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Pier Pressure 2016

Day 8 - Back Stories

Ryde I.O.W to Ottery St Mary - 198 Miles

From a really early stage in the planning, Day 8 was always going to be one of our most challenging of the whole Pier Pressure experience.


Although not one of the longest days in terms of pure distance to travel, we were starting the day on the Isle of Wight, had 9 piers to visit, two ferries to cross and originally planned to end up at Exeter for the night.

As time went on, the challenges for day 8 began to mount, some through no fault of our own, some through decisions I made and some through plain old stupidity. To set the complexities and challenge of Day 8 in context I need to set the scene with some background information before getting into my story in full.

Back Story 1 - Waiting for Bonaparte

I need to take you all the way back to 1986. Imagine a very skinny, pimply and slightly more hairy 19 year old black country bloke and his mate who have just left 6th form. They had decided to hook up with a couple of mates form school and form a band…that band eventually evolved through several names before becoming Waiting for Bonaparte.

WFB basically came about when one day, sometime in the last century, two old school chums Chad and Mart W, decided to purchase two guitars and joined up with singer, songwriter (and keyboardist) Big Chris T. Sounds grand, but Chris was in fact another mate from school who had actually had a couple of music lessons thereby making him the most 'talented' at that time. Then Chris's mate from down the pub, Austin M, was persuaded to drum with the lads, due mainly to 1. he was the only drummer they knew and 2. they could practice in his parent’s front room on a Sunday.



The four lads now needed a name and Chris said, "I've had this name in my head for a while" said he, "how about JUSTICE LIMITED?".  For some unknown reason the rest, probably in a state of complete apathy, agreed.
 
So on to their first gig at Chad's, Chris' and Austin's local boozer, The Prince of Wales in Oldbury, West Midlands. A tough test in front of a home crowd but the guys performed great, 6 numbers went down a storm, 3 self-penned, 3 covers (2 Beatles and a U2!) and they even won the Christmas talent contest that night.  Soon after Chris left to pursue other things,leaving the way open for a new singer to slot in.

In step Alison Dixon, a friend of a work friend of Mart’s. A name change to the SMALL HOURS and a few months learning some new cover versions and once again the Prince of Wales opened its doors to the new line up.

 

After a few short weeks Austin too decided to quit but Al’s young sister, Jo was seeing a lad, Connel, who was a beckoning drummer. Connel was practicing at the time with a guitarist named Rob C. A meeting with the guys resulted in the new somewhat larger line up of Chad on Bass, Mart W on Lead, Al on Vocals, Jo on Backing Vocals, Connel on Drums and Rob C on Rhythm. 


A few heavy months of rehearsing a myriad of covers and the band was ready to face an audience. The opportunity arose to perform at Chad's VW Club's Christmas Bash at the infamous Hen and Chickens Pub in Warley, West Midlands, but they needed a new name.


Chad, in a drunken stupor, laughingly said to the guy organizing the event, just bill us as THREE MEN AND A CROWBAR.
 

The gig was a surprising success, spurring the band into doing more gigs. However, for some reason unknown, the rest of the band didn't much like the name and a new one was sought. After much deliberation, the name 'WAITING FOR BONAPARTE' was settled upon (sometime in 1990), coming from an album by 'The Men They Couldn't Hang', a particular favourite of a number of the band members.
 
The next two years saw numerous gigs around the Midlands area during which time WFB penned their first own songs. After dabbling with a few poor quality home 4 track recordings, The Demo Tapes Part One was recorded 'properly' at the Depot Studios, Coventry in August 1991.

After these 2 years Connel wanted to take a different path to the rest of the band, with Jo going with him.
 

WFB were faced with the eternal problem on needing to find a drummer. After a couple of short term replacements in 1994 as luck would have it Chad's neighbour from a couple of doors down played drums and was currently without band. In step Rich B.

After nearly four years since their first recording, WFB had penned more and more of their own material and in 1995 the band went on to record their second (Worship and Rhyme), third (Behind the Veil) and fourth (Hope) demo tapes in the space of 11 months at the Magic Garden studios in Wolverhampton. Through 1996 things started to take a bit more of a serious direction and saw the band planning a number of gigs at more  illustrious venues such as the Robin R n B Club as well as venturing as far as the Isle of Wight for their infamous Appledurcombe Tour.

