Firstly my apologies for the delay in posting this ‘end of run’ blog. After nine months away from home there are so many things that demand attention that I quite forgot that, according to this page, I was still in deepest France.
I spent three very pleasent days in Blaymont with my cousin and her husband and did absolutely nothing to the car other than a cursory check of the oil and water levels. The steering still felt secure so I assumed the kingpin was holding up.
There are several different routes from Blaymont back to the UK and I surveyed the different ferries available before deciding that I would drive all the way up to Calais and use either EuroTunnel or a ferry. Bridget and I set off for Le Mans using minor roads rather than the main highways. The weather was dry and for the most part sunny, but I didn’t drop the hood. Bridget was rather laden down with too many 10 litre boxes of French wine so that there wasn’t enough space to store the hood (worth the inconvenience though).
Bridget was running really smoothly as she had done for the whole of this 12,000 mile run. We reached Le Mans mid afternoon and found a hotel easily. The following morning we got out of town early to miss the morning rush and filled up with fuel at a small garage some miles north of Le Mans. It soon became apparent that the fuel must of had rubbish in it because Bridget started to hesitate on acceleration and splutter at around 50 miles per hour. Once we pushed on to 60 mph she would settle down, but the problem persisted almost all the way back to Chinnor in Oxfordshire.
Other than the fuel issue the run from Le Mans to Calais was extremely pleasent, covering some 300 miles through Alencon, around Rouen and through Abbeville. We arrived in Calais around 13:00 hours and drove to EuroTunnel. However, as I hadn’t pre-booked a ticket they wanted 180 Euros for the fare, an amount they are still waiting for! Bridget and I made our way to the ferry terminal instead, where upon we purchased a ticket for a mere 80 euros and had only to wait forty minutes for a boat.
The run from Dover back to Chinnor appeared to pass extrodinarily quickly arriving at around 16:30. Even Bridget seemed to sense that she was back home, running at an easy 70 mph for the last 40 miles of motorway.
For us it has been an interesting run although not so adventurous as our previous ones. The Winter Palace in St Petersburg was the highlight of the sightseeing bits and of course we made some new MG friends along the way, such as Ola Thygesen in Norway, Jan and Aafke Sol in The Netherlands and not fogetting the folk at the Riga Motor Museum.
Now we are back in the UK I am going to fit uprated disks on Bridget’s front wheels and telescopic suspension. A thorough check from the flywheel back to the differential is also planned. Once these are completed I will think about what to do next, but there are no plans for future long haul runs for Bridget. I think she has delivered a fantastic experience, far above the expectation that the designers at MG would have considered likely when they first conceived the 1500 Midget.
Thanks to all of you that have supported her by following this blog and I will post updates from time to time on what she is up to. She will attend various MG Car Club events and if you should happen to see her anywhere around the UK please stop and say hello.
The run home has not started particularly well. Transmediterranea Acciona, the ferry company operating the original ferry service between Cadiz and the Canary Islands, is an un-principled operator with no concern for its customers. In full knowledge of the detrimental effect that sea water has on the bodywork of automobiles they insist on placing their customers cars on the open deck of their ferries. Bridget has a glazed coating of crystallised salt thanks to Transmediterranea. To anyone thinking of taking a ferry to the Canaries I would strongly recommend the alternative company that operates.
We arrived in Cadiz and disembarked at 12:30 on Monday. From there we drove the eighty miles to Seville, my first overnight of the run. Bridget and I visited Seville on our first ever run together in 2006 and I was scathing in my summing up of the city. Although I only had a few hours to explore I have to say my previous comments were both unfair and inaccurate. Seville has some beautiful buildings and parks. A considerable amount of work has been carried out by the authorities which has resulted in a cleaner city.
From Seville we put in our first serious day of driving 300 miles up to Salamanca (I thought he was one of James Bond’s adversaries! ). Bridget is running really well despite her failing nearside king-pin. We cruised between fifty-five to sixty-five mph for almost the whole way. I did give her a long thorough wash before we left in an attempt to remove all the salt however, I am not convinced it is enough and I will need to wait until we arrive back to the UK to use something more powerful.
