Saturday, 25 August 2012

119 At Bob and Liz's place in Abess roding.

Friday 10th August.
Today we trecked up to Billing, Northampton, for the land rover show. Here they have land rovers in all their glory with different backs and geared up for all kinds of travel and off roading.  They also show and sell all different and wonderful bits and bobs that are a must for all land rover owners. (according to Ray, I just feel another eyebrow raise coming on).
This show had been cancelled from July because of the wet weather and today was really hot and sunny.  Leon was with us and enjoyed his day out in Gromit.
Anyway I digress, we ended up buying a proper tent for traveling and giving us a bit of extra living space when we are in Gromit, and some of the aforementioned must haves. Rather than carry them around we left them at the various stalls to be collected as we were leaving.

Saturday 11th August.
Ray returned to Billing, this time on his bike, to collect the must have that we left behind.  We are definitely getting worse.

Sunday 12th August.
We met up with daughters number 3 and 4, Naomi and Rosie today and went for Sunday lunch.  Rosie is just recovering from having her appendix out and both seem to be doing well. We deprived her of the little fiesta as we are moving from Hertford to our friends Bob and Liz's house in the country.  Gromit is going to tow the caravan and I am towing the bike with the fiesta.

Monday 13th August
We loaded up everything and with the poor fiesta groaning away we started the 20 mile journey to Little Laver for our next stop.  Liz greeted us and made the comment nice to see you are traveling light.  It might not have looked light, but it is all of our possessions in the world.  Ray is God father to Bob and Liz's son Benjamin so it was lovely to catch up with them all again.  We have parked up in the barn and it just gives us a bit of protection from the weather.  Bit of shopping to do and some running around and then a very pleasant meal and evening.

Tuesday 14th August
Mainly a housework day and some odd jobs then we decided to catch up with the pictures tonight and took Trula and Paige to see Ice Age 4.  Unfortunately, I completely misread the program and Ice Age wasn't on through the week.  (Told you we were getting worse).  So we went to see Brave instead, which us girls enjoyed, but Ray was a bit of a grumpy grandad.  He cheered up after when we went for Pizza and Trula spoilt us by paying.   Thanks Trula.

Wednesday 15th August
Its Zoe's birthday today so we popped into Harlow where she was visiting Trula and helped her celebrate.

The next few days have been sort of run of the mill, nothing to report.
We went for a meal with Bob Liz and Benjamin in Hatfield Heath to the Chinese called Mings.  I would recommend them.

Saturday 18th August
Ray took Benjamin out for a spin on the bike this morning and it appears to have been a success.
All armoured up and ready to go

We are both off out this afternoon.  Ray is going to Eagle Heights, a Bird of Prey centre in Kent, run by one of his army mates so there will be a bit of testosterone running down there.  I on the other hand am going to see my friend Mac and her two kids, Damien and Rebecca for a rather refined BBQ.  It was very pleasant and I returned to the caravan with the help of tom tom.  I don't think I'd get very far without it around these little country roads.  Ray is staying overnight and then going to see Taff, our best man and another army mate, on his way  home tomorrow.

Sunday 19th August
Bob and Liz had a busy morning looking after the animals and also mending fences.  Ray returned home about 2 o'clock  and after cooling down, we all settled down for the afternoon for a few glasses of wine. Liz and I sunbathed whilst Bob and Ray cooked the BBQ.  Well Bob cooked, Ray supervised and took abuse from Liz and myself.  We had a great afternoon chatting and exploring the garden, but it was  only Benjamin who was brave enough to get into the pool.  A great day had by all.

Monday 20th August
Ray has taken Gromit to pieces and is replacing various bits to make her run a bit smoother.  This is proving rather challenging, mostly because we don't have the right tools on us, but Bob has come to the rescue so all is not lost.
We ended up taking the bits that need squeezed together to Foleys on Tuesday and left them for Ray to pick up tomorrow morning.

