After a very quick visit to Birminggggham (you have to pronounce the G) I stayed with the parents of Lisa Dawson ( lovely friend in Whagarei) in a place called Solihull. As I drove through the leafy wooded area on beautifully paved roads lined with stunning bungalows, I discerned a slight difference from the grey misery of the Britannia Hotel in Coventry.
Houses in this part of the UK don’t have numbers: that’s far too lower class, they have names like Green Leaf Cottage, the Squirels Nuts or Badgers Nightmare. I got a bit lost because I was told it was number 85, and of course there are no numbers. So I phoned and was kindly informed to look for the white Lexus on the Drive. That made it easy. If it had been a BMW, Mercedes, Jag, Maserati, Rolls, or Porsche I would have been completely stuck.
Jan and Derrick Hill are wonderfully hospitable people, which of course is why I stayed with them. Well, that’s not entirely true. You see I knew that Derrick had one of these in the garage….
No, it’s an Aston Martin DBS, of James Bond fame, and it causes my mouth to water. I told you I was shallow. Derrick opened the garage for me and fired up the engine. Oh deary deary me, there’s nothing more heart warming and spine tingling than the bark of a ferocious 550hp V12 engine in the morning. You can hear it screaming, “Good mooorning Solihull”. Seriously, the neighbours must hate it. There they are, sitting in bed with the cuppa produced by their Tea Maid, reading the Times, when the ba%*^#d next door unleashes the automotive version of Black Sabbath. It was great. Until that is, we went for a ride.
Derrick is about 70 and comes from a line of luxury cars for people wearing loafers, dinner suits and fine shoes. This is not that. A DBS is for loonatics with money. It’s sole reason in life is to try and kill its occupants, or at least terrify them. The first ride was at night and he gave me a little demonstration of its power on the darkened and winding roads. This car doesn’t just go fast instantaneously, it screams that it’s going to kill you while doing so. But it’s such a refine scream. You can tell someone spent a lot of time and money in the R&D department creating the perfect roar of terror. I am officially terrified. Oh, but let’s do it again. Moving on…
They are fortunate to own 47 acres of countryside that has at is heart the Hampton Manor.
It was originally the property of some famous family called the Peels. Jan and Derrick are successful hoteliers and have done a stunning job restoring the place. I never got to stay there, but I did eat there, which meant I had to put my jandals away for the night.
In my time doing theology and history and philosophy I have often run into the practice of deconstruction. But I have never eaten deconstructed food. Since the Manor opened to the public it has won of bunch of prestigious awards and now they’re hoping for a Michelin Star, which is meaningless to me, but important to those who know. Obviously it has something to do with deconstructing food. What it appears to mean is that you get a lot of different small courses that fill you over time. Each course has different bits laid out on the plate so you sort of reconstruct it as you eat. I’m still not convinced. It’s like buying a car and having it delivered in bits, “where would you like us to put the wheels, sir?” How about on the car! However it was a real treat. I’m now in Liverpool now, so it’s MacDonalds.
Anyhow, back to the future. I said at the beginning of this ramble, I like fossil fuel burning performance engines. Well, I have been swayed because I got to spend some time messing with this. The Tesla P90D.
It’s fully electric. It Will travel around 500km as long as you behave, and will recharge in a couple of hours. But the good stuff? 0-100kph under 3 seconds. It comes with a very cool iPad thing in the middle to control everything from the stereo to navigation. However given my struggles with my rental cars gizmos, this could tip me over the edge. However, it’ll give the Aston a run for its money at half the cost and be good for the planet. The down side? However strong the temptation may be, you’ll never annoy the neighbours again. It’s totally silent. And that is not a selling point.