I found a hotel in the centre of Salamanca and went off to explore. It is a university city from the same era as Bologna and Oxford. Established in 1134 it was given the title University in 1254. Then in 1854 following the dissolution of all Theology and Canon Law universities by the Spanish Government, Pope Pius XII established a private facility now known as the Pontifical University of Salamanca. The buildings of both the Pontifical University and the University of Salamanca make an interesting architectural study.
Unusually there are two cathedrals in Salamanca. The old cathedral was founded in the 12th century and completed in the 14th century. The new cathedral was built in the 16th to 18th century. Together with the university buildings they make for a very interesting city. Also worth a mention is the Plaza Mayor which reminded me very much of the square of the same name in Madrid. It makes for a great place to sit with a beer and people watch. I was tempted, just for a few moments, to stay for an extra day and explore more.
Leaving Salamanca early Wednesday morning Bridget was in good spirits. She cruised the 300 miles to San Sebastian like a 2 year old. Still raising a smile and a wave from many other road users we arrived in San Sebastian for the second time in six months. I have made it clear in previous reports that I like this town. It has everything that Barcelona has, but all on a smaller more intimate scale.
From San Sebastian to my cousin’s place in Lot and Garonne is a mere 150 miles, so tomorrow should be a relaxing short drive.
Having received an e-mail from my ‘conscience’ in Abingdon pointing out that it has been four weeks since my last report I thought I had better make the effort. My apologies to those regular readers that may have wondered what had happened.
This will be our final post from the Canary Islands before starting the run back home.
In fact I have been enjoying a very entertaining time. First, my very good neighbour came visiting for a week bringing all the local news for the past eight months. We spent six of the seven days she was here walking in the mountains and were fortunate with mainly warm and cloudless weather, important if you are to be able to appreciate the breath-taking views.
The next week I got back into some serious training in the gym and obviously overdid the whole thing because I pulled a muscle in my groin and had to rest it for most of the following two weeks. It now appears to have healed and I am back onto an almost full training schedule.
This past weekend will be remembered for an incident on Saturday evening that started whilst I was preparing dinner. There sounded to be raised voices outside and I looked up from my preparations to see through the patio doors a man outside the front gate waving what appeared to be a long bladed kitchen knife. Initially thinking it was some sort of bad joke I moved over to the door where I could see one of my neighbours standing and waving an equally long bladed knife.
Realising this was a serious conflict of opinion and without thinking I pulled open the door and ran outside shouting “Oi, oi, oi. I’m not having this”. Why do Englishmen come out with such daft statements in these situations? I turned to my neighbour and screamed at him “Alec, get in the house and get rid of the knife” He was clearly inebriated, an all too common a situation, and it took a moment for him to react, but then he went into his bungalow.
I turned to the other man, who I now recognised as a member of a particular “problem” family that had been brought to my attention before. A major part of the family’s problem is that, the males at least, spend most of their weekends out of their heads on a variety of drugs. They speak and understand even less English than I do Spanish. The only thing I know they understand is the phrase “No problem” which they take to mean “I/We want no trouble”. I repeated this several times trying to keep my voice at a normal pitch so he would not consider me to be aggressive. I then pointed to the knife which he was still waving and said “Prohibido” which I understand to mean “Not allowed”. After what seemed ages he stepped over to a low wall where a sweatshirt was laying and picked this up and wrapped the knife in it. After shouting some final abuse at Alec, who was now sitting with his partner at a table on their patio, he stormed off in the direction of his residence.
For the rest of the evening I jumped at the least noise outside, but everything remained calm. The following day a couple of ‘locals’ did a diplomacy shuttle to smooth things over and ensure that the event did not re-ignite. Quite what had started it is still not clear to me.
I have received a new king pin assembly for Bridget’s left side front wheel however the garage I was going to use to fit it has closed! So I have decided we will attempt the run home with things the way they are and hope the wheel doesn’t come off. With that in mind, we leave here on 15th March on the ferry to Cadiz which should deposit us there on the 17th March. I expect to arrive back in the UK around the 24/25th March after a steady run up through Spain and France. I just hope someone fixes the weather in time.
