Anyone who knows me will tell you, I hate kids & I hate Christmas.
I choose to opt out of the whole Crimble craziness. I don’t “celebrate” it by getting stressed out, fighting my way through crowds of shopping centre lemmings, spending several months’ wages desperately seeking the right gift for the relatives they see once a year cos they can’t stand them, who don’t want it anyway. Father Christmas is just an ageing advertising executive who came up with a brilliant sales scam to encourage gullible shoppers to empty the shelves at what would otherwise be a quiet time of year. I’m not religious in any way either so just can’t see the point of it all. I don’t buy presents, or send cards or any of that malarkey.
Bah, humbug, as a wise man once said.
So there I was on Sunday, gift in hand, wearing my Santa hat & doing my bit. THIS is my Christmas. A couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon in early December, distributing presents & a little happiness to kids who might not otherwise have much to smile about on Christmas morning. This is how it should be done.
I’ve been doing this run for several years now & also did one of the very early ones to a local YMCA centre. Originally organized by the Reading branch of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, it’s been an annual event for 20 years now. Even though that group have since disbanded, it lives on, now run by several ex members with lots of help from other organizations. For the last 17 years the beneficiary has been the Dr Barnados home in Wokingham, Berks. The first run attracted 47 bikes. This year saw 3000 gather in the carpark of the Foster Wheeler building, just off junction 11 of the M4 in Reading, before making their way the 10 miles or so to Wokingham, shepherded by no less than 92 volunteer marshals plus outriders from Thames valley Police.
This is a real feel-good event. Not just for those that give up their Sunday afternoon to turn up & swell the ranks, but for the local residents too & the children of course. Riding two or three abreast at a steady 30mph or so, sweeping through junctions & red traffic lights, the car drivers being held back by yellow jacketed marshals, we made an impressive sight. People line the streets to cheer & wave, filming us & holding up “Merry Christmas” placards. Car drivers, grin & toot their horns. I always get a buzz from being part of a large group of bikes but it’s nice to be seen as the good guys for once.
Fancy dress has become almost obligatory on this run. There were around 50 assorted Santa's, several elves, reindeer, fairies, a snowman & even a human Christmas tree complete with tinsel & lights riding with us this year. Great to see people really making an effort -& funny to watch ruffty tuffty bikers comparing cotton wool beards. Think my favorite was the 20 stone guy in the tutu & leather thigh boots who introduced himself as The Scary Fairy.
Riders are asked to bring along an unwrapped present suitable for children up to 16 years old so there were lots of large teddy bears riding pillion. Rainbow & I took along boxes of colouring pens & piles of books to use them in. Volunteers take delivery of the gifts once we reach the Barnados home & we queue up for our free tea & biscuits. Speeches are made – we’re told the home can’t possibly handle the sheer volume of donations so they’re distributed to children’s charities, hospitals, day care centres etc across Berkshire & as far afield as London. Every single present will find a home with a child on Christmas morning. The Mayor of Wokingham addresses us. “You can tell I’m the Mayor cos I’m wearing major bling”. Last year he was driven to the event on the back of a trike. This year he proudly announces he’s ridden with us on his own bike. A raffle is drawn with prizes donated by some two dozen local companies. A long distance award is given -238 miles for a chap who’d ridden from St Austell, Cornwall for the event. Ben, a local biker & the driving force behind this run & also the Dr B’s custom & classic show held at the same venue each Spring, is presented with a model motorcycle to mark his 2 decades of ceaseless charity work & promptly bursts into tears.
As I said, this is very much a feel-good event. You can feel a very real air of goodwill & generosity. It’s fun & a great excuse for a get-together before the worst of the Winter weather arrives, but more importantly people keep coming back year after year because they care. This is the REAL spirit of Christmas.