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.


Campsites

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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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.