By Mike Peake
They mentioned the boot lid! ... A lot!.
However it was all a jolly good jest and I’m over it now, so it didn’t stop me enjoying what was to be one of our best meets/tours to date.
It didn’t start too well for me though. Mrs FB had sportingly agreed to tow the caravan up despite only having done the odd short jaunt to Weston and such, so a 3 hour trip to the campsite near Matlock was a bit daunting. However, as the only alternative was my tent that I’m not sure has recovered from Snowdonia, the matter was settled.
Anita coped magnificently though, even when my sat nav had a melt down and decided the camp site was in Brassington and took us there via Middleton.
Now these are two picturesque villages nestled at the top of large mountains, along roads barely wider than the caravan and bordered by stone walls. Anita wasn’t happy and of course it was my fault that the sat nav was useless, but as I was in a separate car and there was no phone signal, I could only faintly hear the screams, shouts and swearing emanating from the Honda so felt I could safely ignore it. That is until it became evident that we needed to turn around. The only place we could do this was at a T-junction. Still on a very steep hill. Still on very narrow roads and still bordered by stone walls.
I got out of Poppy, and from a safe distance, informed Mrs FB of the situation. The scary glare of death directed my way encouraged me to maintain the safe distance but by shouting instructions like “left hand down” and “right hand down”, Anita had that van turned around like she’d been doing it all her life and I quite like the smell of burning clutch anyway. We eventually made it safely to the campsite by Thursday evening, where I was saved from being beaten to a pulp by the presence of witnesses. Tosh and Bella the dog already had the camper van pitched and were waiting patiently for us.
Gar and Phil Allin also arrived and we set about a strategy meeting for the upcoming tour which hardly involved any alcohol at all.
It was during this strategy meeting that we learned just how much effort Phil and Loraine had put into this trip. Tales of Phil scouting out the route earlier in year and being foiled by the conditions abounded. My favourites were when he was stuck at the top of Mam Tor in a blizzard and 10 feet of snow for a week with only his thermos and a cheese sandwich for company.
Then, when he was swept away by the ford at Tissington in full flood and ended up floating in the middle of a lake waiting to be rescued by the RNLI. AND, after all this, Phil and Loraine wrote and produced a fantastic booklet full of detailed instructions on our routes along with maps and notes on the interesting sights we would see along the way.
On Friday morning, we pitched the new super duper events shelter and as I was there to supervise, it went a lot better than the pitching of my tent at Snowdon. There was one moment when the wind got up while Tosh was trying to manipulate the canvas and he looked like Han Solo frozen in carbonite, but we got there in the end.
During the rest of the day, our terrific team of tourists gradually arrived so let me introduce them.
And of course Paul Cheetham and Andy Gardner, who both forgot to bring their cars.
While everyone was arriving we weren’t idle though. Super Enthusiast Man drove Poppy in order to compare to Henry which uses the same engine and running gear and just bodied differently and I drove Henry. They really are very different to drive though, even after Gus pointed out that my throttle cable was too long and I was only using half the travel on the throttle. This wasn’t embarrassing at all even if it had been like it since I’ve had the car…for 18 years! Nope. Not embarrassing at all. At least Gus fixed it for me though, even if he seemed to enjoy telling everyone about it.
Tosh was also busy. He was saving this bumbling incompetent fool’s marriage this time by replacing the hole I’d put in my caravan with a lovely locker door with Ian Woodward helping from the inside.
Jolly useful chaps these Brooks and a huge thanks to you both!
More car hopping was done and just as we were about to settle down for the evening, Gar tossed me the keys to Nelson. Well I didn’t need asking twice and eager to test out Gus’s workmanship, I jumped in. I have to say that as I sped away, wheels spinning across the field and leaving a “Back to the Future” trail of scorched grass behind me, I realised that Nelson actually had rather a lot more power than he did last time I drove him and I had quite a big grin on my face.
When I got back, an apron clad Gar was stirring up his souri… sootykaka… sukiouri… oh heck, it was Greek meatballs in a sauce with peppers and tomatoes and vegetables and stuff and pasta was boiling up in several caravans (I think you mean Soutzoukakia Mike. Ed) anyway, there was 24 litres of it and it was absolutely delicious. Gar could give Nigela a run for her money I tell you. He’d even done us strawberries and cream in brandy snap baskets for pud. He’s a star is our Gar.
After Gar had fed all 28 of us, Anita and I gave out the tour Hi Vis vests. Everyone looked very pleased and very smart in them too. And No. I don’t think we looked anything like council dustmen or a bunch of crims on community service as some of you have rudely suggested!
Much hilarity, fun and games continued into the night but eventually we all retired to our beds with our faces aching from laughter and our thoughts on the adventures to come.
To be continued…
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