COVID-19 Picnic 13th June 2020

In January and February most years most car enthusiasts will book up and pay for the upcoming year’s shows and events. This year as usual we all did the same, including yet another European trip to the three day show at Laon in France in June. Not a great expenditure but runs to about £700 for what I had personally planned including the “Big” trip of the year to Europe and all the other shows.

Little did anyone realise that The COVID-19 Pandemic and a marginally reported outbreak in far away China, would descend in March and basically the whole years plans were wrecked. Some organisers returned our £10 bookings but not many. Chris West’s Classic Music and Motors was one of the good ones and despite a massive heart attack at the time, he managed the time to re-pay all those that requested it or to donate the amount to the R.N.L.I. Bigger organisations such as Classic – Scenic Car Tours were offering vouchers for next year but were slow on paying back deposits and deferring to an August payback date.

That really set the scene for lockdown where all our classics were moth balled or had the opportunity to be further restored. The more modern Alfas were garaged and I have never seen such an array of highly polished modern Alfas in the forums. In Short all of this year’s events were cancelled with only two left that are in the balance and they are The Grand Old Timer Rally in Folkestone and the Sandwich Italian Festival, both of which are superb events and held on separate days over the August bank holiday weekend. Having spoken to both organisers in one form, shape or another, The Grand Old Timer Rally going ahead will be decided by Folkestone council in the next week or so and their ideas for social distancing for the show are brilliant and have been taken up by other organisers for consideration. So that event going forward is possibly quite promising. You can track the result of this at https://grand-uk.com/  or by following our own Alfa Romeo Owners Club Kent and East Sussex Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/632704330571841  Jeff Kaby our secretary of course will e-mail all those members who are not on our closed and private Facebook group.

So that really brought us to June with none of the section having met up. Which led to a little bit of a “Eureka” moment (the location of which remains a state and family secret) Now that the Government legislation has relaxed meetings outdoors to six. Then we could have a Section picnic in groups of six … and this we did on the 13th June 2020. The turnout was magnificent and I am so proud that our members correctly self-distanced according to government legislation and as a result had a really chilled out and relaxing few hours together. Old friends met up and chatted  and all enjoyed the sunshine.

The choice of venue was the hardest as still many public open spaces were still closed and two came to mind. One being Samphire Hoe, near to Folkestone, which is a man made nature reserve created from the out spill from the channel tunnel. The other was the Leas at Folkestone, the former was still closed and the later was well and truly open … so the Leas in front of The Grand it was. Many of you know The Grand for the Classic Car Rallies there and these have been covered in many articles on this site including the history of The Grand itself … https://www.arockes.org.uk/grand-old-timer-rally-26th-aug-2019

But the Leas consists of far more than The Grand as this is an extensive area of Victorian grandeur and history that a number of books could be written on just one of its attractions and history. What we needed was a view and atmosphere and the Leas fitted all the requirements. The council had even opened toilets nearby, even though everything else was well and truly shut and these were serviced and cleaned to good standards.

So what do we have on the Leas? To name two out of many we have The Leas Cliff Hall which will now accommodate 1500 people and hosts musicals, ballet and strangely in contrast – wrestling. Its appearance now is well removed from the 200 people it used to accommodate when it was built in 1894. Like everything else it was re-built in1924 and again in 1981. The rolling Stones have played there and comedians such as Victoria wood and Brian Connelly have ached the ribs of thousands with laughter.

It may interest you to know that H.G Wells the author of War of The Worlds owned three houses in Folkestone. The last of which he commissioned from the designer C.F.A Vosey whose signature on all his properties was a “heart.” Typical of H.G Wells he rejected this and wanted a “spade,” and the house on the Leas is now known as Spade house. He lived there from 1901 to 1909 and wrote three novels there – Kipps, Tono Bungay and Ann Veronica. The house itself now is a nursing home and like the Leas Cliff Hall is a grade two listed building.

H.G Wells started the movement, “Earth and Peace,” which is our connection to the choice of picnic site. Many of you will not have noticed that on top of The Grand is a repeating Morse code light that spells out, “Earth and Peace” in Morse code and is visible from France. Many of you may recall that John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono founded the Earth and Peace movement and approached The Grand to place the light there … and it’s still there!  Slowly repeating its message across the channel to all those that can read the message in English to the French.

