Blah

I’m sorry but I won’t get round to writing everyday whilst we’re abroad this time. It’s not about lack of effort, nor about things to write about, it’s just the wifi at the campsite (which is free) is also broken. I guess you get what you pay for. I

an illusion in a church in Blois

an illusion in a church in Blois

posted the previous blog at Blois railway station, and popping into town will be how I post this one. But I afraid I’m not going to bust a gut to get the thing out there.

We wandered around Amboise yesterday (Tuesday) morning in what was the last we saw of Mrs Sun for over thirty six hours. Amboise is one of the many Loire towns and is among the best (better than Tours which we did a couple of months ago and Blois, which should be pronounced ‘blah’, which we did today). There is the Chateaux, Leonardo D’Vinci’s house and an accompanying little town with some nice old streets and, of course, the mighty Loire and our campsite island v close by. We had coffee and a look see and then, with the clouds coming in, set up camp for the long haul. It rained and rained and whilst we managed to eat under the awning, we were never far from getting wet.

Chateaux Blah

Chateaux Blah

The new board game ‘Catan’ was our pleasure among the raindrops. Think Risk, but make it slightly more complex and discard Kamchatka, mix in a bit of Monopoly and you have it. It certainly kept us entertained for a while.

we took a train

we took a train

Today we took the train to Blah (€7.20 return), wandered round looking at squares, churches and whatnot, had a coffee followed by a picnic by the Loire and then got on the train and came home again. Blah is ok and worth a visit, but it lacks the olde-worlde and close-knitness or Amboise. On return we did some admin and we all went for runs. Both C and I are still running six days a week and today I was out for 38 quick minutes, probably looking close to 9kms – and feeling v pleased with myself.

image

Mrs Sun is reticently back with us, but there is still a cool wind. I’d follow Baxterbus’ continuing advice. Don’t go where the Ladleys are – the weather will be pants. And so it is…

Le Loire

Where was I? Of yes. We finished off at Mary’s by helping out at her annual lunch party. We seemed to have more time this time, both in preparation and during the event. Both of us managed to talk to a number of her guests and, you know what, when

in Mary's backgarden

in Mary’s backgarden

I’m in my eighties I hope I’m half as sharp as some of the folk I spoke to. I don’t know what the key is to stopping your wits from visiting another country as you get older, but I hope we have the appropriate border controls in place.

Bex and Steven arrived with the accompanying whirlwind and we played Mexican Trains (too complicated to explain – think dominoes on steroids) until we were too tired to play anymore. The rain came when we were packing up Doris for the off (it had poured on the Friday – what is happening to this country?) and we made it to Richard and Caroline’s for tea and then an indoor BBQ, such was the weather. They had just returned from a week’s walking in the Pyrenees and they looked v well, although the last thing they needed was the Ladleys to descend on them and locust-like eat them out of house and home.

prepping for the party

prepping for the party

We booked the midnight crossing having found a site on the Loire (and I mean on the Loire – we’re on the island at Amboise) which didn’t appear to cost and arm and a leg – €20 a night for the four of us – and joined the accompanying Romanians on the Pride of Bucharest landing at Calais at 1am. Two things here: firstly you wouldn’t have thought there had been any issues with the Dover to Calais thing – it was busy but simple and pain free; nextly I think we were among the only Brits on the boat. It was like ferrying from Iguomenitsa to Brindisi where we were definitely the only Western Europeans on a boat with over 200 Eastern Europeans on board. I guess they’re all heading home for the summer?

locust like

locust like

We slept briefly just outside Calais. Steven and Bex had the luxury of the best bed in the world of motorhoming, C slept on the floor and me in the driver’s chair. It worked surprisingly well. The journey, into a stiff wind and with two extra bods Doris’ fuel consumption dropped from an average of 33mpg to 30mpg, was again surprisingly stress free and we arrived at Amboise at tea time for their annual Leonardo D’Ivinci festival. We settled in, ate, showered (hurrah!), ate and slept.

five nights here

five nights here

Funny thing? The two reoccurring issues with Doris have been the coughing when she’s cold and wet and the 12 volts tripping. Well it seems that the problems have been solved by….wait for it, playing with the wires. I read on the net about checking the wires from the MAP sensor to the ECU as they can become corroded. So I played about with them and, hey presto, not a whisper. Five days, much of it cold and wet, and not a cough. She pulls beautifully. And as for the 12v I think I’ve found the connection that is dodgy and whilst the 12v has tripped once, I went straight to the connection, played with it and all was fine with its world. So that’s all good.

