Chapter III - Yet another day in the Life of a Blood Bike Volunteer! (LONG POST!)

It’s a miserable, wild, wet and windy West Country day today as we hunker down and hope that Storm Isha will spare us the worst of her brutal attack on our sceptered isle! The lashing rain and blustery wind are already making that a hope way beyond any realistic expectation.

So, I got to thinking that I should perhaps re-consider my decision to avoid an unwarranted assault on the sensitivities of the TMF membership - or at least those patient and foolish enough to read this stuff!

The thing is, my ‘day in the life of’ stories have, so far, been submitted to the charity’s Chairman for consideration before being published on the charity’s social media outlets and this particular piece caused some consternation and a long delay in publication pending some - not unexpected - editorial “amendments”!! I wasn’t greatly surprised when it was made clear that the piece wouldn’t be published on any of the charity’s media outlets without the removal of my (minor?) rant over van drivers! All utterly understandable and I wasn’t in the least bit surprised or bothered by that. I could see that, especially in a ‘local’ context, that particular section of the story might upset potential volunteers/donors/supporters of the charity and we do, of course, rely almost ENTIRELY on the public and their donations to be able to continue to do the things we do so I wasn’t surprised that the section had to go.

So, I’ve been in two minds whether or not to ‘publish’ here and whether or not to edit the original. I’ve concluded that there’s unlikely to be any form of ‘backlash’ (unless a large proportion of the TMF membership/readership is constituted of LCV/van drivers!!) so, yer tiz in all its uhmmmmmm … verbose and pedantic ‘glory’!

Although it is largely factual and fundamentally true to life, it is, of course, meant to be, above all else, entertaining - so please don’t take it TOO seriously.

I hope it provides some brief and light relief from this Godawful weather!


  • OR -

I coughed, and for the hundred-and-n’th time that afternoon, lifted the dust mask away from my face in order to wipe a running nose and streaming eyes – not necessarily in that order.

With the help of my wife, I was cutting and stuffing Rockwool cavity insulation batts into the studwork of the newly constructed partition walls that will form a sort of “dressing room” within the garage. This is intended, predominantly, for motorcycle gear though I’ve no doubt whatsoever that my wife secretly harbours ideas and finely detailed, cunning plans - in her head at least - for the use of the space for keeping “mutty stuff”!!

I guess I should explain here that I will, at around and about this relatively minor and unimportant point, probably split any “audience” these ramblings might have into two main camps and a splinter group. The camps, in my head at least, are

Cat lovers (me)
Dog lovers (wifey)
The splinter group? Couldn’t-give-a-damn ‘ers – perhaps (probably?!) the majority of the dozen or so people likely to constitute the entire “audience” for these ramblings?!

So, whilst in my head, this newly created space was born for and will all be allocated to racks of motorcycle gear – leathers on this rail; textiles on that rail; my helmets on these shelves; her helmet(!) on this shelf; my boots on these shelves; her boots on this shelf – you get the picture – in the lovely head of my ever patient wife, some (much?) of that space already has a purpose for dog grooming, walking, cleaning & “whatever-the-dog-needs” gear!!

In actual fact, the idea of building the partition – at not inconsiderable expense – was prompted by finally becoming a Blood Bike rider/volunteer and, thereby, needing to buy something that I hadn’t actually wanted; needed, used or even owned for many, many years – that something being wet weather motorcycle gear! I wanted somewhere (preferably not IN the house) where, after climbing off a soaking wet machine in soaking wet gear, I could divest myself of said clothing in some relative warmth and comfort without leaving a trail of dripping water and wet footprints all the way through utility room; dining room; kitchen and into the hallway where the motorcycle gear ‘cupboard’ currently lives!

Back to the real world – now, where were we - stuffing walls with insulation, I believe?

“You’re first rider duty today, aren’t you?” wifey enquired through her face mask. “It’s been quiet hasn’t it?”

“Yes” I said “but don’t jinx the day now! I expect that, if nothing else comes in, I’ll almost certainly get a run for samples from the Kidney Unit to the regional hospital later this afternoon or early this evening”.

True to form the WhatsApp message came in from Duty Controller, Pam, at shortly after 3 pm., requesting the Kidney Unit pickup at 5 pm as the Unit was scheduled to close at 6 pm.

“Kidney Unit call’s come in, Hun. Looks like it should be a straightforward collect, drop off at the hospital and home via fuel so, if nothing else comes in, I should be back no later than 7 o’clock ‘ish. You get your supper when you’re ready and I’ll get mine once I’m back and changed.”

