By Mike Peake
Believe it or not, I’ve still only got to Saturday evening even though I’m on Part 3, so buckle up. This is turning into a tale to rival War and Peace, in size if not the literary elegance. Someone warn Sarah Woodward that she won’t be using the bathroom anytime soon!
So, just to remind you, we’ve had a full day’s touring with its attendant mishaps and incompetent tourists who can’t follow instruction or even other cars and don’t fill up with petrol when they are supposed to. To say I was in desperate need of Merlot would be an understatement of the grossest proportions. So I went to set up an intravenous drip.
Whilst I was bracing myself after a rather frustrating day, Super Enthusiast Man (SEM) set about a more permanent fix to Nicks car. Apparently, it has something called and “exciter coil” which Nick was having trouble getting excited. A situation that his partner Jo says she is more than familiar with. Anyway, I have no idea what SEM did, but Nick headed off the campsite on Sunday morning with no trouble at all. (Edit: It was a bad crimp on the Exciter coil feed at the solenoid)
Nick’s coil wasn’t the only electrickery being fiddled with though. Two Pants Perman had bought an ignition amplifier kit with him to fit to Nelson. A process that seemed to require probes attached to a flappy needle, a flashy lighty thing and copious amounts of beer.
Whatever he did to it he seemed happy with it. SEM wasn’t happy at all though. His poor little crestfallen face had us all nearly in tears. You see a bonnet was open, an engine was being fettled and SEM wasn’t doing the fettling. He spent some time trying to peer over shoulders or squeeze between the bodies, but Two Pants Perman was having none of it and SEM sloped off to stare wistfully at his strangely unemployed tool box for 20 minutes before disappearing into his campervan.
With the car fettling finished for the evening it was time to fire up the BBQ. It seemed as though every pig in Gloucestershire was sacrificed to the automotive gods and cooked up by a newly invigorated Super Enthusiast Man, who was happier now he was needed again. Many beautifully cooked sausages, burgers chops steaks and even chicken made its way to our hungry tummies. There was even, dare I say, salad as there were ladies present. Oh, and there might have been just a little bit of beer, wine and cake.
Now, you may think that driving classic cars through the countryside and picturesque villages was reason enough for a get-together like this and you’d be right. However, we were also there to celebrate a birthday. Not just any birthday, but the Fiftieth birthday of stalwart member, generous group sponsor and all round top chap Phil Allin. Well we couldn’t let that go by could we? We’d all had a whip round and with the 50p raised we bought Phil a present from the group he does so much for. Sue Clamp whipped up a very fine Birthday cake too.
Gar sent off for the Heritage Certificate for Big Rov and had it framed along with photos of the car from previous tours and left two spaces free for Phil to add his favourite pictures from this tour. He seemed quite pleased with it. We didn’t leave Lorraine out either and bought her the new caravan that she has been badgering Phil for, for the last year.
Of course, we all had another fantastic night of it after this, especially when someone produced a large bottle of gin and led Phil and I astray again. I really don’t know why this keeps happening.
Sunday Morning dawned a bit grey but still warm enough for shorts. For some reason, everyone seemed a bit sluggish compared to the previous day but bacon helped the situation considerably.
We were down a bit on cars today as Nick had to return for a wedding, Mick and Gill were heading back to a previously booked car show as was Brian to a different car show and Berbo decided he’d rather be a passenger today, leaving 8 cars for the trip.
The selected departure time of 10am arrived and 7 of the cars were ready to go. But the Allins weren’t. Phil was claiming not to be hung over in the slightest and was trying to blame the family’s tardiness on poor Lucas taking too long in the shower. (Yes mate! We believe you!)
Despite knowing that everyone had been to Tesco last night where there is a big petrol station, I took the opportunity provided by the Allin’s lateness to check that everyone had fuel so we could miss this stop and try and catch up with the timetable. Everyone agreed that they had enough petrol for the day’s driving.
