Picture the scene …

It is a very dark night, the moon and stars invisible behind thick clouds. The wind is combatively tugging and shoving and the falling leaves are dancing as if in the Strictly dance off, desperate for a place at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. Outside the car the lashing rain stings coldly on unprotected skin. I’m driving K back from Castle Cary station where The Smart One has been dispatched on an already delayed by 44 minutes train to visit his father for the weekend (by the time he got there he was 80 minutes late because of speed restrictions, poor lad).

I’m driving at around 40mph as the roads are covered in huge puddles and what part of the road is free of puddles is covered in mushed autumn leaves, all waiting for the unwary to stamp on the brakes. My headlights are dipped as there is a luckily smallish  oncoming vehicle, when on the left out of the darkness at the almost too-late last minute, I spot a large stray hedge/small tree trying to cross the road, I move as far right as I dare to try and avoid it but … BANG!

Storm Deirdre has resurrected the Curse of the  Broken Wingmirror, 4 in 4 years. As the Curse obviously plans to become an annual event, should I pre-order a wing mirror for 2019 and perhaps some canapés and some fizz for the Wingmirror Wake?

Luckily no other damage to either the car or the occupants.

Y’all drive safe now …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Train strain.

The return to Somerset was pretty uncomfortable on an overcrowded train (is there any other kind in the UK these days?). No space for luggage, no space for passengers (or their long suffering dogs), and no buffet (unless you were prepared to trample over the people forced to sit on the floor); the heating however, was working. “Aha,” I hear my regular reader exclaim “result, given the current plunging temperatures outside”. “Not so,” say I “when the heating continues to blast out despite optimum temperature having been reached about ten degrees ago”. I texted an SOS to K to bring large amounts of water with her to the station for my arrival, severe dehydration was kicking in after three and a half hours in cattle class.

At some point in the journey several of us debated why, given the constant overcrowding of trains, extra coaches are not added to services and came to the conclusion that it is because the cost of additional rolling stock might adversely affect the annual profits and bonuses the train moguls’ so desperately need. Magnanimous plebeians that we are, we accept their need for additional millions each year (those tropical hideaways, nuclear/biological bunkers and global warming stockpiles don’t come cheap, you know) … and we sent our sincere thanks to the aforementioned moguls for a journey unusually delayed by mere minutes not hours.

 

The journey did sort of dull the shine from what otherwise had been an extremely pleasant few days with BB aboard the Blue Buzzard. We visited the Denby factory near Derby, shopped in Sutton Coldfield and tasted a few wines and gin at a local (to Fazely) vineyard/distillery. Unfortunately we visited the Denby factory the day after I’d bought a couple of bottles of the rather lovely vineyard product, and there I bought some of Denby’s rather lovely dinnerware products for R0X1 (well I have to make it up to her that I considered selling her). So I was unable to fit everything in my suitcase and be able to lift it.

I’m sure, dear regular reader, that you will be shocked to find out that it was the vineyard product that was left behind … not sure what came over me, I might have to find a vineyard round here …

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

The weasel-eyed hamster is home

As I was feeling so crappy I wasn’t able to travel quite as fast as I wanted up to Dieppe  but that meant I managed to appreciate some rather nice stops.

First was a very peaceful aire at Rignac, it would be hard to find a quieter one, for an overnight.

 

Second was a site at St-Germain-les-Belles by a lake at the edge of a very sleepy and pleasant village. I swear the site’s friendly, funny and quite mad Dutch owners only bought it to have enough room to display all their hoards of junk very eclectic mix of collectibles. I stayed two nights.

 

 

Third was the aire at Mennetous-sur-Cher, picked for it’s convenient halfway-point placement between the previous night’s stop and my final overnight destination in France. I had no preconceptions it was just a place to put my weary and aching head down. It was a lovely treat to find an intact medieval village centre that has not been over-restored or over-touristified and is still thriving. The boulangerie there sold the most divine croissants I’ve ever eaten and M. Bun the Boulanger was to be seen busy baking his bread in the background (apologies if that’s just too much alliteration for your taste).

 

Fourth and final was the aire at Giverny as I couldn’t resist the urge to visit Monet’s gaffe again to see the gardens in spring.

 

La Manche was a millpond, the drive to the car park was easy and by doing my favourite shortcut via Ascot I missed all the M25/4 early evening congestion. My lovely daughter was sitting in her car awaiting my arrival and guarding my parking space in the corner. I got the tea, hugs and sympathy I needed.

My GP agreed that four or five weeks of sinusitis deserves a good helping of antibiotics. Hopefully I’ll stop looking like a weasel-eyed hamster very soon …

🙂 🙂 🙂

A mixed bag

Having parted from Paul and Meriam, them travelling south and me north, Daize and I had an overnight at a lovely aire in the Elbre delta amongst the rice fields and wetlands wildlife.

Delta d’Ebre

It was a longish drive to Figueres where we visited the castle. Daize was her usual patient self; she is so good at standing still as soon as the camera comes up to my eye!