Amboise

Amboise

Not sure what’s up today. Amboise for coffee I think. And then….?

Have a good week.

Time for a haircut…

The anticipation is, I guess, for our upcoming ‘holiday’ where we are taking Bex and Steven to France for ten days. The Ferry is booked for midnight on Sunday and we come back the following Friday. Doris will not know what’s hit her and we are going to take out some of our longer term stuff so we can find room and reduce weight.

over the Thames with a new haircut

over the Thames with a new haircut

Campsites will be the order of the day, but my initial fear of ‘cost’ has been dissipated a bit as the ferry crossing (strikes, burning vehicles and immigrants willing) was £168 return down from over £300 when I did the initial research the other day. Well done Ferrysavers.com. And with the € at 1.39, once we’re there all will be well.

It’s been a busy few days. We helped Mum celebrate her eighty second birthday with a Chinese watching the follow-on day of the Open Golf. We left them in the same state that we found them – elderly, I’m afraid. I shouldn’t say this out load but I’m not sure how sustainable it all is in the medium term – thankfully I’m not committed to work in any ‘normal’ sense so if there’s a crisis we can come running.

Talking of which, and no names no pack drills, it is possible that I might be assisting a friend in a work sense for a month or so coming up. It’s an interesting area, one which catches my imagination, and with spare capacity between now and when we hope to head south to the Alps for Autumn walking, I’m hoping to add some horsepower which may benefit everyone. No suits though!

we went here....

we went here….

We’ve ended up at Mary’s to help her with her annual summer bash – planned for Saturday. En route we stopped off and had supper with Army friends Seymour and Debbie. If was good to catch up with them and to find the time to get to know their children better. Good luck to Kikki with her new job on Monday!

Then Wells (staying at Deer Leap) for Doctors, Dentists, haircut (for C – eventually my efforts need to be brought under control) and some time with Elizabeth and Andrew, my old headmistress and her husband. We talked about life, owning property in France and, bless her, Unsuspecting Hero – which she had read and enjoyed. The book sales have dried up for the moment, which I’d like to say isn’t a surprise, but I have nothing to gauge what should be happening there, so anything is possible. I’m definitely not finished with this and post France I have a number of avenues to pursue…and then there’s the sequel.

...and saw this,  the fourth plinth at TS.

…and saw this, the fourth plinth at TS.

So that’s you up to date. We went to London yesterday to Stanley Gibbons to help Mary collect a few QE2 stamps she’s missing from her collection. Train out, lunch and train back. It’s easy from Godalming.

Have a great weekend.

A lazy weekend

will  my bum fit through this?

will my bum fit through this?

Our last day at Ilam Park saw us undertake another long trek up onto one set of hills, down a sharp valley and then back up again only to fall off into our valley via some very feisty cows with their calves (= danger). It was a great walk with some lovely views of the Dales which we hadn’t really appreciated before. So we’ll be back.

We stopped to see Nick and Chris just south of Sleaford. Nick had just returned from a four week yacht race to the Azores and back, which if you saw the photos you’d realise wasn’t a narrowboat holiday. Two men, one thirty foot yacht and ten days continuous sailing into the mid-Atlantic with bits breaking and falling off just when you didn’t need them to. Before we got to theirs we stopped off at Belton Park NT and ran round the huge deer park in lovely weather. We are still running six days out of seven and have now stopped drinking weekdays and are feeling incredibly smug with ourselves.

Belton Park - good for a run

Belton Park – good for a run

The next day (Saturday) we drove via Peterborough – which has got to be the worst city for places to park your MH; every car park was height restricted apart form Asda’s – and then found a little haven for the weekend north of Bury St Edmunds. For £9 a night plus EHU it’s perfect and with Mrs Sun all dolled up and looking fabulous we did loads of admin including polishing Doris, finished servicing the bikes and whatnot. I also watched on ‘catch up TV’ Episode 5 of Humans, so we were up to date with Episode 6 tonight. But we did go for a run so that balanced a lazy day.

baa!

baa!

And the sport! Thankfully the Ashes series doesn’t have to be defined by England’s abysmal performance at Lords and with three tests remaining we might be able to claw something back. Well done the Murrays with the tennis and The Open is also shaping up to be a humdinger. I love it.

the field out the back of the campsite

the field out the back of the campsite

Off tomorrow to Great Bentley for Mum’s birthday and then a final dash down to Wells for Dentists and Doctors. It’s all go! And UH continues to sell at about a book a day but I have a plan to see if we can boost sales…more to follow.

Have a great week.

