Gary J Lewis.
to start a report on what everyone who attended will recall as a historic event
is difficult, to try and describe the atmosphere and excitement of the day, is
almost impossible unless you were there, but I’ll give it a go.
Friday 9th July 1999.
6pm, departure time. The intrepid explorers set off into the unknown,
literary! Andy, Mark G, Paul G, Jim and myself, due south.
a mind numbing drive down the M5, M42, M40 and M25, the A24 and the A280 were a
relief that is, unless you were a passenger in Jim’s Mini (‘nuff said). We
almost drove past our destination in the dark arriving at 11pm, the usual
kissing of hallowed ground followed and then the realisation that the planned
camping on the grass bordered forecourt was out, as there wasn’t one.
Andy hit on the idea that if we could find a Travel Lodge we could ‘all’
share a room, after accosting a local we found that there was such an
establishment not three miles down the road. On arrival Andy duly approached the
formidable sleep fortress, arrgh!! £46 per single room with no access other
that through reception, sod that for a game of soldiers came the cry.
By now it had turned midnight and desperate measures were afoot, directly
opposite was a traffic island with a 24 hour Shell filling station attached, the
traffic island was grassy(ish). Jim and myself duly marched into the Shell
shoppe and after finding out that the ‘grassy’ area belonged to them
promptly informed the cashier that we were about to pitch camp on the ‘ere
Camp was set, to the bemusement of some of the locals who seemed to think that
we were GYPSIES? I’ve personally never seen gypsies in designer tents before!
Jim had a new ‘compact’ tent, the biggest compact tent that anyone had ever
seen, he could have parked his Mini in it and still have had room to land a
All set up and no place to go, ha! A 24hr garage and car wash on one side, a
cemetery on the other and a road running all round us, bizarre, well, yes I
suppose so, but when in Rome (whatever that means). As it was very late Mark
decided not to erect his accommodation but to share Andys abode, three in one
tent, sweaty feet, Paul G and all, not a recipe for a good nights sleep, anyway
after a quick drink, tea brewed on the camp stove and coffee from the ‘Shell
quickee mart’, we got our heads down, that is all except Jim who at 1am
decides he wants to cook his tin of chili on the stove that’s in my tent,
after shouting ‘be gone’, ‘go away’, ‘depart’ and lots of verbal
graffiti very close to this, Jim got the message and went to bed, chili’less.
A wild and tiring night towered before us, at 2am a group of drunken local
yobbo's decided it was sport to hassle the aliens camped on the traffic island,
after driving them off a few times, some with the help of the Shell mobile
security vehicle. Sleep enveloped me until 4am’ish woken to the sound of tent
zips screeching I leaped out of my personal fridge to find Andy wandering about,
trying to find his car keys, as he had had enough of trying to sleep in the tent
of snoring Gameson's. To cut things short, sleep finally sent its black veil to
The alarm clock was set for 7am. Early morning and Mark G had what
could best be described as a major panic attack, running around the camp
shouting and hammering on tents that the clock hadn’t gone off and that it was
7.10am and no-one was up, I emerged to a hazy cold morning and glanced at my
watch, damn its stopped, at 5.10, looking closer it hadn’t stopped, Yes, Mark
G really had got me up at 5.10am, after some rather harsh language and some
quite groveling apologies from Mark G, I again hit the sack, destined not to
sleep another wink.
The Usual Suspects.
everyone’s up, in one state or another, breakfasts on and tea and coffee are
being swilled in copious amounts, loverly! Just before 8am we’re on our way.
As it was still early we decided to visit the beach, we were the only people up
apart from one lone cyclist who nearly took the front off Jim's Mini coming out
of a junction, Jim muttered under his breath, “we’ll get 'im on the way
The beach was pebbles and the sea was full of
shi seaweed. The
usual British seaside I suppose. I must say that the weather was glorious all
day, quite superb! After a brief rest on the beach and a quick iced lolly we set
off in search of civilisation which we found in the form of Sainsburys. Andy
speedily accessed the hole in the wall!!! and after purchasing some much needed
refreshment we set off for Cooper Garages.
We arrived at the place in question at around 10.30am and were warmly welcomed,
the atmosphere was electric as we entered the showrooms, brand new Cooper Minis
abounded. The history in this place is tremendous. We were informed that John
Cooper was definatly coming in to see us, sometime that morning, as hoped for.
Patrick and Paula arrived around 11am and going on Pats beaming smile he was
soaking up the magic for somewhile a ‘Sport 5 S’ appeared outside, so not
being one to miss an opportunity, out I went to have a gander. The car was empty
when I got to it and thinking that this could be the only time I ever get to sit
in one of these, I did. Loverly!
Sitting there wishing I could ‘have a go’, a set of car keys appeared
through the open window (whoever said wishes didn’t come true) “take it
out” the said the man and not being slow on the uptake I did, but not before
Jim jumped in through the passenger door. We had a great 15 minutes or so
leisurely pottering about the East Preston lanes. Getting back we swapped over
and Jim took me for a ‘ride’ (‘nuff said). While we were away another Mini
appeared a four speed version, well we had to have a go at that one didn’t we?
While on our second trip out we came back past the garage to find Mark G waving
us down, pulling in, he explained that John Cooper had arrived, so Jim and I
raced inside expecting Mr. Cooper to only be there for a few minutes, our
John cooper is one of the most friendly and approachable people that I have ever
met, he gathered us all around him and gave us a 25 minute talk on his life, his
part in the Mini’s history and much more, after which he posed for photographs
for another 10 minutes or more, a great man. The morning wore on, everyone
having a drive in the test cars, Mark G ordered his new Mini and had a
test drive in an equivalent model that was sitting in the showroom, this
explains the big stretchy smile still etched on his face.
Time for departure just after 1pm, having thanked Mr. Richard De Jong the
General Manager for a superb day he very nicely had a member of staff take for
us the obligatory group photos outside the garage. So saying our farewells and
overwhelming thanks for memories that will live forever we set off to find food,
drink and a ‘nice’ beach. A few miles down the coast a cafe right on the
beach fitted the equation.
Near the end of a Perfect Day.
Jim meanwhile decided that he wasn’t hungry and went and sat on the beach all
on his tod. This baffled and somewhat worried the rest of us so after the
‘banquet’ we all went down to see what was so fascinating that it kept
ginger Jim out in the afternoon sun. Topless women everywhere, ‘nuff said! So
after ‘20 minutes or so‘ we prized Jim off the beach, it was very
hard (close your dirty minds.) So off we set, homeward bound. Great memories
whizzing about our in our heads and a long drive before us, on the M40 everyone
fell to sleep, at the same time! Not a good move, but after a reviving caffeine
break the journey continued and we arrived home safely.
This trip must be repeated, to enable the people not able to make it this time
to feel the ‘buzz’ we all still have.
Back to Top