Thursday, 31 May 2012

Part-ay - DD style

Sunday was a day of chilling with large numbers of DD's : an enthusiatic and bouncy family at the best of times, and definitely energetic when aided and abetted by alcohol and large amounts of sugar.
Happy Birthday LISA!!!!


Monday, 28 May 2012

Despite it's bijou size, the 'van is surprisingly good for chilling in. Unsurprisingly, it's also well equipped with technology and drinks :)

Northern England run

Back on the run again !!! Heading north this time to see my awesome photographer friend Lisa for her significant 21 again birthday party :D :D :D :D

First stop was the Peak District for a couple of evenings. Drive was *horrid* not coz of the 'van but because a lorry went over on the M25 and caught fire. I guess that's not so bad, but the lorry was full of vodka, which all went up too.....and melted a large chunk of the road. Tarmac flambe !!

The Peak District itself was absolutely glorious - it's a beautiful part of the country even in grey rainy weather but blue skies, blazing sunshine and heat made it just woooooonderful.

Saturday was a day in search of tart ......Bakewell tart to be precise. Whilst on route to Bakewell, the sound of bells and some very unusually dressed folk came into view...

Whilst there is a homily that says "Try everything in life except incest and morris dancing", this group reduced it to just one point for me, with their awesome facepaint, costume and energetic complex dancing. They are South Yorkshire based and give a whole new meaning to English traditions.

Boggarts Breakfast

Caught here in midair : far far more energetic than I could be in 29 degrees!

After a nice drink and seeing a number of dances, the search for Bakewell was resumed : 

Bakewell has an ongoing feud about two different desserts : Bakewell pudding and Bakewell tart. It's been made even more complex by modern varients such as 'iced cherry bakewell'...

The 'Tart' is a shortcrust pastry container with a frangipane and jam filling, whilst the 'Pudding' is a flaky pastry container with egg and almond filling. Of course, with such a largesse around, it was truly vital to sample each and every variant to decide *which* was the best......

Strangely enough, this part of the tour isn't leading to a slimmer figure as the latest whistlestop visit to the scales does this picture of the ravaged remains of cake, cake, cake....

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day 6 & a little bit longer....

I got home okay, but with a bit of a frisson of excitement. Whilst pootling up the M20 towards London, I became increasingly irritated by this intermittent high pitch beep. Despite 3 pull overs on the hard shoulder, I really couldnt find the source so I decided to grit my teeth and continue the drive. It became evident shortly thereafter as all hell broke loose, with wailing sirens.....and the smoke alarm kicked into maximum gear, complaining about loose battery connections. Note to self : disconnect battery before driving.....

One other issue - the 'van developed a leak, and I ended up limping home topping up the coolant with Evian....nothing but the best for *my* 'van. She's spent some time back with Marquis being repaired, ran a brief diversion via Cambridge to meet Mum and Dad ( "that upholstery is dreadful, did you really pick that?") and was soon ready to recommence travels.
Day 5 : Antwerp & Gent

Run homewards back along the coast via Antwerp and Gent : a good run ( no real pictures to share). The Antwerp tunnel was a *nightmare*  - huge delays as 4 lanes compressed down to two, promptly followed by a RTA bringing the motorway to a standstill. The great advantage of a 'van is that you can pull off at the nearest Aire, pull out the bed, curl up and snooze.....apparently I was in good company, as I parked up next to Laura Pausini's tour bus. For those who dont know her music :

Day Four : Kinderdijk

You cant go to Holland without doing windmills, so I went for the immersion therapy route with a visit to Kinderdijk. Whilst windmills are endemic in Holland - Kinderdijk does windmills in the extreme. Added to the World Heritage List in 1997 , about 19 mills were constructed here between 1738 and 1740 to drain the Alblasserwaard Polders and make a magnificent sight. Sadly none of the mills were turning that day, but I was still awestruck.

Inside is cozy, and not optimal for  booklovers, as book cases just dont happen on circular walls. The rotating roof however is probably perfect for star gazers.

This mill wheel is one of 19 which built a large chunk of Holland out of mud & water....

I was surprised to find that despite the fame of the Kinderdijk mills, the Dutch don't visit - Werner here hasn't been since he was 5!

The obligatory picture of me & a windmill : 

and since ducks seem to be a hallmark of my visit to Holland - my Kinderdijk duck!

Day Three : Benelux  - the Celtic Festival

Christening the van with a day spent at a festival seemed to be very sensible : all the more so when I discovered the mead stalls : )

I wasnt too sure what a Celtic festival would be but it turns out that its a cross between a folk/circus/LRP/re-enactment festival.

