MINI Festival – Brayford Pool, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

Red phone boxes, tea and scones and the Sunday Roast are all things that are quintessentially British. But none are arguably more iconic than the MINI. Built as a basic motorcar for the masses, this spritely little road runner is one of Britain’s most famous and most notable engineering feats. I have always loved MINI’s, be it from the humble original Morris MINI right up to the almighty BMW made Cooper and the world has held it in high regard too. Paul McCartney of Beatles fame owned one. Supercar company founder, Enzo Ferrari had one. Steve McQueen possessed the tiny car too. Three of them hurtled and screeched through the streets of Turin loaded with gold in the 1960’s car chase epic, The Italian Job. Mr. Bean was noted for owning a lime green one with a black bonnet. It was the offspring for many variants that included race cars, rally cars, vans, estates, saloons and pick-up trucks. This highly influential little car has created a huge following and today, MINI still continue to make high quality runabouts that are adored by many.

Brayford Wharf in Lincoln hosts the annual MINI festival organised by the Trent Valley MINI Owners Club and Lincoln’s Business Improvement Group and I was lucky enough to get a chance to finally go. Every time I have seen it advertised, I have always been busy and not able to make it. This time however, I was adamant on getting over there to check it because it was long overdue. I was not disappointed.

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Apparently more than two hundred different MINI’s ranging from the original right up to the brand new were on show along Brayford Wharf waterfront, just off the town centre in Lincoln. Lined up on the modern waterside, none of them looked out-of-place despite the majority of them coming from the swinging sixties. The sun was shining and the chrome gleamed and the paintwork sparkled.

Brayford Pool’s waterfront is fairly lengthy and MINI’s were stretched from the bridge at one end, to the bridge at the other. They came from all over the country with certain owners and enthusiast representing their respected clubs, showcasing their metal. We had the Lincs MINI Friends and Owners club, the Robin Hood MINI owners club, Bomber County MINI owners club and even the RAF’s own MINI club.

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The Royal Air Force show us their other mean machines

And because this was a free event, young and old alike could come and take in the sights as they pleased. The relaxed atmosphere of it all made it a pleasant event to witness. Take a long look under some of the hoods and revel in the finer details or simply dawdle through, the choice was yours to make.

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Big Engine, Big Wheels, Still a MINI

The calibre of MINI is staggering to say the least and the event had a good number of them. Vehicles ranging from those that had been restored to their former glory right to the over-the-top customised hot rods, there was something for all manner of tastes.  A lot of these motors clearly had hours of work and effort put into them and each and every one of them was different; none of them were identical with their full body kit conversions, extra foglights or simply chequered race flags, Union Jacks, and sports stripes. It was an amazing spectacle to see all these cars in one place at one time. 850’s, Coopers, Riley’s, Moke’s, Clubmans, Wosleley’s, Park Lane’s, a Marcos Mini, Metro’s – you name it – it was probably there. But not all of them had to be exuberant to be noticed. The MINI’s that had been well looked after were indeed just as eye-catching in their own right, slinked up next to ones that had chopped roofs or thick dragster tyres. Without sounding too poncy, there is something elegant about a MINI with smart aftermarket wheels, a white interior and a complete engine overhaul. It makes you think ‘wow. A car of this age can still hold its own to this day.’ It looks like a MINI in every detail but with some of the modern-day mod-cons splashed here and there; it verifies that this retro car can go on for what seems like, ever!

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But of course, there was room for the purists complete with original fittings and fixtures from the engine to the interior were an impressive insight on how much people hold these cars to high acclaim. Keeping each one to a near-mint condition for any number of years is an arduous task in itself and to these owners, I doff my bowler hat. Owners and Lincoln’s own ‘Soper’ dealership showed off their newer MINI’s such as their John Cooper Works and Cooper Coupé powerhouses up to the not-so-mini Countryman to show that even though the MINI has moved into the 21st Century; the original cars are just as influential and the heritage (albeit covered in Germanic overtones) is still buried deep inside the heart of each of these cars. They send out a clear message; they are still just as fun and as vibrant as they used to be; something that I don’t see changing anytime soon.

I have always liked MINI’s and I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re small and cute yet have that quirky British charm. Or maybe it’s the fact that each one can be tailored to anyone’s personal preference because they were cheap, affordable cars and bits and pieces could be added and taken away when the mood seemed right. It could even be that they are just great little cars that are fondly remembered in the same league as great Aston Martin’s or great Lotus’ of the era. It could be that the MINI is ageless and that it will never grow ‘old’ per se. It will age but it won’t become old-fashioned. Or possibly (with the exception of maybe the Fiat 500 or the younger Volkswagen MK1 Golf) it’s that there hasn’t really been another car like it. Maybe it’s all the above, but what’s more, it proves that no matter how small or simple things can be, they can rub shoulders with the big boys and be just as incredible!

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Post by Jimmi

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The One Kilogram Challenge

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The Date: Saturday the 23rd of February
The Location: The Nosey Parker, Lincoln
The Challenge: One Kilogram of dinner!

Such a bold and brash challenge to take up, I think you’ll agree. Leaving Kent for the weekend, Kat and I went back to my hometown of Lincoln to see my parents and to generally escape the misery of Medway. Naturally, we (my mum, dad, sister and girlfriend) all went out for dinner at Lincoln’s Nosey Parker restaurant.

