Reviews

2009-1

1985 Interlaken Review

Mary’s Rally Review appeared in the Sept/Oct 1985 issue of Minor Matters

1985logo1Sitting here with a glass of wine and a pile of photos, memories of the Swiss Trip flood back – convoys of Minors – picnics – pouring rain – alpine flowers – sunshine – JT’s snores blasting out of his tent – Fritz the dog – Aubrey Batt’s shorts – the superb banquet – Amanda’s hangover – where do I start to write the allowed “two pages please, no more no less”?

Garage in Metz hit by Minor Blitz. Pic: Phillip Wright

Garage in Metz hit by Minor Blitz. Pic: Phillip Wright

So, we met at Dover. 90 odd Minors lined up for the ferry in the bright cold early morning air. The Hall convoy was just relieved to be there, our green saloon having dropped a valve guide on the way down resulting in a speedy head-changing operation in a restaurant car park in Kent at 1.00 in the morning. Thanks to Tony Briance et al for coming to the rescue with a spare head. Inevitably a few Minors got up too late and missed the boat, and Andrew Hemsley’s passenger forgot his passport.

Once on the boat, with brekky or brandy according to taste, we relaxed. It took some time to escape the traffic jams in Calais, but once on the open road there was the happy sight of convoys of Moggies going on their holidays. Groups of up to 10 cars travelled at speeds from sedate to the almost excessive through Northern France, and there was much picnicking in laybys in glorious sunshine. From late afternoon on Minors arrived at the riverside campsite in Metz. The verdict on the site was price: cheap; showers: hot, loos: indescribable, weather: amazingly good.

Bob, Jo and Fritz showing Icini Branch Flag in Luzern

Bob, Jo and Fritz showing Icini Branch Flag in Luzern

On Sunday the day dawned bright and sunny. Our maroon saloon was deputised to fetch croissants for the Hall convoy. Others may get up and leave early, but we are made of weaker stuff – breakfast comes first! We eventually got around to leaving to join the Minor queue for petrol at the nearest garage – absolute chaos there – the French just could not believe their eyes! Thence through fine countryside, Nick’s battery boiling up nicely. Hall and other streetwise convoys spotted stopping off in Alsace to buy wine for the duration. Continuing sunshine encouraged picnics and cafe breaks – notably near the Swiss border. Here a roadside cafe was invaded by successive waves of Minors in search of liquid refreshment. Through the customs in Basle and our convoy, like many others, missed a signpost resulting in many U-turns and much backing -up. We finally escaped on to the Swiss motorway system with the sun still blazing down. Amazing ladies loos at Dietingen Nord Services were inspected by all lady Minorists. By this time it had been established that undoubtedly the fastest convoy on the road (when it wasn’t stopped for food and drink, which was quite often) was the one made up of three saloons (green, maroon and blue), one traveller (green) and one van (red). By this time, Alps, cowbells, lakes and snow were in view. Arriving in Interlaken in the later afternoon and early evening, we received a very warm welcome from the Swiss Morris Minor Club who had organised the campsite for us. Other Brits on the campsite with GTis, Capris, etc., were visibly alarmed by the Minor invasion.After a good night’s sleep we awoke to another beautiful sunny morning with a trip to Luzern in prospect. (Except for Mr. B., who didn’t read his booklet properly and went to Lausanne in completely the opposite direction!) The rest of us set off at 10 minute intervals in Swiss-led convoys to the famous Museum of Transport at Luzern. A fine drive over the low Brunig Pass was enjoyed by all, except that Mr. G. seemed to think it exceedingly funny to overtake on sharp bends – the rest of us did not agree. At the museum we lined up in the outside display area under the wings of an aeroplane. Union Jacks, bunting and rally plaques decorated the cars and made a fine display which impressed many of the visitors – Fritz was in fine form. With the marvellous museum open to us, and the town of Luzern and its lake nearby, an excellent time was had by all in brilliant sunshine. It was too good to last. On the way back from Luzern we could see rain clouds ahead. Obviously “someone up there” had finally realised that this was a that this was a group of Morris Minors on a foreign expedition and was hastening to gather sufficient, clouds to drop the appropriate amount of water upon us. By the evening it was raining.

Tuesday to Thursday were left free for people to do as they pleased.The Swiss Club organised a number of escorted drives to places of interest and whilst many people joined these, others meandered around the Bernese Oberland on their own. On Tuesday, rain in the morning drove many people into the nearby caves where a guide led crocodiles (the people type not the handbag sort) on a route march through a mile and a half of underground caverns. I’ve never walked so fast on a guided tour in my life! The caves were interesting but we didn’t see St ‘ Beathus, the reputed owner/occupier. Maybe he couldn’t keep up with the guide either. Later in the day it brightened up and groups of Minors were seen throughout the land. Mr. C., the recently appointed Interim Member of the National MMOC Committee, was notably only seen in or near bars. By the evening, the rain had returned with a vengeance. Most of us retired to the town or into the larger tents. Our supply of Alsace vino was rapidly depleted. At about 1.00 in the morning we commented that “itsh shtopped raining”. Emerging from our tent we discovered various other Minor parties had taken place, notably in West Sussex’s tents – or Wesh Shusshex as they were by then! Wednesday dawned wet. Very wet. This did not deter the birds from sitting on J.T.’s tent, so a bird table was speedily erected on the ridge while he wasn’t looking. By the way no other tents had birds, just his. Since J.T. is allergic to feathered things this caused a great deal of amusement! As for the rest of Wednesday, we were made to pay for the glorious sunshine we had at the weekend. It rained non stop until the evening. To cheer us up it so happened that Wednesday was the night for the Celebration Banquet at Interlaken’s posh casino, the Kursaal. Guests of honour were Mr. Jack Daniels, one of the Minor design team and his wife, who were spending the week in Switzerland as guests of the Swiss Club. Our Swiss Minor hosts generously plied us with aperitifs before we moved to the banqueting suite. With gleaming chandeliers, candies and flowers on the tables, and a musical accompaniment, it was an unusually smart setting for a Minor “do”.

"Thirty-six pints, s'il vous plait Doris"

“Thirty-six pints, s’il vous plait Doris”

I have particularly fond memories of the bread-encased baked ham which was meltingly delicious. After dinner (well most of us had finished but Nick was still ploughing his way through a pile of meringues and cream) we attempted to proceed with some more serious business involving speeches and prizes before everyone became too merry. We awarded prizes for the best 6 cars. The unusual and attractive trophies had been specially commissioned from lan Portsmouth and were made out of polished Morris parts fitted to wooden bases. The winners were: Best British car Roger Horton RVW 178 Best Swiss car Jurg and Ann Marie Lipunol BE361721 Best Traveller Brian Palmer HBP 708H Best Saloon Jonathon Morgan RER 919 Best Convertible Alan and Linda Boyce WLF 24 Best Custom Nick Lake TVJ 646J Certificates conferring “Overseas Veteran” Status were awarded to those 13 brave drivers who had ventured on all 3 MMOC foreign rallies to date. (We must all be mad – going that far, three times in a Minor to get wet!).

