1102-1112: Friends and France

 1102- 1103: Leaving Home – Slowly

Wednesday 13th March – Thursday 14th March 2019

We both virtually killed ourselves cleaning and getting our stuff out of the house.  On our knees.  We left on the Wednesday and the first holiday visitors arrived on Saturday, so it had to be VERY clean.  James left in the van, and all I had to do was clean the kitchen floor, have a shower and then clean the shower.  And then follow in the loaded car.  Cleverly I stuck the clothes I was wearing in the washing machine, only to discover I’d not tightened the seal enough when I’d cleaned the filter.  Result … a bit of flood in the utility room.  At this point I realised that my clean clothes, I’d planned to wear were actually in the van with James … it was chilly naked kitchen floor clean and then I had to wait till my clothes were just dry enough to put back on!  Afterwards, I remembered I could’ve wrapped a towel around me!!  Told you I was tired … not thinking!  

Whilst parked up for 2 nights at the Fox and Goose pub in Greywell, we sorted out the van …. disposing stuff at the Aged P’s house … fortunately they were in South Africa and would have barred the door at how much we brought back to the house.  So I kindly sent them photos of each stage of loading boxes in and, mostly, up to the attic!

As we were staying in a pub car park, it would have been rude not to eat there … first night with sister Clare and Chris, and second night with Maddy. 

As well as a dentist for me, I lost 1.5 hours of my life in the vets, trying to get a form completed for the health cert that will replace the Pet Passport when / if there is no deal … only to discover the vet had the wrong form … the correct form would not be released by DEFRA for a few days!  As we moved along the south coast visiting friends, we rang various vets whether knew nothing, or did not have the right sort of vet in the practice.  A phone call to DEFRA established that the form would not be sent to vets until 20.03 … our Tunnel crossing was booked for early on 21st, and they could not tell me what time of day it would arrive.  Ho hum.  My DEFRA contact did go and check, when I asked, and confirmed that we could get the form done by any EU vet.  Nothing about this on their web site … or what people already in Eurozone are supposed to do.  No surprises there then!

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The Aged Ps were delighted that we took the twin tub from their shed  but not so pleased, we left an awning, dog run and shopping trolley (mistake!) in its place!

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Not to mention, what we left in the attic.  Dad had only recently remarked how spacey the attic had seemed after we’d emptied it!  They are not allowed to move house.

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Sarah and Mac … this one is for you … we stayed at the Fox and Goose and had to have a Butterscotch sundae – yummy.

 

1104-1109:Sleeping on Driveways!

Friday 15th March – Wednesday 20th March

With Jez the motorhome ready to roll, we set off for Eastbourne.  We met up for dinner both Friday and Saturday with friends staying in a hotel, whilst we wild camped in a street back from the coast.  It was a 1.4km walk each way but along the front, so perfect for the dogs.  Gale Eric was not so perfect, but we got blown one way and fought our way back.  

Sunday night saw us parked up in Rustington, straddling the drives of Ian and Jimmy and their most lovely neighbours, Ted and Marj.  We had a fishy lunch with a couple of my old muckers (Gill, Gordon and Al), who came down from London, Maddy, who came from Brighton, Mel and boys, Ian’s parents and Nicky’s parents Ruth and Brian.  Really lovely to see them all.  Not so lovely was my sense of being poisoned the next day … I blame Mel, who kept us drinking … a sea front run sorted that out though!  For us anyway … not saying who might have had a late start the next morning!

We took refuge on a campsite for a DRY night, and then spent a night on Sue and Mick’s driveway.  We met them in Greece and had another good night with them.  A slow start and off to the Canterbury aire.  Where I trawled ALL the opticians trying to find one that would sell me 4 months worth of 1.5 contact lenses!  I should specify +1.5 contact lenses.  Being new to using them, I’d ordered -1.5 (OK!  I thought the – was not a negative but a dash!) … I soon found my error on applying one to my left eye and my vision being so compromised to be dangerous!  A quick text to Lin and Bo, who we’d be seeing in a few days and they could be delivered to their home before they left!  Phew!

 

1110-1115: Arras and WW1 Sights

Thursday 21st – Tuesday 26th March 

We have never seen the Canterbury aire or Eurotunnel so quiet!  And really quiet!  So many people just haven’t travelled due to Brexit uncertainty.  Just hope we have remembered to cover all the documentation we need!

Meg had ferried from Hull to Rotterdam and we’d liaised that if the weather was OK, she’d delay her journey south and meet us in Arras.  We had such a lovely time, having coffee in the squares, at the market, doing the tourist sights and eating together in the evening … we all stayed 4 nights!  Arras is really close to Calais and is definitely worth a few days trip.  Blanche is a Papillon, the same breed that just won Crufts. She might be small and fluffy, but she doesn’t take any nonsense from CO2!

Meg left to head down through the Rhone valley, in the vague direction of Slovenia or Croatia, and we moved a short distance down the coast to Peronne and a campsite for 2 nights.  After 12 days away, we desperately needed a free and voluminous water supply to do some laundry … the twin tub was deployed all afternoon!  And the weather Gods smiled on us and send a good drying wind!

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Our home for 4 nights on the banks of a canal in Arras.  Great for running and dog walking.  And a short walk or hop onto the free electric noddy bus.

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Re-built as 80% of the city was flattened, in the original Flemish Baroque styles.  Several such squares.  Meg and I climbed the belfry … in a lift, and we all visited the Boves (caves) underneath, dug out for the chalk as a building material.

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I think it was 214 men who were executed here for their resistance work.  Their names line the walls. 

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The British cemetery.

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Meg and I visited the Wellington caves.  Also dug out for the chalk stone, but joined up and enlarged by 500 New Zealand engineers and British miners, so they could hold 20,000 Allies soldiers for a week before the Battle of Arras in April 9th 1917.  They were dug out by hand so as not to alert the German forces.They were homed here in secret and some of the tunnels went up to the front line.    The push gained the Allies 11 km at a cost of 4000 casualties on the first day.  Total deaths were 160,000 British Third and First Army and the Germans lost 125,000.  

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Having got all excited and dragged Meg into the town on Friday, as I’d not listened to both Meg and James that I was a day adrift, we finally caught the market on Saturday!  Huge market and I filled the fridge with veg, as well as half a rabbit (yummy).  We ended up buying a shopping trolley…. madness really as this was an item we’d left in the Aged P’s shed!  Spot Blanche.

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I toured the WW1 museum in Peronne.  It gave equal weight to the Allies and Germany and presented artefacts in a different way.  Really worth a visit too.  This is a British Officer’s tea making facilities for the trenches … for all as if going on a family picnic.  

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Rather than display uniforms and artillery in display cases, they were in ‘graves’ on the floor.  I hadn’t known that due the mechanisation, they had re-armour troops.  each country had its own styles of steel helmet, largely styled on native peasant hats.

1116-1117: Contact Lens Delivery!

Wednesday 27th – Thursday 28th March 2019

Electric cable and twin tub stowed away, we drove for less than an hour to Marcoing.  We had an assignation with my contact lens couriers!  We managed to throw in a meal and some wine, except Bo, who was the only one who showed restraint on the 0% lager!  Amazing Lin and I did not suffer a bad head, but both just felt shaky … needless to say the menfolk drove late morning when we eventually set off!  Lin and Bo (& Maud the cat) are heading in a leisurely way to Crete.  Tempting to join them, but we are headed to the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands and then to S Germany for Kerstin’s 50th; possibly Poland in between.  Who knows!

Oscar and Corrie’s Diary

Bon Jours mes enfants! Ici deux chiens – Corrie et Oscar et moi est Corrie – Le TopDog….. Alors – Oscar est ok-ish…  Nous avant en La Belle France, perchance.  My command of Franglais even surprises moi!  We are in France because our pets K and J say so.  As for the language skills, please don’t alert L’Acadamie Francais!  We’ve been to Arras, Peronne and Macoing – Lo and Bin and Maud we met – they’re good salty dogs (and cat). They imbibe a little but then – who doesn’t? K and J don’t know we steal out the gin when they’ve gone a bedding…. we clean our teeth to disguise the aroma. It’s all ‘mist to the grill’… I quite like ‘Trever Fee’ tonic. They say we’re going to someplace called ‘Neverthenlands’ – all water and canals filled with bicycles – a little boy stuck his pecker in a dyke to save people – it must been a big’un!  Oscar could do that, I think…  Well, we’ve moved on to Gouda – cheeses! Not the ones with holes in – that’s a place where the cheese is made by the little boys pecker!  Tonight J dragged us out in a thunderstorm!  Made my eyes water and my makeup ran… but I can borrow K’s makeup bag (later).

Ok – tot zien (Dutch) and watch out for stray peckers! 

Yours in treats, songs and sardines – its a good life….

Corrie and Oscar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.