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    During Christmas 2003 we first presented our number 1 Steam Gallopers/Carousel in Syntagama Square in the centre of Athens this proved so popular that 2004 they asked if we could supply an additional Carousel to operate in Kotzia Square in front of the Mayors Office this ride again in conjunction with a Christmas Market at very popular venue.

    Anyway as per usual this during negotiations as far back as July. Finalizing in November they again required the same two Roundabouts same venues, then came a phone call we need an extra Carousel. Peristeri a smaller Municipality the next largest place to Athens require a ride. This could not have come at a better time as we had just had a cancellation. Peristeri is approximately 4.5 miles from the centre of Athens population 500,000 compared to Athens 4,000,000.

    Any way off we go with two of our Carousels. Tuesday the 6th December 2005 we leave home Nottingham on a 2000 mile journey through France Italy into Greece and finally Athens to arrive Saturday. the problem not only the roads but bridges and low tunnels as our centre trailers are 4.2 metres high and most of the continent is 4 metres.

    On the first day just hitting France the phone rang, our European agent phoned asking "Is everything going OK?" I replied "Yes no problems yet" He continued "Well I have just had a request from the Mayor she has just gone on Greek television and told the people of Athens she is going to put another Carousel in Kipselis square can you get me another Carousel?"

    A few phone calls later I managed to convince a friend Charles Drakley to come along with the ride that I sold to him, a healthy 42ft foot Savage Machine, road height 4.5metres. Charles was going to leave with our third roundabout on the 15th December so that we could spot any bridges or tunnels that we thought may be a definite no go area for Charles with the very high load.

    Through France we only encountered a few problems, garage canopies are not marked with height as we found out when one attached its self to the centre trailer, toll booths also become a problem as our lorries and trailers are 6 inch over width (150mm) a little tight especially if you get in the car lane as Charles did we only had a little tyre trouble but as we were doing 600 miles a day it was only to be expected.

    The big problem started when we left the South of France we started going up a long hill must have been 25 miles long when something went pop oil pressure OK air OK water temp OK so just keep going when we stopped about 100 km later there was oil everywhere. We stopped on the services for the night and we will have a look in the morning. Next morning we wiped the oil off but couldn't find where it was coming from, top it up and we will monitor it anyway 50 mile further on we stopped again more oil we have got to find the problem, oil is to expensive in Europe about 25 for a 5lt can and we were wasting a lot the lorry chassis won't go rusty though.

    So put the cab boiler suit on and found the leak, front oil seal on the timing chain cover had popped out, tools out the only socket we hadn't got was the one we wanted big adjustable not good enough, any way managed to prize it back in using a couple of screw drivers well it seemed to be alright. To get the oil of me was another problem only cold water in the services and -5 C outside that's what I call a cold shower!!!

    Off we go again 50 miles later temperature warming up a bit pull in the services its out again cab up, Then I saw that there was a small hole in the front fly wheel in line with the seal with the aid of a 8mm bolt I managed to tap the seal further in and just to make sure I put a piece of string about 1 metre long through the hole tied a not in the end then spun the engine over, the string then rapped round the shaft so the oil seal couldn't come back out and it still hasn't yet 3000 mile later.

    Still driving through Italy, came another phone call from our Greek agent - "We need an additional Carousel" I said - "Yes I know you want 4 rides". He replied "No I want 5 rides and we need them to be open on the 17th December." Oh dear Charles will have to set off tomorrow to be able to make the opening. As we had gone earlier with the idea that we could spot an problems for him, because of his trailer height, we said it should be OK a bit tight in places but it should fit and we were nearly right.

    The trouble never started for Charles until he got to the port, he got on the ship no problem, but it was that tight on board the centre pole of the ride caught a RSJ But he didn't know and never stopped, so it scraped under it and then popped up, he was on the ship but trapped between to RSJ's. No problem just take the hinge pin out and drop the pole down on the cogs, the pin would not budge. OK grind out cut the pin. No grinder! They eventually managed to cut the pin with a broken hacksaw blade they found in the lorry.

