Friday, 15 August 2014

Moving on - back to our travels

I've now got some good broadband, so I've updated my photos from my last but one blog from Stratford and visiting friends, but here's my latest installment.

I've hardly had any sleep last night so having got up early I thought I'd take the opportunity to prepare my latest blog post. I can't publish it yet as the campsite we're on has rubbish internet, and it's expensive. We invested 1 euro for 30 minutes to try it out and it was really frustrating. I'm just glad that we didn't invest 20 euros for the week as you can't even connect most of the time. We're in Oostende at the moment, whiling away a week before going off into Holland. We're only here because we've heard that campsites in Holland are really expensive in August.

Last night was one of the worst for weather that we'd experienced in a long time and I was woken at about 3am with the rain splattering in my face, I'd left my window and fly screen open and the wind was just in the wrong direction and blowing the rain in. I closed the fly screen but the breeze was still too much to sleep, so had to close the window as well. Then I noticed the banging. Bang, Bang, Bang, that was just too much. It sounded as though something was banging on the side of the motorhome under my head. As this was an unexplainable sound, I just had to get up to investigate. So off I went, out into the rain and the dark with my torch and found that the electricity cable cupboard (yes it is just about below my head) which hinges from the top was being blown open slightly with the wind and then banging back down. Stupid thing can't be closed when the electricity cable is out so it's normally left ajar as it was last night. So I stuffed an old rag into the cupboard to deaden the bang and back to bed. But it was too late, I was awake but as per normal my beloved slept soundly through it all. I should be able to get my blog uptodate over the next couple of days as it looks like we are going to be confined to barracks while the remains of hurricane Bertha does her worst.

In my last post I mentioned all the people that we met up with while we were back “home” but I just thought I'd say sorry to all those that I had meant to meet up with but just ran out of time. Less than 3 weeks and we couldn't fit everyone in.

A memory from before we left Fillongley

Anyone who knows us will know that our dog is a bit mad, she does circles, sometimes very fast small circles when she is waiting for her dinner or a walk, and sometimes very large circles when she runs off lead in a park. I've often thought that we should have called her (spinning) Jenny, instead of Connie. We had wondered if she would remember the park that we used to walk her in. Even though we had not been there for over 8 months, she'd probably done over 5,000 laps in the 8 years we had her. Firstly we got to the park and she got out of the car, saw where she was and dashed back into the car and I had to prize her out. I don't know what is so frightening about the park. Then she finally decided that she might as well follow us rather than get left behind. The run began, big circles and then she remembered her routine, big circles twice around the scout hut. This was something that she always did when we walked anti-clockwise around the park. Why, we haven't got a clue? But it's just something she always did. Not once, not three times, but always twice around the scout hut as she always did.

Who says dogs have short memories. We think she might have a bit of dog aspergers, but we love her anyway.

While we were in Fillongley, we came the closest we have ever come to losing Connie. One day took a walk down into the village and as it hadn't rained for a while we trotted off down the footpaths and across the fields, which gave us a chance to let her off her lead for a good sniff and a run. We dodged the cows without udders in the first field, the next brought us into a wheat field, down the lane and then through a field of oil seed rape, then another potential cows without udders field before passing through the park. It happened in the oil seed rape field. Those of you not familiar with oil seed rape, this grows to about 3 feet tall on spindly stalks which then spreads out into a blanket of leaves and pods (wish I'd had my camera with me). It's a bit like a mini rain forest. Unfortunately for us, Connie must have smelled a bunny or some other interesting creature and decided that it would be great to follow the smell into the field. OMG the dog had gone. We couldn't see her at all. In wheat, you can see the ears moving as the dog passes through the field but here – NOTHING. Unfortunately when she gets into a panic and can't see us she has a tendency just to run, in any direction – like she did on the beach in Spain. There we were, calling and calling her name and – NOTHING. This situation is of course exacerbated by the fact that her radars don't work properly. Since she had cauliflower ear in both ears (at different times, caused by excessing spinning and banging her head on something in the way) she has had a bit of trouble with direction finding. So there we were calling and calling. The “forest” was so dense that we couldn't see her and there was no way of finding where she was in the field, and it was a BIG field, she could be anywhere, running around like a headless chicken not being able to find her way out. I thought this was just typical, we'd travelled some 4,000 miles and here we were in our home village and we'd lost the dog. After what seemed like a lifetime but was probably about 20 minutes, she just popped out of the field back onto the footpath about 10 feet away from us. Of course when we got to the village we just had to lower the stress levels by embibing in a little drinkie at the pub before walking back to the Weavers.

Our first stop when leaving Fillongley was Cheltenham, where we were to get a service on the van and the dreaded 6 new tyres. Motorhome Medics is a short trip from the campsite and after leaving the van we hopped on a bus into Gloucester for a day out. Having picked up the van we went back to the campsite and parked up, although it wasn't very far it felt like we had a new van. It was a lovely evening and we sat outside until quite late. Strangely, the next day our neighbours said to us that they hadn't been able to sit outside the previous evening because of the smell of burning rubber and oil emanating from our van. Well that was news to us and we hadn't noticed anything.