Must ask Neil Cairns if you can fit a snow blower like this to a Series ll Traveller.

Must ask Neil Cairns if you can fit a snow blower like this to a Series ll Traveller.

A number of special prizes were also awarded. Mr. ? had the worst-filled in application form for the trip – he forgot his name and address! The Lancashire bunch of vandals who changed the name of the campsite from Manor Farm to Minor Farm were also honoured (have the signs been changed back yet, we wonder!) Mike Burridge, MMOC No. 460 won a prize for being the longest standing, or longest suffering! member of the MMOC on the trip. Finally Andrew Salaman won a prize for using the most oil on the journey down to Interlaken, but we won’t go into that to save him any further embarrassment. There followed more music, merriment, meringues and alcohol during which raffle tickets were sold. Many thanks to all those who helped and to Fritz in particular for biting the ankles of those who appeared too reticent to buy. However, with the prizes including air tickets, ferry tickets, hotel accommodation, video cassettes and one of Ray Newell’s books, all in all amounting to over 40 prizes, Fritz went a bit hungry. Probably the two most notable prize winners were J.T., winning a marzipan duck, and Simon Bound who bought the very last raffle ticket and won the very last prize – a bag of marbles! My memory of the rest of the evening is decidedly hazy, but nowhere near as blank as Amanda’s. Next morning that lass awoke wearing someone else’s T-shirt and with no recollection of the previous evening whatsoever. Her grey track suit only enhanced her delicate looks .- I haven’t seen such a hangover for years! By Thursday the rain had gone away and we were left with one further day to enjoy the Swiss countryside. Most people opted for a fairly gentle day before the trek home. Mr. C. and his father naturally opted for the odd cafe or two.Preparations for the homeward journey varied from a cursory check under the bonnet to confirm that the engine was still in place, to what appeared to be a full service by Mr. C.C. (to distinguish him from Mr. C. mentioned earlier) who donned a set of overalls – he checked he had four wheels as well as an engine. Friday morning dawned bright and sunny. Most of us were rudely awakened by the sound of certain Minors setting off extremely early for the open road.

This resulted in them getting up to de-camp at 5 a.m. in order to leave at 6 a.m., something which was not appreciated by the rest of us. However, pulling sleeping bagsover our heads we managed to doze off again until a more respectable hour. After bidding fond farewells to the Swiss Club, the Hall convoy finally left at about 9-ish to speed off towards Fliquewihr in the Alsace for a day’s sightseeing, lunching and wine buying. Thence to Metz for the overnight stop. OnSaturday the thought of going home was cheered by the good weather. As we drove along we saw other Moggies, well to be honest we overtook them, for it has to be admitted that it was indeed our convoy which was the fastest on the road.

On to Calais Docks and a complete reunion of all the touring Minors. Fritz marched proudly up and down the lines of Minors collecting loose change in aid of the Guide dogs and in the capable hands of his owners also extracted change from the pockets of any other vehicles on the Dockside – coaches, cars, lorries – Fritz frisked them all! Once on the ferry, yet another relaxing drink in hand, completion certificates were handed out and anecdotes of the journey back to Calais exchanged. We all made it, even Aubrey who had the bad luck to have a front end smash in Interlaken. Most-asked question on the ferry was “Where are we going next year?” closely followed by “Can I book now?” The answer to the first question is the Alsace, and to the second, details of how to book will appear in the November/December edition of Minor Matters.Now all i need to say, if I have any more of my allotted two pages left, is a big thank you” to you all for coming and making it such a fantastic trip, thank you for the lovely piece of china which you so kindly gave us, thank you to Patsy Bradley and her colleagues in the Swiss MMC, and thank you all for your fund raising efforts for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Can I leave you with a few questions to ponder: Did Mr. C. lead his father astray, or vice versa? Did Bob Finch or Pete Coslett have the most untidily packed traveller? How did K. B.’s toucan survive without guinness for a week? Does Nurse Gladys Emmanuel know how far her Minor went on its holiday? See you next year. Mary.

 

2009-2

1988 Diekirch Review

Note from the webmaster: Apologies, but the photos I have for this article didn’t survive the transfer to the new website. If you have some of this event, please pass them on!

Imagine you are the Dutch-speaking manager of a riverside campsite in Diekirch, a little town in Luxembourg: last summer you accepted a large group booking from some pleasant English people for a car rally in May 1988. It is now Friday, 26th May, 1988 and it has rained heavily for 48 hours. You have just realised that the arrival of the English contingent coincides with one of Europe’s largest walking events when 5000 people descend on the town for two days of hiking, many planning to stay on your site. You remember the reputation of British holidaymakers abroad, and that of their football hooligans. You watch the river rising at a rapid rate of knots. In short you are a worried man. You mark out the agreed area for the British and you wait….. A few English people start to arrive, followed by the organisers on Friday evening. They seem tame enough. It rains. The river continues to rise. On Saturday morning a few more car club people arrive, mercifully some are Dutch so you can have a good natter to them and try to suss the situation. The car club organisers put up signs to direct their members to the right area.

You note that all the car club people are well equipped with waterproofs and umbrellas – could it be that they’ve done this before?? The rain continues, and you try to convince the English that of course the river never floods here. 4 pm, and the main British contingent starts to arrive. Lots of funny looking cars, many towing large trailers. You wander over, just to check things out. They all experienced long delays at Dover, they have driven 400 km in pouring rain, they have just seen the muddy state of your campsite (and it’s still raining) and yet 99% of them are smiling, shouting hallo to new arrivals, laughing and joking as they struggle to put up their tents between the puddles. They are all ages from babes in arms to pensioners. You toddle back to your office to dry off.

During Saturday evening they are all impeccably behaved. Sunday dawns damp and dreary, but there they all are as happy as can be. Those with large tents (how did they get them in those little cars?) and those who have rented chalets are all sharing their dry accommodation with those from little tents. What jolly decent people they all are. You chat to the organisers – difficult as they don’t speak Dutch, but you manage. You discover their plans for the week and lend them your video camera to tape the highlights. You lend caravans to those who have tent problems (e.g. forgetting to pack their tent poles), and accommodate some of the families with young children in chalets vacated by the departing walkers. Everyone is so friendly, always ready with a drink to offer, always ready to help anyone mend car or tent. You relax and look forward to a week with some very pleasant guests.

