January 26, 2021 Greatminds-admin

Who'd have thought, a simple thing to cheer my family up, has cheered up so many on Linkedin? Beep Beep!!

"So another year, another lockdown and that dreaded homeschooling. I hope if you are homeschooling, the technology is working, your kids are attentive and most of all, you are not putting too much pressure on yourself to instantly teach a curriculum like a professional school teacher might!"

Personally, I feel like I am failing at all three of the above somedays of the week!

Out of boredom and to cheer my family and I up, one night I started to look for another classic car.  Since my days at University, I have always had a classic car.  Most were around £500 or less.  My fleet included alot of BMC Austin and Morris cars, as they were pretty straight forward and easy to maintain, including; 1100, 1300, A35, Allegro, Maxi, Mini and Wolseley.  I bought one Allegro (arguably not a classic) for £40 off a driveway gathering moss.  It had been parked for almost three years, following the death of it’s owner and the widow was only just in the right frame of mind to dispose of the car.  I drove her straight to an MOT testing station and she passed with flying colours.  Talking of colours, she was that mustard yellow colour that would put you off your breakfast, dinner and tea (or if you are Southern, breakfast, lunch and dinner).  One Austin Maxi I bought after seeing an advertisement on ebay.  And for £110, I didn’t rush around to inspect. The seller said “don’t worry, it drives, but I will drop it off outside your house”.  I was quite nervous driving home from work that evening to see what my £110 had bought.  As promised by the seller, the car was outside my home and the keys where on the drivers side front wheel.  When I turned her over, she was as sweet as a nut and in great condition.  I cherished her for many years.  She had five gears, she was the talk of the street, or would have been in the 1970’s.

I had great success with a Mark II Ford Cortina.  Another £500 buy.  A friend at ITV asked if she could hire her for a 1970’s pilot show.  At the time I was an impoverished Estates Surveying student at the Nottingham Trent University, so I agreed to her £50 a day fee with glee.  Three weeks into filming, I received a phone call advising me that there were delays and I was asked if they could continue to use the car (albeit parked up on a set) for another two weeks.  Three weeks later she was returned with an extra fourteen miles on the clock, a cheque for £2,100 and about 200 polystyrene coffee cups in the footwell that I imagined cameramen had left behind.  Now, £2,100 return for six weeks work, was not a bad return on my investment.  However, she caused me a little bit of grief.  If I ever took her over sixty miles per hour, the clutch fluid used to disappear, rendering the cluch inoperable and coupled with the fact that I needed to blip the accelerator when breaking to stop her from stalling, she gave me skills I never wanted or have needed ever again.  I have fond memories driving through the busy rush hour streets of Manchester to a Victoria Wood gig with no working clutch.  Also down at the MOT station, apparently using a housebrick as a footrest next to the accelerator was not a automatic pass!  I also needed to rummage through scrap yards looking for parts on a regular basis, including a petrol tank and track rod ends!

Back to my recent purchase, I had always admired the Citroen DS.  When attending classic car shows, I would always make a beeline to them (and Jaguar Mark II’s and Ford Zephyrs and TVR’s).  The distinctive style of a DS and the “state of the art” additions attracted me.

All of a sudden there was Clementine being advertised, almost winking at me.  She had been purchased for a film, which was now in the can (look at me with my TV and filming knowledge?!).  She was a 1974 DS Super for just short of £20,000.  Now I despair at those house buyers on “Homes under the Hammer” who are filmed at the property being asked by Dion Dublin, “so what did you think of the property when you saw it before the auction?”.  And the new buyer sheepishly replying “Err, I didn’t see it before the auction”.

I feel slighly happier that the seller of Clementine sent me some videos of the usual issues to look for with a Citroen DS, namely;


Technically she was bought, unseen and she arrived almost two weeks ago to join our family.

At first my nine year old said “Daddy what on earth is that?”.  But within a mile of her first ride, my nine year old warmed to her like a comfy onesie on a winters evening.  The youngest daughter, now 4.5 is still trying to understand that the car is “as old as daddy”.  I have done a timeline going back to the birth of daddy and the birth of Clementine to help her understand (two sheets of paper glued together required), but the penny hasn’t yet dropped, but I am hoping it will do later.

My first outing to the petrol station, an older gentleman shouted “eh lad, how much are you putting in?”.  Thinking he was referring to the petrol, I replied “20 quids’ worth”.  I was not making the same mistake as I made with that Ford Cortina, whereby my natural instinct was to fill the tank right to the top, only to find that most of the fuel leaked out of my old Ford Cortina, hence me foraging in a scrap yard the next weekend.

The gentleman at the forecourt said “Let, me get that for you”.

With free road tax, no MOT, inexpensive classic car insurance (£122 per year) for Clementine, I really don’t need free fuel and I kindly declined.

Clementine is a wonderful addition to our family, a great “pick me up” during these dark pandemic times and quite frankly a boyhood ambition achieved.

A few days ago, I posted some pictures of her arrival on Linkedin.  I wasn’t quite expecting the outpouring of love with over 200 positive comments, many reminicing of their experiences with a DS, including one legend, Midgue Ure from Ultravox.  He recalled travelling in the one owned by comedian Billy Connolly in the 1970’s.  Another favourite memory was by Pamela Aitcheson recalling the celebration of her husbands’ 60th Birthday as he was chauffeured around Paris in a DS.  My post about Clementine has now recevied over 56,000 views (and climbing).  Incredible and almost as popular as a lessor known Kardashian!

I would like some inspiration on how Clementine might be able to do some good during the pandemic, please let me have your thoughts!

Another thing cheering me up at the moment, is the school I am building in Malawi, with the help of Kennedy.

Please say hello to Kennedy Davie. He was born in 1992, but in 1999 lost both of his parents. His grandmother registered him to Friends of Mulanje Orphans in 2002, to get him help with food and basics.  By 2012 he wrote his MSCE exams and opened his own carpentry business. In 2013, he married Eunice and now they have two beautiful children, Tassimim and Tasha. I met Kennedy in 2006 and I found him a confident, intelligent, young man, who was very keen to improve his English.  He also liked to organise dance groups and football games!

On almost all of my trips to Malawi I have met with him and followed his progress. In 2018, he met my own children as he shared a weeks holiday with us at Lake Malawi. My daughters loved swimming with him in the Lake and buying fresh fish from the locals with him. In 2019, he was employed at Dowa school along with his childhood friend Shaibu. They created all the furniture for the first two blocks. Kennedy has embedded himself in the local community, farming tomatoes and cabbage, plus organising our Great Minds Property Group football team.  One of his greatest successes to date is arranging for the local Chiefs to provide river sand and bricks for the new school buildings.

Therefore, I believe Kennedy has earned his role of Project Manager for the next phase of Dowa school. Congratulations Kennedy, you are a star!

Please wish him well and please follow our progress on instagram @dowaschool

And if you have any ideas how Clementine can bring joy to more people, let me know.

Right, I must get back to this homeschooling malarkey!

Best wishes


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