By Mike Peake
Back at the Caravan, Mrs FB and I got ready for the awards dinner. We don’t scrub up too badly either if I say so myself!
Gar had very generously offered to be our taxi for the night and turned up promptly to take us to the Ball, also picking up John Simpson, our group’s founding father and all round big cheese in the classic world along with his charming wife Sandra.
Both Mrs FB and I were a little daunted at walking into a venue where we knew no one and would be surrounded by eminent and well known people. We needn’t have worried though. John and Sandra went out of their way to make us feel welcome and included. John introduced us to everyone that came up and chatted to him.
This included Danny Hopkins, Fuzz Townsend, Ed Hughes, and Matt Tomkins among others. It was really odd meeting people I’d seen on TV and read about for years, but guess what? They were all normal stand up guys. (Except Fuzz,he was wearing green plus fours over what appeared to be red tights!) Apart from that, even he seemed approachable and a jolly decent chap.
The evening progressed and among the food and wine we were forced to partake of, I also bumped into and briefly chatted to Ant Anstead and Mike Brewer. I met Mike in the Gents as he was telling the story of how his mate had fallen asleep on the toilet in a restaurant in Singapore….. well, probably best to say no more about that other than to say that he is an entertaining and amusing chap.
As I followed him back to our respective tables, the other people in his group all looked mightily impressed by something he said. I reckon he’d just told them that he’d met Fatbloke in the Gents! (What? He might have!)
Just to let you know how much Mrs FB and I suffered for the group, I thought I’d let you see the meal. Awful isn’t it? At least there was Merlot.
I really don’t know how we got through it all, but we did and it was now time for the speeches and awards. Sir Greg Knight, chair of the cross party historic vehicles group was 1st and gave a surprisingly interesting speech on the possible impact of technology, such as driver-less cars, may have on legislation and the need to keep historic vehicles in mind when drafting new laws. (No really. It was interesting. Although it probably helped that I realised his friends must call him Knight Knight!)
Mike Brewer then stood up to announce the winners of the awards. It wasn’t us. The prize we were shortlisted for, Outstanding Use of Social Media, went to those swi…. Er I mean, it went to the Mark 1 Golf Club.
You’ll be pleased to know that I managed to subdue the extremely strong urge to leap onto the stage shouting “It’s a Fix! We were robbed!” whilst snatching the plate and running out. Fortunately, I had been watching the Oscars and had practiced my “Oh that’s nice. You won and we didn’t” face and politely applauded with everyone else. Our other members, John Simpson and Pauline Blake missed out too and had obviously been practicing their awards faces as well as they didn’t storm the stage either.
My favourite award was the one for best restored car in the show which went to the replica of Jet 1 the gas turbine powered Rover P4. The owners reaction was lovely to watch as he was so pleased and surprised. He seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the whole thing.
The evening finished and Gar was there to whisk us all home before we turned into pumpkins.
Actually, Anita and I had a lovely night and the food was really excellent. We would like to thank the rest of the admins for allowing us to represent the group and John and Sandra Simpson for making us feel so welcome.
The next morning, fortified by one Mrs FB’s excellent full English breakfasts, I joined the Chuckle brothers (Brooks) and Gar for our final journey to the show via yet a different route again!
The final day passed very pleasantly indeed. As with the previous days, It was really great to meet with so many of our members that popped onto the stand to say hello, share a slice of cake and chat about our cars.
Although, I’m sure we’d all agree that Apollo and the Hillman drew the most interest on the stand, everyone also took the time to look at all our cars. I was somewhat surprised and very pleased with the attention and positive comments Poppy received during the show.
Highlights for me were the couple that were reminiscing about their honeymoon in the 70’s driving around Cornwall in a car exactly like Poppy and fondly remembering their dog’s ears flapping in the wind as they drove with the roof down. There was also the chaps who were restoring their own Herald that they’d bought in cardboard boxes. They remarked how wonderfully straight and original Poppy was before exploring every one of her nooks and crannies and taking measurements for reference during their restoration.
Several other Herald owners also wanted to chat and ask questions about characteristics and personality they were experiencing and I was amazed at how knowledgeable and helpful I sounded. I guess a bumbling incompetent fool can learn from experience.
I very much enjoyed watching people’s reactions and listening to their unguarded comments as they walked round Poppy and smiled. Whether it was Dads telling their sons how the whole front of the car opened and you can sit on a wheel to work on the engine or wives saying “do you remember ours”, it was just great to see the happiness that old cars can bring to people. Of course some people took rather more liberties than others and it now looks like Simon Birch will have to add a Herald to the fleet!
Well, all good things come to an end and so it was that the announcement for the close of the show was met by the blaring of every single horn in the halls and it was time for us to pack up, say our goodbyes until the next time and head for home. Apart from a small misfiring episode pulling away from a petrol station, Poppy performed in her usual heroic manner and got me home in time for a well-earned, reheated, Sunday dinner.
Thanks to everyone who helped make these 3 days so much fun but especially to our events coordinator and beloved Fat Controller, Gar Cole and his honour and Chief Mugwamp of the Group, Captain Paul Sweeney for wading through the miles of red tape from the NEC to make it happen. Stirling work chaps and 3 rousing cheers to you both.
See you at Boston chaps!
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