Now hear the other side of the story… Campsite very wet, Sunday quiz drive culminating in plaque presentation at a mystery venue cancelled due to roadworks at key points en route (bright sparks say ‘why don’t we redraw the route?’ Organisers ask bright sparks if (a) they have a photocopier, (b) they have alternative route and questions in mind and (c) they know of an alternative venue where 110 Minors will be welcome without prior notice). So no Quiz Drive – hey ho, we all found alternative entertainment. Monday, and it wasn’t raining! 20 miles drive through pretty countryside took the Minors to Grevenmacher on the Moselle river, where the specially chartered 350 seater M.V. Princesse Marie-Astrid was waiting to take MOT 88 to Trier in Germany for lunch. The boat was in pristine condition, with waitress service for refreshments and plenty of seats both inside and out. The trip down river took about 2 hours, and included passing through one of the large navigation locks(hear those cameras click!).

Arriving in Trier we had 3 hours before catching the boat back, just enough time to eat and take in the major sights. All had been told that if they were late the boat would have gone. Chartering costs by the hour, and the MOT kitty waits for no man! Needless to say, someone missed the boat. On the way back we had the opportunity of watching a very heavy rainstorm from the boat. Not quite the scenery we had in mind, but unlike many Minors, the boat didn’t leak, and there were enough seats inside for everybody. Back at the quayside there was a mad rush for the cars through a torrential downpour, and several people returned to the campsite to find their tents under water. No problem for Minorists, just bung the sleeping bags in the campsite tumbledriers and move the tents (emptying out the water as you go). Simple.

Monday night saw the real start to the week’s parties, which are the life and soul of any MOT trip. With half the campsite to ourselves there was no question of annoying anyone else. The campsite manager is well used to large groups and enjoys their parties too. Each evening from around 8 pm you started to see people getting ready to go out … first they donned an extra pullover, then an anorak and wellies; putting a glass in one pocket and a bottle in the other, they picked up a chair and sometimes an umbrella too. Zipping up their tent, they then paddled over to one or other of the big tents or chalets for an evening’s sojourn in pleasant company. This flexible approach tosocialising means that you can call on several gatherings in one evening, you just pick up your chair, glass and umbrella, say “thank you” and move on. No babysitting problems, no driving, and when you’re tired you just walk home.

If you were thinking of buying a larger tent for next year, you could inspect many different kinds at your leisure. So there you are, sitting outside in the rain at midnight, umbrellas wedged between the chairs, barbecue flares reflected in the puddles, drinking and passing the cheesy nibbles round (they’ll get wet on the table!). If you were at home on nights like this you would draw the curtains at 8 o’clock and put the heating on! From Tuesday onwards Minorists were free to tour around the countryside, and this they did with great gusto. Many people went to Luxembourg city for the day, some by train. The Luxembourg countryside is ideal for gentle touring with many attractive little towns and castles within very easy reach. The resort of Vianden must have been visited by all MOT members, since aside from its pretty setting, it boasts a chairlift passing over rooftops and the river up to a hilltop cafe, and a museum of Dinky cars – all sorts of little model cars (including two Matchbox Minors) kept in glass cabinets housed in a converted domestic garage. The owner was so impressed by the number of Minorists who visited his museum that he came over to see us at Diekirch. Guided tours of the Diekirch Brewery had been arranged, although unfortunately the Brewery cancelled some of the trips without notice. Those of us able to go were delighted by the interior architecture (art deco and all sorts) and by the hospitality on offer. Those foolish enough to drive to the Brewery instead of walking had to go back later to fetch their cars, such was the generosity of our hosts.

Wednesday evening was something special. Aside from the fact that the sun was shining, from 4 o’clock onwards the MOT mob passed through the campsite showers in a regular procession. Hairdriers were swapped around, make-up applied and dresses shaken out from suitcases (and that was just the men!). From 7 o’clock the riverside footpath into town was busy with Minorists in clean clothes and carrying waterproofs (pessimists all!) The hour of the MOT Banquet was nigh … and the Hotel de L’Europe was waiting for the first large British crowd they had ever entertained. The Banqueting Suite looked marvellous – white tablecloths, shining glasses, fresh flowers and smartly dressed waiters stunned the eyes after the murk of the muddy campsite. With the brand new MOT Banner high on the wall (nailed into thefine oak panelling by those wonderful waiters) the Club was set for a memorable night. After special Kir aperitifs, Chris Hall welcomed the assembled multitude, commenting that this was the first time on the trip that we had all been warm, dry, clean and presentably attired at the same time!

Dinner began with awonderful soup, and moved on to creamy chickeny vol-au-vents. Beef with a marchand du vin sauce with all the trimmings followed, and the waiters kept coming round with seconds of everything, then thirds, then fourths! By pudding time most of us were very, very full. With the wine flowing, pleasant company and the comfortable setting the atmosphere was extremely relaxed and happy. During coffee Chris and Mary took to the microphone for the prizegiving. Aside from the list of winners, very special mention must be made of Brian and Alison Fletcher, and their decision to take their immaculate Series II to Luxembourg – not only is this an MMOC Grand Masters car, but it is also an entrant in the 1988 Benson and Hedges Concours. It all goes to show that show-class Minors can be used as well as shown!

The usual special awards in the form of MOT numberplates were given to those who had done silly or notable things … he who missed the boat at Trier just KNEW he would end up with one to take home and explain to her indoors. Those 13 brave souls who have survived all 6 MOT trips were duly applauded. The chef was wheeled out to be congratulated on his efforts, and Chris and Mary were presented with a gift from everyone, and with a superb hand crafted applique cushion from Mrs. Beardmore. The stage was then passed to Herts. Branch, who ran a raffle in aid of their 1988 charity, Guide Dogs for the Blind. The evening was over all too soon, the motley crew toddled home to their tents (and it wasn’t raining), and Chris and Mary stayed behind to pay the bill -ouch. The Hotel staff joined them for a drink, and said how much they had enjoyed the Club’s company, and what a happy lot we were.

By the time most people got up on Thursday morning several groups had quietly left to spend a second week in the sun of St. Remy de Provence, Chris Howard (he of the gearbox episode last year) having an unfortunate brush with a Dutch lorry on the way. They might have found the sun, but they missed out on the campsite manager’s knees-up on Friday night. He lit a HUGE bonfire, and invited the whole campsite, MOT and others, to come along for a sing-song. The last of the wine from the MOT bar was share aroundand German, Dutch, British, Minorists or not, they all joined in, particularly with a rousing chorus of ‘Singing in the Rain’ led by Elaine Pritchard and Freda Catterall – with all the action movements. Towards midnight the fire died down, everyone strolled back to their tents for a last night under canvas and for once it wasn’t raining. All in all a good trip despite the weather, with very few technical mishaps/breakdowns and no serious problems. The MOT crew did a power of good for Anglo-European relations with their impeccable behaviour on the campsite, in Diekirch and around Luxembourg generally.It’s a pity this even merits a mention, but the reputation generated by British hooligans (not helped by their behaviour at the European Cup just after MOT) does cause organisers of trips like MOT a few headaches. The campsite manager, the Captain of the Princesse Marie-Astrid and the Hotel de L’Europe all admitted to Chris and Mary after the event that they had been worried about taking an English booking. So well done everyone, keep it up next year!

