This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A bit more Essex, a haircut, and a wedding…

Bet you thought you’d got away with it didn’t you? Well after much consideration and soul searching – coupled with the fact that I’ve got nowt else on – I thought I’d tidy up the loose ends of our trip to deepest Essex and tell you about a great wedding we went to at the weekend too.

As mentioned in the previous communication, we met up with my cousin and his wife on Wednesday night for a meal. Andy is the closest of my few remaining relatives and we hadn’t seen each other for over three years so we had a good catch up. He’s not into Farce - sorry, Facebook or any of that nonsense so has not had to endure regular updates of what we’ve been up to, although his daughters have made sure he’s not totally out of the loop.

So needless to say (too late) we spent a long time talking about our recent adventures and future plans with Patsy. Delicious food and a decent real ale or three helped.

Thursday provided for more photo opportunities with a brief visit to Brightlingsea, located on the mouth of the river Colne, driving first out to the beach area and then to the town centre and harbour. One of the now largely ceremonial ‘Cinque ports’ and renowned for it’s oyster fishery in the past, Brightlingsea was in the news during the Miners strike in the eighties when they tried to bring imported coal in to the country via the port. Some ten years later there were more protests when it was used for live animal exports, however the campaigners eventually won and the exports ceased.

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There was nothing else of particular note to report on for Thursday. We juiced up the car and came back and done a bit of clearing up. Most unusually, a bottle of Rose, opened with dinner was poured away – it must have been bad!

Hitching up the following morning was straightforward. We used the motor mover to ease Patsy across to the car. The grass was still sodden, so we had positioned the car with the front wheels on the road to give them more chance of getting purchase. All went well, and we were soon on our way. We rarely bother swapping the driving during journeys now – It’s much easier and less tiring than it used to be and the run back from Essex was straightforward – nearly all dual carriage or motorway. It was, of course raining for nearly all of the journey, but eased again AFTER we’d got Patsy back on the drive.

Everything was in order at home, so I headed off to get a haircut. Now friends will know that, for years I’ve sported nothing more exciting than a number one crop – straightforward, low maintenance, and easily achieved with a mirror and set of clippers, so therefore cheap too. It had it’s downside though, pretty dull and uncreative, a tad aggressive looking, particularly when freshly cut and coupled with my favourite but all too rarely worn trench coat made me look like a neo nazi. Not an image I was keen to promote, obviously. So, anyway it was all change this summer. I’d deliberately let it grow towards the end of our tour and during the comings and goings in the summer went to visit my barber, the lovely Nellu, in neighbouring Rottingdean who went to work, a little nervously to start with, on my  barnet with his clippers. Keen observers may have noted something different in some of the photo’s in "Patsy rides again, innit', but basically what we have now is sort of a cross between a Mohawk, albeit a short one and a Hoxton fin.  It looks quite raw when it’s just been cut as I have the sides quite short, but mellows when it’s had time to grow. Opinions have been divided as to whether it suits – It’s been suggested, none to subtlety that I’m too old for it, or that I’m going through a midlife crisis. Both are undoubtedly true but that doesn't alter that fact that I genuinely like it – and so does Trev. Some more enthusiastic observers have felt the need to stroke it (what am I, a bloody dog!) only to find their hands covered in the copious amounts of sticky putty that keeps in pointing in a roughly northern direction. I’m often asked how far I’m gonna let it grow – and to be honest I don’t know, but it may need reining in if some employer see’s the light and actually gives me an interview – but we’ll cross that bridge as and when. For those reading on the blog – and via Farcebook – I’ll get a decent up to date photo put up at some point.

