B is for B-roads and Bye Byes
(Sorry this post is a little belated, I’ve had a lot on and haven’t got round to writing this up).
Ahead of our cross-country migration at the end of this month, I’ve been having to schedule in some goodbyes. Significant amongst my friendship groups is the Colchester Mini Club, both the cars and their drivers. I’ve been a member of the club for as long as I’ve owned a Mini, which is several years, and last Wednesday was my last opportunity to go to a club meeting. It was a night of fun and excitement, even if it was tinged with sadness.
Something else that made that night a little more difficult was that my Mini was going to be there. I’ve been going to the meetings each month in the Escort for a while now, while Neddy was off the road for the winter, but there was a very different feel on Wednesday evening driving there knowing that I was no longer a Mini owner, especially given that the car was going to be there anyway, belonging to someone else. Selling a Mini really is like selling a close friend, and there’s a lot of emotion surrounding it.
I was pleased to see Neddy sitting in the car park though, still in more or less the same condition I sold it in. Inside the pub there was a fair-sized group present, all cheery and chatty as usual. I put a brave face on it and settled down with a pot of tea (which amused them all no end). Before too long James stood up to do the announcements, or so I thought – the only announcement at that point was that we were all going for a drive as a final farewell for me! And to make things even better, Rod gave me the keys to Neddy and let me drive! Woohoo!!
As much as I often complain about the sub-standard quality of countryside in this part of the country, the lack of hills and the timidity of the country lanes, there are actually a lot of very nice roads in the empty wastelands north of Colchester. Not hugely interesting on their own, perhaps, but as we drove along in convoy none of that mattered. Most of the time I couldn’t even see the Mini at the front, there were that many of us! I drove with the window down so I could hear the engine roar, threw it into the corners (enthusiastically yet cautiously – it’s not my car any more, after all), and had a permanent grin plastered across my face.
I’ve no idea where we went, but we saw very little in the way of civilisation. The pace was a little quicker than our usual club runs, which was good fun, though a couple of people ‘commented’ on it afterwards – not everyone likes to thrash their cars. The B-roads were good fun though, plenty of bends and the odd pot-hole to avoid, and it was warm enough that I didn’t freeze with the window down the whole time.
Neddy thoroughly enjoyed the ride too. All those little changes I’d made over the years came together, holding the car on the road, providing perfectly adequate acceleration, making a very pleasing noise. It bounced along the uneven roads, leaped over a hump-back bridge, and squealed round some corners. So much fun! It reminded me once again of just what it is that sets the Mini apart from other cars – it’s retained its inherent simplicity from the early days, so even the newer models still felt like go-karts. It’s not an uncivilised ride, nor is it filled with computer wizzardry, it’s just simple fun. And when it’s that simple, there’s not a huge amount to go wrong. Driving in a Mini you feel everything, you know exactly what each wheel is doing and you learn to refine your driving technique to get the most out of the car. Very different to my Escort, where everything is so detached I feel almost like I’m having to control it via telekinesis.
When we got back we carried on chatting away, and I got to know a couple of new girls who had just discovered the club. It was good fun, even though of course I’ll never see them again. Still, it made them feel welcome, which was the main thing. The club also gave me a big ‘good luck’ card which a lot of them had signed, which was very touching, and James formally thanked me for my input in the club over the years. I had to hold back the emotions somewhat, I have to admit, because going round hugging everyone just isn’t the right thing to do amongst car enthusists – people who are more at home under an oily car than expressing themselves physically in a non-sexual manner. So I said thank you and left it at that.
So that’s the close of another chapter in my life. I’ve promised to keep in touch with them all via the forum, and to pop in if I’m ever in the area. Hopefully I’ll see some of them at future Mini events too. Co-ordinating meeting up might prove difficult though, simply because of the number of different groups of people I’d have to see in one go – I’d have to go to St Margaret’s on Sunday to see them, see other friends in the area during the week, and get to a Mini club meeting on Wednesday evening. It’s possible, but not easy. We’ll see. But that’s thinking way off into the unforeseeable future, so I’ll stop there.
A big thank you to everyone at CMC for all the help and friendship you’ve shared with me over the years – I’ll miss you guys!