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Smugglers, Haggis Monster or Sikh, Rattle and Roll
A Party, a Rideout and now a Rally, the more sceptical among you could have been forgiven for looking twice, yes, Jen n' Tel at a rally!
The write up could have read: Friday: didn't rain Saturday: rained Sunday: rained Monday went home. We sent off the cheque in the belief that weather forecasts actually were accurate. On Monday the forecast said "Phew, what a scorcher" for the weekend as a whole. But as Michael Fish once famously said, "There will be no hurricane". He obviously hadn't been to Gravesend. As we were now committed, we started to pack all the necessaries, kitchen sink, check. Our last experience of camping, sorry, did I say camping, field swimming would have been nearer the mark, left us mentally scarred and with a slight tic having had to bale out our tent which by then had been renamed 'the swimming pool'. I could have charged an entrance fee and hired out our towels to use the facilities in our 'tent'. Two Vultures learned the breaststroke and one narrowly missed drowning at what was laughingly a fun filled weekend.

I've digressed, haven't I, soooo, back to this weekend. Sue and Ed gave us a berth for the night on the Thursday so we were ready at the crack of dawn to meet at The Shire Horse Friday morning. Some of the Trailer guys were already there and seeing some of the trailers, I think the Trailer Optimistics should be a more accurate name. They do what they say on the tin and they get there but I'm always amazed at how. I've got to say they look the part and even Smudger’s Oil Can brightened the day but I've yet to be converted.
A lovely little ride to Clackett Lane, interrupted only by a 'smile please' from Jen as we took a pic of each and every one as we passed them on the M25. I'm sure the Old Bill would have understood, and not one law\health and safety law was broken in the taking of the said pics.
The one thing I always enjoy when I stop at a motorway service station is the ease at which the wallet is emptied. Two diamond encrusted cups of gold leafed Costalot coffee where a smile was apparently extra, took best part of our years pension but, grudgingly, I have to say went down very well.
We met a very pleasant Polish gentleman who was also on a motorbike who informed us, much to our shock, that he was biking all the way back to Poland. Not one of us had the cajones to say to him 'aren't you going in the wrong direction' because if he'd only just got off the ferry and decided that the pavements aren't lined with gold, and the only connection to gold is the ingots Costa manage to invest in each day things must be worse here than we thought.

Anyhoooo, we arrived at Gravesend at about 11.30 and set about the fun part of the camping experience, the 'putting up of the tent'. Sue, being the sociable type helped me with my erection and Ed, always willing to assist, made the erection complete. What……..what did I say, you've all got dirty minds, my pole went up quicker than ever before and all I had to do was watch!!
Much to everybody's relief Keith was camping solo this weekend and was allowed into the circle on the understanding that any noise emanating from his tent over the weekend could at the most, be snoring. Tents went up, chairs went down and let the games begin.
I've drunk a few in my time but maybe not the variety in one afternoon and I was by far the lightweight of the bunch. Cherry Cider, Whisky, Buds, another concoction that I can't remember and the dreaded\loved Black Pig. Not being a great lover of aniseed, I was pleasantly surprised when the shot went down. The surprise was that my stomach had not caught fire and exploded. Brewed by our very own Jenna, it is a treadition and a must do at a rally. I can't be sure about this but I'm sure i heard her saying that she would brew some hooch made out of Skittles. I hope she meant the sweets, but nothing that involves The Vultures surprises me.
The afternoon came and went and I think we all drifted hazily into and out of sleep and slowly we got ourselves ready for the evening’s entertainment, which turned out to be rather good. An eight piece band, I say eight piece, by this time Simon was seeing double and I'm sure he saw sixteen, two saxes out front with a guitarist poking his guitar into things very rarely and two good singers saw us through loads of Blues Brothers anthems and a good time was had by all. The real entertainment was whether Simon, and Keith not far away, would pass out first. Not to worry, Bob saw them home. A little poetic license there, but you get the picture.

