Sunday, 23 December 2007

Merry Christmas

The presents are all wrapped and under the tree, the turkey is waiting to be stuffed with my special festive mixture of cranberries and chestnuts and the house smells of home made mince pies and sweet clemantines, Oh I love Christmas!!!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Liverpool Nativity

I love Nativity plays, in fact I have even been known to write one or two in my time. But my attempts pale into insignificance compared to yesterday's Liverpool Nativity.
(In my own defense I was writing for 40 preschool children with one volunteer mum playing a badly tuned piano, so it was hardly in the same league as professional actors and musicians accompanied by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra!)
The play for those of you who didn't catch it live on BBC3 last night, was retold using modern analogies. Mary was a waitress at the Seacombe Ferry Terminal, Joseph an asylum seeker and King Herod became Herodia a government minister determined to make a name for herself by tackling immigration.
The music included songs by The Beatles, Teardrop Explodes, Dead or Alive, The La’s and The Zutons.
It was a great production with a host of Liverpudlian actors playing the central characters but special praise must be given to two newcomers Jodie McNee and Kenny Thompson for playing Mary and Joseph so brilliantly.
It made a fitting start to Liverpool's 2008 Capital of Culture program and made this old Liverpool Girl a very happy woman.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

All things festive and a birthday too.

It's a tradition in the Carter house to have all the Christmas decorations up for James' birthday.

Even when James was away at University Dave and I would dash around like mad things to have everything up for the 10th. So last weekend was the big one, as far as getting into the festive spirit. Early Saturday morning we went off to Delamere forest to buy our tree. This is a very serious part of the build up, it takes a long time to find a tree that is just right. It must be big enough to fill the window but not too tall so that Dave has to do his lumberjack impersonations with the axe shortening the trunk so that the tree doesn't poke a hole in the ceiling.

It was a shame that the weather was so awful on Saturday, we were drenched as soon as we got out of the car, and looked like drowned rats by the time we had chosen just the right tree. But Dave proved to be excellent at modeling the trees and didn't swear at us too much when James and I kept asking him to lift the trees out of their little holes in the ground so that we could see them properly then and then turn them through 360 degrees to make sure that they looked good from all angles. I helped to lug the chosen tree back to the car (honestly) and ended up looking like a sodden little gnome in the back of the car wedged between the door and half a ton of woodland!

Later after a reviving snack of hot chocolate and warm mince pies we set to decorating the house, great fun. It seems to take longer and longer every year but I hope that you think it was worth it...we do, the house looks lovely and I can't wait for Lesley to come home and see it.

On the Christmas/Birthday theme, James had the day off yesterday so we went through to the Christmas markets in Manchester. It was the perfect day for wandering around the streets looking at all the lovely stalls, dry and bright but cold, perfect. We warmed up with Irish coffee in the German Market and had a really calorific lunch of spicy bratwurst before looking at every stall in each different market...not sure if it was quite what James had in mind when I suggested that we could go to 'have a look at the markets' but I had a lovely time and we did take a break from all the shopping to warm up in a lovely pub just by the Arndale Centre, so I think I was forgiven.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

I've been to the Dentist

Sorry if this posting is full of dribble but I have been to the dentist this morning. My face is slowly coming back to life after the injection but I still look like I've had a stroke....but I'm not moaning, it's my own fault for leaving it so long between check ups....even so, after nearly three hours my top lip is still numb and trying to drink coffee through a straw isn't an option (I haven't got any straws) so I am still dribbling more coffee down jumper than is getting in my mouth, my left eyelid looks like I have had a brow lift (shame the right one still looks normal) but the good news is that both nostrils are now working so I don't have to worry about having a runny nose and not realising it....but I'm not moaning....well not much.

Check out the YouTube videos - the top one is the Dentists song from the Little Shop of Horrors, makes me laugh and squirm at the same time, aghh!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Just to prove that I'm not totally irresponsible (see previous posting) and that at least some of the time I can be mistaken for somebody with half a brain cell- have a look at the new YouTube videos - Lesley and John, these are for you!!

Warning - Not to be taken too seriously - (I like the top one best, look out for the David Blunket look alike)

Christmas Planner

This weekend we are going over to York for the St Nicholas Fayre. It's lovely in York at this time of year and extra special for us because we get to spend time with Lesley and Lawrence. I'm not sure how much Christmas shopping we will get done as it can get really crowded around the stalls and shops but that isn't really the point of the trip. We just love wondering around looking at all the lovely sites and taking in the whole festive atmosphere of the place and when it all gets too hectic we will hopefully find a nice little pub where we can all enjoy lunch together.

I am in fact quite well organised for Christmas this year. I hate leaving things to the last minute when the shops become frantic with angry Mothers, crying kids and bored fathers because I love buying people presents. I spend hours planning what I want to get everyone and I love it when there are little ones to buy for. Generally I try to be the kind of Auntie that makes the parents groan when their children unwrap their presents of a noisy drum kit or a chemistry set with lots of messy gunk to experiment with. And if you ask my grown up nieces and nephews, whose children are such a joy to buy for, you will probably find that I am succeeding. Christmas night just wouldn't be the same without the groans of 'Auntie Joyce has bought you what?

I think that I should go into business- That Bl****y Auntie Christmas Planner- then Aunties everywhere could buy unsuitable gifts for their loved ones without ever leaving the house. All I would need from them is a list of the children's ages/hobbies/likes and dislikes and shed loads of money to go out and have fun with. (I think I'm on to winner here!)

Thursday, 22 November 2007

I need help

I need your help - I am in the middle of writing Episode 20 of Spanish Steps and I have a dilemma - is honesty always the best policy?

One the one hand living a lie can be damned hard work and is fraught with danger - what if the other party discovers the lie? how will they react? will it mean the end of the relationship? who will get hurt from the fall out?

On the other hand liars and cheats make great characters!!

So basically no dilemma - bring on the liars every time

Thanks for that, I just needed to run it past someone.(I probably should lay off the caffeine for a while)

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Monty Python on YouTube

My computer is running sooo slowly today. The Internet connection feels like it is going to collapse on me any moment now.

It bound to be my fault. Probably I have done something wrong - don't know what - I run regular virus scans - I try to keep crud off the homepage - I don't download anything that looks suspect -

I'll probably have to try that old favourite of all system helplines...'tried everything and it still doesn't work? - let's try switching the computer off, leaving it for 5 minutes and then switch it back on again' (though we only used that old chestnut when we didn't know what was wrong and hoped that if they still couldn't get it working and had to phone back one of the other help line staff would pick up the call and then it would be their problem!!)

Thought that I could do with a laugh so as you will see I have swapped The Beatles for Monty Python on the YouTube link, go on have a laugh, you know it makes sense

Friday, 16 November 2007

Did You Know.....

Did you know that many old people in this country are housebound because their Primary Care Trust doesn't provide free foot care for the elderly. Incredible, here we are living in one of the riches countries on earth and some people who have contributed so much to society, paid their taxes, led good lives, can't get out and about because they aren't supple enough to be able to bend down to cut their own toe nails.

OK I'll admit this is not a sexy topic. Not exactly a vote winner on the hustings. But stop and think for a moment about how embarrassed your Mum or grandad would be if they were in the same position. Do you think that they would tell you? No they wouldn't. They would either suffer in silence or just stop going out. If however they knew that they were entitled to free foot care as a right not something they had to beg for, they could then take responsibility for the care themselves.

