HENLEY ON THAMES JULY 2006

July was turning out to be another hot month. Last year we all burned so this year we were going prepared with plenty of creams and cover, and we had a large awning on the van, so thankfully all would be OK.

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A phone call from Witold a week before asking if he could follow us down on the Friday, “Yes” I say “we should be leaving around about ten o’clock”. We were startled into action when we heard the loud pharp of his horn, gosh is it ten already, we were in the middle of loading up all the goodies, food, drink etc, when Wiltold arrived. I hadn’t even got myself ready. It was only 9 o’clock so I breathed a sigh of relief.

After providing Witold with coffee we set about finishing the packing up and soon we were ready for the off. Witold would bring up the rear and I would drive the Merlin behind the Motor home.

Andy set off slowly down the hill; I started up the car, nothing, tried again, still nothing. Andy was fast disappearing, and you can’t get out of a Merlin as quickly as you would like with all the straps and poppers. Fortunately Andy stopped just down the road and I raced down to get him to look at the car.

Well after pulling out the choke (I forgot) it started OK. Off we went.

No problems now, except I had forgotten to adjust the side mirror so it was pointing at the ground. I was so pleased that Witold was behind me, he would pull out, signal to me and all went smoothly.

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When we arrived at Henley there were already two tents up, Dave & Sue from Llanelli and Gary & Jan from Loughborough. It didn’t take us ling to fill the water tank and park up next to them both.

Witold set up his tent and soon we were ready to relax for the weekend. Ready for anything that could be thrown at us.

This year were the usual Music Quiz, Treasure Hunt & Bonus Ball and they had reinstated the car games instead of the ball games (Clive would be pleased to hear that, but unfortunately Margaret was unwell so they would not be joining us)

Our friends Diane & Malcolm were joining us for the weekend; they had disguised their Merlin as an MG TF so I prepared our meal for the evening. The others sloped off to a local pub for refreshments as they hadn’t brought food to BBQ for Friday.

When they all came back we got together for a few drinks before heading off to bed. We would need our brains to work properly for all the quizzes.

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Saturday morning was hot and sunny. We got together and waited for the rest of the Treasure Hunters to arrive. Dave & Daphne and Pete & John were staying at local B & B’s and turned up about 10ish. Then about 6 cars set off in convoy. We were all armed with the treasure hunt clues and pens, we were on a mission!
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Once again the organisers had made a stupendous effort; we really had to work hard at finding the answers to some of the clues. After about an hour or so it was time for quick refreshments, it was so hot we were all getting dehydrated, so a glass of wine or beer would help replenish those thinking cells.
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We all took our music quizzes so that when we stopped we would try to solve those as well.
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We were in a lovely little village and found a pub with an Indian restaurant The Osborne Arms. We congregated in the small beer garden at the rear and ordered our meals. I’m afraid some had to wait longer than others, and when Witolds Home Made Steak & Kidney Pie arrived, minus any pastry, we had nearly all finished.

On questioning how a pie could come without pastry the staff explained that that was the Indian way. The mind boggles! Witold complained about the lack of chips, only about eleven in all. They brought him a few more just as we were about to leave. Won’t go down as one of the best establishments we have visited.

However back on the road, more clues to solve.
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We spent another hour or so winding our way through the many picturesque villages, trying not to get in the residents way, but everywhere you looked there were kit cars and people clutching their papers in earnest.

We were desperately looking for a café or somewhere to have a drink, and eventually in the last village was a little shop selling ice creams and lollies, pure heaven.

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We all grouped together and made our dusty way back to the campsite, happy with our answers, which were given to the organisers to mark. How would we do this year?

When we got back John & Margaret had arrived from Chorleywood to join us for the Saturday evening BBQ. Witolds daughter and boyfriend turned up with their tent too, so they soon got it erected and preparations were under way for another evening of food & drink.
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We will have to learn how to cook on the BBQ without making all that smoke, and it doesn’t help when you put out the flames with a can of beer!
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After we had eaten we all set off across the road to the river Thames where they hold a small regatta over the weekend. The evening is usually ended with a flotilla of small boats lit up to the hilts sailing down the river. This year was quite disappointing, only about twelve or so in all, but they had made a splendid effort. We returned to finish off the evening together but it was soon time to wave goodbye to those staying off site or returning home whilst we had a last nightcap and eventually retired.

Sunday morning soon came around and after breakfast we got down to the important task of music quiz sheets again.
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Eventually Colin & Hazel arrived from the Isle of White, Mark, Amanda & Nadia from Essex. I think Mark was rather upset that we wouldn’t be playing ball games but soon we had all entered the Car Games.

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I drove the Merlin with Mark as my passenger. Andy took Nadia, who did very well indeed. The Duck game was rather amusing, trying to pick up a duck on a long pole and take it back to the beginning without it falling off is no mean treat, especially when you have to reverse the car back and can’t get it into gear.

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Then there was judge the width of your car and the height of your car. Even with some sly help I still couldn’t get anyway near.

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Another game was driving around a pole with a duck hanging from a string which was attached between the pole and your car, you had to get round without the duck touching the ground. Keeping the string taught was essential but too tight and you risked pulling the pole over, but most of us managed it.

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The last game was reversing, whilst blindfolded for four revolutions, harder than you think. They marked the tyre but I only got to two.

Needless to say there was a lot of laughter; we don’t really mind making fools of ourselves on occasion.

By now it was really hot, so we were all pleased that the ordeal was over and we could get some refreshments.

Some of the members had gone into Henley for a posh meal, but the remainder enjoyed their picnic lunches.

It would not be long before the weekend ended and the prize winners would be announced.

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Everyone gathered at the prize giving marquee, fortunately Mark had brought his gazebo, so once again we walked it over to give us some shade. The organizers had provided tea, coffee and biscuits again, so we soon relaxed and waited for the results.

How would this year go, we have been quite successful as a club over the past few years.

We weren’t to be disappointed.

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In the raffle Malcolm came away with some aftershave, Nadia some Bingo pens (I’m sure she’s too young for the Gala Bingo hall), John or Pete some shampoo and Hazel a lovely doggy clock, which is probably taking pride of place in the garage.

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Our friend Diane won the Bonus Ball and took home £30.

Now for the car awards.

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Best vehicle was won by Dave Russell.

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Best car interior by Colin Smith.

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The longest mileage to weekend won by Dave Daniels (again, they will be banning him soon or moving the weekend to Wales)

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The music quiz was won by Andy & me; don’t know how we managed that!

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I’m sure Dave & Daphne were close to getting something in the Treasure Hunt, but my memory fails me, and I forgot to write it down (let me know Dave)

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So all in all we did quite well again this year.

The weekend was now coming to an end, all that was left was for those returning home to pack up their tents and drive into the sunset.

Meanwhile Nadia was still pestering us to go for a swim. As it was so hot we didn’t need asking twice, so Nadia, Amanda, Mark, Malcolm & I took the plunge. The water was quite cold at first, but soon it was bliss to just float and cool down at last, that’s if you could avoid being drowned by the masses. Nadia is like a fish in the water and was very reluctant to get out when it was time to go.

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Once again it was time to say our goodbyes. The tents were packed, the cars were loaded and off they all went, leaving us to spend another night at the site.

The organisers always put a lot of effort into this event and have all sorts of competitions going on over the weekend, including driving skills, treasure hunt, raffles etc.

The site is at The Swiss Farm International Camping ground at Henley and has plenty of facilities for families including a swimming pool, bar and cafeteria. All members and friends are welcome; details of next year’s event will be posted at Stoneleigh next year.
Hopefully even more will continue to attend.

Helen

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