The restaurant used to be owned by a company called Tom Cobleigh, which used to own restaurants in and around Lincoln, or so I believe anyway. I think they branched out further a field but this was a long time ago. I digress. Within the past few years though, The Nosey Parker was bought by a company called Flaming Grill and just after it had re-opened under new ownership, we went there to see what it was like. Upon opening they had an eating challenge on their menu. Called the Flaming challenge back then it required the eaters to blast through a whole kilo of food in less than 45 minutes for a chance to be placed on the as of yet, rather empty wall of fame. I tried it a few years ago and could not manage it all. I opted not go for the challenge, instead I just took my time but I still got full and had to ask for help from my family to help me eat the rest. I had failed and I knew I had. I was beaten by food! However on my return it was suddenly a whole different story.

So, cutting out the waffle of ordering whatever everyone got their meals before me and I was waiting in anticipation for this mountain of food to be wheeled out of the kitchen. After telling everyone else that they didn’t have to wait for me to start as chances are I will be eating a lot long after they had, the waiter bought out my dinner, set it down in front me and told me that I was in for a challenge and half. I told him I attempted it before and he wished me luck. The Flaming Challenge – now called the 1kg Challenge – is basically a burger meal that you would find in any other gastro-pub. However, that is where the similarities end. You see, this is two twelve ounce flame grilled beef burgers, two breaded chicken fillets, bacon, chili beef, cheddar cheese, onions, six onion rings and a heap of chips with two bread buns. It’s hard to describe so the picture below may help a little with trying to explain the size of the thing. I mean, it could barely fit on the plate.

This is a small portion in America

This is a small portion in America

The challenge has eased off a bit now so rather than finishing it in 45 minutes, I just had to finish it full stop. I wasn’t in it for the long-haul. I was just happy to eat my way through it just as I had done previously. It all looked so appetizing but with any meal this size, you kind of don’t know where to start. My heart was sort of in my throat because I had no idea how I would react with this again. Would I accomplish this battle or would I be left in a heap of ‘no guts no glory’ shame like I had done before? I tucked in, going for some of the chips and bite of the bun. Realizing that this may fill me up straight away, I thought that these were the least of my worries as the main focus would be on the meat. The chips and bread were not important. The meat would be the best bit so I popped the toasted top bun onto my napkin and set on devouring the pile of deliciousness, starting with the chicken. The breaded chicken was very good. Adequately sized portions meant that they went down rather quickly if I’m honest. The chilli beef was rather wonderful too. It had just enough kick to make it spicy but was also mixed with various tomatoes and peppers that made it palatable and not too heavy. The bacon was perfectly grilled and held a lot of the flamed flavour from the burgers, which were the best bit. They were grilled to perfection and also held a lot of that smokey, flame grilled flavour that has become signature to the chain. They were properly thick too so don’t think that these were like the type of thin burgers you’d find in McDonalds. Each must have been as big as a standard hamburger by themselves. And by hamburger, I mean the full thing, with the burger and buns! There was a lot of beef there! Slowly but surely, and after dipping in and out of everything else on my plate, the burger was going down. Even after eating the first burger, I felt that this was a lot of food. Eventually I started to feel full after finally finishing the second burger. I would say that this was the equivalent of my previous attempt. I was ready to throw in the towel. At least the meat had all gone but there was still rather substantial amount of steak-cut chips and two bread rolls left. I slowed down to a snail’s pace only using my fork to eat now. The mayo I used earlier on in the meal wasn’t really helping. It made me feel a bit sickly to be honest, although, that could have been the anxiety kicking in as I knew that it was only half of what I had eaten already and that I could do it. Brave faced, I continued.

This is my brave face

This is my brave face

Spreading the chips out didn’t seem to help either as it made the plate look full again. A huge wave of defeat and dread spread over me. I couldn’t do it. I was eating the chips but every time I looked down at the plate, there seemed to be more and more. And that wasn’t including the bread. Chip by filling chip, the pile started to decrease. Finally there was about 15 or so left. I held my forehead thinking that this could not be done. It is impossible even though the 15 chips left seemed so minuscule. With the bread I was hopeless. Encouragement ensued from my family and 5 chips later the remnants were going down as well. After a long fight, all of the chips had gone! And the thought came across my mind that the bread could be tackled in the same way. The bread was by far the hardest to get through. It was so filling and there was a lot of it. Again, probably about the same amount of bread in each bun would be the same as what you would get in a Big Mac. I had to resort to tearing small bite sized pieces from the first one that was set to the side on my napkin taking a drink every few bites to calm me down a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much ever and it was starting to take its toll on me and my internal organs. I felt full after the burgers had been devoured but not as full after all the burger, all of the chips and half a bun. I chewed on. And the bun went away! It was gone. I could do this! The other bun still had chili beef on which was nice but because it had been so long since I started, it had gone a bit soggy and soggy bread isn’t the best thing in the world. I can only feel sympathy for the ducks. It was still rather tasty and its started to disappear as well; I was going to do this. A few fork full later, victory was on the horizon until 3 scoops were left. Success was there. 2; only another bit of bread. 1; last scrapings. GONE!

This was full over an hour ago

This was full over an hour ago

One kilogram of food had now been eaten and the challenge beaten! I received my certificate, which is now hanging in my hall of fame.

And I was even on the wall of fame in the Nosey Parker!

Greatest achievement ever?

Greatest achievement ever?

So, what’s for dessert…?

Within regards to this I may very well try different eating challenges, Man vs Food style, although I have a big appetite, I am only a weedy chap and therefore may not find it particularly easy. But I will keep you posted! There’s a restaurant not too far away from me here that does a spicy wings challenge… Watch this space!

Posted by Jimmi