Monthly Archives: April 2015

Stolen!

Seal, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk
This is not how I felt at the end of this journey.

Oh dear readers, are you sick and tired of hearing how we get it so badly wrong every time we travel or are you smugly pleased that it’s not you, that you’re not in this script?

‘It’s not here.’

‘It must be. Have we looked down here?’

‘Yes.’

‘Is it that one?’

‘No.’

‘Is it that one?’

‘No!’

’Did you check the number plate?’

‘YES!’

‘Maybe it’s in the workshop.’

‘Of course it’s not!’

‘Where is it then?’

‘It’s been stolen! Bl***y h***! It didn’t have any security fitted. The insurance won’t be valid.’

‘Surely the site has security and insurance,’ but I was talking to thin air as himself had gone looking for a third time in the same place hoping our new caravan/travel trailer/RV would magically appear.

I beetled off in the opposite direction to the storage facility office. Himself overtook me and burst through the doors.

I was reminded of the time our VW Golf disappeared overnight from its parking place in the little hill town of Vejer de la Frontera in Spain. The police had picked it up and plunked in down in a car park a 10 minute walk away. We were told the town council wanted to plant a palm tree where it had stood or were they playing a joke on los Inglés?

Meanwhile . . . . ‘I can’t find it!’ himself blurted out to a startled-looking receptionist who didn’t know who he was or what he was talking about.

A competent-looking woman with a clipboard stepped out of the office and stated calmly, ‘I’ll just see if it’s where I think it should be.’

Should?

She vanished out a side door and we stood dumbly uncertain for a moment then raced after her back to where we’d been looking. And there it was – all twenty-six feet of it. We must have walked and driven past it six times.

‘It wasn’t there five minutes ago,’ I said blithely to her. As her worry lines creased into a smile I realized that she’d been concerned too.

And that was just the start of the day.

We couldn’t get the hitch to engage or the jockey wheel to disengage. I would explain what that means but you’d glaze over and go find something interesting to read. Suffice it to say that a five minute job took an hour.

The journey was OK-ish but I was increasingly hating sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle. In our big American left-hand drive truck on roads originally for a right-hand drive horse and cart my driver was in the hedge and I was sat in the middle of the road. Every time the central cat’s eyes dunk, dunk, dunked under the truck wheels when the road narrowed I knew the caravan was encroaching at least a foot into the oncoming traffic – not funny on a blind bend. I got dizzy from holding my breath and my back is permanently kinked from leaning to the left to avoid imminent impact.

Chevy Silverado in its natural habitat.
Chevy Silverado in its natural habitat – wide road and on the right.

We made it to within five miles of our campsite and got lost. Himself stopped to read a sign that stated “Vehicles over 45 feet prohibited.” We are 45 feet, four inches. How do you turn a 45 foot four inch rig around on a single track road? You don’t. You swear loudly and repeatedly and carry on.

Looking for somewhere to just pull off the road and hyperventilate a bit we found ourselves parked outside a country post office – ideal for asking directions you’d think. They were lengthy, complicated and wrong and included a single-track humpback bridge with an S-bend. I closed my eyes and hoped not to hear a screeeech on the flint stone walls as we snaked through it.

There was, of course, no signal on our phones or the SatNav.

I’m not sure how we eventually found our way but we were leading a long parade when we turned off the road to the campsite six hours after leaving home for a 70 mile journey that became 95 miles – some of that excess in reverse.

Arriving tetchy, prickly, jittery, hungry, thirsty, weary and crabby we could have given the Seven Dwarves a run for their money. Attempting to set up on site we couldn’t get anything to work – electricity, gas, water, leveling, heating, fridge, cooker.

Chevy, caravan, Norfolk
A room with a view, but at what price to our psyches?

We blamed the dealer, the caravan, the campsite, the locals, the whole of the county of Norfolk and their roads and naturally each other for our woes but all the issues were simply down to our diminished mental capacities. I’m sure you could think of another word for it.

Though now washed, rested, warm, fed and as calm as I’ll ever be I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.

Sunset, Cley Church, Norfolk
A sunset to make it all worthwhile.

As pretty as a sunset . . . .

. . . . . sunrise at Long Key in the Florida Keys:

Long Key sunrise, Florida Keys

. . . . . and no I did not pop over there this morning. Photo taken December 2009. I knew, of course, that it would eventually come in handy for the WP photo challenge this week of Early Bird.