So, the wedding. Time for a bit of background first. We met Steve soon after we moved down to Brighton and he was a regular at our various get togethers. Prior to our St Georges Day party in 2010 a rumour started circulating that Steve would, this time, be bringing someone with him. ‘Who is she?’ was the most asked question although ‘Who is he?’ was muttered too. Well it is Brighton and those damn homosexuals are everywhere these days you know! Well, on the afternoon of the party, Steve appeared with this lovely northern lass called Louise who he’d met whilst indulging his passion for diving. We didn’t know she was from ‘oop north’ straight away because, having been propelled somewhat reluctantly in to a strangers garden, full of strange people (some of them VERY strange I can assure you) she was too terrified to speak. This state of affairs that was not to last long however. Jane appeared with a large glass of wine and steered Lou down to relative privacy at the end of the garden to find out what the score was. This did the trick, but no sooner had Jane returned with Lou, who was by now a lot more relaxed – and carrying an empty glass – than it was Steve’s turn for a grilling at the hands of Jane’s husband Tony. After that, Lou undoubtedly became ‘one of us’ – no not in that sense – and mutterings soon started about wedding bells, mainly from Jane and Trev., At the time, Steve was adamant that he would not get married, but, out of the blue, the announcement was made just over a year ago, and here we are.

A wedding today, is a production and every production needs a rehearsal. Lou had asked me to read a poem at the wedding so Friday evening we gathered at the church for a practice. The usual incumbent of St Nicholas’ Church, Father George was unable to officiate due to illness so a replacement had been drafted in. Very young (at least for a Rev.) but with energy and enthusiasm, Father Christyan James made us all feel at ease. Lou’s niece Chloe and Steve’s God daughter Lana had been persuaded to read a prayer and he even advised them that they could change the words if they wanted. I liked his style! The rehearsal went well. I read my mercifully short poem adequately, the “do you take’s and “I do’s” were practiced and we all headed off a little more prepared for the next day.

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One of Jane’s son’s – Ash, and his partner Stu would be staying with us for the weekend and they arrived from London later that evening. It’s always nice to have younger people in the house (well, young compared to me and Trev anyway), moreover, they don’t sit glued to Emmerdale and Corrie or demand Tea every five bleedin’ minutes……a certain mother-in-law take note.

Saturday and the big day. We were to help set up the hall opposite the church and arrived to find the place already a hive of activity. The Caterers were setting up the hog roast and the bar whilst we helped arrange the tables and chairs. Tony put his years of military training and experience to good use by ensuringPA270011 the chairs and tables were dead straight – and they were too. Things seemed to be going smoothly until, whilst me and Steve were playing with the stage lights in preparation for the bands arrival, Trev noticed a mistake on the seating plan. Whoever had designed and printed it (for a significant recompense it should be pointed out) had basically got it arse about tit. We rushed off to print some replacement labels to stick over the top, and whilst it didn’t look perfect, it would serve it’s purpose. 

Soon it was time to get showered and changed. I eschewed the usual suit option as one had been worn far too many times this year for the wrong reasons. A rummage through the wardrobe produced a velvet frock coat and black patterned waistcoat that rarely saw the light of day, and even then only on cruise ships. Combined with grey trousers, white shirt and silver tie with a collar pin they looked all right though.

The church was only just up the road so we walked – the sun was just about holding out but it was getting windier. We called in to the hall where the band was setting up and all was going well. Over at the church guests were already taking their seats, so we joined them, and soon the place was packed. I had agreed to video the occasion and so was one of the first to see the bride as she pulled up to the church in a lovely old black and grey Morris something or other. She looked stunning and relaxed – and so did the bride….

The whole ceremony went very well. The vicar put everyone at ease, not least Steve and Lou with his relaxed, easygoing manner. He welcomed us all but joked that he was unable to give any marital advice to the bride and groom as he only lived with his dog – whereupon someone muttered that he must be dyslexic – think about it.

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The rest of the ceremony continued in the same manner. Jane read from Corinthians and sounded fantastic. I read the poem – whose title I am unaware of even now – rather nervously waiting for the expect bolt of lightning to appear from above. The stars of the show though – apart from the bride and groom of course – were Chloe and Lana. They read the prayer confidently and without exhibiting any signs of nerves whatsoever. They really did very well.