Help the Aged, a wonderful organisation that lobbies on behalf of the older people in our community, is running a campaign to try and force the PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) to provide free foot care for all elderly people. Take a minute to join the campaign by mailing your local PCT, that's all it takes, 1 minute to complete the online form.

Take it from one who knows, foot care can be an expensive business. By my very rough calculations I have probably paid out well over £1500 in foot care over the years, and this doesn't include the cost of the operations I had (luckily we had medical insurance then).

Join the campaign - when you get old you may be glad you did

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

How Was Work Today?

When James comes home from his shift in the truck stop, I always ask 'How was work today' I'm not being flippant I'm really interested. As you know I am now working from home and the one huge draw back is that unless I go out somewhere I very often don't see anyone all day. I'm not complaining, it does mean that I can get a lot of writing done but it does make me a bit of a Billy No Mates at times.

So back to the tale.... Every day I ask James 'How was work today?' and every day he answers 'Same old same old.' So yesterday I thought, he must be getting fed up me asking, so from now on I won't (don't want him to think that I am some boring old fart that can't think of a new greeting each day) When he came in I called 'Hi' (not the most imaginative greeting but I was in the middle of writing a steamy love scene) and carried on with the writing.

James came up stairs, walked into my cosy little office and looked at me with disappointment. It was the look that most Mothers dread. It's the look you get when you turn up to collect your kids from school in what they consider to be really naff clothes, or the look they pull when you are the only Mum at their Graduation Ceremony sniffing quietly and pretending not to cry when you see your first born in his cap and gown. 'Well, aren't you going to ask?' thinking on my feet I replied hastily 'how was work today'

'Well, there was a huge fire on the forecourt and I had a terrible time keeping the marauding kids from the flames till the fire engines turned up. I wasn't too badly injured but I have lost the use of my right arm' At the look of horror on my face the bugger burst out laughing and told me that it was all lies. Apparently he had spent the journey home making up the most fantastical reply that he could think of in answer to my inevitable question and then, I didn't ask it!!!

P.S A word of advice to any new Mum, the one big truth of parenting that should be learnt before all others is, what ever you do as a Mum, you just can't win.

P.P.S The second truth to be learnt is, kids lie!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

You Tube

What do you think of the YouTube link? I am such a fool, I couldn't work out how to get rid of the car videos that came automically with the link- duhh!! I've had great fun looking around Youtube for ideas for the blog but in the end I just typed in The Beatles and look what I got, brill or what.

P.S Count yourself lucky my first option was for cute kitten videos

Friday, 9 November 2007

Headline of the Day

I am busy writing for Spanish Steps today but couldn't resist sharing my favourite headline of the day from The Times

Research found that one in 10 men think chlamydia is a flower

For the full story see BBC News

Not a funny article but a very funny headline

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Boycott The Sun

Like most people, I was horrified by the tales of harassment by the press and paparazzi told to GMTV by Heather Mills. What ever the rights and wrongs of her marriage to Paul McCartney, and I for one really don't care about their marriage, divorce or settlement, she does not deserve the awful things that have been written about her in 'so called' newspapers.

I really believe it is time in this country for ordinary people to stand up to these journalistic bullies and say enough is enough. I don't want to read day after day in the Express the silly conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Diana. I don't want to have every story in the Daily Mail to have the most ridiculous anti-government slant. I don't even want to mention The Sun in the same sentence as the word journalism, in case some poor misguided fool thinks that it is a newspaper rather than the filth rag it is.

Heather is trying to fight back against the press with a campaign to boycott the sun, I have signed it, not just for the way they have treated her but for their reporting of Hillsborough, some of us will never forget!!!

Gorilla surprise turns out to be a stripper in school

After a visit this morning to the hygienist, I thought that I would have a relaxed lunch and read the paper while eating my sandwich.

I have stopped buying a daily paper as I a) don't find the time to read one every day and b) don't believe half the rubbish in them anyway, but James has started walking the two mile round trip to our nearest shop to buy The Times, so I thought 'what the hell'.

Imagine my delight when in amongst the latest awful news from around the world I came across the following headline Gorilla surprise turns out to be a stripper in school

Apparently a Mum thought that she would surprise her son for his birthday by sending a gorillagram to his school, unfortunately the agency mistakenly sent a strippergram who proceeded to 'punish' the poor lad before she stripped of in front of his classmates. As embarrassing Mothers go even I can't beat that!!

I think that my worst offence was one time, when my son was being a little horror on the school run, I threatened him, not with physical violence, but that I would kiss him in the school playground, in front of all of his friends, before waving him into class crying 'have a good day Darling, Mummy loves you' But I'm sure that James and Lesley have been sufficiently scared for life by me to tell of lots of times when they hung their heads in shame and wished that I was anywhere else but there!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Free Rice

News Alert - Free Rice

I am now on level 43 !!!

Too Old For Fireworks?---Never

When I was little I used to love this time of year, Halloween, my birthday and then Bonfire night all in one week, how could it get any better. Even now I still get a kick out of seeing the little ones trick or treating and watching a big firework display (not so keen on the birthdays any more, they are coming around far too quickly for my liking)

Dave and I usually go down to the Old Town to watch the big firework display by the Runcorn Bridge but this year I was beginning to give up hope that he would be home in time for us to get there. The display was due to start at 7.30 and by 7.10 he still wasn't home. At the eleventh hour he rushed through the door and said even if we wouldn't be in time to park up and get to the river front we would just be in time to catch some of the show if we drove across the bridge.

So that's what we did, like a pair of daft school kids we drove along the Express Way, with the car windows open so that we could hear the bangs and screeches of the massive aerial display, and then (along with quite a few other people) drove back and forth across the bridge to see some of the display in all it's glory. We didn't fancy stopping on the hard shoulder, like the dozens of other cars with their hazard lights flashing, so we drove down toward Wigg Island to park up and see the show's finale. Great fun!!!

A (bed) Room With a View

I was cleaning the bedroom windows and couldn't resist taking a picture of some of the views of the garden

All the colours of the leaves really do gladden the heart on a sunny autumn morning

Monday, 5 November 2007

Marcus Brigstock

What a busy weekend.

Friday evening Lesley and Lawrence came over from York to go to the Brindley with us to see Marcus Brigstock.

Saturday was my birthday and Dave prepared me a lovely supper of all my favourite food.

And Sunday was spent laying the new flooring in our bedroom which is beginning to look really fab.

(I think Dave could do with another weekend to get over it!)

Thursday, 1 November 2007


Watching the news yesterday you could have been forgiving for thinking that the whole country was about to go crazy with marauding gangs of youths out to create mayhem by Trick or Treating.

According to the good old BBC, October 31st is the worst night of the year for anti-social behaviour. Well let me tell you, not in our street it isn't!!

We only had about 4 groups of children calling last night and they were cute little kids dressed in amazing costumes accompanied by a responsible adult.

Even though I don't have any little ones at home any more I still had great fun carving a pumpkin lantern to put outside the front door. I even bought lots of Halloween themed sweeties, you know the kind, false teeth, dripping eyeballs etc to hand out, but with so few kids calling I have lots left over.

