Field of Dreams – Aircooled Exclusive is a new show, organised by Kate of Classic Volks and York Classic VW Owners club. When we booked the show, we didn’t realise that it was its first year, as everything was so slickly organised.
We took a scenic drive along the A59 (apparently causing one of Custard’s old uni friends to play a game of “Follow the Volkswagen” near Skipton – small world!) and arrived at York Racecourse in the late afternoon. The sun was shining, the ground was perfectly flat and firm and the camping was organised brilliantly, with marshalls at the entrance to point you in the right direction, put your wristband on for you and help you line up in your plot neatly. We were given a fab plot, tucked away behind the marshalls’ caravan, under their floodlights, which not only meant we could see to cook in the evening, but also that we felt really safe, if a little bit like teacher’s pets 😉 (Which prompted quite a lot of conversation between us in the manner of Karen Powell, Greg Davies’ favourite student, which was one of those “you had to be there” moments.)
We went for a wander around the campsite and took a few photographs of our neighbours for the weekend:
On Saturday we woke up to glorious sunshine, but a bit of a breeze, but we weren’t deterred.
Whilst eating breakfast, we met Vicki, one of our Twitter friends who came to say hello, and then I got my hippy garb on to go and wander round the show (yes, most people don’t dress up until the evening, but it’s dark then, and there’s no guarantees that I’ll be awake!)
There was a good variety of autojumble, food, craft, clothing and other unusual stands, as well as entertainment for children, a dog show and shine and a hobby horse race (well, when at the racecourse, you’ve got to, haven’t you?)
After a look around we met up with Vicki, Lesley, Lesley’s mum and Dizzi the dog to enjoy a coffee or two from the Green Bay Cafe whilst watching the hobby horse race.
After grabbing a bite to eat back at the van, we headed back to the show arena to enjoy a pint or two of passionfruit cider and listen to the bands, who were great!
Sunday was a little more overcast and windy, but the rain stayed away, allowing a variety of aircooled splits, bays, beetles and ghias to be displayed in the field. There was a really good turn out, with lots of vehicles to look at, including a few for sale.
After another wander round to take in the last of the show and chat with friends, it was time to head home over the M62, where we spotted a couple more campers on their travels!
Field of Dreams did have its teething problems – the camping and show were split up by a walk around the outside of the racecourse due to last minute decisions that were out of the organisers’ hands, which could make the arena feel too spread out and quiet, and also meant a bit of a trek to get to the show, and the wind made life difficult for the traders on Sunday. But, these are things that can’t be helped – Kate, Kevin and the team kept everyone informed of what was going on, were apologetic, friendly, and had everything else superbly organised. I don’t think we’ve been to a show where the camping was so well sorted, or where the loos were serviced every day!
Small local shows are only as good as the people who support them, traders, campers, day visitors and volunteers, and the Classic Volks team are already planning to make Field of Dreams 2014 even better than this year. Make sure you’re part of it!
In the show and shine at Camper Jam this year there was a T25 with an interesting sign in front of it: “This van drove around the world and slept five!”
We stopped to listen to the man talking, and soon found out that he was Sim Courtie, author of The Long and Whining Road, and that he and his family had made a round the world journey in Penny, their T25 camper. The idea for their journey was born following a trip to Sim’s native Liverpool, when various members of the family developed wanderlust and a desire to explore the world-wide appeal of the Beatles. The family decided to busk their way around the world, singing Beatles songs and raising money for charity.
The adults took sabbaticals from work, and the children from school to embark upon an epic extra-curricular road trip, planning to begin outside Strawberry Field children’s home in Liverpool, and ending at Strawberry Fields memorial garden, New York. What follows is an engaging and enjoyable travelogue that conjures up the sights, sounds, smells and people they encountered on their travels, with a healthy dose of the troubles encountered by Penny, their 1989 camper van, familiar to anyone who’s owned an older camper.
