73. Techenders craic

The Techenders weekend is normally all about our vehicles and our ongoing attempt to learn how they work so we can fix them ourselves. This time it was all about the people who go there and some of the amazing conversations you often have with them.

Simon is a guy who features heavily in my Techenders posts because he tends to play a starring role in a lot of the activities – he always has a long list of jobs he wants to do and invariably they are not for the faint hearted. Given that, by his own admission, his knowledge of mechanics is fairly rudimentary it is little short of wonderful that he always comes out on top. He has an approach which some would call robust and some would say is mad but his mechanical escapades have entered into Techenders folklore.

This time he had bought a 1500 Beetle engine and he wanted to see if he could put it all together and fire it up. This endeavour was the main event of the weekend and attracted the interest of just about everybody present. Needless to say he got the thing roaring into life, blowing an unfortunate snail from the exhaust into the face of a startled onlooker. Simon’s £200 bargain proved to just that, a genuine bargain and the legend lives on.

Simon, left, fires up his bargain engine find

But it was a little later, during one of his rare breaks from the action, that a conversation with Simon really blew me away.

He recounted the events surrounding a recent holiday he and his family had in Cornwall. On the way he noticed that his steering was strange and when he pulled over to have a look he saw one of his front wheels was at a crazy angle. He straightened it as best he could and got it into a lay-by fifty yards away. As we all know one of the best things you can do when in a jam is to get some advice, and support, from the guys on the Late Bay Forum. This he did and he was told that there was a unit not far away that hires out hydraulic ramps by the hour. He booked himself in, called GSF for a replacement part and this was delivered (to the ramp bay he had just booked) within an hour. Out came the manual and the big hammer and Simon got on with the repair job. In the meantime, a guy from TLB, who Simon doesn’t even know, came out in his bus to pick up his wife and kids and took them to their holiday destination – just to make sure they got there.

You would have thought that was enough of an adventure for one trip but this is Simon. On the way home his bus started losing power due to a blocked fuel filter. As he was limping along the motorway a Jeep with a caravan overtook and as it pulled in it seemed that the driver had forgotten she had a caravan in tow and pulled back out suddenly to avoid broadsiding Simon. This caused the caravan to jack knife violently, it overturned and crashed into a little Clio and then the Jeep turned over. Simon went into all action hero mode. He smashed  the rear window of the Jeep, which was leaking fuel and beginning to smoke, pulled the semi-conscious woman out and then heard from another passenger that there were two dogs in the back. He went back to rescue a couple of Spaniels and heard a hissing from the caravan. It was a gas canister, boiling hot, which Simon ripped out and flung away over the hard shoulder. Shortly afterwards the car went up in flames.

The Clio driver had got away with just a broken wrist but the woman that Simon rescued had a very serious head injury and was taken away in an ambulance. Apart from having to give a statement to the police, Simon never heard anything further from the Jeep driver and so does not know how things panned out for her. The thought crossed my mind that such a selfless act of instinctive courage deserved some form of recognition from somebody. A simple thank you would be nice when you have saved somebody’s life, but Simon was just happy to have been able to help.

Techenders is pretty hard work during the day but at night it is time for a bit of fun, fire pits start to appear and you get the chance to have a chat with some pretty amazing people over a beer or two.

Not popular with Eddie because it burnt the grass but these fire pits are the hub of many conversations way into the night   (Just been asked to point out – nothing to do with the bus raised in spectacular fashion just behind)

A chap sitting next to me said that he had just finished a book offering a new and fascinating slant on why people adopt political and social views that goes beyond the standard left – right analysis. I had seen a review of the book, by David Goodheart, (I think) in the Guardian and I was particularly interested to hear what it was all about from someone who had actually read it. It centres on two types of people, the ‘Somewheres’ and the ‘Anywheres’. The former are basically people who have lived in the same place all their lives and have put down deep roots in that one area. The latter are people who move around quite freely and are not constrained by a sense of ‘place’. The theory is that this basic difference drives your socio-political attitudes and has more to offer in understanding recent developments in this country, and elsewhere, than just class or politics. ‘Somewheres’ tend not to be well educated, are traditional in outlook, even narrow minded, and have a deep sense of belonging, which is very important to them. They tend to feel that their views and aspirations are ignored by the ruling elite and that they have been left behind. The ‘Anywheres’ are the opposite to all this and as you would expect they were the ones who voted remain, (in the USA they are anti-Trump and in France would vote for a globalist like Macron).They do a lot of other things which I am not going to develop here, in a blog supposedly about VW campers.  ( I get stuff like ‘Is this a VW blog or a bloody sociology blog!’) Suffice it to say that I have a personal interest in this subject because my son has recently made a career move to go and live in Holland and is already looking into applying for Dutch citizenship. He met his wife, a stunning Colombian girl, while they were both working in Madrid. He is clearly an Anywhere and I think a lot of the Techenders crowd also fall into this category.

