again!

    Lockdown 2 so stay safe and stay well.



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