By Mike Peake
It’s Saturday morning on the Isle of Wight, (approximately 20 hours after SEM ran out of petrol) and residents of our caravan, John, Andy, Gar and I were all up, bright tailed and bushy eyed and eating a full English lovingly prepared by good old uncle John. Watch out Gus, he’s after your breakfast crown!
As we’ve come to expect on an EBMV event conceived by our beloved Fat Controller of events, the weather was horrible!
However, this didn’t stop Super Enthusiast Man leaping into action and rescuing Ian who had developed a large and rather embarrassing swelling… on his CAR Tyre obviously! (honestly! You lot! Can’t take you anywhere!) It was too wet and early to fix the lights on John’s MGB GT though. We took every opportunity to rib him about too. (Or was that just me?)
Needless to say, Poppy’s hood remained firmly UP and as waterproof as Triumph expected. Yes it leaked… A lot! But to be fair, the rain did end up as biblical.
Roger Spaven from the IOW Chapter of the Jaaaag club turns out to be a bit of a slave driver and expected us to be at the Osborne House departure point by 8.30. Yes! 8.30… In the MORNING! …on a Saturday! Anyway, we all made it despite having to go the long way round as the new chain ferry across the River Medina was being a bit temperamental.
The car park was already quite full with Jaguar owners and some members of the Vectis Historic Vehicle Club. (Vectis is the old Roman name for the Isle of Wight don’t you know. See? Educational as well! I’m too good for you lot!)
Anyway, at this stage the rain was just that fine drizzle so not too bad. We chatted and admired cars for a bit including welcoming some more EBMV members on their first event with us. Don Everest and his partner Louisa in a rather stunning white Triumph Stag, Jamie Denson in his Land Rover and Bud and Karen in their TVR Tuscan. Another very, very late 1999 car.
Unfortunately we didn’t see much of Jamie as we think he suffered a “Failure to Proceed” about a mile after leaving Osborne house and we didn’t hear from him again. Rumour was the SEM had syphoned his petrol to prevent further embarrassment to himself. (He ran out of petrol on the A34 you know.) Bud and Karen were fine chaps as were Don and Louisa who lasted almost to the end but that’s a story for later.
Cars of interest for me were a pair of Fords in matching livery.
The Cortina, owned by Kevin Froment was a 1600L and at the risk of sounding like a Muggle, my Dad had one of these. Not only that but it was the same colour and he painted the garage door to match it. The Capri owned by Graham Farrar, was a Mk1 3.0L that our Keith Lloyd would love. I loved it because it had one of those 70s louvered grills on the back window! When did you last see one of them?
Osborne House Clock bells chimed 9 O’clock and it was time for our 22-car convoy to set off. I have to say that Roger was very organised with him at the front and his friends acting as marshals in the middle and at the back and they all had walkie talkies and everything.
Anyway, we set off through the Island lanes to the first stop at a lovely viewpoint overlooking a valley and a bit of the sea. Roger’s presence and organisation must have been having some influence in counteracting the Rain Man’s baleful presence as we could actually see this view and the rain was still holding off a bit. We had lost the Land Rover though.
We continued through the villages of Yaverland and Rookley to our tea break stop at The Old Smithy in Godshill where we were joined by a Triumph Spitfire among others and I had the biggest chocolate cream éclair I have ever seen. It was gorgeous and surprisingly, not too sweet.
By the time it came to leave The Old Smithy, Roger’s influence over Rain Man Gar’s presence was waning as we now suffered heavy rain. We were not downhearted though. We had come here to enjoy ourselves and enjoy ourselves we would, and we did! We headed off to our lunch stop at The Needles via more picturesque villages and lanes until we got to the best road on the Island in my opinion. Military Road up the west coast.
We were able to stop at a viewpoint overlooking Military Rd and the Needles in the distance so we could appreciate where we were going. The road looked fantastic and really piqued our excitement, but we couldn’t see The Needles because of the rain.
This road was every bit as good as billed with great driving and great views when we can see them. By this stage the rain had got to biblical proportions and I had a very wet right leg because it was dripping in above my window. My rally notes were an illegible pulpy mess because of the drips from the same place on the passenger side.
I still had a great big grin on my face though and was revelling in the fact that since my alternator conversion, I had working wipers and lights unlike the South Wales tour, and unlike John's MGB GT. I was behind John and flashed my lights at him occasionally just to remind him. As we also saw on the South Wales trip, electrical gremlins are extremely contagious in old cars as Don lost the brake lights on his Stag too.
We caused another stir as we pulled into the Needles car park for our lunch stop and no, it wasn’t because of my wet trousers but our cars. Muggles appeared from all over the car park to look, take pictures and chat. The brand new Maserati Quattroporte, and equally expensive and sparkly Range Rover were completely ignored. (Except by me. I love the Quattroporte!) Their owners took it well though and even they came over for a chat and a photo or two.
I have to say that the Needles attraction wasn’t at its best in this weather. In fact it was a bit grim. I still didn’t see the Needles but I did buy a couple of those jars full of layered coloured sand for my girls. I also spotted a bottle of local Royal Navy strength gin and another of rum at 57% proof. It was £50 a pop though, so I had to forcibly remove myself from temptation.
Rain Man Gar had by this time completely reasserted his control of the weather and rain was falling at a rate that would give Noah cause for concern as we left for our last leg of the tour to Carisbrooke Castle. Don had asked me to follow his Stag and act as his brake light man.
I’m not sure I did any good as I don’t think the cars behind could see my car let alone my brake lights but it was still a fun a challenging drive and the castle looked very forbidding and hauntingly beautiful as we approached. Unfortunately, the rain was now so apocalyptic that most of us were content with a quick look through the castle entrance before rushing back to the shelter of our cars. (Somewhat dubious shelter in some cases.)
I’d managed to con Phil out the keys to Big Rov and was enjoying the luxury of the soft leather seats as I wafted along in the stately home on wheels whilst being lulled by the comforting V8 soundtrack but best of all, I was both warm and dry. I did however spare a thought for Phil who would have been neither warm nor dry as he drove Poppy back to the camp site. I did have to laugh as Poppy’s driver’s door flew open on a left hand bend and it became apparent that she was trying to eject him Harry Potter fashion. I bet he’d crunched that 2nd to 3rd gear change one too many times.
Once back at our vans, there was some slight concern that Gar and John seemed to be taking a long time and we were about to head back with SEM… honest… well ok, after we’d had a warming cup of coffee we were going to head back as in addition to his headlight failure, the MGB GT had thrown a proper strop and wasn’t starting. Before we’d finished our drinks though they’d got it started and running mostly well enough to get back to the site. We added it to SEM’s list of jobs for the morning.
It had been a fantastic day’s touring despite the weather and on behalf of the group, I would like to thank Roger for all his hard work and effort in organising such a great day. I’d also like to thank the rest of the locals for making us all so welcome. I for one, have fallen in love with your island and will be back. Thank you.
The day wasn’t quite over yet though as we rounded things of with everybody in the curry house (except the Woodwards and Owens. (Apparently, Indian food gives Ian wind.) The rest of us had a jolly nice ruby followed by a bit of a party in the Brooks caravan where a bottle of Talisker appeared miraculously and equally miraculously disappeared. We had another early night though and headed back to our beds for another classics day on the morrow. What? 2.30 AM is early isn’t it?
To be Continued ...
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