The early responses from Midget owners keen to join the “Into Africa” adventure had me worried. Several times during that week I went to the front door of my house to check that the doorbell still actually worked! It was devilishly quiet. Still it takes time for word to spread with something like this.
I am making good use of my time however and have started preparation work on Bridget. Her original wheels, she had Minilites on for the world drive, have been sat out in the elements for almost three years and so I have cleaned them, removed all traces of rust and repainted them. Steel wheels are far more suitable for African roads, I am told.
I have also fitted an upgraded anti-role bar on her steering and this week fitted Spax telescopic dampers to her rear suspension. Both of these things have improved her handling and should assist the rear springs to cope with the additional weight we carry on these journeys. I took her out for a test drive down to Wantage using the minor country roads of Oxfordshire there and the main arterial roads back. Before departing I made a number of checks because the last trip out she was misfiring at the higher revs. I found the spark plugs were sooted-up and leaned off the carburettors one and a half flats.
Bridget ran beautifully, no sign of any misfire but I need to consider fitting upgraded springs to the front suspension. It’s starting to sound as if I actually understand the technical bits! Whenever she hits a pothole or large drain the steering column shudders and the front end jumps.
I have now received no less than two requests from potential adventurers, making three cars including Bridget. That is enough to make the project happen although I will continue to try to recruit more.
I will keep you updated on our progress leading up to the start of the adventure and please spread the word that I am looking for volunteers. Also I need a cameraman/woman to join the expedition so if you know anyone that enjoys safaris please pass on the word.
Turning out my loft this week I came across my old stamp collection from my childhood. I collected only stamps of Great Britain and the Commonwealth many of which kept me, as a child, captivated by their exotic pictures and I often thought of travelling to some of those places when I grew up.
I never did grow up, but then I had one of those Eureka moments, why not drive Bridget the Midget to Cape Town in South Africa? We could drive to Turkey then down through the Middle East into Egypt. Heading south we drive through Sudan, skirting Abyssinia into Kenya. Maintaining our heading we will go into Nyasaland, through part of Rhodesia into Tanganyika, and finally South Africa. Can’t seem to find some of these countries on Google Maps but never mind the details.
I plan to embark on this adventure in 2011 leaving around the beginning of September and invite any Midget owner interested in joining me to contact me ASAP. It would be wonderful if at least one South African would join us as well as an Australian and even a Kiwi. Let’s make it an international celebration of the modern Midgets 50th anniversary.
The total distance is approximately 11,000 miles, so we might be a little late for dinner. We will travel through approximately 20 countries and take around three months depending on where the group wants to stop, Kanak Temple, Mt Kilimanjaro, The Kruger National Park, Legoland, the possibilities are endless.
Please register your interest within the next three weeks and pass the word around, “Bridget is on the move, again”
Sorry I have been a little dilatory in posting this final report on the UK Tour, but I have been busy at MGLive! More on that later, but now the completion of the tour.
My last report finished with me in Whitburn, Central Scotland where Bridget was shown off to around fifty enthusiasts. Once again the weather was unexpectedly good for us and the Scots were their usual appreciative selves; not at all the hard to please audience of music hall fame.
The following day I drove Bridget down to Gretna Green where we would stop over on route to Knutsford in Cheshire. Bridget is a hopeless romantic and wanted to see the famous forge and listen to the lilt of the lone piper. In the morning we moved on to Knutsford, a place name, that until now, had only denoted a service station on the M6 Motorway to me. However the town of Knutsford is a charming ancient place mentioned in the Domesday Book as “Cunetesford”. It is said that the Danish King of England, Canute, forded a stream here around 1000 AD, hence the name.
I was parked behind a new Aston Martin DBS watching the world go by when a man approached and asked “Did you really go around the world in that?” Having assured him that I had we chatted for a few moments before he asked if he could phone me the following week as he had to go now but wanted more information about my journey. He finished off saying he also wanted to do a similar trip in his Aston!!
Once again I had another atypical venue, this time a cricket club. The talk started around 8:00pm and we finished around 11:30pm keeping the poor steward well past his bedtime. This was not the first time that Bridget and I have been thrown out!!
The pen-ultimate venue was at Bromsgrove in the West Midlands. Organised by Brian Osbourne, who had given us great support whilst we were still striving to complete our adventure, he had booked a local sports club with a truly great selection of fine British ales. Again, a very appreciative audience, no doubt helped by the beverages, it was a fine way to round off the travelling part of the tour.
The final presentation was back where we had started, at Kimber House in Abingdon. With an even bigger audience than the first event, clearly word hadn’t got around, it was a very successful last night.
My personal thanks to everyone that helped organise the interestingly varied venues, to the MG Car Club for promoting the tour and to Chris Seaward for his hard work co-ordinating everything, even if he still hasn’t worked out how much we raised for UNICEF!! Also my thanks, and UNICEF’s, to all the enthusiasts that turned up and supported us making it all worthwhile. I know we raised a little over £2,000 for UNICEF and it is very much appreciated.
