Monday, 20 August 2012

Window of Opportunity!

You've got to act quickly when you spot sun and blue sky in this great country of ours! The weather in the past few days has been dreadful, at least in this part of the country, mirroring the stuff we've had to endure all summer and so with a dramatic improvement at lunchtime, I grabbed the chance.

Off came the cover, the battery charger, hood and sidescreens, on went my summer 'ratting' cap, complete with a Morgan lanyard and into the glorious sunshine I went.

Facing east, looking towards the distant fells
With the fan assembly fixed and bearing in mind the work I had done under the bonnet with cable ties, anchoring anything that could possibly make any sort of noise, I was expecting a quiet, sublime trip in the little beast and so it was. The run to Fleetwood, my destination, was completed quietly, apart from the satisfying burble from the exhaust and the cheers from adoring crowds lining the route....where I get these fantasies from I don't know!

Fleetwood, some believe, was the ancient Roman harbour of Portus Setantiorum at the mouth of the River Wyre. The land on which it stands was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the 'wapentake or hundred of Amounderness'.

The RNLI Station and Knott End on Sea across the Wyre
Anyway, not only was it the birthplace of my lovely lady wife, but Peter Hesketh who also breathed his first breath there, was responsible for putting the town, named after his ancestor Edmund Fleetwood, on the map.

The railway line and station was opened on the 15th July 1840 and this opened the way for Fleetwood to, not only become a resort and tourist destination, offering steamer trips to the Isle of Man, Ireland and Ardrossan, but also a major fishing port, with access for its fish via the railway to markets throughout the country.

Many of the original Regency buildings from that period, of which the 'North Euston Hotel' is one, still remain in the town. Incidentally that Hotel was host to the wedding reception of himself and his lovely wife in 1966.

The North Euston Hotel and Lighthouse
My wife and I have great affection for the old place, which now plays second fiddle as a resort to Blackpool down the coast, has lost the revenue from shipping, including the Isle of Man steamers and of course its fishing industry has been decimated.

My first job was at the District Bank, Fleetwood (now part of National Westminster) at their branch on Wyre Dock, when the fishing industry was buoyant. Lunchtimes were spent by me looking at all the Icelandic fishing trawlers and occasionally gratefully receiving little parcels of fish from the fish merchants who were our customers and worked just 50 yards away from the bank....happy days!  

The Portakabin next to the large building, formerly the 'Iago Steam Trawler Co.,
was the site of the District Bank, Wyre Dock. The mast of a trawler can
be seen above it.
The tide was in today and the views were as wonderful as ever, across the Wyre to the distant fells and the Lake District,  views that Blackpool can only dream of.

I lingered awhile, nattering to a nice lady who wanted to know all about the car and then made my way to have a look at what was the location of the bank branch where I was first employed, then making my way home, in at times a blistering pace, with the warm wind blowing through the last remaining silver strands of my hair.
Ferry across the Wyre, with a recent memorial to the lost workers and crew of a crashed helicopter employed in Gas Rig duties.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Morgan magic!

Oh sod the fan! The problem is going to be sorted, so just let's enjoy this great drive in glorious sunshine around the River Ribble estuary from home to Life's Motors in Southport.

The 'Shrine'

That was my attitude yesterday morning and the prospect of feasting my eyes on a wide selection of the little beasts was heightening my enthusiasm. What is the collective noun in relation to Morgans anyway?

Could it be a muster, a medley or perhaps, and possibly very appropriately, in view of the title of the  MSCC magazine,  a miscellany of Morgans!'

Lord Street, Southport, Lancashire
It's always a pleasure visiting Southport, a lovely town with an excellent shopping centre and more importantly, it is the home of the 'shrine', a veritable cornucopia for Morgan enthusiasts.

Wayfarers Shopping Arcade
Although our visits inevitably mean parting with well earned dosh, either on the Morgan or on my navigator who enjoys whiling away her time supporting the local departmental stores, they are a friendly bunch of people who work at the dealership and we always have a good laugh when we are there.

Where's the sea?

There was an interesting collection of cars in stock including a 2006 V6 Roadster that had a custom made luggage box fitted. It is removable and the original luggage rack can then be easily re-fitted, but an interesting feature that apparently cost about £2000 to produce!

After taking a few photos, we stepped out into the metropolis that is Southport and enjoyed a very pleasant couple of hours browsing the shops and strolling on the promenade, vainly searching for the sea which at low tide in Southport disappears to the far horizon.