While we were in Cheltenham at Briarfields, we might have been filmed for TV. I would have been up for it, but we were walking the dog when the TV people came around interviewing for a travel program about holidaying in the Cheltenham and Gloucester area. Although we didn't get interviewed, we might still be on there as they were taking quite a few shots around the site. So if anyone sees our van on TV, let us know what we missed.

Off then to Cheddar to visit Connor on our way back to Spain.

Connor lives at Daneswood Care Home in Shipham, about 3 miles outside Cheddar in the Mendips. It is a converted hotel and it never ceases to amaze us that they find so many nice, young and caring people to work for them. We met Lauren who is Connor's newest carer. Carehomes get a lot of bad press but we've always been very pleased with Daneswood and the way they treat their Clients. There is also so much creativity around and here's a picture of the mural outside which as all the initials of all the clients on the end of each branch.

As I've said before, we have found a very basic campsite near to where Connor lives which is a close as we can park, so it's very convenient.

Basic, but we like it like this, the only van there and a few tents up in the field.  Lovely views
Iain's dad was coming up from Exmouth to join us for a night and it's the first time we've ever had anyone stay with us in the van so it was going to be a bit strange. Our instructions to dad were to bring your own chair (we don't carry chairs for visitors) a duvet or sleeping bag and a pillow, and he could sleep on our sofa bed (which we hadn't used before). At the moment the campsite doesn't have any EHU so we knew we would need the generator to blow up the bed as it is a fixed unit. On the few occasions we have needed it, the generator had never let us down and had been serviced only a few days before, also we had tested the blow-up unit on the bed when we got the van, so we were confident that this would be ok. We thought we'd just put it on earlier in the evening as I wanted to use the electric cooker. The generator fired up beautifully, but there was no electricity coming through. Iain had a look in the locker but couldn't find anything wrong or any trip switches etc to indicate what the problem was. And of course the sofa bed is a fixed unit and can't be pumped up manually. So who was going to break the news to dad? Of course this was left to me. Oh well, time to improvise. Some of the bed covers the sofa cushions and I covered the rest with as many duvets and blankets as I could find to stop the metal bits digging in, this thankfully gave just enough room to sleep on.

In the morning, Iain rang Motorhome Medics to see if they knew what the problem was and having gone through some checks, hadn't got a clue. I was really glad that we had needed to fire up the generator when we were only in Cheddar and not when we had already gone over to the continent. At least a visit back to Cheltenham after leaving Cheddar would be only about 40 miles out of our way. Iain then went back to the generator locker and having had a good look around, found a small switch on the side of the control panel and lo and behold the electricity came back on. It's amazing how many small switches you find in a motorhome that you haven't got a clue what they do and yet they are really important.

As we now had the means to pump up the sofa bed, I asked dad if he'd like to stay another night with us and it took him about 2 seconds to make up his mind with an “I might as well”. So with the sofa bed inflated a much better night's sleep was promised. However with the bed inflated, there is no way that we can get out of the van without disturbing the occupant so I told dad that he was on “Ticky Ticky” duty in the morning. A puzzled look came back and I explained that if he heard the Ticky Ticky then it was his job to let the dog out, the Ticky Ticky being the sound of her nails on the floor when she spins around asking to go out in the morning.

It was ok having someone to stay with us but I wouldn't want to do it for too long and it was a good job that we were able to sit outside most of the time.

We had originally intended to spend about a week travelling across the UK after leaving Cheddar, but we wanted to see Neil and Anne in Folkestone before getting the ferry, and to pick up our post. However they were going on holiday so we cut short our journey and decided to get to Folkestone earlier. This meant that we would stop over only one night on the way to Folkestone, and also meant that we wouldn't be able to visit some other people that we had planned to see on our way through. So sorry Diane, but we were unable to pick up our “special” clothes from you that we had left in February, hope you don't mind keeping them a bit longer – although hopefully we won't be needing them for some time.

We found a very nice “CL” in Bracknell, not far from the M4 to break up our journey and I would have been happy to have stayed there a few days but we had already made arrangements to be in Folkestone. On a walk with the dog we found a rather lovely community orchard and an enclosed paddock for dog walking. It was hard to believe that we were so close to Heathrow.

I had ordered some prescription sunglasses in Coventry and arranged to have them sent to the Dover store for me to pick up there. On the way to Folkestone, we went out of our way to Dover to pick up my sunglasses and also to get a prescription for me. This failed on both counts. Having persuaded the doctor to give me 6 months supply the pharmacy didn't have enough and then the opticians proudly opened the case for my new sunglasses only to find that they weren't sunglasses at all, but clear lenses. So they had to go back. The problem now was where to have them sent. So they are being sent to Folkestone for Anne to post to me in Holland. I can see these sunglasses following me around Europe at this rate. I wonder if I'll ever get them.

We had a very pleasant evening with Neil and Anne and Iain's younger brother Sean joined us for the evening. It was great to catch up.

We had booked in Ypres for 3rd August so we had a few days to kick around East Kent before getting the ferry. We wild-camped in Folkestone overnight and then took the short 20'ish mile journey to Ramsgate - down memory lane

1 comment:

  1. Good to see your back on the road ..Enjoy your winter trip. Enjoy reading your blog