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With the service over I darted to the entrance to catch husband and wife walking down the aisle, almost knocking over the official photographers tripod and camera in the process. Soon, we were all outside and milling around whilst the official photo’s were taken.

Well, to be fair, we let others do the milling. Me and Trev, decided that a little quality control needed to be exercised and headed across to the hall to sample the ale. Clearly this broke the ice because there was soon a steady stream in the general direction of the bar.

The reception was a great. Each table was named after a dive location in Egypt and we were grouped with our neighbours. The volume in the hall rose as wine was glugged and plates clattered. Deserts were savoured, and then Tony – one of two Best Men delivered a fantastic speech. Trev was then handed a microphone – a phrase that would ordinarily strike terror into those that know him – and passed around the hall for guests to give the happy couple their best wishes. Embarrassing stories can be revealed during this sort of thing, but sadly, there weren't any….

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The band were almost ready and tables needed to be moved to make room for the dancing later on. This seemed like the perfect time to nip home, have a coffee and get changed , which we did. I donned my usual black shirt, tie and leather jeans. A get up more suited to a nightclub or darkly lit bar than a wedding but what the heck. I somewhat reluctantly left the trench coat at home – I didn’t wanna scare the kids.

The evening do was even more fun. The band sounded fantastic and we all worked hard to make sure that the caterers had to pack up as  little booze as possible. Hot sausage and bacon rolls were handed around and helped refuel those that were dancing – of which I was one. I make no apologies for being a ‘wedding’ dancer, but the band didn’t play any of the Bee Gee’s disco classics so no-one got their eyes poked out.

So, that’s it. It was a fantastic day and it was great to be part of it. Steve and Lou looked relaxed throughout the day and genuinely happy together. Steve, having not been interested in ‘that marriage lark’ for so long looked all day like the cat that had got the cream. Good luck to them.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

To Suffolk and back

Right, it’s Wednesday afternoon, we’ve been out and about, come back, had lunch, I’m tapping away at the netbook and a certain someone is trying not too snore - with limited success. The skies have cleared considerably and there’s this really bright thing in the hazy sky making everywhere feel a bit warmer. How odd.

Out and about yesterday despite the murky start. First up was Colchester, England's oldest recorded town apparently and first sight of note was the ruins of St Botolphs Priory, the first Augustinian monastery in England. I know that ‘cause I read it on the plaque. Some may be wondering If I’ve had a funny turn and took a sudden interest in Augustinian monasteries, but wonder no more. The truth is it just happened to be opposite the car park, and looked good in the mist.

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After the usual trawl around the town centre - still supporting quite a few independent shops as well as the usual chains which is always nice to see - it was time for coffee. We always try and pick a local cafe when we are out and about and came across  a place offering both coffee and an internet cafe. Well the computers looked as if they were built when the monastery was but the coffee was good, reasonably priced and with excellent service too.

Next up was Felixstowe, traversing the massive Orwell bridge on the way. You can walk the bridge and on a clear day the views are fantastic, I am reliably informed. But, it was still foggy, so we didn’t. Felixstowe is home to Britain's busiest container port and and one of the busiest in Europe. The number of lorries on the well worn A14 as we approached was testament to this. We headed for the town and some lunch at a cafe that promised little and delivered just that. I had a chicken breast burger which was tasty enough but a magnifying glass would have come in handy. Trev fared a little better with his sausage and chips  although you didn’t need the fingers of both hands to count the chips.

The little settlement of Felixstowe Ferry, accessed through the Old Town and through the middle of a golf course was a pleasant little find. The road come to an end here as the settlement is nestled on the banks of the Debden river, but you can get a ferry across to Bawdsey on the other side. We’re not talking P & O or Stena here, but one man in a little wooden craft that putt putts backwards and forwards - regularly in the summer and on demand in the winter.

