Archive | December, 2016

Happy New Year to all

31 Dec


Currently nursing the start of man flu and apologised for not attending tonight’s neighbours celebrations. A week of close proximity to my toddler grandaughter who had a shocker of a cold and as we all know, kids are not the most hygienic of small mammals. (Only joking if family reading this !). Anyway, I may have caught this virus from a Sainsbury or Aldi trolley handle…………. who knows! (Touch the handle, rub your eye, then you feel that you’re gonna die!)

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year!  Below are a few photo memories of our travels in 2016 and a personal tribute to a dear friend who passed away on Boxing Day.

london-zoo-tiger       London Zoo.

elddis-pickup-3      Collecting the Elddy.


The Microlite about to leave for the last time.

axe-edge-may-2016-1    Axe Edge, Peak District. polesden-lacey-1  Polesden Lacy. SE England.

img_1096    Solo near Newark. img_1107  Vulcan at Newark Air Museum.

We last saw a Vulcan Bomber when we visited the area around Newark for a 90th Birthday Celebration for Her Majesty, the Queen Elizabeth.

vulcan-bomber   A very dear friend , Alan Mawson, moved to Australia to be with his family in the sunshine for his twilight years. We met more than 6 years ago when I was restoring our cottage in the village and he would stroll past to get his newspaper. He disrupted my work for quite a while as we can both talk for hours.!  In his National Service days, Alan was one of a relatively small team working as ground crew on the secretive Vulcan Bomber fleet.

As we got to know each other, it was obvious that he had enjoyed a wonderful family life filled with song birds, keeping chickens and using his financial skills to good effect. But most of all, he was a cheeky rascal of a man. We shared many, boyish, non-PC jokes standing looking over the village pond (which he had a hand in saving from the idiot , past , local politicians decades ago)

As his dementia slowly took hold, we would still share a small whisky together , laughing at his stories of daring do in the RAF. I bought him a die-cast Vulcan to take with him when he emigrated to Australia. A massive, brave move at that time of life. Everyone in the village missed him.

Just a day or so ago, we got the horrid news from his daughter that he had passed away on Boxing Day.

The weather in Brisbane had suited him and extended his quality of life tremendously.

Alan Mawson. Rest in peace.


Love to Alwyn and all the family. xx

Another coincidence or a very appropriate gift?

27 Dec

zillah-smith        On Boxing Day my daughter visited with her hubby and our grandaughter. Throughout the day, we exchanged gifts. We took our time as a not yet quite two years old toddler can get quite excited and overwhelmed when confronted with play kitchens, Tee Pees and more.

Being very busy , what with a toddler to look after and a hectic City lifestyle, my daughter does not view my Blog all that often. Although she knew of my intention to make a replica Bow Top Gypsy Caravan and had seen at least one pair of genuine wooden cart wheels, she was unaware of my plans to start another  Blog about making a Bow Top.

I was delighted to receive this book by Netta Cartwright. The story of Romany Gypsy, Zillah Smith, it is a beautiful record of a way of life which is fast disappearing. Zillah, I believe , comes from the Stafford area. The book was launched near Rugeley, in Staffordshire and so there is a local connection. I cannot wait to get my teeth into it.

I am sure that the book will support my efforts with the new Blog ( see posting of 20th December 2016)

I was just blown away by how very appropriate this gift was. It was I that was overwhelmed on Boxing day, not my little soulmate grandaughter.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

25 Dec


Merry Christmas everyone! Here’s a Wish for you to enjoy a peaceful Holiday.

Warmest Regards, Dinkum

A New Blog on the Horizon

20 Dec


I have always been interested in old fashioned, horse drawn, Gypsy caravans. Particularly the very attractive, Bow Top versions. As soon as the current busy season allows, I will be launching a new “Dinkum Blog”, additional to the current NV200 Blog, you are reading now.

bowtop-appleby        Above are scenes from 1936 and 1939 of the Appleby Fair. The ceramic model also features “Arrival at Appleby”. It was auctioned at the Borders Auction House some time ago.

You can still buy modern versions of Bow Tops which can be towed by a car. There are several manufacturers, with their own individual versions and features.

gregs-bowtopint    This interior is just one version from “Gregs”.


Having no experience of horses and not wishing to tow a modern version, I have decided to put together a Garden based, stationary copy of a Bow Top. It’s purpose to provide a “George Clarke” type amazing space. (see channel 4 TV).

The interior will have some similarities with that shown above, but that is as far as it goes. Over the past couple of years (how time flies!) I have been hoarding away all sorts of bits and bobs spotted in Antique shops and reclamation yards for my special “shed”. Arrival of my grandaughter added some incentive. Tea and scones with Grandpa anyone? Watch for more news and the Blog Address. Coming Soon.

(Martin McDowall, can read my mind, I am sure! He again anticipated what is going on and provided the final push to get started. He is an inspiration in tartan!)


Another long weekend in London. How it used to be travelled.

13 Dec


Where we live at present is on an old coaching route. It was certainly used for Royal Mail Coaches,before the railway came to the village, which it did early in it’s history. One half of our house had a tenant who was one of the first railway clerks ever in the locality. In the 1800s these mail coaches carried a guard who was armed with at least one musket. The police force (correct term for back then (it’s now “Service”)) was in it’s infancy and many travellers carried a pistol for protection.