In that year WFB also entered the Bass Breweries Battle of the Bands contest, held at JB's in Dudley. Judged by judges on musical prowess rather than the more typical 'who's got the most mates' format, WFB went on to finish runners up from 148 bands. Every round win was met with much surprise as JB's was traditionally associated with heavy styles of music. The most memorable of the rounds was the semi-final, watched at the time by over 600 people, but one of those in particular would have more to add to this tale than most.





At the time Chad worked in the same building as a guy who played Keyboards and 3 months later Mr Martin D had been squeezed into the rehearsal room and WFB had finally become their final 6 piece line up. After a hectic summer of gigs and competitions the band took time out to write and record their fifth demo tape - How Many are the Faces, with the added bonus of Mr D’s keyboards and pianos filling out the sound.  At the same time Mart W and Al somehow managed to fit in a wedding (to each other).

In 1998, after spending another 18 months or so playing, writing, having radio interviews and recording the sixth and final WFB offering on tape, BLACKENED LAND, Rich needed to take a rest from the band due to increasing real work commitments.  Its fair to say that in Rich's 4 or so years with the band they had progressed into a more solid, professional group and had even managed to collect a bag full of record company rejections along the way. In the following 6 months WFB carried on writing new material, released their first CD The Magic Sessions (a compilation of tracks taken from their 5 previous demo tapes).


In February 1999 a simple advert was run and after auditioning a number of hopeful applicants WFB bid a much needed welcome to Mr Pete B. Since March 1999 the WFB line up has remained stable and Pete has well and truly been stuck to the infamous Bonaparte drummer's seat. During Pete’s reign WFB went on to record two further CD EP's, Older Wiser? released in November 1999 and Odd Ones in August 2001.

During the time that followed WFB took to playing regularly on the circuit around the Midlands and wider. Highlights of this time involve entertaining 4000 people at at a festival in Peterborough in September 2001, supporting that bloke who sung 'where ever I lay my hat' and finally moving to a rehearsal rooms that have good equipment.

In 2005 WFB released their last final CD of self penned tracks, named ironically ‘Thanks but No Thanks’ as a homage to the pile of rejection letters collected from short sighted record PnR guy through the years.

In 2005 WFB released their last final CD of self penned tracks, named ironically ‘Thanks but No Thanks’ as a homage to the pile of rejection letters collected from short sighted record PnR guy through the years. WFB’s last live performance was at Rob C’s and Rach wedding reception where they hijacked the house band’s gear and ‘treated’ wedding guests to a few old WFB faves and cover classics. The date of that ‘gig’ – 19th August 2006, exactly 10 years ago to the day of the Day 8 Pier Pressure run.

The WFB journey came to a natural end just a year or two later when Mart and Al moved to lovely Dorset with their young family and Chad too had concentrated on his young son.
So after more tha 20 years of rehearsing, big gigs, small gigs, illation, misery, lecording our own material for prosperity and above all else making sweet music with your best buddies in the world, Waiting for Bonaparte had done waiting and the buzzing amplifiers and feedbacky PA were turned off for good.


So moving fast forward to April 2016, I am starting to heavily promote Pier Pressure on un-excpected people via social media when I get a message from Mart W (ex- WFB lead guitarist). ‘Hi mate, I know we don’t talk as much as we should, blah blah…..etc. , but you know how me and Al now live in Ottery St Mary. Well it looks like you are planning to stop on Day 8 of your run in Exeter. Why not save some money and stop over with us?’ Great idea I thought, chance to catch up with old friends and add more cash into the Pier Pressure Fund as we get free accomodation. So ‘OK’ says I, ‘but we should call each other sometime, it’s been a while since we chatted’.

Hence a couple of hours later and after a really good catch up on the phone, not only had we arranged our Day 8 evening stop but had unthinkably hatched a mad plan to reform Waiting For Bonaparte for a one night only reunion gig on the Friday night of Day 8, at the local football club in Ottery, with all proceeds going into the Pier Pressure cause.  Just one issue, we needed to get the band back together after 8 or more years. Now you could imagine the scene in the Blues Brothers where they go around collecting up the old band, but in reality I just contacted the guys on Facebook and within an hour they had all remarkably said yes !!!