And finally, it has beLjme customary to leave you with a few last thoughts … how many marks do you lose in Concours judging if you convert a Minor into a Jeep? Do people from Northamptonshire always look THAT bad in the mornings, or just on MOTs? Why don’t they make adult-sized red wellies? Where will MOT 89 go?

 

2009-3

2004 Steinach Review

RALLY REVIEW – our holiday by Ian and Sue Portsmouth

2004steinachreview0It doesn’t seem to matter how much you plan for an MOT, deciding on the route to take, getting the car prepared; it is rare that all goes according to that carefully formulated plan, and so it was with us. Sue and I travelled through the Channel Tunnel on the Thursday afternoon, and booked into the B&B Hotel in Calais that we had arranged months previously. Our fellow travellers, Lynn and Dave Portwood, with their daughters Philippa and Jessica, travelled the same route and arrived rather late in the evening after being held up in traffic. A night’s sleep and an early breakfast got us on the road in good time, the road in question being the one to Lille. The intention was to drive on into Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France before crossing the border back into Germany again, but the road from Calais to Lille was so rough that I thought that the fillings were going to fall out of my teeth. Lynn, leading our little convoy (can two Minors Connie and BB at Calias be considered a convoy?), had also had enough by then, so we headed south and on to the peage. We lost a little bit of time, but that, and the road tolls, were a small price to pay when you can ride on a relatively smooth road.

2004steinachreview1All was going well until our convertible, Connie, started to misfire, and was getting a bit warm. I had come to the conclusion that the problem was either fuel starvation/vaporisation or that the elevated temperature was causing the problem.

We were able to keep going, but at lunchtime I though it best to investigate, and decided to remove the thermostat, only to find that there wasn’t one! Then I remembered that I’d removed it a few years back when we had another problem. Although the fuel pipe was getting a bit warm I didn’t think that it was hot enough to cause fuel vaporisation, and as there is a heat shield between the carburettor and the exhaust system I couldn’t come to terms with it being heat-related. I checked everything else I could think of, but in the end I refilled the radiator and shut the bonnet. We took it steadily from then on and didn’t have a real problem for the rest of the day, though every time we stopped I opened the bonnet to help cool everything down. We stopped to do some essential shopping just north of Strasbourg, essential being beer, wine, Ricard, oh, and something to throw on the barbecue and stop junior Portwoods from starving to death.

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The thought of having to drive through Strasbourg was a bit worrying, thinking about sitting in queues of traffic at the numerous traffic lights on unfamiliar junctions did nothing to stop me fretting that the problem would return, but we were fortunate, and were on the road to the German border without incident. Hot but happy we arrived at the campsite, booked in, and went to find our illustrious leader Andrew Salaman in “The Bunker”. Fortunately cold beer was awaiting and friendly faces settled us into the old MOT routine, and we pitched up during a lovely evening.2004steinachreview3Saturday dawned sunny and warm, and leaving Sue and Dave to finish erecting tent canvas, Lynn and I went shopping, serious shopping, so we took Lynn’s shopping trolley – their Traveller, BB.

The nearest French hypermarket was at Strasbourg, and the journey there was a pleasant one. We filled BB with lots of goodies and headed ‘homeward’, but after a just a few yards we stopped when we both heard a noise that neither of us liked the sound of. Checking out all the obvious thing revealed nothing, so we set off again, and then realised that it only happened whilst in third gear, so we figured out a route back that wouldn’t entail using much other than fourth gear, and got back without any further noises.
Opinion was sought, and the mechanics on the trip set about trying to decide what was wrong, the first idea being the obvious – lack of oil. Dave was sure that there was oil in there, so an international team (one English, one Dutch and one from Somerset!) set off on a test drive to discern what was wrong. Much chat led to various theories, but majority opinion was that the oil would have to be drained to see if there were any nasty bits floating around. Out it came, what little there was of it, relatively clean and free of bits. The photo clearly shows that men with little else to do are quite prepared to stare into a plastic washing-up bowl with a small quantity of oil in it, Lynn took this picture when she heard something quite disgusting, and so was born the new MOT sporting event – Oil tasting!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The requisite amount of oil was poured into the gearbox, and ‘hey-presto’ no noise. This goes to show that you shouldn’t assume that when you have your local garage replace the gearbox’s rear oil seal that they refill it with oil. Connie and BB were not the only Minors with problems, there were others far more serious. One limped in at about 7 o’clock, running on two cylinders, and yet another arrived much later on during Saturday evening on the back of a breakdown truck. The owner of the later one had the sense to realise that there was loads of help on the campsite, and insisted on being taken to Steinach.

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Most participants had arrived by late afternoon on Saturday, so to start MOT off in the proper manner, drinks were served outside on a very pleasant evening. Seeing everyone together, chatting with old friends and welcoming newcomers in the rays of the setting sun was a real treat, and this year we not only had friends from Britain, but from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and Switzerland too. Conversation flowed as freely as the beer and wine, and late arrivals joined in once they’d ensconced themselves in their accommodation. Sunday morning was sunny, and had the potential to be a really hot day, so a nice shady spot was chosen for a nose to nose session of head gasket changing.A couple of hours of ministrations by those nice chaps who hadn’t had a chance to get their hands dirty for a few days soon had both Minors running sweetly, and yet another MOT sport was inaugurated – ‘How many heads can you get under a Morris Minor bonnet?’ Campsite repairs always draw a crowd – next year we’ll sell tickets!

2004steinachreview9Those not involved in the grubby bits did what they wanted to do, some went driving, others went for a walk in the beautiful wooded hills of the Schwarzwald, but a majority just lounged around in the sunshine recharging their own batteries or catching-up some more.

After getting thoroughly relaxed and in some cases rather pink in the sunshine, the evening party beckoned. Certificates were handed out to those in need of certification, three years, ten years, twenty years – whatever! That’s the number of years that they’d been on MOT; the record is still held by Alan and Linda Boyce who have been on all 22 of them; Sue and I got our twentieth. We’ve actually been on 19, but we couldn’t make it on one that we’d organised as I needed to go into hospital, so Lynn and Dave Portwood stood in for us at very short notice at Saumur, and did a thoroughly good job too.

2004steinachreview10Martin handed out one of his fiendishly difficult quizzes, well, not so difficult if you had not accepted too many nice cold beers. It raised £26 for the charities.
Fancy dress at these affairs is optional, Martin is always outlandishly attired, and our friends from the Netherlands and Belgium entered into the spirit of the party.