 

The fort at Figueres

I had planned to stay overnight on the aire beside the castle and visit the Dali museum but having both read the reviews and sussed the place out, I decided against. Ignoring the sat nag’s repeated orders to the contrary I left Figueres for France via the coastal route. And what a spectacular drive it is; I only wish there had been miradors big enough for R0X1 so that I could have taken some pictures but, hey ho, one can’t have everything I suppose. Suffice to say it’s one of the grinniest roads of my travels so far, very twisty-windy-uppy-downy (and scarily narrow in places) with the most beautiful views of the Med, the coastline and cliffs, and gorgeous little harbours and marinas. I stopped at the aire just over the border in Collioure, judged it okay and a quiet night ensued. The Adria dealer in Perpignan didn’t have a replacement grey water pipe so I continued on to Mirepoix, with a plan to head east to Provence via the non-coast route, having noted no water leaks from R0X at all.

By this time I was feeling really rough; all my top teeth had been hurting, and getting worse, for well over a week. So when, with great relief, I parked up at the aire in one of my favourite places I decided to stay put for a few days. The temperature was high, the sun was shining, it had to be good … or not.

Overnight the temperature plummeted from 26℃ to 6, the wind had risen to gale force and some rather heavy precipitation had commenced. As soon as I put my head outside, the cold wind hit my face and I was in agony; and that was when I finally realised that my teeth are fine but my sinuses aren’t! I went to the nearest pharmacy and after a conversation with the pharmacist in French (and I needn’t have googled hypertension and sinuses; same words, different pronunciation!) I left with a nasal spray which contains camphor and has just about reduced the pain back down to manageable levels but my glands are still well up.

 

An LWD walk along the old railway track near Mirepoix

So I’m heading home sooner rather that later. I need tea, hugs and sympathy … and possibly some antibiotics.

🙂 🙂 🙂

The Arrogant Macho Peacock.

So, Señor Boss (Pandemonium on the A7)was an arrogant, macho peacock who was deluded about the extent of my nous. He’d got the head shaking, shrugging and teeth sucking down to a fine art and a great deal of it went on as he examined the remains of the defunct tyre and the opposite rear tyre. I think he thought he was on to a winner when I immediately agreed to replace both tyres (What idiot would replace only one tyre?) but I was way in front of him, having already swallowed hard, acknowledging I had to replace both. Then there was the introduction of tutting as he mentioned how difficult it was going to be to get 2 new tyres – and tomorrow’s Saturday. (A lot of hand signing and French, with the junior Señor, was being used by now). He must’ve been disappointed in my lack of interest in the day of the week. If he hadn’t been so determined to siesta and had just taken me to the nearby, but not in sight, tyre centre I could’ve been on my way in only an hour or so. As it was his “garage” was only a lock up – not a wheel balancing machine in sight!

I had to play it somewhat carefully as I was in a very vulnerable position; I couldn’t go anywhere without his co-operation.

When he arrived the next morning to put on the tyre, he started again with the head shaking, shrugging and teeth sucking, adding in a low whistle for good measure. He pointed out that the wheel border had a couple of tiny (and bash-outable dents) and started to talk about a new wheel … out came my phone, and google translate informed him that he could put the tyre on as a temporary measure. Suddenly the dents were not a problem. He capitulated and stomped off taking wheel and one new tyre, bunged them in the boot of his car, and shot off. Back within 15 minutes of departure, he put the wheel, minus any dents, back on. He then put the other new tyre in the hab. area and decided he was driving R0X1 to the tyre centre where the other tyre was changed, I was allowed to accompany him and consequently learnt of the proximity of the tyre centre!

When we got back to his lock up further head shaking, shrugging and teeth sucking occurred when he found out I didn’t carry loads of €s in my purse and that the transaction would be via my debit card. He glared, obviously annoyed the Spanish taxman would get to know about this particular bit of business. By this time my simmering anger was about to head into steam … I couldn’t take much more of his arrogance.

Then my card wouldn’t work, he tried again and again reducing the amount each time obviously concluding that I didn’t have the funds. He looked at me almost triumphant, thinking he’d be adding R0X1 to the collection of many vehicles stored in his lock-up I imagine. I rang my bank and they helpfully informed me that the arrogant macho peacock was trying to put it through on contactless payment and the bill being rather more than €30, the machine was having none of it. For the first time I had the upper hand and I couldn’t resist a smile as I informed him that the card needed to go in the slot and payment rapidly ensued.

You’d be wrong if you thought this was the end of my tyre saga …

Last night having spent a few more fun days in P&M’s company we were due to part company in the morning. I decided to empty my grey water into a bucket as the campsite didn’t have a drain point. I bent down to turn on the tap only to find nothing there. Further investigation showed that the back end of the waste pipe had been destroyed by low flying tyre – I’m not worried about that at the moment as I can put a bucket underneath the new “end” of the pipe. What does worry me is the two slow leaks of water slowly dripping underneath as well. I shall be in Perpignan tomorrow at an Adria dealer to find out where the leaks are coming from. I’m going to France as;  A) I speak more of the language; and B) given my recent dealings (or not in some cases) with Spanish garages (or rather lock-ups in one case) I don’t trust the Spanish – shame really.

