No, you can relax this not the start of another epic drivel fest as we’re not away in the ‘van again – although we have been in a ‘van – quite a few as it happens, thanks to a visit to the Caravan & Camping Show at the NEC.
To me, our weekend start around 7pm Friday night when I’ve finished work. The minibus is parked up and the keys handed back to security. Trev picks me up and we head off for grog and grub. So that’s where I’m going to start this blog – Friday night.
Predictably the miserable excuse for a road that is the A27 was partially blocked so after I’d dropped the last kid off, I had to return to Brighton along the coast road. Seemingly with half of Sussex. I’d managed to get stuck behind a driver – I use the term loosely – who was having some issues with clutch control. When they did manage to get going their driving was so erratic that, had I been a copper, I would have been reaching for the breathalyser.
By 7.15pm however we were on the road, wolfing down sarnies, as we pointed Rosie north – but only as far as Cambridge, the reason for which will become clear. Later.
The journey was trouble free and Rosie performed well and seemed to relish not having a tonne and a half of caravan on the back. We saw the usual thoughtless, careless, selfish and downright dangerous driving and kept well clear of the tail gaters which it had to be said consisted mostly of powerful German cars and big 4 x 4’s.
We’d picked a B & B close to the station and after checking in, uncharacteristically stayed put, despite the presence of a pub not 10 minutes walk away. We settled instead for a cuppa and the remnants of dinner – chocolate and crisps. Yes, the diet is going well…
With our jobs demanding early starts during the week it was no hardship – well not much – to be up and on the platform at Cambridge Railway Station soon after 6am. Nevertheless we were glad of the coffee and bacon baps suspecting – correctly as it turned out – that there wouldn't be a buffet trolley on the train.
Unusually for me, I’d not gone for the cheapest option when buying the tickets. We could have saved twenty five quid or so by travelling via and changing in, London although the journey would have been longer. As it happened a large portion of said journey would have been on a bus anyway thanks to weekend engineering work.
It was a pleasant enough journey, heading north first through Ely, March and on to Peterborough before veering off to the west, through Leicester and finally Birmingham’s shiny New Street station a little over two and a half hours later.
We needed to get another train to Birmingham International – the station that serves the NEC – and for some reason I hadn’t bought a through ticket. Whether is wasn’t offered on the booking site or not I can’t recall. Anyway, I’d made a list of trains that would call there and one was imminent so we headed straight for the platform where the train was ready and waiting.
We found the ticket inspector who was about to board and asked if we could buy tickets on board and he could not have been more helpful. Our original tickets were amended – both the out and return journeys – and all for just 50p. Result. It’s all to easy to moan, particularly when ‘Service with a Grimace’ seems so common, but this chap was great.
So within a few minutes we were at the NEC and although it only a little after opening it was already getting busy.
We had no intention of trying to cover the whole show so headed straight for the caravans in general and the Coachman area first to see what the latest incarnation of our Patsy looked like. It was good to see the latest models and what the other manufacturers were offering too, but there was nothing that really grabbed us – not that we were in the market for a new ‘van anyway. What our visit did though was change our minds about the sort of layout we’d like in the future. Our original preference had been for a rear island fixed bed with the washroom in the middle – a design we first saw in Coachman’s 545 model. However having had a good look our favourite layout now would be an end washroom followed by two single beds, then the kitchen and lounge. To us it would be a more flexible layout. It was nice too to be recognised as ‘the legs down guys’. Sorry, I should have asked your name, but thanks for saying hi. It means a lot
There was a couple of other things we checked out too. A towing cover is something we’re seriously considering so we had a look at the offerings from Specialised Covers and Protec. The other was a WiFi aerial and amplifier arrangement and a couple of examples on show gave us food for thought too.
It was time to head to the pub. Well it wasn’t quite but we went anyway, passing the Caravan Club – sorry, Caravan & Motorhome Club on the way. The name change had certainly stirred some interest as the area was packed, although it could also have been that there were plenty of seats and people were simple taking the weight off!
Twitter Beer O’clock – our rather loose excuse for a pint or two – was well attended by both new, old and even older friends and the time flew by. Burgers and chips were consumed and instantly forgotten as the conversation flowed. Some drifted off back to the halls, but we had an appointment with the 1622 from New Street, so made our way back to the train. It had been an enjoyable day, and ultimately as it turned out, a potentially very productive afternoon too.
Regulars will be pleased to know that Saturday did end properly. In a pub.
Sunday brought with it the reason we stopped in Cambridge. A visit to see Trev’s 91 year old Mum, whose jaw continues to baffle medical scientists, it being the only part of the body not riddled with arthritis. Must be all the exercise it gets….
With sundry chores completed and lunch cooked it was time for us to head back south, a journey which was unremarkable – at least until we’d descended Handcross Hill on the A23 and the road had levelled out.
I was in the middle lane, in the midst of overtaking someone, when a large Mercedes 4 x 4 came steaming past on the outside. The noise from the quartet of drainpipe sized tail pipes suggested he was intent on going even faster too. Up ahead, was a little Kia, busy overtaking someone. The Merc. driver decided to tailgate the Kia in the hope of getting him to move out the way presumably. What exactly happened next was unclear but a short while later, the Kia was a mangled mess, facing the wrong way alongside the crash barriers. The Merc. eventually came to a halt on the nearside, his front off side wing a mess and tyre almost completely detached from the rim.
We stopped too, called the police, ascertained that no-one was injured and went on our way. It’s a testament to the safety features of modern cars that it’s only egos – and probably wallets - that were bruised but could easily have been so much worse. We spent the rest of the journey home speculating what exactly happened, as, sadly our dash-cam wasn’t running!
So that was our weekend away. Hope you enjoyed it and apologies for the earlier lie about a load of drivel!
Until the next time…