I am managing to stay sane, or at least I am no less sane than I was before I arrived here in Gran Canaria. I keep reminding myself that laying in the sun, warm and bored is infinitely better than being at home, wet, cold and bored! However, as usual when I have a date for doing anything, the fact that I know I am starting the return journey to the UK in seven weeks’ time I just want to get on with it. There are few things guaranteed to frustrate me more than waiting.
The time has given me the chance to start investigating some possible new projects. Having decided to hold on to Bridget for the foreseeable future (2 or 3 days) I think I may treat her to some upgrades. Front runners are; a five speed gear box, all round telescopic suspension and all round disc brakes. This will be in addition to new stub axles (one is certainly on the way out and may not make it back to the UK) and uprated front springs.
I have been spending an unhealthy amount of time in the local gym since I arrived here. For the past four weeks the in-vision TV there has been covering the Dakar rally!! The more I watch it the more convinced I am that I could do that in an MGB. Flare the wheel arches, fit some decent tyres and ‘Bob’s your uncle’. We might need to lift her off the ground a little, but nothing a decent mechanic couldn’t do. And above all else, it looks damned good fun. Spectating, I couldn’t’ help but notice that most entrants go ‘hell for leather’ and then spend a couple of hours repairing some part or other that has broken. I am thinking along the ‘hare and tortoise’ principle; take a little care on the bends and blind hills and keep the car moving at a reasonable speed, etc. etc. etc.
Could be ready for 2016 following a few months practise in Australia. Potential sponsors wishing to apply should e-mail me direct or contact me through the MG Car Club, Abingdon. Perhaps we should consider the East African rally as a test run prior to Argentina (I still have issues with calling a rally the Dakar when it doesn’t get within 3,000 miles of the place).
Yes, yes, I know I said I would hang up my driving gloves, but his won’t take long and it will be the last one……..
It occurred to me that I haven’t said much about my stay here in Gran Canaria and speaking to one or two people at the Car Club it is clear that totally the wrong impressions are doing the rounds. So to put the record straight the following, in the style of the late Tony Hancock, is a typical evening:
Scene: Sitting room of my duplex in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria. Me, pacing the room wearing checked, knee length, shorts and a Trinidad short-sleeved shirt with a picture of a Hawaiian Sunset.
“Grief, another day of rain. May as well be back in the UK where at least I had an umbrella.” “Wonder if I can get a refund from Primark for this shirt. I’ve hardly worn it. Indoor wear only!”
Long pause follows, then a big sigh. “Typical; Gran Canarias’ most important annual classic car show and they choose the one day when a cyclone strikes. Stuck here with the roof down and a soft-top that refuses to stretch enough to close the fastening clasps.” “Had the concours in the bag, too. Those new 80 spoke wire wheels I’ve fitted would have sent everything else into oblivion. Especially that smarmy little weasel from Las Palmas with the 1965 Sebring. Ha, he wouldn’t know what hit him.” “I’ll bet he is behind this unprecedented precipitation”
“Why don’t they just call it rain? Precipitation! Just hedging their bets, so if it doesn’t rain and someone says “you said it would rain” they can say “Oh no we didn’t. We said there would be precipitation” Have to remember that one; on a triple letter, double word that could be worth a few Scrabble points.
Second big sigh: “Wonder if they would accept a photograph? After all it’s their fault holding the competition in the middle of winter…..what do they expect?” Pause. “You know I wouldn’t be surprised if this was deliberate. That chap in the office didn’t look at all happy accepting an entry from an outsider. Yes; come to think of it I’m sure he said something about Gibraltar. Difficult to pinpoint with him not speaking any English.” “I thought that under EU legislation everyone had to speak English, otherwise what’s the point?” “Perhaps I should e-mail Alan and get him to raise it with the National Font. What they say may be rubbish but it looks very nice on paper!”
“What’s the time…..18:20! I knew I shouldn’t have eaten dinner so early, but I was bored.”
