As usual Andy & I set off on the Saturday morning to get an early start.
It was a bit different this year as instead of taking two cars, Andy in the Merlin and me following behind in the Zsara towing the trailer we had made a new acquisition. We had warned others to “beware of the shadow from the North”!
We have become the proud owners of a 28foot Burstner motor home with all mod cons. No more washing in a bowl or having to visit the concrete shower on the showground (which never works anyway) we would from henceforth be living in comparative luxury. Probably even better than the hostel on site, or maybe even the hotel? No we haven’t got a bath. But as for warmth and comfort we had at last arrived!
Only problem was who was going to drive? It is a left hand drive vehicle and I had driven it only once, on the A1, and not practised on any narrow roads, but I hadn’t driven the Merlin for more than a mile or so in ages. It was the Merlin for me but I had to have a quick lesson, yes everything was in the same place as a normal car, phew thank goodness for that.
So with some trepidation I prepared for the trip.
Andy had said he would follow me along the M1 for a bit and if I was a bit nervous we would stop at Trowell services and would swap vehicles. Well surprisingly I felt quite comfortable and soon got into the hang of it. I kept a close eye on the mirror to check he was still following, it helps when you are looking for something that big, when merrily driving down towards the A42, and not stopping at Trowell I lost sight of him. What do I do I think, has he broken down already, or had I gone the wrong way?
I pulled into a lay by and waited, and waited, it seemed a long time. I tried him on the mobile but he hadn’t put it on. Then just as I was wondering what to do next he pulled in behind.
Having lost sight of me he assumed that I was not enjoying the drive and spent 10 minutes looking around the services car park for me. Such little faith!!
The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived at the showground in good time.
Same pitch as usual with no humps or anything to worry about.
We filled the van with water (the water tank) and set about getting ourselves comfy. No getting a tent out and struggling to put it up, no blowing up the bed, pure heaven, just put the gas on and make a cup of coffee, and maybe a sandwich and a piece of cake or a chocolate bar. Great. All we had to do was to wait for the others to turn up with the Marquee (we hoped) and we could help get that erected ready for the weekend.
It wasn’t long before Margaret & Clive arrived with their caravan, and the Marquee. Soon Dave & Sandy, Mark, Amanda & Nadia , Gary to name but a few arrived.
Following closely was Witold & Walter with a young lady companion. Witold's got another woman, I thought. She had the most luxurious black shiny curly hair but also a cold wet nose. Wiltold's new companion was a very well behaved dog. (I’m very sorry but I can’t remember her name or breed but we have got a photo) Needless to say she has got a Polish name. I’m not sure how Witold, Walter, the dog and all the camping gear managed to get into a Merlin but they did, it was like the Tardis!
A few more members arrived and we all set about getting the Marquee up. Could we remember how it went up, did we still have the instructions, were they in Japanese? Yes, yes & yes, but with all hands on deck (or should that be on poles, sorry Witold not you) we got the thing up, pronto!
As there is no official club business on a Saturday it makes for a very relaxing day & evening. Once everything was set up and other members arrived we all prepared for our usual BBQ.
This is the chance to meet up with all our old friends and catch up on what’s been happening over the winter and preparing for the coming year with or without a Merlin.
It was quite a mild night, not as warm as last year, but none of us froze as in the past. Soon it was time to clear up and wend our various ways to hotel, hostels, B & B, tents, caravans or mobile homes. We were soon tucked up cosily with a hot coffee, ready for the next day.
However it poured down during the night so we didn’t quite know what weather to expect for Sunday.
Sunday arrived bright & sunny. We were hopefully in for a good turnout. The Marquee was set up ready to do all the official business taking renewals and selling any merchandise (still have 3 T shirts left by the way)
Sunday is also AGM day so those of us on the committee and some members set off for the conference hall. No problems again with the premises this year, and Amanda made a lot of posters to direct people to the right room.
The usual format took place with reports from Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and me. We had a good year in all aspects last year especially the setting up of the new website by Dave Harrison & Mike Woolridge who are doing a sterling job. Mike has also taken over some of the work relating to the membership list. This will help Amanda greatly. Barry is still looking for articles to put in this magazine so I hope members will put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to help him out. It doesn’t always have to be Merlin related, any interesting event or item would be appreciated. The social side also went well with all our trips and shows being quite well attended for the most part as were those this year.
After voting in the committee for another year the meeting ended and we all got back to business at the Merlin club stand.
Sunday night is BBBQ night (Big Barbecue Night) where over the past few years we have found more and more members staying over, plus some friends.
Our members from Scotland, Bruce & Alice made it again this year as did Colin & Hazel from the Isle of Wight. Also John & Mel came down from Northumberland. We thank them all for making such an effort.
We had a sumptuous feast again this year. Witold and Walter ably assisted by the dog served up some tasty, spicy meat dishes.
(Actually Nadia took very good care of her most of the time, and she was kept on her lead quite happily)
There were loads of different salads to be had and we cooked some fantastic steaks, chops and kebabs on the BBQ.
The meal was finished off in great style with a huge cheeseboard accompanied by a couple of bottles of port provided by Dave & Roma Jesses. We thank them very much for all of that.
Amanda even managed to produce a special bottle of wine to mark the occasion called “Stonleigh”
It was getting rather late by the time we had all finished and polished off most of the beer, wine and cheese. Soon we were ready to retire happily protected from the inside from any cold weather that may be thrown our way. Just as most people were leaving John & Mel turned up again; don’t know where they had been, so we had another drink, just to keep them company.
You always know when you shouldn’t have had that last one don’t you. I got up ready to go to bed and stood in a dip in the ground and went flying, straight on my nose. Didn’t even put my hands out to stop myself, stupid you may say, but all I could do was giggle. I blame it on the wine of course or was it the port, mind you that polish cherry brandy was good, at least I didn’t feel any pain, but would I have a black eye in the morning?
Luckily however all I seemed to see in the morning was a little cut across the top of my nose. What an escape, I had visions of trying to explain that no Andy didn’t thump me in the night, and no I didn’t fall out of bed and no of course I hadn’t drunk too much!!
It was the last day of the Stoneleigh show and the time to have a good look around the stalls and sheds, pick up those bits and pieces for the car or dusters if you are anything like me.(we now need to get bits for the van)
There seemed to be plenty of decent outlets again this year so I hope everyone managed to find something. This show is fast becoming the only one worth visiting.
It didn’t seem long before people were drifting off and the show was thinning out. Time to take down the Marquee.
It went down quicker than when we put it up. Soon it was all packed away and stowed again in Clive’s caravan, ready for next year!
Thanks to all club members and friends for making it such a good weekend again, it wouldn’t happen without you all.
I hope everyone had a super time. Over the two days we had over 30 cars, 28 on Sunday. It’s still nice to see such a good line up. Andy & I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves especially as we didn’t have to pack away a tent anymore. We stayed on site that night as we were visiting a cousin in Kenilworth which was quite convenient. Then we went into Warwickshire for a few nights and camped. Then it was back home with me following behind in the Merlin again, but I did rather enjoy it!
Remember Stoneleigh is the best place to find out about any events being organised for that year or the next, to discuss any building or rebuilding problems with the many experts (those men who like to crawl under greasy, oily engines) or just to catch up on any gossip, meet old and new friends and generally have a jolly good time. It is the main social gathering of the year and can provide the start of so many new friendships with people from all over the country.
Bye for now