1850s-peelers  1850s peelers.

On another recent round trip for pre-Christmas “Christmas” ,prior to family jetting off to the USA for the correctly timed event, I got thinking about the route that I used to travel to break up the monotony of continually driving from our previous  home to London area for work. Back then I used the A 5 , picking it up at Dunstable and right the way through to the outskirts of Cannock or Rugeley. That road was a direct main link between towns for Stage and Mail coaches.


Travelling at around 12 mph, it would take days to travel from London to Holyhead and Ireland beyond. I did some research and there were definite links between the original first buyer of our old house (built 1853) and the land agent who sold the land on behalf of the local miller, William Hill. The land agent owned a coaching Inn at Newcastle under Lyme which is still serving beer. I had originally thought that the Mail coaches which had passed by on the dirt road back then were heading for Llangollen but research says it was Chester as there were only two “roads” in existence towards the West and Wales.

mill-and-pool-early-1900s  The old corn mill, owned by William Hill. He sold the land on which our house(s) were built. A wealthy local blacksmith bought them and rented them out originally. He must have made his wealth from dealings with Lord Crewe and possibly carrying out farrier work on the mail coaches. He eventually owned several houses at nearby Woore and a handful more in our village.

coach-mail    A typical mail coach. The roads could become rutted and muddy. It must have been an uncomfortable way to travel. The old A5 was and is a straight road. Before safety cameras were installed, it was a known “fast” road, three lanes in places , back then. There were many accidents as it was still used long before the M1 came into being and is still used by many as an alternative, more scenic (?) route out of London.

In my research, I discovered a book of factual accounts of stage and mail coaching around the Shrewsbury area. There was one driver, my namesake, Richard Vickers, who was described as being very sobre (ahem….) , trustworthy and reliable. “A small man, needing to stand on several copper coins in order to see over a Stilton cheese!”  A most popular driver at a time when coach drivers were less than sobre, incurring many nasty coaching accidents including roll overs.

So, makes you thankful for the airbag bundle, seat belts and crush zones in the campervan. Not to mention the heating and comfy seats. As an old friend used to say, “comfort’s the thing.” I still have difficulty seeing over a stilton cheese though………..


A new motorhome manufacturer and it’s LDV (sort of…..)

6 Dec

newshound“Newshound” , Martin, from Scotland , has once more, sent me news of a new motorhome being imported into Australia from China. It’s causing quite a stir, to say the least. Rather like here in the U.K., the campervan and motorhome supply tends to be locally made or converted units made from familiar , home sourced base vehicles. Can the Ozzy converters compete with the might of China?

LDV has a long and somewhat complex history. Originally formed from British Leyland and the Dutch company, DAF., it’s had a mixed family journey. DAF went pop just before the  Russians took it on with the GAZ name but latterly, the Chinese now make the V80 “Maxus” which is used as the base for these motorhomes for Oz.


Remember the Sherpa van? This was the forerunner of LDV. Designed as a competitor for the successful Ford Transit, which was made back then in Southampton. (Moved to Turkey now thanks to E.U. subsidy !)

The 60% Daf and 40% Leyland owned company then developed the LDV versions.

ldv-202-proto This prototype LDV became the Renault Master !


But the British built Maxus followed on.ldv-maxus-uk

I have driven both Sherpas and Maxus and they handle really well. Built on a low budget, they were surprisingly good. After Daf went feet up, the Russians made these:

ldv-by-gaz Despite a large and growing potential market in Russia, the company failed and ownership passed to China. The LDV Maxus V80 was developed and sold into Ireland and Australia amongst other countries.


Finally, here is one of the Chinese made “V80 based” motorhomes being shipped into Oz.


It will be interesting to see just how sales go. Will we be getting these motorhomes here in the UK? I am sure that there are entrepreneurial types , who will jump at the opportunity to import these , given half a chance. Despite a mixed history, LDV vans have a big following. From Royal Mail drivers to Ambulance drivers, from Builders to members of the Police Service. Not to mention owners of a multitude of campervan conversions based on LDV panel vans. There are already some V80 panel van conversions to be seen on the web.

A big thanks to Martin for breaking the story!

A short trip to East Cheshire, a Celebrity fellow shopper and a moan about Talk Talk.

6 Dec


With the days so short now and darkness falling before 4pm we made the short hop east to Congleton for a pre-Christmas shop at Victoria Mill Antiques.

Much milder today, so the pre-heating using the gas blown air was not needed. We left the heating on yesterday whilst parked ! The campervan was filthy following a round robin of three antiques  centres in West  and North Cheshire on Monday. Arriving at lunchtime, we used the restaurant in the “loft” at the mill and purchased off the specials list. Top notch ! Almost as good as at Applegates yesterday, just south of Chester on Whitchurch Road.


When we finally got to the checkout desk, we stood behind a very distinguished figure , just completing his own purchase. It was Noddy Holder from Slade. This is how I remember him from my youth and how he looks now.


