This story is primarily for gillo, who responded to a throwaway line in my last ficlet by saying “And I need to see Olaf at the TT races now”. Her comment has inspired what might well be my strangest crossover ever. Another one of the ‘Where Did Olaf Go?’ series, in which Willow’s spell to banish Olaf to the Land of the Trolls misfires and sends him to another fandom. It follows on from Thomas and the Troublesome Troll, in which Olaf battled Thomas the Tank Engine. On leaving the Island of Sodor Olaf travels to the Isle of Man to see the 1935 TT motorcycle races. Crossover with the 1935 George Formby film No Limit. Everyone on the Isle of Man has seen the film several times – it’s compulsory – but it will probably mean nothing at all to Americans or even to British readers who don’t watch old movies on TV. George Formby, the Lancashire comic singer and performer upon the banjo-ukulele, was Britain’s biggest star in the years immediately before and during the Second World War. Personally I could never see why. ‘No Limit’ was mainly filmed on location in the Isle of Man and included footage of the real 1935 TT. Gill was probably expecting me to send Olaf to the contemporary TT but instead here he is in the 1930s. Rating R; 4,800 words.
Olaf at the TT Races
Olaf had never seen such vast throngs of people in all his life. The Isle of Man had changed much since his time as a human. The crowds numbered thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, swarming like ants all around the course on which the motorcycles would race. He attracted a lot of attention, of course, with his immense size and his horns; less here than anywhere else, however, as most of those he encountered simply assumed that he was costumed as a Viking. His skin had lost some of its greenish colouration in the course of scrubbing away the red paint with which he had become covered during his adventure on the Island of Sodor. He was still not the same shade as the humans but the difference was no longer quite as obvious. One or two of the locals fled from him, crying out that he was a buggane, but most gave him no more than a wary glance. He had no trouble in finding a shopkeeper who would exchange his silver for the money used in this realm.
There were so many humans around that Olaf abandoned his plans for plunder and pillage. He could defeat a dozen, a score, even a hundred without breaking sweat; but against these multitudes he would stand no chance. He contented himself with watching the races and consuming large quantities of fragrant Okell’s ale. He saw many attractive girls and made approaches to some in the hope of merry sport. Alas, none were amenable to his advances.
Well, almost none. One pretty maiden, a girl from England named Maureen Dibney, blushed and smiled when he praised her sparkling eyes and trim figure. Her sister called her away, however, and she scurried off at once. The two girls departed, with the sister subjecting Maureen to a mild scolding, and Olaf’s hopes were dashed. It seemed that the custom in this era was for maidens to shun strangers; the prospects of merry sport seemed slight indeed.
Still, the beer was tasty, and the races were entertaining. The two-wheeled machines were far faster than a galloping horse. At speeds of over eighty miles an hour they tore over the mountain road, engines roaring, brakes screeching. The first race was for the middle-sized bikes, mainly Nortons and Velocettes with an occasional AJS, then there was a day of rest before the lightweight Rudges and New Imperials battled it out with the Italian Moto-Guzzis, and then after another day of rest it was time for the Senior race. The most powerful bikes, more Nortons, Velocettes, and Moto-Guzzis plus Vincents, NSUs, and Royal Enfields, would compete in the fastest and most prestigious event.
Olaf passed the day between the Lightweight and the Senior races sightseeing, drinking, and listening to the cognoscenti discussing the prospects for the big race. There was much talk of a newcomer, a Lancashire lad on a home-made bike called the Shuttleworth Snap, who had qualified well and had broken the lap record in practice. Many wished him well, for he was the underdog against the well-financed factory teams, and he had endeared himself to the spectators by singing cheerful songs and playing the banjo-ukulele. The pundits, however, were certain that young George Shuttleworth would struggle to finish in the top ten. A full race of seven laps, two hundred and sixty four miles, was a far more daunting challenge than the shorter practice sessions.
