Monthly Archives: April 2008

Rustry crates and Crusty plates

Last night the Pie Club of Great Britain held their Spring event – and it was my turn to organise it.

Being the owner of a very upmarket motor car, I thought I would revisit my youth and take my fellow connoisseurs of the pastry casing to one of the pubs around Berkeley square in Mayfair.

Much research went into identifying the perfect venue – including inadvertantly visiting a gay bar… I have never drunk a gin and tonic so quickly in my life…

In my early teens I would haunt the local Aston Martin showroom – drooling over the V8s and plaguing the long suffering salesmen, who probably saw me as an over privileged brat but put up with me just in case my father was a potential client.

In my later teens I discovered the delights of pubs such as the Red Lion in Waverton Street and the Coach and Horses in Bruton Street, both still little changed in fabric – but clientele now very different. In the early seventies Mayfair was still very much a residential area, and these pubs were frequented by the staff from the big houses and the trendy youngsters from the mews cottages. Now the bars are full of braying yuppies.

In the end the final choice was the Windmill in Mill Street three times awarded for the quality of their steak and kidney pies.

Even if I say so myself the evening went very well, the quality of the pies was surpassed only by the quality of the company. Although there was nearly a disaster over the booking, which resulted in us having to have two tables instead of one large one, and a very long wait for the pies, we all had A Very Good Time.

Stephanie, Ewen, George and Alastair

Andrew, Dionne, James and Suz

My duty now done for a year or so, I look forward to the Summer Pie event – organised by some-one else!

Paint: drying…

I do sometimes wonder if the poeple who read this blog (if any still do!) are beginning to think that watching paint dry might be a better use of their time.

Still, here goes for another spine tingling installment of greasy fingerprints and skinned knuckles.

This weekend I finished attaching the heat shields in the rear transmission tunnel and fitted the handbrake cable. I had a good look under the wreck in the barn to check where everything went:

One in the barn

And put the new one together:

Handbrake cable on ROJ handbrake cable ROJ

Had another go at fitting the front shock:

Shocking, still noit attached

and gave up again because my hydraulic tool wouldn’t fit into the suspension leg, and Malcolm’s spring compressors were too short, so it’s off to Machine Mart again for some longer ones…

(Not so) Veloco-cycle

Found Malcolm finding another excuse not to do any work on his Renault – he’s got himself an old moped to rebuild – I hope he’s not planning a trip to France on that!

Why won't it go?

The engine

Regular readers will know of my frustrated attempts to find someone to help me rebuild ROJ’s engine – Malcolm and Gary may have both worked at Aston Martin – but on Vanquishes not 30 year old V8s.

Today a gentlemen came to tea who may well be my salvation.. well ROJ’s salvation. Peter Austin Smith is a retired Aston Martin engineer who worked on V8s when they were new… and may even have worked on ROJ. He lives two villages away from the farm and will come over once in a while to supervise me (and friends) as we strip down the engine, inspect it for problems, and then put it all back together again.

We start next month!

Past (and present) loves 3

Even before the orange Fiat went to be recycled as a refridgerator, we had started looking for a larger, more comfortable car – and found it in this 1974 Vanden Plas 1300 Princess. She may be nappy-contents yellow (Harvest Gold) on the outside and swamp green leather inside – but she still won first prize at the Bank Holiday classic car show on Alverstoke beach

Proud moment

With walnut dash and door caps, and picnic tables in the back she’s like a Bentley that inadvertantly got hot-washed. We never had a nick-name for her, but the Princess served us well for several years until the salt air played havoc with her inner wings.

When I did my classic car restoration course I stripped down and rebuilt her front end, and she is now in my mother’s garage on axle stands until I can find time to finish off some work on the sills, poor girl – having to compete for my time with an Aston!

Pining for ROJ

The snow is steadily falling in leafy Dulwich – and the garden is looking lovely, here’s the view from where I’m sitting:

With this weather I’m glad that I’m not working on ROJ on the farm – even though I’m facing another enforced separation due to family commitments.

Angus and his really sweet grilfriend Haz were here over half term – which was great. Angus went back to Glasgow on Friday. We sent him back first class on the Virgin train from Euston – he was thrilled with the cooked breakfast and lunch, and particularly the drinks trolley!

Here in London we are in the run up to Mayoral elections – I went to one of the hustings the other day and found myself swinging from Ken to Boris and back again – the lib-dems send me to sleep and the green party just spout rhetoric.

Ken maybe an unpleasant little man with some crackpot ideas – and he may be vehemently anti-car, but he does get things done. His manifesto tends to be primarily about changing the way people behave to improve life in London.. which is a difficult message to give, but essentially right.

Boris on the other hand has a manifesto full of promises about what he will do for London -suggesting that Londoners don’t have to do anything for themselves – which may suggest why he’s ahead in the polls. He is a self confessed petrol head, however he might just find it difficult to reconcile this with being Mayor.

…I think I’ll flip a coin – Ken as first choice, Boris as second… or vice versa….

Yesterday was a rather painful day for the credit card. In July we are going to Peru for three weeks and while we’re away we are giving the house keys to the builders. They will be stripping the place out: total rewiring, installing state of the art central heating and rebuilding bathroom and bedrooms. It has taken us three months to decide on all the new fittings, colour schemes etc – and yesterday entailed paying the first installment. I had to lie down in a dark room for a while.

But back to the most important thing in life (apart from family of course) – ROJ.

I have been in discussion with a retired Aston Martin engineer about rebuilding the engine. He worked at Newport Pagnell in the seventies – and may have even worked on ROJ. He is coming to the farm next time I am up, and I am hoping that with his help I will be able to speed things up considerably. I can’t see much point in getting the home sorted out if I can’t have the Aston parked outside.

Past loves 2

Our first little Fiat was such a gutsy little machine that when it disintegrated in rust we went for the same model again.

This is where we started to learn about owning classic cars!

Here we are on holiday on the Isle of Wight. Pretty soon we knew most of the AA men in the South of England by their first names… (Note Angus has grown a few inches since the first photo)

This little car lasted about two years, but by this time we were beginning to get the bug for motoring further afield than Hampshire and the IoW – so we moved on to something bigger. (I do wish that I had the skills then that I do now – I would have taken engine and running gear from white car and put them in the orange body and kept it for fun).

Sad day

Angus took Haz on a tour of his childhood last week – Down to Dulwich College, then into town to Hill House in Knightsbridge and then to the Regency block where we lived behind Madam Tussauds – only to find it in the hands of the demolition man… The planned new building will be all steel and glass – which I think will look wrong in that location, no doubt the developers will make a killing.