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Sunday, April 29, 2007

From beneath the strangest rock

Jenny's father drove up from Cornwall last weekend. Came a-visiting and broke his ankle. Not quite what he planned!

Still, cast in place, he's mobile on his crutches. Jenny invited me along to take him back home. Set off in the early dawn and despite the death of TWO spark plugs, she limped his car the long way home. Chatting along the way, I watched as he began to realise quite who his daughter had brought along. No credit card, (I prefer cash for the hurt!), rarely leave East Anglia, double bass playing, old car driving, vegetarian baker of pies. From beneath the strangest rock comes I.

Lovely, lovely day. Met the family, wandered the wiggly ways of Looe town, painted pretty with Jenny's reminiscing. Hugs goodbye, and off to Bodmin Moor with her sister (who was visibly surprised that I didn't resemble a rag n' bone man) for a moment. Or two. No more than that though, before we had to drive again, to Newquay airport.

Yes, I'd never flown. Always found it funny when people told me there's nothing to be scared of. Never crossed their mind that maybe, just maybe, I actually had no reason to ever fly before?

And now I have.

Sunny Sunday today - woke early, but eased s-l-o-w-l-y into the day. My turn to drive, Jenny and all our kids squeezed into the old Fordor A and did what I've been planning for months. Driving aimlessly around, no rush to nowhere. Tea rooms mid-morning, a wartime museum visit, stocking up on chutneys and fine foods at a farm shop, before a lazy drive to a late lunch at the Greyhound. Home and rest.

I'd like to say I've recorded the whole beautiful weekend in pictures. Guess I was just too relaxed to take my camera...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nice bloke. Bit shy.

Past the occasionally painted nails. Behind the prescription sunglasses worn too late into the night. Beneath the pork pie trilby and stripped of the faded charity shop Hawaiian shirt. The pale, pale form of me.

Terminally shy - always have been. Forever the quirky aquaintance of someone you meet. "And who's your friend?" Slightly strange Phil. I'm now old enough to have hairs in my ears. That doesn't help...

But it's OK.

What's wonderful is the true feeling in my abilities that I get from friends. Some days, there's nothing I can't achieve. It's so much better than having my own self-confidence. It's far more real.

Oh I'm fine by myself. Really. But friends - near and far. Old and new. They give me more than they really know.

Thinking back, it doesn't take much. Hug, kiss, and off to work- a happy family man. Secure in the knowledge that whatever the day may bring, would fade away upon my return. Too late to ask if that warm feeling meant the same to Kate, but I honestly know it did.

Y'see? That sureness of feeling? You're all just a little bit lovely...

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Wild Wheel of Fun.

From Garrett Garrett's The Wild Wheel:

"With his great friend Thomas A. Edison, the self-made wizard, Ford shared a naïve faith in what they called the value of ignorance. Ignorance was not the right word. Innocence would have been better. What they meant was that in order to act upon a thing in an original manner you have to see it as it is, see it directly, with no labels on it to tell you what it is and no preconceived impressions about it. Thus, as Ford would say, the less you know about a thing beforehand, or think you know, the better."

Been a musical week. Went to Norwich to see Hayseed Dixie. Again! And Robert came too to his first ever gig. Well at least the first that didn't stop halfway through for a raffle...

Had a leap about until I collapsed on the floor, breathless, hot, and sweaty. One bounce short of throwing up. Man, that was good fun.

Last night, we were back at Tibenham Greyhound for a music session. Sitting there wondering whether anyone would come. Couple came in, fiddle and mandocello. Then a couple more, guitar and autoharp. And yet more. Packed the small bar out. Julian arrived, and we squeezed some Skiffle out of him before he could sit down.

Oh, but for him, he wanted to hear an old song. An old song from Them Harvey Boys repertoire. Well, I've only written the one song ever, and I'd like to give you the lyrics now - but I can't. They were on a sticky note on my old Powermac 7100/66, long since wiped clean and pensioned off to a Linux user during the Last Great Brooks Cottage Cleanup of 2004.

I'm so glad I don't sing. With first line remembered, the "One Night Only" (again) Boys set off with a fair recollection version - a few missing words and lines along the way. Good fun though.

Yes. Fun. I was beginning to wonder where it had all gone. Seems it was just there all the time, waiting for me to rediscover it. Lovely.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Happiness and the journey to get there

It can sometimes seem a long way to happiness. But the hardest part of the journey is that first little step. And then having the confidence to take the right direction along the way - not always the easiest route.

I guess the trick is knowing when you've arrived. And staying there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Tale of Ten Counties

Or thereabouts. How to turn a one day event into an epic adventure.

'Twas a darkening evening as we loaded the Odeon Shag Sedan for the journey to Wheels Day on Good Friday. The Alice part of my family had gone to Whitby with a friend for the week. A very wise decision on her part for a nine year old - with Jenny, Char and Ryan added to Robert, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, tools, oil, water, air mattresses, coats, bags, cameras... room for just one more wafer thin girl, there was none!

