Wednesday, 31 October 2012

69 years to heaven!.... Dylan Thomas would say.

How the heck have I reached this age?

It only seems like yesterday that I was playing as a boy with my Dinky Toys and Hornby Dublo model railway, fishing and collecting frog spawn from the local ponds, building balsa wood aircraft, making bows and arrows, dashing around on the fabulous trolley that my father built for me, an item that perhaps led to my interest in classic cars.

Me, probably 1950 in Devon, sitting on Berry Head, Brixham gazing over Torbay.
Days that seemed to be endlessly filled with sunshine, playing in the fields that have now, along with the ponds, been consumed by building development, bike rides over quite long distances, now impossible due to the density of traffic and then later playing 'kiss chase', and that first kiss from a girl that I still meet in the village, who has been reminded frequently of that blissful moment that she had completely forgotten!

School-days, smoking fags behind the bike sheds, five for a shilling I seem to recall, and then the transition to pipe smoking at about the age of eighteen, the first job as a Junior at a local bank, to be followed by an interesting and varied career that has at least allowed me to support a lovely family, fairly comfortably.

Many, many blessings, but it doesn't seem to have taken long to reach today!

Anyway, Happy Birthday me!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

How can the British Meteorological Office get it so wrong?

For the first half hour of our drive, the forecast was absolutely as we expected, a classic frosty autumn day with full sun and blue sky that was due to last, but as we approached Lancaster the clouds started to gather and the temperature dropped even further.

Autumn colour in Sizergh parkland, with the castle in the background
With both of us dressed as if we were on our way to join Ranulph Fiennes' next expedition to the Antarctic, we were tempted, even though the heater was going full blast and we were quite warm, to cut short our journey and stop for refreshment at a location a little closer to home.

However, being the plucky souls that we are, we were determined to complete the trip regardless and arrived at Sizergh, only to notice that on a Friday the house is closed! On these visits we should always check on Natinal Trust opening times, but we never learn.

Main entrance
The good news was that most of the gardens were open and what is more, the sun was making a valiant effort to fulfil the Met. Office's promise and enriching the splendid autumn colours in the gardens.

The Deincourt family had owned the land here since the 1170s and on the marriage of Elizabeth Deincourt to Sir William de Stirkeland in 1239, the estate passed into the hands of what became the Strickland family, who owned it until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1950. The Strickland family still live at the Castle.

Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII and a relative of the Stricklands, is thought to have lived here after her first husband died in 1533. Catherine's second husband, Lord Latymer, was kin to the dowager Lady Strickland.

One of the lakes
The estate covers 647 hectares (1,600 acres), in the midst of which is a garden including two lakes as well as an award-winning rock garden. The estate dates from 1336, when a grant from Edward III allowed Sir Walter Strickland to enclose the land around Sizergh as his exclusive park. The rock garden is the largest limestone rock garden belonging to the National Trust and includes part of the National Collection of hardy ferns.

Leaving for home
After taking a number of photographs in the gardens, we visited the restaurant (open to non-members), each consuming a couple of scones with lashings of butter and rasberry jam and washed down with a welcome cup of tea, to fortify us for, what proved to be, a very fast journey home.
Lovely Autumn colour
This photo was taken when we visited during the summer of  2006 (pre-Morgan)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Windscreen number two!!

It was a couple of years ago that my original windscreen was smashed by a flying projectile of some sort, whether it was a stone or a bolt thrown by an envious pedestrian I don't know, but a replacement was ordered and fitted with the blessing of my insurance company. Total cost for my little heated windscreen, around £800!!

So it was with horror that some weeks ago, removing my sun-visors for attention, that one of the four lugs broke away from the inside of the top of the windscreen frame, leaving a very unsightly hole. Clearly, not a situation that I could live with and also not satisfactory from the Company's point of view, who would not appreciate owners flaunting their vehicles about with bits missing!

The hole on the inside of the frame
Anyway, I considered the situation and decided that I could not claim for this from my insurance company and so approached the company by letter.

They were appalled that this should have happened, asserting that "those lugs just should not break off and we'll be delighted to replace the screen for you".

This has been arranged for the 6th November which means that we will be driving down on the 5th and staying overnight, just down the road from the factory at the Link Lodge, .

The offending lug.
In the evening I have booked a table at The Nags Head, and then, the following morning, out of bed, straight down to the factory for 8am and then saunter back for breakfast. That's the idea anyway.

Obviously while we are there a visit to the factory must take place, just how enthusiastic 'er indoors is about this is open to conjecture! But I'm sure that she won't mind trecking around for the third time!

In the meantime I've just been out to the garage to check tyre pressures prior to a planned trip tomorrow to Sizergh Castle, near Kendal in Cumbria. The weather forecast says that it is going to be a frosty winter's day, with wall to wall sunshine, so we are going to have to wrap up well!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Job done!

My wife and I have always kept a fire extinguisher in every car that we have owned and the Morgan is no exception.