Job done!
The mobile rang informing us that the car was ready and we made our way back.

As far as I can understand, the fan assembly is plastic and all the retaining lugs molded into the unit failed. The unit has now been upgraded with a predominantly metal frame to hold the unit securely in place and I do not expect any further problems. However, if you own a Mog of 2008ish vintage it might be worth checking that the fan unit is still connected to the back of the radiator!!!

New upgrade fitted

The upgrade prompted me to have a much speedier drive home, knowing that nothing was likely to drop off!

By the way, I am assured that the application of silicon in the appropriate places has ensured that when I emerge from the car, after a drive in the wet, I shall now have no need to make efforts to conceal one saturated trouser leg, fearing that I could mistakenly be accused of incontinence!!! 

At my age you've got to be very careful!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Morgan 'clatter-search' success!

Well it has been a success, in the sense that I have found the cause of the dreadful 'clattering' sounds heard both yesterday and on our Brittany trip.

After crawling around under the car for about 10 minutes, shaking everything in sight, the culprit was found.

Flopping around without any means of support was the fan unit, immediately behind the radiator. Frankly, I am staggered that after only 18,800 miles, over 4+ years, the fixing lugs, two at the top, that are screwed in and two at the bottom, have severed under normal driving conditions! No untoward damage has ever been sustained by the car, thank goodness, so nothing whatsoever has happened that might have caused these to sheer, except poor quality materials/manufacture. No excuse for this whatsoever and I just hope the damn thing is guaranteed!!!! Some hope!

Thank goodness I didn't find the cause while we were abroad, otherwise my navigator would have been worrying the whole time.

Anyway, we're driving into Life's in Southport tomorrow and they will hopefully fix it.

While I was on the phone fixing the appointment, I mentioned the leak, the one that drenches the shin on my accelerator leg. Fortunately, they know how to cure the problem which apparently arises from a 'stupid', their words not mine, horizontally fixed rubber gromit. The problem is solved by the application of copious amounts of silicon over the offending item!

The mention of silicon brings to mind another use for the spray version of the stuff which I have recently started using on the padded bits on the inside of the sidescreens. It seems to totally eradicate the annoying chafing noises that eminate from the screens and I hope will also lessen the wear on the paintwork where these places touch the body.

However, since I have found traces of paint on the inside of the screens after removal, and just as a precaution, I have contacted the factory about the desirability of using silicon on a water based paint system, which mine is ie 2008 4/4.
I'll keep you posted with their response.

Happy days!!!!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

4/4 to Gawthorpe Hall

The weather forecast was excellent so another drive was planned that would take us along fell roads bordering the valley of the River Ribble, eventually turning south to Padiham and our target for the day, Gawthorpe Hall.

The River Ribble with Pendle Hill in the background

We made a quick stop at a splendid little shop in the village of Great Eccleston to pick up a couple of their excellent pork pies to sustain us and then wound our way through the Fylde, across the A6 and into the fells.

Fly fishing on the Ribble
The Morgan was performing well apart from a clattering noise that only occurred as we passed over rough road surfaces. It was a noise that I had heard in Brittany two weeks before and appeared to eminate from the offside suspension area. No cause for alarm as nothing had dropped off, but obviously something that I would try and track down when the car was back in its garage!

What a lovely valley this is, rich verdant countryside and charming villages, wonderful Morgan country.

Stonyhurst College
 We made a detour to see and to take a photograph of Stonyhurst College one of whose pupils was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who created the character 'Sherlock Holmes' and used Stonyhurst as the setting for his book, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'.

J.R.R.Tolkien was a frequent visitor there between 1942 and 1947 and wrote part of the 'Lord of the Rings' in a classroom on the upper gallery of the college. He would take regular walks around the area with his son Michael who taught classics there in the 60's and 70's. It is said that Tolkien gained a lot of inspiration from the surrounding countryside and nearby Pendle Hill, maybe for the Middle Earths Misty Mountains or the Lonely Mountain.

The main drive to Stonyhurst College

Whalley, on the River Ribble is a delightful place where I should have stopped to take some photographs, but the prospect of a morning coffee and a cake in the National Trust cafe at Gawthorpe Hall beckoned.

The Hall is a Grade1 listed building and is described as "an Elizabethan gem in the heart of industrial Lancashire", situated on the banks of the River Calder.

