I’m not getting old, I’m just becoming a Classic
I was still half asleep at 5.20 a.m. when Les arrived to pick me up in his very posh new car. After loading my camera gear into the already full boot, Harry, Brian and I sat back and let Les take over the responsibility for driving us through the very thick fog. We touched base with the other seven members of our party from our local camera club, who were busy chatting in the common car park, before setting off for London in convoy. I had never seen the London to Brighton Vintage Car Rally and like everyone else, I was looking forward to the annual spectacle. There was more traffic on the roads than we expected and it was a bit of a race to get to Westminster Bridge for the start at 6.55 a.m. Les provided us with a great commentary on the London landmarks but unfortunately we couldn’t see most of them because of the fog. I was beginning to wonder how difficult it would be to get decent shots of moving vehicles in the fogginess and clutter of London.
Dismayed that our usual parking space on the embankment had been taken over by a developing cycle track, Paul came to the rescue when we couldn’t find anywhere to park. We were slightly further away than we wanted to be but after a short walk and a visit to a very expensive and weird revolving door loo, we all took up several different positions on Westminster Bridge and the approach to it. As we settled the cars began to come past in fairly quick succession. It was certainly a great spectacle. We had been given a theme for the day ‘Harder than it Looks’ so I set about looking for struggling people and cars. It wasn’t long before one car came to a stop near where I was standing. Lying underneath it, the driver tried desperately to work out what was wrong, but eventually he gave up and phoned the RAC. The ladies sat in the cold fog stoically, making phone calls on their mobile phones. Anabel and I had lost everyone, having both decided to stand on a small island in the middle of the road to take our pictures. Whilst the fog added some atmosphere to the proceedings, it did nothing much for the clarity of the cars and their colourful occupants. I was travelling light with my new Olympus and finding it difficult to get just the right settings. It always intrigues me to see the pictures my fellow photographers take, and how they each interpret the scene and any theme. I wanted to try to concentrate on faces and the effort put in by the occupants of the cars, as I knew there would be a limit as to how many old cars I could snap with total concentration and interest. Some of the characters in the cars looked cold and fed up, whilst others enjoyed the attention the crowd gave them and waved with huge smiles. There were of course many other photographers enjoying the parade, several of whom couldn’t have cared less about whose pictures they were stepping into. I have to admit to muttering several expletives under my breath as some of my pictures acquired bodies I didn’t want. There were still one or two Halloween revellers wandering home and I persuaded one to let me take his picture.
By ten o’clock we caught up with most of the others but Clive and Paul were no-where to be seen. They had decided to eat upmarket. Very hungry by now, we set off on a slightly different route to the car, hoping we would find a decent breakfast venue. As we turned the last corner we could smell bacon cooking. We headed into a small cafe and were served in record breaking time. You can’t beat a full English breakfast on a foggy day, actually as far as I am concerned, you can’t beat it on any day.
Feeling full we set off on our circuitous route to Brighton. Harry wanted to drive past the first home he had shared with his late wife. We set off via Croydon and eventually found and photographed the cottage that had so many happy memories for him. Meanwhile the rest of the group had found a great vantage point outside a rugby club on the route to Brighton. We joined them and all took a large number of photographs. Whilst some of us got restless and wandered off to take pictures of the stunning Autumn leaves, the rugby and whatever else looked interesting, others concentrated on the cars.
The traffic on the approach to Brighton was very heavy indeed and the sat. nav. decided to take us on an alternative route. We queued for a while and as we did so, we were glad to see the sudden and unexpected arrival of the sun through the fog.
Brighton was full of people and cars but we parked with ease again following Paul’s advice. By now we were all hungry. We walked along the front looking for a suitable place. It was clear most cafes couldn’t seat 11 people. Dave suggested one small cafe that was empty. I immediately wondered why it was empty. I certainly couldn’t see a food hygiene rating and to be absolutely honest I found the chef’s demeanour and cleanliness sadly lacking and I wasn’t the only one either! I’m not quite sure then, how I found myself sitting in this rather dark and dingy bikers’ cafe ordering a sausage and onion bap. The tomato sauce was thrown at us and Harry learned very quickly that he couldn’t mess with the menu as things came ‘in packets’ and that’s what you got! Despite my misgivings and a worry that I could be up all night, I ate what was put in front of me without complaint! It tasted good if I didn’t think about the state of the chef!
We set off to find the finishing line as cars began to arrive. I got to the point where I was taking pictures of the same cars again, so I wandered off to do some more candid street shots as well as a few wet dog pictures, dogs on a beach always seem to attract my lens. We all agreed to meet at the entrance to the pier at five. A number of the group blagged their way into the enclosure and spent time chatting to the owners and admiring the cars and their more exciting parts.
Just before sunset Les and I grabbed our tripods from the car and set off towards the old pier to meet up with some of the others. We hadn’t realised how far it was, and knowing we would have only minutes to capture the increasingly pink sky we decided to remain closer to the main pier rather than try to find the others. Les was hoping to capture a mumeration of starlings over the pier. We set up our tripods and then had to move quickly as a wave caught us unawares. The starlings appeared as if on cue but unfortunately my wide angled lens couldn’t capture them. Having taken a large number of long exposures we headed back to meet the others. At this point some people wanted fish and chips and the rest of us just wanted a cup of tea and some cake. We headed back to the car and a very pretty little tea room where we squeezed around a tiny table. It was a bit like being in a doll’s house. Les opted for a spinach, yes spinach, and banana cake, whilst the rest of us tucked into a wonderful piece of lemon drizzle. It was a green and yellow spectacle which ended a wonderfully colourful day. A big thanks to Les for organising and to the other drivers Jonathan and Dave for coping with such inclement conditions.