A touch of Triumph in Stepps;Comment;Opinion

9th February 1996 at 00:00
Having bought my wreck of a Triumph Spitfire, one of the first things I did was to join an owner's club. This turned out to be a wise move. Shortly after I parted with my subscription I was mailed a member's pack containing magazines, catalogues and handbooks. There was a list of local meeting places too. My area, I was informed, is called Scotland Central West and enthusiasts meet on the first Thursday of the month in Stepps.

To be honest, until I rang up the area organiser for directions, I did not believe that Stepps actually existed as a place where people lived. I thought it was one of these motorway junction places with a roundabout or two but no habitation.

I apologise. It's real. It's got houses. It's got a hotel, too, where 12 times a year the odd Herald, Spit or GT6 can be seen.

My first meeting was in midwinter. I'd asked the area chief, half facetiously, if it was all right to come in a Skoda. He said that most members would be taking their club cars off the road until spring anyway so I wouldn't be out of place.

I was still rather suspicious. Save for the Scouts, I've never been one for clubs and organisations. I had a worry that the Triumph Sports Six Club would be like the masons in overalls. There would be bizarre initiation rites involving investiture with a transverse leaf spring.

I'd be taught the funny handshake and the secret phrase to identify myself to a traffic cop who was also a member. (Someone told me that masons say: "How's your granny?") At least this would give me something to laugh at. The possibility that the club would be full of sad gits who talked in obscure technical language all the time was far more worrying, even to someone who teaches computing.

As it happened I got in with a nice crowd who were happy to pass on advice in a non-pushy, non-blowy sort of way. Then came the feely bag competition. A club worthy had sealed up small Triumph parts in black plastic pokes, leaving only a small aperture through which a hand could be inserted, identification of poke's contents for the use of.

Everyone got a worksheet to write the answers on. There were 10 items. I scored six, the worst score of the evening. Most answers were worth two or three. Where I would write "switch", keenies were putting down: "Column mounted three position light switch, pre-Mk IV Spitfire."

Peeping at other answers, I soon realised I could not compete at this level. I began to fill my response sheet with silly things. "I haven't felt one of those since Amsterdam"; "Extremely small commode". This proved to be an excellent strategy. By making uneducated as opposed to educated guesses, I threw away just enough marks to ensure that nobody else scored so low.

My lack of effort was rewarded with a booby prize in the shape of two substantial bars of Fruit and Nut. One I shared with those around me. If they thought me a smart arse then at least they'd think me a generous smart arse.

I related all this to a teaching friend the next day. Later I realised that I had given him another example of a situation that he believes is widespread in schools. Prizes are given to the few at the very top. Those whose response to a genuine lack of ability is to clown get plenty of attention and the odd booby prize. The middle majority get little recognition. They inhabit a kind of educational Stepps.

Gregor Steele recently managed to work on his Spitfire without breaking anything.

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