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Summer Picnic 2002

18 August 2002

by Ian Hopkins and Neil Cairns


Ian Hopkins writes:

I am sitting at Paul and Suzie Arnell's writing up this account of the MGCC Y Register Summer Picnic.  As I write, I have two prostrate dogs at my feet, having been for a long walk.  I am looking after them while Peter and Suzie join other members of the Y Register on the 10th Anniversary of the "Brittany Run": they aren't too much trouble, although they are beginning to moult - the dogs, not Peter and Suzie!


The Brittany Run is typical of the carefully executed planning of a Y Register event.  Which probably explains why Suzie rang this morning to say that half the group had decided to go to France via the Isle of Wight ferry!


Back to the Summer Picnic.  I had completed the event plaques (see above top left - webmaster) late as usual, having printed the master off the Apple Mac on the previous Wednesday morning.  The cartoon was added and the two images were photographed again (this time 12 times - one for each participant).  They were stuck down to the foam board and each one cut out using a scalpel.  They were promptly delivered to Peter and Suzies' home in Westcott Surrey on the Friday night.  They then informed me that owing to conflicting family commitments, they were unable to make the event.  This was a double blow as not only would they be missed by everyone, but I would have to deliver them to the Abingdon start early, instead of having a lie-in that morning.


Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny (I presume it did, as I did not get up that early).  My car was packed, and shone clean and bright in the morning sunshine.  My YB had been polished by upending a cup of waxoyl over it and rubbing the wax into all the splits in the paintwork and the parts where the paint had fallen off completely.  It worked really well, except that putting it on the bonnet was not one of my greatest ideas, as it vapourised when the engine got hot and then the wax droplets condensed on the windscreen!


So, having packed a picnic, chairs, maps etc. I set off from Kingston-upon-Thames at 8:15.  We were all supposed to meet at the Main Club offices in Abingdon by midday.  However, as I did not know when people would actually arrive, I left early.  Too early as it happened, as I arrived on the outskirts of Abingdon at 11:00 o'clock on a Sunday Morning.  As a result, I turned the car around and headed out to Dorchester-Upon-Thames.  I then spent half an hour or so looking around the historic town.  Outside the George Hotel in the High Street was a very nice late-Victorian horse drawn landau.  Having looked round, I then realised that time was moving on, so I beatled back to Abingdon.  I was still early, so I walked from the Club Offices to the Post Office in Cemetry Road and bought a can of drink and a newspaper.  On arriving back at the Club Offices, I was greeted by a couple in a pale blue Ford Anglia.  This was to replace their MG Y Type which was still undergoing restoration.  We were then greeted by Ian McHardy Young in a very natty pair of shorts.  Not long after midday other people began to arrive.  Neil Cairns and his wife, David and Barbara Hague with Chris Backland and a hairy dog, and Paul and Sara Barrow in their ZA Magnette (his Y also going through a body revamp).  This was the ZA's first outing since being rebuilt and it looked magnificent.  David Hague, obviously inspired by Ian's shorts decided to wear his.  He had been brought a pair of trousers which transform into shorts by undoing a zip running around each leg at about knee level.  This was the first time he had tried these and was keen to display his legs to the assembled group.  Having unzipped the legs he then promptly fell over and had to grab one of the spectators: he didn't realise he had to remove his shoes in order to get his legs out of the trouser parts!


Then Joan, from Main Club arrived and was told that one of the couple in the Ford Anglia had been stung by a wasp!  She was treated with the First Aid kit, then we all gathered together for a tour of the Main Club Offices.  We were given a fascinating glimpse of the history of the Club building and how it fitted in with the main MG factory.


When the tour was over, we had drunk our tea and Chris Backland had washed up, we all went back to the car park.  As we started up, Neil Cairns played "Name that tune" by telling people that they had loose tappets, clonking pistons etc. by the noise of the various XPAGs.  When I started my YB I believe the words "cement mixer" were used.


By now, everyone had affixed their plaques, had read the route notes arranged by Ian McHardy Young and were duly set off.  As I was driving alone I had arranged to follow Paul's Magnette as reading a route card and driving is not the easiest of things to do.  Paul set off first, I followed and the other cars did the same.  We knew that we were all "singing from the same hymn book" as they say because on the second round about, Paul took a sharp left and drove into a petrol station to fill up.  I, of course, followed ... and so did four other very bemused Y drivers who all piled onto the station's forecourt. Only Paul and I filled up and lef the petrol station in utter chaos as the other MGs filed around the pumps to get out.


Ian's route took us through various parts of Abingdon and the Cowley area of Oxford, past the site of the old Nuffield plant.  By then the cars had split into two groups - those who trusted Paul's navigation, and those who did not.  A misfire on the Magnette eventually forced Paul to drop out of the run and head for home, before any terminal damage was caused and Neil Cairns took over the lead.  Finally we arrived, via a very rough road, on the Ridgeway.  This is an iron age road crossing the Chiltern Hills.  We met a half dozen other MGs from the group parked overlooking the Vale of Oxford.  Ian was so sure that we were totally lost that he was going to return along the route to find us.  Actually, the reason we were late was that having followed Paul and Sara's Magnette to their retirement, everyone was now forced to read their pace notes.  Ian and Vicky McHardy Young had several blocks of ice cream and wafers for us all, When everyone had their fill, the ice cream was finished off by David Hague and their black Labrador.  The next part of the run took us through more stunning countryside, and after a nice run in the afternoon sunshine we pulled into the car park of the Thameside pubs.  Ian showed us the "cross-country" route to the picnic site, whilst David unpacked the gramophone, picnic hampers, boules set, Barbara, black Labrador and Chris Backland.  The initial idea was that we would all wear period costume.  As it was, full marks to David Hague for trying - he brought along a St Trinnian's school hat with blond plats, claiming this was what Barbara had been wearing at about the time the cars were being built!  As Barbara was a little embarrassed by the hat, Chris decided to wear it.  He got some rather odd looks from other people in the car park as he skipped his way over to the picnic field.