The book inspired a desire to travel the world in me, but also made me worry about the practicalities of taking Ruby, a 46 year old van, around the world. Sim encountered difficulties with having parts of their van replaced, including one memorable episode that involved a costly misdiagnosis, both in terms of time and money. Also, driving in some parts of the world seems to incur an increased risk of bodywork damage. Eeeek! We’re signed up on a Type 2 Detectives Bus Boot Camp in September, but would we be able to deal with mechanical mishaps that would undoubtedly occur? Also, what spares would we have to carry? (Perhaps it would be best to just tow a complete spare bus along behind!)
Problems aside, what the book created most of all was an endearing image of the camaraderie and support that virtual strangers will give each other all over the world. Invitations to wedding parties, offers of accommodation on driveways or in houses, support for their busking and lots of camper van love! I also particularly enjoyed Sim’s recount of a Turkish massage, as it was similar to our own on honeymoon in Northern Cyprus, and the camper community that sprung up in Agonda that reminded me a little of The Beach, only with a slightly less dramatic conclusion!
I loved the book, couldn’t put it down, and was genuinely sad when I’d finished it. Sim’s ability to engage an audience and tell a story makes the book enjoyable and addictive. It is available in paperback and for Kindle.
I have not been asked to review The Long and Whining Road. I just really enjoyed it!
Viva Skeg Vegas is a calm and chilled show that takes place in Revesby, Lincolnshire. It’s a beautiful picturesque drive down to the site, with lots of opportunity to play roadside roulette with the prevalence of farm shops and small roadside stalls selling produce.
The show had a fancy dress theme of Day of the Dead, and all the usual traders, stalls and evening entertainment. Whilst there was no coffee stall (boo!) there was a stall selling fish singer sandwiches (genius!) and the Pop Top Kitchen, selling delicious cuisine out of an Eriba Puck.
Things were slow to kick off in the mornings, perhaps because everyone was still recovering from the night before, but there was a good selection of autojumble, Seaside Neil was available for pinstriping and had customised the trophies for the Rust and Prime show on the Saturday and the Show and Shine on the Sunday.
Camping was calm and chilled, not spoiled by the light rain we had, and we were very lucky that our neighbours had good taste in music – which saved us having to touch our stereo all weekend!
Custard’s Top 10 of VW Festival:
10. (Down) The weather.
It rained. It winded. It made puddles in the awning, it poured down the cargo doors (and ergo, round the cargo doors thanks to crappy seals), it filled up shoes and soaked into jeans. It could not make its mind up what it was doing. The wind also ripped the gutter rail pole for the awning out of my hand on Sunday, meaning it now has a slight kink to it. However, necessity is the mother of invention, so I now know that it is possible to peg the doors of the awning up to stop the rain pouring in, although I wish I hadn’t found that out during a torrential downpour. Also, I got to sit in the van (in my shorts, as I had only taken one pair of long trousers with me; my (sodden) jeans) with a pint and read my book for a couple of hours. Bliss.
9. (Down) Festival toilets.
These are never, ever good, to be honest. As I was heading to the loo on Sunday morning, a camper remarked to her friend “Oh, I really feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t been to the loo yet today!” So I asked if they were that bad. I’ve seen worse, but if the loos had been serviced during the weekend, this might have improved matter slightly. Still, you do know what you’re getting with a festival loo, and at least the proper loos at Harewood House itself were open.
8. (Down) Running out of cash.
Our own fault for not bringing enough with us. Meant that we couldn’t buy coffee on Sunday. Argh! A lot of the traders accepted card payments though, so we didn’t miss out on buying big stuff. Just coffee 😉
7. (Up) A varied collection of stalls, autojumble and displays.
Got to buy some great things, including this lovely necklace from Louis Edwards jewellery:
There was a good range of clothes, VW stuff, food, toys, cleaning gear and autojumble. The displays on both days were amazing – as well as club stands, there was a red, white, blue and black vehicle display on Saturday and a beautiful show and shine on Sunday, with a high standard of vehicle in both.
6. (Up) Sooty’s School Bus.
