Saturday, 31 March 2012

Brighton, March 2012

A new camping year and we managed to catch the sunny days of the month.

The usual arrangements, taking marinating chicken to bbq and then a curry on the second night.

An excellent potter on the Bromptons, taking in creditable beers at the Wetherspoons and, on the second day, a bracing game of golf (pitch and putt).

A caravan storage service was advertising at the site so the Puck now lives near Lewes and we don't have to heave it onto our front 'garden'.

The photographs are GT à cafe and camping by moonlight. I'm not sure why the first is shaky, but the latter is a 4-second exposure with fill in flash for the foreground. I usually keep a tripod in the boot but, unfortunately, not this time. A beautiful moon, the main reason for the snap,  becomes a smudge.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Brighton, July 2011

Photos and links to follow

Brighton, 26th-28th July 2011
The motivation for the visit (apart from the inherent pleasure of visiting our past and future home town of Brighton) was to attend a SuperCollider  course at Brighton University. Unfortunately, the course was cancelled due to insufficient takeup, but as the weather forecast was reasonable, we went anyway.
Minor changes to the arrangements at home made deploying the Puck easier: firstly, in addition to the advantage of experience, I have applied some cement to the edge of the parking space to smooth the passage. Secondly, we have adopted a policy of emptying out the contents before moving it – particularly the awning poles, the weight of which must be a significant proportion of that of the van itself.
This was the first real chance to use the Bromptons and they are brilliant. We are still getting used to the folding and unfolding (there was that embarrassing question to the eBay vendor when we thought that the front fork of the red one was assembled backwards). There are three key principles:
  • The order for unfolding is rear wheel, front wheel, saddle, handlebars – reverse it for folding
  • When folding the front wheel, keep it facing forwards
  • The saddle locks the folded front wheel in place, so, when unfolding, raise the saddle first.
The quality of the bikes, combined with Brighton’s excellent provisions for bikers has resulted in a super time. It used to be a real slog getting into town from the camp site on foot, or even walking to the bus stop, but now, pedalling along the front is a joy (with the additional options of shopping at the Marina Asda and taking a beer at the Marina Wetherspoons).
We have found our favourite pitch at Sheepcoate (113 for future reference), as secluded as it gets here (we first visited in Gerald the Camper in the first year they opened, before any of the  inter-pitch foliage had a chance to grow – there are photographs somewhere) but with good access to the facilities.
The only sand in the holiday’s vaseline is the fridge not working, a fact that we did not realise until the morning of Day 2. Reading the instructions, the likely culprits are a blown fuse or the caravan not level. I bought a set of fuses in Brighton’s 99p shop, but fiddling with the corner steadies to level the floor did the trick. A lesson learned - I thought it was only in gas mode (which we don’t use) that this matters, but that is clearly not the case.
Anyway, events have been:
Day 1
Cycle to town for a potter; back via the Marina Wetherspoons and Asda; walked up and up and up the hill to the racecourse, pausing  at a children’s cricket match; bbq chicken (brought with us en marinade) and salad.
Day 2
Cooked breakfast, including Asda chicken burgers instead of sausages: excellent portions as the fridge had become a warm cupboard.

Cycled to town where Jan met two old neighbours for lunch while I pottered further - an unsuccessful search for a small amount of paraffin for the lamp rescued at the last moment from the Oxfam bag
Then to ? church for some snaps 
And to the library which does not provide internet access for non-members.

Reassignated at the library and cycled around town towards Hove (a likely downsizing destination) then back all along the front, again via Wethers and Asda.
Tonight a chicken curry is planned.
Day 3
A reasonably early rise and a simple breakfast (no cooking = little washing) and back in time to go to the gym.

The Asda <£5 toaster is an excellent thing - we had a strange gas-driven toaster left over from Gerald, but it was primarily a novelty item and I would rather make toast efficiently with the site’s electricity than at length and imperfectly with my gas.
The cheap Asda wok, on the other hand is rubbish. I’ll get a small John Lewis model before we camp again.
Avoiding the excessively expensive French wooden spatula  was wise - the John Lewis 3 tools for £2 was a good deal and Wilko’s 28p model would have been even better. France is remarkably expensive these days.
I lost the boules, forfeited by losing the little wooden dobble in the foliage during the third set, but we played on anyway with a golf-ball dobble and the loss was reinforced, 11-13; 13-8; 8-14.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Another cancellation

Cancelled Nottingham again because of the weather. Provisionally rebooked for September.
Regarding Brighton, the course which motivated the visit has been cancelled due to insufficient takeup. We'll go if the weather looks good.
And we've bought an Asda £5 toaster.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Day 1 (3rd July)

Original full tank @£1.287 from Asda
103 miles to the Rookesbury campsite, an extra 35 to pick up the 2nd bike in Lymington. We passed a broken-down Eriba (possibly a Puck) on the way and felt a bit guilty for not stopping. A break at Lyndhurst on the way for additional bread and cheese supplies. The new Garmin satnav is hopeless and we'll be seeking a refund from Amazon when we get back, meantime, we're back to the old, fat but reliable TomTom Go500. The 2nd Brompton looks to be in good condition for a 15yo bike. Two excellent pints of 49er in The Borough Arms while waiting for the vendor to arrive.
Pre-marinated BBQ chicken and salad: on a preliminary washing-up foray, met a lady with a wonderfully small and secure bottle of washing-up liquid: she's had it so long that she cannot recall where she got it, but it's so useful that she keeps refilling it: we're still using a 10yo bottle of vasile rescued from the camper and which had leaked copiously in the van since our last outing
I’m travelling with a new small camera, a Pentax Optio LS1100: remarkably cheap and effective and the only downside is a flimsy battery compartment cover. Forgot to get a toaster, but the van is filling up and we must beware of filling it with kelterment.

