Friday, 19 February 2016

Trains and Trees

It being the Friday of half-term, we were, as we have often been, on grandparent duty.  The smaller boy is happily ensconced at nursery, so it was the 5½-year-old Boy who was our responsibility for the day.

When we said goodbye to him on Thursday evening, we had quite thought that we would be taking him to the South Bank to see what, if anything, was going on there that he might enjoy.  However, a couple of serendipitous posts that I found on-line changed everything.

The first was the news that "Princess", an engine from the Ffestiniog Railway, was visiting King's Cross Station as part of a publicity campaign for the said Railway.  So that was a no-brainer in itself!  We picked the Boy up from Senate House and caught a bus up to King's Cross, where, sure enough, the train was parked.  And a magnet for five-year-olds, it would seem..... plenty of other children clambering about all over it.  Mind you, some 65-year-olds did their fair share of clambering!

When we had finally had enough, we went over to Prets and bought some lunch, and then caught two buses down to Brockwell Park - with hindsight, we should have caught the 73 that came along, and then changed at Victoria, as we had to wait rather longer than we had thought for a 59.  Still, we got on one in the end.

The reason we wanted to go to Brockwell Park was that the London Wildlife Trust was planting trees there today.  So after using the facilities and eating our lunch, we headed down to that corner of the Park, and there they were.  The Swan Whisperer and the Boy promptly got stuck in, and I am delighted to say the Boy was fascinated by the whole process, and the different kinds of trees, and how these twig-like things were going to grow into huge trees, and so on.  You dug a hole (the Swan Whisperer did that)
and then put some woodchip in the bottom, put your tree in, and someone held it upright (usually the Boy) while you put the soil and grass back in,
and then you added some more woodchip on the top (me or the Boy, but mostly him), and finished it off with a plastic tube to deter rabbits, squirrels, etc.
Great fun, and they must have planted four or five trees in all before we came away home and ate ice-cream!  Maybe in 60 years time he will be bringing his grandsons to the park and showing them the trees he helped to plant today!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Cousins' Tour, Days 8 and 9

On Saturday it rained.  And rained.  And rained.  We had a "free day" in the rally, but the only time I left the van was to go shopping.  I knew my mother was going, so texted her and asked for a lift, and she agreed to pick me up at about 09:30, which she duly did.  We decided to go to Sainsbury's, since the parking there is underground and you don't have to get wet!

When we were done, she dropped me back at the Village Hall, and I went back to the van, where I regret to say I snuggled up in bed and didn't really move for the rest of the day, other than getting lunch!  The Swan Whisperer did go out for a long walk with my parents' dog, but he, too, spent much of the day hibernating.  However, in the evening there was a dinner-dance in the Village Hall, with entertainment provided by one of their own.  It could have been dire, but in fact it was absolutely lovely!  You bring your own plates, knives, forks, etc, and wash them up afterwards, and of course you bring your own drink.  As we had only one glass of wine left in our bottle, my mother sent down another random half-bottle she had, although really, we'd have been happy with the one glass!  We have masses of wine in London; it was just that we'd forgotten to bring it with us.  The singer, whose professional name is Mr Solo, had a really lovely voice - it almost seemed a shame to waste it on the 1960s disco classics that people our age love, and dance to.

I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to get the Swan Whisperer on to the dance floor - he is happy enough to dance on ice, but not so good on a floor.  However, one of the songs was "Show me the way to Amarillo", which we did a free dance to many years ago, and I said if he could dance to it on ice, he could on a floor.  So he did!  Actually, it didn't matter that much; one could dance without a partner, and some of the women did.  But it's always nicer to dance with a partner, whether on ice or on the floor....

The evening finished at about 11:30 pm and we went straight to bed.  This morning was cold, but we had obviously had the heating on too much over the previous days, as we nearly ran out of gas!  The boiler said firmly that the pressure was too low, but luckily the bath-water was hot, and there was enough gas to boil a kettle for coffee and to cook an omelette for breakfast, although I decided against risking boiling our eggs. 

At 11:00 they had the final meeting of the rally, which was basically notices and thank-yous, and then it was time to pack up and get going.  The Swan Whisperer brought the car down to the Village Hall, and we packed it all up, and then I drove it up to my parents' place, while he drove the van and put it away.  We then went off to try to find some gas, which we didn't succeed in doing (that is not a problem, we'll find some in London), and bought a sandwich, which we ate in a lay-by on Long Furlong, looking over the Downs.  We were trying not to impinge on lunch at my parents', where my sister and brother-in-law were putting up their greenhouse; unfortunately when we arrived they hadn't started yet as they'd gone out to get a Vital Part.  So we sat and chatted to them while they ate, and then my father and I dozed in front of the rugby while the SW took the dog out for a last walk, the greenhouse got built, and my mother pottered around....  and then we came back to London, and the end of another holiday! 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Cousins Tour, Day 7

