679-693: Travelling North and the First Birthday Party

A very late post …. lost our internet 10 days short of returning to the UK and then, somehow, we’ve been amazingly busy!

679 – Wednesday 5th April 2017:  Driving Day

We hadn’t driven all day – since we flitted from Portugal to Nice…. 8 hours travelling – and a nice aire in Cusiance – near where we had stayed before on our way home, this time last year.  Met a motorhome neighbour….  Now, when a young lady meets a nice Swedish man – what does she say, eh?  Obviously – in fluent Swedish – “I’m drunk and I love you”!!!  K seemed taken aback when his hands suddenly became more tactile…. and her Swedish wasn’t that fluent, either… I wasn’t impressed.  Perhaps, that’s the direct line Oscar should try with Kensey?  K’s excuse was that she learned it from some sailors?  I wanted a Harry Potter wand – to turn the Swedish man into – a tartcitron with extra mushypeas – deepfried!  

A quiet night…..

680 – Thursday 6th April:  Langres

Driving for a few hours, we stopped for lunch at an aire in Langres…  A Dutch van parked alongside us (a bit close) – they appeared tone a bit taciturn….  However, quite understandably so – when we saw they unloaded a completely shredded rear tyre – and the chap closely inspected their spare which he had fitted. We picked up some of the local cheese – orange skin  and the lady in the shop gave me some paper bags so it could breathe … nice.

We walked the walls around the town and thought it a pleasant town.  We drove on a France Passion vineyard … with views over fields, including one with Llamas, one sheep and one goat!  Peaceful and on an Oscar walk, I discovered that the town housed the country retreat and museum to Charles de Gaulle.

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With M. Didier – something to do with encyclopedias.

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All that remains of the funicular, as Langres is built on a rocky promontory.

681 – Friday 7th April:  Vet Day

We contemplated visiting the de Gaulle museum etc, but at EUR16 and with limited time to us, we declined.  Met Robyn and Kensey in a car park very close to the centre of Troyes.  We wandered and imbibed several glasses of Chablis with Robyn.  Oscar had his first visit with a non-English vet.  A thorough examination and prescribed the worming tablets required for the pet passport.  My vet had said that he should not have a certain type as they contained a medicine already in his Advantix or Advocate …. I tried to get the vet to give him Droncit, which I knew was OK, but no go.  Fortunately he gave me the tablets to give to Oscar with food later that evening.  Completely against the rules, but I was able to ring my UK vet practice and verify if this particular tablet was OK for him to take.

Robyn had identified a Sport Centre parking just on the outside of Troyes, which was a lot quieter than the city centre car park would have been on a party night.

 

682-683 – Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th:  Moving North – Another Shangri-La 

Robyn, again identified another superb aire at Mareuil le Port.  Not on most of the apps, just as well or it would have been over run!  A park next to the river.  The motorhome bays had their own water and concrtete patio area.  As well as electric for those of us that parked where it worked.  So lovely we decided to stay two nights – Robyn longer.  Robyn started hand washing, so I got the old twin tub out and was guilted into doing a load of ours too.  Perfect sunshine and a gentle breeze for drying the washing and us being outside pretty much all the time.  J lost a bet over when the Sicilian earthquake devastated the SE corner … 1693 is now engrained on his memory!  Consequece for J was to get the ladder out and clean the road kill on the from to Robyn’s van!  We had a ‘slight’ incident where I slammed j’s hand in Jez’s door.  Bearing in mind we have to really REALLY slam it, I was convinced all the bones in his fingers were crushed to a powder.  The neighbouring French motorhomers shot out with some magic Arnica cream and J did not have bruising or swelling.  I’ve bought some now, for the next time I try to damage him!  BBQ both nights.

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Foot care! 

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Amazing Pitches.

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Kensey basking in the sun.  Oscar finds the shade … they are so incompatible!

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Pilates class … who is absent?  That would be the photographer!  Oscar tied up or he would try to join in ….

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… he seemed to derive much enjoyment just watching … little perv!

684 – Monday 10th: Bergues for an Overnight

A longish drive up north and we overnighted at Bergues, just 35 mins from the Tunnel.  Far enough away from trouble and really quiet.  I took Oscar for a walk around the Vauban fort and walls and then into the town centre.  Being British, I was all bagged up to poop scoop by one of the outer paths, to be told, most insistently, by locals that it really was not necessary to pick up not in towns.  J struck up a conversation with our Belgian neighbour who told him that he had fought in the war and was on his way Normandy in his motorhome to meet up with some surviving members of his regiment.  Just how old would this have made him?  Almost 90 at least!

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Bergues.

685 – Tuesday 11th:  Back to Blighty and with the Reads

Early for our tunnel crossing as slightly anxious about how long the Pet Reception area would take.  In the event, it was super quick and we caught an earlier train.  We did not experience the sinking feeling we had this time last year … the sun shone and the M25 behaved!!!!  We parked up straddling Ian and his neighbour’s drive (they kindly move out and we pay motorhome parking rent in the form of a bottle of whence became).  A great evening, only marred by the fact that Nicky’s father really was not well.  Got to watch Robot Wars with Jimmy …. forgot how much I used to enjoy it.  

686 – Wednesday 12th:  Sinead and Shane

Ian and Jimmy were off to Barcelona the next day, so we took Jimmy for a blowy walk along the sea shore and for a muffin and hot chocolate in Rusty … Ian could pack and still deal with work (he works from home).  We then legged it to Farnham to Coxbridge Farm, where we stay near my family home.  We collected the car from the Aged P’s on the way and then battled our way up the M3, M25 and cut across W London to Ealing.  It all felt incredibly built up and busy.  just where do all these people come from?  Our destination was to dine with J’s baby daughter and partner, Shane in their new flat.  

687 – Thursday 13th:  Supper with the Aged P’s

We sorted out the rest of the garage and lugged a LOT of stuff back over to the Aged P’s for storage in their attic.  We now have room for the bikes 🙂  It will be interesting to see how oscar copes with us on bikes!  The former Welshie, Will, knew to avoid wheels and when I called him to heel, would run around the back of my bike and trot along bedside my left foot.  Somehow, I am in no doubt, that Oscar is not going to be so bike friendly.

I cooked at Rothbury for the Aged P’s and since we were sampling the Portuguese Moscatel that I’d squirrelled away (had buried it deep in the garage so we were not tempted to drink it when our own supplies ran out) and the Rasteau from the France Passion Cotes de Rhone vineyard we’d stayed on, we stayed the night.

688 – Friday 14th:  Supper with Caroline and Terry

Another boozy night with food away!   It started with a bottle of proper Champagne to celebrate J’s forthcoming BIG birthday.  We started the night here too!

Their No. 1 Daughter is Maddy’s bestie and they had news of the intimidation and bullying that goes on for freshers on the Uni Hockey Tour to Croatia.  She had been forced to eat and drink all sorts of obnoxious concoctions, including the pee of one of the lads …. Just horrid.  Given how much anti bullying education goes on in school, it is just incredible that they are all too intimidated to speak up.

689 – Saturday 15th:  Meeting the NEW Boyfriend

Maddy (she now spells her name Madi) and Brad came to supper.  Their friends have dubbed them Bradi!  We really liked him.  They’ve known each other a few years and he seems to have the measure of how she will wind him up when she’s bored!

690 – Sunday 16th:  Cooking and a Turkey Easter Supper

I spent most of the day food prepping at the Aged P’s.  So that I could use her kitchen, Mutt moved her food prep to Clare and Chris’ house.  Cx2 have, for the second Easter running, been tow path support crew for Louis who was competing in the Devizes to Westminster rowing race.  The competitors have to camp and prepare their own food in the evening.  The support crews, literally wedge food in them as they pass by, but it means very early starts and a lot of driving.  Hence Mutt cooking an Easter meal at Clare’s.  J and I have not had a proper turkey dinner for 2.5 years … just scummy.

691 – Monday 17th:  BIG Party No.1

We had a great evening with some England based friends for the first of J’s 70th birthday parties.  The raffle, where you can steal what someone else has was fun … with people hunting down the whisky, port and the camper van mug.  The BBQ sauce bottle nearly ended up with Clare – she did keep offering it around.  Madly, so busy I forgot to take any pix. 😦

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Besties Maddy and Dayna – besties and their youthful mothers!

Frances and Edward gave J two hedgehogs … we named the Van Jez, which is Slovenian for Hedgehog (so named after it’s brand Adria Sonic Supreme – Sonic the hedgehog.  We’ve named these two Jez and Belle … Jezebel.

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Jezebel.

692 – Tuesday 18th: Cleaning

Thank goodness for dishwashers!  And I had forgotten (put it from my mind) how long it takes to clean a proper house, and we only cleaned a few rooms!  Think we’ll stick with a motorhome.  No garden either!!!

693 – Wednesday 19th:  Warranty Work

Our list of Jez faults, included a dodgy step, no hob ignition, a leaking kitchen sink, no rear view / reversing camera and some smaller items such as bits of trim falling off.  An early start and down to Family Tavel Centre in Bristol for the repairs.  Nearly all completed and at no charge :).  Having walked Oscar in Stoke Park for the best part of 2 hours, we left him in the car whilst we shopped till J dropped!  I then carried on – buying something pretty much from each floor in John Lewis!