Now to future rallies: park the tent the farthest point of our community hall. Regular attendees will understand why. Eagerly anticipated Saturday, rained. It rained but then decided that not enough rain had fallen and rained even harder. We took advantage of a little gap in the clouds to take a walk into Gravesend. All I can add to that statement is that the name is apt. It certainly is grave and ended being a town decades ago. Becoming stir crazy in the 'community hall' tent (there is a limit to how many of Bob's jokes we can take, OK, and mine I guess) we decided to look for a meal in Uptown Gravesend. Peter and Lindy had done a bit of homework but a precis of our attempts is: 'Can't serve you until 9.15' (this was 6.00!!),’ No!’ and finally 'yes'. A really lovely waitress helped shake our stereotype of the Gravesend experience and we felt a lot better after our meals, even Jen managed to find a veggie alternative and we came back raring to enjoy what was on offer at the club house. Sadly, in my humble opinion, it was another rock band. Seen it, certainly got the t shirt but in fairness the guitarist was good. Now having slept for a whole two minutes the night before, I was looking forward to getting some serious shuteye, but the torrential rain continued for most of the night. And there was us, giving camping a second chance!

So, bleary eyed and wet, I hadn't had a dry shoe and sock for a whole day, ever the optimists we set out to see what the day would bring us. Weekend of SynAfter checking three weather forecasts and taking the one we liked best we headed for the Thames Estuary and, LOL, Gravesend beach. As it happened the scenery was a really mixed bag, while not stunning, it certainly had its moments. We discovered how our defences were in world wars, with a lot of big guns on hills, and then nearly fell into a museum which offered us a tour around the caves under the defences. Led by a guy that really should get out more, who decided to leave us to our own devices when the banter became unanswerable, we walked around looking in all the nooks and crannies.
The highlight of the tour was traumatising a little eight year old kid. He came happily walking in our direction when one of our group informed him that it wasn't the Nazis he had to worry about but the big monster at the end of the tunnel. He was out of the place, his mother damping down his tears quicker than you could say 'the culprit was Simon'.
Dan, you need to get the sewing machine out and sew up a badge. We have a new nickname for one of ours, Julie Smith will now be known as Haggis. If you want to know why then ask her, because apparently after 33 vodkas the night before she believed Keith’s story about one aggressive haggis biting them, oh and according to Keith also, they run up trees!

So, I bet you're wondering where the Sikh part of the headline comes in. Jen and I met a lovely Sikh gentleman who invited us into their local Temple. Did I say Temple, Buckingham Palace would have rattled around in it. Another showed us around and we had a massive Indian meal at the end of it, all free of charge. The Temple is probably one of the most beautiful places in the country and the people, some of the most hospitable I've met.

Back to the camp site and I think we were all beginning to fade a bit. Nick bought along his new squeeze and as she seemed to know her drinks, was automatically one of the fold. We did go to the club house for the final night’s entertainment, the 'Grey Tops'. Playing mostly sixties stuff at a slower pace than stop it was no wonder that The Vultures headed for the dance floor in the intermission. Dancing, playing air guitar and generally making complete fools of ourselves, it was a welcome interlude. As a group, we should all hang our heads in shame and apologise to the cleaners of the club house as we emptied a bag of alleged corn puffs the size of Mike's tent over the floor. As we weren't allowed to bring food into the hall I guess our mitigation would be that it didn't count as food. No, it really didn't.

Fed, watered, tired and in Keith's case, p***ed we staggered back to the tents, slept and woke only to the smell not of bacon butties but an escape from the local sewage farm. Time to go.
What a blast, great fun and for Jen and myself a lesson in camping. We're trading in the swimming pool for something a little bigger, preferably a lot bigger and will let ourselves loose on the rally world next year. If you've managed to get this far, a big thank you to you all, it's been too long but it won't be in the future, we enjoyed ourselves no end.

Tel.