That all fitted very well with my hopes of quickly completing the insulation of the section of wall I was working on before I could wash off some of the inevitable and very irritating fibre dust; don my bike gear and wheel the Blood Bike out of the garage. I notified duty controller Pam of my departure shortly before 16.30 giving me a rough arrival time at the Kidney Unit of shortly after 17:00 for the 40 to 45 minute journey.

I’ve found that the one thing Google maps doesn’t do very well when calculating journey times is account fully for commuter time traffic and there was, as always, plenty of that on my journey south towards Torquay! I was, of course, ‘bullied’ almost relentlessly by the inevitable white/grey/dark blue van men on the southbound M5 and A380! I really do think a “Formula Transit” LCV Grand Prix series would be the most spectacular and competitive spectator motorsport in a long time!! I mean, think about this :- a race series where the drivers compete in their own vehicles – ‘standard’ vehicles only so entries would be declined from any driver without at least one dent in every panel; a minimum of 1 square foot of rust on the vehicle’s body panels; a roof or ladder rack, and at least one plastic wheel arch cover missing!

There’d be none of this Nomex suits and crash helmets nonsense - this is going to be real world, down and dirty stuff! Drivers would, of course, wear shorts made by tearing (possibly cutting, but only for the more “effete” teams!) the legs off old, grey ‘tracky’ bottoms; paint/varnish/putty/caulk/mortar/tomato sauce and other unmentionable and unthinkable stains on the “shorts” would be standard - as would an ancient, once white vest – a tee shirt would be optional but would definitely be taken as a sign of a severe lack of natural testosterone in the driver/co-driver and would influence grid position. A pre-race inspection would demand at least 3” of bum cleavage to be clearly visible on both driver and passenger/co-driver when in the semi-crouch position for the Le Mans style sprint start – which will be performed while carrying a 1 litre steel flask of hot tea. ‘Scruffs’ or ‘Site’ tan coloured steel toe cap boots laced only part way up would be mandatory and the wearing of a seat belt would be entirely down to driver and/or co-driver’s preference for any particular race day. Weight penalties would be added to any van that didn’t have the area between the windscreen and the dashboard liberally filled with empty pot noodle containers; an old copy of the Mirror or the Sun; at least one trade catalogue and a roll-your-own ciggie machine.
The races would be “winner takes all” to more comprehensively and realistically reflect the general attitude that’s frequently paraded by so many “GET OUT OF MY LANE I’M DOING 90 miles per AND DON’T INTEND TO LIFT OFF” drivers. Any winning driver of a round who didn’t use the “F” or “C” word at least twice in every reply to an interviewer’s questions would be docked points or grid positions for any subsequent round entered.
Just think of the sponsorship opportunities for Screwfix and Toolstation………

OK, OK …… more seriously - I unreservedly apologise to tradesmen; delivery drivers and all professional van drivers for ANY offence caused by my stereo and typecasting – it is all and only intended to be humorous, honestly. I just wish I could make a journey or two at legal speeds without being and feeling bullied and intimidated by inappropriate driving speeds and proximity by SO many vehicles but in particular by some van drivers! If that constitutes a rant then, yep, I’m done now. Thanks. Let’s move on, shall we?

So, anyway, by around 17:20 I was at the Kidney Unit and had collected several well filled sealed bags with dozens of specimen/sample tubes from both wards of the Unit. With two very full Daniels boxes in hand(s), I made my way back out to the bike juggling physically with the two Daniels boxes and the bike keys, and mentally with the decision on whether or not to put one of the Daniels boxes in the Givi top case or in the other side case on the BM. Now, I MAY have mentioned in previous episodes of tales from my already chequered Blood Biker history, that I have an appallingly bad memory. I suspect that, not only is it bad, it’s probably highly selective too, and I have to admit that I cannot now for the life of me recall exactly why; when or how I managed to drop the bike’s keys into the top box but I do have this vague imprint on one of the few remaining, active and functioning brain cells that I still appear to have, and that imprint constitutes an uncertain, fleeting, background memory of the keys falling out of my hand and into the box just as I allowed the lid to drop, close and latch. That last word – “latch” is (to coin a phrase) ‘key’ in this context and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’d attempt to whitewash, in any way, my active role in this story of crass idiocy. That lid clearly didn’t latch itself – OH NO SIREE – not at all! It had to be pressed down to latch and I don’t think even Diego Maradona would be able to claim a “Hand of God” excuse for this level of an act of monumental stupidity!