However, ever since we bought the Morgan, the extinguisher has been loose on the back shelf and it occurred to me that this could present a major hazard should something 'orrible happen. The prospect of the pilot or indeed the navigator getting bashed on the back of the head with a fire extinguisher at the same time as impacting with a windscreen did not appeal, so something had to be done.

Straps shortened and slots cut
I devised a cunning plan that would utilise Velcro straps that I had purchased from Halfords, although a big range is available on the following website,

Having cleared the back shelf of the first aid kit, warning triangle, high visibility vests, travel rug, side screen cover and, wait for it, toilet roll, I assessed where a good position for the said device might be and marked the plywood rear shelf before removing it.

Tape threaded through base

This was then carried to my work bench where two slits, 25mm wide to accommodate the width of the tape, were cut with a jigsaw. Always rather daunting when you're potentially harming one you love!

Back into the garage I went and temporarily refitted the shelf and then, carefully folding the carpet back and using a 'Stanley' knife, cut two slits in the carpet from behind, to line up with the slots in the plywood base.

It was clear that to make a neat job the Velcro straps would have to be shortened, so after much physical contortion, leaning into the restricted confines of the luggage area, I worked out where to make the cut in the tape. I was amazed to discover whilst doing this, that the old wracked body was not as lithe and bonny as it used to be, indeed I was completely knackered!!

Preparing to receive extinguisher

Having partially recovered, I cut the tape to size and glued the ends to the tape with 'Araldite Rapid' glue and put a staple in each for good measure.

With a pounding heart and fairly quivering with excitement I prepared to take the final steps that would lead to the successful resolution of the problem of my loose fire extinguisher!

Finished job! Enabling a very quick release should it be necessary

Unfortunately this demanded yet more bending and stretching in order to tease the straps through both plywood and carpet, but it was finally achieved and after fitting my extinguisher in place I stood back and, never one to deny himself a bit of self-congratulation, thought that it was not a bad job at all and a modification that could lead to national recognition nay international recognition!!!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Over the hills and far away...

It was a gorgeous early Autumn day as my wife, our little grandson Oscar and me, fed the ducks in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. This has been a regular ritual since my youngest daughter's children were born and became old enough to cob half a loaf at a passing Mallard!

The bag of bread being exhausted we sauntered back to the car where coats were shed and thrown on to the back seat, Oscar strapped into his seat and off we drove to my daughter's home for a welcome cuppa.

A brief stop in Hornby
It was the next day when I found to my horror that my beloved flat cap, vital for modern classic Morgan motoring, was missing. Clearly, it had fallen out of the car as I was ensuring that my grandson was strapped in and safe.

 Now I'm not one to get over excited, as my wife will confirm, but this was an extremely serious occasion, expletives poured from my mouth, the old pacemaker was on the blink and I was smitten by bouts of dizziness. Your hero was not a happy man.

After gathering my thoughts and suffering outrageous criticism from madam for being a wimp, I sat down and considered for a moment. This would mean another trip in the Morgan to Hawes in Yorkshire to replace my trusty and valuable titfer.....yippee!

Coffee stop near Ingleton
On our return home I studied the weather forecast and decided on the day for our drive. What a day it turned out to be!

Clear blue sky, the sun rising through the early mist, the Morgan's engine sounding wonderful and the view along that long bonnet to the road ahead, what more could a man or woman desire?

Travelling north we left the A6 and turned in an easterly direction on the little road that crosses the moors to the east of Lancaster through Quernmore to Caton where we joined the A683/A687 to Ingleton where we stopped for a welcome coffee in the shadow of Ingleborough Hill.

The Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle Railway
It was then a fantastic drive across the moors on the B6255 to Hawes, stopping on the way to photograph the wonderful Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle railway line.

Market day is busy in any town, but the congestion in Hawes was exacerbated by a massive lorry carrying aggregates that had broken down in the High Street, with two completely wrecked wheels and tyres.

Market Day in Hawes,Yorkshire
The main purpose of our visit was not forgotten and we made our way to the Market Place and the shop of 'Whites of Wensleydale', my cap supplier!

It was with immense satisfaction that this friendly purveyor of country clothing of the highest quality was able to produce an excellent example of the very style of cap I desired and what is more in the large size that my cranium demanded. For let it be known that I have a very large head, that is however sadly lacking in the grey matter that it's size would normally indicate!
Homeward bound, the dark mass of Ingleborough in the distance

Delighted, and with a pair of fine corduroy trousers purchased as well as the cap, we stepped into the busy street where we waited for a couple of dear friends to join us from Finsthwaite in Cumbria. A couple of hours later after a simple pub lunch, (we couldn't afford anything more lavish after my exorbitant expenditure), we set off home by the same route into the late afternoon sunshine.

Sometimes it pays to lose your titfer!

An unusual customer!!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Sunny Singleton

The weather was good and a drive in the Morgan was overdue due to the overwhelming domestic responsibilities placed upon me by 'her indoors', so while she wasn't looking I nipped out for a spin.

It was good to get out again and the short chosen route took me first to a neighbouring village that was noted in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Singltun', since 1286 it has been known as Singleton, and a very pleasant little place it is.