I think that it is about time that the press stops all the scare mongering and just once, maybe, tells it as it really is. Yes, in some areas there is a problem, but the vast majority of little kids out Trick or Treating just want to wear scary outfits and collect lots of sweeties...or maybe that just where I live.

P.S When we got up this morning we found that the Pyrex dish full of rice, that I had left on the kitchen table, was smashed on the floor, what a mess, shattered glass and rice everywhere!...Could it have been done by lost souls wandering the earth on the eve of All Hallows... or might it have been that the Trick or Treaters have special powers to create havoc through closed doors? Well possibly, but more likely one of our two cats was looking for a midnight feast.

Note to self - must teach the cats how to use a dustpan and brush

Free Rice

I am hooked on the Free Rice game.

Last night I set Dave the challenge of beating my score of 41...he did and scored 42...bummer!! Not that I'm competitive or anything but I couldn't let that go without a fight...I'm now on 42 too (if you see what I mean)

If we carry on like this the UN will end up with more rice than they know what to do with - (with any luck)

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Poppy Appeal

When I was shopping today I bought my first poppy of 2007. This probably will be the first of many that I'll have to buy as every year I seem to loose at least two before Remembrance Sunday!

Did you know that if you can't buy a poppy locally you are now able to donate online at

or that you can show your support for the poppy appeal through facebook:

Legion urges Facebook users to give virtual poppies

Stuart Gendall, Director of Corporate Communications for the Legion

“Social networking websites such as Facebook present us with an invaluable opportunity to reach a whole new generation of supporters. We hope that Facebook users can send to and receive poppies from all of their friends in the next fortnight and help us reach our target of 1,011,011 poppies distributed by 11am on 11 November when the nation pauses for the Two Minute Silence,”

Free Rice

James has sent me the link to a very compulsive game called Free Rice.

The aim is to choose the answer that best describes the word they give you. I suppose that you could call it a thesaurus word game. For example, they give you the word


you then choose your answer from the following list


When you click on the correct answer you are automatically donating grains of rice that will be sent to countries that need it by
the United Nations . The rice bowl at the side of the screen shows just how much your game has generated in rice, very clever. The donations are paid for by the sponsoring advertisers on the site, so it doesn't cost you a thing.

The fun part is watching your word level grow or fall depending on your answers. There are 50 levels to aim for I'm at 41, not sure how good that is maybe you can do better!

For more information about Free Rice or to start playing the game go to

Thursday, 25 October 2007

New Template

I've decided that I have been getting a bit stuck in my ways with the template for this blog, so with a bit of playing around with different option I have chosen or what?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Too Cold for Flip Flops

I'm making a lousy patient.

All this lovely autumnal sunshine just makes me want to get out in the fresh air and go for a good walk. Rather than drive everyone else mad with my grumbling, I thought it would be a good idea to try and get my shoes on for the first time since the nail surgery.

With a bit of effort, and much loosening of the laces, I eventually got my posh skater shoes on. Great I thought now let's see if I can drive in them, OK driving is fine, lets try a trip to Asda. You can probably guess the toes are now throbbing like mad and I feel a bit of a fool,well I never said I was perfect!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Smashing up the bedroom

We are in chaos, Dave is dismantling the bedroom furniture ready for the plasterer who is coming on Tuesday.

Reading that sentence back to myself I have realised that I can talk the most utter drivel sometimes. I tend to presume that because I can second guess what people are about to say that everyone knows what I am prattling on about.

What I meant to say was, we are having new bedroom furniture fitted soon so we thought that we would use this opportunity to have the ceiling re plastered. All the ceilings in the house were Artexed when we bought it and as we are having each room refurnished or decorated we are having the ceilings re plastered so that they look nice and smooth.

So that is why Dave is taking a sledge hammer to the old fitted wardrobes and why the house is chaotic, phew note to self, try writing in complete sentences, you know it makes sense.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Off our Feet

Have you ever tried to find a foot related joke that wasn't either a) filthy or b) just not very funny...well let me tell you there is an absolute dearth of funny foot jokes. Why, I can hear you asking, am I wasting my time on such nonsense, well I found out last night that my great nephew Paul is in hospital with a very nasty infection in his foot and ankle. As another poorly foot person I thought that I would try and cheer him up with a joke but no joy. So he had to make do with a sympathetic email, not the same as a joke but at least he knows that we are all thinking about him.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Feeling Sorry For Myself

I hate being house bound, but as it has been raining today and I have been warned not to get the dressings on my feet wet I am stuck indoors.

Not one to sit around doing nothing, I have been trying to do some editing and here's the rub, the more I am rereading the episodes of Spanish Steps, that only last week I though were ready for publishing, I now am unhappy with them. It is probably just me being all girly and feeling sorry for myself. So I have decided to pull myself together, print off everything that I had filed for publishing, light the fire, pour myself a glass of wine and edit by firelight.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Nail Surgery

Last Friday, I had what I hope, was the last operation I need on my feet, at least for the next few years.

One of the problems with having a wonky foot straightened is that it throws up problems in other places. In my case it highlighted amongst other things the fact that I have one leg slightly shorter than the other and that the ligaments in my toes are shot to hell.

Now I have special orthotics made for my (not so pretty) shoes I am walking straight but my big toes have been really painful with numerous corn type things growing along both edges of each nail. So last Friday I had the nails cut away to make them narrower and had the bed of the nail zapped so the nail doesn't grow back again.

I just hope that the weather stays mild so that I can carry on wearing my glamorous flip flops without getting frostbite.

PS... Sorry if you were eating your lunch while reading this
PPS...Don't worry there won't be any pictures!!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Visit to the Dentist

Sod's law, the one day in six years (much to my shame) that I have to go to the dentist, I wake up with a horrible cold.

Needless to say the dentist spent 10 minutes telling me off for leaving it so long between appointments, I threatened to pass on my cold if he carried on nagging me but he just laughed and told me that all dentists are immune to germs. I think they are only immune because they are the sons of Satan and nothing short of a wooden stake will finish them off.

You may have gathered from this that I have a love hate relationship with my dentist. On the one hand he is a lovely chap and was very kind and gentle with the kids when they were growing up. On the other hand I have a morbid terror of all things dental, from the noise of the drill down to the taste of the mouthwash. Even the chair tilting back is guaranteed to make me break out in a sweat!

Kevin (the dentist) calls me a wimp but has promised that the schedule of works that we will be looking at will be (probably) pain free but possibly on going....I only went in with a broken filling...

Friday, 5 October 2007

Updating the Blog

It has been a good day today. The weather has been fab for this time of year, I had a lovely lunch with the old Echo crew (my God you sound like a bunch of rappers!) and saw Gary's beautiful babies, then I spent the afternoon in the garden rewriting Episode 1 in longhand.

After all this (and cooking the dinner and doing the washing and going to the tip) I decided that I deserved a little treat so have just spent a lovely hour updating some of my holiday postings with my photos (the cable was in the desk in the hall)

I doubt that may people will trawl through the old postings to look at the pictures but I had fun doing it and that's all that matters.....

Crossing The Bridge

I have no idea why some people think that walking across the bridge might be a fun thing to do, I would need a safety net and a bottle of Valium to even attempt it!

And just when you thought it was all over

Safely across the other side and what awaits......yes you guessed it, another b****y bridge

This is just the approach to it!!!

I'm not sure if the lorry was tilting or whether the fact that I had one hand gripped to the dashboard while I was trying to take this photo had something to do with it...

