Friday 18 July, 2014
As has become custom, Len and myself met with Jason and his friend David, at about 08:45, and headed for Podington Airfield, otherwise known as Santa Pod Raceway. For this was Bug Jam weekend. A chance to relax in a field, watching hot rods, dragsters, stunts, live music and much more.
The trip up the motorway saw us heading in to a thunder-storm, with the rain reducing the visibility so that Len had to concentrate a lot more. After a minor detour, thanks to Jason who convinced us that he knew a quicker route, we still arrived at Santa Pod a little after 10:30, just as the rain stopped. We were quickly through the gates and were directed to a General Camping area, which was on the far side of the dragstrip, near the music tents, pit lane, funfair, stalls and main stage.
I immediately set about setting up my tent, while David set about setting up his. A few minutes later and, with the tents up, the beer began to flow. Jason had introduced himself to our neighbours; Jason and his partner Vicki, had a camper van next to us, while on our other side were a group of northern couples, whose names escape me.
With the time just after noon, Len and I decided to go for an exploratory, leaving Jason and David to catch some rays and listen to music. As Len and I headed passed the music tents and main stage, aiming for the stalls, a Dakota, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, made an unscheduled, but welcome, flypast.
As we meandered around the stalls we could hear the revving of motors as mechanics tweaked the engines, in the pit lane. The smell of rubber and oil filled the air as we ambled through the crowds and around to the embankment, that looks down on the dragstrip and the Live Arena.
Standing atop the embankment, with the sun reaching its zenith, Len and I took in the sights. As far as the eye could see flags fluttered in the light breeze. Vehicles of all makes and sizes covered the airfield, while tents of varying size, shape and colour filled the grass between each vehicle. Smoke rose from countless bar-be-cues, filling our nostrils and making our stomachs growl. On the dragstrip, machines cleared the surface of water and debris, from the earlier storm. It was then that we noticed something was missing. The Live Arena was empty. Not just empty, but deserted. There were no Monster Trucks or Stunt Bikes. Nor any crushed cars in the middle of the arena but, worrying of all, there was no Terry Grant! Len and I looked at each other puzzled, before we decided to head back to the tent, where we try to find some answers. On our way we headed along the pit lane, where we spoke to some of the drivers and mechanics, one of whom tried to sell us his Ford Consul hot rod, for a mere £21,500.
A quick scan through the programme revealed that there was nothing, of any consequence, happening in the Live Arena until Sunday. Sunday?! Then it was only to be the Monster Trucks, Swamp Thing and Podzilla, the UK FMX motorcycle team and a display of Lowrider cars. That was no good for us nor, as it turned out, for a lot of the people that we spoke to. Those with families, or had a great distance to travel, needed to leave on the Sunday to make their way home. On all the previous Bug Jam weekends, that I have attended, the Live Arena has been one of the biggest crowd-pullers. There was usually a show on the Friday night, with two shows on the Saturday and a final one on the Sunday. Each of these years has had different acts perform, from Joseph Peace and his crazy fire antics to Rodrigo the Human Cannonball. From motorcycle stunts to BMX stunts. But, there has always been Terry Grant and his stunt cars. These shows would go on for over an hour, each time. This year the Live Arena would remain empty, until Sunday.
Feeling more than a little annoyed, Len and I went back to watch some of the drag racing and wait for the flypast proper. As we watched the various cars make their runs, we heard the distant rumble of aeroplane engines. Not your typical jet engines, but proper engines. Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, with propellers attached. With camera on video mode, I scanned the skies. Then they appeared, banking around from the south. A Lancaster Bomber, flanked by a Hurricane and possibly the greatest aeroplane ever to take to the skies… A Spitfire. Continuing their banking manoeuvre they then straightened up and flew down the dragstrip, banked again and did another run above the adoring crowds. The sound was deafening, but wonderful at the same time. Beginning to feel more than a little hungry, we decided to grab a bite to eat, before returning to our pitch.
With Jason and David busy in the music tent, listening to garage-house-techno-acid-crap, I left Len at the tent and went off to see what the Live Stage had to offer. The cover band The Hot Red Chili Peppers were belting out some classics and, although they sounded the part they didn’t look the part. The clouds soon began to darken and the unmistakable smell of imminent rain filled the air. I made it back to the tent, to find Len chatting with the neighbours, Jason and Vicki. Grabbing a beer I joined them, under their canopy, which was attached to the side of their VW camper. Soon enough the rain came down, as lightning lit up the evening sky. We continued talking until Vicki discovered that it had gone 4 o’clock. 4 o’clock?! Where had the time gone? We bade goodnight to Jason and Vicki and, while Len settled in to his car, I decided that I was hungry, so off I went in search of a bacon roll and a coffee. I returned to the tent just after 05:30, with the sun rising, and climbed into my tent to sleep.
To be continued…