The race day dawned in miserable fashion. Heavy clouds hung overhead. Intermittent rain sent the spectators scurrying for shelter. The mountain was veiled by a blanket of mist. The riders assembled in the paddock but were not called out to the start. The stewards consulted for a while and then announced that the conditions were too dangerous and the race would be postponed until the following day.
Olaf did not mind the rain. A Viking who hated to get wet would have had a miserable career, as longships were open to the elements, and his transformation into a troll had made him even less bothered about mere drizzle. He set off along a footpath south from Douglas, climbing over Douglas Head and looking down at the bay below, and passed by the Camera Obscura. He continued on south until he came to a bay where a tramway ran along cliffs. A cluster of buildings stood near the sea. One was unmistakably a tavern, a pub as they called them in this time and place, and it would have food and ale. Olaf was hungry after his walk and strode eagerly towards the establishment.
The pub was less crowded than were those in Douglas but still busy enough that Olaf had to wait to be served. Those who had come to the Island for the races had spread out from the towns on the course, as the racing had been cancelled, and locals from the Isle of Man mingled with visitors from England and from countries much further afield.
“Moto-Guzzi, she will win the big race, like we win the Lightweight,” one such visitor was telling anyone who would listen. “Italia, she is the greatest. We have our Duce, who has made the trains run on time, si?”
“This Duce, is he your Fat Controller?” asked Olaf, remembering his adventure on the Island of Sodor.
The man from Italia frowned and then laughed. “Our leader Mussolini he is not so slim, perhaps. I think he like the pasta too much. Still, he has made us greater than since the Romans. We have the Macchi M72, the fastest plane in the world, and our motorcycles they are very fast too. Tomorrow you will see.”
“Bah!” scoffed a tall man with close-cropped fair hair. “Your weak Italian machines cannot hope to match NSU. German technology is supreme. We are the master race. Heil Hitler!”
“Si, we shall run away from the Germans,” said the Italian. “All the way to the finish line, and still they will not catch us.”
A triumphant smile spread over the German’s face but faded away as a ripple of laughter went around the pub and he realised the true meaning of the Italian’s reply. He snorted, and spoke again, but Olaf had stopped listening. He had spotted someone among the pub’s clientele who was of far greater interest to him.
The pretty girl who had seemed not entirely averse to his attentions a couple of days previously, Maureen Dibney, was sitting at a table with her less friendly sister at her side. There were two empty seats at the table, and few other vacant places at the pub, and so Olaf took his pie and his pint and headed in that direction.
“Greetings to you, fair maidens,” Olaf said, setting down his glass on the table. “You have spare seats, and I wish to sit down.”
“We’re expecting someone,” said Maureen’s sister Florrie. “You’ll have to find somewhere else.”
“Only George,” Maureen pointed out. “There would be room.”
Florrie frowned. “Not much room. This foreigner is a very big man.”
At that moment the pub door opened and a small man entered the bar. His teeth seemed too large for his mouth and they showed as he smiled. He held a small stringed musical instrument in one hand. “Ee, turned out not so nice again,” he greeted the room in general.
“George!” Florrie cried. She stood up and rushed over to the newcomer.
Olaf took advantage of her distraction and sat down. “It is good to see you again, beautiful maiden,” he said. With so many of the descendants of the Saxons on the island, and having no longship in which to escape with a captive, the traditional Viking courtship method of throwing the maiden over his shoulder and carrying her off was ruled out. He would have to rely upon more peaceful means. “You are the fairest thing that I have yet seen upon this island.”
“Ooh, flatterer,” said Maureen. “You’re a strange looking one, you are. Where are you from?”
“I am from Sweden,” Olaf told her, “but far have I wandered. I am called Olaf.”
“Here to see the races, I suppose?”
“Indeed,” Olaf agreed. “Also I had heard that the ale brewed in this island was particularly fine.” His forehead furrowed as he tried to think of something else to say that would be acceptable in this age. He sensed that ‘your clothes are ugly and unflattering, and hide too much of your lush and inviting body’ was a statement best left until a later stage.