Then there are some that, having decided to look foolish by pretending to be Dutch, just have to compound the felony!

The German Morris Minor Club kindly staged this year’s traditional en masse drive on Tuesday morning. As the campsite owner Thomas Tillmans is a rally driver, and it seemed appropriate that the event should be organised in the style of a road rally stage, with all the rules carefully laid down and observed.
Departing singly at one minute intervals meant that it took over an hour and a half to clear the campsite, but the rain didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of those awaiting their turn to be counted down and waved away.

However, one problem developed early on and negated the 60 second time gaps between cars, when only a couple of hundred metres down the road participants had to join the end of a queue of Minors waiting to turn right onto Steinach’s main thoroughfare. Under normal circumstances this would probably not have happened, but for the roadworks which closed the town’s bypass, and meant that all traffic had to go through the town. So convoys developed and it became a game of ‘follow my leader’.

Despite a very professional looking A4 handbook, entitled Rallye Campingplatz Kinzigtal, containing route instructions, distances and maps, inevitably there were those, including whole ‘convoys’, who got lost, the lashing rain not helping one little bit.

Part way through the drive the organisers sprung a surprise – driving tests. We all had to manoeuvre into parking spaces and ‘garages’ and stop before hitting tyres set up on posts; the distance between bumper and tyre counting towards the final score.
Our convertible protested at being made to get her ‘boots’ wet and coughed and spluttered as we arrived to be tested. It was overheating again, just as it did on the journey to Germany, so we opted out of the tests and departed at speed to try and cool the radiator. The car kept misfiring, and fearful that if we stopped we wouldn’t be able to start the car again, we kept going.

Although we sped past the prearranged lunch stop we were told that most people stopped and had a pleasant meal.

£1885 was raised at the Grand Charity Auction which was held during the evening. There were about 30 lots, mainly items either made by, or for, participants and donated by them to raise money for the trip Charities, Mercy Ships, and for Leuka (who are raising money for a new Leukaemia drug trials unit at Hammersmith Hospital) Click on their names to see the thank-you letters.

Mike Dean, (who is always good value for money!) agreed to have his head shaved for charity, well, his wife Michelle suggested it, whether Mike knew about it in advance we don’t know, so it was decided that the deed would be done on Thursday. Nail-Banging followed. This form of entertainment has become a favourite since MOT2003, and although the rules have changed slightly it is still enjoyed by those with energy to expend and aggression to expel. A large log is set up and long nails are tapped into the end grain. Players are then allocated their own nail, and, taking it in turns they get one hit at their own, or someone else’s nail, the object being to be the last player to have their nail bashed completely into the wood.
Simple, until you add alcohol, then it becomes a very humorous pastime. The winners, gents and ladies, went forward to the final.

TRANSPORTS OF DELIGHT

Wednesday saw MOTers going off in different directions, some crossing the border to visit the French National Motor Museum at Mulhouse; Pam and Ash Holmes kindly led this expedition, whilst Sandy and Rosie Hamilton, anoraks close by, took a party off to visit a German historic steam railway. We had a appointment in the French wine region of Alsace to taste and buy, so we don’t have a first hand account of either sojourn, other than that everyone enjoyed themselves.

Evening entertainment was the Music Quiz, which raised £135 for the charities.
Nail-Banging followed.

Campsite owners Thomas and Constanze, and their hard working team, laid on a wonderful buffet for our annual Celebration Dinner; everything was delicious and so much of it!

Thomas, our host, having been very successul as a rally driver, and having received many ‘pots’ for his achievements, decided that it was time to make room for some new ones, so he had new plaques made, and everyone who completed the driving tests on Tuesday was awarded a trophy.
Presenting these awards took some time, but everyone was pleased, including Thomas’ wife Constanze, who, we think, was glad to get rid of all that dusting!

Martin announced the winner of his Lucky Square draw for a Morris Minor painting, which raised £132 for the charities. It was then time for Mike Dean to take centre stage to fulfil his (or his wife Michelle’s) pledge to have his head shaved for charity. We got him comfortable in a chair with a beer, and threw a table cloth round him. I offered to do the deed, much to Mike’s chagrin, and I told the assembly that we couldn’t just shave off his locks, but we would have to cut them short first. At this point Thomas, outside the dining area, and dressed in all the protective gear, started his petrol chainsaw, and to peels of laughter Mike shot out of the chair; I for one have never seen him move so fast. As the only way to get Mike back in the chair was to make sure that Thomas didn’t come any closer, scissors appeared, and me being clumsy with anything sharp I handed over to Michelle, but I did insist on lathering him up and taking the first swipe with the razor. As I have had a beard for some years, quite understandably, Mike was concerned about my lack of skill with another sharp implement, and insisted that Michelle do the job properly. The money raised by this event was £152, all of it going to the trip charities.

The customary raffle of items donated by participants and our trader friends raised £415 for the trip charities.

David Authers, stalwart of MOTs, was presented with a wooden Minor Convertible for his unrelenting assistance to those who found themselves in mechanical difficulties.
(This and other models were made for Andrew by a chap in South America, who probably had never seen a Morris Minor, and worked solely from some photos which I e-mailed to Andrew whilst he was there on holiday) MOT 2004 numberplates were given to those deserving of such, i.e. for doing something nice, interesting, or downright daft, and trophies, beautifully made by David Authers, were handed out for favoured cars.
More Nail-Banging – the finals.
Photos courtesy of Andy Battison

Friday saw the departure of some, perhaps to find pastures sunnier, but the majority used the day for last minute sightseeing or shopping, or just hung on for the evening.
Andrew was to celebrate his 60th birthday later in the year and felt that he would like to host a party for his MOT friends. He asked Thomas and Constanze to lay on Schnitzel and Kartoffelsalat, and very yummy it was too. We all had a piece of celebration Black Forest gateau too – the real delicious stuff!
Thomas kindly laid on entertainment in the form of a singer/guitarist, who set up with a stool, microphone, amplifier and a pair of speakers, which he had brought along in a massive lorry and trailer. He kept us amused with renditions of popular songs, and to our sheer delight, his versions of The Troggs ‘Vild Thing’ and Cat Stevens ‘It’s a Vild Vorld’. Well, you just couldn’t help but laugh. We sang, and danced the evening away.

MOTs are no exception to the rule that all good things must come to an end, but if one MOT didn’t finish, we wouldn’t be able to look forward to the next one, would we?

