Bertie goes to Sudeley

I don’t think that cars get jealous, but given the recent arrival of the GT6 it would have been perfectly natural for Bertie to ‘get the hump’ just a little.  So when we found out about a classic car event taking place at Sudeley Castle on Sunday we decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to give him an outing.  Fortunately we were blessed with a lovely early autumn day and I’m pleased to say that Bertie behaved himself impeccably, making the  35 mile round trip without complaint, though parts of the long and steady climbs up Cleve Hill and Seven Springs had to be tackled in third gear.

Bertie on Parade
Bertie on Parade

No prizes won but we were the oldest of the 180 cars taking part – and its no dishonour to lose out to a 1933 Bentley!

Sudeley is lovely.  The one time home and the final resting place of Katherine Parr, the gardens are very attractive and the house/castle houses a nice little museum which is certainly worth a visit. DSCN7851

My name is John and I’m a Car-oholic!

Yes, I admit it, I seem to be developing an addiction for old cars.  Well, to be honest I don’t think that its a new thing; after cutting my motoring teeth on cars from the 1960s, and having owned an MGB for nearly 30 years, I think that I’ve always had a strong affection for vehicles that predate the modern era of complex electronics and a hankering for cars that you can fix with a spanner and hammer when they go wrong.

The latest addition to the Ewbank stable is a late 1973 Triumph GT6 which I bought ‘unseen’ in eBay and collected from the previous owner in Kent earlier this week.  The bodywork of cars from that era has a horrible tendency to rot  really badly but fortunately this one was substantially rebuilt with lots of new panels in the late 80s and so far (fingers crossed) it seems to be in really good condition.  There are a few bits of rust to be seen and the paintwork will have to be completely stripped for a complete re-spray but hopefully there won’t be too much need for welding or panel replacement.

I spent yesterday removing 4 or 5 gallons of stale petrol from the tank in preparation for its removal later today.  I also took the spark plugs out and turned the engine over, and was relieved to find that it isn’t seized.  The first big job will be to extract the engine and gearbox and to take the block down to a local engineering works to get the bores and bearings checked.  All very exciting!

Zab, Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains

At 1033 metres above sea level the improbably named ‘Zab’ is apparently the highest inhabited village in Poland – not something we knew when we booked our five nights accommodation in the Redyk hotel, though it became pretty obvious when we saw the mountain views on our arrival.  Wonderful on a lovely sunny day, but unfortunately it does mean that at least some of our time here will be spent with our heads rather more in the clouds than usual.

Zakopane, the local metropolis, is a busy (not so) little place sitting within a few kilometres of the Slovakian border and nestled nicely in the foothills of the Tatra mountains, beloved of walkers all the year round and skiers during the winter months.[mappress mapid=”5″]

As Tuesday dawned bright and sunny we decided to take a stroll into the Tatrzanski National Park.  Three hours and what felt like several thousand vertical metres later we emerged with a few new aches and pains but with that  smug glow of satisfaction that comes from knowing that we’re probably reasonably fit – or at least quite a lot fitter than some of our fellow walkers.  That said there were one or two fairly ancient Poles who looked as though they could have kept on going long after we’d decided that enough was enough for day one.

Today (Wednesday) started cloudy and as the BBC Weather App seemed pretty certain that it would stay that way all day we decided to try some sightseeing a little further afield.  The medieval castles at Niedzica and Czorsztyn (no, don’t ask me to pronounce them) are only about 45km off to the NE and feature in most of the tourist blurb so seemed like a good choice for a visit – though to be fair probably weren’t looking at their best on what turned out to be a dry, but pretty overcast, expedition.

Niedzica Castle
Niedzica Castle

Oswiecim – better known as Auschwitz


I wasn’t too sure about wanting to visit Auschwitz.  There’s something very  uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic, about visiting the scene of something so very terrible; but I was persuaded to make the visit, and in truth I’m glad to have done so.  We only made it as far as Auschwitz I, which is the original camp established by the Germans on the site of a former Polish Army barracks about 40km to the west of Krakow – there are two more, and I think larger, camps and a number of smaller ones nearby – but one was enough.

The place itself is well preserved and contains a number of extremely informative exhibitions that explain exactly what went on there and just how inhumane and brutal the Germans were to those they regarded as being less human than themselves.  The scale and the depth of the depravity that was displayed at Auschwitz and elsewhere is overwhelming and highlights just how thin the veneer of our so called civilisation really is – look around the world even now and you don’t have to strain the eyes or the imagination too hard to see what man can be capable of.

And with that depressing thought perhaps we should move on and get back to our holiday!

Krakow – September 2014

Having indulged ourselves with our ‘big trip’ to Australia and New Zealand earlier in the year we thought that we’d stick a little closer to home for our summer/autumn break this year.  Poland has been on my ‘bucket list’ (if Obama can have one why not me?) for quite a while, so this seemed like a good time to see what the south of the country has to offer.  The plan is to start with a spot of sightseeing in Krakow before heading down about 100km to the south to do some exploring and walking in the Tatra mountains around Zakopane.


Our first impression of Krakow is that it’s a gem.  We’re staying B&B pretty much in the heart of the old town which, despite the horrors that befell Poland between 1939 and 1990, seems to have survived remarkably well.  Plenty of medieval squares, a castle rising up in the centre of the city and more churches than you could genuflect at in a month of Sundays.


But the really good thing is that it’s cheap!  Good beer at around £3 a litre and a wide selection of restaurants where you can get a reasonable choice of meals (not just pork, cabbage and potatoes) for around £30 for two.  If these are city prices I can’t wait to see what’s on offer in the rural areas to the south.

The weather, I’m happy to say, looks good so far. Bright sun and temperatures in the mid 20s for most of today – hopefully the threatened thunderstorms will give us a miss this evening!

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Those who were unfortunate enough to miss my starring performances in such classics as ‘Lady Chatterley’s Final Fling’ and my masterful portrayal as Herr Flick in the Churn Valley production of ‘Ello, Ello’ are in for a treat!  I’ve decided that the trouble with live theatre is that too few of my admirers have been able to enjoy my epic performances – so this time (by popular demand) I’ve made myself available to a much wider audience and will be featuring prominently in a brand new Hollywood classic ‘Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death’ which is due to be broadcast on Sky this coming Christmas.  Not content with just one role I expect to be featured in a number of character parts, including …..the man driving a vintage car (Bertie) down the road …..the chap carrying an old fashioned gramophone … and, perhaps my most demanding role, so far, that of  ….the bloke on the vegetable stand at the village fair!  Anyone seeking exemplars of high quality ‘method’ acting need look no further than this masterpiece of modern cinema.

Seriously though ……..I happened to meet the casting director when the production company was recceing our Village Hall as a location for this this pilot episode and naturally when he asked ‘does anyone want to be in it?’ my natural reticence went completely by the board and before you could say ‘Errol Flynn’ I found myself signed up for two days as a ‘supporting artiste’ (the new term for those stalwarts I’ve always known as extras).  As I’m now completely smitten and stage struck I strongly advise you to watch this space for news of my next starring performance.  Just think … day you’ll be able to say ‘I knew him before he was famous!’….. but don’t hold your breath.