“Eh, George lad, give us a song,” called out one of the drinkers at the bar.
“Aye, a song would be right grand,” another of the pub’s clientele agreed. Other customers joined in to second the request.
“Right enough, then, lads and lasses,” George acquiesced. He raised the musical instrument and strummed the strings, producing an odd staccato plinking and twanging noise, and then began to sing. “If there’s one thing that I like, it’s riding around on a motor-bike...”
Olaf was not overly impressed. The little man had a squeaky nasal voice and the tune was very different from the Viking songs with which he was familiar. There were no horns or drums and the words lacked references to battle and slaughter. It seemed to strike a resonance with the people of this land, however, and they smiled and laughed. The man knew his audience and his ditty about motor-cycle racing was perhaps this age’s equivalent to the Viking skalds’ tales of warrior heroes.
Maureen’s eyes were fixed on George, and her lips moved with the words of the song, and Olaf would have felt jealousy were it not obvious that George had already been claimed by Maureen’s sister. Well, actually he still felt jealousy, but not to such an extent that he would act upon it and pummel the small man into mush.
“That were grand, George,” said a bystander once the little man had finished his song. “Can I buy you a pint?”
George shook his head. “Nay, lad, I’m not one for drinking,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to get tight and then go racing. A right sure way of having a nasty spill, that would be.”
“Ay, you’re right there,” the other man agreed. “How’s about a ginger ale, then?”
“That’d be champion, thanks.” George accepted the soft drink and then was escorted towards the table by Florrie. “Ee, by heck!” he exclaimed, as he saw the enormous troll sitting opposite Maureen. “You’re a big one. Is he your young man, Maureen?”
Maureen blushed slightly as she shook her head. “We’ve only just met,” she said. “Olaf is from Sweden. He’s here to see the races.”
“That is so,” said Olaf, deciding not to mention that he was here only because he had been banished from his own world by a witch. “Hah. I recognise you now, small man. You are George Shuttleworth.”
“That’s me,” said George. “Chimney sweep, jobbing mechanic, and now TT racer. And all with my little ukulele in my hand.”
“You carry that when you ride the motorcycle?” Olaf raised his eyebrows. “Does it not make it hard to control the machine?”
“Ee, lad, I’m joking,” George said. “I have to have all my wits about me when I’m riding. It’s not easy, even for a speed king like me, you know. It can be right scary out there, I can tell you. When I was going down to Creg-ny-baa on the second practice...”
George talked without stopping for several minutes. Olaf was unable to get a word in. In one way this was annoying, but in another it was useful; it saved him from the struggle of trying to make conversation with the pretty maid.
To win her would be hard. He could not impress her with great deeds of valour, for there were no monsters or enemy warriors to fight, and he did not know how to ride a motorcycle. To learn to ride one in a single day, to gain entry into the race, and then to overcome those who had ridden for years and were much lighter than Olaf to boot, would be impossible. He would have to rely only upon words; and the use of words was not one of his skills. He knew enough to avoid comparing her to a Baltic woman, favourably or otherwise, and that was about all. Still, he would try. When he got the chance, that is; with George in full flow all that Olaf could do was to eat his pie and wait.
The chance to resume his courtship did not come. George’s tales were interrupted by an ill-mannered intruder who spoke harshly to the girl Florrie. She was in the employ of one of the teams of motor-cyclists, as was the interloper, and he declared that her friendship with George was treachery.
“It’s not like that!” Florrie protested. “He saved my life. How could I not be friends with him after that?”
Olaf raised his eyebrows. The little man was a hero indeed. Now, if only Olaf could find some way to save Maureen’s life...
“Anyway, why would it matter to anybody else?” Florrie went on. “I’m only the secretary at the Rainbow Team. I don’t know any stupid engine secrets or anything. And George wanted to join the team anyway. It’s not his fault you turned him down.”
