The past nine months have been a tad difficult – not least when it came to sitting down and attempting to write an interesting, entertaining or informative blog. In August of last year I started to feel unwell and by the time I had been diagnosed with kidney disease towards the end of 2016 I was well and truly under the weather and largely ‘confined to barracks’ with little prospect of having anything interesting to write about.
These days the media seldom seems to have much that’s good to say about the NHS, however I have to say that my personal experience has been pretty much wholly positive. No doubt I’ve been fortunate to live in a part of the country where the service doesn’t seem to be permanently overloaded and in crisis, however being able to get to see my GP at virtually no notice and most importantly being able to rely upon the services of the experienced, caring and highly professional staff of Gloucester and Cheltenham hospitals has made the overall experience of being ill vastly more bearable than it might otherwise have been. I am immensely grateful for their help and support but, at the risk of seeming ungrateful, hope to be seeing rather less of them in the year to come.
Anyway, enough of all that! The good news is that as I hopefully near the end of my initial treatment (the wonderfully named Ponticelli Regimen) I seem to be making good progress and have at last been able to get back towards living a more normal existence, enjoying some of those things that I’ve been looking forward to over the past few months.
The first and most important news to report is the arrival of our first granddaughter, Gretel Lilly Ewbank, who came into this world in Nürnberg on 23rd February 2017 courtesy of her parents Richard and Collette. She’s a beauty and a delight and no doubt will one day be a famous scientist, renowned artist or perhaps even a skilled restorer of classic cars. Who cares just so long as she remains healthy and happy?
On the automotive front I have to report that Bertie has moved on to pastures new. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our relatively short period of Austin ownership it became increasingly clear over the past year that he was just one car too many for us and that we would have few opportunities to gain full use or enjoyment from him going forward. The good news is that he’s moved on to enthusiastic new owners and that for the first time in 47 years of automotive ownership I’ve actually managed to make a small profit from buying and selling a car!
Nature abhors a vacuum and the prospect of having a little spare space on the drive was obviously insufficient reason for not going out and buying another vehicle (not sure that sentence makes sense, but you know what I mean) so we immediately went out and bought a motorhome – what else? Our first short expedition to the north Devon coast in early May was an unqualified success so as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard we’re actually parked in a field in Powys at the start of a six day break which, if all goes well and the weather stays reasonable, should see us exploring the Welsh coastline and getting to know our new mode of transport. Today Welshpool, tomorrow the world – we’re on the road again!
Yeah, right! Unfortunately Bertie’s been anything but dependable of late. Having behaved himself reasonably well on what was his first ‘commercial engagement’ for Dan and Hannah Eales’ wedding, he then let himself down on the homeward journey by conking out about a mile from home. Perhaps it was the excitement of the occasion, or maybe he just wanted to assert his independence, but whatever the cause, and despite my best efforts, he’s stubbornly refused to start for the last four weeks.
Now that wouldn’t have been too bad if he hadn’t been needed for Jennie’s wedding just a fortnight after he decided to throw a hissy fit. Anyway, when it became increasingly clear that he was likely to be ‘hors de combat’ for the big event I had to make the hard decision to leave Bertie on the touchline and put some extra effort into getting the Stag ready for a starring performance at Jennie and Nathan’s wedding. Now there’s a turn-up for the book …….. a ‘dependable Austin’ being substituted by a car which, to put it mildly, doesn’t really have much of a reputation for reliability!
But stranger things have happened and in the end the Stag played a blinder, motoring the 462 miles to Thirsk and back without missing a beat, and getting our little girl to the church (well, more of a Teepee really) on time and in a certain amount of style. As I think I’ve said before, when it comes to classic and vintage motoring its always a good thing to have the odd spare car knocking around – just in case!
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.
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.
In common with all enthusiastic ‘nerds’ who want to get to know all about their new hobby I decided that membership of a motoring club would be helpful in getting better acquainted with ‘Bertie’ our new (well, new to us) Austin 12/4. As it happens there are several extremely good clubs catering for Austin owners, but as the Vintage Austin Register claims to cater mainly for ‘vintage’ cars it seemed sensible to give them a try.
As it happens the club’s annual ‘my car’s shinier that yours’ rally took place near Bromsgrove at the end of June, so the weeks leading up to the event were spent in preparing Bertie for our first major expedition. Although the car is generally in really good condition, its clear that its done little or no mileage for the past few years and that some routine maintenance had lapsed. Finding grease nipples in inaccessible places, adjusting the brakes and changing the oils was a good starting point, but the real work came when we realised that the fuel tank was full of rust and a horrible sort of gum residue that results for leaving old petrol in the tank for years on end.
Removing the tank was simple enough, but getting the rubbish out and then cleaning and re-sealing the internal surfaces was a very different matter. In the end I bought some specialist products and gave it as good a clean as possible before fitting the fuel line with an in-line filter which will hopefully prevent the worst of what remains from clogging up the carburettor in future. Time will tell.
Anyway, the momentous day arrived and we set off at ‘sparrows’ leaving ourselves plenty of time to cover the 55 miles to the rally without having to hurry. In point of fact the words ‘hurry’ and ‘Austin 12’ should probably never be used in the same sentence as the maximum speed that we were brave enough to reach was only 40 mph. You know, its amazing just how little traffic you find in front of you when you’re travelling at that speed – though whether the dozens of frustrated motorists behind us found it quite such an enjoyable experience is another matter altogether.
Whilst I’d love to be able to tell you that we came away with armfuls of trophies the reality is that some of the cars were very, very shiny and a credit to the countless hours of hard work put in by their owners – so there were no prizes for Bertie on his first outing. That said, we certainly weren’t put to shame and I spent several profitable hours looking at the competition and working out what improvements need to be done over the coming months to bring him up to standard. All very enjoyable and made even more so by meeting some very nice fellow enthusiasts – most of whom, oddly enough, weren’t nerds at all!
Oh yes ………..and we got home in one piece too!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a look at our family history