Then over to Stephen and Kay for a lovely tapas / grazing supper.  They are really pleased with their new motorhome – an 8m AutoTrail …. I have storage envy!  

We had booked to stay in Bristol for a few days, but the doctor had rearranged J’s over 70 DVLA for tomorrow and I was off on a TRIP!  Barcelona with Maddy – Ola!

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Stoke Park with the Dower House in the distance … we lived next to it for 3 months.

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Pleased to be back in time for the bluebells.

 

 

 

 

 

505-512: Jez – The New Motorhome

505-509 – Friday 14th to Tuesday 18th October 2016:  Friends on the South Coast

Not a lot to report, other than we heard that some friends were in the area, so we met up with them for a meal on Saturday and a coffee on Sunday.  As you can image, it was pretty boozy, and fortunately Oscar was allowed in their hotel bar and restaurant, the staff having taken a bit of a shine to him.  

We’d started to plan (well, think about) moving all our stuff into the new motorhome, so we’d booked a few nights at Coxbridge Farm near Farnham.  This is near my Aged P’s house, or more precisely, their attic!  They weren’t in residence again … being on holiday!  We sorted a LOAD of stuff that we really did not need and shifted it in … we tidied up the attic a little so it does not look like we’ve added to it  … much!

510:  Wednesday 19th October 2016:  Chepstow and Dentist

J had booked a dental checkup so we drove across one of the Bridges he used to run (he still dreams about work sometimes.  I was less concerned about part of the latest dream where a woman took his desk wearing a pin stripe suit, and more concerned about the other colleague who wore nothing but a pair of red knickers!!!).  J’s pearly whites had a check up and polish … by a female Dentist (no idea as to the colour of her knickers!), I took Oscar for a walk … and came back laden with large storage boxes.  Fortunately someone took pity on me carrying this large and heavy load and being simultaneously towed by Oscar and took the boxes for the last leg .. they refused to be hauled along by Oscar!

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Chepstow Castle – Leaves here just starting to turn.

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511 – Thursday 20th October 2016:  Packing Up

We put just about everything into bags to lift easily into the new van or into the large storage boxes to go in the garage.  We were not sure how much storage space Jez has compared to Chardonnay … but most of it is in the garage and we have just about filled every spare inch in Chard over the 4.5 years we’ve had her.  Will it all fit?

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Don’t quite know what the other people on the site thought was going on … lots more still inside!

J had a brainwave.  He rang the motorhome dealer and asked it we could gain access to the garage towards the end of the day, so we could load up the boxes, twin tub, BBQs etc.  We had a bit of a wait whilst the cleaning was finished off … but it did mean I should have been able to sleep.  I’d been having the odd ‘unsettled’ night worrying about where AND IF all our stuff would go in.   We filled the garage .. a few inches to spare.  really lovely to have a good poke over our new home.  Then Stephen and Kay fed us … I was just delighted not to have to cook as a tad weary, but S is an amazing cook and always gets St Agur in for me …. my fav.  Don’t know if it was the wine, cheese or excitement, but I snored and was then awake from 2.00 … head spinning despite the garage being loaded.

512 – Friday 21st October 2016:  JEZ Day

We arrived before the dealer opened … all keen and eager.  The hand over complete we spent another couple of hours trying to stuff our belongings into unfamiliar places … I moved houses 5 times in 5 years at one point, so became a past master, but this was different.  We had to get on the road to meet Maddy in Canterbury – her father was driving her home for the weekend at 6.00, if not before.  We ended up just throwing bags and kit on the bed and the the floor.  We couldn’t tell if the rattles were the van or our stuff.  

Stephen and Kay came to have a look at Jez at the dealer and brought a soft dog crate for us.  I’d been trying to buy one from shops as we were too short of time to have one delivered … Thank you.

We met up with Maddy for all of 30 mins at Cobham services as we travelled in opposite directions … at least I got a squidge with her, as I shan’t see her now until December.  The most excellent Canterbury aire was our overnight stop.  For tomorrow we cross to France … only a month and a half later than originally envisaged … a new dog and motorhome having delayed us … but worth it.

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The old and new … Chard served us well.

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The proud new owners.  TY Kay for the pic.

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Flowers from the dealer, along with a lovely bottle of Fizz.  Improvised vase … I was a Girl Guide until I was chucked out!

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Kay, this one’s for you … so J can get outside at night to water the trees, we lower the table and Oscar hops up into his new bed.  He took to it really quickly, although we’ve not shut him in it at this point.


For the Motorhomers amongst you, or those just interested …. reflections of our Adrian Sonic Supreme I 170 SBC

PLUSSES:

  • Jez is a totally different beast to Chardonnay.  He is an A Class, which means he is built totally as a motorhome, not on the back of a Fiat van.  
  • He is fully winterised … with a double floor, which acts as good insulation.  Even the garage is heated.  The heating is pretty much the same as Chardonnay Alde radiators, but we now have underfloor heating too. Lovely under the tootsies and Oscar seems to find the best spots.
  • He is a little wider (Jez, not Oscar!), and we notice it particularly inside, as we have more room to pass each other, but possibly less fun as we got accustomed to a pat on the bum. 
  • Driving is a much more stable ride with much fewer rattles.  The engine is a 3ltr Fiat Iveco; a truck engine, so it should have fewer issues than a Fiat Euro 5 and is is chain driven so no expensive cam belt changes.  
  • There is one can door for the passenger and the habitation door is on the European side.  
  • Our insurers insisted on both an alarm (with motion sensor, which can be disabled) and a tracker.   
  • No microwave, but I only ever used to use it for storage.  Toilet, hob and F/F are Dometic, which is better quality than Thetford.  
  • The control panel tells you everything:  inside and outside temperature, voltage and % charge of both leisure batteries and engine, fresh and grey water %.  And huge LPG bottles.
  • 140 ltr of fresh water.  So far we’ve used it for 6 days, and only filled then as we were on a site.  So good to be able to dispense with bottles and containers to supplement our supplies in Chardonnay.
  • Driver and passenger seat are a LOT more comfortable … with a lot more adjustments. I don’t climb out of the cab and spend 5 mins trying to walk normally.  They even have weight sensors to work out how much damping they need to do.
  • We have a large double island bed at the back, and a drop down bed over the cab.  When this is down, the table and bench seat are still usable.  Kerstin, who tested the over cab bed said it is firm but comfortable … she managed to stay there till 9.00 ish most mornings.
  • The bottom half of the main bed lifts electronically and lifts a hanging rail.  It also gives access to a large well for all our shoes and boots.
  • The table moves out, up / down and swivels (not sure why the last is needed, but, we may find a reason for it).
  • Sitting at the table is a lot more comfortable, as it is closer to you, so we’ve ben able to dispose (the Aged P’s attic again) of some cushions we used to use to prop ourselves up to prevent back ache and tennis elbow flare ups.
  • Extractor fan
  • We’ve had a whopping solar panel put on, along with a 1400 watt sine wave invertor and two Gel batteries (slow to charge but slow to go and no acid burns should we crash!)
  • 4 holes in the floor for additional storage, some are quite large.  If we’d not put the carpets in the Attic, they would have been concealed, but then what a lot of inaccessible space. 
  • The bathroom can be shut off from the living area and the bedroom, so a guest can reach it without having to walk past us (Chard had a rear bathroom).
  • Kitchen drawers, including a pan drawer and another deep one for tins / herbs etc.  Much better than the revolving stand, I had before, where things fell off the back.  Oh, and they are all soft close.
  • LOTS of LED lights, so much brighter at night.
  • And of course the really solid build quality. 

THINGS WE MIGHT CHANGE / IMPROVE:

  • The bedside and under bed wardrobes are not full length so long skirts, dresses and trousers get a bit scrunched.
  • The hab door needs a really hard slam to shut it.
  • The BIG one is that we’d wanted a bike rack on the rear wall.  Adria designed the van with the intention that the garage is used for this, so built a ‘floating’ wall, which is not compatible with a bike rack.  As we have filled the garage, we had to leave the bikes in my sister’s garage and the bike helmets and kit in … the Aged P’s attic.
  • Would have liked more kitchen work space … but then this is a common complaint unless you go for a really looong motorhome.  And our draining board has to sit over the closed hob, whereas there was room for it in Chadonnay with the hob in use.
  • Getting use to the changes of floor level from the washroom to the bedroom.
  • There is a lot of white / off white faux leather … which is unlikely to stay its original colour.  Despite the throws over all the seats, we already have ‘christened’ them with red wine!  The table is white and high gloss … Oscar’s crate is here overnight, so we’ve covered this too.
  • The lounge area over window lockers are pretty big up … at almost 5’8”, I can just reach in most, otherwise I have to stand on the seat.  And before you remind me Mum, I know I’d shrunk half a cm last time Dad measured me!
  • Most of the light topologies work from a switch by the door … the parallel rows in the living area are only touch sensitive.  There are 6 of them, which is a bit of a pain to have to ‘touch’ them off individually.
  • As the bed is high, it is closer to the wall cupboards and there is insufficient room to sit up in bed to read with a morning cuppa.