The lych-gate at St Anne's Church
A lych-gate is a roofed entrance to a churchyard where a coffin awaits the clergyman's arrival

It is said, by whom goodness only knows, to have been the residence of Mag Shelton, a famous witch.
"The cows of her neighbours were constantly milked by her, the pitcher in which she conveyed the milk, when stolen, walking before her in the shape of a goose". A suspicious neighbour, once struck the 'goose' and the pitcher was broken, the milk flowing out.

A notable feature as you drive through the village is the old fire-engine station which had a volunteer brigade to man it when it was operational. It is now an electricity substation, but an extremely pretty one.

The fire-engine station, now an electricity substation

After visiting Singleton I had a very exhilarating drive towards Wrea Green which was brought to an untimely end by the appearance of a flood on the road ahead of me. Yes, I could have driven through it, but you know how it is, why get the car dirty when there is no real need to do so? So, turning around I made my way home at a lively speed along the relatively quiet country roads.

It did me good and the car will have benefitted as well.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Leather conservation, car seats specifically.

I was reading that first class magazine, 'The Automobile', a couple of days ago which contained this extremely interesting article that is relevant to all Morgan owners whose cars have leather seating.

It followed a visit to the Leather Conservation Centre in Northampton, "" where the magazine's journalist met Yvette Fletcher, the Head Conservator. The main purpose was to find out the service that they offer to people with old cars.

At this point I will quote what was said in the article.

"The biggest revelation comes when Yvette debunks the old myth that old leather needs feeding. 'You can't feed leather,' she says,' it's dead'. Apparently, the biggest enemy to leather conservation is, ironically, the dressings many of us are guilty of applying in the mistaken belief we are helping. 'Leather is made of very short fibres, all intertwined in a 3D matrix. Unlike textile, which has long weft and warp threads, they're very short. And if leather is over-oiled, the fibres tend to slide apart.'

Dressings can discolour leather by darkening it, and can encourage pests, which seem to like them. 'And when you come to conserve leather, a dressing can impede your work because adhesives don't stick so well.'

Leather is a very particular material. It's properties are dictated by its moisture content and its fat content, both of which have an optimum level. Ideally, it likes a high humidity of roughly 50-55%. But while the moisture content will fluctuate, depending on the environment, and is flexible, the fat content is not. The fat content is not coming out, so it's a mistake to think that it needs supplementing. 'Take the example of saddles and boots,' says Yvette, 'If you've been out riding and got sweaty and dirty, you have to wash your tack and, every time you will wash away some of the fat. But with a car its different. The leather doesn't get wet very often, so it doesn't need new fat. It's a mistake to add fat, as it will then have too much.'

The problem of over-waxing leather tends to be the appearance of lots of little splits, as the fibres come apart. Yvette says that older leathers were made to be much firmer, while new leather is made to be soft. People think their old leather needs a dressing or feed to make it soft and flexible, whereas in fact it would never have been soft in the first place.'

FOOD FOR THOUGHT EH! more 'feeding' of leather in either the Morgan or Volvo for me.

No, I haven't shed this mortal coil !......

I've just been extremely busy.

Since my last scribble we've been on holiday to Croatia and 'er indoors' has been driving me hard with a series of decorating adventures.

So, to begin with the holiday, we joined a group of 'Saga louts' on a 10 day sojourn in Croatia. This was something totally new to us, never having been on an escorted trip before. We have always been independent travellers, making our own arrangements and generally trying desperately to avoid any element of intense socialising during our holidays.

In fact, the whole idea of travelling with Saga was deliberated long and hard, for it seemed to me, that although Saga, purports to cater for the over 50's, one secretly suspects it is used mostly by the extremely old, who rely largely on Zimmer frames as a means of propulsion. For the young and beautiful, like my lovely wife and me, this decision could almost have an element of 'chucking the towel in', at the ridiculously young ages of 67 and 68 respectively!

It was certainly true that a number of our friends were waiting expectantly for our report at the end of the trip, without wishing to bravely go forth into the breach, as we were doing.

Great fun was had, sitting at Gatwick airport, trying to guess which of the passing travellers were on our package, in fact it was quite hysterical, caused mainly by nervous exhaustion brought on by our decision.

Korcula harbour at dawn
As it turned out, we were not the oldest on the trip and neither were we the youngest. They were a really pleasant mixed bunch of people who we enjoyed being with, well most of the time anyway.

We visited Dubrovnik and the islands of Korcula and Brac, also signing up for a day excursion to the old town of Split. What a beautiful area it is and we enjoyed fantastic weather throughout the whole holiday.

No worries with driving, no worries about luggage, just plonked on a coach and with the services of an excellent guide, it wasn't bad at all and we would certainly go on an escorted tour again, but perhaps not yet.
Bol on the island of Brac
In the meantime we'll continue to organise our own holidays and transport, either in our Volvo or the Morgan.

As far as the decorating goes, with three rooms completed I've still got a bedroom to do, which I hope will be the last, in this current programme to preserve our crumbling pile! However, it has to be said that once I get started I do find the process quite therapeutic, although it does preclude other pursuits, like going for a spin in the Mog.