So it was with regret, but with plenty of happy memories, that Saturday saw the folding of tents and the packing of Minors, the bidding farewell to friends old and new, and the cries of ‘see you next year’ on the lips of those departing on the journey homeward.
Ian Portsmouth

 

2009-4

2011 St Castels Le Guido Review

Very short trip this year (one intrepid participant won one of the Number Plates for completing the shortest ever distance to an MOT, of just 19 miles on the road from his home to the site!). Having missed out on MOT last year after being carted off to hospital with peritonitis, I was glad of the opportunity to get back in the saddle. Completely uneventful trip – always a bonus – and arrived on site lunchtime Saturday. That evening was the usual Welcome Drinks, and as usual there was a game designed to introduce us to participants we’d never met before. Somewhere along that line I signed myself up to go on a trip the following day to a motor museum some seventy miles away.

Bright and early the following morning we got the car ready to go out for the day, and I discovered that I was meant to be leading one of three groups to the museum. That was fine but for one small detail – I didn’t have a clue where we were going! Fortunately we found the destination and set off with half a dozen Minors in tow and soon caught up with the previous trip, which gave me the opportunity to drop off my slowcoaches with them and get my foot down a bit. Our idea was to break off from this slower convoy and get to the museum before them so I could get some photos of them all arriving – this was a great plan, only let down by my SatNav telling me to turn sharp right off the motorway onto a smaller road, and discovering that the smaller road it wanted was on an overpass forty foot above me… Bloody Ukranian SatNavs.

It took us twenty minutes to persuade the damn thing to work right and we opened our tuned Minor up a bit on the B road to catch up time, only to come across the tail of the convoy we’d previously left behind – they’d made the correct turn and got in front. As it happened, the leader had thought of the same idea and got plenty of arrival photos anyway, which saved my blushes. The museum itself looked a bit on the small side as we went in, but each room full of cars led to another, and then another… there were over 400 cars in total (there’s a gallery of pics from the museum here) and we ended up being disappointed that it was time to go.

Back on the campsite, Matthew cleaned the car ready for a photoshoot with the local mayor, and I got an earbashing for taking it the wrong way round the one way system – I’d been trying to avoid the dusty tracks round the site because Matthew had thoughtfully blacked all the tyres! We sampled the delights of the on-site restaurant, which was a trifle expensive but good tuck, and joined in the evening party.

Monday we headed off into St Malo on our own, and found it such a pretty walled town that we took Keith and Chris Haigh and Malcolm and Dorothy Bainbridge back there the following day. Finding somewhere to park all three cars wasn’t easy, but nothing compared to trying to find a convenience stop for the others – I ended up taking one at a time into each restaurant and asking to borrow their facilities! Tuesday night on the site was supposedly Branch Night, but we invaded several other branches parties anyway, just to spread the love ;o)

During Le Drive we came across Dave and Dianne Charysz broken down – an opportunity for mickey-taking not to be missed. Eventually we relented and towed them back to the campsite for further diagnosis from Will Dickson while we caught up with the remainder of the group at the final destination. Great photoshoot opportunity, and a chance for some local scoff. At the Auction I beat off heated bidding from Sue Portsmouth for the handpainted milk churn which had originally been auctioned in 1998. As ever, we raised a comfortable four-figure sum for the charities amid the fun.

All too soon the end of the week came along and we all set off for our various home ferries amid shouts of ‘see you at the National’ and we wound our way back to Calais. Another year clocked up – roll on the next one!

Mike

 

2009-5

2012 Souillac Review

Dover

Queuing for the boat the car temp shot up, but fortunately I spotted it was nothing more than the temp sender falling loose from the rad. Tried to challenge the Porsche to race to Rouen but he wasn’t up for it!

Because this was along trip inside France (around 800km from Calais) we’d decided to get a ferry fairly early on Friday and not to have a fixed overnight stopping point in mind, just to go as far as I was happy to drive and then find somewhere to stop. We left England in the middle of a mini-heatwave and took the weather with us, and landed quayside in Calais just after 3pm French time, in temperatures up in the high 20’s – a sign of things to come!

We took the peage as far as Rouen at a reasonable cost of €7.20 purely because it saves so much time compared to the N roads, and then pressed on toward Evreux. Still feeling comfortable to drive some more, we pressed on to Dreux (around 8pm), and then finally Orleans before seeking a hotel for the night. This turned out to be a mistake, because all the hotels we found were already full, but we chanced upon Ro Lumsden and their party of reprobates safely ensconced in their overnight digs and they managed to get online and find us a room in Blois, which entailed a 50km detour. Mental note for next year – book in advance!

The following morning we decided to get our toe down a bit and auto-routed most of the way, using the free A20. Disappointing year for spotting Minors en route – we only spotted the pair of Ryder saloons on the whole 700 mile trip! The last 20km or so was peage again (just €2) and then followed the directions out of Souillac and up the steep hill to the site. Fabulous weather, beautiful campsite, if a bit spread out.and arriving just on noon – first job, check out the pool!

We had the usual Welcome Party evening and met up with a few pals, but after the long trip it was an uncharacteristically early night for us. Sunday morning was a culture shock from the previous day and started with drizzly rain, so we decided to pop out and explore the local area. Soon came across this pretty spot on the way to Sarlat and stopped for a few pics.

I knew a little about Sarlat from doing the write up (see other pages in this section) before we went, but nothing prepared you for how staggeringly pretty it was. As ever, I buggered things up and ended up in the pedestrian-only precinct. The locals took one look at the registration plate and muttered “stupid bloody English…”. Well it’s their own damn fault – they should put up road signs that make sense!

Decent weather returned by lunchtime so we enjoyed a leisurely route back, and Sunday night was a second go at Welcome Drinks for the lightweights who didn’t get to the campsite on Saturday before we get into the MOT week activities in earnest. Despite setting a record for the amount of cars lost en route (which I think still stands, apparently), our rally organisers Pam and Ash Holmes had me lead a trip out on the Monday morning to some troglodyte caves at St Christophe. There was some mirth about the resemblance of the caves original occupants with a few of the party I took there (c’mon, admit it, Malcolm Bainbridge is a dead ringer for one of those cave dwellers), but we all enjoyed a fascinating insight into life on the hillside thousands of years ago.

On our way back to the campsite we passed the afternoon tour going out, being led by Pam and Ash Holmes, and once back on the site it was time to check out the pool again. We’ve been spoiled over recent MOT’s with some great on-site swimming pools and quite a few members are braving the ridicule of their peers by taking a dip. I’m a big fan of that, because it keeps people’s attention off my own lame efforts! Bruce Kelsey from Lincs Branch (on his first MOT for more than a decade – welcome back!) along with his daughter Olivia and her friend Tamara, our son Matthew, Bradley Lumsden, and a half dozen others all splashed about and disturbed the tranquility.