Wednesday 22nd August
After an early start, Ray collected Gromit's bits and has started to re build her.........
Today is Paige's birthday so we are going to take her and her mum out for lunch.   
Very little got done on Gromit  today save to say that it just wound me up immensely due to not being able to push the very large and heavy bits together to line up.
Anyway, we went to the Swan PH near Nazeing and they had a bouncy castle there. 

Two signs said "children must be supervised" and "only children up to the age of 12 allowed". As Karen is always calling me a 5 year old and Paige needed supervision as she was 11 today, I joined in. Well, is it knackering or what. After about 5 minutes of somersaults etc I felt as though a heart attack was imminent so I allowed Paige to self supervise while I went to seek medical aid.
Giggles all round including the 5 year old
Even Karen joined in.

Dinner was small but tasty and after a beer or two we went back to drop Trula off and then headed back to Bob and Liz's place. We popped into their house for a drink that turned out to be many and fell into bed as drunk as skunks.

Thursday 23rd August
I set too on Gromit again, this time with a lot more success and finished the hard bits (the suspension) by 1200 and then set about sorting the cosmetic bits like door pockets and cup holders. This stuff is standard on most cars but then a Landrover is not most cars.
Then it was Wallace's turn. Having chased Ben's buggy around the field on him, it was apparent that the road tyres needed changing for knobbly ones. 2 hours later and all was done. Time for bed said Zebedee.

Friday 24th August
An easy day today that started with a trip to finally see "Ice Age 4" with Liz and Ben. In the evening we went to the White Hart in Moreton. This is the pub that Bob used to own and I have many drunken memories of it. It had been done up and had lost a lot of the original character that it had whilst in Bobs hands. However it was nice to meet up with some of the people that I used to associate with whilst in there.

Saturday 25th August
A quick trip to Stevenage to the Yamaha dealer. He had ordered a lot of nuts and bolts for me under warranty (before it ran out) for Wallace. Then it was off to the shops for Karen, oddly enough.she came back with two pairs of shoes. Strange that. 
In the mean time I gave Gromit a bath in prep for our next adventure.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

118 Back to Hertford

Monday 6th August
A slow decamp and it was back to Hertford to annoy the kids. ;)
We arrived back at the Hertford area at about 1pm so decided to pop into our favourite pub for a pie and a pint so to speak.
The landlord and landlady, Kevin and Denise, have become loose friends over the years and when we asked if they were in to say hello to we were shocked to hear that they have been sacked by the brewery for underpaying their staff and doing something with the money that they should not have done (I do not know exactly what).
We then set off for the Kingsbury family home to collect our caravan. Billy Kingsbury is my brother Bruce's lifelong friend and the family home is annexed by several family businesses including Foley Specialist Vehicles, the people we bought Gromit from.
We pulled the caravan out and Peter Kingsbury gave us some washing tools and a hose so we changed the caravans colour from green to white. Thanks Pete.
We then dragged the caravan back to Hertford caravan site and set up. We sorted most of the services out, electric, fill water tanks etc and when we turned the water pump on the caravan suddenly flooded inside.
On inspection it was evident that the water heater had blown out under frost. Doh. That's what you get for not reading the manual. I looked in the internet and gleaned that they had stopped making these some time ago and the parts were no longer available. There was however, a replacement one made by another company that was designed as a direct replacement. £350 to you sir.  Deep joy !
We had to rip the soaking wet carpet up and decided to replace it anyway.