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Moving further in to Suffolk, Woodbridge was next. A pretty and clearly well to do place situated further up the Deben river. At one time, I am told, all the houses had to be painted ‘Suffolk Pink’ although that is clearly not the case now. We crossed the railway line down to the riverside where I took, what is, so far my favourite photo of the trip.

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Last, but certainly not least was Southwold, further up the coast. Real ale drinkers will know that the Adnams brewery is here - right in the town - and produces some damn fine beer too. The town is charming, the little pier is well kept and it’s worth a drive down to the harbour just out of town. Some of the filming for  ‘A Mother’s Son’ on ITV with Martin Clunes and Paul McGann was done here. Well worth a visit if you around this way and it’s certainly gone on our ‘must do again’ list.

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This morning,  with the mist gone I was able to grab a few photos of the site before we headed out again, and south first to the quaint village of St Oysth, then out to the coast at Point Clear, home to several massive static caravan parks but not much else. Jaywick was next then on to Clacton again for some photo’s and a walk along the promenade and a delicious mug of tea at a little hut opposite the pier. We paused further up the coast for photo stops at Holland, Frinton and finally the Naze tower at Walton, built as a navigational aid in 1720. We had vague thoughts of climbing it but a large party of school kids changed our minds pretty rapidly.

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So we went over old ground at least partially but at least were able to get some photo’s this time. Tonight we are are meeting up with my cousin and his wife who live just north of Colchester - the closest of my few remaining relatives - for food and grog. We have one more day here tomorrow before heading back to Saltdean on Friday. That may well be it for Patsy this year, but what about next? Well, Europe, the whole point of buying a caravan is still on, although delayed, most likely until the end of next summer. We have recently put the house on the market in the hope of downsizing to pay for what we expect to be, a least a year long trip.  We have not worked since January when we finally had enough of those bloody parcels - or more accurately the company that supplied said bloody parcels - and I need some work soon to preserve what’s left of my sanity as well for essentials like beer and aforementioned PVC or rubber jeans - purely for caravanning only of course.  I am busy firing off job applications, but no one has taken a leap of faith and asked me to an interview yet.

Mind you, if no job is forthcoming and the weather stays reasonable we might be tempted to hitch up Patsy again for some winter camping - and the chance to wear more black…..

Monday, 22 October 2012

Patsy rides again, innit

Yes, we’re at it again. Just when you thought that your spam filter was finally working properly - those of you with the dubious privilege of being on the email list that is - another motley collection of kilobytes loosely masquerading as a travel blog land in you inbox. Be prepared for more prolonged nonsensical drivel as I regale you with tales of our stay at Weeley, near Clacton-on-Sea in deepest Essex.

Before that though, there’s a bit to catch up on since the end of ‘The Tour’ in July. Patsy has been pressed into service more than once and has proved herself invaluable in what has been a rollercoaster of a summer.

It was good to be home again after three months - although Patsy didn’t seem quite as pleased. Half way up the drive the motor mover cut out and refused to re-start. No amount of cursing and swearing would coax it back to life and matters were not improved as HRH, who had travelled from Cambridge with us for a ‘holiday’, tetchily inquired from the comfort of her throne, when someone was going to put the bloody kettle on as she hadn’t had her tea! A short while later however Patsy, somewhat grudgingly completed her short journey on to the drive and was soon safely sited. The reason for the halt in proceedings was to be discovered  later on to be nothing more than erm, operator error. It appears that if you try and send the van in opposite directions at once the control box cut’s out. Funny that!

Two weeks later and Patsy was on the road again - to ‘the other place’ as Cambridge University types would say or to everyone else, Oxford. We were taking HRH home to Cambridge too and having sited the van continued our journey around the M25. Many will be aware that Trev’s bro Malcolm was still in hospital at this point so the purpose of the journey threefold: Drop off HRH, pick up some caravan stuff we had left at hers and call in at the hospital.