I must say that we were less than impressed, there were no car park signs (more later), the grounds were somewhat unkempt, the cafe was far from impeccable and expensive, £7+ for two coffees and two pieces of cake!


Gawthorpe Hall
The very nature of the decor in the house made it rather a gloomy experience and we decided not to linger too long but make our way into the fells to enjoy the 'gastronomic extravaganza' that we had purchased at the pie shop! 

On our way out we noticed two NT workmen erecting a car park sign. They said that the previous one had been vandalised recently, not surprising when we learned that the grounds of the House are open freely to the public 24/7!!

This is a result of the property being held in partnership between the National Trust and Lancashire County Council. Say no more, it certainly explains all the shortfalls in presentation and quality elsewhere. Very, very sad.

We left very carefully, as I had grounded the car on one of the LCC's speed humps on the way in, although I always travel at 1mph over the blasted things.

The pies were eaten by the wayside, beneath 'Parlick', a fell in the Bleasdales and then we made our way, clattering a good deal on the appalling roads.

The pies were consumed in the shadow of 'Parlick' one of the Bleasdale Fells

I know and am proud that we have done so well in the Olympics and I think that it might have been a useful PR exercise, albeit perhaps only for London and the South of the country, but I do wonder when funds are going to be made available for the repair of all Britain's roads!!!

When I had laid the machine to rest I made a quick telephone call to Life's in Southport, who suggested that I jack the car up and bash/shake a variety of things in order to isolate the clatter.

In fact, on returning to the garage after the call, I think that I have already identified two likely candidates and will tomorrow buy some cable ties and investigate a part of the cooling system that appears to be knocking on the radiator under some conditions. The car will also be jacked up and everything shaken!!!!

One of the enduring joys of Morgan ownership!

This was a good shot I think.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sometimes I despair!

Due to the cancellation of our original sailing to Brittany, we had to reshedule our crossing and this we arranged for two days earlier than the original booking.

However, a sad result of this was that the RNLI College at Poole was unable to accommodate us on the rearranged date and as a consequence we booked into the nearby Premier Inn, Holes Bay.

Let me say at the outset that we weren't expecting luxury, although at £93 per night, room only ,it compared appallingly with the wonderful accommodation we were to experience in France, for a lot less, including breakfast.

We were greeted efficiently by the receptionist and shown to our room which turned out to be rather 'tired' and alongside a road, a position that did prove to be noisy during the night.

Deciding to dine in the restaurant for the sake of convenience, it was there that we experienced the sort of service that has prompted me to put pen to paper.

"Y'alright there guys, where would you like to sit guys?", some time later, "Y'alright there guys, are you ready to order?", later during the meal (which was OK), "Everything OK there guys?" and on the next table, "Whose having the garlic bread there guys?".......on and on it went, not just one member of staff but the lot! It was tiring and tedious to say the least.

What training do these young people get and how have the words 'guys', referring to both sexes, and 'there', used in this context, become so embedded into our society?

The problem it seems to me, is that our education system has failed a couple of generations, producing over many years, many individuals who, not only can't do maths, spell or speak properly but are totally lacking in interpersonal skills. Supervisors and Managers are products of this system and as far as I can see, unless huge corrective measures are taken, these lousy standards will be self-perpetuating.

There was a further example of this as I sat on the deck of our ferry, some 7 hours sailing from Saint Malo, looking at the Dorset coastline as we approached Hampshire and Portsmouth.

A very attentive Englishman and his young son approached, the little boy asking his dad, " Daddy, is that England?", which prompted the astounding reply, "I'm not sure" !!!!!!!! 

Yes, I was shocked, although I have felt for years that the majority of the population haven't a clue where they live in relation to anywhere else, but honestly where on earth did the chap think it was, after sailing some 5 hours from Saint Malo to Portsmouth.....Holland, Germany, Denmark !!!!!

Oh, shut up you old fool! 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Ballooning Hood!

Travelling on the M6 Toll on our return from Brittany, a car drew alongside us and I assumed it was yet another photo opportunity but couldn't see the lens of a camera.

Instead, and it was quite a surprise I can tell you, I saw the beautiful face of my youngest sister sitting next to her husband in their Porsche 911 Targa. The Services at Norton Canes was just a short distance so we pulled off to have a natter.

It turned out that they were on their way from their home in Beverley to visit a cottage they have bought in Shropshire.