Tuesday 7th August
I found a local caravan service dealer and got a quote to replace the boiler of £469 fitted. Ouch. I booked the repair for the next day anyway never the less. We struggled to tear ourselves away from the Olympic triathlon which we won (that will be the Royal 'we' ) but then had to drag ourselves to the shops for some carpet. Luckily we found some for £15 which was 6" larger than we needed. Luck at last. Then it was off to deplete Trula's coffee supply only to find that it had been done already. The first thing she did when we got there was went out for some more. It's not like she doesn't know what we drink or that we were coming. Kids !!!  Anyway, a surprise delight was that Zoe was also there and was in a jubilant mood as she had just been offered a job having been made redundant a month ago.We chatted for ages and then went for a pub meal at the Dusty Miller pub at Gilston. This place has fond memories for me as it was my late Dads watering hole and I have a mental image of him and his best mate, oddly enough also called 'Dusty' Miller, sat at the bar that we were at.

Wednesday 8th August
We spent the fist hour or so fitting the new carpet. We used the old one as a template and as it had dried out nicely we decided to put it back and put the new one on top. We then waited for the fitter to come and sort out the boiler. At about 1pm he came and in an hour it was all done. We then popped into Hoddesdon for some shopping and then popped in to see Pete, our old next door neighbour for a chat and a cup of tea which turned out to be a beer. I needed to speak to Julia, our tenant as I need to access the garage and hence go through the garden. We knocked on the door and had a quick chat with Julia. She was very happy with the place and kept asking when we were coming back as she did not want us to take the place back anytime soon. Nice.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

117 Silverstone World Super Bikes .. WSB

Thursday 2nd August
We set off further up River Thurne and came to a small place called Horning. As luck would have it a regatta had just started. Up till today i did not really know what one was. Finding out was a bit scary. It is a sail boat race along the river and it was in full swing. Oh my God. There were little sailing boats everywhere, most of them full of kids. As mentioned previously they walk on the water legally so getting through them was very hairy, especially with the dodgy steering of the boat. with boats. Worse still, they have right of way...
A typical view on the river

We then powered (at 4mph) on to Wroxham where we moored up for a bit of shopping and some grub.

Even paddle steamers (probably diesel ones)

Leon had managed to collect himself a tick on his neck so we bought some special tweezers and some tick shrinking fluid. 

Sat on the bank in Wroxham, a beautiful Heron.

And lots of swans a bit of a hazard for the boats going under the bridge

After lunch it was back on the boat and about turn back towards the boatyard for tomorrows handover.
For once the weather was glorious and Karen spent most of the afternoon sunbathing on the front of the boat. 

"This is easy, what have you been whining about you grumpy?"

We arrived at the mouth of the Thurne at about 5pm and moored up not a million miles from the Lion Pub at Thurne village. After getting our act together we strolled allong the river bank to the pub. We were unfortunately locked into the boozer by the weather which had U turned to a torrential thunder storm. Once back on the boat, it was on with the Olympics and then to bed. 

After the storm the sky was impressive.

And then the sun shone and sank.

Friday 3rd August
The boat had to be back at the renter for 9am so we were up early and set off for the final hours sail to port. The handover was quick and it was good to see Gromit again. 
After a sausage bap at the port entrance we set off for Silverstone. It was a relatively short 145 mile trip and we arrived at the campsite about 2 miles from the track at about 2pm. What a shock. The campsite was one of those simple ones, but this took the word simple to the extreme. When we eventually found the toilet it was on the far side of an industrial estate and doubled up as the estate toilet. Marvelous !
We were so disappointed with it that we tried to book into Hertford, a 70 mile trip. Unfortunately they were fully booked so we bit the bullet and stayed. Up went the tent and out came the dish to watch the Olympics.
Leon was happy though and he was off exploring as is his want.  Anyway he returned baring gifts, for the first time ever in his life he had caught a shrew and brought it home to share with us. Hope he gets rid of that habit soon.