It’s in Danish, but this YouTube the same model as Jez… 

 

501-504: 100% More Kentish

501 – Sunday 9th October 2016:  Hastings to near Merstham

Oscar demanded that we run with him in the AM along the promenade – scene of my return to racing on the previous morning… Now Oscar’s idea of running is that he runs in front and tangles up Katherine’s legs – have you tried to run with a doggy lead wrapped around your legs and a dog trying to pull you over?  It’s a real skill that K has developed with consummate ease! 

We had booked a campsite near Merstham not far from Leatherhead – to shower and do the laundry with our £99 twin tub…. It’s not good to shower too often – it doesn’t do your skin any good at all!  The usual highly stressed (not on your nelly!) chilled evening.

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View from top of Hastings looking down onto fisherman drying huts and boats … problems with getting pix off phone onto Mac Book!

502 – Monday 10th October 2016:  100%

For those young/mature folks in our readership – maybe your memories are a trifle befuddled at times – fear not – take the NHS Memory test! We had arranged this as part of my overall health MoT for 2016…  The young doctor was very impressive as he took me through the warm up questions – day, date, current UK PM, US President, etc… then the written exam! Words, shapes, numbers, addresses, mental arithmetic and repetition of old wives tales? “A stitch in time saves 9”…  Just as well he didn’t ask me to quickly say “Who’s a pheasant plucker, then?   I usually say “Who’s a pleasant plucker, then!”  Now you readers expected me to say a pleasant something beginning with “f…..” Well, I got you there didn’t I, then… this like conversations we have with Oscar – “Who’s a phleasant phlucker, then…” Thin ice here, James.   It appeared that I scored 100% in the test! The doc was kind enough to say that nobody had ever achieved 100% before in his recollection – but you ask – had he taken the test?   Cause for a celebratory meal later that evening … 

On our ‘woggy dalk’ back at the site, we were joined by a young man who lives locally who introduced us to a lovely walk and showed us the interesting church – see photos below…. fascinating rural history indeed.  Oscar and Hector the terrier had a fabulous romp.

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C11 Fresco in local church.  Protected by white wash until 1800s.  This is just one small area; the rest being the ascent into Heaven the decision whether you go up or down.

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It just rained as we started back and we were treated to a double rainbow.

 

503 – Tuesday 11th October 2016:  Rochester

AM – the same dogentanglement run with Oscar setting the pace…

Chardonnayed to Rochester – park stroll with his k9nibs – and discover the most vintage/retro shops we have seen in one town… another slice of Middle England in the Autumn.  Rochester is part of the Medway Towns, which also include Chatham and Gillingham.  Lots of naval history.

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 Roadside parking for all of £1.40 for 5 hours … a bit of a manoevre to get as flush to the wall as possible, especially with an inconvenient lamp post.  parking attendant kind enough to advise us that one ticket would suffice despite our length.  The Norman Castle is the tallest in Kent.

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From the castle walls.

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The Cathedral glows post a clean up.  A volunteer inside told me (K) that it is the smallest Cathedral in the UK and has the second oldest foundations (2nd to Canterbury, which incidentally wanted £12 entry, whereas Rochester is free – well worth a voluntary donation!!!).

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Normal curved arches.  Some Saxon remnants on the floor.

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Gothic pointed arches, and there was a later Tudor chapel addition.

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On to the most excellent New Dover Road Park and Ride facility near Canterbury city centre. The closest thing to a continental aire you will find in the British Isles! Separate section for motorhomes, toilets, water, chemical and grey waste disposal – for £4 per night!  15 vans by nightfall – obviously convenient for channel crossings…   Our reason for our return … Maddy joining us on the morrow for a day out – she planned to eat a roll in Sandwich!

 

503 – Wednesday 12th October 2016:  Maddy Sandwiched between Wingham and Canterbury

M bussed for free (nice driver) to us at the P&R for a sashay to Sandwich – but via a wander down memory lane – K’s Mum Diane’s childhood home at Wingham Well – nostalgic photos and much recollections of K’s young days… when she gambolled through the fields and found a haystack with a willing young peasant phlooker inside for some ‘dalliances’ – which of course you courting couples of a certain vintage will know is a dance with a daffodil stuck in your left earhole!!! 

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The pub used to be called the Eight Bells.

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Mum’s childhood bedroom was I think the middle window in the white part.  There was no wall here when a pub … a car park, large patch of grass with a huge cyprus tree that Grandad had planted.

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A Dene hole had been discovered in the 1930’s which may have been used for smugglers.

We don’t know if the sandwich was invented in Sandwich, although certainly it is reported that in 1762 the 4th Earl of Sandwich requested meat between bread to prevent his having to stop playing cards!    It’s a  hugely interesting town on the river Stour (which used to be 4 miles wide – with 600 ships using the harbour!) – it has one of the 6(?) existing copies of Magna Carta in England – only slightly damaged – the constitution of the country – many people believe the England doesn’t have a constitution but it still underpins many of our current laws…  It was only discovered in 2015, folded up inside a book.

It didn’t have any single ‘wow’ attraction, but the whole added up to a lot.  Our visit was much enriched by the public toilet attendant.  Yes, you had to pay 20p to pee, but you got her wealth of local knowledge and leaflets … she doubled up as a summer time mini Tourist Info Centre.  She was even able to advise Maddy where the Gogglebox (?!) couple lived and which pubs they frequented!  Our town walk took us along the mounds that were the old town wall, where the ropes were laid out to dry – Rope Walk.  This walk became the Butts … nothing to do with bottoms, but where archery practice took place in medieval times – it is said that Henry V’s archers practiced here before their Agincourt win in 1415.  Thomas a Becket landed here from France – days before he was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.  Elizabeth 1 granted residence and the right to work to a lot of Flemish and Huguenot refugees, who brought cultivation skills, thus developing Kent into the Garden of England and influencing some of the town’s architecture.  Kent must have been a hotbed of witch dunking – we’d recently seen the remains of the witches ducking stool in Canterbury and we saw here the site of the duckings and executions in the aptly named Gallows Field!  In older times, if you were elected Mayor and didn’t want to serve – the Council demolished your house – will Boris Johnson please stand up!  

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Many many timber houses.

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The Guildhall built in 1579, with fully removable furniture so the Guilds could hold their markets here.

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This photo is especially for Diane and Grahame – very phlucky people indeed! Have we just been banished from royal Rothbury port???

Back to the Canterbury Park and Ride for supper with M.  Mum, I tried to recreate your chicken with prunes, nice, but not the same.  Recipe please.

504 – Thursday 13th October 2016:  Our Plans went A’RYE

A leisurely start.  One of our moho neighbours told us about a universal tap attachment … if you’re reading this Billy, we nipped to B&Q and got one!

We’d planned to spend the afternoon in Rye, but en route J spotted the signs for the Shopping Outlet Centre … a full circle around the roundabout and in we went.  J is always very attached to his clothing … I have to wrest it from him for washing and at least one pair of walking trousers has seen better times … J came out with two pairs of jeans and two pairs of walking trouser.  Lovely GAP must stand for (not gay and proud) Gorgeously ‘Appy Prices … good discounts with a further 30% off … Jeans were under £30 and my two tops about £8 each.  We’re very ‘Appy too.

We are back at Dungeness for another night wilding … this really is a most unusual place (see previous post).

 

496 – 500: Kentish Capers

 496 – Tuesday 4th October 2016:  Canterbury to see Munchkin

We were just up in time to see Jimmy off to school.  He did his reading words with Ian and is spot on with some quite complex words such as forgiveness and trespassing, and he’s only 6!  We walked to the bank to transfer the balance for the new motorhome … J came out of the bank and stated that he did not want to think about such a large sum now out of his account, so he’s called it a ‘not small amount’.

We drove to Canterbury which has a European style motorhome aire at one of the Park and Rides … free busses, toilets and motorhome services, for £3 per day … marvellous!  Bus into the centre and a walk around the Christchurch Canterbury campus, only to discover that Maddy is on the new bit even closer to the centre.  We’d asked a number of students where the library was … interestingly most of them did NOT know!  We saw her deluxe room with double bed and en suite.  Then we wandered out for a bite to eat … Cafe Rouge … excellent quality and service.

Maddy has being using an app called Uber and called us a cheap taxi back as our bellies were too full to walk and the park & ride busses had ceased.  You don’t pay with cash but they deduct it from their account … thank you Munchkin!

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497 – Wednesday 5th October 2016:  Canterbury Tour

A slowish start and we met up with M, who has no lectures on Wednesdays … nor Mondays.  In fact not many lectures at all … 7 hours per week in total … and for £9K p.a. fees PLUS living costs PLUS accommodation.  The Aged P’s reminded me that I had as little as 11 hours one year!  They felt the same, as they had to fund me other than fees.  

