2022.01: Unplanned UK Winter

Update …

Sept 21 to Jan 2022

A long time since the last post.  Whilst few significant things occurred we seem to have been busy!


James’ Heart

The bypass was scheduled for early October.  J was in the hospital, had ordered his dinner and was then told that it was to be postponed.  Too many staff off sick from the Covid booster.  By this time, I was at the Aged Ps and about to have dinner.  The hospital was a good hour away and more with rush hour traffic.  So J ate his hospital pasta and I had my meal before I fetched him … was that so wrong of me?!  As visitors are not allowed, I’d booked myself busy for 5 days whilst he was supposedly in hospital.  So James came with me … a few nights at Stonehenge wild camping with the motorhome having a few more repairs.  And then overnight up in Twickenham helping a friend clear the attic prior to moving house.

In the end the surgery was 26th October just over 2 weeks later.  He was under a good surgeon, but he had to leave so the substitute was an even better bet.  The top Prof, who rang me himself early evening.  He’s big, as in top man, in beating heart surgery.  Yes, that is a thing.  I had to google it as the consultant had not mentioned it and neither of us was keen to know the specifics of the actual surgery.  I subsequently read about beating heart and skipped over the video that started with the incision into the skin, and would have gone onto the whole procedure … too much info for a sensitive me!  In essence, the heart and lungs are not put onto a pump but are able to operate as normal.  Suction holds the part of the heart still where the surgeon is working.  Pump / normal open heart surgery around been since the 1950’s.  Beating heart since 1995, so still relatively new … not all all open heart surgery suitable for beating heart.  The surgeon told me his recovery would be much quicker and so it proved.  

James surpassed all the milestones and was walking a few miles within a week and a half  Very little pain from his chest unless he sneezed!  Paracetamol was sufficient and that was for his upper back discomfort.  The nurse explained this pain is due to the position they put you in to prise open your chest.  He’s itching to get running, even short distances, but that’s a few weeks off. And then we’ll be back into the hills of Crete!

The cardiac nurse team are amazing.  They respond quickly to emails and calls and we’ve had one assessment meeting with them.  He’s been given exercises to do 3x a week and we’ve been walking a lot building distance and speed.  The Rolex is off … replaced by a Fitbit so he can ensure his heart rate doesn’t go above 106!  I was slightly envious, of his new Versa 3, which includes built in GPS and its olive green … my colour and mine’s only a Versa 2!!!


Family and Friends

Lots of getting togethers … mostly lunches!  Our theory was that we’d eat out once a week, but fine dining.  We could afford to do this is we dispensed with ordinary lunches and coffee & cakes.  Using the Michelin app, we booked into a number of local Michellin plate restaurants for set lunches.  All well and good, but we still seemed to have the odd pub lunch and those coffees!   I discovered the Bognor Fishermen’s Association fresh fish stall … so we’ve eaten skate, a whole brill and Dover sole … yum.  Bonus of Bognor is a wonderful homemade open all year ice cream parlour!

And Christmas  … a proper family Christmas.  Our last was 2018.  Again Clare and Chris hosted and we all took bits …but C did the bulk of the work.  It was truly brilliant. Party games, cards etc.  And Boxing Day 3 meats and salads.  All yum!  And Maddy and Jordan came down on Christmas afternoon and stayed Boxing Day until Jordan had to return home to watch Chelsea with his family!  He’s a lovely chap, but sadly he’s into that round ball game instead of rugby!

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All our van Christmas decorations were in Crete, so I raided Poundland …. our tree!  If you can call it that!  Supposed to light up … wasn’t worth taking back for a refund!! 

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Every year the Aged Ps purchase Christmas stocking gifts whilst on their travels.  There was a lot from the UK this year! 

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Arundel.  Wed been for a Michellin plate lunch and walk and then booked a city walking tour for a few days later when Frances and Edward visited us.

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Arundel castle.

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Whole brill cooked with hassleback potatoes in the motorhome with Michelle and Craig.

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Misty Stonehenge.

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Maddy’s graduation.  Did I mention she gained a 1st?!!

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Kalives is the nearest town to us in Crete … found this boat at Chichester marina.  No owner around to ask why it is so named.

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Mum repeated oft that there is NO STORAGE at their new house.  All our stuff was cleared out and under duress they will store a bulky coat and wash kit.  Then they took pity on us … I was offered space to put a storage box in the car barn!  I put it together too.  Needless to say, it is now FULL.

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We’ve really come to like the area around Chichester.  It may be flat, but lots of inlets and wiggly coastline.


Whilst the weather was good we stayed at Connor House and mostly Woodlands Farm 5 pitch site.  Lovely couple run Woodlands … very basic but woods with deer.  However, the lack of sunshine meant the solars were just not harvesting sufficient juice to run all our gadgets and heating.  I was also concerned that post surgery J would need to be kept warm and whilst our gas is super efficient (radiators and under floor heating), I did not want to keep moving the van for gas refills.  So we needed EHU.  And with impending bad weather … hard standing.   Being nearly 5 ton we have a tendency to sink!  We moved to one site, intending to stay there, but the owners were a bit off.  Told me off for putting on the awning light when I took CO2 for their night time pee, would not let us move to the sunny side, even though we planned to stay till January.  So we voted with our wheels and moved to another site.  We were really happy here until the owner doubled the price (we had been using a lot of power at one point as there was a severe cold snap) and the field we were in became very muddy.  I got serious pee’d off with soggy doggies and mud splatters … despite doggy dry bags.  After New Year we moved to another site with proper concrete hard standing … woken every morning at 6.00 am but the tractor … lovely walking there though.  Finally we ended up at Concierge Camping.  Famed for being on a motorhome TV programme where one chappie in his posh van declared he liked it here, as it was expensive enough that he knew he would only meet people like him.  Well, I dont think he can of been there when we were … as with all our accumulated mud (van, CO2 and us) we definitely lowered the tone.  To be honest, it is worth every penny, as the facilities are fab – even a free ice making machine and dog shower.  And at the weekend there is quality Thai street food for sale.  

I think we’ve experienced most of the suitable sites now in and around Chichester … if you need a recommendation?

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Deer at Woodlands Farm. They come down from the Downs in winter and the noise they make at night and during rutting is somewhat unnerving.

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The cold snap at Sunnyside.

Tythe Barn House

Having not been to our Devon house that is used as holiday lets for over a year, we’ve used it a lot this year.  Quarantine back in May. A quickie when the Aged Ps and Clare & Chris used it in May.  November for 2 weeks as it was between guests … the thought of J recuperating with more space was attractive.  And he normally does the washing up but was excused chores, and it has a dishwasher!  Nothing selfish on my part!!!  Then we’ve had some damp work done so we stayed whilst the plaster was drying and then for 2 weeks in January.  We probably won’t get back down there till 2023!  Lovely to be able to share it with family and friends.

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The kitchen had been mostly packed away for the damp work … the housekeeper seemed to know which kitchen kit was most important to us!!

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The main Combe Martin beach with the tide out. 

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The other beach at Combe Martin … with the tide out!

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After a storm at Woolacombe beach.

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Regular walking / running route around Whistlandpound reservoir, especially after some of the humungous downpours we had as the track is mostly firm.

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Walk along to Hebdon Mouth

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Hebdon Mouth

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A Devon road … a motorhome is a no go!

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Baggy Point walk.

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Nothing Baggy about this man!

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Baggy Point looking across to the 2 miles of Woolacombe beach … we did sample the Thai fishcakes at the cafe this end.

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Hang dog – Kelsey is not used to sharing the comfy spot!

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Clovelly is a private estate with gardens and a village.  The ticket was valid for a week, so we went with Lisa and Danny and then with Robyn.

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Fab walk with rushing water and mossy boulders at Watersmeet with Robyn. 

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It was David’s birthday when the Turkish Lockdown family stayed  Lisa did decorations and I did a meal.

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I did warn them that Devon is the wet test country … non stop rain!  Sunny the day after they left, of course!  This pic was taken at the Rocks near Lynmouth.

Mini Tour of North Kent

Loved it.  We intended starting at Gravesend and following the coast around.  But we had to return to Chichester earlier than planned as we (J specifically) had to isolate prior to surgery, and we found so much of interest that we didnt move as fast as we thought we would.  And of course, he was still getting very tired, so we were mostly active in the mornings.  Definitely unfinished business.

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Gravesend Temple.  A wedding was going on but the guests were happy to chat.  Had a free tour and were offered free food. Classes, older person clubs, sports gourds etc … money here but used for the community.

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Guess where this wedding guest made his money!

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Also in Gravesned a WW2 festival.

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We also visited Rochester, but we really liked Chatham Dockyard.  So much to do and the ticket was valid for a year so we went back a second day and still did not see it all.  This is one of the massive old dry dock coverings.

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The Ropery is one of the longest brick built buildings in Europe.  Length determined by the metres required for an anchor rope.  And this is still in use.

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Bikes are used by staff to get from one end to another.  The building would not meet current work regulations … all the windows gaped.  On our tour of the Ropery, I got to have a go at twining rope and came away with a sample. 



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New Home & Treatment

So we are now back on the road, but just a quickish up date since our last travels in September … how the time flies.


James’ radiotherapy for prostate cancer started on 26.09.18 and continued for 7.5 weeks.  During this time we stayed on our much frequented CL in Farnham.  The treatment necessitated early starts for beat the Guildford traffic, J had a bacon roll and got to know the hospital cafe staff pretty well. He got a hug on his last day! I walked the dogs nearby and got back to the hospital as his treatment usually finished.  Side effects have been increased hot flushes – worse than mine were, but he now has tablets which have dealt with that.  He also gets tired which necessitates regular nanny naps.

About 3 weeks ago J had another PSA test (prostate problems blood test indicator) and a meeting with his rather glamorous (young, blonde, bright) oncologist.  As both she and the urologist had said previously  … all good and she doesn’t want to see him for 6 months.  The hormone therapy continues.  But we are super delighted and we really do know how lucky we are.



We have been thinking for some years about buying a property abroad, but J’s medical issues, made us feel more confident about staying in the UK where we both fully understand what is said to us.  Not to mention Brexit uncertainty!  So, France, Greece and Portugal all lost out!  Our tenants moved out on 12th September 2018 and we moved our motorhome onto the driveway and lived in it whilst we sorted out furniture etc. 

Our furniture that was in storage got delivered into the lounge.  One jam packed garage was disgorged and sorted into the other garage, with numerous extraneous items offered for free on the local facebook page, such as a bread oven, tables, sofa bed …

I was able to go to Guildford hospital for James’ first radiotherapy session, then we had a staff lunch with the Aged P’s (they do car care and admin for us when we are away) and then I drove back to Bristol.  The removals company had been in and loaded, so I slept in the floor and cleaned the house.  The next day the property completion took place and we (or I) took possession of our new North Devon home in Combe Martin. I played the cancer card with the removals chaps …. please move that wardrobe 6 inches to the left!   I did several full loads in the car to empty the Aged P’s attic of our stuff … full to the brim with barely breathing space for the dogs … and one trip I had a hight speed blow out on the M5.  And where was the spare?  Under a mountain of stuff, of course.

So what have we bought … a Devon long House in Combe Martin, North Devon, dating from late 1600s.   Three double bedrooms, lots of downstairs space and no grass to cut … just flower beds and two patios!  You can look at it here …   We’ve bought it with a view to letting for holiday lets and when we (eventually) want to reduce or stop our roving life, we will live in it.    So, in the meantime, if you fancy the N Devon coast for a break, you know where to book.

Whilst we were there, we had a new shower room installed, decorated one bedroom, widened the driveway, fenced the perimeter to make it dog safe, painted two lots of pine bed bedroom furniture and made 12 cushion covers, added plumbing to the utility room ….  busy busy work work chop chop bang bang.  Have come away for a rest!

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Sorting garages and furniture that arrived down from the storage unit at the house we sold.  Looks like a load of old rubbish!

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Tythe Barn House used to be a B&B and this is an old postcard we were given.  The porch and windows have since been updated.

North Devon Life

We commuted from Farnham weekends until mid-November, leaving the motorhome on site.  We both strongly feel attached to the village, even in the short time we lived there … until mid March.  It is a thriving village with a pulse … butcher, 4 all year pubs (we came second last a couple of times in the pub quiz!), library and doctors surgery.  Lots of good local walks etc.  Love it.  

We had a lot of visitors too … great to spend time with so many folk, but we still didn’t manage to see everyone we would have liked to.  James had a trip to Antibes to see one daughter and small grandkids and I had a week in Cuba with Maddy.

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Damien Hurst’s controversial Verity (Truth and Justice statue in Ilfracombe.

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Making paper mâché hats / lids for James and my New Year fancy dress costumes ….

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In the local pub as Salt and Pepper pots!

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We joined the RHS as Rosemoor Gardens is not far.  Their pre Christmas Night Glow was magical.

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 More art and craft … what a creative mother I am!!!!

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Lots of fudge making in the slow cooker … too tempting!

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Combe Martin bay with the tide out.

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Dog whisperer.

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Body bags … best ever purchase.

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Combe Martin Rememberance Service

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Woolacombe Beach.

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Christmas and Boxing Day with my Aged P’s and Clare, Chris etc.

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Maddy, Niecey, Louis and Zozo used to put on plays for the family, and an old programme was dug out … the blonde wig make several appearances – think Louis may still have it!

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Birthday running jacket.  Oscar asking when we’re off!

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Christmas full set of thermals … gotta remember that this is our first UK winter in 4 years, thank goodness it was a mild one!

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A rather special Niecey’s 21st.

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It had to be climbed!  We invested in a set of gaiters each as it is sooo muddy everywhere!

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Worried our little Greek dog would feel the cold … a hand knitted jacket … she didn’t go out in it though!

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Me, Mum, Clare, Tim and Dad!