It wasn’t difficult to rouse myself for this photo op. I had the beach to myself, a lovely cup of tea and a spectacular show to watch put on by Mother Nature. The only problem was that the heat and humidity kept fogging my camera lens having just stepped out of the air-conditioned RV. Have you experienced that? It was a new one on me.

My French Connection

Hi ho, hi ho,

It’s off to France we go.

With a hop and a skip,

And a tunnel train trip,

We’re off to Wimereux.

It was actually four weeks ago that we went but I couldn’t replace go with went and make it rhyme.

On the verge of giving up on my French lessons, I remarked to himself before the trip, ‘I’m hopeless at French, I can’t remember anything. What’s the point of learning if you can’t remember?’

I’m the dummy in my ill-advised advanced class who tries to keep a low profile and goes home to look up the same words and phrases over and over again, then crams for the next week and writes little cheat notes I hide in my notebook. I was going to give my brain one last chance to redeem itself on a five day trip to the French coast, not far from where the train spits us out in our car.

I got on surprisingly well at hotel check-in leaving himself dumbfounded as I spoke in secret code with the receptionist.

‘What’s happening?’

‘I’ve got the key, the lift is over there and we’re on the third floor, room 307,’ and I strode off self-importantly. I gained confidence with each shop and restaurant encounter, even responding in French when I was spoken to in English.

My only disappointment was at tourist information where I asked about local walks speaking politely in French. The assistant threw a stream of unintelligible gobble-de-gook at me even after I asked her – in French – to speak more slowly. I grabbed the map she’d been jabbing at for reasons only known to her and left, bemused at her insensitivity working as she was at a seaside holiday resort close to the tunnel and ferry port of Calais, one of England’s main entries to France.

Perhaps she just doesn’t care for les anglais. Not that I’m English but she wouldn’t know that as we didn’t chit-chat and exchange pleasantries. I wasn’t able to tell her that my father had served in the American Army, landed at Normandy, fought for and was wounded for her country and she had better buck her ideas up.

beach toys
No sand castles in France – only sand châteaux

On the lookout for stamps on our last day I popped into a likely looking shop and asked. Himself stood by as I showed off my language skills. When we stepped out onto the street he said, ‘She said to go to the tabac. It’s just down here on the right,’ and he pointed it out to me. Hmm.

The tabac was only able to supply stamps for Europe but I was directed to the post office for stamps for the U.S. Feeling pleased with my French conversation I stopped to browse some English language newspapers for a bit of light relief before leaving the shop. Himself looked up from The Times and said, ‘She told you to go to La Poste, back to the church and turn right.’

Well! He dredged that up from two years of schoolboy French *! years ago!

I wasn’t feeling so clever then so went for a little nap on the promenade. Can you see me? Look closely:

Wimereux promenade, France

Here I am:

Wimereux promenade, France

 

Cruising with Walter Cronkite

Do you see that blob with her arm out under the rear stripey sail? That’s me at the helm of ‘Nightwind.’ The photographer was Walter Cronkite.

'Nightwind' Glass Clipper, Caribbean

It was the late 70’s and I was crewing on the charter yacht ‘Nightwind.’ Walter came down from New York with his wife, son and friend to spend some down time cut off from the world as this was before the days of mobile phones.

We were ghosting along under a light wind and Walter and the skipper hopped into the dingy to take some rather splendid souvenir photographs of ‘Nightwind’ under sail, some of which he posted to us later after they’d been developed (remember doing that?). Sadly, this one is now faded, scratched and blotched.

An enduring memory of THE Mr. Walter Cronkite was that he would ascertain our destination for the next day and read aloud about it from the cruising guide after dinner. Washing up, tinkering and tidying would halt and the other five of us on board would gather round to listen. I knew the guide off by heart and the islands were completely familiar to me but his sonorous voice, relaxed by his vacation, was mesmerizing. It was his news voice tuned down to a lullaby. What a treat.

I lived Afloat on this boat for two years cruising with charter passengers between Martinique and Grenada. And am still drifting.

If you are interested, or my terminology offends you, the rear stripey sail is the mizzen staysail.

I could have just re-posted Put That Back, a photo of Floating Islands desserts for this challenge, but that seemed a bit lazy.

Homelessness

‘We’re homeless. Intentionally. What planet was I on when I agreed to this?’

Do you see where it says that up there beneath the title? When I wrote it all those years ago, I thought it was funny. I had no idea it would go on for so long.

