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Just stuff (things on my mind that aren't to do with writing)

Steamy affair


On Sunday we went to the Hollowell Steam Rally. Hollowell is a beautiful village in Northamptonshire, and every year steam enthusiasts – that is grimy cheerful men who like driving steam engines very slowly – converge on some fields near the church and show off their darlings to all and sundry. In fact they travel so slowly, that they probably get home from the previous year’s show, just in time to turn round and come back.

steam engine

We’ve gone every year since the kids were small, because what else do you do on a July afternoon in England but eat hot doughnuts, admire the heavy horses, have a ride on a steam driven bus and enjoy a pint of Sam Smiths/Greene King/Marstons Pedigree in the heaving beer tent? (You could have cider, if you wanted, but really, why would you?). It was one of the high points of the year, and there were times when the kids insisted on going on Saturday and Sunday. There were even plans to camp over.



But time has passed, and our kids, as kids do, have been getting older and steam engines no longer cut the mustard. This year only our youngest, (and he’s nearly 15) came with us. He wasn’t going to. His verdict on the whole prospect was ‘But it’s so boring’. Then we mentioned the doughnuts, and he got in the car.


And it was lovely. There were the usual bizarre overheard snippets of conversation, ‘He said, you can’t come in here; you’re not wearing white trousers.’ ‘He’s so like his father, such an arrogant looking head. Mind you, he’s a lovely boy.’ And, ‘I came round to borrow your wobbelator but you weren’t in.’


Husband had to be physically dragged away from the stationary engines, the parade ring was a stately mass of motorbikes, Victorian prams and dogs and heavy horses. The doughnuts were fab. Husband and son moved among the motorbikes like judges at a cattle show. ‘Look dad, a BSA Bantam; mm that’s a beauty, look at the stainless steel exhausts on that one; Norton, fabulous frame.’

As we were leaving a Spitfire and a Hurricane flew over, and everyone stopped to follow them across the blue, cloud spattered sky. It was, as Lou Reed would say, a perfect day. And next year? Of course we’ll be back. But our kids may have better things to do.


About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


16 thoughts on “Steamy affair

  1. I have no idea what a “wobbelator” is but I definitely intend to use that word from now on.

    Posted by David Pandolfe | July 11, 2014, 12:39 am
  2. I want a wobbelator. I had to look it up, and I didn’t understand a word. I still want one though, so people can borrow it.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | July 10, 2014, 8:18 pm
    • Steve told me that its a little instrument that you can attach a saw to, and cut out really accurate holes in a piece of wood. I wanted a wobbelator too, until he told me that.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 10, 2014, 8:34 pm
    • Now that is disappointing. I’d hoped it might have been a contraption for making jelly.

      Posted by Bruce Goodman | July 10, 2014, 9:08 pm
    • I was thinking of a sort of conveyor belt that you did the samba on.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 10, 2014, 9:17 pm
  3. Ah, those were the days! Course, I had to have a man with a red flag walking in front of me in case I exceeded three miles per hour on my Whipley Smatterton 37 HP Grand Touring steamroller…
    There’s an extremely funny story set in the last days of WW2 when a couple of RAF pilots have a bet on a race between a Hawker Hurricane and a steamroller. The handicapping is such that the Hurricane doesn’t even take off until the steamroller is in sight of the finish line. I wish I could remember where I saw the story. I thought it was in England, Their England, by AG MacDonnell, with that other priceless story of the Village Cricket Match, but that was published in 1933.

    Posted by penjedi | July 10, 2014, 6:36 pm
  4. I think I had better be Jools 2, hadn’t I? The one from Dave’s shop is me. If the kids don’t want to come next time, can I come instead? I love the horses very much. And I like the injins.

    Posted by Jools | July 10, 2014, 5:08 pm
  5. Don’t worry, I’ll come out and see the steam engines with you.

    Posted by naptimethoughts | July 10, 2014, 2:46 pm
  6. What a fabulous and intrinsicly Brishish day out – and some great photographs. I do love it when one catches snippets of conversation that sound so bizarre – great for the writer’s notebook. As for the wartime airplanes, the sight and sound stirs the blood, doesn’t it? All that and hot doughnuts too. Lovely!

    Posted by Jools | July 10, 2014, 10:55 am
    • Thanks Jools. I was dead chuffed with my pix. Took them with my new phone, and it was so sunny at times I felt as if I was just taking pictures of black space!

      Posted by elainecanham | July 10, 2014, 11:13 am

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