“Here, you, leave Florrie alone,” George said. “You’re making her unhappy, and I won’t have that.” He stood up and prodded the other man with a finger.
“Shut up, Shuttleworth,” said the man. “You’ll never make a racer.”
“I’m a better racer than you, Bert Tyldesley,” George retorted, “and I’ll prove it tomorrow, if it turns out nice again. And don’t you speak nasty to Florrie or I’ll give you such a thrashing.”
“You give me a thrashing?” Bert puffed out his chest. He was much taller and broader of shoulder than George. “I could knock you out with one punch.”
“Ee, why don’t you try it, you big blowhard?” George challenged. He prodded Bert again.
“Why, you little worm,” Bert growled. He swung a fist at George.
The smaller man dodged aside with lightning agility. “Hah! Never touched me,” he taunted.
“I’ll knock your block off,” Bert snarled.
Olaf was beginning to take a liking to George. His voice was irritating, like the whine of the mosquitoes in the summer, and he talked too much, but he had included much self-deprecating humour in his account of his deeds on the motorcycle racetrack. A brave man who was not afraid to poke fun at himself was a one worth knowing. Also, defending George would win Olaf points with the girls; both the one with whom he wished to have merry sport, and her sister who was a possible obstacle in the way of achieving that end. Olaf stood up.
“Then I shall knock off yours, puny one,” Olaf threatened. “Leave George alone, and depart from this place, or feel the wrath of Olaf.”
“Oh, bloody hell,” exclaimed Bert, looking up at the towering troll. “I’m off!” He backed away. When he was safely out of reach he stopped and shook a fist at George. “You’re not going to win, Shuttleworth,” he called. “I’ll stop you. Any way it takes.” He turned and scuttled from the pub.
“Oo, mother,” said George. “He’s a right nasty piece of work and no mistake. Thanks, Mr Olaf.”
“I am glad I could help,” Olaf said. He shot a glance at Maureen. Had she been impressed?
“We’d better go,” said Florrie. “Bert will cause trouble, I just know it.”
“Ee, you’re right, love,” said George. “He might try to tamper with the Shuttleworth Snap. It’s all locked up tight but I’d best check on it.” He stopped in the middle of sitting down and stood up again. “Let’s get back to Douglas, then, lasses.”
Maureen came to her feet. “Goodbye, Mr Olaf,” she said. She trotted out of the pub in the wake of George and Florrie. Olaf thought of following them but instead sat back down. He decided that he had not yet established himself well enough with the maid to follow without making her feel threatened and, although making people feel threatened was what he did best, it was not the best move in this situation. He contented himself with finishing his pie and his pint and then ordering another of each. Perhaps he would be able to find Maureen once more in the evening.
The next day dawned brightly. The postponed race would be able to take place. Olaf, who had searched for Maureen without success the previous evening, set off from the boarding house in which he had managed to obtain somewhat cramped lodgings and headed for the Grandstand area where the race was to start.
The motorcycles lined up. The procedure was strange to Olaf’s eyes but he had become accustomed to it after watching the events on the previous two race days. Instead of all starting together, and the winner being the first one to cross the finish line, they started one after another with some seconds between each. The people of this age had accurate methods of measuring time and they allowed for the time of the start when deciding who had won. It was complicated, and Olaf did not see the point, but it seemed to work. And, with the races being so long, it usually turned out that the one who crossed the line first was the winner anyway.
The engines roared as the motorcycles were readied for the start. Olaf saw Florrie rush out from the side and give George a quick kiss before the final signal was given. She rushed back to her place, and Olaf saw Maureen there too, but they were on the wrong side of the road and Olaf would not be able to join them. He growled with frustration.
George gave a gleeful cry, started up his bike, and promptly fell off. He was back up and on the machine at once and roared off at a great speed. Olaf watched the next few riders depart and then decided to seek out a less crowded vantage point. He set off up the course, in the opposite direction to the bikes, and walked out of the town.