Photos of the Pont de Normandie

By popular demand, the photographic evidence that I crossed Le Pont de Normandie.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Writers Block is Real

I am really enjoying the writing for Spanish Steps, my office is decorated with family trees and character development spider charts, so far I have written enough for the first 20 Episodes but now I have to face the uncomfortable truth...I'm not happy with Episode 1.

It's not that it is rubbish or anything, in fact it's not bad at all BUT and this is a big but (hence the capitalization) it needs to grab the reader by the balls and make them want more. So I have been looking for inspiration and did the only sensible thing, well sensible for a woman sitting all alone in her little office, well OK spare bedroom, I Googled Great Opening Lines. Just look what I found:- Brilliant examples from all genres of literature and how do I feel now...depressed, I am not worthy!

Here is the News

As I was making the tea this morning I put on the TV to watch the news on the BBC. Well I'm sorry but how the BBC can call their breakfast show a news programme is beyond me. Their lead item was the inquest into the death of Diane Princess of Wales, they then 'reported' on the resurgence of the beehive hairdo and rounded off with an interview with Don McLean (remember him?......American Pie, Vincent etc). A quick look on their website however tells us that the Prime Minister has flown into Baghdad and the Tory's are planning to scrap the early release of prisoners, as well as news from Burma, an obituary for Ned Sherrin and my personal favourite news item of the day, 'Italian Convent To Close After Sisters Maul Mother Superior' Now that's what I call news!!

Monday, 1 October 2007

A Funny Sunday

It was a funny day yesterday, as it was bright and dry Dave and I went out for a walk. We didn't go far, just down to Wigg Island, which is a new nature reserve on the banks of the Mersey in Runcorn. It is a lovely spot with hides for bird watching on the estuary and nearly 4km of well kept paths around the reserve. But is seemed strange just the two of us walking there. We seem to have spent the last twenty odd years either pushing a buggy or holding dog's lead when we have been out and about and now it's just Dave and I holding hands.

I know that this introspection is probably due to the 'empty nest syndrome'. Lesley is happily settled into her new house in York, James is working all hours to get the money together for his round the world trip next year and two weeks ago Billy, our lovely old black Labrador, died peacefully after a very short illness.

But, in the grand scheme of things, holding hands in the sunshine is not a bad way to spend an afternoon................................

Friday, 28 September 2007

Back to York

It is that time of year again......time for all students to fly the nest and head back to University. We have spent most of this week getting Lesley's stuff for ready for her new accommodation in York. No more Halls, it's now six of them sharing a house off campus. I am seeing the house for the first time tomorrow and only hope that it is a little less grungy than James' place in Aberystwyth. That looked like the original set for the Young Ones.......well James' room did.....well I thought it did.......he thought it was great.........what do I know.......

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Bray Dunnes to Runcorn

Thursday 13th September

Well that's it, home at last.

I thought that you might be interested to know that on this trip we have:

a) Travelled 3967 miles
b) Visited 4 countries
c) Paid out 191.85 euros in road tolls
d) Bought 490.20 euros worth of diesel
e) Stayed at 17 campsites
f) Discovered that Portugal is the cheapest country for food and diesel
and went over the bloody bridge, Pont de Normandy TWICE, and I have the photographs to prove it!!

Talking of photographs, confession time, I forgot to pack the cable to upload photos onto the Blog, so all the pictures below have been 'borrowed' from various tourist websites (sorry)..........when I find the cable (I haven't a clue where I have put it) I will bore you all to death with the holiday snaps...until then we are planning our next does Scandinavia sound????

Courseulles to Bray Dunnes via Da Panne

Wednesday 12th September

If you travel along the coast from Dunkirk you eventually hit the Belgium seaside resort of Da Panne. With its miles of golden sands and a promenade the seems to stretch into the horizon it is the quintessential seaside resort. What we wondered was the French resort just over the border be like? Would Bray Dunnes be like Da Panne with a Gallic twist? The answer is yes!! it is a pretty seaside town with lovely clean beaches and a long, well kept prom.....maybe not quite as plush as Da Panne but just as nice. It is a smashing place to spent the night before catching Le Schuttle tomorrow as it is only about 40 minutes from the Eurotunnel terminal.


Tuesday 11th September

Our campsite in Normandy is in the popular seaside resort of Couseulles Sur Mer, which is to the east of Juno Beach where the Canadian troops landed on D Day. Everywhere you go along this coast there are memorials to those days. That's not to say that the place is morbid, on the contrary, it has successfully rebuilt its self from almost total devastation to an area of pride and some beauty without forgetting its past. No mean achievement.
We spent the morning wandering around the weekly street market in town and having a lovely lunch of moules et frites before setting off to walk to the next little town along the coast.

Omaha Beach

Monday 10th September

No picture will ever due justice to the enormity of the Mulberry Harbour. It was an absolutely massive and a fete of engineering that probably hasn't been equalled in peace time. The harbour was used to ship in supplies and troops after the beaches had been take on D Day The harbour landed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tons of goods. and had six miles of steel roadways!
Not much is left of it now but the visitors centre in Arromanche has a very tasteful and moving film in a 360 degree cinema which revisits the times of the landings and the troop movements following those first days.

Earlier this year the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach opened a new visitors centre and Dave and I were both very moved by the whole experience. It is a credit to the memory of all the American troops who fell during the liberation of Europe.

Bayeaux to Courseulles

Sunday 9th September

Bayeuax was the City where Charles De Gaulle went to after landing on the Normany Beaches just after the initial D Day Landings. It is also the home to a very simple but exceptionally beautiful British War Cemetary.

In 1955 Dad, together with his sister (who had just passed her driving test and had recently bought her first car) and our eldest brother George, returned to Normandy to pay his respects to the comrades he had lost there. I remember him telling me how proud he was of the way the the War Gaves Commision had looked after the various Commonwealth cemetries in the area and all I can say is that 52 years after Dad's visit the cemetries are still beautifully cared for and visited by people from the four corners of the globe with reverence and pride.

Poitiers to Bayeaux

9th September

One of the beauties of this kind of trip is that you can be spontaneous. You can look at the map and think, wow how about we go and see the Bayeux tapestry this afternoon? So that is how we found ourselves parking in Bayeaux on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in early September. The town of Bayeux is exceptionally pretty and we easily found the Museum where the tapestry is displayed. Of all the museums we have visited over the years I think that this is probably one of the best. The information was pitched at just the right level so that it could be enjoyed by all age groups and the tapestry itself was displayed brilliantly.

And the highlight of the day................Bayeaux has a 'Petite Train' which has to score 9/10 for it's commentary in French and English!!

Biarritz to Poitiers

Saturday 8th September

There is an absolute dearth of Internet Cafes or WiFi connections in central France so I am having to update the Blog in retrospect. I thought that it might be easier to read if I continued to write up each day as if it were real time hence the lack of continuity between the posting date and the post date (if you see what I mean) so here goes, just pretend that it is still 8/9/07......................

There are days when you are travelling that you need to catch up with yourself, get the washing done, find a supermarket to stock up on provisions etc, and today was one of those. We are spending the night in a campsite by Futuroscope just outside Poitiers. We didn't fancy the afternoon in a theme park so after we finished our chores we had an early dinner and sat with a glass of wine watching the fireworks from what was probably closing time at the theme park (don't worry Disney, you have nothing to worry about , at least in the firework display stakes)

Friday, 7 September 2007

San Sebastian - Biarritz

6th September - Biarritz

What do you give for his birthday the man who has everything?

