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Country Couple come up to the the big, bad Smoke!
The Parliamentary Run – Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Philip's 60th Diamond Wedding Anniversary, March 2008
" How fashionable you Country People are! "
Imagine our surprise when right out of the blue we received a call from Peter Lockley, the Chairman of the Standard Motor Club, asking if we would like to represent the club with our 1947 Standard Flying 8, at the above event.
Chris took the call from Peter and was heard to say he would need to check with the wife and ring back. After explaining to me that we had been invited to join the celebrations and getting a very enthusiastic response, he rang back to confirm. It was a great honour to represent the Club and have the opportunity to meet HRH the Duke of Kent.
Monday 17th March found us at Exeter Services, only this time we were not there for our usual Devon Vintage Car club run, but to meet Kit and Lynda Le Marquand, who had also been invited with their Austin 16, for our trip to the "Big Smoke".
This event had been organised by John Cole, of the All-
The cars on Horseguards Parade
We set off in fine spring weather, Kit and Lynda leading the way in their lovely Austin 16 and us behind with our little Standard Flying 8 on a trailer. We felt although our car is more than capable of handling the distances, the M25 and A3 roads were just a little too much with a top speed of 45mph!!
We made good time and soon arrived at Kit’s friend John and Mary’s house, on the outskirts of Woking, approximately one hour from London. John had kindly agreed to let us leave the borrowed trailer (thanks Steve Lovegrove) and our cars on his drive, overnight.
This proved no mean feat, as John was the proud owner of no less than five pre-
Austins, all regularly used for weddings and quite a bit of maneuvering took place to get the trailer on to the drive.
After settling into our hotel Chris and I left for a "40minute" drive to Brian Parkes to purchase some spares which Chris had previously ordered from Brian. Chris had quite a big shopping list and Brian and his wife Betty, made us very welcome. The journey proved to be a little more difficult than the maps lead you to believe, with quite a few wrong turns, but we eventually returned triumphantly with a boot full of spares for our Standard cars and enjoyed a very pleasant evening with Kit and Lynda.
The big day arrived, involving a return trip to collect our "proper cars" from John’s, before we set off for the one hour drive into London. This was our little Standards first experience of the London traffic and she coped very well, keeping pace with Kit’s Austin 16 (tow rope distance) as he safely navigated us through the streets, to arrive nicely in time for a roadside stop for a cup of tea, just outside the Tate Gallery, who also (unknowingly) provided the comfort break.
Suitably refreshed, Kit’s skills brought us safely to Horse guards Parade at the agreed time for the initial rendezvous. Our invitations had asked if we could come in period costume if at all possible, and Chris and I decided to join in the fun. Thanks to a local period costume shop and good old Ebay, we made a passable effort at complementing our car for the day.
The Devon Group
I was initially very dubious at dressing up, in fact I was very reluctant to leave the car at all whilst at the Tate, but Chris reminded me that this is London, where everything can be seen, if you wait long enough.
By the time we arrived at Horse guards we were happy to step out and join those car owners who had also entered into the spirit. We spent a very enjoyable hour admiring the wonderful selection of cars assembled on the parade ground, normally reserved for the changing of the guard. We were joined by lots of the public who certainly seem to appreciate the free display.
When the order came to return to your cars, a magnificent queue of cars snaked out of the parade ground and into the London traffic, it really was a sight to behold.
Despite our very best efforts with the traffic we soon became hopelessly lost, but as if by a miracle, Kit and Lynda appeared in our sights and with the help of the photographer, who had nabbed a lift with them, guided us safely to our final destination, St Kathryn’s wharf, right beside the Tower of London.
Unfortunately Kit’s Austin 16 took this moment to come to a complete halt further investigations under the bonnet revealed a broken petrol pump. An easy job to fix, but with no spares, an impossible task and the car was later relayed home to Devon.
All vehicles assembled on the wharf and we went to have a cup of tea in the assembly rooms of the Tower of London. Later we were joined by HRH The Duke of Kent, prizes were given for the best dressed man and woman, each receiving a years free car insurance, donated by Peter James. A prize was also given for the greatest distance travelled which went to a car owner from Jersey.
Line up leaving Horse Guards
Altogether £5,000 was raised on the day for Leukemia Trust and The Stroke Association and many thanks go to those who kindly sponsored our attendance. Following the speeches we were asked to return to our cars so that the Duke could meet the owners and inspect the vehicles.
The public had been admitted to the wharf by this time and we spent a very pleasant time chatting to them and having our photo taken with the obligatory Japanese tourist, who may have mistaken us for Madame Tussauds!!
To his credit, The Duke of Kent kindly gave time to each car owner and slowly made his way down the line. Our Standard 8 was the last car in the line up and we waited with anticipation for our moment to meet HRH.
The view of Admiralty Arch from a Standard 8
On walking over to our car The Duke of Kent firstly said to Chris he did not immediately recognize the model (not an unusual comment for a Standard owner to hear!!) he also asked the most frequently asked question of all, "how long did it take you to restore it?", bursting into laughter when told it was a good 27 years.
HRH kindly admired Chris’s workmanship and I even managed to get a little comment in about Chris attending night school just to learn how to weld. All in all it was a very pleasant experience and we were very impressed with his genuine warmth and interest.
The rest of the afternoon was pleasantly spent chatting with those who came to admire the cars and fellow exhibitors, admiring each others costumes and generally behaving like tourists ourselves.
Later we were given a free viewing of the Crown Jewels which added to the whole experience.
We waited with Kit and Lynda until arrangements had been made to collect their car, leaving London as night fell. The journey back to our hotel, with just 6 volt electrics, was a very interesting and at times hair raising experience. It was also a little cosy in the Standard with four
"fully grown" adults, but it did keep us nice and snug and gave us a sense of security as Chris magnificently negotiated the evening traffic out of London.
Kit’s wonderful navigational skills and Chris’s confidence in his car, brought us safely out of London and Kit, a long standing Austin owner of 40 years, with as many Austins in that time, was very impressed at his ride, remarking that "every Austin owner should have a Standard car as backup".
Our car did us proud, successfully outrunning taxi’s, "Chelsea tractors" (Four by Fours for the uninitiated) and the completely suicidal bike riders who amazed us with their death defying driving between the lanes of traffic.
"every Austin owner should have a Standard car as backup".
We returned to our hotel in Woking for a very pleasant meal and to reminisce about the wonderful day we had had.
The following day Kit and Chris drove the Standard 8 back to Kit’s friend, loaded up the little car with everyone’s suitcases and Lynda and I followed on in a taxi. After dropping Kit and Lynda home to Newton Abbot, we went home to relax and look at our photo’s of the wonderful day.
Our special thanks go to Peter Lockley for asking us to represent the club with our Standard 8,
this was a great honour, to Kit and Lynda for their lovely company and Kits’s navigational skills (having run a transport business through London for many years he was The Expert!!) and everyone for their support, sponsoring and good wishes, which we took with us to London.