By the time the leading bikes came into sight Olaf was out among fields. He watched as the machines roared past; no longer in a line separated by equal distances, as they had been at the start, but now spread out with some in groups of several machines and long gaps between these groups. He could not tell who was winning but he noticed that George Shuttleworth was in a group near the front. He walked on.
As the race went on the riders became more and more spread out and the gaps during which none of the machines were in sight became shorter. It was hard to keep track of who was at the front and who was lagging far behind. Olaf gave up the effort and simply enjoyed the spectacle of the machines speeding past far faster than anything that he had seen in his human days. He wandered still further away from the town and into wilder countryside.
He had proof of the danger inherent in this high-speed sport when he saw a motorcycle lying on its side off the road, flames licking up from the engine, and the rider motionless nearby. Olaf would have aided the fallen man but other spectators were closer and acted before Olaf could arrive on the scene. He walked on.
He had been told that the race was expected to last for some minutes longer than three hours. He had no device for measuring time, such as the people of this island possessed, but he was skilled at estimating the passage of time by the position of the sun. When he judged that an hour and a half had elapsed he reversed his course. He would then arrive back at the starting and finishing line at the time that the race was reaching its end; he would be able to see the victor claiming his prize.
The disadvantage of this plan was that now he saw the motorcycles only once they had passed him and were heading away. This was less entertaining and he paused, frowning, and considered reversing his decision. Yet arriving back at the Grandstand at the race’s end would give him the best chance of encountering the beautiful Maureen; he resumed his progress in the direction of the finishing line.
Two motorcycles streaked past him, side by side, jostling for position. One of them he recognised, by the black-and-white chequered pattern on its frame, as George’s Shuttleworth Snap. The other was one of the machines he had been told were Nortons, painted in stripes of colour like unto the rainbow, bearing the numeral ‘15’. He saw them hurtle at high speed toward a corner and then, as George went to turn, the other rider leaned the wrong way and pushed against George Shuttleworth. The Shuttleworth Snap was sent skidding to the side. The other man wrenched his machine successfully around the corner, with some squealing of brakes, but George’s bike did not make it. The Shuttleworth machine went straight on, climbed a bank, and soared into the air. As Olaf watched, horrified, George and his motorcycle landed in the branches of a tree. Olaf ran to the scene as fast as he could.
George was hanging from one of the tree’s limbs. The small man released his hold with one hand and shook his fist at the disappearing rival’s machine. “Ee, Bert Tyldesley, I’ll get you for this,” he yelled. He looked down and hastily grabbed the branch with both hands again. “Oo, mother!”
“Drop, George, and I will catch you,” Olaf called.
George grimaced but then obeyed. The giant troll caught him safely and set him on his feet. George looked up at his motorbike, still lodged in the tree, and his mouth twisted. “Ee, how am I going to win the race without my bike?” George wailed. “Grandad will be right cross with me. I used his money to build it and now I’m not going to be able to pay him back.”
Olaf grinned. It seemed that his chance to perform a mighty deed that would impress Maureen Dibney was at hand. “Fear not, oh little George Shuttleworth,” Olaf said, and flexed his mighty muscles. “I shall retrieve your machine.” Olaf seized hold of the tree and heaved. The trunk bent. Olaf exerted all his strength and the tree bowed down almost to the ground.
“Why, that’s right champion,” George cried. He seized the bike and, showing a fair amount of strength for a small man, he wrestled it from the branches and stood it upon the ground. Olaf released the tree and it sprang erect once more with a great thrashing of limbs. “You’re a pal, Olaf,” said George, climbing back into the saddle. He twisted the bike’s throttle and the engine roared to life. “Turned out nice again!” George hurtled away back onto the road, waved once, and then shot out of sight at high speed.
Olaf followed at a walk. By his reckoning, if he had kept proper count and if he had not failed to spot George upon a previous lap, there were two more laps of the course to go. George had lost much time through being stuck in the tree, and Olaf did not know if the little man could make up that time, but at least he had a chance.