We realised that we had not played together for the best part of 8 years and had not played live for 10. Not too much of an issue except 2 of the members now lived 160 miles away from the other 4. So a mad spring and summer ensued seeing hastily arranged practices up in the Midlands and one long weekend practice down in Ottery. By the time I was all set to leave for the Pier Pressure run we had managed to re-learn 19 tracks and 1 new one (a 50/50 mix of our own tracks and covers) for the charity gig on the 19th August and to be honest by then the sound was now at least passible.  The next time I would see the band would be when I strolled into the venue at the last minute in Ottery like some toss pot pop star, pick up my Bass and start playing.

I suppose we were lucky that we didn’t have much else planned to do on day 8..!!!!.


Back Story 2 - Isle of Wight Ferry cock Up

One of the earliest things to really sort out when organising the Pier Pressure trip was to ensure all the ferry crossings were booked well in advance (or so you would think!). It turned out the Scottish ferries were all pay as you go so no problems, but this was not the case as you would expect for the Isle of Wight car ferries.

My original plan was to enter the Isle with Red Funnel through Southampton, so we could visit Southampton pier at the same time. Then leave the Isle from Yarmouth across to Lymington on Wight Link. This would not only save us a good few miles but also save us at least 1 ½ hours on the journey. I had tried early on in the arranging of the trip to get discounts from the ferry companies to no avail. However through a friend I had enlisted the help of their niece, Angie, who works for the Isle of Wight tourist board, who had contacts at the ferry companies to help book the ferries. So two weeks before we were due to set off I double checked the bookings and to my horror realised we only had the out trip from Southampton booked. Admittedly this trip was at a massively discounted rate through Red Funnel ferries thanks to Angie.

It turned out that through some unfortunate miscommunication the return trip had not been organised as it was thought we were returning from Cowes to Southampton. I quickly jumped on the Wight Link website only to find out the Yarmouth ferry was now fully booked. Oh bugger. There was a ferry available from Yarmouth later in the day but much too late to be of any use to us. This led to a mad day of frantic calls to Angie and her contact at Red Funnel, which eventually resulted in us being booked on an early ferry from Cowes to Southampton, again at a brilliantly discounted rate. Massive thanks go out to both Angie and Red Funnel from stopping an almost certain mental breakdown and a heart attack on my part. 

The only issue with this was that we would now have to get around three piers on the Isle of Wight and be back in East Cowes for 10:00am that morning. This would mean a 7:00am on the road start in Ryde on the morning of Day 8. Thankfully the cock up was all now sorted, although I still had the unwelcome task of informing George, my ever suffering Pier Pressure partner, of the super early start and the extra 20+ miles we would now have to do on that day.

If only I had decided on this route back off the Isle previously when organising the trip, as we could have travelled from Portsmouth to Fishbourne the day before rather than Southampton to Cowes, which would have reduced the day 7 journey by 2 ½ hours and some 30 miles. Hindsight is, indeed, a wonderful thing.

I suppose we were lucky that we didn’t have much else planned to do on day 8..!!!!.



Back Story 3 - Boscombe and Bournemouth Air Show

The last week of July 2016 saw us spending a great weekend in Swanage with all our wider buggy family and it was also a good test for my recently fully rebuild engine. After the okey cokey I had played with my engine in and out the buggy since May and returning from the International Buggy Weekend in Germany in May, it was finally a relief to have everything sorted and reliable once more.

During the weekend I had great pleasure in informing everyone of our forthcoming Pier Pressure trip and the detailed routes and daily plans that I had finally completed after a good few months of organising.  Obviously a few of the Dorset locals were keen to see when and where I would be in their patch in a few weeks times and specifically on what day. “Friday the 18th” I added proudly, “it’s the day I am doing a re-union gig on the night in Ottery St Mary. It’s looking like our busiest day, but everything should be OK”. I left the Swanage weekend with a fair few local Dorset / Devon buggyists promising to catch back up with us when we arrived back in August.

