Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 13

Dutch Dash

There is a saying that a "change is as good as a rest" and this past week has certainly been a change, but without much in the way of rest.

When I moved to Spain in 2002, I thought it was going to be my permanent home and so I packed up my UK home, sold the cottage and moved. Everything duly arrived in a 40 foot shipping container, and had then to be unpacked and located around the villa.

Then when I was invited to go to work for the Abu Dhabi Police by General Nasser Al Nuaimi in 2005, an invitation that one could hardly refuse, I could already see that there were some significant problems on the horizon for Spain.

Huge numbers of asylum seekers were arriving by boat on the Islas Canarias from Africa, completely overwhelming all the local services. 

There were many issues around property ownership, building control and local corruption. 

Local politics was everywhere and there was scant regard for European law. 

This was before the financial crash, but I wasn't surprised when it happened with the effect that it had in Spain.

I liked the expat life, and whilst it had been interesting to work with the local Bomberos and the Guardia, the decision to move again, even for an unknown length of time, was not difficult. 

So once again, everything was packed, only my experience in Spain suggested to me that I would be better to ship the container back to the UK for storage, rather than trust a Spanish storage facility.

I didn't know where I was going to live after the UAE, but I knew it would not be back to Spain.

After four fantastic years in Abu Dhabi, with more to come and having moved into an immense and brand new villa, (Abu Dhabi doesn't do small!) a simple cost benefit analysis said that I could have the container shipped out and all my home contents could be put to good use, with a saving on the monthly storage charges.

So it was that in early 2011 several truck loads of shipping boxes arrived at my villa.

​The local rules apparently precluded a truck bringing the actual container to the door, so the contents were decanted into 5 tonne pickups at the port. 

It was with some sadness and not a little annoyance, that I found that some things which had left Spain, were missing. 

So much for my belief that my things would have been safer in the UK!

Since I was taught to ride motorcycles by the police at 17, I have been interested in and owned 'bikes. 

All my bikes have had a history and were generally unique in many respects. Three bikes had arrived in Spain and had then left.

All three had been stolen in the UK.

They were reported stolen in 2011 to the police in the area where they had been in storage, and that was the last I heard of them. 

Being unique I knew that they had a value and having had two bikes stolen in a targeted burglary in the 1990's, even though all their details should have been entered into the national stolen vehicle data base, I had little expectation of any of the three being found and I suspected I would not see them again.

In 2012 more than 20,000 motorcycles were stolen in the UK and only 30% were recovered, but the total figure is inaccurate because of the way statistics are recorded. It does not include bikes taken during a burglary. 

By 2017, more than 30,000 bikes a year were being stolen, 83 every day of the year with just two in six being recovered.

Time moves on, and whilst I often wondered what happened to them and occasionally searched on the internet for the VRM's, I didn't really expect to find them being offered for sale. 

Roll forward to September 2017 and a friend and retired colleague contacted me about a bike he had seen advertised for sale on eBay.

The seller had very helpfully supplied details about the history of the bike, but without the VRM, describing it as having been purchased by the Chief Constable of the East Riding Constabulary in 1967.

The East Riding Constabulary had few motorcycles and even fewer exist today.

So seven or perhaps ten years after being stolen, one of my bikes had resurfaced in the very north of Scotland and was being offered for sale. 

It had had its outer identity changed to the point I didn't recognise it in the eBay photos, but the engine and frame numbers gave it away.

My friend travelled to see it and saw the original vehicle log book with my name still in it as the owner.

Police Scotland were contacted and a Detective seized the bike. There then began two months of significant activity by a number of people. 

Former colleagues from Abu Dhabi who had worked in the Scottish police made calls and offered advice. 

Colleagues from my former service pulled out all the stops to get my ownership confirmed.

Using "open source" information and FOI requests, I was able to show to the Scottish CID that the seller had comprehensively lied to the investigating detective about how he came to own it. 

That is of course not the same as being the thief, but I have my suspicions.

The Scottish CID told the seller that because of his dishonesty over how he came to be in possession of my bike, he had forfeit all claims to ownership and the bike was returned to me.

Apart from it being 51 years old, there were only a limited number of Triumph TR6 P's built, just 4,553 (9%) in total between 1967 and 1973, out of the 49,555 various TR6 Trophy models built in the same period, so they are desirable.​

The TR6P was called the "Triumph Saint" to distinguish it from the regular Triumph Trophy models and was essentially built as a special order for each police buyer, so there were many differences between the bikes. "Saint" is an acronym for 'Stops Anything In No Time', which alludes to its top speed of over 100 mph/160 kph, which in the 1960's/70's was fast by the standards of the day.

