Thursday 22 November 2012

                                  Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 6


After some time, a few letters from Neil and endless talks with Chris, the next part of the adventure was to be revealed. I was to fly to Munich a few days before the tour started to pick up the tour car.
It was to be a 750i BMW !
I have stated in my roadie stories that logistics have always interested me and when I am working, I like to think I am professional. Armed with the information of which car we would be travelling in, I immediately visited my local BMW dealer. I explained to the head salesman the up coming tour and that I needed assistance acquainting myself with this model of BMW. I was amazed when I was told, not only did they not have one there, but there were only eight in the UK. Then I was told the car cost a cool £55 grand to buy. ( No wonder Neil hadn’t been interested in my friend’s second hand Audi ! ) However they did have a 730i in the showroom, and I was shown the salient features. The guy also said when I got back to Manchester; I should bring it to his showroom. For two reasons, one, the instructions would be in German and he could help me work them out. The second reason was to show him the car as he had never seen one.
I was now getting very excited, and not a little scared. What had I let myself in for ? The responsibility was beginning to become apparent. If Neil were to get injured due to one little mistake by me while driving, the tour could be cancelled. What would the Rush hierarchy and other members think of Neil’s choice of driver ? Apart from a few hours during his visit to Manchester, and my flying visit to London, I hadn’t seen Mr Peart for over fifteen years.
For a few days I seriously doubted my ability to do such a challenging job. Then with Chris’s help, common sense prevailed. It was only driving, and in a wonderful motor car with a valued friend. I had always enjoyed every mile we had driven together in the old days, why should that be any different now ?
Neil had suggested that I get a route organised so I contacted the AA. Although I wasn’t a member I talked the young lady into preparing one and sending it to me. I already knew we would be mainly driving at night after the shows. This meant that although there were some fairly long trips the roads would be quieter. I have always loved driving long distances at night and this would only add to the adventure.
As the time to collect the car got closer I was instructed to attend the offices of an accountant to collect a £1000 expenses for our trip. I was quite surprised to see the company was located less than a mile from where I lived in Didsbury. I went at the allotted time, and was handed the money in an envelope. Did the powers that be at Anthem know what they were doing ? I was an inveterate gambler and I could see a Ladbrokes betting shop as I came out of the accountant’s office. Wouldn’t be the best of starts if I blew some or all the readies on a couple of slow horses !
Somehow I resisted the temptation. The thought of letting Neil down plus losing the exciting prospect of working on the tour overcame my natural tendency to gamble. Funnily enough it made me realize, for the first time for ages, I didn’t have to throw away my money as soon as I got it. Although I was still to bet in the years to come, this was the beginning of some control in the gambling stakes. Something I have under reasonable restraint these days. Another thing to thank Neil for, I guess.
The next to arrive by post was my flight tickets and a letter letting me know which hotel I would stay at and telling me the car would be delivered there the next morning.
On Thursday 14th April, 1988, I flew from Manchester to Munich and settled in at my hotel. I must confess I didn’t sleep much that night. Even to this day, I am still like a little kid the day before any exciting event. It can never come quickly enough. I was up bright and early, breakfasted and sitting in the foyer awaiting the delivery of the BMW.
The car should have been there for 9-30 am, but by eleven o’clock nothing had happened. I rang the number in Munich given to me by Anthem in case of emergencies, and explained the car hadn’t been delivered. I was told they would chase it up for me. About thirty minutes later a guy came in. I heard him asking for me by name at reception so I introduced myself. He just sort of grunted and walked back out of the hotel, gesturing me to follow him. He led me to a beautiful large, sleek, black BMW, pointed to the keys in the ignition and promptly disappeared.
£55 grand worth of motor and I didn’t even have to sign for it..
I found out later that the German promoters had bought the car to rent to Anthem just for the tour. It was brand new and only had nine kilometers on the clock.