Not a problem, I thought, it might latch but it won’t, surely, LOCK without the key, will it? WILL IT? Ermmmmmm …actually ……
I had that brief moment of unrealistically optimistic doubt that I really had dropped the keys in there – they were in a pocket, weren’t they? With a subliminal and unsustainable hope born of a growing despair I started patting my pockets; I ran my hands through each and every pocket – twice, thrice …… and then once again, just in case. I was in shock; denial, despondency, heck, I can’t even begin to recall how many different emotions flooded through me at that moment but the biggest and foremost among them all was despair. Sheer, utter and complete despair! I think I stood there in the cool evening air exuding the spine chilling sweat of desperate hope and utter frustration before realizing that – once again – I was going to have to call out for help and assistance from my, doubtless bemused, colleagues.

The Whatsapp message I sent out on the Despatch Group was blunt “HELP NEEDED QUICKLY PLEASE …….” and explained briefly that I’d ‘locked myself out’ of the bike (wifey did, later, ever-so-helpfully point out that bikes don’t have doors ……. thank you, dear, very funny!) and needed some assistance – soon! I had a number of immediate responses – the “family ethic” is never far away in a group utterly dedicated to helping and supporting others. A flurry of messages suggesting ways to relay the bike’s spare keys from where they were presumed to be in our West Group (Plymouth and environs) to where I stood stranded in Torquay, raised – albeit briefly - my hopes of a relatively short wait while keys were located and quick relay/handover/delivery logistics could be established and agreed. Nice try, guys – really nice ………… but, it transpired that there are actually no spare keys for this bike – or at least, if spare keys do exist, their whereabouts is currently an undisclosed and closely guarded secret! My phone was now pinging the sound assigned to Whatsapp messages like it was playing a randomly generated tone poem! Ideas about what could/should/might be done to extract me from the mess that I had so comprehensively placed myself in were fired in from a number of sources and a couple of (relatively) local volunteers offered to come by and assist. The “family” was in full support mode and, though I know this wasn’t just to extract me from the proverbial mire into which I had (yet again?) plunged myself, much of the activity was about how to get the samples out of my securely locked boxes and to their intended destination without further delay.

First responder - so to speak - was no less than the charity’s Chairman and leader, Mark. His professional role as ambulance crew and his duty that evening actually had him close by and he was able to call in, very briefly, on his way past just to see if there was anything that could be done. Regrettably, though, as welcome as his moral support and understanding were, right there and then, his work – and my dilemma - were not going to allow any possible short cut, work-arounds that he could at that moment engineer on my behalf.
My ever-patient Group Leader, Rob., very quickly called to provide details and the phone number for SWBB’s AA membership and suggested that I should make an immediate call for priority assistance. He also asked if the bike’s Givi top case had open ended hinge covers since - if it had - the hinge pins could then be gently driven out and the lid squeezed open enough to get a hand in to retrieve the keys. As it transpired, one end of the hinge pin housing was moulded and “blind” so Rob suggested that this would have to be carefully drilled out to enable the pin to be removed and replaced. This sounded like a lifesaving idea and I got very optimistic with the plan and quickly made the call to the AA. The AA Control could not have been more helpful and I was advised that a response and attendance could be expected within the hour! I was beginning to feel a LOT less frustrated with my situation and the swift arrival of a riding colleague, Mick, meant that I had some vicarious comfort and moral support. That comfort and support was further bolstered when I got a phone call from the man who, along with Rob my Group Leader, has been pretty much at front and centre of my induction to the “family” of SWBB. Steve’s a tall, softly spoken Yorkshireman with that “no fuss, no nonsense, no frills, no problem – NO MESSING” approach to life and everything that life can throw his way ……… including an idiot that could manage to lock the only available set of keys into a loaded Blood Bike’s top box!!!

“I’m on my way over from home now, Adrian, with some tools. Should be with you in a few minutes and should be able to get you on your way again.”

I told Steve that all should be OK as the AA were destined to be with me within a matter of minutes but he said that, as he was already under way and not very far away, he’d attend anyway.

I felt simultaneously guilty, humbled, comforted, relieved and embarrassed – this Blood Bike riding really is an emotional and emotive roller coaster of a journey with so many twists and turns & highs and lows that it can feel quite dizzying at times!! But, it’s a really ‘good’ type of dizzying – not the head spinning, mind bending, nausea inducing dizzying that leaves the cold sweat of fear on your back and a doubt in your mind about what you’re doing and/or why you’re doing it!!