We have been following the progress of Sooty’s bus on the SSVC forum, so it was great to see it in the flesh! Also, his bus was featured in an article in the Daily Mail about the show, which also featured this fantastic video by Bright Lights Photography which to me, really sums up the feeling of going out in your VW and meeting fellow dub nuts:
5. (Up) The Green Bay Cafe.
Coffee. Real coffee. Also, handily placed in the main camping area, rather than the trade area, which meant less distance to stagger to get our caffeine fix. We love the Green Bay Cafe with their fairtrade, real coffee. Yum.
4. (Up) Gluten free food!
The Two Tarts, Lulabelle and Heck sausages all offered gluten free fayre, ideal for a hungry Custard. I’m used to not being able to sample things at shows, so for there to be lots of things I could eat was a good thing! Still having to carry my own soy milk in a hip flask for my coffee though…
3. (Up) Showing with Volksgirls.
We’ve not entered a show and shine before (although we did show with the SSVC at Stanford Hall as part of their massive line up) so when Volksgirls invited members to show with them, we jumped at the chance. Volksgirls is a friendly club and forum for ladies on the VW scene, and boasted a full stand at VW Festival. We were the only camper on their stand on Saturday, and our first show taught us one or two things;
- Make sure that you either put your stuff for making food in the van, or in the awning. Don’t leave half in one, and half in the other. Of you’ll be very annoyed when you realise you can’t make lunch.
- The majority of people show their vans with the beds folded up and their tables all set nicely. Our van is hardly period in the style, so it’s very hard to dress. Next year, I’ll be showing it with the bed made up, with nice cushions and things. It may also have a Custard-shaped accessory catching a few zzzz’s in it during the afternoon as…
- I don’t do well at getting up early enough to get the van to the arena without the option of an afternoon nap 😉
- Mark out the space next to the awning that the van goes in, or someone will park in it before you get back in the afternoon!
- Make a sign telling people all about your van, or you’ll find yourself repeating a lot of stuff. We love talking to people about vans, but if they could read it too, that would be nice, and we could put some photos from the resto on the sign too.
2. (Up) Chilled, family friendly atmosphere.
There was a really nice vibe to the show, lots of things for children and adults to do, and everyone was friendly, having a good laugh and up for a chat about VWs, dogs or just life in general! The camping was generally quiet (well, it was where we were anyway!) and people didn’t seem to let the weather get them down.
1. (Up) Good friends.
We finally got to meet some fellow camper owners from the SSVC forum. Dubminx and Custard both tell lies to small children for a living, Roobarb and Carl both love watercooled and aircooled dubs. You know when you meet someone and think – “Yeah, I could camp with these guys and have a whale of a time!”
We’ve enjoyed our first year exploring the VW show scene, but what we’ve found is that, after a while, it all gets a bit same-y if there’s only the two of you, so being able to meet up with like-minded people and have a good chat makes the shows all the more worthwhile, and if you’re lucky, you get to meet someone lovely like Minx, who not only has a beautiful camper called Mabel (with the wonderful period set-dressing that Ruby lacks) but also sent us some bunting for Ruby before she’d ever met us for real. Which just tells you that she’s a nice person, and someone you’re going to enjoy being around.
We would definitely do VW Festival again – it has been one of the best shows we have visited this summer, and wasn’t a long drive for us, which is always a bonus. See you in 2014!
When we bought Ruby, she had been lovingly restored in around 1996. She is looking remarkable for a van nearly 20 years after restoration, her paintwork’s not bad and her interior still smart. Apart from her curtains. They were a bit sun faded and generally looking their age.
So we decide to spruce her up with new cushions and curtains. Custard spent lots of hours trawling fabric sites trying to find just the right pattern, but to no avail.
