Dick Barrie's picture

Last time we went to Eastbourne, we won!

June 30th, 1991.

In the rain. 48-42.

It went to a last-heat decider, won by Berwick’s Kelvin Tatum (what happened to him?) after home No 1 “Champagne Bobby” Ott ended up face-down in the mud on the first turn.

Champagne Bobby wasn’t too happy about that.

Mrs Champagne Bobby was even less impressed. An excitable lady, as I recall……

A similar result would do very nicely on Saturday.

But while I have happy enough memories of standing in the rain, getting absolutely drookit as we won that one in 1991, I was also at more than a few complete thumpings at Arlington during the ‘seventies and ‘eighties.

The Eagles have been incredibly unlucky (a broken foot-rest for Richard Lawson against Leicester and a broken leg for Tom Brennan against Glasgow) to lose their first two home matches, and while a third-time-unlucky happening (without the involvement of any broken bones, of course) would be just fine for those of us of the black-and-gold persuasion who will be there, the addition of Kyle Newman to an already-powerful Eastbourne spearhead won’t help our cause……..

Of course, despite not having visited Arlington for nearly thirty seasons, plenty cheerful ‘on the road’ memories remain.

Nowadays, with riders jetting about Europe and riding in different countries on successive nights, it may not seem exotic to tell you that for a few years it was the norm at the May Bank Holiday for Berwick to race at home on the Saturday night, pack up and head south in convoy to Eastbourne to turn out on Sunday afternoon and then move on to Exeter for an 11am start on the Monday!

All this in the days before too many motorways, any cut-price airlines or sleeper vans, of course. In the midst of Bank Holiday traffic jams.

We had to grab a kip, half an hour to clean up the bikes and snatch a meal where and when we could.

One year, a group of around twenty of us – assorted Bandits, mechanics and camp-followers – following one of our more-successful Arlington excursions, having scored at least twenty-five points – wanted to celebrate and fancied the look of a rather posh Chinese restaurant in Brighton.

In we all stumbled, dirty, sweaty, tired and hungry. Rag, tag and bobtail.

It was a pretty fancy place, deep carpets, diffused lighting, tinkling music and one of those huge tropical fish-tanks you used to see in up-market oriental restaurants.

But we were a big crowd, and to prevent any second thoughts on our part the staff quickly ushered us in -- no doubt with thoughts of a big bill and some handy tips on a quiet Sunday evening.

Jugs of rice wine were produced along with ornate menus, and – not having eaten for more than 24 hours -- we got tore into the food and drink.

One of our younger party members -- no names, no-pack-drill -- who hadn’t previously strayed too far from his (very) rural northern base, was especially extravagant with the rice wine, I have to say…….

Well, we had a merry evening and as were finishing up, the manager approached the table and asked if we’d like an extra round of coffees, on the house – clearly, our unexpected arrival had been good for his business!

However, just as we were considering this kind offer, we realised that – behind the manager’s back -- our young friend was discovering that his big adventure with the rice wine hadn’t really been that good an idea and in desperation, was spectacularly throwing up -- into the tropical fish-tank!

“Er, no.... Just the bill, please”


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