Dinner in Biarritz, at the edge of the beach, watching the sun set over the Atlantic.

What can I say...he really doesn't deserve me

Burgos-San Sebastian

5th September - San Sebastian

I was really looking forward to seeing San Sebastian as it was the first Spanish stop on SPB's 1955 journey through Franco's Spain. In those days Ladies had to change in bathing huts and there were patrols along the beach to make sure that they were not exposing too much flesh...... however in 2007.....the women are now topless and we saw one man walking along the beach letting it all hang loose, Oh my, how times have changed.

Dave and I both loved San Sebastian, it has a huge promenade and lovely clean beaches and enough shops to keep even the most ardent shopaholic happy.

Riaza - Burgos

Burgos 4th September

We are back on the SPB trail now and are spending the afternoon in Burgos. The campsite is a little way outside the town but there is a very good path along the river right from the campsite into the heart of the town.

Burgos is justifiably famous for it's Cathedral and for the fact that it was the city were Lesley and Lawrence were stuck for a lift just before Easter when they were on their sponsored hitch to Morocco.

There seem to be a lot of camper vans on the move now, probably because all the schools are back and it is the end of the summer season. By the looks of it Southern Spain and Portugal are about to be invaded by the 'Silver Surfers'

There are flags around the town announcing that Burgos will be the Europen Capital of Culture in 2016 (I'm sure that Liverpool didn't have that much advanced notice) it will be a good place for it but they really must sort out the dreadful graffiti before then, it is everywhere.

Monday, 3 September 2007


We have just come back from exploring Riaza and I had to tell you what we found there. There is a huge fiesta planned for later this week and the centre of the village has been laid out with a bullring for the festivities. Now no matter what I personally feel about grown men in tight trousers tormenting the life out of 50 stone of angry bull, we are in bullfighting country and as tourists we should either put up or shut up. It is their country and their fiesta and what right do we have to tell them they are wrong.

The fiesta seems to start with a bull run through the narrow streets of the town, it sounds really exciting and I am just sorry that we are moving on tomorrow. This area of Spain with it's heritage trail and skiing in the winter is definitely worth another visit.

Little train in Toledo

I nearly forgot to tell you, there is a Little Train in Toledo

It looks a good trip, we kept seeing it on a journey around the city but unfortunately it is a nightmare to get on.

I don't know what it is about little trains in Spain but they a hugely popular. The queue for this one was about 20 deep and that was at 10.30am and the train didn't start running until 11am.

Not easily put off, we joined the queue and patiently waited our turn to buy a ticket. The train quickly filled up with much pushing and shoving from the waiting tourists, remember these are grown ups, not little kids pushing their weight around, until it was just a French couple in front of us in the queue. The next thing all hell breaks loose, from what we could gather half of the passengers had to get off the train because they were part of an organised tour group and their coach had turned up. They all then tried selling their tickets on to anyone in the queue who would buy them. By the time the French couple and ourselves realised what was going on the train had refilled with the Spanish people who had been queuing behind us, the train driver was throwing a hissy fit and wouldn't let any one else on the train and it took off down the hill a rate of knots with half the carriages empty...............we didn't bother waiting for the next one............

Toledo to Riaza

We had originally intending staying in Madrid after Toledo but as our next step is up to Burgos we felt that three cities in six days would be far too much to take in. So we have taken to the hills, literally, and are staying just outside the ski reasort of La Pinilla. Needless to say there is no snow...........just fresh mountain air, deep blue sky and fluffly little clouds.............we intend walking into the village this later this afternoon but at the moment I am happily sitting in he dappled shade of a litle tree updating the Blog (and clearing out the hotmail inbox) as I have managed to find a campsite with weefee (that's Spanish for wifi, I told you this translation business was a breeze)

Camping in Spain

I haven't been describing the campsites we have stayed at quite deliberately. There is nothing more boring than reading a list of campsite facilities but I think that Camping El Greco in Toledo deserves a special mention. It is probably one of the poshest that we have stayed in Spain. The loos and shower blocks are absolutely immaculate and the restaurant, with its terrace overlooking the city set high on the hillside was amazing.

We had a lovely pitch next to the river that runs around three sides of the city (a bit like Shrewsbury) and were able to sit at dusk with a glass of wine (or three) watching the hundreds of birds flying along the river.

To cool off after a hot day's sight seeing I thought that I would have my shower early this evening and was standing there under the powerful jet of cooling spray when I heard a man's voice inside the shower block....unusual to say the least but I thought that it might be a cleaner, until I realised that he was speaking French, and talking to his wife in the shower next to me............the next thing I knew was he had joined his wife in the shower and unless there is an eroticism to the contents of a salad bowl that I don't know about I think that they we just showering together (to save water?) and planning what they were going to have for dinner!!!!

All I can say is I've led a sheltered life............


Sunday 2nd September

What can I say about Toledo that hasn't been said a thousand times before, it is truly a city of contrasts with a rich a varied history. The walled city set high above the surrounding countryside is visible for miles around. The narrow cobbled streets seem to lead at every turn to another gem of historical interest; the Jewish quarter with the most important synagogue in Spain; Museums, galleries and of course the fabulous cathedral.

We decided to just do two buildings on this trip, unlike the poor Japanese tourists who seemed to be getting raced around every historical building at a rate of knots, they looked absolutely exhausted! We chose to visit the synagogue first, for no other reason than we have never been inside one before - I learnt so much about the history of the Sephardic Jews in Spain and was impressd by the exhibitions around the synagogue and the influence of the Moors in the decorations.

As it was a Sunday we were unable to visit the Cathederal until 2 o'clock, that is after the morning Masses. If you only have the time to visit one building in Toledo then make it the Cathederal, it is absolutely breath taking. The altar and choir stalls are enough to warrant the 6 euros entrance fee alone but then you find in the Sacristy an art collection to knock your socks off..............Van Dyke, Goya, Titian and more El Greccos than you can shake a stick at, fabulous.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Merida - Toledo

Saturday 1st September

What can I say, after only one afternoon in Toledo I am absolutely hooked. We will be going back into town tomorrow so watch this space for more details.


Friday 31 August


What a fabulous city, it is full of Roman ruins, little cafes and it has a little train.......deep joy.
Admittedly it wasn´t the best train ride this holiday, in fact it only scored 5/10 but it looked pretty.
For anyone interested in Roman antiquities it is definitely worth a visit. The town however, looks as if it is in the middle of a make over. The regional government has set up business there and it seems to have quite a big university. At first glance it looks more of a working town than a tourist centre but persever and you will find yourself 'discovering' antiquities in the most unlikely places. The Temple of Diana, for instance, is down a small side street and until the 1970s it had somebody living there! There is a huge aquaduct at the edge of the town and Roman bridge spans the river by the University.

Portugal to Spain

Thursday 30 August

Little known facts about Portugal

#They are on BST (British Summer Time) - it took us 2 days to realise that we should have put our watches on an hour when we crossed the boarder from Spain. We were wandering around saying how late Portugese campers were getting up in the morning - Duhh!

#The average Portugese camper makes Jose Marinho (the Chelsea Manager) look positively chipper!!

