Wednesday, 30 July 2008

We are not alone...

….We interrupt this absence of posting to bring you some up-to-date news….

We haven’t had much luck with internet access since we left the Republic of Ireland. I’ll complete the log of our trip there very soon, but I need to tell you of something that happened last weekend.

The Game Fair is an annual event, which showcases hundreds of different “Country” businesses. There were over a thousand trade stands which, as far as I could make out, showed 500 different ways to grow, rear, cultivate, promote, enrich and otherwise encourage wildlife on your land, alongside 500 different ways to hunt it down and kill it. It is certainly the largest trade show I have ever been to, but of the thousand or so stands, there were barely a couple which were remotely interesting to us (namely, the Real Ale bar and the Airstream stand)

What, I hear you say, were two vegetarians doing at a place like this?

Well, Airstream Europe were showing their range at one of the stands. They wrote to all their owners some time ago, inviting them to attend the fair and offered to pick up the tab for the campsite fees. Very generous, since the fees weren’t cheap. In the end, nine Airstreamers brought their trailers to the show. This was the first gathering in the UK for owners of new Airstream trailers ever. How completely excellent!

We hit the campsite on Thursday afternoon and were the third unit to arrive. And what a campsite it was! There were large pitches for over a thousand caravans, tents and motorhomes. The toilets were fully plumbed in air-conditioned marquees. There was a supermarket in another marquee, which sold almost everything under the sun (for a price). I didn’t use the showers, but I’m told they were pretty good (if you got there just after they’d been cleaned). The whole thing was well thought out and executed. The only problem was the scale of it all! Our section of the campsite was about a mile from the entrance to the show, and the showground itself was enormous.

The Airstream stand was near the Main Arena, (which was conveniently situated at the far end of the showground) and in all it took nearly an hour to fight through the crowds from our trailer to the Airstream stand. And what a crowd it was: I overheard somebody say that there were 134,000 visitors on the Saturday. That could be a lie – it felt more like a gazillion.

The rest of the Airstream trailers dribbled in over the course of the Friday and Saturday, and despite a clerical anomaly which split the group in two, we managed to roughly arrange ourselves so that all of us were in one small section of this huge site, and despite being just a bunch of randomly positioned trailers, we didn’t half look smashing.

The summer finally arrived, and it was blisteringly hot all weekend, which I loved to bits but Tracey hated, so she hid in the shade. It wasn’t kind weather for Anthony and John from Airstream Europe. They took advantage of the presence of so many trailers in one place in order to sort out every little problem, niggle, snag, and grumble that all us owners had. They worked their asses off in the blazing heat for two days solid.

The good weather was a bonus for the Barbecue on the Saturday night. A couple of weeks back, while our trailer was in Tebay for a service, we were chatting with Michael and Stuart (from Airstream) about the Game Fair and we were gently cajoled into helping out. I didn’t quite realize what this meant at the time, but I found out the day before we arrived at the Game Fair when we picked up an email saying that Tracey and I would be “hosting” the weekend. I wasn’t sure if we needed to wear red blazers and sing “songs from the shows” (not a happy thought), but it turned out that all we needed to do was make an attempt to get everybody into (more or less) the right place, make sure they had everything they needed, and set up for the afore mentioned barbecue. All the Airstream team were busy on the stand all day, so it fell to me to get the food. You may have figured out that Tracey and I are vegetarians, so I didn’t relish the prospect of buying meat, but somebody had to do it. Never again. Luckily, there was a Lancashire butcher on one of the stands, and after he pissed himself laughing at me, he was very helpful and even gave me a 10% discount (I think he needed cheering up). With the raw flesh sorted out, we headed into the local town to pick up the rest of the goodies. The village of Woodstock is as far from the image of the music festival as possible. There are row after row of pretty little golden sandstone cottages with hanging baskets by the acre. It looked just like a collection of those little ceramic cottages you can get in gift shops. Very pretty, but not quite real.

The barbecue was great. We managed to find some veggie-burgers, so the four vegetarians were happy. The evening flew past, and I feel a bit sad that I just didn’t have time to chat to everybody – there were about thirty of us in all. If everybody else enjoyed themselves half as much as I did, they would have had a ball. I do feel that I must apologise to any reader who was an innocent bystander. I’m sure that we made a little more noise than was polite on a campsite. Please rest assured that next time we’ll do it in private. Which leads me to say that everybody there was very keen to meet up again.

So who were this motley crew? Aside from us layabout full-timers, they ranged from cook-shop owners to consultants, croquet mallet makers to fashion photographers, Portakabin renters to BMW executives. What made them all buy an Airstream? Not a clue – I shall have to ask them that next time.

After (almost) everybody had gone home, I popped over to the Airstream stand on the Sunday afternoon to say my farewells before they all left too. I felt very honoured when Anthony invited me to share a couple of beers with him, his sister and brother-in-law. It was a lovely end to a wonderful weekend. After that, I chatted with the rest of the Airstream team on the stand. I have to say that I have never met such a dedicated group of people. I don’t mind admitting that there was a little tear in my eye while John was explaining how happy he is, after years working on the production line at an “ordinary caravan” manufacturer, to be involved in a product of such quality.

A big “Thank You” goes to Airstream Europe for coming up with the idea of inviting us along and subsidising the site fees (I’m sure I’ve got a fistful of receipts for them somewhere…). Thank you too, to all the ‘Streamers who came. It was a delight to meet you all. I shan’t embarrass them by posting names and pictures here, but you know who you (and your watering cans) are. Thanks for a great weekend.

When can we do it again?

In the meantime, we’re off to meet up with some old friends at The Big Chill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a ball, I'm so jealous! Mind you, as of Tuesday just gone, I'm now 'qualified' to join you next year... in my new 532 International! :-)