Back to basics

It’s a little like old times at the moment. We moved on from The Caravan Club certified location just outside Lichfield and by chance moved a little further north to Ilam, snuggled in the underbelly of the Peak District. We’re on one of only three National Trust campsites, one of which is on the Ilam Estate, a fairly austere pile handed over with strict instructions that it’s should be a youth hostel. For £14 you get all the normal caravan site mod-cons including more baaing sheep than you really know what to do with. Unlike the penetrating automotive hum of the M6, which was ever present at the last place, here the bleating sheep is a much more natural soundtrack and, unless you listen, you hardly notice it at all.

image

In short, the site is lovely and a perfect tonic against the backdrop of IMF/EU squabbling over poor old Greece’s debt (they’re going to have to earn more than they spend at some point) and the Iranian nuclear deal which, on the face of it, looks like the best of a number of poor options. Bring back the Cold War I say! At least then we all knew who the bad guys were even if we were never far from being radioactive toast. Did I tell you about my role in bringing down the Iron Curtain? Maybe some day.

On the way north we stopped off at Sudbury House and managed to walk round the grounds between squalls. Another red brick affair – the hall was closed especially for us, although the accompanying Children’s Museum was open and was interesting enough.

Sudbury House - it might have been nice if it were open

Sudbury House – it might have been nice if it were open

Yesterday we walked and walked – over six miles, literally up and down limestone dale. Dovedale is lovely and well worth a walk, but the surrounding hills are just as enchanting. Climbing out of Dovedale did require three points of contact (for quite a stretch – footpath my elbow!) but, again, the views and noisy sheep at the top reminded us what a green and pleasant land we live in at times. C thinks all the noise is because the now fairly plump lambs are being separated from their mums ready to accompany the mint sauce.

Doris is camped behind this place

Doris is camped behind this place

Oh, and good news! We have three new bits of kit which we never knew we needed, but now wonder what we ever did without them: a new cordless small kettle (cordless = good); a collapsible water dispenser; and a beach tent. Yippee!

new stuff!

new stuff!

Today we cycled up and down dale with a strong breeze lifting Mrs Sun’s skirt, and returned after a picnic for me to finish servicing the bikes (including blowing apart an inner tube which did sound like someone being shot) and some other admin. UH continues to sell at about a book a day, but I’m not yet out of marketing ideas. More to follow there (and thanks to Nicky C for the school advertising).

More walking tomorrow and then off to see friends Nick and Chris on Friday. Have a pleasant rest of the week.

Must do better

As an “author” (the answer to a ‘what do you do’ question the other day on the phone) I’ve just reread the rubbish I’ve disguised as posts over the past couple of weeks and realise that I must work harder. I know this is absolutely a digital diary for us, but I do hope to make it entertaining for those of you sad enough not to have something better to do.

just next to Doris in our own field

just next to Doris in our own field

So here goes.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched/listened to so much sport in my life. Loved the cricket – TMS keeping me right up to date with their balance of accurate reporting and irreverent and often hilarious comment. And we have even watched some of the more obscure tennis matches. Federer, who was so good to actually be a little bit on the dull side against Murray, must be a sure bet for the final we’re watching at the

our Bex

our Bex

moment. But, unusually for us, we also watched some of the women’s final and yesterday’s the men’s doubles. Poor old Mrs Murray! Her two boys tripping up over the last hurdle. Oh well, I’m sure the pay cheques are considerably more than the £41 I’ve earned with Unsuspecting Hero so far. And with the Open from St Andrews next weekend plus more cricket from Lords it’s a bumper summer of sport.

How are we? Well much better now we’re parked on our own space. Technically it’s not our space of course, but the lovely little CL just outside Lichfield – just a field with a farm shop a couple of hundred metres away – is perfect. No electricity, but for £5 a night and good views in every direction, it works for us. Having paid we ‘own’ the space for twenty-four hours and that’s such a better feeling than parked up on someone else’s drive. Today, with Bex and Steven back at their place (they stayed with us the night before last), we have really just pottered about: C knitting, me writing (and taking advice on marketing Unsuspecting Hero now that it’s in super shape thanks to Mikki’s editing) and other stuff. The weather today (Sunday) has been hit and miss, but just now Mrs Sun has burst to the front of the audience and is prancing about in the mosh pit shouting ‘look at me!’ Bless her. I just can’t see it lasting long.

new air mattress...not sure that's going to go in there

new air mattress…not sure that’s going to go in there

With Bex and Steven yesterday we popped into Lichfield and had a poke around. It’s not a bad small city with plenty of old houses and some decent shops. We had coffee at Cafe Neros and lunch at ‘Spoons, our fave. For under £4 each we had a decent meal and a drink. The place was full of older people taking advantage of the inexpensive menu and trying their best to keep their teeth against a wave of chewy beefburger and sticky wrap.

