Friday, 14 October 2011

Rockhill Reflections

Two weeks ago we finally wrenched ourselves away from Rockhill Farm. The best thing, in fact the only good thing, about breaking my leg was that Carl and Gaynor encouraged us to stay, at least until I was discharged by the hospital. In the weeks that we were there we hung out with the family and became neighbours, but in a really good, matey way; not in the chilly, curt way that I remember from my urban, pre-Airstream life. And since we had arrived there in late August to prepare for Rockhill Rendezvous, we had become pretty attached to the place and the family. But as we prolonged our goodbyes we consoled ourselves with the realisation that, in no time at all we will be back round the kitchen table planning the next Rendezvous.

We're actually not so far away. We have moved back to the bolthole in Worcestershire that we hunkered down in last winter. So, what we haven't got around to until now is reflecting on the UKAirstreamers' September Gathering, or Rockhill Rendezvous. Unless a blog entry is prefaced with something like, "Today we did this amazing thing" you can probably assume that we are usually recalling something from some weeks back. And there are all sorts of reasons for it this time.

I broke my leg four days before the start of the gathering. That meant that, apart from finishing off the two hundred meters of bunting with Gaynor, I simply had to stay out of the way in the lead up, during the event itself, during the clean up and during the post-gathering-blues period. Post-gathering-blues is something that Pete and I have observed ourselves sinking into after each of the UKAirstreamers gatherings so far. It's the kind of slump you get following on from being really focused on one thing and hoping that thing goes well, plus a little bit of "What now?" Anyway, the whole time Pete was too busy having to do everything I would normally do, on top of his own responsibilities, to be able to think about sitting down to blog.  So here are some photos taken by Pete, and some observations from someone who did a lot of the planning but didn't actually get to see how it all went (me).

We had decided to make it a long weekend event this year, from Thursday till Monday, and it was a popular idea. For some reason which has now slipped my mind, Keith and Jane who own a 1966 Overlander, had a surplus of cheese and wine that they offered to share with the Thursday crowd. So that got things off to a lovely, convivial start. My movements for the whole weekend were limited to manoeuvring myself on crutches between our trailer and the marquee, and that's where the cheese was, so I tucked in and received sympathy whilst getting used to having people bring me drinks. And as far as I can remember, that was it for Thursday; a gentle getting together with introductions and catching up. Pete, meanwhile, was up at the farm house watching the world's slowest printer meander it's way through the first twenty copies of the brochure.

Friday was when the majority arrived, and from our trailer window I could observe Pete, Carl and Gaynor and other willing helpers finishing off preparations. Meanwhile Andrew enthusiastically donned a UKAirstreamers high-viz waistcoat (donated by Paul and Jules at Makerelbus, who also printed our T-shirts and giveaway stickers, and were gutted they couldn't attend due to their replacement axle not turning up), welcomed arrivals and guided them to their pitches. Later, from my outpost in the farmhouse where I was finishing off printing the brochures, I caught a glimpse of a mini convoy arriving, which included Axel and Jack who had travelled all the way from the Netherlands specially.

On the Friday evening, with sponsorship from Airstream Europe, we laid on drinks and nibbles (including two rather fine local ales form the Ludlow Brewery). Tony and Elaine, Airstreamers and folk singers (and all round good sorts) provided us with lovely, gentle music whilst the rest of the crowd mingled, made introductions and got reacquainted.

Saturday was fairly busy, but with time for people to generally hang out and do their own thing. There were pampering sessions in Kerry's My Little Beauty salon-in-an-Airstream, and in the afternoon there was the Open House. We had tried this out at the Spring Gathering, and it seemed popular. Basically, it's a two hour period where your door is open to visitors to show off your Airstream. Unless you don't fancy it, in which case you just lock your door. Like everything else, it's optional. But I get the impression that the two hours can go by really quickly.

But it has to come to an end because in the late afternoon and into evening there's the Bring 'n' Barbie. You bring food to barbecue for yourself, and food to share. It's a lovely communal activity and it's always great to see people mucking in and sharing and helping each other to all the goodies on offer. Our live music sessions took place in the marquee, on the Airstream stage which was generously donated by Sam and Hazel at Vintage Airstreams. On Saturday night we were entertained with blues-roots-folk, by the very lively, and occasionally gravelly Babajack.

Sunday was an altogether chilled out sort of a day, apart from the energetic ones who played softball, or rounders, or a hybrid of the two. It was supposed to be Vintage and US versus new European, but I think the teams merged a little to make up numbers. But somehow it was decided that the Vintage team won, captained by Carl, who may have since had a special plinth made for the cup he was awarded. 

The second ever Unhitch and Stitch took place in the afternoon. Blankets were crocheted, a homemade bow was repaired, young girls were taught the basics of crochet, knitting techniques were exchanged, and tea was drunk, naturally.

In the evening there was an impromptu get together to finish up all the food. And on the Monday the field gradually emptied. I know I've missed out a lot, but that's because I missed so much. We had a much bigger proportion of vintage Airstreams than before. We equalled our Spring record for the number of Airstream motor homes seen together in the UK (5). We beat our previous year's record for the total number of Airstreams and totted up 38 (plus the Airstream stage makes 39). But most importantly, lots of people came to tell us what a lovely time they'd had, and that's what it's all about.