Monday, 30 December 2013

Our last few days in the UK - more visiting

We departed the campsite to head for The Three Horseshoes in Alton.  They are in Britstops and are getting used to us now.  Overnight there and a very pleasant dinner with Iain’s daughter, her partner and his lovely boys.  Yes, really they are very nice kids.

The following day we moved onto the George Inn in Alton for an adult dinner.  We were allowed to stay again in the car park but this was no so pleasant.  We were squished up against the fence, the other side of which appeared to be a graveyard for gravestones – pretty eerie really especially when the dog had to be let out at 3.00am.

The following morning we had to head off to Cobham services to meet some work colleagues of Iain’s and to hand over his company laptop and phone – it was all becoming a bit final. You could see the look of relief on his face that after all this waiting it was now almost over.   The services give you 2 hours free parking and then it’s £25 after that.  We arrived 20 minutes early, they arrived 45 minutes late so the meeting which was supposed to be a bit of social and lunch as well was cut very short.  The weather was foul and Cobham services was really busy.  Still by having to be away by 1.40pm at least that gave us a good chance of getting to east Kent in the daylight. 

This was now Monday 23rd December and as I said the weather was foul.  While waiting for our friends we had a look at the weather forecast.  The Dartford Crossing was about to be shut due to high winds and gusts of 80mph were being forecast.  The ferry crossings from Dover were also disrupted.  Because of the uncertainty of the weather we still hadn’t booked our ferry to Calais and we wanted to travel on Boxing Day.  I checked out the 7 day forecast and Boxing Day actually looked to be the best – well the only day that there wasn’t a storm forecast, so I got on a booked it with Flea-bag ferries – it was starting to feel very real.

We left the services in torrential rain and the journey was horrendous.  In parts we were down to about 45 mph and even our truck was being blown about, especially when we got to the Manston Airport area of Kent when one gust got me and nearly threw us into the hard shoulder.

We arrived in Monkton at about 3.30 – just a bit before dark and luckily we managed to fit onto Harry and Kay’s drive.  Harry is one of my oldest friends – well not in age but in time.  I first met him in 1975 and although we hadn’t seen him or Kay for 11 years it was just as if it was yesterday.  Not only that but they are also keen motorhomers so we had a lot of stories to talk about and swap. Unfortunately along with the stories a lot of wine was flowing and I retired for the night rather confused – well confused as a newt actually.  During the night a huge storm hit and although we didn’t know anything about it at the time (did I say I was a little confused?) by the next morning all of Monkton and a large part of east Kent was without electricity. 

Well to say that I felt rough in the morning is an understatement.  I managed to get up at a reasonable time, then went back to bed, then tried again a couple more times until I managed to stay up at about 11. 
Thank you to Harry and Kay for your wonderful hospitality – it was great to see you again and we really WON’T leave it so long next time.  Thanks also for your book, I’ve started reading it and am enjoying it very much. An opportunity to give  Harry a plug here - check it out  A Yachtsman's Tale

Luckily we didn’t have too far to go, only about 25 miles to Folkestone but there was no way that I was fit to drive. About 1 o’clock we had a discussion and decided that Iain would have to drive.  Oh no! not only did I swear that I would NEVER drink alcohol again (actually not that day anyway), I then had to be a passenger.  I don’t want to labour a point but I did carry one of the dog’s poo bags with me at all times – just in case!!!!! 

Now we were going into unknown territory.  We’re not much for wild camping, we prefer to know that we are allowed to stop somewhere, but we were about to arrive in Folkestone with nowhere to stay. All the campsites were closed for the winter and we didn’t want to be too far away from the family get-together.
We parked up in Wear Bay Road which is on the top of the cliffs at the east end of Folkestone.  Now this might have been very pleasant during the summer but did I mention that we had had a terrific storm the night before? Well we were experiencing the tail end of this now.  Iain had to go off to find milk and I needed a lie down.  That didn’t work and without again going into detail I was feeling a bit better about half an hour later.  I wasn’t entirely happy to be wild camping on such a main road  but Mr Always Right had decided that this was ok, so it had to be ok for me too. 

Now that I was feeling a little better we decided that we could go family visiting.  I did however make the decision that I was going to have an alcohol free day (Xmas eve – unthinkable) just in case the police wanted us to move on during the night – at least I would be able to.  I do think it was more because I was still feeling the effects of what amounted to alcohol poisoning.  Anyway that decision was to be of benefit  later.

We had dinner with the family and then returned to Jan later in the evening.  Mr Right disappeared off to bed and was sleeping soundly – as was the smelly one.  I wasn’t particularly tired when I got into bed so there was no way that I was going to sleep.  We were at the top of the cliff, with a fair drop to one side (perhaps on the other side of the road I might have felt a little less vulnerable).  The wind was blowing a hoolie; all the twats (skylights) had to be closed as they rattled like mad and I was just not going to settle.  So at about  1 am , sober as the proverbial judge,  I climbed into the drivers seat, started the engine and moved us into a side road.  Bliss, no wind howling, no fear of being blown off the top of the cliff (yes I know I worry about nothing) and I was now able to sleep comfortably.  

In the morning, Iain woke up first and got up. He opened the door to go out for a smoke, to find that he wasn’t where he had been when he went to bed and had been transported elsewhere and he hadn’t a clue where he was now.   It must have been quite a shock.  

It was Christmas morning and we took the dog for a nice long walk along the beach at Folkestone and into the town.  We are always scouting for places that we might park up legally overnight and for the motorhomers reading, you can park near the harbour in the lorry park for £13 per night – I know that’s a bit steep but we always sleep more soundly if we know that we are allowed to be parked somewhere.  There are other places in Hythe and Dover that you can park if anyone wants to know them. A couple of lorry drivers we spoke to said they didn’t have any problem parking along the front near to the lorry park in the winter and didn’t get any bother.

A lovely Christmas dinner was cooked by Anne and Neil, thanks - it's been many years since I haven't cooked Christmas dinner - it felt very strange but was most welcome.  That night we tucked ourselves up into bed to look forward to the morning when we would finally get our ferry to France to begin our adventure.

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