What’s fun about being with those two is that they’re a lover of games and puzzles. So we always had a crossword puzzle open or played some board game or other. They are bright youngsters and put C’s and my general knowledge to shame. Two weeks today we’re off to France in Doris together. I think we plumped for The Loire as a destination as a balance between not too far and somewhere with something to see. I’ll let you know how it all goes. We hope to come back still remaining friends.

ooh, look at what I've just knitted

ooh, look at what I’ve just knitted

After an initial flurry UH is selling at an average of one book a day. This is hardly adding much to my Jaguar F Type savings fund, so I’m going to have to do some marketing at some point. I do have two possible ‘publishing’ avenues, but I’m going to keep those under my hat at the moment. I have seven 5-star reviews and some lovely comments, but if this to be a major part of our lives it needs to be much more than that. We’ll see…

My new camera is working brilliantly without my input. It’s more complicated than my previous one and I do need a good slab of time to get a grip of it. It has so many functions you’d need a masters in electronics to work it all out…oh, I remember now, I have one of those. Oh well. Where’s a Kodak when you need one.

I think we’re off tomorrow, heading east to Colchester. Our friends Nick and Chris want to see us and they’re en route, so we’ll look forward to that. We’ll find another CL somewhere and make the most of our newly found freedom and enjoy our own space.

Have a great week.

Still moving on…

We finished at Jen’s with a quiet Sunday of dog walking and, for me, Episode Four of Humans. Are you watching it? It’s about ‘Synths’ taking our place in the world – human-like robots, designed to perfection but with rogue elements displaying more and more human traits. I know it’s an old theme, but C4 have done a fabulous job of making it more complex than just runaway robots. I’m hooked for sure.

mmmm, this feels good

mmmm, this feels good

Monday we went to Annie’s to pick up some mail and then dog-legged back on ourselves to Peter and Karen’s where we had a lovely time catching up. I played some mock waterpolo with Peter in his outside pool. Fabulous. We’re both ex-competitive swimmers from when we were in the Army and the following morning we went to a local spa where Peter took me on over 700 metres and showed me a clean pair of soles. Oh well….if we had put our running shoes on it would probably have been a different story.

Penkridge - very tidy

Penkridge – very tidy

Then onto Wolverhampton (Penkridge to be exact) and to meet up with Rebecca and Steven. They’re renting Steven’s Dad’s house which backs onto the canal. It is a lovely spot. Penkridge is typically Midlandsesque. It’s cute in a way with lots of old brick houses all immaculately kept. Even the suburbs are all manicured to an inch of their lives with no room for weeds. I’m not sure what happens to our race as we head further north, but certainly those with the money to buy their own castle go out of their way to make their space special.

The first night we went to a local pub quiz where, no surprise perhaps with two bright young teachers and three old farts (Steven’s Dad came with us) we won. Bex and Steven won last week as well, and the prize is a plateful of sandwiches and chips the following week. Yum, yum…

the intelligent bit of the quiz team

the intelligent bit of the quiz team

I went on a bit the other day about our future and this itinerant life. That feeling still lingers, but we did get out on our feet and walk into town and the down the canal for a bit yesterday. It’s that glorious solitude with no external pressures that make what we do often so special. It was great to get that feeling back after over a month of necessary tooing and froing without any time to settle. We now have a period of about ten days without any commitment nor any ambition, so hopefully this will give us time to reassess and reflect – with hopefully positive outcomes.

on the Ridgeway after a run

on the Ridgeway after a run

As for UH. Well I had a snip of interest from an agent (via a friend of mine), who was interested but only if it had not been published on Amazon. Well, it has, as we know. So I’ve gone back to my friend and told him that I can remove it from Amazon if that would help. We’ll see. Mikki continues to proofread and the aim is to upload the latest version when she’s finished. I will need to think about how to embark on an advertising campaign, but only once it’s up there in its best format possible. For the record I have sold about forty books (it’s difficult to be exact as for those who use Kindle Select where the book is free, I get a page readout, not books sold – it’s complicated).

Off today eastwards. We aim to be back in Colchester for my Mum’s birthday on 20 July and then a couple of days of more admin and visits before we take Bex and Steven to France for twelve days. Quart into a pint pot and all that…

Have a great end of week.