Day 99: Achievement 91. Go see the banger racing at Wimbledon Stadium

I’ve wanted to go see the banger racing for as long as I can remember.  Well, technically, since Joff’s cancelled stag do.  (I should probably set the record straight at this point: it’s not that his good lady wife-to-be called the whole shebang off, but an inopportune moment of ill-health on Joff’s part.  The actual stag do involved everybody wearing antlers while driving dodgems in The Trocadero. Anyway, that’s quite enough about Joff.)  The point is this: since then, I’ve always wanted to go.

So, along with Katie, Ewan, Roz and Shorts, I rocked up on a Sunday evening.  The event at Wimbledon is run by the good people at Spedeworth.  For the princely sum of £13, we were able to enjoy ten races and a superb fifteen minute display by everybody’s good friends from Paine’s Fireworks.  “How can you be sure Paine’s Fireworks are everybody’s good friends?”, I hear you ask.  Well, the gentleman broadcasting to the stadium on the PA system (who looked uncannily like Sven Goran Eriksson) told us so.  About thirty times.  If an unlikely set of circumstances somehow required it, I like to think he’s the kind of guy I’d get to MC at a Bah Mitzvah.

The crew

nsj, Katie, Shorts, Rozzy

Those ten races, then.  We saw Stock Rods, we saw Historic Stock Cars and we saw the Bangers.  The stock rods are the closest thing to road cars.  Entry level, small engines, designed for those who wanted a foot in the door.  The historic stock cars step the pace up and introduce an element of contact, but the bangers races are where it’s at.  Full on smashes, pile-ups, roll-overs.  Just mayhem, really.  And top marks to the enterprising lads who turned up with estate cars.  The practical man deep inside everybody salutes you.



Top tips if you’re going: soft drinks are cheaper at the food bar than the bar bar; the food is crap, expensive and best avoided; it’s loud at the trackside – take earplugs; get there early to bag a parking spot.  We’ve vowed to go back.

Day 98: Achievement 16. Get the DLR down to the Museum of London Docklands

First up, an honest admission: I didn’t get the DLR to the museum.  Weekend engineering, you see.  If I had gone all circuitous on the transport front, I’d have been even later to meet Rowan, my companion for the afternoon.  After a false start, largely involving her being at Canary Wharf station and me being on the bridge outside the museum, we made it inside.

Museum of London Docklands

Museum of London Docklands, from the footbridge over West India Quay

The Museum of London Docklands is sister of the Museum of London, a place I’ve banged on about at length.  Like its sibling, the Museum of London Docklands is free to visit.  Be sure to pick up one of the rather good map booklets from the reception area before heading up to the third floor to start the tour.

If you’re more of an anthropologist than archaeologist (and I certainly am), you’ll quickly tire of the Tony Robinson videos and pictures of rocks and quickly move on to something more interesting.  In this case, it’ll be the London Sugar & Slavery gallery.  It’s a helpful reminder about what a bunch of bastards the English were.

London, sugar & slavery

Sugar & Slavery, Rakish Rowan

Things are a bit less grim downstairs.  There’s a rather spooky gallery called ‘Sailortown’, much like the Victorian village at the Museum of London.  It’s a replica of London’s docklands in the mid-19th century, replete with shops, alleyways and a hostelry.  There’s plenty of dark corners for adventurous youngsters to have a cheeky canoodle, too.  Not that either of us spotted (or condone) such activities, you understand.

Boat Yard gate

Aye aye, Sailor

A couple of galleries explore London’s docks at their peak.  ‘Warehouse of the World’ exhibits the types and quantities of the goods that came in and out of the city, as well as the development of bigger and better docking and storage facilities out to the east.  Enterprising and ruthless businessmen aren’t a 20th century innovation; there were plenty of takeovers, mergers and strange goings on.  Plenty of robberies, too.  And strikes, headed up by the enterprising Ernest Bevin – first head of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.



After an hour or two of walking about, we went off for a Pret.  Evidently tiring of my company, Rowan decided to head off – leaving me to learn all about the war and the area’s regeneration on my own.  The latter is particularly interesting and diverse; everything from the rise of Canada Square to the News International strikes.  Anyone who has a slight interest in marketing or advertising will relish the plethora of posters, pamphlets and general paraphernalia of the London Docklands Development Corporation.  It’s wonderfully early 90s.

I left by DLR, happy in the knowledge the Docklands museum is just as brilliant as its big sister.