Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Shakedown Cruise

We finally took delivery of our new motorhome on Friday of last week, which was a pain as we should have gone to get it on Tuesday but "it wasn't ready".  So all our plans had to change, but we were eventually ready to set off on Saturday afternoon.  In the interim, I had made the discovery that it is easier to put the duvets in their covers before you take them out to the van!

We ended up spending the first night outside the Daughter's home in east London!  We did try to book into the Lee Valley campsite, but couldn't get an answer from them, and by the time we had filled it with water, installed the gas, discovered how to get hot water, brought the loo into use, and so on, we were exhausted.  So we pulled all the curtains and clambered into what proved to be an incredibly comfortable bed!

We could, of course, have showered in comfort in the Daughter's bathroom, but did she really think we would, the first morning?  Unfortunately, we had set the thermostat to 60 to flush out any lurking bugs, and because it took some fiddling about, we ran out of hot water half-way through my shower.  I was not impressed!  I have now ordered - and received - the kind of shower head which only actually runs the water when you press your thumb on it, so that turning it off while you lather up doesn't mean more fiddling around with the temperature.

The Boys appeared just as I was trying to make toast and eggs - and setting off the smoke alarm, which is positioned just above the door, rather too near the stove - and so we invited them to breakfast.  They sat and ate bread and honey and bananas (and then went back indoors and ate a huge bowl of cereal each) and drank milk, thoroughly enjoying the experience.
After washing up and making sure we had remembered to do all the things - plugs in the shower, wash-basin and sink to prevent nasty smells from the grey water tank, gas switched off, stool inside the van, fridge switched to 12 volt power - we set off to East Anglia to my sister's B&B, where we were to spend the next 24 hours.  My sister had invited us to lunch, and we spent the afternoon and evening with her and her family, watching the climax of the Tour de France and inspecting their delightful garden.  All the vegetables at lunch had been home-grown, and were absolutely delicious.

After dinner, we retired to the van for the night, but I must admit that I did take my sister up on her kind offer of a shower in comfort the next morning!  She runs a B&B, and the room most suitable for disabled guests is just inside the front door, so we were able to use that.  We also had a wonderful cooked breakfast before we headed off.  I usually make myself an egg of some kind, but this was egg, bacon, sausage, mushrooms and tomatoes; all the ingredients of a "proper" Full English.

We had decided to go to a "proper" campsite for our final night, and had booked into a Caravan Club site in the Broads, near Ludham Bridge.  We stopped off at a camping accessories shop my sister knew of, but were not very impressed - they were incredibly expensive!  But we did buy a 10 metre EHU cable (this won't necessarily be long enough, but they suggest buying two shorter cables rather than one long one; we have a further 14 metres on order from Amazon), and were able to hook up to mains electricity for the first time.  And cook our first main meal in the van. 

The old camping saucepans have turned out to be very old indeed, and rather too thin, so we are going to replace them.  My "not-bubble" caught rather badly, alas, and the sausages did a bit, too.  I also have a tiny saucepan for boiling milk for the SW's coffee, and a tiny frying-pan for my egg, and my mother has since given me another small saucepan, which may or may not live in the van - we do have plenty of storage space; more, I think, than in our new kitchen!  But things rattle when on the move.... that's another reason for replacing our old camp saucepans, as the strap has perished, so they rattle terribly!  I shall go down to Halford's when I get a moment to replace them.

However it was all very good, and followed by an apple pie from Tesco's that had been looking at us when we went into the branch near Norwich to get milk....  Mind you, after lunch (bread and spreads), I did think a fruit cake would have been a plan!  Certainly if and when we go off for a longer trip than overnight, I shall make one.

In the morning we again showered in the van - I didn't wash my hair, and hoped it wouldn't be running over with small animal life by the end of the day - and took the opportunity to empty the loo and the grey water tank and so on.  And then we drove down to Sussex, crossing the Dartford Bridge, which we'd not done before (a gorgeous bridge in an unlovely area!)
and round rather a lot of the M25.  We let the Satnav direct us and it took us a way we hadn't expected, down the M23, but then coming off at Pease Pottage and joining the A24 at Broadbridge Heath (so we stopped off at the Tesco's there and bought more milk and some cookies as we planned to invite my parents to tea; I also bought some new cutlery for the van, as our old set, again I think dating back to our tenting days, felt cheap and nasty and didn't add to the eating experience.

We arrived in Sussex and showed my parents all around the van; they were very impressed, although my mother said bags her not sleep on the inside of the bed  because of needing to get up in the night!  We gave them a cup of tea, and put the stuff I have been rescuing from their house move (we've all been squirreling stuff, often childhood treasures) tidily in the van to stay there until we can come down in the car to collect it. 
You know what - this is going to be wonderful!  It is blissfully comfortable, and we will work out how best to live in it.  Our first major trip isn't until October, when we will be away for nearly three weeks.....

