This morning I was up at a quarter to three and on the road to Dover by twenty past. The road was dry, the weather was clear, the full moon was shining, the hood on the Lotus was down and there was little traffic. Except for the road works on the M25 between the M11 and the A12, there was nothing to hold me up. Even the tolls at the Dartford Crossing were free! Is there another crossing in the world, with a bridge one way and a tunnel the other?
So I pulled in to the docks at Dover at five past five after just one hour forty five minutes of travelling. The car may be seventeen years old, but it hasn’t lost its verve and long legs.
The title of this topic is the old slogan that MG used to use with their sports cars and saloons for many years. It is still the name of the MG enthusiast’s magazine. My father had many MGs in his time from pre-war Midgets to mid-fifties Magnettes and thought it was a slogan that suited the now-gone marque. I like to think that I drove the Lotus that way both to Dover and afterwards on the three hour trip to Holland.
The ferry was half-an-hour late due to a mechanical problem, which was a first for Norfolk Line, and the captain apologised, but I still had visions of hairy and oily mechanics trying to replace big-ends or something even more serious. But they did make up some of the time and I left Dunkirk exactly on half-past-nine by European Time.
In front of me on the ferry was an AC Cobra. Not a copy, but a genuine one from the 1970s and we started off in convoy towards Ostend. He was going to the Nurburgring, to see a classic Grand Prix. One day, I’ll take the Lotus there on one of their experience days. Sadly it won’t be this year, as someone has a wedding on that day.
One thing that was a bit wrong, was that the couple in the Cobra were using a Sat-Nav. Surely that is wrong!
But is it wrong that Colin Chapman named his car after a flower, with names that showed spirit, like Elan, Esprit and Elite? Not for him Cobra, Miura, Panther or Thunderbird, which exudes power, but something that is more about class and agility.
A word of warning here. If you are taking a ferry to Dunkirk, don’t do it with an almost-empty tank, as filling stations are some way over the Belgian border. The Cobra stopped in the first one and I carried on to Ostend. The fuel also seemed expensive at €1.41 a litre. So perhaps fill up at Tesco at Dover.
At Ostend the fun started.
The traffic along the coast had been light and generally proceeding at about 120-130 kph. But after the Ostend traffic joined the road was very busy and Mercedes and others were storming about at well over the legal limit. It is in traffic like this that the agile Lotus comes into its own.
With the top down, you have perfect vision in all directions and because the road-holding is so good, you can almost drive sideways to avoid someone who isn’t looking. In one instant a big 4×4 pulled out on me and I’m sure he was looking right over the top. And the Lotus is bright yellow! Norfolk mustard is the actual name.
Gent and Antwerp followed in succession without any holdup and I was quickly through the latter city and on the road to Breda and Rotterdam. And just as the road had got angry at Ostend, it calmed at Antwerp. It must be the Belgians.
And whilst on the subject of the Belgians.
Can they please use consistent road signs with the same name for the same city throughout the country? I don’t care if they call Bruxelles, Timbuktoo, but please be consistent. I wish the Welsh would do the same too. I don’t care what name, but every town and village in Europe should only have one name. To make things fair it should be chosen by those that live there.
The last part of the journey past Breda, Dordrecht and Rotterdam was busy, but again my speed was well-up and I finally arrived in Den Haag (Note the Dutch name!) just three hours and five minutes after leaving Dunkirk and eight hours fifteen minutes from home. I could have gone quicker by easyJet from Stansted, but I couldn’t have taken as much luggage and especially my Brompton. The difference is probably three hours.
Incidentally for most of the last part of the journey I was listening to the late great Dusty Springfield on the CD player. Wonderful! Especially, as through the Drechttunnel, with the top down, I was playing one of her songs at full blast and it was reverberating off the walls.
I did get slowed on entering Den Haag, so I turned off the motorway and followed the signs to Scheveningen. If you ask the locals how you pronounce that town, the answer is now very non politically correct, as it refers to shaving someone described by an N-word. But it is linguistically correct.