Pause….”How many floor tiles are there along the edge of the wall, 1 2 3 4 …..18. Hmm and across the room, 1 2 3 ….10 So that’s 180? I’m sure there was 190 last night let’s just check again. No, why bother. What’s the time? Is that clock working?”
“No point turning the tele on, it’s all Spanish programmes. Even the English series they have are dubbed over so you can’t understand them.” “Let’s try the ‘Teach Yourself Spanish in 30 Minutes’ again.”
“Now, pronunciation. ‘Quisiera una escobilla para limpiar la pipa’.” “Hey that wasn’t half bad, I’m beginning to get the hang of this. Now let’s see what does that mean; I want a pipe cleaner. !!!! What good is that, I don’t even smoke a pipe.”
“What’s the time?” “18:43 ohhh”
“Almost dark outside now, and its stopped raining. The reflection of the moon is bright tonight I can see miles across the Atlantic.” “Now there’s a point, hundreds of square miles of ocean and not one Spanish trawler in sight. Where are they all? They complain about not being able to fish in places that don’t belong to them and there’s all this water, full of fish and they can’t even be bothered.” “Typical”
“Oh, let’s open the last of the Christmas cards. That’s a joke, there was only one other and that was from the bank. Sarcastic bankers!” “Oh and I mustn’t forget the Car Club electronic card with MGBenji”
“Well, at least this is a large card….I’m sure the wisemen didn’t wear motorbike leathers but that’s modern life”….”Ah” ‘To Royston’ “I like that, no shortened familiarity, shows good taste” ‘Wishing you all the Seasons Felicitations – Felice Fiestas. With the greatest of respect, Roy’!!! “Well someone had to send one. Couldn’t leave it to chance.”
“Let’s take a look at the paper. Nothing like three day old news. In this modern day of high speed flight is it too much to expect the National newspapers to be delivered on the day they are published” “Let’s see”
“Huh. That’s just what I need. Australia has stolen the Ashes back in just three tests! Time was that the competition had to be finished before anyone was declared the winner!” “Typical antipodean sportsmanship. I would disqualify the team from the competition and hand the Ashes back to England”
“Ohh, I’ve had enough of this. What’s the time, 19:32. Close enough, I’ll just have my Horlicks and an early night……..again.”
Whilst sitting here mussing in my ‘duplex’ in Gran Canaria, I am reflecting on, why here? Come to that everything is reflecting thanks to the INCESSANT RAIN!
Ah yes, I came here to escape the English winter. I am reliably informed that during the first two days of last week we received a whole year’s quantity of rain. Since then we have had three sunny days and dull cloud for the rest of the time.
Now, according to the weather bureau we have our very own depression. Oh lucky us, it’s caused by the weather…. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that a Canary Island hurricane is brewing up just in time for the Christmas Season. In fact I have already made preparations naming, it aptly for this island, “Puff, the Magic Drag-Queen”
Yesterday the authorities announced that all the schools on the island would be closed today because of the extreme weather forecast (I thought it was only the NUT’s that did bl…y stupid things like that). Well it is raining consistently, but not heavily. There have been some claps of thunder, but it can hardly be considered extreme, just WET.
My neighbour was telling me that he has been to Gran Canaria for the winter three times before and the weather has never been as bad as this. That makes me feel a whole lot better! All I need now is for someone to call and tell me how unusually mild the UK is this year.
I have of course had to put the top up on the car, only to find that it has been down so long it’s shrunk. I must be getting old, as I had to get assistance to ease it in place whilst I closed the fasteners (any potential purchasers of the car need not worry as it will be adjusted shortly).
Sorry, there has been a short break in service due to a power outage. Fortunately it has only affected part of the south of the island. My part of the south of course! I am now typing by candlelight and no, it’s not romantic.
To compensate for the weather I was going to cook myself a special treat. I went out and bought all the ingredients from the market today. Tomorrow I shall have a container full of rotten vegetables because I can’t use the cooker! Just to finish off a wonderful day, I was searching by candlelight for the bottle opener for a rather pleasant Rioja I bought, only for my elbow to just catch the edge of the worktop, right on my funny bone. I yelped knocking over the candle and in trying to prevent a rather inconvenient fire starting, knocked the bottle of wine off the side table to smash on the floor.