Monday evening is Le Quiz, run by the remarkably organised Portwood family. As usual, it was meant to be teams of two people only, but this year Dave insisted on it, bringing panic to the usual groups of about ten. Poor Tamara drew the short straw and ended up paired with me, so we’ll probably not see her again next year! When the geography round came up I was pretty confident since Tamara had told me this was her favourite subject, and we scored an impressive 1 1/2 points out of 10… Next year the quiz is being organised by Bruce and myself, and we’re planning on it being the most fiendish ever – you have been warned!

Tuesday dawns, and time for the infamous Le Drive. Over the years many a decent sized town has completely ground to a halt as drivers pootle in from all directions, stand and scratch their heads for a bit, and then pootle out the same way they came in. The penchant in recent years to give out different sets of directions to different cars has made this confusion even worse and we suffered the now traditional chaos and raised voices before all (most?) finally found their way to Domme. It’s a stunning location, well worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity, perched on top of the hill overlooking the Dordogne valley. I practiced my Franglish ordering lunch in the restaurant, and amazingly we all got what I thought I’d ordered. French lessons paying off then!

Busy day today, so rush back to the campsite for the car photoshoot, then in the afternoon the site became Little Britain as we celebrated the Jubilee with our own Tea Party several hundred miles from England, and then swiftly on to Le Auction. This is our biggest contributor to the weeks charity fundraising, and in an attempt to protect my wallet this year, I did half of the auctioneering myself. Predictably it didn’t work, and I ended up paying to ‘win’ my own damned shirt back for about the sixth year running. I’ve plans for revenge next year, and over £1800 added to the pot from bidders – well done and much thanks to all concerned. Brian Samways – some may remember him as the record holder of ‘Most Breakdowns On One MOT’ – came to join us for a couple of days as his French house is only a few hours away, and promptly got me drunk. He assumes full responsibility for whatever I got up to, including but not limited to attempting to steal the site’s golf buggy for a joyride round the site.

On Wednesday there was an organised trip to the Boeing museum that I’d forgotten to book us in for (D’oh!) so we decided to visit Rocamadour, just 30km away. Bruce and his girls, plus Brian, all came along too. In an area of France where there is another breathtaking scene around just about every corner, Rocamadour stands out for its unbelievable views. It was so great that we stayed all day and had to postpone the visit to the grotto at Lecave on the way home that we’d planned. Lunch was a brilliant two-hour affair of galettes and crepes, before the long climb up the hill to where we’d left the cars. I volunteered to walk up with the girls and bring the car down for Michelle, and then got lost and ended up driving down the pedestrian precinct. Yes, I know I do that a lot.

Wednesday evening is ‘Branch Night’ so we set fire to some perfectly good meat and then went for a pizza instead before ending up at Roger and Pat Buck’s caravan for the evening. Allegedly some drinking went on, but I wouldn’t know anything about that because I went back to my chalet early. Apparently Malcolm became so drunk that the person taking him back to his chalet left him at the end of his drive and ran away, but I wouldn’t know anything about that because I went back to my chalet early. Pat broke out the guitar and everyone howled loudly until some Germans came past and remonstrated with us. Sorry, I mean “remonstrated with them“. Of course I wouldn’t know anything about that because… Hic…

Those of us still managing to get vertical on Thursday went to Martell for a steam train ride, and then Dave and Dianne Charysz, and Matthew and me, all practised the specialised art of canoe-sinking along the river, and survivors of that attended the presentation evening in the bar. Unfortunately most of this was a fog to me as apparently I hadn’t gone home early the previous evening after all so I was feeling the worse for wear. Pam managed to lose Ash and so we all ran round looking for him, until he was found enjoying a pint in the bar. We cremated some more meat as the heavens opened and my freshly-polished car got a good rinse. Matthew wasn’t impressed because he knew he’d have to do it all again in the morning, after which we headed off to Lacave for the stunning underground caves and petrified waterfalls – guess who didn’t foresee how cold it would be down there and went in shorts and T-shirt?

Friday evening was the usual dash round saying goodbye’s, ‘entertained’ by the mobile disco (me driving round the campsite at walking pace with the stereo up and Bruce’s girls dancing in the back!). Although many vehicles leave in pairs or groups to have some company on the long journey back north, we’d decided to go it alone this year – plus of course, who the hell want’s to travel with me?! After an uneventful journey back to Calais we had some time to kill before our booked boat, so had a last French meal of Moules et Frites on the front before crossing the Channel back to rainy old England. Soon after landing we had a phone call from Ro Lumsden, who’s wipers had packed up in driving rain on the M20. We got there half hour later and I had a quick fiddle under her bonnet (oooerrr missus) before deciding I couldn’t fix it, so time to call the RAC. We told them she was a woman by herself, late at night on the hard shoulder, unlit in torrential rain, but it still took them two hours to show up. Meanwhile we were all drenched to the skin because I wouldn’t let anyone sit in the cars as I thought it was too dangerous with nutters aquaplaning past us at 80mph +.

I did hear a rumour that another car suffered a head gasket failure on the northern bit of France, and earlier in the week we’d been told about someone with a broken windscreen replacing it himself on the ferry crossing. So at a rough average of 1900 miles per car (accounting for a leaving point of middle England, journey down to site and back, plus assorted mileage during the week), and over 70 cars in attendance, that’s about 135,000 miles total travelled. And in that distance, covered by cars between 40 and 60 years old, we had one head gasket, one wiper motor, and one windscreen failure. Who say’s Minors aren’t reliable?!

Next year is likely to be in the Normandy region, a much shorter journey. If you’ve been thinking about MOT but never got round to committing to it, stop bloody prevaricating and come. We have a great time, you can join in as much or as little as you want, and as evidenced in the last paragraph your Minor really is capable of doing it. What’s more, the organisers have me on a short leash for ‘newbies’ so even I won’t bother you too much! We’d love to see you, so get your car serviced and join us in 2013.

If you were with us and have any photos you’re happy to have online, please get in touch with me via the form on this site and I’ll get them up here too. See you all next year!
Mike

ledrive

2015 Largentiere Review

It was 1990 when we undertook our first MOT, a young couple in a very shabby traveller and a 3 man ridge tent. This year we attended our 25th MOT, as a family of 4 adults in the same traveller (2 restorations later) and a trailer tent. Many things have changed over the years but the important things, the fellowship, the adventure, the fun are all still the same. What follows is a sort of diary of our MOT this year.

On Tuesday 19th May, Dave & Pippa set off in car & trailer, picking up Sue Portsmouth at Calais. Two days of driving followed with little incident. On Thursday they arrived at the campsite, hindered only by the mountain on the way in & the Mistral.

