When Mike met Billy

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Professor Atom in Audlem Carnival Parade
Aliens have landed in Audlem

This article, written originally for a Morris Minor magazine, will interest and, we think, amuse Audlem Online readers.

Mike Rostock has kindly given permission for us to publish his article on Audlem Online. It's long, but a great read. You can also click on the file beneath the photo for the article with more photographs.

You just never know who you are going to meet.

Being a Morris Minor owner, it is always nice to meet people.  You know the drill: 

“D’you know, my Grandfather/ Grandma/ Dad/ Mum/ Auntie…..etc, used to have one just like that, same colour, you know, with the thingies that came out of the side when you wanted to turn”…… 

“Thaaaaaat’s right… traaafficators…yes… I remember when we went all the way to Devon; six of us in a Moggie Minor…up Porlock Hill….in reverse!!!!”

Being a Minor owner brings you into contact with lots of very nice people, just like this. Yes, we meet them all the time and they are convinced that you haven’t heard that kind of story many times before.

So we just nod and smile, while they recount their tale.

Still, it is gratifying to know, that in a small way, you’re reliving happy memories for them.  But, consider this; maybe we are a kind of free therapy service, bringing a smile to their faces with reminiscent thoughts of happy days.

#Chap I met
With all this in mind, I would like to tell you of a chap that I met whilst sorting out the MOT of my wife’s 1954 Ser II. You see, here’s the rub, I’m not even the owner!

Well, it started like this:-

Maurice, yes that’s his name, (female owner you see, you figure it out!) failed his MOT on one, yes, one tyre. “Cracks in the sidewall, the treads are fine……..but it’s a fail, I’m afraid……. didn’t we warn you about this last year?”

Now, the question was, should we take the opportunity to change to radials, as the nice man at the garage said, like last time, that the other tyres would not pass next time. 

So we have a dilemma, one cross-ply tyre at about £70 and the same problem next year or a whole new set of radials at about £140.

So, quantative easing notwithstanding, we contacted Bull Motif (other Morris Minor parts vendors are available!) for their excellent four tyre deal.

 “Oh, you want five, well then, that changes things you see, for the special post free offer, we can only send four at a time, if we send five it takes it over the weight limit and that means that the full weight shipping charges will be added”

So, we had them send four tyres and I elected to find one locally.  Incidentally, they were ordered on the Tuesday afternoon and arrived via Parcelforce on Wednesday afternoon!

Meanwhile, I had located two brand new radials on rims on t’interweb fairly locally for £30!

#Enter Billy
Enter Billy Gibbons“…….not the Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame……?” I asked,

“If I was that Billy Gibbons, would I be selling Morris Minor tyres for thirty quid?”

I guessed not. However, I was soon to find out that this Billy Gibbons was a much bigger, larger than life eccentric character than that Billy Gibbons!

“I do play bass in a rockabilly band though” he said.

So address details and meet up times were exchanged and later on that evening, I set off for my fateful, but, as I didn’t know then, encounter with Billy.

So there I was cruising through the countryside on a lovely sunny evening following the sanitised instructions of the sat-nav on my way to Audlem, Cheshire.  Billy had told me that sat-nav is likely to send me to the other side of the hill from his house. 

However, I was led willingly down a typical country lane but then realised I had gone past my destination.  A U-turn was effected to find the house, when suddenly a scaled down version of Elvis standing in the middle of the road, directed me to his driveway.

This turned out to be Billy and I was astonished that he was dressed in true rockabilly outfit. 

#Are you Mike?
“‘Ellooooo” he said, “Are you Mike?”

I don’t remember telling him my name, I thought, hmmmm……..

“Yes” I said, “You must be Billy.”

We exchanged pleasantries and the wheels were rolled out for inspection.  The tyres were indeed brand new as described. Billy told me that they were bought for his Morris Minor van that he had recently sold and that he had never fitted them.

It was at this point that I found out about Billy’s generous nature.  Whilst handing over the agreed 30 quid, he immediately tried to hand me back a fiver “….. For your petrol to get here!”  I wouldn’t have it, as the price was more than fair.

Being a lifelong amateur musician myself, I was intrigued by his earlier comment about playing in a rockabilly band.  He went on to explain his musical influences and invited me into his charming little ivy-covered cottage.

Going through the door was a revelation.  It was like I’d been transported back 50 years to my early formative life.