Literally the day after we get home from Swanage I get a private message from Big Bad Dom (local Dorset buggy bloke) saying “you do realise the Boscombe and Bournemouth air show starts on Friday 18th August don’t you?”. “It’s one of the biggest air shows in the land and they close all the roads to cater for the 100,000 plus visitors that weekend. Specfically the main viewing area is on the promenade between the two piers in Bournmouth, so all the roads to the piers are closed and you won’t get anywhere near them”. Cock, cock and double cock………

It was much too late to change our route and itinerary and t was looking very much like we would need to park the buggies up away from the melee and either walk or run to the two piers into town.  Also with the congestion around the town this could likely put some unwelcome delays into an already chaotic  Pier Pressure day 8

As luck would have it the following day I had cause to speak with John Clewer. JC is a very dear old friend who at one time was the proud owner of a beach buggy too – JC’s was there at the birth of my company Doon Buggies and his own Doon Buggy was the twin to my own Doon Buggy, being born within a week of each other. JC is an accomplished semi-pro motor sport photographer and, because that doesn’t pay well, is also a full time highway engineer. And that is how we met, at the local engineering department at Sandwell Council in the Midlands (think West Bromwich). I eventually became JC’s boss for a while before he saw the light and the palm trees and headed off a few years ago to work for sunny Torbay Council.

As luck would have it JC had spent the week before with Bournemouth Council on a fact finding mission, discussing their traffic management plans for the air show, as Torbay were thinking of running one themselves in 2017.  This gave me the ‘IN’ I was looking for, namely the contact name of the traffic management man at Bournemouth Council.

Those who haven’t already guessed, I too am a highway and traffic engineer and a quick ‘professonal’ call to the main man in Bournemouth saw the two buggies gaining special permission to pass all the road blocks and get free passage to Boscombe Pier front.  It is useful if you speak the lingo and we spent a good while chewing the fat on how hard it is to manage traffic and how difficult it is dealing with our very ‘understanding public customers’. I was also warned the roads would be chaotic and it may take a while to reach the pier.

Buornemouth Pier, however, was a different proposition all together. I was warned we it would be impossible to get near the entrance to the pier and the nearest road would shut at 3:00pm to traffic to enable the air show to start. If we could make it there before 3:00pm we may be able to get in a car park nearby, but unlikely. He did suggest talking with the large conference centre nearby to see if we could park in the service yard for a short while. Finally we decided that we would just have to suck it and see on the day and manage as best as we could through that part of the journey.

I suppose we were lucky that we didn’t have much else planned to do on day 8..!!!!.


Back Story 4 – Chad’s Poorly Buggy

As those following my story already know, (and if you are just joining us now, where have you been?), my buggy was bost, broken, knackered, caput. I basically had no alternator to speak of and it wasn’t charging the battery. I was therefore looking at an unscheduled repair stop at Ollie’s Beetle Magic Workshop near Weymouth sometime later in the day.

I suppose we were lucky that we didn’t have much else planned to do on day 8..!!!!.

Back Story 5 – Karl’s Lunch Proposal

During the evening of Wednesday 17th I had been contacted by Karl Wiggins (wan ex beach buggy owner). I knew Karl was a chef, (and a bloody good one at that from sampling his wares at Swanage a few years previoulsy), and that he also worked at a pub (or so he said) on the south coast somewhere. Karl had seen our Day 8 itinerary on the the Pier Pressure web page and had noticed we had programmed a lunch stop at Holmsley Tea Rooms in the New Forest area.

Karl had suggested we should detour instead to his pub, ‘The Mill’ at Gordleton near Lymington and he would provide us with a free bar snack and drink, on the house as it were. Not ones to turn down a free lunch, of course we said yes to Karl, with many thanks and arranged to meet him around 1:00pm at the ‘pub’ that day.

Needless to say, what we actually received (and boy were we truly thankful) was far beyond simple pub bar snacks….

But that’s another story. Oh! OK a story I am about to tell; so grab a cuppa, get some snacks, sit down and settle in for a while as Day 8 was epic….


Click here to continue reading our actual Day 8 story


The Story

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

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