Watching the Olympics
Saturday 4th August
I had a grumpy day today (do not even think 'again'). We dropped the roof tent and set off at about 9:30. On arrival we tried to enter the race complex only to be told we had to go back to the car park and buy our tickets there. Intending to visit for 2 days we tried to buy tickets for both days to save us from having to queue up again. Nope, queue up again tomorrow for tomorrow. 
We then went in to look around the merchandisers and sought out some of those local ear radios to listen to the racing. To do this we had to walk half way across the site to race control. We then wanted to get pit passes to see the bikes and riders up close and had to walk all the way back to where we had just come from to get a bus to take us to the pits area. Once there, there were only temporary porta cabin toilets, one small portable outdoor bar and one small portable outdoor catering wagon. This is despite millions having been spent to upgrade the pits to allow Formula 1 racing to go ahead. There is nothing built in for the spectators, not even a bridge allowing spectators to go from the outside to the inside of the track.
We later decided to go on the pit lane walk which is where the bikes (and F1 cars) change tyres etc during the races. We paid £10 for 30 minutes along with about 200 other people. We got to see many of the riders including our 2 Lincolnshire born heroes, Sam and Alex Lowes. 
Alex and Sam Lowes.

What was missing was the big stars who had decided to ride off on their mopeds to avoid the great unwashed. Knobs.
At 15 minutes into the walk, the security team started to clear the lane. When they got to me and tried to move us out of the lane I exploded and started to argue with them for cheating us out of what we had just paid for. Even the main commentator for Sky EuroSports was there remonstrating also. It did have some effect as they stopped where they were. Ask me if I had the hump ?
We then decided to get the bus back to the main merchandising area only to find the queue like something out of a free ticket stall at Wimbeldon. We went for a beer to wait for the queue to deplete.
They had only laid on one bus servicing the main attraction of the day whereas there were about 4 transporting media and (bike) team members about. We watched several drive off with about 6 people on board. They were going to the same place as the public buses. Double Knobs.
I have never liked Silverstone. In my youth I marshald here when it was nothing more than a perimeter track of a WW2 airfield.  I will not be coming again. (And I don't think I could cope with Grumpy again in the form he was in today.  I agree all was not good, but the atmosphere was and to me that's what it is all about).

Sunday 5th August
We saved ourselves about £150 today. We sat in the tent and watched the bike racing on Sky. This was interspersed by the Olympics when there were no races on. It was odd as we could hear the bikes in the distance at the same time as on the TV.  We are going to have a slow pack up as tomorrow we are back to Hertford.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

116 The Norfolk Broads

Friday 27th July

A quick decamp and a 500m ride down to the harbour for our 8:45 appointment with the boat. We were met at the harbour which was in reality more of a life boat station complete with slipway etc and issued with some large waterproof jackets. It was then onto the boat with 8 other guests The boat was one of those madly fast rigid inflatable boats (RIB) with twin 200hp engines. The captain was a small woman and the crew were two burly blokes !
We set off slowly with the warning that the sea outside the harbour area was very rough. In realty it was not that bad but the wind was blowing onto my side so I got soaked while Karen laughed. We saw 5 harbour porpoises on the way out. They are like dolphins but a lot smaller, black in colour and very shy. At last we has seen something whilst on a boat trip.
The captain then told us that as the sea was not too bad we would take the 1 hour trip to a small island that we could just see about 20 miles out west. It looked like it was covered in snow. We saw puffins, razor bills and guillemots amongst the se birds during the crossing. On arrival at the island we could see that the snow was in fact a 100,000 strong gannet colony.

The ‘snow covered' island.

It was incredible and as we drove around they took off almost all together. It was one of those sights that we had wanted to see for years and it was absolutely amazing.

When they took off it was amazing.
Also dotted around the island were numerous grey seals who kept a watchful eye on us and followed us around the island with their head bobbing up and down to see what we were up to.
We left the island for a long looped haul back to the harbour hoping with out success to see some dolphins. On the bright side, the wind was now on Karen's side and she got soaked through down to her underwear. I did laugh - a lot.
Once on dry land Karen set about finding a campsite and we got a space on a crowded site near Tenby. This time of year, especially at the weekends, finding a spot can be difficult. Add to that the fact the summer had finally arrived.