With any luck, one of the island volcano’s should erupt shortly blowing everything too smithereens.
I have now been on the island for two months, which is a third of my sentence served. Mr Innes at the Car Club has quite rightly taken me to task for not posting anything on here for several weeks and I should have enough time spare to do so.
I have settled in really quite well and developed a weekly routine. I have joined a very well equipped gym and go there Monday and Friday mornings, and depending on other activities some Wednesdays. I go into the interior of the island once a week and walk around the mountains which are beautiful with some great views. The island is very varied in its vegetation with the north being really quite green and the south, very barren.
I have fallen in with a group of classic car enthusiasts and attended a couple of their Sunday displays for the general public (similar to the shopping/garden centre event the MGCC do). There are some surprising cars hidden away here including a 1954 MG TD owned by the proprietor of the holiday complex next door to where I am staying. Can anyone name the above car?
Bridget now has two new front wheel bearings and is handling much better. The roads here, with the exception of one main motorway, are small winding mountain roads or dirt tracks. Many of the mountain roads are not much more than single carriageway with hairpin bends very common.
Winter has certainly arrived with the temperature falling to 20°C on a couple of days. The south coast of the island, which is where I am based, gets the best of the sun but can be very windy. This causes mini sand-storms that can make the beach less attractive than the pool outside my front door. The sand on the beach is quite fine, but gritty and you can end-up sand-blasted rather than sun-burnt.
I have uploaded some photos of the area around Soria in the south-west of the island which is really quite beautiful and also some photos of a few of Bridget’s new friends.
On arriving on Gran Canaria I wasn’t totally convinced that staying for six months was really a very good idea. Certainly you can’t fault the climate, with the onset of winter the temperature has dropped to mid/high twenties, but the tourist industry here is so big that most of the islands culture is difficult to find.
However, I am beginning to find my way around and the interior of the island is excellent for walking, climbing and generally exploring. The island has three separate climatic systems; the south of the island is very similar to mid-north Africa, the centre of the island receives a little rain and a great deal of cloud and the north of the island is Mediterranean.
The centre is mountainous with the highest point just under 2000 metres. The mountains are fairly barren but have deep valleys that are well populated with tropical vegetation and pine woods. The wild life (as opposed to the night life which is pretty wild) consists of lizards, small mammals, nothing much larger than a rabbit, birds of prey, woodpeckers, green parrots and wood pigeon. There are no insects or reptiles here that have dangerous bites, stings or that try to eat you, a few humans might try, but …..
I now have a book of some twenty-five different walks scattered around the island (the walks not the book) that I purchased from one of the hiking companies on the island. They run guided walks, but the value for money was not impressive whereas the book is really all you need unless you want to be part of a group. Bridget has been enjoying a well deserved rest most of the time with the occasional run-out to the interior. The roads, with the exception of the main coastal motorway, are narrow, winding and often steep. You need good brakes and that is what made me realise that Bridget’s felt a little spongy. I decided to bleed the brakes but as with most work it is a lot easier if you can raise the car off the ground. I was told about a car restoration company working from premises near the airport and took Bridget there. Bleeding the brakes is no more than a 20 minute job at the most so I expected to be back on the beech by lunchtime.
I was just walking away from the vehicle when they lifted the hoist and I heard the garage owner say “What’s that?” I turned just as he reached out and touched the front offside wheel. It wobbled like a loose tooth. Clearly the bearing was totally shot and yet earlier in the week another garage had carried out a check and correction for her tracking! How they had missed the problem with her bearing I do not know. Fortunately I had a spare bearing set that the garage will fit on Monday. The nearside front one is also going, but will last until a replacement arrives from Moss. So for now I shall get plenty of walking until Bridget is fit once more.
The ferry trip from Cadiz to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, was civilised by any standards given that it was forty hours long. Bridget found it a breeze.
