At the very end of July our car club attended the Fête locale d’Auzances . We all gathered at the side of the lake fairly early in the day so the cars attracted a lot of attention from the occupants of passing cars, many stopping to take a really close look at all the different marques. It was a very hot and sunny day and as we had to hang about there for over an hour, we made sure that we poured plenty of drinks “down the hatch” (non-alcoholic, I must add!!).
Eventually we received the word that we could move into the town and join the local car club in parading round the closed streets. People sitting at road-side cafés waved and cheered us. It was a brilliant carnival and the convoy of classic cars was followed by many different floats and bands. What we found really interesting was the band of musicians walking on stilts and wearing sheep-skin gaiters and skins round their shoulders. They had no problems at all, even though in some parts of the town the roads were very steep and the players had to keep their balance as they marched along on stilts, smiling and playing their instruments. We were told that in the south of France, the shepherds wore stilts so that they could keep an eye on their flocks of sheep.
The yearly weekend-long event at the St Laurent Airfield was next on our list in the summer of 2007. This is always held near the start of August and there is so much going on. Our club exhibits our cars, joined by several other clubs. There are horse and cart rides, model aircraft displays, bread-making by hand, many craft stalls, car parts, a brocante and much, much more. We have attended this event for the last four years and it has always been fine and sunny (though I hope that saying that doesn’t put a jinx on this year’s (2008) event!).
On the Saturday the cars arrived after lunch and then we went off on an organised run around the country-side. This is always a different route and has also (so far) taken us on roads that we’ve never driven before - though I suspect that this will be quite a challenge this coming August. It is always great fun as there is a convoy of some forty old cars driving around. They start us off in batches so as not to cause chaos on the roads but somehow we all seem to catch up with each other.
On the Sunday, we got there fairly early and stayed a while to display then there was a break when the all the cars were led into Guéret, first of all to the Lake Courtille where we all parked, then into the town square where all the cars squashed into the car park by the fountain and the public milled about viewing the cars before we headed back to the airfield for lunch.
Thank goodness we took a pliable tent with us to cover our car and a friend’s car parked next to ours as the temperature reached 33C by the afternoon. To be honest, by early afternoon we would have preferred to have gone home to the comfort of our own garden and the shade of our trees, but we were committed to the club so we stayed. Terry and our friend wandered about looking at the car parts from time to time and his wife and I, having exhausted looking at the stalls, sat and read our books in our little piece of hot shade!
A week later on a dog-walk in the country we picked a large basket of blackberries and next day I made 10 jars of blackberry and apple jam. A few days later we picked our own Mirabelle plums and I made over 2kgs jam from those. Many were spoiled though and unusable. A friend gave us several kgs of her damsons as she had so many she couldn’t cope with them and during the next two weeks I made so many blackberry and plum pies and jam etc that we became a little fed up with them, but it was an amazing summer for such fruit.
In September of 2007 we decided that we must replace my poor rear-bashed Peugeot and we didn’t have the funds to do so without selling our V8 MGB Roadster. We advertised her in the French car magazine, La Vie de L’Auto (LVA) and sold her fairly quickly to a Frenchman from Tours. In fact, we could have sold her several times over judging by all the very interested enquiries we received. It was a sad day when we waved her goodbye as the French chap delightedly drove her off, having had a quick lesson on how to drive a right-hand-drive manual car ! His own MGB was an automatic (he’d driven down previously in his own MGB - though not a soft-top) to look at our car. The VW that he and his wife came in when he collected our MG was an automatic too. He grated gears and jumped his way down the road for a bit then sped off like a bat out of hell, leaving his poor wife to turn the VW round and wonder which way he’d gone!
We subsequently purchased a Renault Megane Scenic which we have been very pleased with, especially as she has air conditioning - a luxury that we have never before had the pleasure of. It is a colour that we considered to be rather unusual at the time and which I described to friends in the UK as sort of metallic pistachio. However, once we had driven her around for a few days we realised that there are hundreds of them about in exactly the same colour !!! We simply had never noticed them before.
We had agreed that whatever we bought, we would make sure that we had enough left over for Terry to be able to buy some sort of old classic to be his “winter project”. This was only fair as we had sold his pride and joy. We knew it would not be in the same level of class as our MG but as long as it was restorable to become our summer fun car, we’d be happy with that.
E-bay seemed a good place to start and after a few weeks of looking, we saw a Moss. We had previously not heard of the Moss marque and here was this particular model with an enormously tall roll-bar. It looked interesting. Terry reckoned that the Triumph running gear and moulded body must make for easy and cheap maintenance.
The chap selling her had little information other than that she had been used in motor sport (hill-climbing) and was registered as a 1970 Triumph Herald with a sports body, was fitted with a straight six engine and four-speed box - and she had been standing outside for six years then sold as scrap! As we needed to register her in France and kit cars are normally a no-no (said with sharply inhaled breath!) the very fact that it was a 1970 model meant that she might be eligible for registration as a “vehicle of collection“.
We watched the days pass then put in our bid and held our breath for a couple or more days. The outcome was that ours was the winning bid and all we needed to do was collect her!
The car was in Sheffield and we were in central France. We were lucky that we were able to hire a trailer from a fellow car-club member and took off for Calais early one morning then caught the ferry to the UK.
It was blowing a gale and pelting with rain. Terry decided he’d rather not stay overnight in Folkestone (where we’d reached by 7.00pm) but preferred to press on. The M25 was a ceaseless stop-start nightmare and the M1 was even worse with road-works seemingly all the way up. We stopped at the first services where there was a large hotel, managed to park our car and long trailer and ran through the rain to the hotel doors. Gasping through our wet faces we asked for a room to be told that they were full up. We must have gawped in dismay at the receptionist.
So, a dash through the rain back to the car and we were off again. This repeated itself three more times, having passed Milton Keynes, until we at last found a hotel with vacancies. By this time tempers were shortening rapidly as Terry had suggested that if the next hotel didn’t have rooms we’d sleep in the car. We both have “dodgy backs”, it was freezing cold and blowing a gale outside so this suggestion did not go down at all well.
At the hotel where we finally managed to get a room (by then it was about 10.30pm) Terry had refused to try to park our long load and had hovered outside the front doors. I ran in to ask if they had a room and the receptionist said I could choose between a luxury double or an ordinary twin room. I plonked for the luxury double without a second thought and didn't tell Terry until we were unpacked and ready to drop into bed!
It didn’t take us long to reach Sheffield the next day. The Moss was a pretty sad sight, soaking wet (no hood), filthy dirty and flat tyres. The good news was that the seller had managed to get the engine running by squirting petrol onto the relevant area and the rain had eased off. The bad news was that there was no drive. With a bit of push and pull, three hefty blokes manoeuvred the Moss onto the trailer and we started on our return journey.
Next day we thankfully paid an extra £65 to take a much earlier ferry back to France. We were so happy although very tired to reach home, vowing that we never wanted to get anywhere near the M1 again.