The Leas has a great vista for a picnic with France appearing as if you could literally just step over The Channel and today the public were avoiding it and there was minimal foot fall all day. Our eighteen members duly facilitated social distancing and in groups of six Pierre Coussey’s family in its entirety attended consisting of Astrid, Philip and Annalise in the very understated 147 Ducati Corse. Which is Astrid’s daily. Current thinking as most of these have a mileage of over 140,00 miles that when it reaches 70,000 miles it will be preserved as a bit of a trip and treats car. Only 215 were made for the U.K market between 2007 and 2009. I am also reliably informed that the organiser of the Sandwich Italian Festival (Ann-Marie Hugen) which is going ahead this year is one of the other AROC members to own this model of car. It would be really nice to put both these cars together at the show. You can find an overview of this amazing collaboration Alfa at https://www.topspeed.com/cars/alfa-romeo/2007-alfa-147-ducati-corse-ar48139.html?fbclid=IwAR0-8-yjjDFmsFIohEyuQMi4fzHnMvIVR5fFrZVrj1qYowfJUJutKp9HQ1s  and is well worth a read. Interestingly the Australian market got only 20 of these beasts as a celebration of Casey Stoner winning the world superbikes championship and you can read about that here – https://www.motoring.com.au/alfa-147-ducati-corse-6725/?fbclid=IwAR3n1NAMypR3P3V8nHSzHaopOV_BqPNc8-fjj-aXhVtf600T7cmo5YWZhdg

As much as I like to chat to everyone, it is not always possible and I always feel awful if I don’t include a member in an article and one that (or there may be more) that I did miss was Rebecca Harrison. I would love to find out more about her vehicle as it looks so Brera 939 Spider from the front.

Next we have one of our newest members Graham Andrews who sadly had a bad case of rot in his undercarriage so could not attend in his Alfa Sport Wagon and I wish him luck with the resto!

John Dray arrived in one of his fleet namely the Giulia and we all remember Willie Clapperton in his earlier Giulia

Everybody loves a 4C and John Third did not disappoint when he arrived in his. 4C’s are always a bit of a head turner and this example was no exception.

Jeff Kaby, our secretary, attended with Jane in his equally spectacular and rare 159 TBI.

Then we had Graham Duplock in his GTV 2 litre and one of the only two photographs of him that I have of him not eating an ice cream.

We also had Craig Archer and Michelle in the nut and bolt restored 1968 1750 Series 1 spider. We have covered the restoration of this icon before but you can read the article at – https://www.arockes.org.uk/duetto-spider-1968-the-exposition-dautomabiles-et-motors-anciennes/

John Hufton has been a member all year but was stymied by the Pandemic as with the rest of us.  Despite having been a member all year hasn’t been to any meets social or otherwise, so when the invite for the picnic went out he was all over it in his rather nice new Giulia Veloce.

Our new Chair Person David Norman also attended in his Zoe yellow Spider and he assures me he will be carrying out Recces for the upcoming fish and chip run in his maiden organised event.

Actually this is such a great Alfa that I really think it deserves a close up because I love it’s smiley and happy front end…

Peter Lampe as always never fails to amaze with his fleet and this one did not disappoint in his 156 Selespeed. This is a very rare car and which he is looking to sell and should put a smile on any new owners face.

Then not wishing to be left out we had yours truly in the S4 Spider. It’s reaching the end of its restoration with the automatic electronic antenna, re-built Speedo refit and now that it has been pointed out to me, work on the valve stem oil seals and or the piston rings.

… and because I am the author of the article and because no-one can stop me, a completely self-indulgent close-up.

 We were also visited by Sharon Barker for a chat and a catch up. Sharon as you all know is the recently widowed partner of Keith Barker one of our fellow committee members and he will be sadly missed by us all. The connection with The Grand does not end there either as Keith was responsible for the design and construction of The Penthouse suites in The Grand seen at the top of the building.

My thanks as always goes out to the section members who socially distanced and gathered in groups of no more than six. All had a really chilled out time and as a result we will be organising similar events so that we can all stay in contact and continue our social club activities. It’s been hard for all of us under the lockdown but these little green shoots make the event all the more important. There will be more and we still have the Fish and Chip run and Saphire Hoe to look forward to when the weather again allows us. I have to offer my apologies to anyone that I have left out, I don’t really mean to but you all know I have a terrible memory for names and faces and is why many of you see me with a notebook at events.

Thank you all as this was a really memorable chilled out and laid back day. It must have been good as even Michael Stainer, the owner of The Grand and classic car enthusiast himself, even came out to say hello and look at some of the classics that turned up. Even if he did lean on my car … but I think I can forgive him for that

Till next time, stay safe and enjoy what you have as opportunities arrive and please check into our Facebook page or Jeff’s emails to see when the next COVID-19 event is going to be. Till next time.

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