Wales was a beautiful place.

I am sure we will be back.

The campsite staff told us that they had never had a Landy with a roof tent on top, let alone one with a resident cat. As usual Gromit created a great deal of interest with campers coming up all afternoon to ask about it. I sorted out the TV and dish so we could see the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We go the barby in the go and at 9pm sat down to watch the ceremony which was actually better than we had expected. For me it was only spoilt by the Olympic flag being carried by Maureen Lawrence, (the woman that has made a career [and a lot of compensation from the police out of her sons murder and virtually blamed the police for it) and Chammy Chakravati, (the woman who represents Amnesty International and is constantly on TV whining about our immigration policy). To my mind it should be about sport not politics.

Camping in the sun at last.

Saturday 28th July
I let Karen have a sleep in today and got up to start striking camp and make the coffee. Karen went for a shower and I said I would pack everything away. This all went well till about 30 miles into our journey towards Great Yarmouth I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to put our coats, and several other items it the box on the roof. This would not normally be a problem but in this instance they were not inside Gromit but sat loose on the roof.
We pulled over and I climbed up onto the roof and found all the said items sat exactly where I had thrown them. Even the lightweight (but expensive coats) had not flown away. I was gobsmacked but very relieved.
At about the 160 mile point, we decided to stop at a McDonalds for a bite to eat. We consumed a cardboard flavoured fish thingy and on our return to Gromit I noticed our torch/lantern that we use in the tent at night was still sat on the bonnet being held in place by the shovel. I was obviously having an Alzheimer's kind of day.
We managed to sort out a small campsite about 200m from where we were due to pick the boat up from on Monday and decided to go all the way to Yarmouth in one hit. We arrived at about 7:30, parked Gromit on the spot and wandered off to the pub by the boat yard. No change there then. Unfortunately by the time we got in the pub they had stopped serving food 5 minutes earlier. We were having a great day but as they say, 'a bad day on the bike (OK Gromit) is better that a good day at the office'.

Sunday 29th July
Sunday being Gods day of rest, was appropriately honoured. We got up late, slowly devoured a ready made breakfast from a tin and then wandered down to do a bit of shopping at the local sell everything shop, Lathams, and yes, you guessed it, visited the pub. After watching a mother and father of a thunderstorm and having a pub meal that had been cooked several days ago followed by 2 pints of delicious Green King IPA and 2 rounds of 'lets see how long we can make this last' darts. We called it quits at 1 game each as we needed to go to bed sometime. We then wandered back to Gromit to watch the Olympics only to find that the cloth chairs, that we deliberately left out to get wet as a character building exercise, contained large puddles - bliss - and the satellite dish had decided to search for worms as opposed to Astra 2. Luckily for me it started to rain again whilst I was trying to realign the dish.
We finished the day in front of the TV and watched 2 valiant British ladies hammer the Canadians at Beach Volleyball (Oh Yeah). This was followed by Rebbeca Adlington getting our second Olympic medal.

Monday 30th July
A rapid decamp and Gromit was ready to roll at about 9am. We drove into Great Yarmouth to get some provisions for the upcoming nautical expedition, just the usual stuff, sextant, spare cannon, Jolly Roger etc. I decided I was looking too scruffy and went for a haircut and then following a delicious Subway bun, we descended upon Sainsbury's.
Whit an hour to spare we popped in to an antiquated boozer called the 'First and Last'. All morning the weather had been glorious and as we arrived at Herbert Woods boat yard in Potter Heigham, the heavens opened up.
After sitting the storm out we collected the boat, loaded it with all the food and other gubbins that we needed, had the quick 'this is how the bog works' and please don't wreck our boat, chat and we were off. The boat turned out to be a 5 berth but very well presented boat called Evening Light 3. Aside from 2 small criticisms, namely there was 6" of play in the steering wheel so we left a trail like a snake up the river, the other thing being it would not do more that 5mph which is OK most of the time but sometimes you need a bit of power to avoid the sailing craft who can literally do what they want and have legal priority.