Eventually, we found Sarah of VW Camper Curtains and on browsing her site, found exactly the fabric we wanted – Clarke and Clarke’s Anja in the Summer colourway. It was a lovely bright, bold pattern, which I think is a must for camper curtains, and it complemented Ruby’s bold colours, whilst reminding us a bit of Roobarb and Custard:
I emailed Sarah, and she got straight back to me to confirm exactly what we wanted and prices. I rang her up to pay, and she got straight on with the curtains. We arranged to collect them at Camper Jam, but Sarah rang the week before to say that they were ready sooner and she could courier them over. We chose to collect them anyway, as we wouldn’t have a chance to put them in before the show.
We met up with Sarah when we arrived at Camper Jam (despite me losing all phone signal as soon as we got on site!) and collected our goods. I got the curtains hung really easily and they looked great. We opted for blackout lining, which worked really well to keep the inside of the van cool and dark.
You can catch up with Sarah at various shows across the country to see her goods for yourself. She has a real eye for fabrics and patterns, and her work is top quality and incredibly reasonably priced. We were originally going to make the curtains and cushions ourselves, but Sarah’s prices were so good compared to the price of the fabric by the metre on other sites, that we decided to leave the sewing to someone who does it for a living! Also, Sarah has made the cushions with removable covers, which is ideal when you are using them in a camper – there’s always the chance that they’re going to get mucky.
Sarah makes curtains for all sorts of VWs – Splitscreens, Bays, T25s, T4s and T5s. From a Samba to a panel van like ours, Sarah can meet your needs. She offers matching tiebacks, blackout linings and magnets to hold the curtain to the metal inside. Genius!
So get in touch with Sarah via her website, or go and visit her stand at a show. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Our new curtains and cushions have given Ruby’s interior a bright fresh look, and the service was superb. I highly recommend VW Camper Curtains!
All views are my own. I have not been paid for my review. I have written nice things about VW Campervan Curtains Ltd. because I bought curtains and cushions from them and they were brilliant, and I believe we should all support small businesses and help them flourish!
Issue 13 has a feature on camper vans, and the accompanying photo feature contains one or two very familiar looking noses, including our very own Ruby:
Turns out that when Ruby and other vans from the SSVC were lined up at Stanford Hall, they were immortalised on film.
The article gives a potted history of the VW Transporter, prompted by the news that Brazilian bays will soon no longer be produced and has some nice photos to accompany.
It does suggest that splitty owners are elitist wankers who look down on drivers of newer VWs (this maybe happens a bit, but I will wave to *anyone* in the van, and don’t think we’re better than anyone else just because we have a split, but I personally would rather have a split than any other van, whereas I know people who feel the same way about bays) and that we all sneer at T25s (nope, love me a good Wedge) and Brazilian bays (again, no sneering, but not my cup of tea). But it also explains about Westies and Sambas for those who might not know (which included me 6 months ago!) and that love you end up developing for a large brick-shaped vehicle that uses up all your money.
Yes, we talk to our van. I say goodnight when we’ve put her cover on her. We pat her dashboard when she starts first time, or manages to get up a hill, like a clever puppy, and she will never, ever fail to make me smile, even when we’re jacking her up for the 3rd time in two days to hit her starter motor with a lump hammer. Everyone deserves something that makes them feel like that, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a barndoor, hi-top, samba, bay, wedge, T4 or T5, shiny show winner with lots of windows and chrome or a ratty panel van. Your van will always be the best, because it’s yours.
The Simple Things issue 13 is available in supermarkets and WHSmith now. Unless you live in East Lancashire, where I would abandon all hope of finding a copy in Asda. Although somehow I walked out with this month’s VW Camper and Bus instead, which is no bad thing.
All opinions are my own. I have not been paid to write about The Simple Things, although if they wanted to give us a copy of that picture of Ruby’s nose for saying nice things, I wouldn’t complain.
Hello to anyone who might have just recently come across the blog, perhaps because they’ve just been given a wedding thank you with the web address on:
So now you can see what we’re up to! Leave us a comment and say hello!
On Friday 19th July, Custard graduated from Edge Hill University with a Postgraduate Certificate in Specialist Primary Mathematics. Smarty pants. I also decided that I would like to travel to my graduation in Ruby, and then go to a VW show afterwards.
