I drove my Mk 3 Robin Blue Boy over to the national from my home in Solihull and watched the arrivals. It was a bit slow at first but then a steady trickle of cars arriving. A few people from Chard Branch ROC seemed to have arrived very early.
Wilfred from the Netherlands got there before me with his Regal 3/30 and we had a few long chats. He showed me his neat little Olympus “bridge” camera and we discussed the merits of Linux versus Windows as computer operating systems. Adam Turpin and his Dad arrived in their Kitten and Regal and claimed the corner. It was more isolated and smaller, as the area near it had been levelled and seeded. Dan Rodd arrived from Worcester way in his latest Rialto and joined Adam and Co.
The final arrivals before I decided to drive back home for dinners were John White, with Steve White and Janet white in Convoy. John was towing their new trailer and Steve White towing Herbieon a dolly as Steve and John were guying the trailer tent, I was shown around the spacious interior by Janet. I’m not surprised they have had 20 odd people in there playing cards.
The weather was not too bad, a bit breezy but quite sunny at times and the forecast was also not too bad, with a possibility of the odd shower over the weekend and sunny periods.
The second day (first full day) at the National was a lot livelier, with the field full of cars and tents, including CHG Performances marquee. I was once again royally entertained in the big tent with Steve, Janet, and John and various people dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat, and occasionally to look at the ROC goods in the shop that they had set up at one side. I bought a new ROC baseball cap and a stick on window shade.
Most had gotten there before me; I had taken up time getting a paper and filling the petrol tank with very expensive premium unleaded but at least Blue Boy ran like a little turbine, as usual. I met Ray from London first, talking to some members I knew locally and seeming in fine fettle, before he headed up to Steve and Janet’s corner for a mug of tea. Having got out of the car to say hello, I realised I needed to pay an urgent visit to the loo, so drove over there first.
Simon made it there in his black kitten and Kev Hallet from Grimsby made quite an entrance in Mr Eddy, Resplendent in his orange paint job after being rebuilt: very smart. Mr Eddy had been involved in a nasty crash and rolled. Tony Batty and his charming mother were there in his smart red robin MK 3, with Tony doing some running repairs on his passenger door side mirror. Steve got Herbie running smoothly with the help of the usual suspects and Herbie spent some time puttering about the site with different drivers before Steve and Janet took a drive to Morrison’s.
There was much running of engines and people pottering about the site while I was drinking tea and not keeping much of an eye on goings on but much fun seemed to be being had. I found out that CHG performance’s James’s Dad , John, spends much of his spare time flying light aircraft and that led to an discussion of landmarks and then the important features of forts and castles. You learn about more than just cars at Reliant gatherings!
The run out was to Stratford (about 20 miles each way) though some thought it was started too late in the day (2pm) top see all that Stratford had to offer.
Mark and Sue cropper of Birmingham Branch arrived with the newly acquired Rebel, in which Dave Poole of Coventry was also ferried over. They would make the trip again with more cars for Sunday.
It was great to see old faces and new and trying to put names and internet handles to faces once again. Absent friends were sadly missed. Thankfully the weather again was sunny at times though pretty breezy.
Well I managed to get out of bed in good time on Sunday and drove the usual route down the M42/M5 to junction 5. After an easy drive I arrived in Stoke Prior almost before I knew it, with blue boy seeming to find his own way. The site was packed around the edges of our corner, with tents, caravans, motor homes and of course, Reliants in numbers.
It was not long before the line up of Reliants in front of the club house was due to start but Steve White was still slaving over hot burners, frying bacon, mushrooms, and eggs to go with baked beans, sausages and bread -and –marg that were waiting on the table for breakfasters to load their plates. The lobby area was packed and John Holland was at one corner of the table, applying Flora to sliced bread and being constantly reminded not to put it on like the slices were round (i.e. in a circle), or that he should “spread it like you don’t own it”!
The tops of the door panels were zipped open, so I could see how packed it was inside and decided not to add to the congestion, standing with my head poking through the gap. Not a pretty site to go with your breakfast but there you are, the food smelt delicious though I had had a good breakfast before I left home. The banter was cracking around the table and I just stood there at the gap for a while, enjoying it.
After a while I noticed that the line-up was getting way, so I told Steve I would move down there and walked back to blue boy. There was a blue Kitten coming passed, with a camper towing a large green abject on a sizeable trailer, so I stopped and had a look as Geoff Payne, Pete Gnossil, Kirsty Gee and others were shown the device. It was going to be put in the line-up and was eventually driven down by Geoff under the power of its Reliant engine. As I was already in the Line-up by this time, I got my camera out again and took a photo as Geoff tried very hard to run me down with this device. I did get some photos and survived to tell the tale, so I posted some of them on the R3W site later. The device was an Allett Reliant-powered lawn mower.
There were many familiar faces and Reliants around the line-up and the PA system was set up outside the club house so that officials could address the gathered masses, the National finally being declared open to cheers and the sound of wind blowing against the covers. With the line-up completed and announcements made, the judges began to circulate to judge the Reliants. Some of the cars were immaculately turned out and gleamed in the light that the cloudy sky permitted to shine on them. Children were having a great time racing about and games were being played, with the horse-shoe tossing apparently getting very competitive.
I got tired of walking around and went back to blue boy to have a sit down, eventually dozing off in the driver’s seat. It was then that the sun relented and put in an appearance, so I missed most of its visit. When I finally came round again, my throat was dry so as it passed 1 o’clock, I decided to have a late lunch and use the food that I had bought with me. Two guys from the car next to me in the line-up pulled my leg about the kitchen towel I had tucked into my collar as a napkin. Eventually I went for another walk around and later returned to Blue Boy with my purchases from the CHG performance shop. Tony Batty took pity on me, thinking I was on my own and invited me to join him and his mother at their table outside the clubhouse.
Sometime later I took my leave of Tony and his mum and joined Janet and John White at their stall that had been set up in a strategic position (canny these northerners) just alongside the door to the bar. The Judging finished, the line-up was beginning to disperse, so I didn’t take much notice of Elvis taking down his display next to Lucie. A little while after, the sad news about Geoff and Elvis’s father broke.
We sat and watched the finals of the horseshoe tossing competition, which went on for some time, with some painfully near misses at times. It was getting colder now and I found I was beginning to shiver, even though I had put my jacket back on. I decided to leave as the announcements about the trophies were starting to be made. I made my goodbyes to friends and started Blue Boy up, just in time to hear Tony Batty’s Robin Mk 3 had won a cup, which pleased me.
The trip back home was quite fast and uneventful, though traffic was heavier as I expected. I got back to Solihull in time to have some hot soup and watch the highlights of the Monaco F1 GP, though I must admit I nearly dozed off several times, even though it was quite exciting.
BY TERRY O’KEEFE