Finally, at 10.30, the Allins were ready and we all set off where it all went wrong immediately. Nelson refused to start. As if by magic, SEM appeared … instantly! With a great big grin on his face! SEM was cock-a-hoop to be elbows deep in Nelson’s engine bay after being excluded from last night’s fettling. SEM soon identified that a crimp on one of the new wires had missed the copper. Once fixed he took great joy in telling everyone that would listen that it wouldn’t have happened if SEM had been allowed to play in the first place. Finally, we could leave.
Now, if everyone had read the tour notes, they would have known that unlike Saturday, we were turning right out of the campsite.
Ian was lead car with Bernard, Anita and me as passengers. We turned right as did Darren, Tosh, Two Pants Perman and Gus all turned right. Then Gar arrived at the campsite entrance … and turned left! Graham turned left too and was chasing Gar and flashing his lights to advise him of his error. The Allins, who had read their tour notes turned right and phoned me to advise of the situation. We pulled to the side of the road in disbelief that it had all gone so wrong already. Henry, Gus’s JC Midge, was so disgusted that he blew his electrics again and coasted to a stop behind us.
By the time a suitably embarrassed Gar arrived trying to blame Graham for the mistake, SEM had Henry running again so we set off, driving past the big Tesco with the petrol station that everybody said they didn’t need.
A pleasant drive through the countryside ensued. We did encounter a couple of light showers but nothing like the apocalyptic weather we get on Gar’s tours and we were able to laugh at the Zephyr’s vacuum powered windscreen wipers. Anita and I were making the most of the Zephyrs gloriously comfy back seat. (No! Not like that! For goodness sake, you filthy minded lot!)
We had almost made it to Calne, the halfway point for this leg of the drive, before we had a panicked call from Gar. Yes, he needed fuel. It would appear that Nelson has developed a thirst … and Gar hadn’t topped up at Tesco last night! Fortunately, there was another big Tesco coming up. While Gar topped off his gas guzzling monster, the rest of us took the opportunity to visit the facilities or buy a coffee or stand around chatting in the picturesque setting of … a bloomin’ Tesco car park!
Once we were all ready again we set off. We’d got all the way to the second roundabout on the Calne by pass (about 100m) when the call came down the line that Henry was on fire! Well of course we immediately turned around and rushed back to help. When we arrived back at the Tesco car park, we discovered that “fire” was a slight exaggeration. Gus had spotted a wisp of smoke coming from under the dash. Gus quickly rewired something and we were off again.
The route after Calne took us along the A4 to Derry Hill, then left down the A342. So far so good. From the A342 Devizes road was a right turn into a single track country road. We turned right, Darren turned right, Tosh turned right, Gus turned right 2 Pants Perman turned right and the Allins turned right. Gar went straight on followed by Graham. Lorraine phoned Gar to tell him of this error and they waited at the junction so Gar would know which one to take when he eventually came back. The rest of us stopped and waited blocking the track to all but cyclists and the odd horse rider, which Windy tried to recruit.
Eventually, Gar and Graham joined the back of the convoy. However, they’d somehow achieved this without being spotted by the Allins. Phone signal was sketchy so Graham had to go back and find them. Once we were all together again we set off towards the beautiful village of Lacock. Anita and I were a bit worried that Lacock would be closed to traffic as it often is due to it being a popular site for filming period dramas. It was all open though and we were able to enjoy the village in all its glory before heading for our first scheduled stop of the day at Caen Hill Locks… Finally!
Caen Hill (pronounced ‘cane’ ), is one of the longest continuous flight of locks in the country. Opened in 1810, it has a total of 29 locks with a rise of 237 feet over 2 miles with a 1 in 44 gradient for anyone who's counting! The 16 hill locks are designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument – the same level of heritage protection given to Stonehenge and was the final section of the Kennet and Avon Canal to be built. The locks became derelict after the Second World War, but were restored and reopened by the Queen in August 1990.
It was the perfect place to stop and watch the narrow boats traverse this marvel of Regency engineering. (even if one of them did smash into one of the gates that the pilot hadn’t noticed wasn’t fully open. Fortunately, the boat just bounced off.) It was also the perfect place to enjoy some sausage plait and a rock cake or two.
To be continued …
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