We started with brunch back at Cafe Rouge as last night’s dinner gave us one freebie breaky.  The TIC had supplied a map and info on Christopher Marlow … a niche interest of James.  He can tell you about Marlow’s career as writer, spy and street fighter, and quote various lines.  There is a theory that he was not killed in a brawl in a Deptford pub, but smuggled out of the country, where he continued to write most of what is know reputed to have be written by Shakespeare.  Canterbury is a lovely city to walk around – compact and most of the sights are within the old city walls.  we also managed to do a little shopping … second hand bookshops have a lure.

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In front of the Marlow statue and theatre. 

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A liquid lunch … Maddy did Photography A level. 

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 Yes, that is MY hat!

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View of the Cathedral … we only got as far as the gate as it was £12 pp entry.  We’ve both been in before, in fact I was kissed by Runcie, the then Archbishop … I was only about 16. 

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We searched to find the Witches Dunking Stool, which Mutt had told Maddy about … sadly this is all that is left of it; and this was a replica.

James caught the bus back and M and I hung out in her room and then went to see ‘Bridget Jones has a Baby’ … I’d seen it before but it is very funny … better than the second one certainly.  We supped in Prezzo and decided the food quality and charm of the staff was infinitely better at Cafe Rouge.  Maddy then Uber taxi’d me home.  J had had to stay in with Oscar (out motorhome neighbour had told us this morning that Oscar had been barking last night whilst we were out … we’ll have to build him up to a few hours home alone) and had dined royally on crackers and cream cheese!!

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At night, we could get a little closer to the Cathedral.

 

498 – Thursday 6th October 2016:  Glasses and Hythe

J had lost his reading glasses in Rustington… think it must have been the stress of the ‘not small amount’ transaction, so it seemed to make sense for him to get an eye test and order glasses in Canterbury as we will be back next Weds to see Maddy and then again on 21st.  He tried two well known opticians who could not do an eye test for several days … an independent could see him in 45 mins.  J travelled in again on the free bus, whilst I walked Oscar and did some cleaning.  He rang to ask me to guess when he could pick up the glasses … next week?  Tomorrow?  No even better, in 20 mins.  He’d just happened on an optician with their own lab.  Most excellent result.

Having fully used the aire services, we set of for Hythe, which another motorhomer had said was really worth the visit.  It was – old quirky centre, a military canal running through and a church with a crypt full of bones (which was not open).  Of course, we had to stop for coffee and cake!  Opposite was a proper butcher, so I bought liver for supper and some oxtails … had a fancy to make oxtail soup … yummy. 

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Made us chuckle.

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Hythe Church.

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We had to sit outside … Oscar I hope you appreciate our sacrifices!

We drove onto Dungeness to wild camp, which was quite something.  Think it is possibly one of the strangest places we’ve ever wild camped.  Low clapperboard fisher houses on the largest shingle bank in Europe, a Nuclear Power Station and two light houses.  It only needed tumble weed and it would have looked like the Wild West.

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The old Light house by our parking.

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The Power Station.

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Oscar does not much care for walking on stones either … he really is ‘special’.

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A few modern houses, but most seem to be cobbled together from bits of shed.

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And some are made from railway carriages.

 

499 – Friday 7th October 2016:  Hastings

Two weeks today and we pick up our new van! Woohoo!

We collected some rather expensive snow chains from a chap near Hastings. Reckon we’ll possibly need them going over the Pyrenees and across the middle of Spain in November.  We saved £30 on postage and got a demo on fitting them.  Just need to get around on practicing how to fit them BEFORE we actually need them  We’ve bought two sets, as we read and were warned that the back end could slide out if going downhill on ice.

We found a wild camp in St Leanards … 4km walk along the front from Hastings.  J counted 12 motorhomes here, some look pretty permanent.  I later found out a massive Winnebago had been there for over a year.

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Oscar cannot tell the difference between a lamp post and an art installation!

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These boys were back flipping onto the stones … I didn’t catch them mid air 😦

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Salty sea dog.

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The Pier was only reopened in Spring this year.  Huts in the style of fishing shacks and a modern cafe, juxtaposing with the rusty sub structure.

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One of the cliff railways and net drying sheds; they were so tall as space was a premium and some even have cellars.

Supper was two huge Dover Sole that i’d bought on the way out of Dungeness … fantastic firm and tasty fish, but criminal, we had to throw some away as they were too big.

500 -Saturday 8th October 2016:  Bonus Park Run and Hastings

We’d planned to both get our butts into gear and start running again … but pitter patter, every so slightly on the roof.  J poked his head out to determine if it was enough of the wet stuff to stop our run and spotted … people gathering right next to us for a Park Run.  A free 5 km run along the promenade to Hastings.  Mr C was well excited and animated … just what he needed to get motivated.    He had 15 mins to change and limber up.  K did not partake in this enthusiasm and elected to take Oscar for a walk, having waved off James.  Given the lack of recent running J did really well … 54 out 130 and average 5.46 secs average per k’in ometre.

Oscar had been a little strange this morning.  He stays in his bed under the table until J gets up and takes him out and then he comes to my side of the end for a morning stroke … not this morning.  As I got ready to take him out, I discovered why … he’d chewed / eaten the straps of the bum bag where I keep poo bags and a bag with treats.  Of the webbing and the plastic … no trace.  I went to put on my very expensive Meindl walking shoes … he’d consumed the tongues on both.  A minor chew on one of J’s trainers.

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Guilty as charged … not even a hangdog expression!

Given J’s exertions, we decided to have another wander of Hastings and buy some replacement shoes for me … £125 later … I think we’ve finally forgiven Oscar.  We caught the cliff railway and walked part the way along towards Fairlight … a hundred years ago, Mum as a girl used to visit and aunt here and walk these cliffs.  No pix sadly as my camera battery died and I’d not brought the spare.

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A classic car show – this Jag was used in the 2009 film Brighton Rock.  I rather liked the TR5,6 and 7:  in fact any would do.

Another fish purchase … A huge turbot, but this time I was ready … I only served half and will make something with the rest.  We also have two plaice in the freezer.  Lovely.

478-495: Chardonnay Returns and into Devon

K starts blogging … finally, after a bit of a gap

478-482 – Friday 16th – Tuesday 20th September 2016:  Passing Time

It’s horrible.  I know it really is not a major disaster in the grand scheme of things, but …  We’ve still no Chardonnay …we have pretty much lived in her for 18 months and all of a sudden she and every thing she stands for is on hold.  We are not free to come and go as we please or to change our plans at will.  We are just thankful to have the use of the Aged P’s house … we could have nowhere to go and thus be in a very small, wet and cold tent or spending hundreds on a dodgy hotel room!  J has much better equilibrium than I … I am decidedly down about the whole thing.  Kick up arse and get on with something!!!

Over the next few days we walk a fair bit.  A super walk around Polesden Lacey, a National Trust house, and along the Basingstoke Canal. When the red flags are down to indicate no firing, we get up and high on the military ranges.  We manage to squeeze in a few spring cleaning jobs in the house too.

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Fleet Pond, very close to where I used to live. Oscar experimenting with a paddle!

One chore that actually provided a good result was doing my Tax Return.  As my sole income is some of the house rental, I earn very little and can gift J 10% of my allowance and HMRC actually owes me!

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Not enough to dine out on through!

Trying to do J’s Tax Return has proved anything but straight forward.  As he has an Irish passport, he has to go through gov.verify – we tried the Post Office … it crashed at the end.  Another said insufficient data held and finally it worked with the third … we’re in … No, we’re not.  Need his UTR number … a 30 min wait on the phone to HMRC and finally we’re in …. yes we really are!  Just need to finish it now!

Chardonnay update … fuse box corrosion … they think.  Fiat Technical also think!  Replaced it … Fiat took her for a road test and had to carry her back on another low loader!  The replacement fuse box was faulty … need to wait for another!

 

483 – Wednesday 21st September 2016:  Homeless!

K collected the Aged P’s from Heathrow, whilst J did some last minute cleaning up after ourselves.  After a coffee, we were off heading down to Bristol.  Would we?  Wouldn’t we get Chard back?  We’d stressed to Fiat that we were now homeless (I know we could have stayed on with the Aged P’s, but they’d just flown in from the States and really needed to be in their own home … alone … know how we’d have felt).  No, not to be … Fiat Technical want Fiat Bristol to do more tests tomorrow.  So we visited Chardonnay in the Fiat workshop.  Patted her bonnet, delivered grapes and lashings of sympathy … and dropped off stuff we did not need and collected a small tent, bedding etc!

We spent the night at a super quiet campsite near Weston Super Mere.  It poured down during the night … the fly sheet stuck to the inner … and our pillows and duvet got wet!  This is why we have a thousands of pounds motorhome … Oh no we don’t!  

 

484 – Thursday 22nd September 2016:  Mooching around Western

The sun came out for breaky and to dry the tent off.  Oscar had slept in the car.  Whilst he kept dry he was not happy and was shaking when J let him out.  He really is ‘special’!

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Fiat told us not to come in till the afternoon … they would call us … think we may have worn their patience thin with how often we rang for an update!  We walked the length of Weston sea front and had a light (semi liquid)  lunch in an Italian.  Finally Fiat said we could come and collect Chardonnay late afternoon … they are 100% convinced she is now fully engine functional!  Traffic was horrendous through Bristol – It was touch and go whether we would make it before they shut up for the night … we had visions on another wet canvas night!  By the time we finally had Chard back, it was gone 6.00 p.m. …. Tired and not up to thinking about wild camping, we rang Hortham Farm, the CL we had to leave early when Chard died … the owner very generously gave us a freebie.  I picked up a £10 meal deal so it was a very relaxed and easy evening.  We pottered and put things away and just enjoyed being back home!

 

J picks it up …

485 – Friday 23rd September 2016: Ilfracombe Area

We drove Chardonnay and Merc to North Devon which has captivated us (where has not captivated us on our travels?) and a lovely farm CL.  Not being 100% confident in Chardonnay’s repair ourselves, despite the 100% thumbs up from Fiat, we drove both vehicles down.  It also meant we had a car to navigate some of the small Devon lanes.

Nice easy BBQ and chilling… back in our travelhome – not Travelodge but definitely a Premier Innlodgings!  

Only one other van in a large and slightly muddy field – we had parked at the bottom end to give our neighbours maximum space…  It rained, so we heeded the farmers’s advice and moved up the slope … closer to the other resident.  Next morning – a visit from the farmer .. could we move forward as we were blocking access to the water.  No problem, of course … I waved at the chap having moved and he did the ‘sod off and go away’ wave … what a sod(!) … he could have experienced some damp sods too if he’d been lower down the field.

 

486 – Saturday 24th September 2016:  Blowing a Gale

A late start, thankfully – and a (rare for now) run – quite short but just the right distance…

We walked from Combe Martin on a very up and down route – towards the two Hangman Peaks (why Hangman?) I can confirm that Oscar and I had hangdog faces on some of the climbs!  But of course not K – she doesn’t do hanglady looks… only when young Oscar trips her up and he gets the teacherly Oscarhung visage… there’s an anagram lurking here somewhere…

Now then – pray pay attention reader – and those who are fans of “Strictly” – does this mean we have more than one reader? We can reveal exclusively that we have the likely 2016 Champion of the show!  His name is – long pause for maximum effect…..Oscar!!!  We tried to entice him to chase (and retrieve) a stick – it was working quite well… until it went into the heather. Our Chimp – sorry Champ galloped in pursuit – and then stopped dead in dogpuzzlement – or pugdozzlement?  This heather stuff didn’t quite suit his delicate feet – so he minced/danced his way very gingery and slowly out of the heathery stuff!  The new dance is called the “Torntangledevontango” – will we see this in all the clubs?  He is already a multiple hits star on Facebook – please send requests for autographs to us (with money of course – his/our food/drinks are very expensive, especially as he (?) we quite like Wicked Wolf gin…. more about that libation later…

 

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487 – Sunday 25th September 2016:  Food Market in Lynton

Food market in Lynton – what can we say – it drew us like flies to a pile of chips!  Maybe not quite the semaphore, sorry metaphor you expected… Cheeses, sausages, pates, bread, other foodgoodies – and – gin!  As we may have elucidated earlier, we discovered “Dancing Cow” gin in the New Forest – we blame everything on Frances and Edward – they always lead us astray!  Lynmouth has “Wicked Wolf” gin – regrettably, we cannot blame F&E for this – the bottle sort of flew off the shelf and smacked us in the gob!  A gobful was sufficient to persuade K&J that further research was essential – in the purest interests of science… we are hopeful of being nominated for the Noble (not Nobel!) Prize for ginresearchfullness! …. we haven’t touched a drop yet – promise….  Back to sobriety, it’s obvious that boutique gin distilleries are the ‘in/gin’ thing at the moment… 

We met a delightful couple who have just bought a Mazda Bongo – we have amazing memories of our Bongo – pre-Chardonnay…

We zigzagged our way down to Lynmouth ‘gin’gerly…oh dear, it’s that ‘ginthing’ again… we do quite like water also…

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Looking down to Lynmouth from Lynton … yes, a steepish descent.

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Idyllic – children paddling whatever the cold.

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Check out my new hat … I knitted it!

488 – Monday 26th September 2016:  Back to Brizzle and Friends

Despite our higher up pitch, we struggled to get out of the farm cleanly … with all the rain the ground was very soft and Chard had a nice smattering of mud all up her sides and inside where the windows were open!  Note to selves:  hard standing in the UK in Autumn (and some summers!).

Foodadmin early – K supermarket shopping and meal prepping… as Kay and Stephen coming over for supper to us back at Hortham Farm… a skip and a jump from the houses we let out.  En route we stopped to look at Rapido new vans – low payload and insufficient kitchen space.  

It was K&S’ first meeting with Oscar.  They have two gorgeous border collies; Kay does agility with them and has been on training courses with a dog guru / whisperer … she’s picked up a lot as she literally had Oscar eating our of her hand.  Too much detail coming … I said I was unhappy that Oscar’s food was not right for him as he excretes too often and it is soft.  She’s moved over to an 80/20 diet (80% meat, 20% vegetables and no grains … Oscar has now been gradually moved over to this and I won’t go graphic on you, but consistency and frequency are much improved!!! 


489 – Tuesday 27th September 2016:  More Repairs

Back to Family Travel Centre in Bristol – fresh water leak to be investigated and the habitation door central locking was acting up, since Fiat had been through every inch of wiring.  Our friends at FLT are also the local Adria dealer …we had seen an A class previously … salesman showed us some normal vans … smaller and less payload … on to look at the top of the range model …. he will cost it out for us whilst we walk and the Chard repairs are done.  We decided to buy it after doing our own numbers!!!  

Deal done on a coin flip – the sales director almost fell off his chair – the idea of customers deciding a £xxx van purchase on a coin toss!  Could have ready for 21st Oct – Pyrenees for 24th October to meet the Aged Ps’

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Meet Jez … Adria Sonic Supreme … Sonic the Hedgehog … hedgehog in Slovenian is JEZ

490 – Wednesday 28th September 2016: Back to Devon

Late start as eventually fell into a patchy sleep.  K Collected new carpets in the car so they can be dropped shortly in the Aged P’s attic, or they would’ve ended up living in the garage for 6 months.  Then onto  a CL with hard standing … no issues with getting out after the rain again.

 

491 – Thursday 29th September 2016:  Laundry Day and a Limp

Water supplies on the CL and the twin tub was wheeled out for mega laundry – the wind would have dried a forest of clothes… 

We walked Oscar and he had fun with his favourite ball – his ball skills might get him into the Wales football team – but only if they make him Captain – and manager!  He developed a limp – the first health concern we have had about him… he will see the vet next Monday – it’s not a bad limp though, fortunately.  Due to said limp, we had a short walk around Ilfracombe – he still managed to tweak my back when he pulled hard – nothing wrong with his muscles!  Ilfracombe was very windy…

 

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We set off to walk around this head …

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… J hanging onto a lamp post to avoid being blown away.

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The great view around the corner. 

492 – Friday 30th September 2016: Woody Bay

We started the day in our (K’s) Merc driving towards Woody Bay to have a walk – via a toll road. Just as well we were not in Chardonnay – the road got more and more narrow until we decided to turn the car around and abort – back to a previously spotted car park!

Woody Bay is where K’s Mum Diane and Dad Grahame and visited years ago with Nanny – the photo shows how it got it’s name… a steep descent to the beach (almost) as the last section was very slippery.  Thankfully, no sign of his nib’s limp…  

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Hunters Inn provided our luncheon break – ‘luncheon’ is such a nice and slightly archaic term – as our reader will appreciate… I tried the Stoweford Press cider – scrumptious drink from Cornwall. We chatted (in between the Oscar Appreciation Society – OAS – not OAPs) to a lovely couple who have sadly given up full-time motor homing due to health issues, but they still go away a lot in a caravan and just need to plan a route to the nearest hospital should the need arise.

The nearby National Trust shop was the next stop for anti-Oscar rugs – to prevent him jumping up on the Jez seats and drooling all over them – we will do our own drooling over all of Jez. It will take some time getting used to calling our van Jez after 5 years of ‘Chardonnaying’ our way around Europe…

 

493 – Saturday 1st October 2016: Separate Drives up to Farnham

A six hour drive in separate vehicles saw us back to Coxbridge Farm in Surrey – this feels very much like home – our 4th (?) visit… I listened to the replayed All Ireland football final on RTE radio – you get magical pictures on the radio… my team Dublin won by 1 point in extra time – but we feel hugely sorry for Mayo who have waited 65 years for this trophy… Next year maybe? 

 

494 – Sunday 2nd October 2016:  Alice Holt Walk and Dinner with Family

Family time – the best of times!  A woggydalk in Alice Holt parkland – we have never seen so many young children on bikes with parents who looked totally stressed! As we have both been there (a combination of 5 children between us), we have definitely got the tee-shirts. Our manchild Oscar was impeccably behaved even without his bike – well a metaphorical bike. On a digressive note, years ago when I was a young frog, no – sprog, there was a bike repair shop in Dublin near Amiens St Station – also near the infamous “Monto” – you will know about this Amelia… the shop was called “Cyclelogical” – genius or what? 