# The language might look like a cross between Spanish and French but when spoken it sounds more like Eastern European

#Don't put tissue down the loo

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Walking in the woods

It is very tempting when you are in a campervan to spend the whole trip 'touring' rather than setting off on foot and just explore where you are. We were determined that while we were in Portugal that we would spend our time in and around the village, with the occasional foray by bus to the nearest big town, for Banks, groceries etc.

This area of Western Portugal, Leiria, is dotted with beautiful sandy beaches and very well managed forests. We spent Sunday walking through the forest before picking up the path down to the coast. It was lovely walking through the woods, taking the time to see the things that you miss when you are in the van, pine cones the size of house bricks, little picnic areas set back from the road and the cups hanging from the trees to gather the resin. It was while we were taking a well earned rest at one picnic area that we started to think of all the things that we hadn't spotted so far around the village; birds (believe it or not) snakes, gays (I kid you not, we hadn't seen one guy couple for at least 300 miles) or bears (we were getting silly by now)

As we set off back to the path Dave stopped suddenly and said 'My God there's a snake' Now I'm no expert but I didn't think that stopping to look at a snake was such a brilliant idea, but I must admit it did look good weaving it's way amongst the undergrowth. A little way along the path we both looked up in surprise to see, what looked like, a hawk hovering over the forest, 2 out of 4 in 10 minutes, spooky. Having a welcome cooling beer when we reached the beach, we were joined in the bar by a very nice gay couple (Dutch I think) so we nervously kept to the coast road on the way back, didn't want my last words on this earth to be 'shit five out of five'

Sao Pedro de Meol

After a week at the seaside we are planning to move inland tomorrow.

Our original plan was to stop for a couple of days in Meridha,which I think, is a lake district in Spain, then further inland to Madrid for 4 nights to pick up on SPB's route again. But after a perusal of the AA road map we have know decided to cut short Madrid and add in a 2 night stop in Toledo.

I think that we will notice a difference in the temperatures inland. It has been quite cool here on the coast, I suppose the average daytime temperature has been about 25C with a cooling breeze. I have been surprised by the weather so far on this trip. It was a lot cooler in Northern Spain than we expected and even when we reached Portugal the wind was so cool at first that, in the shade, you needed a light sweater. Is this typical, or are they having the same Atlantic low that has blighted the UK summer this year?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Travel Books

I love travel books, any travel books, but especially those that tell a story at the same time. I suppose my favorite has to be Bill Bryson but having recently discovered Peter Moore I am a convert, he writes with so much humour that you are there on the road with him, very clever.
One of my loves is to trawl old book stalls and charity shops for obscure writers and one of the best I found was SPB Mais. His 'Spanish Holiday' is a classic. Written in 1955, it charts his journey by coach from London, through France and Spain. SPB (you never learn his first name) lists, with monotonous regularity, the price of water, tea and their mid morning Brandy, which his wife had 'to settle her stomach'

I personally think that Gillian (his wife) took the Brandy to cope with being stuck on a coach with SPB.............his comments on Franco's Spain are priceless and in these politically correct time really quite outrageous, but of his time brilliant.

We followed part of the 1955 route down to San Sebastian and will pick it up again in Toledo and Madrid and I'll let know how things have changed in the past 50 years, especially the price of brandy.

Little Trains

Portugal is missing a trick, there is a severe shortage of little trains!

Dave was so enthused by my posting in Venice Vert that he spent the whole evening trying to convince me that what the world needs is a Blog dedicated to the Little Trains of the World. He had the whole thing planned out, we would travel the world to find and travel on little trains then we could give them a score out of 10 for comfort, value for money and quality of the commentary, before you start thinking that the sun has gone to his head, I would say in his defence that the wine was particularly cheap and plentiful.......

Sao Pedro de Moel

Oh me Oh my which silly billy put the wrong village name on the last only excuse is that the mobile Internet cabin on the seafront in the village was full of little kids playing ,shoot em dead, games and I couldn't concentrate!!!!

I have found an Internet cafe today but the keyboard is knackered but I will persevere for my 3 euros worth.

We are staying in the lovely village of Sao Pedro which is the rather upmarket seaside resort for Marinha Grande. Lots of plush villas, 3 lovely beaches and two big campsites. Mike, you would love it here and you could even fly drive for a Keycamp holiday in a very twee little cabin. The campsite has a huge pool, basic restaurant (very cheap) and cute little bar with terrace. What more could you want!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Caminha to Porto de Mos

Tuesday 21 August

It was just too windy and cool in Caminha so we thought that we would head south in search of some warmer winds.

Porto de Mos is in the Leira region of Portugal and is a very pretty seaside town with beautiful beaches and some very swish looking villas.

I am posting this in a free Internet facility on the beach so will keep it short.

More details and pictures of this beautiful region to follow!!!!!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Luarca to Caminha

Sunday 19th August

It is a fair drive down to Portugal from Northern Spain so we decided to set off early for our drive across the mountains. As it was a Sunday morning the wasn't much traffic on the roads, which was quite fortunate as a lot of the main road is being upgraded from the N634 to E70 i.e from a main road to a motorway. When I printed the route off Google Routes I thought that it seemed very complicated for what looked on the AA road map to be quite a straight forward route. But with some excellent map reading, Google and good road signs we arrived in the campsite in Caminha by about 2pm.

It is strange but you can not book campsites in advance in Portugal, it's first come - first served. We had planned to travel down to Lisbon next but I think that we might just wander down the coast and stop where the fancy (and campsite availability) takes us. But we intend staying here for a few days, sunbathing, swimming and's a hard life.


Saturday 19th August

The weather was beautiful so we thought we would set off early and walk along the coastal path to Luarca for breakfast.

It was a lovely walk and thankfully not very steep, along the coast into the harbour, which is probably more like Brixham than Padstow with all the coverful fishing boats sitting in the harbour.

After coffee, we took a stroll around the town and bought some souveniers from the little hippy type market.

We couldn't believe our luck with the weather so making the most of the sunshine we thought that we would stroll back to the campsite when the hill up from the beach seemed a lot steeper than it did on the way down!

Friday, 17 August 2007

Zarautz to Luarca

17th August

Dave and I are amazed by the beauty of this coastline in Northern Spain. With the Pyrenees on one side and the ocean on the other it has been a spectacular drive today. OK so some the the viaducts over the valleys had me gripping the seat for dear life, but the views were amazing. A lot of the coastline looks remarkably like Cornwall and Luarca, set as it is in a steep bay is a lot like Padstow (without, of course, Rick Stein)

Our campsite, Camping Playa de Tauran, is about 1.5k outside the town (as the crow flies) set on top of a cliff overlooking the Ocean.........I could get used to this life..................


16th August

I think that we have brought the English summer with us to Northern Spain, changeable sums it up really. I´m not complaining, if it was wall to wall sunshine we probably wouldn´t be doing half as much as we are. Today, for example, we took a cab into Zarautz town. We did intend walking in via the cliffs but it had been raining in the night and the path was very slippy and I am a wuzz about heights at the best of times. It isn´t that I think I am going to fall, it is I KNOW that I Will slip, fall head first into the cliffs and die a slow and painful death.......I think they call it vertigo.

Zarautz is a lovely seaside town with a long promenade and a brilliant surfing beach. We spent a great afternoon having lunch on the prom and pottering about in the town.