As we chatted my brother-in-law asked, "Did you know that your hood balloons when you are driving?", to which I replied that I wasn't in the least surprised with all the draughts coming into the cockpit via the sidescreens!

A crude form of air conditioning I suppose, but what I should also have said was that this is a design feature of the car, to increase headroom!!!!!!

Funny what you think about when you're busy getting the Morgan back into tip-top condition following a big drive.

Today I've greased the suspension, cleaned the wheels, washed the car, cleaned the engine, valeted the interior with both vinyl and leather cleaner, fed the leather, cleaned the carpets, cleaned and polished the brightwork and finally touched up that minute blemish on the rear wing following the incident in France.

The car looks great and with a decent forecast at least for tomorrow morning (what a climate!) I shal go for a short drive to make sure that I've fitted the wheels properly!!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

English?...Morgan?...Thank goodness we've found you......

......our handbrake has failed and we've run into the back of you!

This was the situation we faced about an hour after landing in Cherbourg, but more of this incident later.

The weather forecast was not good, at least for our drive to Poole, a distance of some 270 miles. Sure enough it was looking threatening as we set off, with the hood up to lessen the road noise from the traffic and varying surfaces of that motorway from hell, the M6, the promised rain arriving at Warwick and the M40.
Manoir de Rigourdaine
Fortunately we keep pieces of towelling in the car to ram into the leaking orifices as we drove through torrential rain. No light shower this and my right trouser leg was soon saturated, why on earth the Company cannot address this inherent problem in the traditional models I don't know. Amusing and quaintly eccentric it may be, but it's damned annoying when touring seriously over long distances.
From our window at Manoir de Rigourdaine
Our original accommodation for the night in Poole was to have been the RNLI College but sadly, due to our ferry cancellation we had to re-schedule our trip, the RNLI were full on the new date and we ended up choosing the Premier Inn, about which I shall write in a separate post.

Our Brittany Ferries High Speed Service set sail at 7.00am into a worsening sea state. I was beginning to feel rather ill as the ship pitched and tossed in a troubled sea and finally my wife succumbed along with many others on board to the dreaded sea sickness. Smaller than the conventional ships, sailings are often cancelled due to the weather and we did hear that on a previous recent occasion 60 cars were damaged! We shall not travel high speed again!
The River Rance
Driving down the ramp, on landing at Cherbourg, we spotted three Morgans waiting in the queue to board, and this resulted in frantic pipping of horns and flashing of headlights that must have alarmed the other motorists and dockyard staff. Perhaps it was fortunate that the Morgan drivers didn't know what a crossing they were going to endure. We then had a 124 mile drive south, down the Cotentin Peninsular, to our hotel in Langrolay-sur-Rance.

All was well, the weather had improved and top down we stopped at a little town called Villedieu-les-Poeles, just off the A84. Parking in a lay-by and facing slightly downhill we toddled off for a light lunch, beginning, as we ate our galettes, to savour the ambience that is France.
The beach at Cap Coz
Walking back to the car we spotted two smartly dressed ladies walking towards us and apparently taking a keen interest in everything around them, as if they were searching for something or someone.

Sorry to bother you, they said in impeccable English, but are you English and do you drive a Morgan, because our handbrake has failed and my husband has run into the back of you and at this moment is sitting with his foot on the brake, not wishing to release it for fear of damaging your lovely car! They turned out to be a doctor, his wife and a companion who had been on the same ferry as us and as we walked back to the cars they insisted there was no damage.
The beach at dawn
As you get older I think you become more philosophical about things and I have to say that both my wife and myself were quite calm about the whole business. In fact, the damage to our rear wing was almost imperceptible and will require just a light touch-up, but the plastic crumple panel at the front of their little Japanese machine was crumpled....strong stuff these Morgans!

We bade them farewell, they, full of thanks for our understanding and we, grateful that the damage was extremely minimal and headed to our hotel for two nights, the beautiful Manoir de Rigourdaine . It is superb, the owner having restored it over a period of twenty years and is especially ideal for fellow Morgan drivers, being quiet and secluded with excellent parking, he even lent me a bucket and water to wash the car.
Towards La Foret Fouesnant at dawn
Friday dawned beautifully and we set off to explore this lovely area, that borders the River Rance in Northern Brittany.

