Well folks here comes the autumn with it's darker mornings, shorter days and the promise of some beautiful colours in the trees and skies. I just bought a beautiful antique French wood burning stove on eBay which will make it possible to use Althea all year round without having to rely on an electricity feed for warmth. I'm looking forward to seeing smoke coming from a little chimney framing her in shafts of elven sunlight as a day in the winter woods draws to a close.....
And so to the summer. Althea and I have been to lots of festivals, spent nights by the sea, been smudged by Merlin, given shelter to strangers, been on the wrong side of the law and she even put me in hospital.
Apart from this she's had a new flexi pipe for the exhaust, 5 new wheels and the engine has dropped a few inches and had to be bolted back into position. I had to replace the clutch cable too which, in true Althea Style, was hanging by a couple of threads at the end of a very long drive. In the last couple of miles from home I was running out of gears until with less than half a mile to go I had to get out and get under with a couple of cable ties to persuade her to limp home.
The new (hardly used) wheels are a little smaller than the ones they replace but are in fact the right size. She handles much better now, goes up hills and with a bit of a grunt I can turn he wheel while she's standing still. Kwik Fit quoted me £200 for one tyre. The scruffy lads down the road did all 5 for £160.
She's now on the books of a couple of agencies that find vehicles for film and TV too but I'm not sure I could stand to have her out of my sight and not knowing what abuse she was suffering for weeks at a time. Though the thought of £300+ a day hire fees is very tempting. Let's see what happens.
I've also invested in an other, much bigger solar panel which fits very nicely into the windscreen. Even on a dull day it generates more than enough to keep the batteries topped up (as long as I park facing south) and in the summer I should be abe to run the new fridge off it too.
I bought half an old canvas army tent to make it possible to make the awning into an enclosed space and a special silicon flue thingy so the wood burner can be brought out and set up in the awning with the chimney passing safely through the canvas. Hopefully this should put an end to the grumbles of my fellow campers and usher in a whole new world of warm, dry comfort.
It would be folly to attempt to describe every detail of the summer so I won't try. I should have kept this blog updated as I went along but I was either having too much fun, too tired, without laptop, or all of the above.
The highlights were Glastonbury on my own but meeting up with friends. I had to pretend to be Japanese thanks to the name on my crew pass, which nobody ever questioned. It took hours to get in and then hours to get in again thanks to not being given a pass-out on my first trip outside. Althea was parked in the car park furthest from he site which meant nice peaceful sleeps but a 4 mile walk to her from the festival gates. I worked out that I walked at least 80 and more like 100 miles over the 4 days. It was lovely to be able to do what I wanted when I wanted and to just wander around going wherever my eyes and ears drew me.
Flaming Lips were the highlight of the festival for me. I ran out of tape and camera space on purpose as they started their show. I didn't want to be tied to my cameras for the duration so didn't worry about taking enough memory/tapes.
I can highly recommend seeing them live. Their show is a wonderful explosion of positivity and psychedelic humour which has to be experienced first hand to be believed.
Then there was The Big Chill. Not so brilliant now it's in the hands of Festival Republic but at least it survived. MOrris and I arrived almost a day early and had to go and sleep in a lay-by for a few hours before they would even let us in. It took hours to get in and thanks to Morris quick thinking we didn't get sent to the wrong campsite. We positioned ourselves up against the fence in the VIP area and pretty soon were getting the huge amounts of attention Althea enjoys. The man who runs The British Ambulance Society came and introduced himself with the words,
"Is that your ambulance? I've got three of those."
Needless to say we were best friends within seconds. He invited me to come and show her at their shows which I will certainly be dong. I explained that I thought the ambulance restorers would have me burned as a heretic for what I've done to Althea but he assured me that they would be very interested to see something different.
It was fun being mistaken for whoever it was people were mistaking me for (I think it might have been Pete Lawrence) because I was wandering round the site with Morris. I posed for the photos anyway. Let them work it out later and have as big a laugh as I did.
I got to stay back stage at Big Chill radio, hang out with the Disco Shed people and most of all I got to meet Graham Fellows aka John Shuttleworth aka Jilted John. He was doing a show as John Shuttleworth and I chased him backstage and grabbed him for a photo. He was a bit reluctant but I pleaded being a lifetime fan and he gave in. He stayed in character throughout and denied all knowledge of Jilted John.