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Warwick and Coventry

Today marked the last day of our exile (the corridor looks very splendid indeed - the Swan Whisperer felt obliged to take his shoes off when he brought in the luggage), so we set off about noon and drove to Warwick.  We didn't get to see much of the town - the Castle wanted us to pay £6 just for parking, which we thought was extortionate - but we did find a very pretty little shopping street full of independent shops, and had lunch in one of them - a bacon (him) or sausage (me) sandwich with a fried egg.  Tasted good, but just a touch dry, we thought.  And extremely good coffee, and the most deliciously fudgey brownies!  Yum.

Then we drove on to Coventry to visit the Cathedral there, and to meet the Canon Pastor, whose blog is called Good In Parts.  She was busy, so we spent a very happy half hour wandering around the Cathedral and taking pictures
There will be more pictures on my Facebook page, for those who are friends there - these are just a sample.

When the Canon was able to join us, we wandered round the Ruins (always capitalised!) of the old Cathedral, and she explained that the idea was that you looked at the Ruins first, and then walked down the steps into the modern Cathedral, only you can't just now as there are Works going on to damp-proof the subterranean chapels, which are not currently accessible.  But the Ruins themselves are wonderful, and very evocative.  You will know, of course, of the Cross of Nails, which was formed from three mediaeval nails found in the bombed Cathedral and replicas of which have been sent all around the world (notably to Berlin, where we saw it in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis church)

You can't see the nails so well in the Coventry version, but what they do have, even more moving, is the Charred Cross, which was formed from two burned roof-beams that happened to fall in the shape of a Cross, and were kept that way.
  Originally this was in the Ruins, but now it has been moved into the Cathedral proper, and the one in the Ruins is a replica.
I love the way they have done this - with the Ruins there as a memorial and the Cathedral itself there to the greater glory of God,  It is a symbol of peace and reconciliation, and it does a great job!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Cadbury World

Today's trip was to Cadbury World, which I have long wanted to see, ever since I read about a trip round the factory in one of the Chalet School books. Factory tours, as such, ended in 1970, but Cadbury World, which opened in the 1980s, goes a fair way to fill the gap. Your tickets are for a timed start, and we had to wait 40 minutes before going in, but that was all right as we had a cup of coffee, and the minute's silence for the victims of 7/7.  Then we had a quick look round the gift shop, and then it was time to go in. The first bit was a diorama showing how chocolate was grown and used by the Aztecs and the Mayans before Cortez landed in 1519.  The next bit had some very good CGI film sections showing how chocolate was brought to England. Then there was a bit of a bottleneck while two live actors talked about chocolate in London and the Cadbury family, and a short film introducing John Cadbury, who could not enter a profession as he was a Quaker, so he opened a grocery shop instead.

There then followed two short films, in separate cinemas, first giving the history of the company and then showing how chocolate is made. After which there was a shorter bit of film showing how various different chocs were made and wrapped. Then quite a long walk past the packaging area - one could not go in, but you looked in through the windows, rather like the cheese factory in Normandy we visited that time. After which came an exceedingly silly "ride", which neither of us could at all see the point of at all, but I suppose fun for the little ones. And finally a section where we saw chocolate being made the old-fashioned way, and we were each given a little cup of melted chocolate with our choice of toppings. The tour then led through a display of various different advertisements, and a place where you could pretend to grow a cocoa plant (even the SW enjoyed this).  This then led us back to the gift shop, and was the end of that part of the tour, but there was plenty more to see and do.

Outside there was a huge children's play area, and a "4D Cadbury Experience" which we didn't visit (no thank you!), and, in the back of the building, the "Bourneville Experience" which was a display about the Bourneville village built by the Cadbury family, with sports ground, school, swimming-baths, etc. There was a walk we could have gone on, but the heavens opened just as we came out, and we got soaked.  So we went to the nearest Tesco and bought a sandwich, and then found the Bourneville park to eat it in, and as the rain had stopped, we walked round the park and saw the sports ground and pavilion.

All in all, we very much enjoyed it, but I did slightly wonder who its target audience was. It was a very odd mix, although mostly it worked.

Then we went and bought a motor home.


We are in exile at the moment, as the corridors outside our flat are being varnished, and there is no daytime access, so we are staying with family in Shropshire, and yesterday we drove over Clee Hill to Ludlow for the afternoon. After a false start, we parked in Tesco's, which only charged us 50p for the privilege, and we could use their loos. So we walked through the town to the Castle, but decided not to go in as it was within half an hour of closing. There was a footpath that went all the way round it, so we walked round there and then back to the car. It is such a pretty town!

 Then, to be different, we drove back via the small town of Tenbury Wells, which is also very pretty, although we didn't stop.