I forgot to mention that Thursday night was wonderful, as there were owls!   I remember hearing them in my childhood, but hardly ever since. 
On Friday, we took my parents to Hayling Island, as planned. It is about an hour's drive from their home along the A27. I hadn't been there for many years and had no memory of it.
You reach it over a permanent causeway across part of Chichester Harbour.  It is mostly villas and static caravans, of course, as it is a seaside town.  However, unlike most such, you can park right next to the sea, which we did. There were three oil tankers in sight, but they did not move at all while we were there, and we think they must have been moored.  At one stage, another ship came out of Portsmouth Harbour and went off across the horizon.
And, of course, we enjoyed people-watching and people walking their dogs along the beach.  The Swan Whisperer went for a couple of brief walks - we had left my parents' dog at home as he doesn't find the van very comfortable. 
Then he drove us home while all three of us went to sleep!
We dropped off my parents and then went to the village hall, where the West Sussex branch of the Caravan Club are holding a rally.  We haven't done a rally before, and I don't suppose we'll often do one, but it will be a good thing to take The Boy to in August. We parked up and got comfortable, and after dinner went into the village hall and met people and chatted until bedtime.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Cousins Tour, Day 6

It was a cold and frosty morning to wake up to. I stuck my nose out of the duvet and promptly turned the heater on!

We breakfasted in the cafe again, delicious, and then set off to visit a cousin in Winterslow, near Salisbury.

It was a lovely drive. It was frosty, and in some places the hedges were absolutely covered with ice, which, we realised, was because they were immediately above a large puddle, and the cars going through had splashed them! Mostly the drive was in sunshine, but there were some patches of mist over Salisbury Plain.

The cousin we were calling on is a "double" cousin, in that her father and my grandfather were brothers, and her mother and my grandmother were first cousins. I was her bridesmaids, and we celebrated their Golden Wedding on the day my first grandson was born. Unfortunately she thought it was tomorrow we were coming, but it got sorted out in the end and we enjoyed a cup of coffee with them before heading on to Sussex.

First port of call was the supermarket, to get food, as we had invited my parents to dinner in the van.  Then up to their, where we are parked up in their forecourt. We had tea with them and a friend of theirs who is celebrating her 90th birthday today, and then went back to the van. Supper was duck breast, with an onion and mushroom sauce, mashed potato and cabbage and leek. It would have been followed by a lemon tart, but we didn't have room!  And wine - even my parents drank some - and coffee or tisane, according to taste.

Tomorrow we will be parked up by the village hall, to see what a rally is like - I may not have any signal at all, as there's no phone signal here and I'm on Wi-Fi.  If not, I'll be back Sunday night!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Cousins Tour, Day 5

Today was our last morning at Carnon Downs, so after a leisurely breakfast we topped up our water, both tank and drinking, and headed off. We were due in Plymouth at 3:00, so went a scenic route via King Harry's Ferry, St Just* and St Mawes.

We then drove to Plymouth, after an argument with the Satnav, which wanted to take us on minor roads, stopping for lunch in one of those lay-bys that had obviously been made when the road was straightened.

We eventually found the pub in Plymouth where we had arranged to meet an old school friend of my daughter's, which we duly did, and it was lovely to see her and catch up on her news.  It transpired, incidentally, that she had had her wedding reception in the same pub we'd eaten in last night. What a small world!

Then it was on back to the Cartgate truck stop where we had sadly spent our first night with no running water and no alternator!  Apart from having to change our gas bottle, it was so different! And we even got to see the International Space Station go overhead, thanks to a timely heads-up from Facebook!

* There was a young lad from St Just
Who ate apple pie 'til he bust.
It wasn't the fru-it
That caused him to do it;
What finished him off was the crust.

Cousins Tour, Day 4

Yesterday was a lovely holiday day, with nothing to do on the van except the usual drain, flush and refill, so once we had done that, we went off to the Eden Project, as most visitors to Cornwall do, sooner or later.  It is well worth seeing.  The outdoor gardens were a bit bleak at this time of year, although there were some lovely daffodils, but the biomes were fantastic.
There are two, one with a tropical rainforest climate, and relevant plants, crops, and even birds,
while the other has a Mediterranean climate (including South Africa, California and parts of Western Australia).  It is much smaller than the other, but I think I liked it better.  It smelt wonderful. 

We drove home rather alarmingly (tiny roads) via Mevagissey, and Tesco's in Truro, where I stayed in the van and watched the swans on the river
and then the Swan Whisperer decided to go out for a walk, despite the hail, and he went further than he meant and got soaked!  So we were very nearly late to meet my cousin and his wife who picked us up and took us out to a lovely meal at a nearby pub they knew, which was super.  I had fish and chips and couldn't finish them!  My cousin's wife turns out to be longing for a motor home, too, although her husband is not convinced, so they came in to look at ours when they dropped us back. She is most envious!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Cousins Tour, Day 3.