Oxford was great fun, helped in no small part by the arrival of friends, neighbours - and incumbents of ‘Close HQ’; Tony & Jane. We explored Blenheim Palace and the lovely village of Woodstock. Afternoon tea, in a restaurant on the banks of the Thames was delightful as was the river trip. Not surprisingly Oxford’s lovely old pubs proved a powerful draw, although the ‘Inspector Morse’ connection - the vague excuse for visiting them - was soon lost. We dined in the awning and at Tony & Jane’s residence - a beautiful old Landmark Trust apartment in the heart of the city. We done a walking tour of Oxford’s colleges and got asked to leave a coffee shop for drinking er, coffee. Great company and great fun, but our time in Oxford was cut short by news from Cambridge that Trev’s brother had worsened considerably. The site wardens were very helpful and got us booked in at their Cambridge site, and so a day early, we left Oxford.

Most will know that Malcolm passed away and we were back in Cambridgeshire again just over a week later for the funeral at a site in the village of Fulbourn just outside Cambridge. Accomodating just five vans in what was an old farm orchard it was one of the prettiest sites we have stayed on and the weather was at it’s best too. The farmers’ dog, Benjy, proved good company too, particularly at meal times!

For the first time too we brought my bike with us and enjoyed a lovely sunny afternoon bike ride around the villages while Trev and the family met with the Vicar. I wore, for the first time some proper cycling shorts and I can tell you that the padding certainly helped!

The funeral went well, and was well attended, the wake even more so. Then it was back to Saltdean again, but not for long….

Next up was, at last, a happy occasion. Trev’s Sister Mary was getting married, so less than a week later we were back on the road with Patsy to Norfolk. Patsy had paused for a rest on the drive of a friends house near Cambridge as it seemed pointless to haul her all the way back to Saltdean only to return a few days later. We had picked a site just outside North Walsham, just four miles away from Walcott where Mary & Derek live and were getting married. Another pretty site, accommodating just twelve vans this time although the road to it was clearly not designed with caravans in mind. We got to try out the smaller porch awning that had come with the van and had experimented with briefly, on our first outing to Crystal palace back in March. The weather, for most of the four days was not good - high winds and plenty of rain - but thankfully it cleared up for the day of the wedding, which went really well.

Right, back to the present. Weeley, is a little village just six miles away from the seaside resort of Clacton, in Essex and the site itself overlooks a lovely little fishing lake. It was persisting down when we arrived, and whilst we garnered some experience of siting up in the rain on ‘The Tour’ it was never as bad as this. Mud flew as the front wheels of the car tried in vain to grip the sodden grass. I have since come to the conclusion - although have yet to convince Trev - that some PVC or rubber jeans - in black obviously, so they don’t clash - would be ideal as they are waterproof and you could just wipe the mud off. That’s my excuse anyway! 

The site offers ‘full service’ pitches, meaning that as well as electric hook up you have your own water tap and drain allowing direct connection for both fresh water supply and waste water disposal. Our water supply hose reached fine, but the waste hose fell just short showing just how important and extra few inches can be! A new length was procured in the site shop and all was well.

This morning, the rain had gone and in it’s place was a thick fog. Unperturbed we headed into Clacton to start the sightseeing. Although, not bustling there was, for a damp autumnal Monday morning, plenty of people about. Trev’s Mum & dad had ended up here after the war and we went to look where they used to live. Trev is a Cambridge boy, but two of his siblings, the two now sadly no longer with us, were born here.

We had hoped that the fog would lift but it proved stubbornly resistant as we drove along the coast to Frinton. Frinton certainly used to have a reputation as an upmarket place - it was said that when the wealthy holidayed in Frinton, their staff went to Clacton. It was also said that Frinton never used to have a pub, while Trev will tell you, from his newsagent days, that porno magazines where banned. Christ, what a fun place it must have been! There is now one pub, that we could find, although neither of the two newsagents we looked were selling ‘top shelf’ stuff.

So, there we are. Hopefully it will be clearer tomorrow and I can take a few pictures. In the meantime, enjoy the ones below (or attached) , from Oxford, Fulbourn and Walcott.

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