The encyclopedic Triumph website suggests that there were only 570 Saints built in 1966/67, the year it was built in, for worldwide distribution. 

Just 72,609 model TR6's in total were built during the lifetime of the marque, for sale world-wide.

My friend who had gone to look at it, also a vehicle enthusiasts, agreed to store it until I could collect it, but both he and I were concerned about "someone" trying to regain possession of the bike, so there was a degree of planning to effectively make the bike disappear again but into his safe custody. 

So the bike was collected from Aberdeen and delivered into a converted Chapel in deepest, darkest North Yorkshire.

​It's a long way from the Adriatic to the UK, and you have to do things like cross the Alps. 

These days, it's not like Hannibal Barca and his elephants, but none the less, weather was my biggest concern.

I would have liked to have travelled before Christmas, but the arrival of the winter snows precluded that. Plan 'B' was to travel in the spring. 

So on a cold and cloudy day last week, I set off in a Mercedes Vito van from home. I loaded the Land Rover engine, as part of the plan was to drop that off at Beaumont Land Rovers who will recondition it, and then travelled on to collect the bike.

​As I had a van, and there would be lots of space, I took the opportunity to order everything that I cannot obtain here and need. I found the same model of wood stove that I had had in the UK, coils of 28mm water pipe and small items, like a mini pedestal cement mixer and a 25 KG cast iron Constabulary Station sign.

All things which would never fit in a shipping box from the UK.

The drive north to Rotterdam was uneventful, albeit a very long way. 

I had an overnight stay with friends in Köln then an easy run to the Netherlands to catch the afternoon ferry to the UK.

I delivered the engine to a bleak and desolate converted mill, high in the Pennines above Halifax.

​Surrounded by a couple of dozen Land Rovers, in various states of decay.

And beyond, nothing but the bleak expanse of the Yorkshire Pennine moorland.

Next was the collection of my bike from the North Yorkshire Moors.

​This was followed by the loading of copious large and small boxes, then a drive south to catch the evening ferry to the Netherlands. 

These North Sea ferries are of an order of magnitude larger than the ones which travel between the Croatian mainland and the islands.

A hearty breakfast was taken on board, watching the sunrise as the ferry approached the Dutch coast, then we ran into a thick fog.

Once back on mainland Europe, I headed south, retracing my route through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and home to Croatia.

I had to contend with fog, rain, snow, sun and ice.

​A fire in an alpine autobahn tunnel on the A9 in Austria had closed the main highway and diverted all traffic to minor rural roads (interesting in a wide van). But after 18 hours I was back on home territory and the virtually traffic free roads of southern Croatia.

​A little later and after another, shorter ferry crossing I was back home in time for lunch and a warm welcome from my felines.

After a journey of 2,500 KM door to door, and some 300 litres of fuel for the trip,  my bike is back home.

I'd like to return it to something like the specification when it was stolen.

​I have been able to source most of the role equipment, but am missing a couple of items. So if you happen to have an old 'Police STOP' sign or a PYE Westminster radio languishing in your shed, I'd like to hear from you.

​Sadly the local police force where the bike was stolen showed no interest in trying to see what happened to the other two.

Although I did get an admission that the correct details had not been entered onto the national database at the time I reported them stolen(this has now been done, I am assured). 

This allowed the seller to register ownership in his name with barely a pretence of forging my signature. 

I suspect that a Rickman Metisse, one of just 60 built, will have been broken up to get its valuable Rickman Manx racing frame.

As for the 1932 New Hudson, it was a restoration project and not complete.

​I had taken the tank off and the engine fairings at the start of the project, and I still have them, so again it has probably been sold in pieces as there are so few about, its parts are worth more than the whole.

With 11 months of riding weather here in Dol, my TR6P is not going to be a 'museum piece', but it would be nice to get the old Triumph back to something like original spec. Although what one means by original, is for another day's blog.

With a lot of boxes to unpack and several plants to put in the garden, the rest of Easter week has been about getting back to normal - whatever that might be - here in Dol.

The "Dutch Dash" was the name given in England to the short, long weekend, all inclusive holidays in Amsterdam, but to me, that is what this week has felt like - a Dutch Dash across Europe, but with a very satisfying end result.

My thanks go to to everyone who has helped in one way or another, to get the bike back. You all know who you are...

Over the coming months, I will no doubt return to the work I am doing on my bike. But next week, after Easter, normal service will be resumed. Promise!