What an attractor our little Morgan is! In the space of around two miles we were collared by two couples, one who has a rather beautiful house in the area and another couple from Guernsey who live on board their yacht during the summer returning home to the Channel Islands for the winter. Poor souls!

In our room that second evening I made some notes for my blog, noting as the sun went down, its rays glinting on the hulls of the yachts swinging at anchor on the opposite shore, the swallows in spectacular flight catching flies, a hot air balloon overhead and the birds singing an evening chorus. Utterly magical!
The inland side of Cap Coz
Saturday morning, after an early breakfast, we set off on the 139 mile drive to Cap Coz, near Fouesnant in southern Brittany and our apartment that had been booked via Homelidays UK , the accommodation number is 230953 and the owners, M et Mme Goalabre are delightful and hospitable hosts.

As we were unloading the car we were approached by a very nice chap who asked if he could take some photographs of the car. It turned out that he hailed from Cherbourg and had restored a 'Tiger Moth' that he had bought in bits from an old gentleman, who had made three requests, that he built it to original specification, that he kept it in France and finally that he could have a fly in it when completed! A very clever fellow, who apparently visits Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire frequently.


Soon got settled in this glorious spot, which is a spit of land with the sea on one side, lined with Pine trees and on the other a lagoon with views across to La Foret Fousenant, where I would on the following day lose my temper with an impatient Frenchman!

Ghastly and massive speed humps, the ones that straddle the road, were much in evidence and as all drivers of cars with a low ground clearance know, they have to be taken at very low speeds. The stupid moronic French driver in his Audi 'shed', you know, one of those big 'eco friendly' lumps, starting sounding his horn and gesticulating with his hands in classic french fashion but soon found out that the English can be equally as passionate with their gesticulating! 'Her indoors' had to seriously calm my fevered brow otherwise there would have been an arrest! There really are some cretins around and not just en Angleterre!
The beach at Cap Coz our apartment behind the pines

Our youngest daughter and family were spending a week nearby in Benodet and on their first day we agreed to meet in the centre of Fouesnant. We were parked at the side of the road, being photographed as usual, when they arrived and my little granddaughter was prompted to enquire whether I was famous. I have not had the heart to destroy that illusion!

The benefit of our accommodation was that we had the benefit of both swimming pool and a beautiful beach and both were appreciated by our grandchildren.
As you will have gathered by now, interest in the car was incredible as usual and on one occasion while we were eating our evening meal on our terrace, the word Morgan (with a french accent) and Royaume-Uni was heard drifting down from one of the apartment balconies above. Clearly the car had been spotted on the car park.

We had a splendid drive to Quimper, the beautiful cathedral city, our visit coinciding with a Gaelic Music Festival and then a pootle through lovely countryside where we stopped at the local PMU Bar in the village of Combrit. The bar adjoins the little church and a plaque on the wall noted that the graves were tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, this obviously prompted a visit to both church and graveyard where we found the lovingly cared-for graves of an RAF pilot and co-pilot who had been killed in September 1944. Very poignant indeed, and Rupert Brooke's poem immediately sprang to mind,

                                  "If I should die, think only this of me:
                                   That there's some corner of a foreign field
                                   That is forever England"

It made us contemplate just how ridiculously lucky we were to be in this village 68 years later, very much alive, enjoying the glorious weather and wandering freely along the roads of France.

The morning of our last day was spent in a very busy Concarneau, followed by lunch with our family in La Foret Fouesnant where we said our goodbyes, as we had packing to do ready for our departure at 4am and the 168 mile drive to catch the 10.30am Saint-Malo to Portsmouth ferry.

As I finished loading the car in total darkness, good job we had brought a torch, there being no interior light in Morgans, I looked up to the heavens, on what was a clear starlit night, and saw a sight that I have not seen for years, the Milky Way.

On predominantly unlit roads we headed for the N165, narrowly missing a deer, whose eyes shone bright in the headlights and with dawn breaking turned on to the N24 to Rennes and then north on the N136 towards Saint-Malo. Arriving with plenty of time to spare after a fast drive we finally boarded the ferry home.

After two nights in Camberley, Surrey with our eldest daughter we once more headed north.

Dawn approaching Rennes
Our total mileage was 1280 miles of which around 600 was spent in England. Oh, how we envy those lucky Morgan drivers living in the south of England where a short drive gets them to the ferry and the gateway to the fabulous driving roads of France.
Homeward bound.