I was disappointed, being a chatty sort myself, not to be able to say how memorable he was and how much fun he gave to my mates and I in our old “biker” days way back in time, when Slade were a huge celebrity band.Within a few seconds he had turned away from the checkout and was out the door.

Now, One of Slade’s hits was ” Gudbuy T’Jane” reflecting the morning’s events.

slade-gudbuy-to-jane      Before we had left home, I had said goodbye T’ Talk Talk. Long overdue, I had had my mobile phone hacked into following the well publicised security breach. Someone had added their number onto my mobile account and I was paying someone else’s phone usage. At the time I had the devil of a job convincing Talk Talk that this was the case. At one point they even said that my mobile number had always been the fraudulent imposter. That was until I provided a bill from them showing my correct number which I have had for “centuries”.

I have cancelled my land line/TV/Broadband “bundle” too. Despite a promise to phone me back with a PAC code within 10 to 15 minutes, true to form it never happened and I had to go through all the mind numbing process to request it again this afternoon. This time successfully.

Now with new providers, in Slade’s words , “I won’t let it ‘Appen Agen.” Nil points to Talk Talk. Be warned if you are shopping around yourself.

Before heading for home, I topped up the windscreen washer bottle from a 5 litre back up that I keep in the campervan. I got really grubby hands doing this but it’s sooo easy to wash in a campervan. Oh the shear luxury of it all…………….

Memories of Winter past

4 Dec


Winter is now officially upon us. This year, much more than in recent years we are again so looking forward to celebrating Christmas. Our grandaughter being just the “right age” is one of the reasons. In reality we have many more reasons to be cheerful. It has brought back memories of Christmas past.

In 1962 we had a very snowy time of it. From my bedroom, at the front of our terraced house in the Potteries, I had a pretty good view of the cul de sac where we lived. There were only three cars in the street. A Wolseley and a baby Austin , owned by two fastidious and proud owners,one kept in a tiny garage in another street and the other in an old stable belonging to one of the larger houses opposite. The third car was a funeral car which would glide quietly to the end of the Cul de Sac. Owned by Mr Lewis, it would park opposite our old family home where we once all lived together as an extended family. Grandparents and two brothers with their children. It was a wonderful way to live. I remember watching my grandad arrive home from his pottery works in his Ford V8 Pilot and my dad and uncle climbing out. The three of them looked like  Al Capone and his cronies in their dark overcoats and hats.

One night, in 1962 ,I was woken by my dad. There was a coal fire in the open hearth of my bedroom and I was taken to the front window to look out from behind the curtains into the street. Snow was falling silently past the familiar gas lamp right outside my window. Pristine snow drifts had filled the street up to the level of our front wall and you could not see where the road ended and our little front garden began. The holly trees next door were sugar coated like huge iced cakes. The two spinsters who lived there and made such a fuss of me as a small boy wouldn’t have been able to see out of their cottage.

It was truly magical. At that young age I had no idea of the chaos this would cause when the industrial world of smokey Stoke-on-Trent awoke next day. Milk brought in by sledge. No buses up the steep hill through our “village” to the Park and most people walking long distances to work for weeks. We went sledging in the Queen’s Park and after filling our tiny bellies with Lobby, beef stew with vegetables, we fell asleep immediately , glowing pink from the fun of it all.

File Name : DSCN2716.JPG File Size : 526.3KB (538884 Bytes) Date Taken : 2003/03/14 15:55:49 Image Size : 2048 x 1536 pixels Resolution : 300 x 300 dpi Bit Depth : 8 bits/channel Protection Attribute : Off Hide Attribute : Off Camera ID : N/A Camera : E990 Quality Mode : NORMAL Metering Mode : Matrix Exposure Mode : Aperture Priority Speed Light : No Focal Length : 14.9 mm Shutter Speed : 1/15.7 second Aperture : F4.9 Exposure Compensation : 0 EV White Balance : Auto Lens : Built-in Flash Sync Mode : N/A Exposure Difference : N/A Flexible Program : N/A Sensitivity : Auto Sharpening : Auto Image Type : Black & White Color Mode : N/A Hue Adjustment : N/A Saturation Control : N/A Tone Compensation : Black & White Latitude(GPS) : N/A Longitude(GPS) : N/A Altitude(GPS) : N/A

Eventually the roads looked something like this. I think Mr Campbell was amongst the first to resurrect his VW “Bus” and brave the conditions to get to his school, where he and his wife taught.

1950s-vw The Campbells lived just around the corner on the steep hill, up towards the park.Their VW never looked this good, but I loved the sound it made and how it carried the Campbell’s family in a laughter filled “box” on wheels.

potteries-1930s   All this was such a contrast to what “Stoke” looked like from our streets , high up on the southern edge of the City. This picture is from the 1930s but it looked little different in the early 1960s. When the weather was right (wrong?) we could not see the horizon beyond the next town for coal smoke. Yet it was this very coal which gave us the beautiful light from the hissing coal gas burning in the street lamps. All the way from the smelly coke works near Etruria, this gas was considered by the superstitious old folk to be dangerous and their old gas lights and mantles were treated with great respect. Victorian concerns die hard.