I’ll leave you with pictures from Altomira as a reward if you’ve got this far into this overly long blog!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Pandemonium on the A7

I realise I have not yet reported in full the visit of Paul and Meriam, however I beg the indulgence of my regular reader to bring you breaking/braking news. I will return to the Dutch folk at a later date.

If the written word gets a bit slurred it’s because I’m gulping an XXXL G&T – it has been a  l o n g day.

It started well enough with the Terrible Trio leaving Jávea and heading for the hills, as we are wont. With a quick diesel fill and Lidl top up on vino blanco, I headed off. South of Valencia I joined the A7 motorway and was bowling along quite nicely. I was way behind P&M as I’d made a coffee and dog convenience stop. Suddenly there was a very loud bang and R0X1 started wandering about the carriageways without my permission. I braked firmly but gently, hit the hazard lights and carefully checking mirrors etc. brought my wagon safely to rest on the hard shoulder. I donned my hi-viz vest and as I deployed my red triangle noted that an awful lot of the rear left tyre was on the carriageway rather than on the wheel. I phoned the RAC. Unfortunately I seem to have overstayed my welcome as far as my breakdown insurance goes – I should have left a couple of months ago – I shall have to foot the recovery bill myself.

Two lovely motorcycle cops came, one retrieved the remains of the tyre from the carriageway – brave lass. The other set about organising a recovery vehicle. The van with the flashing arrow lights – “move over” – parked behind and the driver distributed loads of traffic cones along lane 1 (of 4). Completely unsurprisingly, the cops still had to direct cars into the outer lanes as quite a few drivers thought the instructions didn’t apply to them. They were both very sweet and kind especially when I watched R0X being winched up onto the recovery truck and got a bit upset, reaction I guess, but LWD seemed to enjoy the view from its cab. I was just terrified that R0X would somehow escape her bonds and fall off.

By the time we arrived at the garage in the middle of an industrial estate it was siesta and Señor directed me to a nearby cafe and ordered me to return at 5pm. One menu del dia and a lot of thumb twiddling later, I got back to the garage at the arranged time. 40 minutes later, the temperature had dropped alarmingly, it was trying to rain and I couldn’t get into R0X as she was still up on the reccy truck. I really was starting to panic, I had no idea where I was, let alone the recovery Señor and there was no one around to ask. I was beginning to wonder if I was being set up for a robbery or worse (I really must stop reading so many murder procedurals) and one or two tears could not be held back. My phone had run out of battery earlier whilst I was keeping P&M updated. So I was mightily relieved when another Señor turned up, shortly followed by the Recovery Señor (hereinafter called the Boss). They had been trying to track down 2 tyres (I decided not to trust the one remaining  el-cheapo tyre). No Michelin camper tyres in Valencia. I might be here for the weekend.

Señor Boss asked me via the other Señor (he and I were communicating in French) if I’d like him to take me to a hotel or would I like to stay on the forecourt. I went for the cheaper option. They got a step ladder so I could shelter in R0X bless them.

It was interesting, to say the least, to be sitting in R0X whilst she was backed into the forecourt and then jerkily winched down. LWD, not renowned for her bravery, shivered and whimpered, to be honest as I was already shivering from cold I almost joined in to make it a shiver/whimper duet.

Safely ensconced for the night on the forecourt, I was pouring my XXXL G&T when there was a knock at the door. Señor Boss beckoned me outside to show me two shiny new Vanco Camper tyres and told me he’d put them on tomorrow.

There’s now not a lot of G&T left in my glass and I’m feeling considerably calmer.  LWD has forgotten all about it and is blotto under the table …

🙂 🙂 🙂

Ne’er cast a clout …

… ’til May April be out. (Anon)

The Spanish have just had a long warm May Day weekend and have celebrated by casting off their winter garments in favour of something cooler which leaves us Brits, who dive into T-shirt and shorts the moment the temperatures hit double figures, standing out a little less. (For some reason a lot of Spanish folk, including yesterday’s waiter, seem to think I’m French and frequently start conversations with me in that language.)

It was a glorious weekend, the beach was crowded and cafe lifestyle in full swing here in Jávea/Xàbia. Although definitely at the tourist end of the town, this is a quiet site a short walk from the beach, prom and shops. The necessities are clean and roomy and bar/restaurant, crazy golf and go-cart track all within 100 metres of the site entrance.

 

 

I’ve sorted the dates for visiting folks in early summer in UK, now all I have to do is work out a leisurely route back to Dieppe and book the crossing. I might go to Zarragoza if the weather there warms up a bit and then on to Figueres and the coastal road into France …

But then Meriam and Paul are due to arrive here in about an hour, so everything planned for the next seven weeks could change …

🙂 🙂 🙂