I slowly got into the drivers seat and marvelled at the leather interior and dashboard that resembled the cock pit of a plane rather than a car. This was a serious tool.
I thought I had already worked out how to get out of Munich so I started the engine, fiddled with seat controls, and slowly moved away. It had an automatic gear box so all I had to do was steer it and ease into the traffic. After only a short while I was lost, not seeing any recognizable signs, I parked the car got out and asked directions. Immediately I restarted the car, a message appeared on the dash. I had been told by the guy at the BMW dealership in Manchester, if this happened to stop the car straight away. Of course it was in German so I hadn’t a clue what it said. As I started to panic I saw a sign for a BMW garage. I pulled onto the fore court and explained my problem to a mechanic. The guy looked into the car, started to laugh and told me the message said “Your door is open”. Relief just poured over me. I thought the tour was over after just a couple of miles. Then I saw the funny side and burst out laughing.
The rest of the journey back to England was fairly routine, if that is how I can describe driving the car of my dreams at high speeds across Europe. The BMW 750i is a remarkable car. I loved every mile I was to travel in it.
The only slight hitch came after driving off the ferry at Dover. My seat started to get warmer and warmer. I realized the seat heater had been switched on, but had no idea how to turn it off. I stopped and looked at the manual but as it was written in German it was of no help. I had to suffer the trip to Manchester with me getting hotter and hotter. Even with all the windows open it was almost unbearable. Eventually I arrived in Didsbury with sweat running down my back and my shirt wringing wet, stuck to me.
I now had a few days with the BMW before I was due at Heathrow on Wednesday to pick Neil up. I felt like a king driving round Manchester. Everywhere I went people looked at the car. After taking it to the BMW dealership where all the staff and mechanics came out to inspect it and getting as much info as I could ( the troublesome heated seat was soon switched off ), I made arrangements to pick Chris up at his home that Friday night.
Chris has no interest what so ever in cars but even he couldn’t fail to be impressed. After showing off to the evening revellers in Didsbury ( I think Chris had a Rush tape blaring from the stereo ) we headed for the M62 ( now the M60 ) and I opened the beast up. It was governed at 155 mph, but would sit at that speed all day. Of course I was aware of the up coming tour and the need to be careful, so drove with control. It was so safe at high speeds it was a pleasure to put my foot down. We came off the motorway and headed to a pub in Whalley Range where my old friend Rodney Warr, an old friend drank. As I showed the car to Rodney, all the guys from the boozer came out. Almost like magic there was a crowd that increased to around fifty as people came to look at it, asking all kinds of technical questions and requesting the bonnet be opened so the engine could be seen in all its glory.
On Sunday I decided to drive the 120 miles to Carlisle in order to show the car to my friends and family there. At the slipway to the motorway there were three people hitchhiking. I have done a lot of hitching myself over the years, and though I probably shouldn’t, even to this day I still give lifts when possible. To their amazement this large BMW slowed to a stop and I offered them a lift. There were two boys and a girl. They were travelling to Glasgow. During the journey I found out one of the reasons they were going there was to see Rush at the Glasgow SEC ( now the SECC ). I couldn’t help myself, I had to tell them this was the car that Neil would be travelling in for the duration of the tour. At first they were incredulous and very sceptical, but soon saw I was serious. It transpired they didn’t have tickets but were hoping to buy some at the venue. Apparently this was unlikely as it was sell-out. I had been told by Neil if I needed any tickets, for friends, or for staff from the various hotels, then there would be some available. Being the flash git that I am, I told them I may be able to arrange something. When I dropped them at the Carlisle turn off, I said I would meet them outside the main entrance of the SEC two hours before the show. A promise I kept along with their free tickets, much to the amazement of those three Rush fans.
Like everyone else who I showed the 750i to, my friends in Carlisle were astounded. It was such a beautiful, stunning vehicle I had to pinch myself every time I saw it, to believe I was really driving such a class car.
I returned to Manchester early the next morning, revelling in the almost deserted motorway and doing the trip in record time for me.
 The tour wasn't far away now !

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