The next time Olaf saw George’s machine go past it was just in front of a motorcycle painted with green, white, and red. The gap between the two seemed to be increasing as George pulled away. The field was now so spread out that Olaf could not tell if those in front of the pair were slow riders who were nearly a lap behind, or fast riders who were in truth ahead of them, and he had no idea of who was winning. All he knew for certain was that he had not seen the rainbow-striped machine bearing the number 15 go past this time. Perhaps George had caught up with his rival and had driven him from the track in retaliation for the foul trick that the rider had played upon him. Or perhaps the rider had crashed through bad luck or lack of skill. Or, perhaps, Olaf had simply failed to see that motorcycle and it was far ahead of George. Only at the end of the race would Olaf be able to find out.
Olaf walked down a dip in the road, and around a corner, and saw the Grandstand in the distance ahead of him. He heard the roar of an engine, turned his head, and saw George’s bike coming around the corner. It streaked past him and away towards the finish line. There were no other machines in sight. Did this mean that George was going to win?
It seemed so. He could hear the noise of a great many people shouting with excitement ahead. Then the tone of the cries changed. He could see that something untoward had happened to George, who had come to a stop short of the finish line, but not what it was. Olaf increased his pace and took longer strides. Still he could not see what was happening. The sound of another engine came from behind him. Then the noise from the Grandstand became shouts of excitement once more. Olaf was now just able to make out what was going on. George’s machine had stopped, and seemed not to be able to move under its own power any longer, but George was standing at its side and pushing it forward.
The red, white, and green machine shot past Olaf at a great speed. It hurtled towards the finish line. George was still pushing his motorcycle. A flag of black and white waved. Olaf had seen in the previous races that the flag signified the end of the race. George certainly was the one who had crossed the line first but the staggered start to the race, and the way that was taken into consideration at the end, did not necessarily mean that he was the winner.
In fact, although the crowd at the Grandstand were shouting that Shuttleworth had won, it was not for another few minutes that the result was announced. George Shuttleworth was the winner, after all, having beaten Stanley Woods on a Moto-Guzzi by a mere two seconds.
Olaf was able, now that the course beyond the finish line was accessible once more, to work his way around and cross the road to join the attractive maiden Maureen. The girl’s sister Florrie was embracing George. She disengaged from her lover to glare at Olaf as he strode up to Maureen.
“Hey, Olaf!” shouted George. “By heck, lasses, you should have seen him! I’d never have won if it hadn’t been for him getting my bike down from a tree.”
Florrie’s glare evaporated and was replaced by a warm smile. “Oh, thank you, Mr Olaf!” she cried.
“He bent the tree right over,” George continued. “Strong as a bull, is Olaf here.”
“Oo, yes,” said Maureen. “I like big strong men.”
Olaf grinned. “And I like pretty girls,” he replied, “and you are the fairest that I have seen in this place. Come with me tonight to the place where there is dancing, and we shall celebrate the victory of the skilful rider George, and there shall be much merry-making and drinking of fragrant ale.”
Maureen glanced at her sister, saw no sign of disapproval, and nodded her head. “All right, then,” she agreed.
“We can all go out to celebrate,” said Florrie.
“Ee, that’d be right grand,” said George. “I might even have a pint of ale myself.”
“And a song or two,” Florrie added.
“We’ll see you at the Palace Ballrooms tonight, Olaf,” Maureen promised.
“You will indeed, beauteous maiden,” said Olaf, “and we shall make merry sport.”
Maureen opened her eyes, groaned, and sat up in her bed. She clapped a hand to her forehead. “Oo, my head,” she moaned. “Where am I? Oh, yes, on the Isle of Man, in the boarding house in Douglas.” She blinked as she saw her that her nightie was still laid out on the counterpane instead of being worn. “Ee, I must have been awfully tight last night,” she said.
The heap of bedclothes beside her was thrown aside and Olaf appeared, naked, with a wide grin of deep contentment upon his face. “Only the first time.”