From Portsmouth we headed north and eventually arrived at a small campsite attached to a Covert War/Aviation Museum, in Northamptonshire, said to be the founding home of the CIA! Living out in the middle of beyond, next to Covert War Museum we are seeing yet another side to life. The campsite owners, Vera and Bernard, hold a number of rallies throughout the summer which has brought some very strange characters into close proximity.
There are a few permanent caravans around us, in one of which lives an Irish guy who drives ‘The Tortoise.’ ‘The Tortoise’ is a Ford Escort incognito, with extension plates welded all over the exterior to give the effect of a ‘shell’ which have then been painted for extra effect. Alan told him that our intended motorhome will be called ‘The Crow’ to which he asked us, ‘What pills are you taking?’ I looked at him, then looked at his car, then said, ‘Obviously not the same ones you are taking!’ He spends his weekends spraying and touching up ‘The Tortoise.’ ‘The Tortoise’ puts a smile on people’s faces. Apparently one policeman has told ‘The Tortoise’ that his extension plates are illegal and seems to be on a crusade to force ‘The Tortoise’ off the road. ‘The Tortoise’ has been taken to the MoT testing station, and has been passed as kosher for British roads. Other policemen don’t seem to have a problem with ‘The Tortoise,’ it’s just this one. There’s always one, isn’t there? The owner of ‘The Tortoise’ is now indulging in another project. A Ford Escort van! But he’s not telling us what the van is going to be. I suppose that we shall have to try and guess, as each week it becomes transformed!
One weekend, the Camping and Caravanning Club had a meet in the next field, at the same time as ‘The Pioneers’ had their Easter meet in an adjoining field. ‘The Pioneers’ are a small group of people who in their spare time live as the first European North American settlers lived, with their canvas tents, billycans, axes, and campfires. To look at them you would think ‘Little House On The Prairie.’ One character ‘Gypo Jim’ came with his menagerie, 3 ferrets, a dwarf Amazonian parrot and a dog. His ‘tent’ is really a horsebox disguised as a log cabin, on which he hangs an array of basic metal outdoor 18thC cooking implements. Pride of place at the front of his tent stands his totem pole, decorated with bones, feathers and furs, all presented to him by one friend or other. ‘Each one tells a story.’ He told us. It all looked quite a sight with, The Camping and Caravanning Club with their shiny new caravans, wearing their fancy outdoor clothing from Millets, sitting on their plastic camping chairs and tables, with their noses in the air, not talking to each other. And a few feet away ‘The Pioneers’ with their rustic wooden furniture, bones, feathers, Billy cans and animal skins laughing and making welcome anyone who dared to go and say ‘Hello!’ They were great! (Basil Fawlty, from Fawlty Towers, would have said, ‘We have both ends of the evolutionary scale this week.’) Jim’s son came to visit bringing with him two beautiful birds of prey. A Shaker and an Eagle Owl. One other member of the Pioneers, Tug, showed us how to shoot a crossbow and a bow and arrow. Jim showed us how to perfect the art of axe throwing. The Pioneers were such good fun to be with.
It was nice to meet Jim and Co, but a couple of weeks after Jim and Co had left, we noticed what we thought were The Pioneers setting up camp again in the neighbouring field, with their canvas tents, billycans, totems and an array of cooking utensils, along with a few ferrets and a couple of lurchers. So naturally we went over to say ‘Hello.’ Jim wasn’t to be seen, so asked, ‘Are you the Pioneers?’ The reply was most indignant, ‘Oh no we are not The Pioneers, we are The Colonials!’ It was all we could do to keep straight faces! (We’re not The Judean People’s Front, we’re The People’s Front Of Judea! “The Life of Brian”) Apparently, the split happened due to those who are now The Colonials not agreeing in part to Jim’s converted horsebox, because they explained ‘The original settlers didn’t live in converted horse boxes.’ At that moment, one of the women in The Colonial group, started speeding around the field exercising the lurchers, in a fully automatic electric wheelchair! Q. Did original settlers to America have electric wheelchairs? I don’t think so!
Jim has another side to the story. He tells us that the whole point of the group was to try and live, as the original European North American settlers lived. But when they gave demonstrations at fetes and rallies to welcome the public to see how they lived, The Colonials didn’t like the idea of showing the public inside their tents, and used to close them up anyone came to see. This we could believe, because The Colonials were not at all friendly and didn’t make us feel welcome. Unlike The Pioneers who gave us a wonderful weekend. Jim said that such behaviour was pointless. As an after thought. Is it any wonder that America went through a vicious civil war, when a small group of similar folk, of no more than 20 are unable to resolve their differences and end up splitting with bad feelings in the sleepy countryside of Northamptonshire? But of course, where do you draw the line as to what the original settlers had and used? To say that a converted horsebox is not in keeping with the times makes a mockery of everything else that they use. (not to mention that futuristic electric wheelchair) Jim told us that he has a horsebox because he lives on his own and has heart problems. A horsebox is an easy option for him to handle. Inside the horsebox is very basic, with a wooden shelf for the bed and one shelf for a few things. The utensils that both The Pioneers and The Colonials use might look authentic, but they were forged with modern methods, using metals mined in modern ways. They all drive to the camps in modern vehicles. And they all eat food bought from the supermarkets!
That Horrible Word, Work.
We are both in employment now working hard towards our next winter migration. I work for a large travel company VDU-ing in the accountancy department. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The waste is disgusting. This company alone must play a key role in supporting the hamster bedding industry! Ream upon ream of top quality paper is shredded every day. Alan said that the waste at his work is disgusting also. Something has to be done about all the waste in this world.
Our New Project.
Some other great news! We have at last bought our base vehicle for our A-Class motorhome. We have an ex-council L reg Omni minibus, 22 seater, air suspension, air assisted brakes, 2.9 Perkins diesel which takes a whopping 18 litres per oil change. Gross maximum weight is 5 ton, which is perfect for our 120 litre water tank, a full sized cooker, extra gas bottles, Alan’s extensive tool box and all of our belongings. Being a commercial vehicle, weights and long hard journeys will not be a problem. We have made some preliminary floor plans and hope to make a start on the conversion some time in the next couple of weeks. It’s all very exciting. We shall be calling our self-converted motorhome, ‘Bitsa’ because she will be made from bits of this and bits of that! We cannot and will not pay the inflated prices for the furnishings of Bitsa, so will be frequenting car-boots and skips. We shall have it completed for when we are ready to head South again for the winter. (October)
We saw our old Sherpa this weekend, the one we drove to Kathmandu. It did look a sorry state, all neglected and ready for the scrapyard in the sky. The new owner still has the country names painted down the side of the van and all the stickers from the trip, although they are becoming rather faded now. He told us that so many people stop and ask him about the journey marked on the van, that he has resorted to carrying a copy of my article from MMM magazine to show them!