If you are going to splutter to a halt on a remote Peak District byway in your newly re-engined Lomax then there is probably no better company to do it in that in the midst of a convoy of the Eastern Bloc’s most iconic engineering. Spare length of 5.5mm fuel line? Produced after a brief rummage in the boot of a Lada. Someone willing to suck on the end of said fuel line to clear the vapour lock? The driver of the Lada. Moral support, encouragement and a push? From the Skoda and the Trabant behind.
That was Saturday afternoon. It was a blazing hot day and the Lomax Did Not Like It.
Like the Lomax, I was unhappy.
When I pay someone to do a job I would like it to be done better than I can do it. The new-ish engine suffers from chronic overheating. Since discovering this in Wales I have replaced and adjusted the points, sorting out the over-long screw which was scoring the front of the cam and interfering with the centrifugal advance. I’ve redone the valve clearances, because the exhaust clearances were just about closed. I’ve blown through all the carb jets and reset the float height.
And on Friday after a miserable drive through Stoke city centre we worked out that the oil cooler was clogged like a 60-a-day man’s arteries. Rob bravely put it to his lips and blew until a gout of oil gushed out onto the grass. This is not what I was expecting. I suspect it wasn’t what he was expecting either, but I lent him my spanners in exchange so he could sort out his bent boot hinge.
Al fresco engineering is a tradition of the Foxfield IFA Club meet, and it is comforting to be surrounded by resourceful people who remain unconcerned when the exhaust falls off the back of their bike halfway up a hill out of Cheadle and cheerfully discuss the best way of bungeeing it back on to get home without melting any elastic instead of booting it into the nearest skip.
Being good Communists we believe in the good of the collective. But owing to an administrative cock-up somewhere along the line the family who had booked the station for an all-day party on Saturday hadn’t been told there would be a thirsty collection of harmless eccentrics camped next to the miniature railway.
“Hello!” I said to the woman blowing up balloons on Saturday morning. “Whose party is it?”
“It’s for my dad. He’s retiring, and it’s his birthday, and he’s beaten cancer.”
“Excellent. We’re a car club, we come here every year. It’s a shame about the double-booking, isn’t it”
“No you can’t use the bar.”
I like to think that if it had been the other way round and I’d been the party host I’d have welcomed the leavening of my family party with a few interesting outsiders. But that probably says more about how I feel about my family than anything else.
We went to the pub instead.
Saturday was the road run and the total collapse of the Lomax. With the roadside repair of the fuel lines and a boost from David’s spare battery – kept charged in the Lada, just in case – we got going again, only to run straight into the back of a flock of sheep being herded at slow collie pace up the hill. Yes, just perfect when your car is so hot it’s boiling its own petrol.
Eventually they turned off and we trundled agonizingly into the very beautiful village of Hartington for the lunch stop. AdventureDog enjoyed an ice cream. I enjoyed passive-aggressively saying ‘you’re welcome’ to the woman who ignored the fact that we’d stepped back to let her down the stairs from the ladies loo and headed off into the distance. This infuriated her so much that she came all the way back up the stairs to tell me that she was unsteady on her feet and concentrating, and it was much more sensible for the person at the bottom of the stairs to wait. She tailed off after a minute and said, “You’re not in a very good mood, are you?”
We staggered on. The company was good even if the engine was struggling. Next on the list is a swop for cooler spark plugs and my special hot-temperature coil. And another round of carb cleaning.
Sometimes when the day has not gone well it’s very nice to sit and drink beer with friends. The problem with rounds is that you sit down and other people bring you the pints. The other problem is that I’ve not been drinking much since last September and have become a truly cheap date. So this year it was my turn to have the intervention and have my mug of sparkling East German wine which I was womanfully quaffing round the camp fire on being rescued from the pub gently removed from me.
Well – if my car is behaving badly perhaps I’m also allowed to be.