Next stop MGLive.
With a full week free of formal events I decided to first spend a weekend in Glasgow then explore some of the West Highland Way if the weather was reasonable. Uncharacteristically for this part of the country at this time of year the weather remained dry and contrary to the forecasts the sun broke through the cloud to deliver a few pleasant spring days.
I decided to travel a little further north to the town of Tynedrum and then walk the West Highland Way up to Fort William. I parked Bridget safely in the Scottish Tourist Information Centres’ car park and removed my back-pack containing the tent, sleeping bag and other camping items, from behind the seats. It has been over forty years since I carried a 60 pound pack and had quite forgotten what it was like over a period of 3 or 4 days.
I started off with a half day of walking ahead of me. I walked for just over seven miles to Inveroran where I set-up camp by the river. My shoulders were a little chaffed by my pack straps but other wise I was in fine fettle. Camping equipment has improved dramatically since the last time I had used any but you still end up cold and damp by dawn.
I rose at 5:00am and broke camp. Having feasted the previous evening on corned beef hash, I made do with a chocolate bar for breakfast watched by a red stag from on top of one of the mountains. He stood out against the skyline and appeared to be checking to see if the walkers were stirring yet.
Having studied my map I was planning to go just another 10 miles to Kingshouse. Although not particularly far with the combination of the hill climb on route and the weight of the back pack I thought it would be enough. I saw several more red deer crazing on the hillsides and disturbed a brace of black grouse before arriving, quicker than expected, at my destination. I decided to stop for some coffee and a good rest before considering whether to stay for the night or press on to Kinlockleven.
After an hours rest I was feeling reinvigorated and so pressed on. My shoulders and the small of my back was decidedly sore and I realised that carrying tinned food had been unnecessary as there was a hostelry at the end of each section and the weight of the food was a significant factor in the overall weight I was carrying. This particular section also included a fairly high climb. The path for considerable stretches was strewn with hard rough hewn stones that were very tiring on the feet. I finally arrived at Kinlochleven at around 5:00 pm that day. The town was the centre of aluminium production in the UK and is almost twenty miles from Inveroran where I had started my journey that day. My body ached beyond belief and I seriously doubted whether or not I could continue the next day. I must make a note to remind me I’m no longer in my 20’s.
The following morning my back and legs were as stiff as a board when I got out of bed. Following breakfast of sausage and beans I decided to continue to Fort William. As the day wore on my legs improved and my shoulders seemed to be getting accustomed to my load. I returned from Fort William to Tynedrum by train to be reunited with Bridget. From there we drove over to Crieff where having decided not to do any more walking I would endeavour to become incapable of doing so by visiting the Glenturret distillery.
Tomorrow we continue to Whitburn near Livingston in central Scotland for the first event of this final week.
I mentioned in my previous report the variety of locations chosen for my talk events and this has continued. MG Car Club’s north-east centre, although one of the smallest centres, had arranged for the use of the Knights Hall at the Manor House, West Aukland. The setting is very medieval and grand and the evening was very well attended.
From northern England Bridget took me into “The Borders” area of Scotland and the town of Kelso in particular. Again I took the opportunity to go walking this time along the banks of the river Tweed. This river has the reputation of being one of the finest in Scotland for salmon fishing, but I was here to do a ‘pitstop’ organised by UNICEF. Ken Henderson, Chairman of the local UNICEF branch, had set up for Bridget and me to visit Kelso High School, whose motto appropriately is Do or Die!
We were met by the schools’ Director of Education and then spent an hour entertaining many of the pupils. I was pleasantly surprised at the genuine interest in the car and our exploits.
This was followed by meeting some of the local members of a Vintage Car Club at the showrooms of Croall Bryson a large Land Rover dealer that had once been a MG distributor. Both the car club and the dealership very generously presented me with cheques for UNICEF.
Bridget and I are now going to spend a week in the west of Scotland before our next event in Whitburn, near Livingston.
We have completed the first six events at Abingdon, Loughborough, Godstone, Norwich, Lincoln and Liversedge. With approximately £2,000 raised for UNICEF it is proving well worthwhile and everyone seems to be enjoying the experience.
For my part I am using the opportunity to reacquaint myself with my own country and its history and nature. In Lincoln I visited both the Cathedral and Castle, and then took a morning walking around the Whisby Natural Park. With a free day in Yorkshire I drove over to Bolton Abbey near Keighley to see the ruined priory and walk the banks of the River Wharfe. It is a really pretty location although a little too civilised for me, gravel paths and cafes, but the scenery is beautiful and I saw some Mandarin ducks, a breed I have not seen for years. Had I had more time I would have done some serious walking over the Yorkshire Dales but I must move on although I hope to be able to get time to visit Barnard Castle tomorrow.
The whole of Europe has been rendered immobile and isolated by the fallout from a volcanic eruption in Iceland, however if only people needing to travel internationally bought a MG car then the problem would be resolved. Having dug Bridget out of the mountain of volcanic dust burying her on the driveway, she started up first time and moved off without hesitation on the first leg of our UK tour.