The idyllic site was overlooked on the far bank of the Thames by a wooded hill with a large Victorian house, part hidden by the oaks, with a very nice period boat house.  We had the place to ourselves (well we did after Chris arrived in that hat) and had a very nice meal.  Afterwards, everyone had a go at boules.  The game was intended to be played on a gravel surface or lawn.  We added extra excitement by playing it on a very rough grass track in a hay meadow.  If you have not played this game it is a bit like bowls.  You throw a small wooden "jack" made of varnished wood about the size of a table tennis ball, then try to get your ball nearest to it.  This was great fun as the "jack" disappeared into the grass and everyone had to keep walking up to find which doc-leaf it was hiding under.  David's gramophone played a selection of records which were a hit when he was courting (I must admit, I did not recognise any of them, but then I am only 47 and after David read's this, probably will not make 48!).


We then all returned to our cars and drove home.  Both the McHardy Young and the Hague households should be congratulated for organising such a great day out, as everyone really enjoyed themselves.




Neil Cairns writes:

On Sunday the 18th of August 2002 the 'Y' Register ran a 'Summer Picnic'. This is a new idea, and the brain-child of Ian McHardy-Young, the register's secretary. The day chosen could not have been better, as the sun dodged in and out of the clouds, just as one would expect on a typical late summers days. To make the whole occasion fit its very English title, there were even a few light rain showers. The picnic itself was situated on the River Thames, close to the Barley Mow public house, of "Three Men in a Boat" fame.


The participants assembled in the Berkshire market town of Abingdon, some having driven from South Wales, Gloucestershire and the Home Counties. We assembled midday in the car park of Kimber House. Every model of the 'Y' was represented, as were their good and bad points. One insisted upon boiling up its radiator and another was a study in the cars ability to return to nature in old age. Also attending was a smart dark-green ZA saloon, and straight from the 'Harry Potter' books, a blue Ford Anglia 105E. The little Ford provided a very interesting comparison. The 'Y' has a long stroke engine with its narrow bore and forged-steel crank, and an upright sit-up-and-beg body mounted upon a chassis; where as the Anglia has a short stroke engine with over square dimensions and a cast-iron hollow crankshaft, and a streamlined monocoque body.


After the six attending 'Y's had been inspected, the group were shown around the MGCC offices by Jean Cook. I had been having fun 'diagnosing' engine wear faults by listening to the individual engines as they ran. Quite a few had worn cam-followers slapping about at idle. After a good nose about the exhibits, and tea or coffee, Ian McH. set about getting the cars off along the run he had organised. By half past one all the cars has set off, apart from the 'boiling Y' who elected to drive direct to the picnic site.  The problem was diagnosed by myself as possibly an excessively corroded radiator matrix, that on hot summer days was unable to cope; along with a partially seized thermostat permitting water to flow round the by-pass, missing out the radiator. Ian McH. had prepared a running log, to be read out to the driver. Ian Hopkins was navigator-less, so he tucked his 'YA' LWP 710 in behind the green 'ZA' of Paul Barrow.


The first error of the run was four of us slavishly following Paul Barrow's 'ZA' PWW 111 into a petrol station just as we left Abingdon. I had tucked in behind Ian Hopkins in my green 'YB' 438 LRM, and the sequoia-cream 'YT' VSL 218 of Peter Vielvoye following on behind me. The rest of the run went well, up until the leading 'ZA' appeared to be losing power. Eventually Paul decided its misfiring was too bad to continue, so he took the car home. I then took over the lead. Eventually we found ourselves up high on 'The Rigdeway' by East Hendred, with a glorious view of Didcot power station and the surrounding late-summer countryside. Ian McH. had organised a lovely cool ice cream for us all. Once photo's had been taken, and a few more engine rattles and clatters diagnosed, we set off for the Barley Mow and the Thames, following Ian's 'YA' LAE 578. Once we had all parked up in the Barley Mow car park, Ian took us all on a cross-country course on foot. We went leaping over gates and avoiding field with signposts warning of bulls. David Hague produced an ancient maroon coloured box on which he placed old records, producing a wailing like noise to deter any bull within miles. It obviously worked, we never did see any bulls. A few of the party agreed the maroon box may have been a early 1900's wind-up gramophone.


Sitting by the side of the river Thames in the sun, watching electric launches pass, eating a picnic with convivial company, listening to very old gramophone music and playing bowls, after an inspiring drive about some very beautiful Berkshire villages, is what you missed if you did not attend. We all look forward to the Summer Picnic 2003.