by Black Sheep, 23rd April 2017
Night rallies on our country lanes... Really?
As I write, it’s 5am on a Sunday morning in April. Darkness is on the verge of slipping away, and the birds are waking up to the dawning realisation of a glorious new day. But that’s not what’s woken me. That was Mrs Sheep, nudging me with her inimitable “are you awake?”. Well I am now. And I can hear why she is too. It’s the cacophony of cars speeding down our local lane, echoing throughout the valley like a grand prix of joyriders.
Except not even a joyrider would be so dim as to keep going round the Llanyllanllan block. The din has already lasted for two hours now; any self-respecting joyrider would be at Aberystwyth in that time. It just sounds like they're going round the block because there's up to 75 cars involved.
At first, it’s worrying, lying awake in the middle of the night hearing that outside your window. Terrifying, if you’re alone and vulnerable, I’d have thought. But then I remembered the leaflet left flapping on the ground outside our door a few weeks back. And the worry turns to irritation, indignation and, finally, a need for speed typing.
The bedlam - now enhanced by a chorus of rudely awoken barking dogs - isn’t joyriders. Not in the normal sense, anyway. It’s the good and the great of the Welsh Border Car Club on their Border 100 Road Rally - a “straight forward no nonsense event… which promises, this year, to offer 100 miles of classic Road Rally action” - on our otherwise quiet Welsh Border country lanes. In other words, silly little boys playing at racing drivers, masquerading as charity fundraisers.
The long-since forgotten leaflet, which made it by chance into our hands, offers a shot across the bow of any locals considering the temerity of complaining. Motor rallies are permitted by an act of Parliament, we’re informed. “We have notified all relevant authorities,” it continues. So don’t even think about it, it might as well have added. And then there’s the cover fire. It’s all done in aid of, wait for it, a children’s hospital. So don’t be a heartless scumbag and object.
Ignoring the potential irony, for a moment, of a parent needing to urgently get their sick child to hospital in the middle of the night, only to be confronted by a second division RAC Rally hurtling towards them as they try to get to Shrewsbury, the £7.50 per £95 entry (they couldn’t even round it up to 10 percent) that’s donated to a children’s charity not even on the Welsh Borders (and many are) is likely to make less of a dent in the hospital’s rising costs than at least one of the competitors will doubtless experience on his front wing, judging by the speeds they’re going at.
Ah yes, the speed. Competitors are “notified that any undue nuisance or noise created by them during the event will mean their instant disqualification from the event”. So who’s the judge of that, then? Coz if it’s Mrs Sheep, they’re all disqualified.
Without the sleepless will at, what is it now, 5.30am, to dig out the Motor Vehicles (Competitions and Trials) Regulations, 1969 - a copy of which I’m sure I’ve got squirrelled away in the library somewhere - I’d be staggered to find such regulations allows these wannabe Lewis Hamiltons to break the speed limit or drive dangerously, when the roads are still open to the public. Which means 60mph maximum round these parts. Well, you don’t have to be Bernie Ecclestone to recognise from the sound of the wild, revving engines that there’s more chance of me getting back to sleep than there is of the drivers sticking to those rules. Especially when there are awards to be won, you’re allowed up to six points on your licence, provisional licences are okay and there’s a time penalty for arriving late!
I’ve had a far too close encounter of one of these events before, to know what goes on outside the confines of the checkpoints. It was at Ma Sheep’s, some years ago. This time she hadn’t received the leaflet, and it was fortunate that I happened to be staying. She’d not long been widowed and the lane being used for the rally was inches from her front door. We’d both been woken up in the middle of the night by the stream of speeding cars, and to calm her panic I offered to venture outside to see what on earth was going on. As I got to the garden gate, a car flew round the corner like a getaway driver being pursued by Starsky, or Hutch. Had I been crossing to check on a neighbour, I'd have been mutton.
But, call me a tree hugger, what irks me most about this pathetic excuse for childish, petrol-headed recklessness, is that while we may have been lucky enough to have found the leaflet, our wildlife most certainly wasn’t. And frankly I just dread to think of the roadkill, what with the drivers desperately needing to get to the next checkpoint for the sake of the kids in hospital.
A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email email@example.com to air your points of view. You can also read Black Sheep in Welsh Border Life every month. And you can catch up with his latest outbursts on Twitter @onemanandhispen