Storm Imogen did all it could last night, but we were warm and snug in bed and, although the van did sway a bit in the breeze, it was not enough to keep us awake.

This morning, I showered in the "Bathroom", or at least that was what I intended to do, but the shower over the bath didn't work properly, so I ended up having a bath, instead. Tomorrow I shall use the "Family room"; both it and the bathroom have more privacy, and more space, than the normal showers and loos.  I must remember to take a bathmat, though, as it was cold standing on a tiled floor to dress!

When I got back, I found that the Swan Whisperer had found a place where we could get a new alternator, so after breakfast we went there and they were able to fit one almost at once, having determined that this was indeed the problem. One issue solved, but we still needed a new pump, so we went off and bought one and then headed into Truro to see what we could see.

Lunch was the first order of the day, so we went into the first café we saw, which did us a very nice, but rather expensive, pie and salad, with coffee.  I thought afterwards that oh bother, we are in Cornwall, we should have had a pasty, but too late. So we went round the Cathedral, which is lovely, quite small, but very pleasant, and they didn't charge for admission, which makes a change.

Then we went and wandered round the shops and the market, and I found some wool I wanted.

So anyway, when we had done that and bought one or two things in the Co-Op, we came back to the camp site and the SW tried to fit the new pump, but it didn't fit, so we went rushing back to the place where we had bought it, and he finally got it replaced by a much cheaper one, which does fit and works!

So finally back to the camp site, and we had a fry-up for dinner, and I am thinking about transferring to my bed, where it is snug!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Cousins Tour, Day 2

So after I had posted last night, I went to wash my hands and the tap sputtered at me and nothing happened - no pump!  The Swan Whisperer looked at it, but to no avail, so we baled some water into a crate to have available, and went to sleep.

In the morning, we found we really liked the truck stop we were at, and had breakfast in the café there (excellent!), and used their facilities. The Swan Whisperer had another look at the pump and made it work, sort of, but it obviously needs to be replaced sooner rather than later, and the car battery is not charging as the alternator, whatever that is, is borked. One flood too many last night, probably.   And have you seen the weather forecast?  So we rang up the campsite we were booked in for tomorrow night and asked us if they could take us tonight as well, which they could.

So we drove here as the weather  worsened and worsened, and really have done nothing since.  I had a nap, and we ate risotto, and that's about it. In the morning we can use the showers and loos here, which seem lovely and warm.

Meanwhile there is a bit of a lull in the storm just now, long may it last. It was very noisy an hour ago!  I hope we sleep.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Cousins Tour, Day 1

I just wrote a long post all about today, and it has vanished!  Bugger.

We set off late, and should, in hindsight, have gone down the M3, which would have been quicker. Plus we got stuck in a massive traffic jam on the A3 due to emergency gas works, or something of the kind. By the time we had stopped for lunch, in a random services on the A31, we were running about an hour late.

But we made it to my cousin's in the end, and it was lovely to see her and her husband again.  The road to theirs was very wet, though, and even worse coming back.  I hope they are not cut off, or worse, by morning.

We drive on to try to get to our stopping-place for the night, but couldn't get there because the main road was closed, and so was the side road the Satnav found as an alternative.  So we sadly rang them up to say we couldn't make it, and came back to a truck stop near Yeovil where we had planned to spend Wednesday night (and probably still will).

It is too dark to see what it is like, but there are plenty of other motor homes parked up, and we are dry and snug after scary driving through floods and the car battery saying it wasn't charging....  It still has 2/3 charge, though, so not too drastic yet, and the habitation battery is fine.

The Swan Whisperer is cooking sausage and mash, and there is beer in the fridge!  I have just realised I have forgotten the wine, though. Bugger.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Cousins' Tour

Well, if Philippa Gregory can call the Wars of the Roses "The Cousins' War", then I can call our forthcoming tour "The Cousins Tour!"  This is because we are planning to call on no fewer than three cousins from various branches of the family during it! 

We are off to the West Country, and will, I hope not be blown away other than by awesome scenery.  We spend tomorrow night in Somerset, then off to Cornwall for three nights, then back to Somerset, and finally back to my parents for one night.  We're taking them out for the day on the Friday, and then we are going (if it's not too wet) to a Rally!  We haven't done that before and are not sure whether we will enjoy it, but hey, why not?  We don't have to do another one if it's too ghastly, but in August there is a weekend devoted to grandparents and grandchildren, and it might be a perfect opportunity to take The Boy with us.  Boy Two is still a little young, we think.

Anyway, the real reason for posting this is to tweak Networked Blogs so that, I hope, it will post my updates during the tour (mobile signal permitting - data isn't a problem this time) in a timely fashion!  Photos will have to wait until I'm home again, or Thursday, anyway, so posts will be updated after that.