    That was one problem and as we all know nobody wants to work through Christmas and New Year period. Anyway after a few phone calls and e-mails, David Wallis Jnr agreed to go but before he could travel he would have to alter the platforms on his ride David's was the only new type set of Gallopers a 36 foot Mardi Gras Machine. Anyway after a few days work he was ready to set off to Athens. The new venue was Petroula Square at Kolonos about 2 miles from the centre of Athens.

    As you can see by the photos we did make it there with all five rides. It must have been one of England's Best Exports that Christmas. (By this time I have left Brett in Athens and flown back from Greece ready to take our number 3 set out there.) Even with our own no 3 set, the last to leave due to other commitments after getting to the docks 1 day early which we thought was great, we had found a short cut through the Frazjurs Tunnel through the Alps saving 250 miles.

    The shipping agent moved our booking a day forward and then at the docks after waiting to load the local agents told us there was no room on the Ship, after watching the ship sail away I phoned our shipping agent and told him in a few unsavory words the days thoughts as you can imagine, he then told me even more bad news he had cancelled the original booking and there was now no room on the next days sailing.

    The next available ship from the port of Ancona was Tuesday a day after we were supposed to be open, we then got the map out and started looking about going the long way through Bosnia etc. The phone rang again good news said the agent I have managed to get you on a ferry from Bari this was a little better than the long way but only just Bari was the most southern port in Italy about 400 miles from Ancona, even better news you have got to be there by 12 oclock tomorrow we arrived after driving most of the night at 11 30 am to be told this ship has not dock yet its running 4 hours late.

    The ship arrived great and then I saw the sign above "Loading ramp 4 metres!" "Is there any more ships on this route?" I asked. Response was "No but we will get you on." They came off the ship with a piece of wood to our lorry OK this was about 4 inch lower than the lorry. "You follow me on." We went thorough the door with no problem we managed to get on about 60feet and then had to shunt over to the side of the ship, which with other traffic loading took us about an hour eventuality we sailed about 10-00pm that evening on what was supposed to be a 9 hour crossing, we arrived in Patris at 1pm the next day only to be faced with more problems, Brett my son in law phoned from Athens to inform me HGV were not permitted to travel on Sundays between 2pm and 10pm on major roads, we didn't manage to get off the ship until 2pm after an hour of shunting and the ramp was that steep due I assume to the tide the centre trailer slide sideways down the ramp and nearly tipped over breaking the light plug and bending the draw bar.

    Anyway we left to get diesel and see if we can get a new plug a lot of lorries were still leaving Patris so we decided to take our chances on the motorway. Off we go though the tolls no problem, after about 20 miles out walks a police man from the side of the road we pull over. "What's the problem officer?" in my trying to be nice I know nothing voice. "You no travel till 10 o'clock" pointing at is watch. I replied "But we must be in Peristeri tonight we have the Carousel for the Mayor it has to be open tomorrow." "No!" he insisted "You must stop over there." I persuaded "But we have the galloping horses for the Mayor." "You have horses?" "Yes in there yes!" He relented "OK you go!" It appears that he thought we had real horses and livestock can travel on Sundays we never stopped till we got to Athens.

    We got lots of dirty looks from other drivers who had pulled over and had to stop but we got 27 horses and 6 cockerels to get to Peristeri, who knows what they would have done if they had looked in the back of the lorry. We arrived in Peristeri, Brett my son in law had now after being there a few days sorting out all the rides in the various venues learned to drive like the Greeks took us straight onto our site it was decided the easiest access would be to drive straight over the centre reservation. Brett went down the road did a U turn with the pick up and proceeded to pull across the two lanes and blocked the on coming traffic, well they all drive on the wrong side of the road anyway. Next day we opened all 5 roundabouts full riding from 10.00am through to 10.00pm daily for almost a month.

    As I had told our agents. Our motto is - The impossible we do straight away but miracles take that little bit longer. To a showman writing this is miracle it definitely took that little bit longer any way special thanks to my family my employees my colleagues who put their trust in us. Next time I get a bit of time I will sit down and tell you about our return journey

    Lol (Bimbo) Bishton.


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