My first Land Rover, a white 200tdi 110, bought for tuppence ha'penny from a farm, was our first experience of them
Great fun when the The Dog and The Boy Wonder were little, careering through floods and waiting for the squeal as the murky water dribbled through the dash onto The Lady Burton's knees
It was supposed to be a sort of weekend car for fishing and bikes (you could get the four of us and our bikes inside) but it was so enjoyable I started using it for work surveys despite the dodgy fuel gauge
The Lady Burton had a 300tdi Discovery prior to that but it was beyond our pocket to maintain it at the time, so it had the traded in for some common sense in the remarkably similar form of an original Audi TT, beautiful car that was...red leather interior, proper design classic...until the boys outgrew the back almost-seat.
From time to time though you would hear the phrase, "Dad's getting Land Rover magazines again. It can only mean one thing"
We'd pondered camping holidays and as the boys grew the motor home became too constrained an option, mainly in terms of sleeping arrangements, but having dallied with the prospect of a G4 Discovery 3, decided against it and secretly hatched the plan of a Defender Tdci double-cab pick-up with ventilated aluminium pod over the back complete with Hannibal roof tent and separate OzTent which involved weekend visits to far flung private enthusiast/dealerships until, on the day, we collected the most incredible piece of kit; chipped for economy and Discovery-like performance.
Boy did we have some fun in that vehicle!
On holidays, it took just a few minutes to put the roof tent up or down, in fact no longer than the motor home had taken to tidy into a driveable condition every morning
When the pigs grew to size they were rounded-up in a homemade 'pig walker' and driven to the end of the road in the back, returning as the most amazing sausages and cuts of meat one could imagine. What a difference it made to feed them on household scraps, not factory produced feed
The roof tent was a whole new world. When zipped-up there was zero light. A finger in front of the eyes could not be seen. Perfect darkness. The quality of sleep in that was at a level I would be so grateful for these days
It wasn't always a perfect exercise though
On the maiden overnighter it rained all night and on rising to a bright warm sunny morning everything felt somewhat moist. Granny Green Teeth was 'downstairs' in what we called the lounge and was found to be floating in half an inch of water on a camp bed. Bless her, she thought this was what happened when you went camping. It turns out however that our supplier had received a batch of unsealed tents and rapidly replaced it with one that worked properly. What an event!
The death knoll of the package however was a Dorset trip littered with severe weather warnings. The OzTent had a fearful sag in the roof one morning, with a reservoir South-West Water themselves would've been proud of, the cause. The tent was on a slope and before TBW and I woke (I know!, you can see what's coming!) the other half of the foursome decided to heave the water off the roof. Uphill.
The rest is a tale of insane cackling and irritability, punctuated with bursts of frantic cleaning and mopping.
Next night, severe gales. The car was rocking about like a boat on the high seas. Accentuated by the height, the tent was buffeted and bashed, and at one point TBW, being a tiddler at the time, wrapped himself around my right arm and, trying to hide his fear, asked quietly, "Are you okay Dad?". This caused me to realised that a bracket above an overhang that covered the ladder had become detached, banging against the Camelback, and to his, now lifelong amusement, I ripped the whole thing off and flung it to the ground. In the circumstances there was little else to do
From what had been a packed and bustling camp site, we awoke to water-logged open spaces and, in the field below us, a pile of abandoned tents. It seemed we were one of very few that sat it out. The camp workers said they would decide which tents were salvagable and sell them, the rest would be scrapped
Meanwhile a mk1 Freelander came into The Lady B's possession with a kind of Altro-esque interior which served well for an easy clean. This then morphed into Freelander 2, ideal for a soggy trip to the the Wye and then, having dallied with hybrids, a lifetimes dream became available. A low mileage Discovery 4 HSE with cream leather seats and matching piano wood inserts
Purchasing the car was a nightmare. Firstly no Land Rover dealer was in the slightest interested in talking to us about a car and, when we eventually found one on our doorstep, that fine, fine company Experian, whose feedback is all-but entirely and scathingly negative, put a block on it. Much wrangling and a month later the vehicle passed into our possession. It's more than a vehicle though it's an organism, I'm sure of it, that can take you to places you would've considered impossible, with absolutely no help from the guy in the driving seat
Fast forward 15 months and TBW wanders by on the landing with the passing comment, "Oh, hi Dad, I thought you'd gone fishing. Where's your car?". The sharp and predictable reply followed, but, no, he wasn't joking, it had been removed in the night, keys still in the house in 'Faraday bags'. How they started and moved it I've no idea, but they knew what they were doing for certain
Phone calls to Police and Insurance Company ensued and a value was agreed, because I wouldn't be getting it back, but I had to wait 5 days, at which time they would pay out and the search would be on for something conversely undesirable as a replacement. Maybe an Audi A2, the car no one realises exists
Serious consideration was given to Subaru Forester or Outback, and even a Mini All4, when the realisation dawned that, come Monday, I'd be car-less
Discussion also turned seriously to security cameras and the like
Then, four days later, TBW (as a soon to be policeman, our in-house Police Liaison Officer) takes a call saying the car has been found. Dreading to hear what state it's in, or even whether it's intact, I want to cover my ears. No, it seems it's still the same shape as when it left. It was found by a Police Officer specialising in spotting stolen cars and noticed this one due to it having shiny new plates on a filthy vehicle. Who said you should keep your car clean?
Mixed feelings abound at first and a feeling of not really wanting it back after it's been who knows where with who knows whom doing who knows what in it but slowly this lifted and when further news later appeared to confirm the contents were still intact the immediate emotion was, "When can I get it back?!"
I'd listed the contents for insurance purposes and was staggered at the stuff I had stashed away in there, even when it seemed almost empty, and the cameras, binoculars, roach set-up with 50th birthday centrepin were the items I most wanted to see again
Plots always thicken in modern times of course, and, this would be a cornflour and bisto mix (day 5). The insurance co., confirms it's settling the finance and sending me the balance, plus £150 for lost belongings.
It went like this:
"I don't understand why you're paying-out when the five days weren't up at the time it was found".
"It's been found?".
"Yes if you read the file you'll find I emailed you yesterday".
"We've not had a email! Hold on please".
...inane musical interlude...
"That's fine Sir. I'll put the file on hold until you get back to us".
Subsequently, 7 days elapsed from finding the vehicle to something actually happening, i.e. its removal to have locks changed. A necessary repair.
So we hope to be reunited this week and we'll see what's missing from inside, if anything.