The AA patrol appeared a good 10 minutes before his predicted ETA and made a quick appraisal of the situation before setting to work with his lock picking tools! I was suddenly quite optimistic that this could now be quickly resolved with a minimum of fuss and no damage, BUT ………… alas ……… the Givi case has a lock/key type that is, it seems, beyond the lock picking expertise and equipment of an AA Patrol’s toolkit! Not to worry, I thought, maybe we can revert to Plan B and drill out the blind cover moulding and drive the hinge pin out. “Ermmmmmm ……nice try”, said the Patrol man ……. “but I don’t have a cordless drill on board!!” WHAT? I might have felt that slough of despair appearing in my tracks again had it not been for the dulcet, northern tones of the big man behind and above me – well, he IS tall and I am VERY small!!!

“Arv got me cordless drill ‘ere. Wot size bit d’yu need?”

The White Rose became a simple mnemonic for a White Knight – my hero, my exemplar, my saviour …… whatever good appellations could have been heaped upon him at that moment would NEVER be adequately expressive of the relief and hope I felt at that moment! Steve – you are ‘DA MAN’!!!

It took but a few brief moments before the drill had done its work and the Patrol had carefully driven out the hinge pins. I squeezed my hand into the narrow gap now afforded at the back of the top box and, after a moment of fear and doubt when I couldn’t locate the keys, my outstretched and eager fingers brushed - then grabbed - something metallic and I pulled out the priceless tag and keys that would guarantee some element of redemption for my heinous sin of stupidity!! I felt like I should perhaps have done the kind of wild, celebratory running around and waving of keys that a footballer would do with his shirt after having scored a winning goal in the last moments of a crucial (I was going to say “key” but that would just hurt!) match! However my assembled colleagues simply urged me to get myself geared up again whilst the AA Patrol replaced the hinge pins and get ready to get on my way – pronto – to complete the run to the hospital to deliver and sign over my precious cargo.

I did as was suggested and left my assembled colleagues to muse on the evening’s events while I made my way with some haste to complete my task. Thankfully, the journey was straightforward and with light traffic I was at the hospital and delivering my precious cargo – with a huge and grateful sigh of relief - within half an hour.

So, a late supper for me as it was around 9pm before I was at home with a refuelled bike and was hanging up my bike gear!! Luckily my dinner wasn’t “in the dog”, though I suspect that my wife is sometimes tempted to resort to such actions when I, once again, fail to make good on my expectations that I “… should be back before 8!!” Perhaps, though, the only reason for it NOT being in the dog is that she (the dog) isn’t very keen on salads which are always a safe bet for supper if I’m on a callout .…… after all, salads don’t spoil quite so easily when “stupid is as stupid does” is given another golden opportunity to shine!


Don’t know about social media posts, I reckon you’re on for a 1970’s sitcom revival.

Awesome Adie… great entertainment :joy::+1:


I’m guessing I’d qualify as the Frank SPENCER of South West Blood Bikes?? :smile: :thinking:

Well done. A Great write up .
And at last I’m not the only one to have locked myself out of my bike…!
( keys left under seat, seat shut down…!)

Excellent write up. I’ll look forward to seeing the first round of the “Formula Transit”!

Thanks. So, we are NOT alone … :smile:

Thank you Mrs. V!

I fear that the ‘safety above all else’ culture that predominates modern society (and life in general) will never allow anything remotely like the Formula Transit to take place - sadly!

If you’ve got a busy motorway near you, though, you could always get the closest thing by riding for a couple of miles in the outmost lane at bang on the legal limit at peak traffic time. The Formula Transit grid will be lined up - closely - directly behind you (except for those that will pass on your inside!) waiting for the green flag of you pulling back into the next-left lane when clear! :roll_eyes: :wink:

And for that reason I always leave the key in the lock when removing the seat…
Trouble is it’s stayed there a few times when walking off for a coffee break. One day I’ll be walking back wondering where I parked the bike. :scream:

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Been there, done that. I was in the south of France at the time. :man_facepalming:

Now THAT definitely has the potential for a story I really do want to hear!!!

It IS heartening to feel that I’m not entirely alone in my endeavours to make a complete fool of myself … :smile:

The story is mercifully short. We all took spare keys and a mate went back to the hotel to get mine. :slightly_smiling_face:


Well, that petered out quickly :joy:

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Key Confessions Volume 2. I once parked outside a small bike show in Peebles and left my key in the ignition. Fortunately it was not spotted by a bike thief but by a kind person who took it inside to the organiser, who announced it had been handed in, triggering an embarassing walk of shame to collect it.

I suspect we have all had key mishaps.

Like the time I left my bike overnight in a multi-storey car park in Birmingham and forgot to take the key out of the ignition, you mean. Been there, too. :laughing:

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A brave man. :astonished:

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That’s what the parking attendant said. His face was a picture when I saw him the next day and told him I’d left the key in the bike. :laughing:

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Was it a Triumph?

A Triumph? It was a bloody miracle! :joy: