1048-1087: Enjoying Extracts of England

 1048 -1051:  MAS Walking from Urchfont

Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd July 2018

We left N Devon to join the MAS Wessex (Mountain Activity Section of the Camping and Caravan Club) in Urchfont Wiltshire.  Our good friends Frances and Edward were stewarding the meet.  The other walkers and non walkers were a lovely bunch of people, all getting together mid afternoon for coffee and cakes.  Many of which were home baked … one of our donations was Fondant Fancies baked by hand by Mr Kippling … remember those?  I can and do cook, but I am not a baker, I leave that to my sister who is a Baker by marriage.  I did 3 walks, 2 of which were on the Ridgeway.  Last time I walked the Ridgeway some years ago with James and our former Welsh Springer Spaniel, Will the Wuss, J took a photo of me peeing en plain air on the Ridgeway!  Pretty rolling country, nothing too challenging with lots of thatch cottages.  A very good pub lunch on Sunday, with left overs from my plate to make a casserole the following supper.

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Real hay bales.

1052 -1056:  Drawn Back to Devon

Monday 23rd to Thursday 26th July

We had a window before we were due back to Farnham so we left the walking group a day early and bolted back to N Devon.  A Caravan and Motorhome Club CL farm, near Bideford this time. Bikes out along Tarka Trail twice.

We pushed the boat out, or peddled the wheels out, with lunches, one in Bideford – Thai then supper after a few glasses back in Instow.  It was a bit of a gastro trip, as we sampled a lot of the locally produced ice creams too.

We really liked Instow and its view across to Appledore.  Bideford is worth a wander around too.

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Supper made with left over roast chicken from yeterday’s Sunday lunch.  Awning and dog run up.

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Instow across to Appledore.

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J’s flashing dangly balls.

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Just chilling before we decided supper here would be in order too.  And that is a glass of water, as well as the wine!

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Along the Torridge River on the Tarka Trail.

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1057 -1064:  Farnham

Friday 27th July to Friday 3rd August

Friday – arrived, our Palace erected at our usual CL in Farnham.  Maddy rang – bored and can she come over?  We fed her and then tried to watch Mama Mia 1 until Corrie launched herself at M and knocked a glass of wine over the MacBook.  Upended, dried and left to dry out.  Miraculously it worked 2 days later. 

Sunday – cinema with Maddy – Mama Mia – Here We Come Again.  We enjoyed it, but it did lack the zest and spontaneous feel of the first one.  We missed the real Donna and would have liked more of her.  Lunch was roast chicken in the slow cooker – M’s request.  She brought cake, which J finished the next day.  She’s no baker either … Betty Crocker.

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We finally met the oncologist.  She was, I guess most untypical of any medic.  Slim, youngish, blond and charming … altogether a stunner.  Even I wouldn’t have minded her tending to me.  She reiterated what we’ve been told before that J will have a cure and said that she was now putting him forward for the radiotherapy.  All good news and again we know how lucky we are.

The Aged P’s came to supper … they just been burying Gladys’s urn in her parents grave on the Wirral.  They chatted to her in the car on the way up.  Before the trip, she had been sat on their mantle piece.  

Lynn and Ian, who we met 3 yrs ago in Slovenia, also came to supper.  We’ve kept in touch all this time, but our paths had not yet crossed.  

A day trip to Polesden Lacey National Trust.  Home of the society hostess Mrs Greville.  She was the heiress to the McKewan fortune and married nobility.  A social climber who people loved or hated, but she hosted all, from  royalty, to politicians, writers and artists etc. The Queen Mum had part of her honeymoon here.  She left her fabulous jewellery collection to the Royal Family and it is still worn on special occasions.  Camila often wears one of the tiaras; this is somewhat ironic as it was her grandmother Alice Kepple, mistress to the Prince Regent, who was a regular guest of Mrs Greville.

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1065 -1066:  Flying Visit to Our New House

Saturday 4th to Sunday 5th August

The local estate agent rang us to say the owners of the house we are buying were in residence there and had offered to do a tour to explain how things worked.  Too good an offer to refuse.  Our actual destination was to slowly wend our way to a meet in Northumberland, but N Devon was now our not insignificant detour!

We left car in Rothbury and drove the loooong slow drive through Bristol back to Combe Martin.  We’ve decided that where we can, we need to do this drive either very early in the day or late at night during holiday periods … the M5 just S of Bristol and the alternative of the A303 by Stonehenge are to be avoided.  We had booked a CL farm nearest our new house.  Discovered when we paid, the the CL owner is a builder – does work for National Trust … not saying our new house is special, but it was built a long time ago!

With no car, we free wheeled down to the the new house.  We met the owners, who were very generous with coffee, their time and information. The house is a C16 Devon long house with a Victorian extension.  We walked a bit along the coastal path and then fell into a pub for a late lunch.  An Anglo/Dutch couple supplied us with live music and the pub owner supplied CO2 with a massive plate of left over turkey.  We liked this pub a lot … can see it becoming a local.  Thank goodness for batteries … we were in full ‘pleasure mode’ to climb the hill back to our pitch.

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Our CL just out of Combe Martin.

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Looking down onto Combe Martin from the coastal path.

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1067 -1069:  Carsington Water

Monday 6th to Wednesday 8th August

Drove to a small £7 water and chemical toilet only site overlooking Carsington Water.  We had planned to stay on a C&CC Temporary Holiday site, but accidentally pulled into the normal camping field.  Given it was cheaper, less busy and with better views, we stayed put.  

We had an easy day, blogging, and chilling.  In fact, I only got off the camp ground to walk the dogs and grab an ice cream!  

I’ve always had a fancy to have a go a Stand Up Paddle boarding.  So we did.  We tried to book a lesson, but all the instructors were doing other things, and to be honest, there is very little to it.  Well, I can say that as I watched YouTube videos the night before and mastered the ‘skill’ straight away.  Not saying, I didn’t come off, I did.  The videos had not told me how to turn and I soon discovered, it is not the same way as in canoe … the SUP went sharply one way and I dived the other!  Now, J should have watched the videos with me … he managed to stand up for an instant, but then back to kneeling.  When he came off, he up ended the board and had to be rescued Hawii 5 O style by a family of 5!  I think that this is the only time I have EVER been better than J at a sport!  I think my core is stronger due to Pilates.  Loved it, but quickly worked out that we can not carry a standard board in the van and inflatables seem to be really expensive.  

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The YouTube expert!

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1070 -1075:  WildCamping Meet Druridge Bay

Thursday 9th to Tuesday 14th August

The meet was held in a Country Park next to the coast.  A lovely long sandy beach, when the tide was out, and adjacent to a lake.  We knew a few bods from previous meets and I got to play crib with Oldish Hippy (Barrie) and we did a lovely cycle ride with Meg, who we bought the awning from.  We cycled through Amble to Warkworth, where there is a massive medieval castle once the home of the Percy family, Earl of Northumberland and Harry Hotspur.  We also walked along the river to the Hermitage, carved out of the local soft stone.  At lunch we were entertained by the squealing pack of young ladies who had an aversion to wasps!  Pudding was an ice cream stop in Amble, where we bought fish and local cheese.  We had a wet day and didn’t move much.  The awning stopped being a living space as it was too cold to sit out an became a garage for the bikes and the Os-car.  Our final full day was also looking damp and grey, so we drove to the National Mining Museum.  This was fascinating as it explained about mining conditions, pit accidents and showed some old footage of the 80’s mining strike … Scargill and Thatcher both standing firm for their beliefs.

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Park Run around the lake … not his best time, but he was full of the head cold I’d shared!

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 Wickworth and castle, surrounded by water on 3 sides.

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James, Meg and Blanche entering the Hermitage.  Meg stuffs Blanche into her back pack for cycling … secured with the draw string.  Blanche is quite happy looking this way and that!  And the odd yawn … much to the amusement and amazement of people who spot her.  At one point we were walking in single file with a dog each … me and Oscar, J and Corrie and finally Meg and Blanche.  A young lad, coming the opposite way, announced ‘Cute, Cute and Cuter!”  CO2 you’ve been upstaged!

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Inside the Hermitage … several rooms all carved out.

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On the small boat to cross to the Hermitage.  Corrie really not happy to come aboard and had to be carried.

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Wickworth Castle.

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Ashington Mining Museum.

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It was superstition not to wash your back as dirt made you stronger!

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Some of the miners were coached in modern art by a chap from the University and most of the paintings depict life in mining Northumberland.  The Pitmen Painters were celebrated in the play Billy Elliot.

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Watching for our return 🙂

1076 -1084:  Farnham Again

Wednesday 15th August to Thursday 23rd August

Back ‘home again’.  We had to do the journey down from Northumberland in one day as J had another hormone injection on 15th  It was a fairly quiet time with lots of admin jobs completed, not the Blog though!  This is being caught up with in Ireland!  

I went to see Incredibles 2 with Maddy. She stated she’d had to wait 13 years since the 1st one, and it was worth the wait … good fun.  We caught up with Michelle and Craig.  Simon, one of J’s sons, was back in London for a few days so he joined us for lunch … it was cold enough for us to move out of the awning and into Jez with the heating on!  My best nephew, Louis did really well in his A levels and has his place as an IT Management apprentice with Deloittes.  Niece Zozo did well with her GCSEs too and we surprised her at her celebration breakfast in Farnham with the Aged P’s.  Mum said afterwards that both J and I were wrapped up for winter … how will we cope?  

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We spotted a small poster advertising the Farnham VE day celebration and as we had time, we sat and listened to a fab Glen Miller band.  One of those unexpected moments in time.

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Aah … snuggle time.

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I had a great meal out with the Girls … mothers and daughters.  Well, the company was great, the food was not!  Having raised various issues with the manager, who was having to sort out issues with most tables, we got a bottle of wine free, 10% off etc.  Maddy and Dayna are besties since age 4 and D has been on quite a few camping trips with us.

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J had two trips to the radiotherapy unit in Guildford … not sure why radiotherapy is an Experience.  Isn’t that something that is considered fun?  Anyway, he is now tattooed already for radiotherapy on 26th September.


1085 -1086:  Henley-in-Arden Wildcamping Meet

Friday 24th August to Monday 27th August

Having had such a good time in Druridge Bay with the wildcamping crowd we made a quick decision to join them in Henley-in-Arden.  Only a few hours up the M40 and we could get there between hospital appointments on the Friday and the Tuesday … literally, as we left after one and arrived back in time for the other!  We met up with a couple who live in Mychett, the next village to my parents and where I grew up and played Splodge, a fun version of contract whist.  I did an 8+ km walk with Hippy – registered disabled and on crutches … I could watch as he hoiked himself over high styles … nearly over balancing as Corrie shot between his legs!  Not sure how much morphine he had to take after … A curry night.  And J was delighted to listen to a Stones tribute band.  Really good to meet more people, who I only knew as avatars.  


1087: Farnham Overnight

Tuesday 28th August

We had one night back in Farnham to turn ourselves around … washing at Rothbury, collecting fridge and bags of food I’d shopped for before Henley and left there.  Hospital appointment, a small shop and cooked supper for Maddy.  Busy Then! 

Tomorrow … off to Ireland.


A few bonus pix

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J’s grandchildren Jade and Cian … just how gorgeous are they!  Scrummy.

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I sent this pic to Maddy with the suggestion I revise my funeral plan.  Her response was “I refuse to have to water you”.

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1055-1067: The BIG Drive Home

1055 – Thursday 26th April 2018:  Birthday 2 and  Still Rear Air Suspension

We spent the night outside the Adria Athens compound, as the fearsome Rottweiler roamed inside at night.  We had an electric cable thrown over the wall, but the Austrians waiting to have some work done weren’t offered that … were we receiving special treatment?.  It took the best part of this second day to complete the work.    As it was J’s birthday, he had wine in the local cafe.  We also caught the tail end of the local market where I bought a huge plastic washing up bowl for EUR1.50 and lots of olive oil to bring home.

In the afternoon we drove to just west of Patras – Diakopto on the harbour side.  We walked to a restaurant … not as smart as I’d hoped for a birthday, one of those where you’re taken into the kitchen to choose your meal from trays.  Tasty but no starters other than baked cheese.

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Birthday wine for one … all of EUR1.5 🙂

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Marco, our lovely mechanic who was rather taken with Oscar.

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Birthday boy in a birthdays T-shirt.

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Great spot in Diakopto.

1056 – Friday 27th April:  Back to Italy

We had a leisurely start and then to Patras for our overnight crossing to Ancona in Italy.  We did do a small detour to a winery to pick up a case of MavroDaphne … not for drinking, of course, but used in a pork and prunes dish.

We’d been warned to expect serious security checks leaving Greece … but they checked the inside of the van with a cursory glance.  There were a LOT of security guards all around the car parks before entering the port, and there were about 20 or so youths who were lurking in the hope of being stowaways.  We did watch one lad being chased by 3 security cars as he tried to leg it, having climbed the fence. Sad.

It is a small world, we bumped into a German couple who we’d met on the campsite when we first arrived in Crete.  They were amazed how much Corrie had grown … we knew she had a bit, but not really clocked it until they said.  She’s obviously younger than we thought.  Wonder how much more growing she has to do?!

The dogs got to poop the poop deck again … eventually.  For some reason they are quite hesitant about not doing their business on earth.

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Cabin japes!

1057 – Saturday 28th April:  Driving

A calm, if long crossing … 18 hours.  I stocked up on some Italian food, and mostly booze items, at the big Auchan and then it was on the road.  Overnight was a quiet aire in Forlimpopoli … it may be an interesting place, but we arrived late and set off early … I just like the name.

1058 – Sunday 29th April:  Big Drive to Tende

A very long day behind the wheel, especially as were were avoiding toll roads.  But we made it across to France.  Just over the border we stopped at a place called Tende.  I recognised it and realised we had caught a train up here on a Nice visit.  We wandered the town of lovely narrow streets, but I don’t remember this part … I think it was so cold when we were here before we fell into a bar.

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Tende.

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This isn’t, but it could be Corrie.  Not quite like the English Setters, but this pic is from a Greek breeder.  OK, so now we know Corrie is a large part Setter.

1059 – Monday 30th April:  Over the Hill to Biot

The drive down the mountain was ‘interesting’.  Fine for us in our big motorhome, except for all the other buggers!  We encountered the following, all coming up the pass, but on our side of the road … bikes, lorries, BMW group and Porsche convoy … throw in tight bends and being really low on fuel!  Coming down hills, I was free wheeling to conserve the diesel.  At a town, a local told us where to refill … thank goodness I asked, as it was not quite on our route and would have missed it.

We got parked up at the campsite we’ve used before, Parc des Maurettes and showered.  We met Sarah, Jade, Cian and S’s mum-in-law, Eileen in the nearby park … lovely for dog walking and hide and seek.  Later J and I cycled, towing CO2, up to Biot for supper and Jade was allowed to stay up for the BIG SURPRISE.  Such a big surprise, that she’d told James about his birthday cake at least 3 times … ssh, it’s a surprise!

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1060-1063 – Tuesday 1st May – Friday 4th May:  Up Through France

Farewell to Sarah & Co at the campsite … she had to pop over to pick up some of Cian’s clothes that were in my washing loads… what’s the point of having family, it you don’t abuse their machines!

Just 3 big driving days with stops in Chirens and Chamouilley … again we saw very little of either town, other than dog walks…. Chamouilley was a super pitch right beside a canal.  Wednesday evening saw us back at Bergues … an aire with no services that we’ve used a few times.

Having done the drive from the south of France in 3 days, we had a day in hand before our tunnel crossing.  So it was a late start, a run and a lunch out.

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Chamouilley.

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1064-1067 – Saturday 5th to Tuesday 9th May:  Back to Blighty

For once the sun shone on the M25 and there were only a few minor hold ups.  We are always struck by how congested, inhabited and just plain busy the S of England is.  Another thing we’ve found is that the consideration of other drivers is no better than France or Greece … Italy is another matter!  It doesn’t seem to matter if we are in the van or the car, other road users drive far too close and overtake when really they shouldn’t!  And I do not drive that slowly … honest!

Maddy popped over for supper on Saturday.

On Sunday, Sinead joined us for soup and a dog walk.  I watched the end of neice Zozo’s cricket match … for her to bowled out in minutes with 1 run … but they won by that very single run.  As an aside … cricket really IS dull to watch.  Then roast chicken supper with the Aged Ps, Zozo and Louis.

Monday saw us at sister Clare’s for a BBQ.  And in between, we’ve been making good use the Aged P’s washing machine, attic and shed!

On the medical front, J had scans 1 and 2 (MRI and CT).  With results and the consultant appointment not until 18th May, we decided to do a mini trip up to Scotland.

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Zozo modelling her prom dress …. wow!

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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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…..