The Aged Ps hosted dinner and Clare and Chris and Louis and Zozo joined in with us. During the meal, K (who was driving me to and from Coxbridge Farm) heard Diane say “why don’t you stay the night?” Beds are always made in anticipation, or just in case…  K’s next G&T was despatched like a ferret up a drainpipe!  Have you ever seen a ferret racing up a drainpipe with a G&T in it’s gob?  No, you cry!  We despatched the most excellent food…again.  Chicken with prunes and olives, two puds and cheese from their recent trip to France … 

 

495 – Monday 3rd October 2016:  Oscar’s Passport … and Jimmy & Ian

Aldershot supervet Sarah gave Oscar his final pet passport jab and examined his paw – no obvious problems as he quivered under the chair… Thinking of paws, as we paws for thought – absolutely dreadful pun, James… Winston Churchill once famously said – “Paw paw is better than War war!”.  Actually, he said “Jaw jaw is better than War war” – but Oscar prefers the “Paw paw” version. – not that he will ever go to war – unless it is food wars!   We finally left the Merc at the Aged P’s and were able to drive together and share the driving.

Since we started our full time motor homing, our last/first stay on leaving and entering the UK is the wonderful home of Jimmy, Ian (and Nicky) Read in Runderful Rustington by the sea. The great neighbours move their vehicles onto the road so we can straddle both drives.  Jimmy and Oscar posed for photos and Ruth and Brain joined us for supper (Nicky’s parents). We managed (without too much difficulty) to quaff (another wonderful word) some x bottles of ‘vino somnoque’.

We are fast approaching 500 days on the road, reader…. stick with us as we approach the next milestone!  

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 Oscar told to sit and wait for the photo … and so did Jimmy 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

359-477 : Gin Journey Better than Vehicle Journey

Text by J

Pix By K … just in case you don’t recognise his inimitable style!

359 -362 Saturday 27th – Tuesday 30th August 2016:  Mooching at Ash Vale

Saturday in UK – sun shining – a good place to be… train to Ealing via Reading to meet Sarah, Sinead and the gorgeous Jade – all of one year old – mind you, the 2 S’s are very gorgeous too !

Proud parent/grandparent and the girls lunched well at a classy restaurant in Ealing – so classy Sarah and I had a classy hamburger – Sinead had been over partying the night before with the extended Clune family and was ever so slightly off colour… but a grand time…. SouthWest trains ferried me back to North Camp station.

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K’s walk over Ash Ranges … a haze of heather.

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And a distant view of Guildford Cathedral.  The Ranges are usually verboten to the public, except for high days and holidays, so it was great to be able to walk over some of my childhood haunts before the fences.

As Chardonnay was reclining at Fair Oaks (K’s sisters house), we decided to give her a wash and rinse. K had found a super product on the net “1drywash” – no water required – microfibre cloths, spray the liquid on and the cloths lifted the considerable grime – 6 months of dirt from France and Italy – the last wash was at Punta Braccetto on the south coast of Sicilia…  As I polished the surface to a gleaming shine, I was reminded of the song from HMS Pinafore – “I polished up the knob on the big brass door – and now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navy!”  I suppose Chardonnay is a grand ship (the only one) in our navy and we need to keep her ’shipshape and Bristol fashion’!  The dirt was well above her ‘plimsoll line’ before we started – another nautical term that originated in Brizzle.   

The following day saw us commencing our income tax returns – what did Benjamin Franklin say? “Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes!”  We’ll pay the taxes and stay with the living…  Now, I have done self assessment online for years – this time HMRC didn’t want to let me log in – multifarious phone calls to a million phone menus and submenus – and emails – I gave up and I have decided to get a good old fashioned paper copy of the forms…  HMRC website is having technical problems – did Benjamin Franklin do it online…  it was in the 1740s! He inventd the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and the urinary catheter tube!  Are you all glad you read this erudite blog? Nothing geeky here then…

Following the excitement of the tax return debacle … (J can’t log in as his passport is Irish and you just can’t get hold of a person if you ring!), a still day – walking the dog and seeing K’s munchkin – Maddy!

Dawn next day saw Katherine driving her parents to Heathrow for a flight to Chicago – the windy city!  Another small piece of erudition – why is it called ‘the windy city’?  Nothing to do with the strong winds on Lake Michigan – in the 1870s (and now?), the city was full of windy politicians who delivered hot air!  I’m clearly on a roll – why is the baseball USA Championships called “the World Series?”  Many folk think it’s the USA stating it rules the world of baseball – but no, the original championships were sponsored by the New York World newspaper!  

Back to the intrepid Aged Ps and their latest world travels (and no – they are not sponsored by any newspaper!) – they are starting to drive on Route 66 on a Harley Davidson motorcycle with Diane piloting and Grahame on the pillion seat – ‘giving advice’ in fluent Spanish!  Diane replies in fluent German and they understand each other perfectly.  I am refusing to ruin a good story by substituting a Hertz rentacar for the Harley – you will all agree…

If you want a ripping read about the Chicago 1893 World Fair – read/download “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson….not for the faint hearted though… about the original serial killer. 

Afternoon – the gallant Autoglass engineer came to replace the windscreen in Grahame and Diane’s family charabanc…  and some house cleaning at Rothbury for the return of the not-hairy bikers from USland.

463 – Wednesday 31st August 2016:  Big Spend in Southampton!

Munchkin Maddy was encouraged to leave her bed in the middle of the night – 0830 hours actually – to accompany Mum (et moi) to Southampton for the big pre-Uni expenditure! Computer purchase in the Apple store followed by buying up most of Ikea!  I took Oscar and Chardonnay to Fiat to have a faulty engine sensor replaced at a cost of £300!  There must be blog followers out there that have suffered from the faulty engine management system light on the dashboard – something of a black art…  I must stress that Oscar does not have a faulty sensor – his sensors are particularly well tuned – to food especially.   

464 – Thursday 1st September 2016:  Dancing Cows – Really?

Thursday – and a mini MoT for myself – there appears to be no faulty (or Fawlty) sensors here either – varicose blood tests, etc.

New Forest was our next adventure – another joyful meeting with Frances and Edward – we have followed each other in our motorhomes around Euroland – first meeting for a liquid New Years Eve in Port Empedocle near Agricento (valley of the Greek temples) on the south coast of Sicilia… the motto on their van is “adventure before dementia”! We have had some ‘adventias’ with those lovely folk!   A grand New Forest lunch and reminiscing…Oscar learned one of life’s lessons – don’t walk up behind a New Forest pony – he received an educational glancing hoof blow for his troubles – the pony delivered this without so much as glancing up from his/her grassmunching! 

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Would this one be edible, or just beautiful?

Whilst in Lyndhurst, we discovered “Dancing Cow” gin! Distilled locally, it is strong – well, you know how a cow behaves after a stiff gin – she dances!  Marshfield Farm ice cream was a must – it comes from “Pennsylvania” village (not Transylvania) – and not in the USA – but on the A46 going in towards Bath…

Following on advice from Frances and Edward, we wild camped along the seafront in Barton on Sea – gorgeous views and starry night – looking out to the Needles on the Isle of Wight. There are three Needles but there was a fourth – a sharp shaped rock of chalk that collapsed in a storm in 1764 – called “Lot’s Wife”!  I’m not suggesting any of our wives have sharp tongues…

K has been reminded that this week is return to school for students and teachers – she really wishes she was there with you all in Cotham School…. well, perhaps not… but our sympathies to all teachers who labour far too hard and long – for their vocation and not for the money…

464 – Friday 2nd September 2016:  Wet so Nothing For It …

We walked along the fast eroding clifftop from Barton to Milford on Sea in pouring rain with soggy doggy – the only solace was hot sausage rolls from a burger bar… followed by a liquid and shared lunch in a pub.  Purchase of the Dancing Cow and Apple Vodka from across the road … we did not have to wobble far.

Keyhaven on the same coast was our nightly free bivuac – more starry skies and dreams of ice cream… 

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You can just make out the Needles off the Island, as the locals call the Isle of Wight.

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The cliff path was sort of officially closed as so much had eroded into the sea and the local farmer is objecting to the path encroaching more into his fields.

465 – Saturday 3rd September 2016:  Second Home & a Second and Third Boutique Gin

Walk around the wild life area and salt flats of Keyhaven …  We have deduced that ‘twitchers’ are not the most communicative folk – obviously wrapped up in their watchfulness – armed with ‘big uns’ – binoculars and lenses actually – not anything else!  

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I want to ride in this boat … so to speak!  Just look at that name.

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Looking back to Keyhaven harbour.  Chardonnay is just above the far right boat.  A super overnight spot.

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View across to Hurst Castle.

Quick shop at Lidl in Barton and then food prep back along the coast … not far from the marshfield ice cream vendor … had to go back for another!

Michelle and Craig came to supper – we were now back in Coxbridge Farm CL – we sample another boutique gin – “Brockmans” and a rhubarb gin – is there a gin theme here? The lovely Tabitha (just passed her test!) was chauferrying her parents, gladly.

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Umm, which to taste first?  And Michelle and Craig, are you sure you don’t want to leave them with us?!

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J on a sounds like …  a win … gin!

466 – Sunday 4th September 2016:  Music in the Meadow

Lazy morning – benefits of retirement and the wonderful world of motor homing…

Off to “Music in the Meadows” in Farnham – with Sharon – free rock and roll – and ice creams – not free… 

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Pic actually from a few weeks ago … this one was not so sunny, but we still managed an ice-cream … not Marshfields though!

Friends in the evening in a Guildford pub – another stress-free day – pretty much like all our days… 

467 – 468: Monday 5th September – Tuesday 6th:  Min Trip to Bristol

The lovely vet in Aldershot – Sarah – administered some of Oscar’s vaccinations – necessary for his travels in Euroland this winter – France, Spain and Portugal…

And onto Weston-Super-Mare is not “Weston-Super-Sludge” really but at low tide there is a lot of – sludge! We caninely ambulated to Sandy Bay headland and the views out over the Severn Estuary are quintessentially English. Lundy Island, etc.  Nightfall – a nice free lay-by with 2 other Hymers – friendly folk – as all charabanchomers are indeed!

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Water on my left …

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… and on my right.

469 – Wednesday 7th September 2016:  Catch Up Walk

Wednesday 0900 hours – our Mercedes station wagon/shooting brake/estate car into Merc Weston – for – another one of those pernickety engine sensors! Now, my theory is that there is a factory in charabancland that makes these things that catch you out just when you say “we’ve spent enough money on this vehicle for the current year”!

A walk along the Severn from Lovers Lane/North Warth Road to Severn Beach where I resided for 10 years as a hairy hermit (no bike though) before meeting the love of my life – Oscar! No – Katherine!  My grand residence was ‘bijou’ and was filled to the gunnels with – books – many on 16th century England and a certain poet called Christopher Marlowe whom I may just have mentioned before in these musings… An Elizabethan rake, spy, street fighter – and alleged author of the Shakespearean canon.  I must quote from “Doctor Faustus”:

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships

and burnt the topless towers of Illium

Sweet Helen make me immortal with a kiss

Her lips suck forth my soul, see where it flies” 

According to the official inquest conducted by Colonel Danby, the Queens coroner, he was stabbed to death on 31st May 1593 in a lodging house in Deptford Strand – but we Marlovians believe he was secretly transported to france on the evening tide – to live in Europe for many years sending back plays to a Mr Shakespeare for publication under WS’s name…  One of the best books on the subject is “The Reckoning” by Charles Nicholl…

On our walk through the village, we met Amanda whom I knew from the local Estate Agents, Nicky who owns Downes Bakery – she provided us with half price coffee and munchies. I just had to visit the Second Crossing Maintenance Unit – where I re met wonderful ex-colleagues and firm friends – more tea and reminiscing… my time with Bridges was the most satisfying work experience – ever!

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The Second Severn Crossing.

K went Merc Weston to collect the suitably repaired car – and Oscar and I set sail for Hortham Farm CL – just a few hundred metres from our Brizzle residences. We corralled the wagons in a circle – fought off the ‘Injuns’ – rescued the womenfolk – too many John wayne films, James… Anyway, we set up our nest for the night to await Oscar’s Mummy. She arrived in the pm and a peaceful evening …… with a BBQ.

470 – Thusday 8th September 2016:  The Hab Door is Usable BUT …

Walking on Brizzle Downs – after we dropped Chardonnay at Family Leisure Travel …what an amenity – one adjoining road is Ladies Walk – ladies of the night – or the good merchants of Bristols’ ladies – who knows? our lovely lady K was there – with her men – moi and Oscar…  Time on our hands … Blaise Castle –  – beautiful forest walk (no shortage of perambulationing today) – and guess what again? Marshfield Farm ice cream!  

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Knobbly at Blaise.

Our home-from-home van was ready at 3:30 pm – a moderate bill to FLT (always reasonable) and I joyfully set course for Hortham Farm for a relaxing evening… “many a slip twixt cup and lip” !  One mile from FLT – the charabanc of love did a fair imitation of the Dying Swan – right on the dual carriageway!  I pleaded with her – cajoled her – prayed… but only engine sighs in response, alas.  Now James – “nil desperandum – non illegitimi carborundum” – get out your school Latin grammars, folks…   What does every man do in an emergency – you telephone your wife, of course!  K reversed her path from the nearby Lidl and went into the nearby Fiat garage to seek assistance. Fiat gentleman engineer came with her to our stricken swan – and plugged in the diagnostic magic box – have you ever seen a swan plugged into a magic box?  More sighs and head scratching – no result but lots of indecipherable code numbers – and no – not a lottery win – that would be useful!  AA engineer arrived to scratch his head knowingly followed by the chap that should have been a low loader (!) – this was 6 people thus far thread scratching – including Oscar!  9:30 pm saw a low loader to hoist the swan on board – so carefully that swan’s bottom was millimetres from the tarmac…  very sad to see our home being transported away on a truck.  We drove in our K Merc back to Hortham Farm to pick up a few things – and then headed for K’s parents house in Ash Vale – for a stiff drink!  Thank you very much Grahame and Diane – again…..

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About to be hoisted up…

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Just spotted in time that the large rear end was about to be scrapped alone the tarmac …  ‘sliders’ being put into place.

471-477 -Friday 9th – Thursday 15th September 2016:  Sitting Pretty and Comfortable

We have spent most of the last week doing jobs, dog walking, dining with Caroline and Terry … 

The Girls (some of K’s oldest, nothing to do with their age – although Al is now officially 2 years older than K … until December!) and families came over on Sunday afternoon …

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I will get that bear from you …

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 … how high?

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The younger generation girls behaved and put on a dance show, the two dogs chased and play fought and even the adults sort of behaved!

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The most amazing choc almond cake courtesy of Bron and her two girls. 

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How cute is he?

We popped down to see lovely Gladys in Eastbourne (94 years young) – walking on Beachey Head – reading sad memorials to the people who jumped in desperation of their lives… it puts our problems into perspective – our van can be repaired/replaced – but people cannot be replaced…  

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 Eastbourne from Beachy Head.

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A few of the memorials … a Chaplain’s car was parked nearby.

K has been out spending with Maddy buying more necessary items … folders, pens, 3M Command tape and …. makeup!

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OK, I may be about to go off to Uni, but what are these things?

As I write, Fiat of Bristol just phoned – to say they thought the solution was found – road tested the van – and it has broken down – a low loader is on it’s way – deja vu?   The glass is still half full, we say…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

450 – 458: The Lakes

450 – Wednesday 17th August 2016:  Up to the Lakes – Eventually

I took Oscar to the vet for his Rabies jab … he gave a non-manly, wimpy yelp.  Then the plan was for me to leave the car on the Aged P’s drive and James to pick us up in the van, as it is not easy to get it in and out of my parent’s drive … too many overhanging branches and an oak tree half way up, which I know only too well!  Many moons ago I reversed up the drive with the driver’s door open … it did not stay attached to the car!

However, J had managed to get hold of the right person at Viscount Motorhomes near Southampton, as we wanted the leak from the fresh water tank sorted … they would squeeze us in if we brought the van straight down.  So about turn and, not knowing how long they would keep the van, we took the car down too.  As it happened, Chris saw us straight away and, despite his suit trousers, crawled underneath and managed a sort of Heath Robinson fix.  And all for £20 cash.  Highly recommend Viscount!   The overflow pipe had come unattached and a proper fix would mean dropping the water tank.  He thinks that this will hold, but as we are heading off to Spain and Portugal for the Winter, we’ll get Family Leisure Travel in Bristol just to check it out in September when Chard makes a visit to them.  

We then drove back up to Ash Vale to finally drop the car … it was gone 3.00 p.m. by now.   Choices, do we drive till about 6.00 and stop or push on through and get to near Alderley Edge in Cheshire as was the original plan?  We hit rush hour traffic approaching Birmingham, so we made good use of the 2hr motorway services free parking time limit.  We cooked supper, washed up and had a nanny nap.  By the time we set off again with 5 mins to spare before incurring a ‘you’ve outstayed your welcome’ massive fine, the traffic had all cleared and we felt refreshed.  We drove on to about 12 km from Alderley Edge to an off road lay-by listed by wild camping.co.uk …. we drove in and straight out.  5 solitary men all waiting for a female to arrive, and it weren’t gonna be me!!!!  Fortunately there was another off road lay-by half a mile away.  This one was frequented by a couple of trucks, who were settled for the night without fee paying company!  Much more peaceful!

 

451 – Thursday 18th August 2016:  Alderley Edge (WORK) Walk

A short drive, passing the East Cheshire Hospice in Macclesfield, where a fellow motorhome blogger’s (manlyferry.com) wife was with cancer.  He blogged later that she passed away the next day.  

We parked up in the Alderley Edge National Trust car park and followed a walk I’d found on the internet … it took in a real mix of scenery:  the Edge and its rock formations, fields and some of the most expensive real estate I’ve ever seen … footballer territory.  Some serious renovations / extensions going on.  A Porsche next to a Range Rover, both with 16 plates was not uncommon!   Lovely rolling views across the Cheshire scenery.   

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Alderley Edge: we did not add our own names to the graffiti.