Lunch :  Rat on a stick? Actually a glorious pork chop roast, over an open fire washed down with Lindisfarne mead.

This is a roasting grid to die for - dja think I can I add this to the van?

I just loved this lady's costume, although she must have been sweltering in a leather corset in the heat.

For those who really want to live it in the full medieval way, you just need to head a bit further in away from the music stage

 Rappalje and Fiddlers Green both put on awesome performances - I think the most impressive part was the flaming bagpipe player. Sadly no photos :S

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day Two on the Benelux run

Extended run up the motorways through Belgium and up to Holland to Dordrecht & Rotterdam.

Day two was an introduction to  dikes (apparently not dykes)  and my first genuine Dutch windmill. Much fun was had reversing into parking spaces, mainly because the  space ended in a small lake : the reversing camera was useful, but the squawking duck was far more efficient.....the pitch and tone rose as the duck felt more pressured into diving off the edge of the harbour.

The Netherlands really is very very very flat, but has some beautiful country houses :

Belgium - night one images

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The learning I forgot to mention....

Connectivity on a UK mobile is distinctly flaky in the Benelux! So although I have had lots and lots to talk about, I didnt have any network to upload with. Never mind I will make up for it all today with a mass of posts to update on progress.

Friday, 18 May 2012

First night

So today was the start of the trial run. Lots and lots of learnings in the first 24 hours.

So,in no particular order :
- (flash),shake, rattle 'n'roll is the vagabonds mantra! Whilst I expected the rattles, and seem to have a reasonably good job of reducing them, the sheer vibrations through the steering wheel are numbing in the extreme. Long runs are going to be hard work and a vibration dampening steering wheel cover is high on the 'must purchase' list.
-I appear to be have an awesome stereo fitted - it takes USB input from multiple sources which is fantastic but it also sequences through the most lurid set of bright blue flashes and scrolling messages about every 3 minutes : not condusive to night driving. RTFM methinks.
- co-pilot on the iPhone is actually an awesome value for money sat nav but sucker cups do not adhere to fascia surfaces, leading to frantic rescue lunges every 20 minutes or so. Gaffs tape is my friend:)
- the van is equipped with mozzie screens for a reason....being intelligent and using them denies the local mozzie population a fantastic feast, but is far more condusive to sleep!
- despite having spent nearly 12 hours packing cupboards, it's not enough to work out a logical, usable combo : I foresee much shuffling of stuff in the future.Also, packing cubes and containers are definitely your friend to avoid total collapse outward on cupboard opening.
- thetford loos : oh boy! When they say ' it creates a strong vacuum, do everything carefully and gradually to avoid blowback, they really mean it!! That said, very efficient, and no 'festival' aromas :D
- finally, camp sites close really early, so do the travel there first thing in the morning if you don't want to spend the night wild camping.

 So, first day and night : awesome!!!!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Its here!

Yesterday, I collected my van. I expected that collection would be a nice 30 minute chat over a cup of plastic coffee, then a short drive down the motorway home, an hour stuffing cupboards, then off to play. WRONG! 3 hours later, we are *still* discovering stuff I have to know, and little switches and levers in secret cubby holes which have to point in mystical directions in order to function appropriately.That said, it does seem to be extraordinarily flexible - I can heat the van and the water off mains, battery, or gas, and the fridge is exactly the same, so it will keep ticking along all day quietly to itself. ( i'm still wondering about how *burning* gas *cools* but ...). The most limited function in the van turns out to be the cooking - it only runs on gas. So, salads for me if I run out of gas when wildcamping.

Packing was also fun : I collected everything together over the weekend so it should have been quick and simple. Turns out it's an art form! All the cupboards need to be lined with gripper fabric, and every single one of them has some wiggly corner that needs cutting out specially. Weight needs to be low down, so planning where to hide everything whilst still maintaining a minimal level of usability takes a lot of thinking. More bizarrely - the cupboards seem to just expand and absorb huge amounts of kitsch (which promptly rattles when only half full) so trying to make a logical combination of  compressed items in any one cupboard went out the window by late last night. I guess this is something that just develops over time, as you gradually acquire sufficient 'stuff'.

Today, more packing. Then we will see. I promised myself I'm not planning this too far ahead, and at the moment it seems my window of decision is about 2 hours hence!

First? Coffee!

Monday, 14 May 2012

After a quiet weekend , today was D-day : hand cash over time! It's now all mine, and I collect on Wednesday morning.

I've gradually been getting stuff together in heaps, but now it's becoming a bit more urgent .....