I am really disappointed that I haven´t had any answers to the quiz the other day, do you remember? What is a weesee.............answer...........accoording to the little girl who was trying desperately to open all the doors in the sanitation block on the´strange´ campsite, it is a WC.....this multilingual business is easy when you know!!

Talking of loos, how is it that a Nation that has brought us the glory of Versailles, the chic of Channel and the heart stopping beauty of Paris, thinks that woman want to wee standing up??? We don´t, even little French girl´s don´t that´s why there is always a queue for the disabled toilets on the motorway Aires. I think that if all the women in France, French and Tourists alike boycott these abominations, maybe, just maybe, somebody will take the hint..........rant over.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Creón to San Sebastian

'I'm sorry we don't take reservations, but as long as you arrive by 12 o'clock - no problem'

That is the last time I believe a Spanish campsite!!!! We arrived in San Sebastian just before 12 o´clock unfortunately so did half of Spain, nobody told me that 15th August is a public holiday in Spain (Google Calender please take note) and that the world and his mother goes camping at the seaside.

No problem, we were told, there is another campsite further along the coast, just follow this narrow track for about 5k up the mountain in foggy sea can't miss it....well OK maybe they didn't quite put it in those words but you get the drift. Guess what the next site was full as well. We were just about to cut our losses and find the motorway to Santander, the theory being that there were bound to be lots of campsites around a port, when we spotted a sign for another site.

How lucky were we, it is a big site just outside Zarautz and our pitch looks right over the headland and last night there was a fiesta in town and they finished off the evening with a firework display that we could see from the campsite (and you know how much I love fireworks)


There wasn´t an internet cafe in Creón and I didn´t manage to find a Wifi spot on the campsite so these postings are out by a couple of days.

Creón was a nice little village, unfortunately it was shut when we arrived but at least we didn´t have any trouble parking....

We were staying on a strange little campsite. Nothing bad you understand, just a little odd. You know sometimes when you walk into a strange house and get that 'feeling' that everything isn´t just right, or is that just me? Well it was like that, everything seemed a little off kilter. There were lots of very plush static vans with wooden verandas and more flowers than Kew gardens, the Bar doubled up as the bread shop of a morning and there was a new mini golf and a freezing cold but very nice little pool.

I have been learning more French though. I seem to strike up conversation with random people while waiting to use the loo, no change there then, and slowly but surely I am beginning to understand more than I can speak. Do you know for example what a weesee is? think about it, I will give you the answer tomorrow.

Coulon to Créon

Monday 13th August

A nice easy trip today from the lovely Venice Vert region to the wine growing region 20k east of Bordeaux. Dave found us a little campsite from our very thick Eurocamping bible which promised`'a quiet site, Swiss owners, English spoken'.........well one out of three wasn´t bad........they were Swiss!!!

We had promised ourselves a lazy day. Catch up with the writing, sunbathe, have a swim and get the laundry done before the trip to Spain. we managed them all except for the laundry, they didn´t have a washing machine and my days of washing clothes by hand in cold water are long gone.

It was a shame that we had picked the one night of the week to stay here that they had, what seemed like, a communal BBQ and Karaoke, deep joy, drunked French men singing out of tune until the early hours of the morning, how have we ever lived without it before.....

Sunday, 12 August 2007


Sunday 12th August

Deep joy, Coulon has 'Le Petite Train' I love little trains. Everywhere we go I have to take a trip on a Little Train. Dave thinks that I should design a whole Blog around Little Train journeys. You know the kind of thing: value for money, length of journey, quality of the commentary and most importantly, the LA rating - i.e. the Lesley-Anne cringe factor. Yes dear daughter, even though I have no little kids with me to drag onto random little trains I still enjoy them, and today's was a cracker. Travelling around the canals of Le Venice Vert for an hour with a French commentary and VERY loud music, we had to give it a LA rating of 9.

This is a really lovely pat of France. Very relaxed and exceptionally pretty. Definitely worth a return visit.

St Malo to Coulon

A word of warning....Do Not, Under Any Circumstances on a Saturday in France in August........there I have told you. It is a truly mad thing to do, every bugger and his mother is on the road, either going to or coming back from their holidays. The ring road around Nantes went into melt down and I could write a book on the madness of drivers in the Aires (rest areas) on the motorway. Needless to say it was busy, and our short drive down to Coulon, in the Venice Vert was a long one!

Coulon is known as one of the most beautiful villages in France and our campsite is just on the edge of town, superb.

There are quite a mixed bunch on the campsite, mainly French but a scattering of intrepid Brits. Most of the French are in either in clapped out old caravans or state of the art campervans, while the Brits seem to be mostly middle aged caravaners.....except for one family who have the biggest campervan this side of Montana! It is big, very big, absolutely huge. A family of six could happily live in it, that's big, and no gentle reader, I am not jealous, even though our treasured camper would fit quite snugly into their boot.

St Malo

St Malo
Friday 10th August

We didn't feel like driving today so we took a cab into St Malo town from the campsite. There is only one problem with travelling - how to make yourself understood when the wonderful English education system failed to teach languages (at least to me) in the 60's. We weren't sure where in St Malo we wanted to go so when the cab driver suggested the railway station we agreed with the usual 'oui monsieur, merci' which is about the limit of my French conversation, well apart from 'deux bierres s'il vous plait'.

A word of advice, if you ever visit St Malo other than by train, don't bother visiting the railway isn't worth it!! Unlike us, you need to ask for the old town, it is absolutely fab. Lots of little lanes inside a walled area surrounded by beaches. We had a lovely lunch of moules et frites watching the world go by, bliss. The rest of the afternoon was spent pottering around all of the lovely little shops, yes James I have bought you a present, and sitting at a beach cafe with a small coffee soaking up the early evening sunshine.

August in France is the main holiday season and everywhere we have been so far is crowded with the French on holiday. St Malo in particular was very busy not only with the very chic middle class Parisian types but also with what I can only describe as 'hill folk'. I haven't seen so many shell suits since the 80's. And I think that if the family we saw in a little bar in town had shouted for the waiter one more time, the very sweet young waiter that had served us would have hit them!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Guines to St Malo

Thursday 9th August 2007 Guines to St Malo

It was quite chilly when we set off this morning, not at all like summer. I think that this part of France is suffering from weather from the west like we have been having at home. Gray skies followed us through for most of the morning but apart from the occasional very short shower the day was dry. This was the first journey that we were relying on Google maps to guide us. It was fortunate that both of the campsites had their postcodes listed on their websites as this seems to have made Google’s job a lot easier and the trip went like a dream. We didn’t get lost once, not even in the last half mile, which is when we usual go adrift, though this is probably more because we are tired rather than my map reading skills……well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The directions took us on mainly motorways rather than the N roads, which suited us as it was a long journey today. As usual, most of the toll roads were very quite and roadwork free. The only problem we saw on them was just after a peage when we saw a huge plume of black smoke on the opposite carriage. As we got closer we could see that it was a campervan on fire. The police were on the scene but the fire brigade hadn’t yet arrived. We could feel the heat from the fire on the opposite carriageway and I am sure that the petrol tanker that the police let through in the lane next to the fire was relieved that he was at least ten yards past the flaming van when the petrol tank went up………….I kid you not, they hadn’t even stopped the traffic going past the blaze at that point!! I am pleased to report that the people from the van had escaped the blaze and were sitting on the embankment but apart from the clothes they were wearing nothing but nothing was going to survive that fire. What a away to end a holiday.