“I’m stuck in the fifties me” said Billy “I’m into everything about the Fifties, the music, the clothes, the style, everything!” “Oh yes, I’m also into the paranormal.”

That might have explained him knowing my name.  “When we spoke on the ‘phone, I had you down as a Dave or a Mike” he said. I shuddered.

He took me into his living room, which was completely decorated with artefacts straight from my childhood.  I saw his little 14” Ecko Bakelite television on top of a cabinet. “Does that work?” I enquired, “Noooooo………..425 lines went out ages ago!”  

He then opened the front doors of the cabinet to reveal a modern TV.  “That’s my only concession to modern life” he said “…. and I’ve only got that ‘cos the government mucked about with the signals.

The next two hours were the most surreal of my life.  Billy showed me around his little cottage and his collection of 50s stuff whilst also regaling me with many tales of an incredible life.

I list some of them:-

  • He has appeared on television and radio, BBC TV, GMTV, Big Breakfast, and Local Radio etc, many times.

  • Had a rocket land on his house. (See photo!) 

  • Made the rocket into a handy little runabout.

  • Had a flying saucer in his garden.

  • Has three aliases, Professor Atom, Uncle Albert and The Yokel.  (Trust me; there are pictures and footage on You Tube to prove this!)

  • He bought a PA Vauxhall Cresta for restoration from the sister of Robert Plant (yes, of Led Zeppelin fame!), which had originally belonged to her father!

All in all, a character writ LARGE!

We eventually sat talking in his little “den” which contained his collection of guitars, drums and a massive double Bass. Billy explained that although his musical performances where now curtailed due to rheumatism, he now he gave tuition on the bass and guitars to local people and occasionally appeared as an “ extra”.

During this conversation, Billy stopped suddenly and fixed his stare to a point behind me.  “A.a.are y..y..You afraid of m..M…mice, Mike?” he stammered.  “No”, I said.  Billy was rigid and he looked as if he’d seen a ghost.  “Oh good” he said. “You see, I'm terrified of mice and rats and I think I’ve just seen something move in that bag over there!”

I looked around to see two black plastic bin bags neatly stowed on an armchair. “Will you do me a favour”, he asked, “Will you take those bags outside and empty ‘em?” He actually wanted me to move them with a brush but, I said that that was OK, I wasn’t afraid.

“What’s in them” I asked, “Well, one’s got some windfall apples in and the other has my clean laundry that was delivered today!”

“Ok, I’ll check them out for you” I said and got up to have a look.   "Nooooooo………. You’ll have to take them outside as I’ll not think that they’ve gone and I won’t be able to sleep and I can’t stand the thought of ‘em in me house and……….”

Billy was clearly worried and it struck me that him living in the country with his chickens and such that he’d be used to seeing mice and such on a regular basis.

So, I took the offending bags out to the path in the front garden and emptied them on the floor.  They did indeed contain apples and his newly washed shirts. Alas, no evidence of any mice! “It’s a shame to dirty these clean shirts “ I said, “Nooooo……. It’s all right I’ll just leave them there ‘til the morning” he said.

With that, I looked around and noticed that the evening was closing in and that it was getting late. I had been there 3 hours!

So, I told Billy that as much as I had enjoyed his company, it was time for me to go. Billy was disappointed, but we said our cheerio’s and I set off for home.

On the drive home, I reflected on the bloke I had just met. It was as if I had entered some surreal world brought on by the need for tyres!  This chap is really larger than life. I had to stop on the way home, ‘phone the wife and let her know what I’d been doing for over 4 hours.

She thought I’d made it up! I had to admit that Billy certainly had an air of incredulity to him, but I had two wheels in the boot to prove it.

#Was I dreaming?
When I got home, my family definitely thought that I had been dreaming or smoking something, when I related the full story.

For the next few days, I kept getting sideways glances from the wife; my two daughters and the dog, with those knowing looks that said, “Yes matey, you’re losing it!”

Then, imagine my delight when a few days later, when surfing the ‘net, I came across Billy’s website.

Vindication!!!! I showed the family and normality returned to the Rostock household.  Daddy wasn’t pulling our leg and really was sane after all!

You can check out Billy for yourself on his website at: www.billygibbons.me.uk 

He can also be found on YouTube — Billy Gibbons Audlem — where he takes Ant & Dec down a peg or two when he appears on the Bigger Breakfast.  Or just simply Google him or Audlem. You’ll find him!

Just because our Maurice needed some new tyres.  Aye, you just never know who, you are going to meet!