Watch what happens when I twist this Nothing.

The boat was comfortable as evidenced by Leon.
Leon was a bit confused as to what was happening and decided to hide himself in one of the sleeping bags. After about an hour of us both steering the boat as though we were on a bob-sleigh run we moored up at a place called Womack Water, Ludham.
I (Karen) was inside the boat and Ray was outside practicing his knot tying skills when I noticed that it had gone very quiet. I went out to see Ray and he was white and very wet from the knees down. It turns out that he had slipped off the edge of the boat, fell on his thigh on the quayside and ended in the water between the boat and the bank with his feet in the water bent double over the bank.
Unfortunately he had hit his thigh quite badly. I took him inside and after getting into dry clothes, fed him ibuprofen with gin and tonic. After a while he seemed to brighten up. We decided to stay on board and had a nice quiet night.
Tuesday 31st July
Up early again and having plotted our route, set off after a leisurely breakfast. Just before casting off we heard a duck quacking loudly and then saw the noisy beast walking past the window on the outer walkway of the boat. It had not stopped raining all night and today did not appear to be any better - so off to the pub then. Actually we had planned a pub crawl but the first pub we passed had not opened yet. We were starting to get the hang of the steering by now and there were some straight stretches appearing in our wake.

Parked up at the boring pub at Wayford Bridge

Our first pub stop was about 11 miles up river at a pub called the White Horse at a place called Neatishead. It was a crotchety old place but the best pubs are. Then It was back in the boat for a 5 mile stint North to Wayford Bridge for the Wayford Bridge Inn which was one of those newly overhauled pubs without any soul but intended for posh folks (which did not really include us) and the prices reflected that too. It was Karen's turn to fall today and as we approached the shore she jumped off a bit too quick and fell flat on her bum into all the goose poo that was scattered all over that bank. I was a bit panicky as she disappeared beneath the front of the boat and I could not see if I was going to run her over or not. It was funny when I realised she was OK and just covered in poo
Next was a 1 1/2 mile punt to the Cross Keys at Dilham. This was by far the best pub. The owner was completely bonkers and as we were watching the Olympics on the pub TV was giving a series of witty comments and gave the pub a very homely and very British atmosphere. We stayed for 2 pints in this one and loved it. Then is was back to the boat for a very hot, spicy and delicious Spag Bol carefully crafted by the boss.

Wednesday 1st July....Doh!
 I got up first (no surprises there then) and made the coffee. Then when Karen got up and sat down to drink hers, I started the 'pinch, punch, first day of the month' war and for once I won - Wohoo.
EDIT:  Spot the deliberate mistake...its August. I paid for this as Karens brother John spotted this and I was repaid with a full broadside of "pinch, punch, first cock up of the month".
We sat for a short while watching a bright blue Kingfisher fishing from the quayside about 20m in front of us.

I was lucky to get this, they do not stick around long.
After a cooked breakfast we set off again. This time the sun was out and Karen sat on the bow (front) and took about 200 photos with the DSLR (i.e big) camera.

As if this isn't hard enough already.

There were lots of these wind pumps on the banks. They are all now unused and replaced by electric ones.
One of Karen's favorite birds, A crested Grebe.

An Egyptian Goose taking her kids for a walk.
What we did miss with the camera was a grass snake that was swimming across our front. We were so stunned at the sight of it that by the time we figured out that it might be a good idea to photograph it, it had gone into the reeds. Neither of us have seen one of these so it was quite exiting for us. (We are easily pleased).

It did not take Leon long to get used to the boat. As soon as he figured he could jump onto shore through the window he was off.

There were lots of swans about.

And some cheeky hungry ones too.

Karen was getting good at using the camera.

We finished the night in the middle of nowhere alongside some other boats and settled down to the Olympics again.