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A very classic Jag, followed by a Porche – no point us checking out price houses here!

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A random bunch of flowers on a bench … has to be a story here.

Soup in the van and then we did a couple of hours work!  Yes, really WORK!  That dreaded word that J retired and I fled from.  J had been approached by a former business contact … would he be the critical friend on their bid to manage the transfer of the Severn Bridges back to the Government?  At a rather day good rate!  J read through the bid documents … he’d even written most of the bid spec!  I wrote his CV and Pen Portrait for the bid document … amazing how much he’d done that sounds really REALLY good in his career.  If anyone else is interested in using him as a ‘critical friend’ … in his specialist areas of construction, PFI, bridges, concession agreements, Gaelic Football and, of course, red wine … let me know and I’ll send you his most impressive CV!

There was an ice cream van in the car park and for once, it was not a Mr Whippy, but proper scoop flavours … we deserved it after doing WORK!

We packed up and headed on up fairly close to the Lakes.  We stopped along a pretty valley in the Trough of Bowland … never heard of it before.  Very rural and a lot of sheep.  In for a really quiet night … we thought.  We watched a tractor towing a box on wheels with a couple of youths in it.  20 mins later it returned overflowing with youths.  We twigged …. A Level Results night + a few tents in the field next to us + drunken youngsters DOES NOT = a quiet night.  So we washed up and drove a mile up the road, where it was quiet.  We made the observation that both Maddy and her friends were ALL hitting the night clubs, but here in the country they camped around a bonfire … know what I’d rather do!

 

452 – Friday 19th August 2016:  Ravenglass for a Week

Wet, wet wet!  And not a boy band!  Grr!  I needed to return a 12 volt light strip to the eBay seller as I’d actually ordered a 12 volt fan … they would send me the fan free of charge, if I returned the light strip.  We stopped in Ulvertson, put on all our waterproofs and I printed the return label in the Library.  I am now the proud owner of a Cumbrian Library Card … I had to join as a member to be able to use the computer for all of 3 mins to print the label!  Being wet and miserable, there was nothing for it but to repair to a Trip Advisor recommended hostelry for lunch!  A new experience for us … we had to sit outside with the smokers due to the dog.  

We’d booked a 2 bed with en suites cottage for a week with the Aged P’s.  We originally had planned to travel to France on 15th September when the Aged P’s were to be in the States (again!), so this was an opportunity for us to spend some time together.  Little did they realise at the time that we’d end up seeing quite a bit of us!   A really comfortable cottage on a working farm.  The owner had fingers in lots of pies … beef calf raising, firewood deliveries, holiday cottages, and bed sits … his family were just about to move out of dairy … farmers receive 13 pence per litre, but it costs 23 pence to produce.  Only downside of the cottage was the kitchen which lacked essentials so half the contents of Chardonnay’s kitchen ended up inside.  2 km walk down to the estuary and then across to Ravenglass.  A handy location just off the main A595.

 

453-458 – Saturday 20th – Friday 26th:  Aged P’s First Lakes

Given my parents travelled all my life.  I know no-one else who has been to all the States in the USA (bar Hawii, which they don’t fancy).  They have now hit the 100 counties visited.  Yet, they had not been to the Lakes!  J lived and worked up here for a while and we’ve visited together about 4 times and love it … we really wanted them to love it too.  But the start of the week was not propitious to generate a similar feeling in them.  It rained.  And rained some more.

On Saturday, we took delivery of our week’s food … Tesco delivery from 27 miles away … what good service.  Mum and I knitted!  And then she unpicked what I’d done!  A few days ago,I’d discovered she’d nearly finished her own jumper so I’d taken her to the local wool shop … she’s knitting me a thick jumper with a pattern and what are little hernias or nipples, depending in where they land!  I’m being supervised on a very simple poncho, where I still manage to fail to count 8 stitches accurately.  

In between downpours I walked to Ravenglass and then the Aged P’s ventured out.  We all got caught and came back drenched, down to our knickers!  J had bolted back to the house at the first hint of a raindrop, but stayed dry!!!

On Sunday, it was still raining.  J and I pulled out the trusty wet weather gear and packed a picnic.  The plan was to catch the ‘Lil Ol Ratty’ steam train up and walk the 9 miles back.  But the train had suffered a rain induced land slip and was not running.  In fact there had been so much flash flooding that a number of stations and roads were also closed.  We went to coffee and cake whilst we considered walking halfway up the Eskdale Trail and then back again.  We bumped into the Aged P’s who’d driven round to Ravenglass …. their boots were still wet from yesterday despite newspaper being stuffed in them and the heater and hairdryer from the van, and they did not fancy another drenching.  They put us onto the right path and off we set … stripping layers as the weather improved.  We turned back as I sunk up to my knee in mud and bog where a tree had blown over.  

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The rain did clear but it largely remained misty.

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Our spirits were not dampened!

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Soggy Doggy!

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This path is impassable!

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A very high tide covering the path back from Ravenglass.  J sporting his multipurpose sun / rain hat.

Monday saw us go to Hilltop, the National Trust home of Beatrice Potter.  This was her home before she married the local solicitor.  She kept the house as her work studio.  She purchased a lot of land and farms and being passionate about farming and left it all to the National Trust, some of it in her lifetime.  

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Beatrice did all the drawings; she had a Scientist’s eye.

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‘Satisfactory in every way’ – Quite a warm commendation for a Victorian!

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Peter Rabbit must be around the corner.

Tuesday boded changeable for the weather so we headed up to Cockermouth to see Wordsworth’s birth house.  Another new dog experience as J and I had to take turns to go in.  We had a picnic on a thoughtfully supplied table and benches along the river.  A local explained how the diggers were there to dredge the river as part of the flood prevention measures, but it had been too wet to put them into action.  She’d lost most of her possessions in flooding two years ago. 

“I wandered lonely as a cloud 

that flies on high o’er hills and dales

when oft upon my couch I lie

in vacant or in pensive mood”

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Childrens’ poetry amongst the apples in Wordsworth’s birth house.

 On the way home we directed Dad (who did all the driving, as we’d never have got Chard down some of the lanes) along Wast Water to Wasdale Head.  This is J’s favourite lake which he introduced me to … the deepest in England and a good starting point for a climb up Scafell.  Although Mum and I had designated today a dry day … there was pub and the sun happened to come out so we sat on a bench admiring the bucolic scenery (water, hills and sheep) consuming a drink followed by an ice-cream for us and chocolate for them.  Lovely … so pleased to show them this area.

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The sheep on the other bank were being rounded up at speed. 

Wednesday was due to be fair so we directed Dad up Hardknott Pass and Wrynose.  The wheels did scrabble on a couple of hairpins.  We tend to think of the fells rather than the lakes. And this is the Lakes at its best.  A number of hairy passing ‘situations’ including a blonde in a BMW jeepy thing who did not know her edges and very nearly took the wheel arch off the Aged’s car, totally ignoring my instructions.  The motorcyclist, held up by her incompetence, had a few words to say about idiots in cars too big for them!  

James had been threatening to get me to run up Hardknott and a few months ago, I would have given it my best shot, but I’d had a nasty touch of food poisoning recently and not been running … that’s my excuse anyway!  James, what’s yours?  

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Up at Hardknott – it would have been a killer run.  Whoever thought I’d be grateful to food poisoning!

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We picnicked at the south of Grassmere water … very pretty and again a generously provided bench.  Grassmere is the burial place of Wordsworth so we viewed the grave and consumed an ice cream … Mum didn’t you consume most of a bag of fudge???  I managed to consume two pairs of shorts and a pair of walking trousers in the Mountain Warehouse epic sale for £28!  The trousers alone should have been £50.  Love a bargain!  Can justify the spend with a bargain!!

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Mum and I walked from our picnic spot to the southern point of Grassmere Water.

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Thursday: Dad had been doing all the driving and tomorrow would be the long drive home, so today we decided would be a no drive day … other than we cadged a lift to Ravenglass to catch the steam train up.  Actually being the first train of the day, (yes we were up and at ‘em in time for the 9.25 am departure) it was diesel and we got 10% off :).  A pretty ride up and we managed to prevent Oscar from leaping from the moving doorless carriage!  Coffee and cake at the top.  The Aged P’s had a walk and caught a train back down.  J and I headed off to do the complete Eskdale Trail.  The place where I’d sunk on Sunday had largely dried up.  An excellent walk and really well signposted.

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On the narrow gauge railway.

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Other than the amendment to our EuroTunnel booking … this is Oscar’s first ticket.

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We stopped to chat to a local near the house at the end of the walk … an exhausted Oscar found a soft spot of verge and went to sleep!

Being the Bank Holiday weekend, we all decided to leave really early on Friday to avoid the holiday congestion.  The Aged P’s left about 7.00 and we were 30 mins behind them as we had to try to de-fluff the house a bit … we keep seeing white fur balls from Oscar!  Seeing accidents is always unsettling, and sadly we saw a 7 car nudge up and then later a more serious rolled car … not a good start to the Bank Holiday.  We’d decided to stay at the Aged P’s as it is really handy for the station and J was catching the train on Saturday up to London to see his two daughters and granddaughter.