A last minute decision, phone calls made, tank filled, and we set off sans tail-light into the darkness to stay at "Hotel Grantham" - good friend Adrian offered us shelter for the night, a good fifty miles into the journey. Accompanied by my old friend Mark, often a wise head on my foolhardy journeys of the past. In his 1930 Riley 2-port Model A engined Standard Nine Avon Bodied Special. Here to there, before you can say it...

Bulb fitted to the single rear lamp, no sign of a brakelight, we wove our way south through Norfolk, Suffolk and into Essex, along winding single carriage A roads. A1066, A143, A134, A131. Hills increasing as we leave the Flatlands. Confidence growing as the miles rolled past. This old lady hasn't turned a wheel for years, has never reached speeds limited by the 36 watt headlights before...

We decamp the kids, short banter, short sleep. Early 5.30 rise and repack the car. Twin Four Bangers in a back street in Halstead helping others join the morning they'd thought of sleeping through.

Heading south on the dual carriageways of Essex, and onto the A120, the old Sedan begins to falter. Years idle with an empty tank, this rude awakening has shifted brown silt and insect carcasses into the fuel line. It's happened before in the past few days, but a change of filter and blowing the line clear gets us sputtering and rolling along. Turn back or continue? We've come this far, so we press on for fuel near the M11. An hour to cover 20 miles. Not looking good, but I have a good feeling that keeping the tank full will help.

Planning to keep off the mind numbing motorways, Jenny hand picks a route on the fly from a tatty old road atlas, following the A120 west, south on the A10, and onto the A414. Skirting round the M25 Magic Roundabout. Stopping for fuel in Hemel Hempstead as the guage bobs down to the 1/2 - my limit for keeping the fuel flowing, and Mark's limit for the 60 mile range enforced by squeezing a powerful 3.3 litres into a car designed around an aneamic 1100cc. Us, kids, and cars, oiled and watered, we leave Hertfordshire, and travel through the southern extremities of Buckinghamshire, alternating between little villages and larger towns along the A416 and A355. Model A beating happily in the sluggish bank holiday traffic.

"How much longers?" change from "an hour or two", through "an hour or so" to "about an hour"; Jenny placating our sleepy sunrise travellers as we begin to cross the motorways converging on London. Across the M4 at Slough, we make our way through Eton and Windsor, In Windsor Great Park, I fail to see the green parrots nesting in the fallen trees. My feet are now more than happy dealing with the centre throttle and right hand brake pedal nestled amongst the luggage, but at well over a ton, with rod brakes and heavy, non-centering steering, I keep a sweaty focus on the road ahead.
A stop for fuel near the M3, a moment to stretch, adjust the points - our first real maintenance stop - swap to "nearly there" as we join the A325, down into Hampshire through Farnborough and into Aldershot. The sunny weather has brought loads along to play for the day - all this way and the last mile takes an hour.
My passengers set off walking to take in the sights of the other vehicles, and I pick them up at the entrance gates. We roll in, all smiles, as we receive a standing ovation from the rest of our Sidewinders. And park.

Spent the day, wandering around, catching up with winter lost friends, checking out some of the other 2000 or so cars before heading off to Namco for a late afternoon party. More banter. Creme Eggs, Flying Saucers and Coca Cola. A glass of red from Tony's bar.

From here, we join an evening convoy into Surrey to camp in a clearing in a friends' wood. Bonfire. Barbeque. I sink a beer, a wine, and a Malibu and midnight myself into a frozen bed, leaving Jenny to party herself into a well deserved stupor. Well done her - she's brought me to this point as well as this old Sedan.

Daybreak, drifting later, decamped and packed - and another convoy back toward Guilford for a late breakfast, hearty lunch and plan the journey home.
Fond farewells, hugs and kisses worthy of our long, long journey, we set off along the A25, through antique towns and hazy villages, Westcott, Dorking, Reigate, Godstone until eventually it comes time to join a motorway for the first time. Confidence in our chariot has been built. Picking up the M25 in Kent, near Sevenoaks, we head north and we're soon at the toll booths, through the Dartford Tunnel, and around to the A12. With all asleep bar the driver, I chose to roll along with the traffic - never too fast on the road through Essex. And apart from a single stop for fuel, and slowing to allow the oil breathing into the car to subside, we dual carriageway back to our familiar country lanes, through Suffolk, into Norfolk. Across the Waveney valley and home.

Colour me odd, but I snuck out in the night - just to give the Odeon Shag Sedan a little thankyou kiss.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Getting what you want

A friend asked me my plans for Friday night.
Well, what I wanted was to do a little work on the A sedan, have chips for tea and, cuddle up on the sofa in front of the fire.

Which is exactly what happened. The banana liquor was just a bonus. Mission accomplished.