As I said in my About page ‘ours is not the tragic homelessness of poverty or extreme weather, but the ridiculous homelessness of an Englishman who wanted to live in America with freedom and an Anglicized American who wants to live in England with family.’ And so we’ve wandered.

Well we’re back in the UK now. And still homeless.

We have spent in total five years in an RV (one-and-a-half years in Europe and three-and-a-half years in the USA) and four years (one-and-a-half in Washington State and two-and-a-half in Arizona) in an apartment as temporary accommodation before taking the next step. After six months in England in a rental house we are still floundering. Himself is keeping an eye on France with a view to fleeing the UK after the next general election but I won’t air our political views here.

Ingrid asked me if I missed ‘it.’ I’m not sure if ‘it’ is Arizona specifically , warm weather, RVing or possibly all three.

No. I don’t.

With the greatest respect and best wishes to all of you off on your adventures and photographic journeys – and you all look like you are having a whale of a time – I’ve had enough of meandering. I need a base. And I’m happy in damp England. It’s where I belong despite not wanting to give up my navy blue passport.

We toured the Suffolk and Essex countryside on Easter Sunday, initially to look at a house, and saw thousands, nay millions, of daffodils. Each new field of dancing yellow blooms took my breath away. Quarter mile driveways of stately homes were lined with the yellow darlings. What a treat to come home to that. What a treat to come home at all.

Is living the gypsy life a guy thing? He’s already bought another caravan/travel trailer/RV long before a sticks and bricks house. In fairness to him he spends a lot of time online researching houses to buy (and cars, trucks, motorcycles, race meetings, campsites, channel crossings – tunnel vs. ferry, flights to Arizona and Australia and reading just enough news to make him angry). But mostly he looks at house sale sites.

Chevy Silverado and Swift Conqueror caravan
Mr. Chevy with his new friend.

Himself would go back to the itinerant lifestyle in a shot. I would not. Himself is lamenting leaving Arizona. And if you could pick it up and drop it in southern England, so would I. I just can’t bear the thought of all the long haul flights and the accompanying aggravations I seem to attract with the airport gestapo. He takes it all in his stride. It was beginning to drive me bonkers.

Beginning? Don’t kid yourself, you’re thinking.

I would be interested to know from all you full timers:

Do you get homesick for somewhere that no longer exists?

Do you at least have a family base where they put you up or plug your RV in in the driveway and offer you showers and laundry and meals?

Do you fly there or drive there?

Do you see much of your family?

I also put it to you people of a home loving persuasion – would you sell up and store your present existence in order to fund travel?

We’ve traveled through 47 states and seen glorious U.S. State Parks and National Parks, Sites, Recreation Areas, Monuments and Historic Sites too numerous to mention. We’ve RVed east to west and top to bottom of England and Scotland and traversed France and Spain. We’ve camped all along the three U.S. coastlines as well as the interior and visited most major cities. I have thousands and thousands of photos and have written over 300 blog posts.

Now I want a house. A home base. I don’t want to go anywhere. At least for a while.

Am I being unreasonable?

Dearly Beloved . . . . .

. . . . . oops! We’re not all seated yet!

Beach wedding Italy Quick Maya! Go sit with Nonna!

Too quick for me, Maya is this week’s photo challenge subject of Blur. Little Maya was too excited to keep still for long. We thought she would insist on being the wedding celebrant but she reluctantly decided to let her grandfather conduct the ceremony before taking her seat.

Put That Back!

Frothy, floaty, silky deliciousness.  Îles flottantes. Floating islands. Mounds of lighter-than-air meringue, drizzled with caramel, floating on a sea of custard. Could you resist?

Floating Islands, France

“Dont’ touch it! I want to take a picture.” Himself’s hands retreated slightly.

“Move your hands. They’re in the frame.” Click. And the hands moved back to the dessert.

“Wait! I want to take one more.”

Spot the difference between the photo above and the one below:

Floating Islands, France

The Ephemeral nature of a yummy dessert is this week’s entry for the photo challenge. Short-lived is one definition of ephemeral. I dispute that. Those French desserts (and dinners and croissants and wine and cheese and baguettes and . . . . ) are still making themselves known around my waistline.

See more entries for the WordPress Photo Challenge here: Ephemeral

Better late than never, eh? Life seems to be getting in the way of blogging. What’s up with that?