Friday was spent shopping for beer, wine & other essentials, oh and food, in the case of Pippa & Sue. Dave went for the first of many bike rides, exploring the local area.On Saturday Jessy And I had an early start, flying from Southampton to Avignon, the only way that we could make MOT this year, both being tied to the school holidays. We arrived in bright sunshine to be met by nobody! Dave, Pippa and Sue arrived a few minutes later, having been delayed in traffic. We all piled into the cars and headed off for the campsite, stopping for lunch on the way.
Pippa had been texting me from the campsite extolling the views and all the ‘big birdies’. The identification of which would be one of my jobs on this MOT, as always. On arrival at the campsite it was obvious that she had not been exaggerating, the views were breath taking. The bird identification would wait until the next day. Sue and I then set about making a vat of veggy spaghetti bolognaise for all the rest of our group who had driven from the UK in 2 days and would be arriving tired and hungry that evening. They all arrived safely and were fed and watered (well beered and wined). We spent the evening catching up on the gossip and exchanging tales from the journey.
Sunday is traditionally our day to spend on the campsite; catching up with old friends, making new ones, repairing cars and generally chilling. Welcome event took place in the evening. Newbies and old stagers were all welcomed with a drink and a chat. Certificates for stupidity (long service?) were awarded to those of us mad enough. We were awarded our 25 years stupidity certificate.
Monday saw Le Drive, where we frighten the locals and generally get lost in the French countryside. Sue Portsmouth and Jessy won the drive quiz a few years ago and have considered themselves “The Dream Team” ever since. So Pippa and I were relegated to the back seat of the convertible for the drive. This was ideal for me as I could spend the whole journey watching the “big birdies” out of the open roof and not looking where we were going. We set off in convoy with our usual bunch of reprobates, Jackie and Chris Tremaine leading. We all stopped at a viewpoint and took copious photos. Due to parking chaos, we then took the lead for the journey to the lunch stop, Jessy navigating faultlessly as usual. She must have been trained properly. Dave, mad person that he is decided to ride the drive on his bike, was waiting for us at the lunch stop. We picnicked en-mass at the back of the car park and then ventured into the village for a wander about and retail therapy. Dave stayed in the café at the top of the village, not being one for shopping.

Monday evening was branch evening & our “we meet every year on MOT” branch celebrated Jessy’s 18th birthday, which had actually been a few days earlier. An MOT baby from the start, she was the reason we missed MOT 97. As has become traditional for Jessy, this was her third party. She had four parties for her 1st birthday, the last one being held on her actual birthday in France on MOT. This is one of the penalties/advantages of having your birthday clash with MOT. The campsite chef surpassed himself in making a superb chocolate cake for her. It was all eaten before the candles got cold!

Tuesday is market day in Largentiere. We were advised that there was very little parking in the village and, as there was a footpath there, we elected to walk the 3km there and back. The walk itself was stunning, the views over the valley were beautiful, as the footpath ran above the road in the woods. The footpath re-joining the road in the village. The market itself was a typical French market with local foods for sale and all life passing by. This afternoon a group photo of all cars was arranged. For reasons best to herself our traveller refused to start and so did not join in the photo this year.

By Wednesday morning the traveller got over her strop and took us uneventfully to the Caverne du Pont d’Arc. The MOT organisers had arranged guided tours around these replica caves. The actual caves had been discovered relatively recently and to prevent damage from us humans breathing and such, the replica had been built using laser scanned images. Once inside you very quickly forgot you were in a replica and we were amazed by the paintings on the walls.

The MOT charity auction started in 1990, when a participant on MOT sketched some flowers on the campsite and it was suggested that this one item was auctioned for the charity during the meal. From such a small beginning the auction has evolved into a major MOT event and one that raises hundreds ney thousands of pounds every year. This year’s event had its usual superb range of high quality and unique items. Jessy had done a tonal drawing of minors in a local scene for the second year in a row. Bidding was fast and furious on the item which finally went to Sue (I think she was prepared to fight off all comers for it!) Dave and I bid on several items and ended up winning a holiday in Austria and an MOT hoodie, which was rapidly commandeered by Pippa.

Thursday was a please yourself day, so Pippa, Jessy and I set out to find the Crocodile Zoo, near to Montelimar. It took a few attempts to find it, signs being optional it seems. However, once there, the place was amazing. I have never seen so many crocodiles & their relatives in one place. There was also an albino crocodile, a most strange looking animal. Whilst we were at the Zoo Dave went out on his bike again. He took the left out of campsite entrance and climbed the ‘Col de Meyrand’, the views were stunning. This was part of his training for a big charity bike ride in Wales he was taking part in in June. We returned to the campsite in plenty of time for the MOT meal and prize presentation. The meal was a three course sit down affair. The food and service were both excellent. Our group of friends have often sat all the children together at one end of the table, more sociable for all, & the questions historically being; who wants pudding, what do you want to drink etc. These children have all grown up together on MOT and are like a large group of siblings. This year the “MOT babies”, as they call themselves all sat at a separate table for the meal, the youngest in now 18 and the eldest 27! The only question posed to these ‘babies’ at the end of the meal was “and who is paying your bar bill?” How times change! We all moved together into the patio area of the restaurant for the prize presentation. Many beautiful cars were rewarded with prizes and many more, just as beautiful, didn’t.

On Friday morning some of the MOTers went canoeing on the Ardeche river. Most of them paired up, but some of the more confident went in singles. Pippa and Jessy both went, pairing up with Ro Beckett Park and Eleanor Marshall respectively. Jessy definitely had the better deal as Eleanor played canoe polo for her university. It was agreed that Sue, Dave and I would drive out and meet them as they passed under Pont d’Arc and take some photos. We headed out and found a beach just before Pont d’Arc and waited for the canoeists there. We could hear them coming, as there were rapids just before they came into view and the screams preceded them. They were all having a fabulous time but still managed to stop for a chat and a photo opportunity. They all slowly continued on and Sue, Dave and I headed back to the campsite.

That evening our group of friends headed up to the campsite restaurant for another of our traditions, the last night dinner. This has evolved so that we can decamp most of the tent on the day before departure including packing up the kitchens, cookers etc. This enables a quick getaway on the next morning. Again a lovely meal was had by all.

Saturday was time for Jessy & I to return home, again via Avignon airport. Work and exam commitments meaning we can’t stay any longer. That evening Sue, Pippa and Dave had a final amazing meal in the campsite restaurant completed by a breathtakingly constructed dessert, which looked a trifle like the Eiffel Tower.

Sunday was the start of their long journey home. It was noticed on Le Drive that Sue’s car was leaking water from the radiator. We thought this was due it being overfilled that morning as it had been a bit low. However, it became apparent that it was more serious than that. They were having to stop every 100 or so miles to top up the water, quite convenient for coffee breaks but more than a little stressful. They nursed her all the way home and it later transpired that there was a blockage in the radiator, in spite of said radiator only being a couple of years old. In spite of all the trials and tribulations with the cars we normally manage to get there and back still travellering hopefully. Roll on MOT16, wherever it may be going.