836-848: The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

836-848  – Friday 15th – Wednesday 27th September 2017:  The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

I crossed back to Blighty on the 15th.  Although I’ve done it before, I was still slightly nervous about Oscar’s pet passport being in order.  I checked and rechecked the vet’s entries comparing to the previous vet’s.  No issues at all and we sailed through the process quickly.

On returning and leaving England, it is normal tradition for us to stop over to see Ian, young Jimmy and Nicky’s parents in Rustington.  However, Ruth and Brian were in Brittany visiting their other daughter, Tracy, and Ian was up in town, so not this trip.  The up side was that I booked an extra night in the Brighton campsite and spent an extra evening with Maddy, who has just moved here.  I got to see her great 2 bed flat (she’s sharing with a good friend who is at Uni there) and to wander around and SPEND in Brighton.  The flat is walking distance from the centre, so we did not have far to carry a chalk board and mirror (which I promptly smashed), as well as M’s new pre-loved clothes and my new frock and costume jewellery.  If you’ve not been to Brighton, it is buzzing place.  Drug addicts, students and Barbour jackets all rub shoulders together … it is very real.  The break a mirror and bad luck happens adage happened … all electronic.  Th sat nav lost all its maps.  The sat pad (iPad with Co-Pilot) died altogether and wanted re-initialising and the radio died.  The first two have been resolved and the radio binned.

Before J joined me I moved between Farnham (close to parents and sister), Bristol for dentist, John Lewis and e bike shop and Shropshire to drop off Christmas presents at my brother’s.

  • Teeth:  X ray and all fine – good to know as will be away, if all goes to plan, for a year.
  • John Lewis:  Purchased a few last Christmas gifts … all my Christmas shopping is done and wrapped!!!!  A chap on the escalator was moaning that it is too soon for Xmas cards and wrapping paper …I gleefully told him that some of us are all wrapped, cards written and stamped as we are off travelling.  And I pre-bought and am using my birthday / Christmas gift from the Aged P’s and a little bit from James – a GPS sports watch.  One of the really good things about it is that the time digits are really large … I no longer have to squint or reach for glasses to read the time!
  • E-Bikes:  this was phase 2 of the get Oscar about with us.  We bought the Os-car doggy trailer in Holland, but I could not get up hills towing the combined 35kgs+ of Oscar and Os-car.  Also, we want to travel a bit further when parked up.  We do not want to tow a car; a scooter is no good unless we had a side car for Oscar … and we’d both want to drive anyway … so e-bikes it is.  I’d done some research and looked at lots of forums, ordering the bikes from a shop in Bristol, who had stock and gave a decent discount.  We’ve gone for Kalkhoff Agattu …. both in matt black as no stock of the white, and I have a bigger battery to compensate for the towing.  We found time to test them for all of about 15 mins before we left for France and they really do make a difference, especially up hill when you switch to high power mode.  Setting off is assisted too.  I was a bit reluctant about cheating and loss of exercise, but everyone we’ve spoken to loves their e-bike and I think we will too.
  • I’d not seen brother Tim and Sarah for about 2.5 years, so it was good to catch him between his house parties … think modern day Downton Abbey and you have their lifestyle!  They were off to a shooting party in Yorkshire and I was given a bag of veggies from the walled kitchen garden.  They are planning a trip to the Balkans somewhere in Spring, so I hope we can meet up then.

James left Antibes on the 20th; his flight left 30 mins after his ex-wife landed … so Sarah really was not alone long should the baby have decided to make an appearance.  This is the longest by far we’ve ever been apart – 9 nights.  Boy, was it good to be back together.  However, little time to enjoy being together as more jobs to be done!  Including:

  • J’s eco cardiagram for the DVLA.  Yes, his birthday was in April, but the doctor’s two errors on the form were picked up separately and because he was identified with a heart murmur, they then wanted his heart checked out.  Anyway, the consultant said she could hardly identify the murmur and they he would have no problems with his license …. I should think not, when he is a runner!  But good to know, all the same.  Now that we are back in France, we just need to work out where to get his license posted to …. Kerstin, are you reading this???
  • Jez had his engine and habitation service – all good.
  • Fiat in Guidlford …. thrice! They’d not ordered the replacement part for the dashboard (under warranty) when it was booked in over 2 months ago, so we had to go back the morning we caught the tunnel to France … I put the crossing back a few hours and it was just as well I had, as the mechanic had out the radio back in up side down, so we had to go back again.
  • Vet for kennel cough and to stock up with a year’s supply of drugs!
  • Washing, more washing and cleaning
  • Sorting ‘stuff’ in the Aged P’s attic as a) we’ve had notice not to add to the expanding pile in case the roof comes down! and b) we wanted some of the stuff, such as Balkans guide books and winter clothes. We’re spreading our love (as one of my pilates videos says) … no, I mean, our stuff.  Our normal bikes are in Clare & Chris’ garage.
  • Weigh bridge … we need to drink the glass bottled beer and wine, eat the two massive sacks of dog food and stop stock piling tins and toothpaste!

We managed to catch up with a few people, but really only a few people.  Stephen and Kay, our old next door neighbours cooked and always delicious.  Frances and Edward to belatedly celebrate E’s special birthday, which we missed as we were on baby watch in Antibes.  And I had a great Sunday afternoon with the girls – my old muckers, and Ian and Jimmy in Twickenham.  Just not enough time.

We crossed back at 1416hrs on 27th – the next adventure begins 🙂

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Maddy tucking into a Full English (she justified it by going to the gym before) …

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… whilst I froze and wo-manfully smiled whilst she ate!  I did nick a piece of bacon.

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Moreton Corbet Castle, an extended castle and Elizabethan House which was owned by the same family who own Tim’s house … his is in slightly better nick!

 

And announcing the safe arrival of Cian Ash Weston on Sunday 24th September.

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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…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

289 – Feeding Frenzy

May 30th 206 – 12th June …. Repairs and Seeing People

Bristol for Chardonnay’s visit to the motorhome surgeon

From the Wildcamping.co.uk Rutland meet we stayed on Bristol Marina for 2 nights, courtesy of a friend.  Great location, right on the harbourside.  Dentist for K (just a filling), picked up my car from Mercedes, who had kindly agreed to do a bumper paint job FOC, and we dropped Chardonnay in for her repairs.  These were jobs that Family Leisure Travel in Brislington (Bristol) had not had time to do in April, had not been able to get hold of the parts and to deal with the dreaded damp they had found on her habitation service.  We did manage to catch up with quite a few friends in one sitting and had a great meal out.  

On one of our morning runs, J spotted a cyclist that had been knocked off her bike at a roundabout … he checked she was OK, whilst I got to control the traffic flow around the roundabout …. oh the power.  I was quite disappointed when the Policeman thanked me and told me he could take over!  But if I ever need a job, it fair beats teaching!

 

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Surprised to spot this advert!  And on a newish truck.


Ash Vale – Home!

Having left Chard in Bristol, we were now homeless.  So we moved into our ‘official’ residence.  Post comes here.  The car and Chard are registered here. Our Brexit Postal Vote came here.  We have occupied half the attic with a lot of our stuff.  We keep a wash kit here.  K’s parents are very long suffering!  Whilst here for a week, we managed to catch up with a few people and had a few days out with the Aged P’s.

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Al & Mark, Bron & Dave and Gill & Gordon in Kingston

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Aged P’s impression of the stone Eagle at The Vyne, National Trust

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Maddy Munchkin – this is apple juice, honest.

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Lunch out – “Was I sharing the Black Sambucca? Better have one of my own!!!”

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A Basingstoke Canalside run … this poor swan had 9 cygnets.  Could have been all hers or perhaps it was a cygnet Play Date.

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More canal wildlife, which gave me an excuse to pause in my running!

We also managed to squeeze in a tea, and thanks for the homemade scones, with Sharon and Katharine and K had a great fish BBQ with Bev, Mike and Lottie, whilst James met up with his youngest daughter and eldest son in London.  The week past in such a blur and we did not manage to do everything we’d planned.  I think there may have been 11 loads through the washing machine!

We collected Chard on the Friday …. all repairs completed 🙂 and drove back to Surrey … I followed J in the car and received a phone all from an unknown number – Candida, an ex colleague, had recognised my car as she overtook me on the M4 …. great to have a catchup.

We park Chard at my sister’s house as she has room on the drive.  They also fed us and we fed the fire pit!  A bit of a later night than planned, but after a long day, we deserved a bevy.

I don’t know how, but we filled the car removing our sacks of washing etc from the Aged P’s house to take over to Chardonnay.  Dad came with us to take the car back to its official residence.  We arrived at Clare’s and the gate code would not work.  Clare, Chris and family all out!  Bugger – I’d got frozen foods that needed urgently to go into the freezer.  My hero came to the rescue … we lobbed James over the fence (his crown jewels took a bit of a beating whilst he balanced on the top) and he drove Chard down the drive to activate the gates … we then nipped through whilst he reversed several bendy hundred feet. 

 

Feeding Non-stop in the New Forest (Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June)

We’d originally planned to meet Penny, a motorhomer we’d met in Italy and kept in touch with, but she had to work. So J had got in touch with Geoff and Carole, who gave us tea, cucumber sarnies and scones!  They are both petrol heads who are celebrating their Ruby Wedding next weekend …. between them they have 3 MGs and two other cars … we both fell in love with this 1993 V8, which was Carole’s new toy …

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The pic does not do it justice … it really is a thing of beauty and given their wedding anniversary and the colour, it’s name …. Ruby!

We arrived in New Milton to be fed a BBQ by Frances and Edward … this is the amazing couple we met twice in Sicily and then again in Naples … they, like us, like food, travel and can knock back a glass or two …. no wonder we get on so well!  Not only had they offered us their driveway for two nights, but the electric hook up cable was ready and waiting for us.    The Sunday plan was to picnic at the town Queen’s Birthday celebration with another couple, but as you know plans do not always get stuck to.  We started on the sherry at 11.45.  Lunch was leisurely.  So leisurely that we did not finish until 10.00 pm …. I think this must have been the longest lunch record for us all!  The closest we got to the Queen’s festivities was the program of events that Edward printed off!  We did raise a glass to her Majesty.  

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Would that be the bottle of Benedictine we’re battling through?!  Was I posing for the photo, or can’t I sit up straight?

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Inspired by Frances and Edward, I too wore red, white and blue.  Being Irish, J was absolved.


289 – Monday 13th June:  Back on the Road again

The feeding did not stop … we were breakfasted on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, followed by a choice of three homemade marmalades!   I would declare that we will stop this feeding frenzy and get back onto a carefully controlled diet (well for me), but I can’t quite see the end of it yet.  We have driven up from the New Forest to Scotland – just over the border to a wild camping next to Gretna.  Tomorrow we will visit a good friend of J’s from when he worked in Jordan … I suspect that more good food is to come our way … I have managed to remain tee total tonight.

Whilst it is absolutely brilliant to spend time with friends and family (and I am missing Maddy and the Aged P’s especially), we are both very happy to be back on the road heading for places, scenery and adventures we don’t yet know.  

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Our nosey neighbours on our overnight pitch.