I am going to start keeping my camera in the front of the van, there are so many things on the journey that are either interesting or just plain scary. Today for instance, we crossed the biggest new bridge in northern France – Le Pont du Normande – apparently, according to the oracle on all things bridge related, it was designed by an English man and it is an amazing feat of engineering. Personally, I think that any one who thinks that a road bridge should be approached on a near vertical approach is a sicko and should be locked up for a very long time.

We are staying at the campsite Domaine de la Ville Huchet, just outside StMalo. I must admit that from their website I was under the impression that the site was a) nearer to the town b) closer to the coast and c) well away from the business park on the bypass but on the positive side the staff are friendly, the site is clean and well managed and the facilities are very good with a lovely swimming pool, creperie and bar.

The site is in the grounds of an old villa which is now in a very sorry state. Earlier this evening Dave and I were having a look at it and started chatting to a Dutch (?) woman and her son. They are apparently big fans of British property show like escape to the country and A Place in the Sun, where people buy a house in Europe then spend a fortune doing them up. But how embarrassing to hear that they were amazed that we would buy property in a country where we couldn’t even speak the language, the shame of it!

Home to Guines

Wednesday 8th August 2007 – Home to Guines

Miles: 294

Tolls: £8

Lesley was due in work at 6.30am so we thought that we might as well make an early start on the journey and get Birmingham out of the way before the rush hour. It always surprises us as to quite how far away Folkestone is and how long it takes to get to the Channel Tunnel. With a couple of good stops and a tail wind we got there about 1.50pm so asked if we could get a train earlier than the one we were booked onto at 2.50. Luckily there were spaces o the 2.20 so we were in the campsite in Guines by 4pm local time.

We were both shattered by the time we had finished dinner. Neither of us had slept well the night before as John’s house alarm had gone off at about 1am and he couldn’t reset it. In the end James got him our ladders out of the garage, God knows how, they were well buried under ‘stuff’, and he climbed up and hit the box with a hammer and cut the wires. Fixed the blasted noise but as security systems go it is stuffed.

We were both happy to settle down early as we had planned an early start to St Malo the next day.

Monday, 6 August 2007

A Lovely Suprise

We have had a very busy weekend. Dave finished work last Friday and I have surprised him by organising a holiday for us both. We are planning to drive through France and Spain to Portugal. The whole trip will take about 6 weeks.....I don't believe in rushing..... and we are planning to finish up with a few days in Brugge.

As you can imagine trying to get everything organised has been a full time job, planning routes, booking campsites, buying provisions etc, but it has been worth it to know that on Wednesday morning we will be on our way down to Le Shuttle for the first stage of the journey.

It was a lovely surprise therefore when the phone rang on Saturday afternoon and it was my friend Noriko phoning from Japan. It is ages since we have spoken, we usually keep in touch by email or snail mail, and it was a joy to be able to have a proper girly chat. She is coming over to England with her family and was hoping that we could meet up. Guess what......... it is just the time when we are on holiday. I am so disappointed that we won't get to see each other but I am hoping that Lesley can get to see them (if she isn't working)

I am planning to keep Blogging while we are away, internet cafes permitting, so keep logging on to see where we are up to on our travels.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Hallé Fireworks & Light Spectacular

It was our wedding anniversary last weekend and Dave bought us tickets to see the Halle Orchestra who were performing at an open air concert at Tatton Park last Saturday.

I made a special picnic for the two of us, candles, bubbly, the works. After trekking across what seemed to be half the county from the car park to the lakeside, we joined the other 10,000 spectators for an intimate supper a deux and had a fabulous time. The music was excellent, the crowds were all in fine form, and the conductor, John Wilson really entered into the spirit of things. The highlight of the night for me was the firework display set to the music of Swan Lake, sounds naff but it was really cleverly done with the display matching the music to a tee.

Dave will have to start planning soon for our 30th Anniversary next year if he wants to top this!!

Chocks Away Chaps

For Dave's last birthday I bought him a flying lesson and last Saturday the weather was kind enough to let him get airborne.

The lesson was at 8.30am at Liverpool Flying School. They started with a brief 'briefing' and then it was straight into a very little plane for a 30 minute taster lesson. It might just be me, but I thought that it was a little too breezey for a first attempt in such a little plane, but needless to say, Dave had a brilliant time. I'm not sure if he wants to take a full course of lessons to try and get his Pilots Licence but I do know that he wants a longer lesson booked for when we get back off holiday.

What is it they say about big boy's toys?

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Sent to Coventry

I have been sent to Coventry, Billy isn't talking to me.

He wasn't amused when I told him that he needed a bath and even less amused when I told him that he had to take his bath on the drive. Well what is the point in a having a large sunny drive and not taking advantage of it. It wasn't as if I was making him bath in cold water, I had made sure that it was just the right temperature and that I had plenty of his favourite coconut shampoo but still he sulked.

He has now taken himself off to bed and won't even look at me..................I am definitely in the dog house well at least until dinner time.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Mystery Shopping

I used to be a Mystery Shopper, what's that? I can hear you thinking. Well once upon a time, when customer service meant something, organisations would employ a Market Research Company to send 'Virtual Customers' to their shops, banks, garages etc to test the service given by their employees.

For instance when we were looking at Banks we had to note (surreptitiously) how many people where in the Banking Hall, how many Tills were open, how long we had to wait in the queue to be served, whether the cashier used our name,were polite etc. At the end of the day a report was then sent to the Bank's Head Office detailing the service received around the country at their Branches. This information was then used to inform the training given to Bank employees and also to praise those Branches which had 'scored' well on our visits.

During the time I worked for the company I looked at Fast Food outlets, quality Car Sale rooms, top of the range designer jewellery outlets, electrical retailers, Bingo Halls (one of the funniest nights of my life) and of course a number of high street Banks.

Are these 'Virtual Customers' still around? well if my experience yesterday in Warrington are anything to go by, the answer is a resounding NO. I may be picky and probably overcritical at times but when I see bad customer service it really annoys me.

In Boots the Chemist for example their machine wouldn't accept Lesley's Advantage Card. Was she given an apology or explanation, No, she was just told to 'go and see that blond girl on the Number 7 counter, she can put the points on' I'm sorry but that isn't good enough, we had spent over £50 in this shop and the impression we were left with was that they didn't give a damn if we shopped with them or not, especially as the only words from the 'blond girl' were OK. That's right OK, no sorry for the inconvenience, no explanation of why in a brand new store the machines were broken, nothing, just OK.

The next shop we went into, H&M, had only one cashier open. Lesley only wanted to buy a hair clip costing 99p. She waited about 7 minutes to be served and there was only one customer in front of her. Bad enough, but when she was finally served there was no apology for the wait, no friendly banter, no thank you, nothing just give me your money and get on your way!!!!!!!!!

I think that it is time to Name and Shame these stores. Why should they get away with treating us, their customers as if we were an inconvenience? Not that I blame the staff, they are only doing what they are told or trained to do. I blame the lack of leadership in these organisations. I blame the Managers, who obviously don't know how to manage or motivate their staff.

I think that my message to these organisations s BRING BACK MYSTERY SHOPPERS you know it make sense.