In the past seven days we have covered the first three locations for the ‘An Evening with Miss Bridget’ talks at Abingdon, Loughborough and Bedford. In total, and after expenses have been removed, we have made around £850 which I think is very credible. Once again, and no surprise to me, it demonstrates peoples generosity when the opportunity arises.
The venues were varied, the first being held in the brand new John Thornley Suite at Kimber House, the second in the car showroom of Luffield Cars of Loughborough and the third inside the church of St Marks, Brickhill, Bedford. The latter was the first time a car had been inside the church and was also a first for Bridget! Our special thanks to the Vicar of St Marks for this special occasion.
Bridget is running very well and now has a new speedometer, the old one having broken, and had her tracking corrected following un-even tyre wear. However on route to Bedford I noticed a knocking in time with the wheel rotation rather than the engine beat, but after stopping and looking for a cause I could see nothing wrong. The knocking got louder as we proceeded and I stopped again, but there was still no obvious sign of a cause so we proceeded. Then as we entered Wing, in Buckinghamshire, it became so bad I had to stop. Noticing the noise and vibration appeared to cease as I braked, I decided to jack up the front of the car and check the wheel areas.
As I lifted the jack from the boot I heard a voice say “Do you need any help?” I looked across the road and there was the chap that had called out. “It’s a bit dangerous there, but if you would like to pull across the road into my drive I have all the tools you could want to sort out the problem, and also most of the expertise.” The gent turned out to be the proud owner of an AC Cobra and justifiably so as his motor is a beautiful example of the marque. I told him what the symptoms were and we jacked up the front of the car to remove one of the wheels and to our surprise discover that all the wheelnuts were loose. A quick check discovered the other front wheel was the same. There would be no reason for the garage that did the tracking to remove the wheels and it is over three weeks since I had then off whilst replacing the shock absorbers, since which it has been through an MOT and covered nearly three hundred miles, so how and when they became loose is a mystery. However once again I mused how it was that we stopped opposite a classic car enthusiast’s house rather than 300 yards before or after.
I wonder what unexpected events the remaining 11 locations of this tour will hold?
I now feel complete. I was honoured to deliver the inaugural talk of my UK Tour at the MGCC headquarters in Abingdon on Friday 9th April. The building, Kimber House, is the Mecca for the MG marque and I was fortunate enough to be the first to use the new extension suite due to officially come into commission in just a few weeks time.
Bridget looked resplendent under a spotlight at the rear of the suite. She is now running really smoothly and has had her interior restored to almost the state it was in when she started the journey. Nothing at all has been done to her external bodywork, except for some underseal, as she suffered so little damage during the adventure.
We will now be travelling to the Midlands and then on around the country returning to Abingdon again on the 14th May. All profits from the series will be donated to the UNICEF charity at the end of the tour and I am hoping we will make up some of the shortfall from the actual trip.
I will shortly announce the general route that I shall be taking around Europe starting sometime in the middle of June.
Starting shortly after Easter Bridget and I will be touring the UK, delivering talks about our world travel adventure. Entitled ‘An Evening with Miss Bridget’ the talk lasts about two hours with a comfort break halfway through. The itinerary currently is as follows:
- Abingdon - 9th April
- Loughborough - 14th April
- Bedford - 16th April
- Godstone - 19th April
- Norwich - 20th April
- Lincolnshire - 22nd April
- Yorkshire - 24th April
- West Auckland - 28th April
- Scottish Borders - 30th April
- Caledonian - 9th May
- North West - 11th May
- Bromsgrove - 12th May
- Abingdon - 14th May
There may be additional venues added before the start and updates will be displayed here. The tour is being promoted by the MGCC, but is open to anyone wishing to attend. E-mail email@example.com for further details.
Preparing Bridget for the tour is now a priority. She needs a new windscreen, the twin SU’s need rebuilding, replacement mirrors and window winders are required and the interior needs renovating. I have a replacement windscreen glass, kindly donated by Mike Authers of Abingdon. Mike restores and sells MG Midgets for a living, and has for the past twenty years.
It’s amazing how one can pass hours of fun on a Sunday afternoon dismantling and rebuilding SU carburettors, dismantling and rebuilding, and dismantling and rebuilding. Then you discover the reason it isn’t right is that the supplier has given you two different length jets and not a matched pair. Don’t you just love ‘em!
The Canadian Classic MG Club held it’s annual awards night during December and honoured Bridget with the ‘Dirty Boot’! This was in recognition of the amazing amount of spare parts, cleaning materials, tool kits, axle stands and the all important trolley jack that emerged from Bridget’s boot before entering the slalom event in Vancouver during August.
In the best possible tradition ‘Bridget was unforunately unable to be at the ceremony’ and so Peter Tilbury accepted the award from the previous winner, Afton Cayford, on the night.
Needless to say Bridget is very proud of this latest accolade whilst I am still waiting for the New Years Honours list to be announced!!