In the barn which Eddie the campsite owner has converted into a bar with real ale I talked to a guy who is about to complete nine years of studying for a degree in Engineering. Hats off to Mork, I couldn’t do it.

In the field I chatted with the chap who organises the ‘Dubs in the Park’ event, which takes place next weekend. He loves doing that but I had to ask if he ever gets fed up of all the hassles and complaints? (No he doesn’t and the main complaint area is always the queues to get in followed by ‘too few toilets’ – regardless of how many they put in.) Incidentally the profits from this event all go to charity. This guy was in a camper that his dad bought way back in 1991. Putting it politely it was a ‘rolling resto’ but can anyone beat that for length of ownership?

This van has been in the family since 1991.  A rolling resto is a van being restored whilst being in active service as a camper

Another guy was telling me that his bus is officially a snow plough, according to the DVLA records office. Short story is that it was a way of getting the pre-1973 road tax exemption!

A while ago I wrote on here about my experiences at a very minor public school which I attended before I was expelled in 1970. Another Techender told me he had been to a similar establishment as a kid and a lot of what I described resonated with his experience – especially the pervy masters getting their rocks off beating you or touching you up. Or both. It was great fun to compare notes, particularly as it was all such a long time ago for us both.

Over breakfast we had a lovely bit of gossip about the recent Blunderbus split – a small group of guys who got pissed off with the moderators on TLB forum and went off to found a new forum. It hasn’t really got off the ground but it’s a pity because they were valuable contributors to our forum. We want them back and to encourage them we have decided to theme the next T/E event – ‘Blunder-enders’ was suggested as a name.

Breakfast in the marquee, full English and hot gossip for a fiver

Two phrases cropped up over the weekend that I think are worth remembering. The first was ‘This LED bulb is polarity conscious’. What does that mean? It means that a normal bulb will light with the positive/earth on any of the contacts contact. I never knew that and it is a very useful piece of information. (Honest!) The other phrase was one of Doug’s and has a particular resonance with any of us who has a bit of a ratty van but which we have tried to smarten up with a bit of bling – ‘You can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter’. Captures the fatalistic sense of humour of Techenders quite nicely.

Compared with the craic the spannering was fairly mundane. Most big jobs centred on installing solar panels on roofs. Very useful bit of technology, especially if you are into wild camping, but a bit boring to watch. My own task was to understand why my horn wasn’t working. (Cue loads of innuendo of course). An expert stepped in and did the diagnosis for me and now it works fine. A great bloke, Duncan, even if he does support Leeds United.

Getting to the bottom of my horn problem. The other guy helping out  is Mike James, I think. Thanks guys.
Installing solar panels –  useful but not very sexy
Congi takes it easy in his famous new Landmark
This guy arrives and promptly runs out of petrol. How embarrassing is that? (Actually I do know how embarrassing it is… )  Fireside chats already started in the background
The TLB’s most travelled van, CHIP. Been all over the USA and about to go on a trip to Morocco
We had to restrain Simon from putting his bargain engine into this
This chap in a lovely Beetle turned up just to see what was going on. He has owned it over 20 years and still does all his own spannering.


About Basil John Mandy

A sixty odd year old born in Ladysmith, South Africa. Manchester United supporter and a great fan of the city in general. I worked for Kelloggs since 1982, apart from a year's sabbatical that I took to ride a bicycle to South Africa. I retired at the end of 2015 and have 2 grandsons, Lenny and Ellis. And now I've got a granddaughter as well - Dottie Joy!!


  1. Hi Bas, looked like good fun, I shall have to make more of an effort to attend in the future , I enjoyed the sociology as well 🙂

  2. Hi Nick It is great fun and I have learned such a lot. Hope to see you there (Sept 29/30th is next one)

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