We had a choice of two – CumbriaVAG or Dubs at the Castle. I chose DATC, because it was in Wales, and we were starting from near Liverpool, so I figured it wasn’t so far. Please note that my qualification was in Maths, not Geography. When we were 25 miles from Bristol, I realised how far south South Wales actually is.
Coupled with a two hour standstill on the motorway near Stoke, discovering that the heater is jammed open and pumping scorching hot air into the cab now that Rooobarb has replaced a missing piece of heater pipe in a bid to keep the starter motor cooler – oh yeah, the starter is still overheating, meaning that we daren’t turn the engine off whilst sitting still on the M6, as we know it won’t start again. Air-cooled engines don’t like not moving – the air-cooling bit doesn’t work so well.
By the time we stopped at Michael Wood Services 5 hours later, we could actually wring our clothes out, but decided a nice iced coffee from Starbucks would keep us awake enough for the remainder of the journey, and cool us down. The news that the ice machine was broken was actually met with an audible whimper from me (dairy intolerant, can’t drink the canned coffee from the fridge) and it was two very dejected campers who trudged back to the van to continue on our journey.
The view from the Severn Bridge was pretty epic at sunset, but that did then mean we were trying to find Caldicot Castle in the dark. And the Sat Nav took us to the middle of a housing estate. And then I couldn’t get mobile phone signal to try and look for better directions. Rooobarb threatened to turn round and drive home at this point. We found the castle at around 10pm – I’d had a frantic Facebook conversation with the organisers the night before about what time we could turn up until, and they kindly said they’d keep the gate open until 11pm if needs be.
We were waved onto site, and told to follow the other vans, and that there would be marshalls around to point us in the right direction. Yeah, there weren’t. And in the dark, it was really hard to find a pitch that the van could actually fit into. And driving a lowered van around wobbly rough fields is no fun. I was now using my special “talking to children who have got very upset and are about to completely lose the plot” voice, perfected during many years of teaching, to placate Rooobarb. We stuck the van next to someone else’s pitch and hoped for the best, gave up on any notion of putting the awning up, stuffed all our crap in the front of the van and went to bed.
We woke up in the morning to this view:
And were mightily relieved to find that we hadn’t actually parked in a dog toilet the night before.
Although we did have to roll the van forward 6 feet to avoid a giant hole in the ground right next to the cargo doors.
Before our neighbours woke up, we had got the awning up and cooked breakfast. Marvellous. Things were looking a lot rosier after a good night’s sleep and a cooked brekkie!
We went off for a wander around the show – and were very pleased to find that despite driving for 73 gajillion miles* after getting on site, we were actually reasonably close to the main arena, having gone around in a bit of a circle.
Splitscreen icecream – utterly delicious!
Camper Coffee Co. – Rooobarb declared this the best coffee he’d ever tasted.
Early Bay display.
And if there weren’t enough things to look at in the show and trade fields, there was the superb setting of the castle to explore.
The Saturday night entertainment was superb, with great bands, and ample refreshment provided by the Welsh Cider Wagon.
Sunday morning brought the Show and Shine:
And then we had a quiet and sunny journey back, with a brief stop near home for coffee and fuel, involving a “jack it and whack it” starter motor related pit stop, and we met some people with a Bay, who were similarly chuffed to get their van restarted after filling up!
It was a great weekend, and a good show, although a show guide given out at the gate would have meant we would have had a better idea of what was going on. Also, it was a very long way away, but that can only be blamed on my appalling geography! Definitely worth a visit if you are nearby.
Those lovely people at Limebug had an open day, with hot dogs, a show and shine and, of course, the opportunity to peruse and buy from the Limebug shop. The sun was shining, so it would have been rude not to. It was also Ruby’s first appearance in a show and shine line up, and it was nice to stand back and listen to people saying nice things about her, and in some instances pose to have their photos taken with her!
The pictures speak for themselves really: