A love letter to my Land Rover Defender….

This I suppose, is my love letter to Land Rover, my mixed thoughts and feeling of the old and the new.  These are just my own personal thoughts as I ponder around driving my own Land Rover Defender 90 TD5 XS, my daily drive. 

I’ve watched the launch of the new Defender with Julia Bradbury (who’s lovely by the way) interviewing the engineers and designers in Frankfurt.  I’ve also watched Richard Hammond ‘Drivetribe’ and Matt Watson ‘Carwow’ and others alike on their first look around the vehicle.  No test drive yet, but as we all know the people at Land Rover are very clever and have obviously carried out a handbag full of tests so there’s no doubt that the new Defender can do everything the old one can, you’ve only got to look at the rest of their fleet of vehicles to know that.  I’ve also seen the Lego Defender at the price of £160, I like it and will most probably buy one (just to clarify…the Lego model). 

But I fear the Land Rover Defender has now been caught up with the rest of the cars on the road with technology that now seems to be moving faster than the world can spin.  With every vehicle on the road being stuffed full of electrics, ECU’s and data that connects to the big brother somewhere in secret cyber land and their kitchen sink and most probably the socks in their drawer.  But as we also know, electrics and water are not the best of mixes which might be an issue for what people usually buy Defenders for. It’s usually recognised as a real die hard, basic, no frills 4×4 as is the reason why we like the old one.  I like to compare it in a way that vinyl is the music equivalent to the original Defender.  I understand that my TD5 has more electrics than the older 300TDI and the model before that, also the Puma has more electrics than my 90 TD5.  So the new model 2020 must look like a BT exchange box or an explosion at a spaghetti factory when finding a fault.  But I’m far from a Land Rover engineer so it might be bomb proof, only time will tell.  

There’s definitely no denying that the new Defender is going to be nice and capable of doing what it says on the tin, plus more friendly to drive on the road than the original.  Let’s not forget the emissions will be lower.  For some of us, we might not care about that, not while the whoever the Prime Minister of the day is steps in to their big fat car with a big engine to take them around the corner to Parliament, and that’s while the rest of Parliament are flying back and forth to Brussels to talk empty air to one another (a story for another day) as my new saying goes #copyrightdavefrantony ‘If you can Skype it don’t fly it!’  Sorry, I’ve digressed. 

I’ve read lots of comments on the internet of what people think so far.  Like ‘It’s not a DEFENDER it’s a WEEKENDER or PRETENDER even an OFFENDER.’  It’s got me thinking why do I have one?  Why do I love driving it?  It’s my second Defender 90, I’ve owned this one for five years and it still makes me smile.  It’s quirky, bouncy and has a steering wheel the size of dustbin lid and yes, each of the five gears are in different postcodes but I don’t care.  Even though the cars behind me at the lights think I’m purposely driving slow (I’m not honestly) it just takes a while to get to each gear using a slow and steady hand.  As I drive it every day, my left leg is now far bigger than my right due to pressing down on the clutch.  You beautiful owners will know, the clutch is like pushing back the whole of the British Lions rugby team in a scrum.  I love that when it rains hard the passenger footwell likes to turn into a small picturesque lake.  Don’t quote me on this but I was sure I saw a heron trying to squeeze its way in through the large door gaps once.  I like it when I brake in the heavy rain and drops of water drip on my feet over the pedals.  The heaters take a while to warm up, although I’m very lucky to have one with heated seats.  My old 1987 Defender I once drove fifteen miles in and it was colder than when I got in it!  And let’s not forget the small flat windscreen that gives you the driving experience like you’re looking out through a letter box.  I feel I understand what it must be like to look out of a Burka (just saying!). 

That’s all before it likes to steam up if you have too much warm moist saliva in your mouth.  I must also mention the pencil length wipers that look like they are going to stop working any minute.  The seats are short but so am I so that’s okay.  There’s no room to swing a gnat around with its wings in its pockets, so your elbows are down in your groin, unless the window is open, then you have elbow relief.  But it’s like putting on your old favourite trainers that you don’t mind looking a bit scruffy but comfortably happy in. 

It always amazes me that the engine goes quieter when the music gets louder.  Sometimes basic is good, basic is all we need, less is more and less can be perfect.  In Sardinia, I once saw a woman in her late sixties wearing a scarf over her hair and sunglasses driving an old Mini Moke.  I stopped in the street thinking ‘She’s the coolest person I’ve ever seen!’ 

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My Defender 90 has four seats in the back that when unclipped sit down and face sideways, and everyone who rides in it, loves it.  They hold on with white knuckles, bouncing like I’m driving over a row of bollards whilst grinning all the way.  It makes them smile and that’s always a good thing.  Wherever I park it, people young and old, male or female always compliment how they like the look of the Land Rover Defender and that its built as if it were  from a Meccano set, and that’s why the purists love it.  As long as you have a log book and VIN plate, well, just as the saying goes in the opening credits of the Six Million Dollar Man “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him…… we have the technology.” 

But as we knew would happen, this can’t be done with the new Defender.  So is it going to be like the rest of their fleet that in ten to fifteen years it’s going to end up on the scrap heap?  Tell me the last time you saw a fifteen to twenty year old Range Rover or Discovery looking good on the road.  I use mine for the school run and I’m grateful as most parents will happily park on your face if it gets them closer to the school gates, not to mention the army of grandparents that clearly aren’t allowed to retire and enjoy life.  They now have to bring up their kids kids.  My Defender comes in handy at this time, helping me not to worry if it’s going to get damaged by another parked car as most think that the white lines in between car park spaces are for lining up with the gear box, and for this reason I’m glad and relieved that I drive an original solid Land Rover Defender. 

As I’ve said there is no other vehicle with so many quirks, but quirky is fun, quirky is excitement and God knows we need all need more of that.  Like there’s the painful reminder on the odd occasion of banging your bum cheek on the warship size door catch that gives you a bruise that’ll make your bum look like night and day for a few weeks. 

Also how the seatbelt gets caught in the catch and door making it look like it’s been used for target practise by the M.O.D.  We all know the standard joke that it leaks oil from wherever it can, albeit and you’re not going to believe me but mine never has.  It doesn’t even burn any engine oil……. I know!  The original Defender’s parts are cheap and an easy fix, especially up to the 300tdi’s, I hear you can fix them with the nearest branch, blade of grass and a dead fly off the windscreen…. 

I love how they are built like tanks, a woman once reversed into my first Defender 90; not a scratch on my solid bumper but her tailgate and rear panel were squashed.   When I wash it, I love how the rivets from it being hand-made tear up my sponge like a truck full of hungry Locusts who haven’t eaten for forty days.  Also, let us not forget how the original Defenders willingly give our local spiders a home to set up their webs.  I kid you not, within moments of putting my bucket away and throwing my shredded sponge into the recycle bin it looks like spooky Halloween film set.  No other vehicle can give you this, these are the reasons why I, we own the now original Defender.  The new Defender will now be built by soulless machines like the rest of the fleet.  But that’s how Land Rover has to go, it makes sense… I get it.  The China and America markets will love it and that’s where the sales will probably go, it’s all about profit.  The cost of the original Defender started at around £23k a hefty difference to the new Defender 90 that starts from around £40k and the Defender 110 starts from around £45k, the top spec with the full stocking and suspenders, I’ve heard around £100k….that’s Mercedes G-Wagon territory.

This is where I’m now unsure if the new model is worth it because it’s now built and going to drive like any other 4×4 so why not now buy any other 4×4. 

For £40k you could buy a very nice VW Amarok or a Toyota Hilux or Land Cruiser.  They all have fantastic reliability; you only have to speak to any Australian farmer in the outback or any other farmer, even the United Nations as they do love a Toyota Land Cruiser. 

Let us not forget about the Suzuki Jimny that is an awesome 4×4 at less than half the price.  Alright ‘Jimny’ doesn’t sound as tough and manly as ‘Defender’ but I’m okay with that because I’m comfortable enough to tell you that I moisturise and sometimes pluck some of my long hairs from my nose and eyebrows (there I’ve said it).  The new Jimny looks as cool as a cucumber, yes it doesn’t tow 3.5 ton but if you only want to go Green Laning in it, it’s perfect.

 Also the Ford Ranger Rapture is around £40k, it would even be nice if the Ford Bronco will be on sale in the UK.  You also have the Jeep Wrangler where you can take the doors off, which to me says ‘Fun!  Fun! Fun!’  They also drive a little quirky and leak a bit of water all for the price of around £37.5k new, and yes you might look like ‘Daisy Duke’ from the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ (nothing wrong with that….she was lovely).

Let’s not forget the Toyota FJ Cruiser… quirky looking and reliable.

I really do like the look of the new Defender, but it’s now opened up my eyes to other options of what’s out there to buy that maybe has better quality and reliability now for the same money.  My plan though is to never sell my Defender 90 TD5 XS.  It’s part of the family, it makes me want to drive her, it makes me smile and for those of you who owns one or had one, you will know what I mean.  A nice comfortable quiet drive isn’t always what you want.  My wife drives a new VW Transporter T6 which is very nice and I feel privileged to own it, but it doesn’t make me smile… not like my 2006 Defender 90 TD5. 

If only Land Rover kept it as basic as an empty tin and not made it sophisticated like the rest of their fleet, which by the way are very nice but I’m just a simple male fumbling my way around this crazy world getting older.  Wanting no fuss as a Land Rover Defender should be like, and please forgive for saying this….. it should be like a good perfect wife who only needs low basic maintenance but doesn’t mind getting dirty on the weekends. 

But the Defender has changed and is here to stay, but I now feel it’s just the same as the rest of the Land Rover family but in a different shape with not a quirk insight.

So that’s my thoughts since its launch…. what are yours?

 

So until the next visit which won’t be long, I’ll leave you with the usual Easyblend blog song I’m looking through you by The Beatles

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Fun in the Forestry

Now I’m trying to be informative for this Blog.  I’ve been away for the week having fun, getting wet and wild and being naughty.  Panting hard, a little out of breath sometimes whilst indulging myself in things I don’t normally do……but isn’t that what some holidays are all about?  I know you’re getting excited just imagining where I’ve been…….center-parcs

 

I’ve been on and off for the last twenty years and love it just as much as the first time; for us it’s always a winter holiday.  For those who have never been……let me give you an imaginary tour of what goes on.

You can either go Friday to Monday or like the Frantony family, Monday to Friday.  Since it opened, we drive to the Longleat Centre Parcs as its only a 1.5 hour drive from where we live.

driveway-in

As you turn into the entrance off the main road, you’re immediately on a lane driving through the forest where you collect the keys to the villa (which you can’t go in until  3pm) from the log cabin reception.

So what to do until 3pm?  LOTS!

Park the car/van/ Land Rover Defender in the car park just past reception then taking the bag of swimwear (that you packed in a separate bag), take the 5 minute walk to the main swimming dome.

dome

As you enter through the glass doors, the first operation is to take your scarf, hat and gloves off at lightning speed as its very warm inside.

In the Dome you have Restaurants, Coffee shops, mini super market, Bars, gift shops and a bowling alley, lush green plants, waterfalls and fish ponds full of gold fish and large Koi Karp and if you want to take a closer look, there are some stepping stones and a wooden bridge.  By the way, if you open the swimming bag and there’s nothing in there, don’t think you have to swim nude, as there’s also a swim shop at the entrance to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.

There’s plenty of changing rooms with a door either side; one for in, the other out and in to the shower area.  Please remember to close and lock both doors as I walked in to a cubical once and saw what resembled something that would be suitable for parking your push bike in.

Once inside the centre of the swimming dome (constant temperature of 29.5C) where the swimming pool is situated, you see that the walkways are all in crazy paving with stone walls and more lush green plants everywhere.  It’s free to enter and everything to do inside is free too!

white-slide

As you follow the lovely crazy paving pathway up an incline you have a small bar area where they sell hot food and drinks (Amstel beer on tap) a rope bridge with timber flooring and more crazy paving, and then the junction where the fun begins.  Before I go any further, don’t think this is just for kids, there’s a mix of all ages, shapes and sizes and I mean all ages, shapes and sizes!  You’re never too old to smile and have fun, I know because I tried being an adult and being serious…….its way over-rated…..I won’t do that again!

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To the one side there are two white slides, one is straight, the other has a bump in it.  Both are very short, but don’t be fooled as you’ll reach the bottom before any F1 car.

You’ll splash in to the water at a terrific speed in what looks like a cave….. “Ooooooooohhhhhhhhh” I hear you say! That’s right, a cave, that’s what I said!  Then you have two green tube slides, if you’re hard, the lower and shorter one is for you, but if you’re double hard, then the higher and longer one is for you.  Feel free to cry in either one as you’ll be disguised by the lashings of water hitting your face, again you’ll come out in what looks like a cave.

Once you walk back around to the junction of fun, in whatever exciting thrill you seek next, you’ll have the entrance to the outside pool.  As I’ve said, we go to Centre Parcs in the winter and it really doesn’t matter what the weather is like.  You’ll see steps that will take you in to another pool with a plastic curtain, and as you swim through….well, it’s all outside.  The water is warm with steam rising up, rocks and plants and trees cover the edges of the pool.  Standing outside the pool there are more life guards that you can shake a stick at, which is always good to know.

Halfway around the outside they also have a plunge pool (its icy cold) only once I’ve experienced jumping in…..NEVER AGAIN!!  I had to double check my birth certificate to see if I was a man or a woman.  Also outside you have the ‘Rapids’, very long rapids that cascade with fast running water into bends, dips and slides.  Again all amongst rocks, plants and trees and if you make it to the end it will take you back inside the dome ready for you to repeat it a 1000 times…….and you will.  But I do have a few tips for you on the rapids.  I always leave my wedding ring at home, WHY?  Well, it came off my finger many years ago in the rapids and I thought it was gone forever.  The lifeguard took down my name and villa number telling me he’d check the filters at the end of the night, and miraculously he found it!!  Again a very big thank you!!

kicked-in-rapids

As for other tips …….  For the men entering the outside pool down the steps and through the plastic curtain, if there is a small child in front of you, it is imperative that all hands are covering your privates, because you are more than likely to be kicked in them.

 

Once reaching the start of the rapids, you climb over a smooth concrete lip from the nice warm pool into the rapids.  At first its a little cold and you’ll be slightly bashed about by the force of the waterfall coming out of the rocks.  Don’t worry…. you will be laughing, then with no control whatsoever your journey begins.  rapidsThe first rapid slide will be in full view of a decking watch point for passersby, I cannot stress this enough….make sure all your naughty but nice bits are not on show.   Men, you must make sure the string on your shorts, are tight.  Ladies….keep the bikinis for the beach in some exotic country, always were a swim suit if you can…..!  I kid you not; it’s as if the rapids have hands.

Don’t feel that you have to do the British thing and apologise to every person you bump in to along the way; always remember you are on very fast rapids, no-one is in control, its so much fun though.  Once you have had enough fun and you want to relax, there’s also a hot pool, again surrounded by

hot-pool

rocks, plants and trees with the floor covered in crazy paving…….very nice!  At night, if you sit opposite the plastic curtain that separates the inside from the outside.  You’ll be staring through the steam coming off the hot water at the silhouettes of people as they enter or don’t enter the hot pool, it’s like ‘Stars in their eyes’…..”Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be….”

The main pool has a wave machine that comes on once or twice an hour.  To announce it coming on, you’ll hear a Tarzan sound, but it’s always a disappointment for me, as I keep looking around for Jane…..but she’s never there.

hot-air-dryerWhen your body is telling you it’s time to get out of the pool and have a shower (shampoo supplied) and dry off, we like to use what we call the human hair dryer, (£1) it’s worth it.

Then it’s time to go the Villa; cars are only allowed on the day of arrival and the day you leave which is really nice.  The villas are all nestled within the forestry with narrow winding block pavier leading you to the front door.  Single storey with flat roofs and made out of a mix of render, timber and glass, our villa was 3 bedrooms with 2 wc’s, lounge area with large corner sofa, T.V and dvd player with paper log burner in the corner with large glass sliding doors facing the forest without hardly seeing another villa.   Small but perfect kitchen with dishwasher, microwave and good size dining table, all open planned.  It has a bath with shower (they also supply bath towels).  Outside you have a place to park your push bikes, a patio area with table and chairs and a BBQ.  In the evening you can sit down with a glass of wine and relax, and read a good book……. Farrago: TenTall Tales maybe…..?

I’ve never measured the forestry, but all you need to know is that it’s big, there’s even a Pancake House and a nice restaurant in the middle of everything.  In between our villa were the ‘Cascades’ that you walked amongst the red woods and small water falls (all lit up at night), which took you to a large lake with boats and pedaloes to hire and above you have tree top climbing and a zip wire that takes you over the lake.  An Aqua Sana (a place to seriously pamper oneself) with lots of different rooms and many treatments to be had.  Then theres the ‘Jardin des Sports’.  Here there’s a sports bar, clothes shop (sports/outdoors wear), a Newsagents, a sports bar with restaurant, an Indian restaurant, climbing wall for the kids, table tennis, badminton, squash, keep fit classes, snooker, pool, roller skating, tennis, crazy golf (indoor and out) and more.

land-train

If you don’t want to walk or cycle anywhere then there’s always the land train that runs every 20 minutes from each stop that’s nearest to your villa, wrap up warm though…it can be cold.

For us going to Centre Parcs in the winter, we love it no matter what the weather, it really doesn’t make any difference, so many places to go and things to do, and the villa is very spacious to relax and cook with friends and family.

caravan

Centre Parcs is nothing like the holidays I remember as a child, in the pouring down rain being stuck in a caravan with nothing to do.  I would look out the caravan window watching the puddle form at the bottom of the caravan steps wondering how big and deep it’s going to get, whilst thinking I’d rather be back in school struggling with a calculation of algebra that I simply can’t do, with a pen that intermittently works as the teacher who I don’t like is shouting at me over the noise of my stomach rumbling, because somebody nicked my dinner money and ate my secret stash of sandwiches, and all before P.E, knowing full well I’ve forgotten my kit….again.  But as well as staring at the puddle growing minute by minute at the bottom of the caravan step, I was soon feeling thankful we were not camping!  I always felt sorry for the person passing the caravan window in their rain coat and wellies, walking to the communal sink whilst carrying a bowl full of dirty dishes to wash.

Anyway…….what to take and wear to Centre Parcs in the winter?  Well…. not a lot.  A super lovely warm hat with gloves, walking boots and trainers and leave your jeans at home and take 2 pairs of cargo trousers.  Even if you’re eating out in one of the restaurants……it’s in the forestry.  Dare I say it……you don’t really need to take shampoo as it’s supplied.  We like to walk everywhere so we have head torches as it’s only dimly lit at night.  It’s the only time I’m not scared walking the forestry at night and feel safe (call me a girls blouse if you like).

So that’s Centre Parcs through the eyes of Dave Frantony and I’ll be back every year, but the most important thing is that my 8yr old son laughed nonstop every day and didn’t want to go home…..and that’s all that matters!  So book and go, I dare you, a 3 bedroom villa in winter can be as little as £329 (total cost for 6 people for 4 nights!)

As usual on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to great music; today it’s A Silent Film – Danny, Dakota and the wishing well

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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