In Cadiz the queuing, bureaucracy and high temperatures took its toll and when some cars started to queue jump I could not help myself from jumping in front of them, thankfully bringing them to a halt, and berating the second in line, the first having escaped. He rather sheepishly slunk away and even though I hadn’t achieved anything, other than establishing that the British queuing system is right, returned proudly to Bridget. Later that evening, following the consumption of a well-deserved dinner, I suddenly felt that I was being watched. I looked up and some 20 feet away a slightly merry gentleman was grinning and when he realised I had seen him called out “Mr MG. You shouted at me and I am in terrible trouble”. We soon established that he was the driver of the car I had berated earlier and it transpired that my action had cost him dearly with is better half.
He is a Norwegian with an English wife, who understands the queuing system well and was embarrassed by the event. He made me feel a most terrible bully, yelling at him in the way I had and so we got mutually drunk together.
We all eventually arrived in Gran Canaria and Bridget and I drove to Playa del Inlges in the south of the island. By ‘close of play’ Friday I had found some winter quarters in Maspalomas and that is where I am now writing this. I will be holding regular ‘natters’ on the second Friday of every month, all are of course welcome.
Bridget and I have been travelling for just under three months during which we have covered 9,000 miles (14,600km) around Europe. With the additional 1,500 miles from here to home which we will complete next year, plus local mileage on the island, that will be a total of some 11/12,000 miles. I doubt if either you or I are overly delighted that Bridget’s retirement run has been anything less than Around the World but financially it never really was on.
Yes, I said retirement run. I think I have asked all that realistically I should of a car of Bridget’s vintage. I have calculated that she has certainly covered 150,000 miles (240,000km) and it could possibly be more. Many of them have not been easy, a classic British understatement, and she never was considered, even by me, to be suitable for what was asked of her.
Of the seven years since we started this activity we have travelled for well over three of them. The experience has been awesome for me.
Now the question is “What to do with Bridget?” I don’t know if any of the museums would be interested in taking her, this would be my preferred outcome as she would be properly maintained and available for the public to see and share. I am open to any other ideas, or even offers!
There are times, rare indeed, when everything just seems to go your way. This past weekend started that way.
It began when I arrived at the Montecastillo Golf and Health complex and told them I had booked a room for four nights. “Oh yes” said the receptionist, “you have a villa”. Whatever, I thought and was told I could drive my car around to it. What I wasn’t told was to leave it in the parking layby and not follow the golf cart road right up to the door, so I got it a little wrong. I have found, people allow classic car owners to do all sorts of things that ordinary drivers are not allowed to do and so everyone smiled politely over the weekend and said nothing about my parking.
I was speechless when I entered the two story villa I had for the weekend. It was the same floor area as some two bedroom houses. I thought “If only I had known, I could have thrown a party”.
The complex has of course a gym that I really needed, having only twice done any real exercise since leaving England. I could also play as much golf as I wanted, except I haven’t played since I was stranded at Charters Towers, in Australia, for four weeks. So I passed on that facility.
As usual, I hadn’t done any research on Jerez (pronounced Harez) and so was delighted to find, when I went into town that I was in the centre of the sherry producing area. Being a little partial to a Tio Pepe before dinner I decided to take the official tour of their winery. The tourist bit was a similar set-up to the port caves in Porto, but very different production methods, it was enlightening.
Next door to the Montecastillo complex is the Circuito de Jerez F1 test track. Sunday afternoon I idly drove up to the entrance to see if I could blag my way in and was very surprised when the security officer said yes, I could go to the Pit-Stop restaurant and watch the motorcycle racing. Even more surprised than me was the restaurant owner who was ecstatic when he saw Bridget. Although his English was on a par with my Spanish he clearly wanted to show me something in the restaurant. It turned out to be an event calendar and scheduled for the 11/12th September were two days of historic automobile races. I would dearly have loved to attend the event, particularly as the guy was sure Bridget would be able to go on the track, but unfortunately we will be on the ferry and unable to go. You can’t win them all, but it was a close run thing.
The next and probably final blog will be from Gran Canaria.
PS. I have posted some of the photos from our party in Porto as promised (had to be careful there were no spelling mistakes in the heading Porto Night Out)