We found the French Connectors inherited from Gerald, one wired each way to be used in conjunction with a £6.99 B&Q circuit tester (bought after rejecting a superficially identical £19.98) model from the normally pound-efficient nearby electrical trade supplier.

Day 2 (4th July)

Alarm at 5, bunny count of three as I emerged for a fox's breakfast. The real breakfast was tins of breakfast compote and prunes with lashings of yoghurt.
Departure at 6.15 after a smart hookup (note above on benefits of weight reduction), but something is squeaking. The Norman Arrow is a new (to me) boxy design of ferry, a multiple- storey car park with a barn and cafe on top, nevertheless, comfortable and efficient.
Our extensive and effective money-saving wheezes came to the fore with black masking tape borrowed from another chap in the ferry queue (£6.99 on headlight deflectors) [photo]; GB magnetic sticker found in the glove compartment (£3.49); cheese sarnies (£7) flask of coffee (£8.60). You can't spend it twice (unless you spend it on an income producing asset, which consumables are not). Also in the queue was a small vintage Saab convention.
The journey from Le Havre to Chateau de Lez-Eaux was relatively pleasant and stress-free with the old satnav, but the poor old thing became rather perturbed towards the end when we followed Caravan Club directions rather than Tom’s. We were pleased to learn that because Gerald the caravan is so small we were only charged Class 1 tolls – around €3.10, €1 and €5.70 all the way.
We thought we knew the first campsite from earlier years with Gerald the VW, but I think we were mistaken. They had a band playing the first night we were there, Group Foumagnac, "a mixture of popular and lively Celtic and Irish music": their setup and practice a few hundred yards away sounded just like being at Cambridge Folk and their performance was better than many bands we have seen at Cambridge.

The Bromptons have been taken out on a first mission and are relatively successful: just two problems – me getting used to the gears and, more importantly on the red one, picked up yesterday, seems to have been reassembled with the front fork in reverse, so it folds, but unconventionally.
It was a pleasure to reacquaint myself with pâté de canard for lunch and it will be chicken curry tonight.
I made the mistake of giving away one of our 907 Gaz bottles when we sold the camper, not realising that they cost £60 to replace – even on eBay they are remarkably expensive. The going rate in France is more like £45, so we’ll invest in another. Then:
·      We are very unlikely to run out of gas; and
·      I can run the Cadac and a burner simultaneously.

DAY 3 (5th July)

Excellent curry last night,
Fry onion; add chicken thigh; later add chicken breast, garlic (real) and ginger (potted); seal the chicken then add curry paste to coat it; add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 30 mins; add garam at the end.
The plan had been to visit Granville today and Avranches tomorrow, but the site map shows the sea 4km away so it’s a walk this morning and probably just Granville tomorrow, unless the sea fails to detain us.
[later] Finding the sea was trickier than the arrow on the site map implied, but when we found a map at the other end our route was pretty much optimal. At Kairon we found a church, which has one piece of modern stained glass amongst the numerous standard windows.

We followed a few false trails and considered giving up but (largely by heading downhill whenever possible) eventually found the turquoise Bar de la Plage and a welcome glass of Pelforth. The bar was opposite a depressing example of the nadir of the camping experience, peeling caravans packed to capacity into a mobile slum.

We found the beach eventually. On the way back, I snapped this topiary at the Chateau
[later] Significant volumes of rain, though at 8:30, the sky seemed to be clearing from (what we now know to be) the sea.

Tea was rather a cheat, two tins of M&S Hot Chicken Curry (our emergency store) emptied into fried onion, garlic,  ginger and chilli. Not bad at all. The campsite has a market every Tuesday evening – we bought dry cider and some strawberries (had we known they were €5, we might have walked on, but those folks should be encouraged). Anyway, while preparing to cook the curry, we suddenly realised that we were vegetable-light and so the strawberry vendors came to our rescue with carrots for 30c supplemented by tin of sweetcorn from the site shop. Thus, the curry accompaniment was a melange of carrot, broccoli, sweetcorn and (ostensibly microwave) rice.
The cooking plan for tomorrow is a fried breakfast (sausage and bacon we brought) and for tea (assuming we get the gas bottle) bbq chicken with a stir-fry.

DAY 4 (6th July)

Good breakfast. The efficacy of the Cadac lid as a washing-up bowl is a boon in those campsites still in denial on the benefits of sink plugs.
I am reminded of my Camping Advice from an earlier era: #46c, “when in the shower, turn your sandals upside-down”. Those logs have retreated into a forgotten internet place. [found some!]
[later] After raining reasonably hard for the second half of day 3 and most of the night, today has been sunny, cloudy and dry: and so to Granville, a large but quiet maritime town

with a cathedral full of modern stained glass and ceramic pieces. The second highlight, after we took a well-earned pression in recognition of our climb to the cathedral, was that we had brought the wrong wallet and had plenty of £s but no €s to pay for the bier and cidre. The problem was soon rectified by the insertion of plastic at the Société Générale, but it remains to be seen what Barclays charge for the privilege [€50 = £47.76, could have been worse].
We passed a Lidl on the way to Granville and called there on the way back to spend the cash we had – it is much cheaper than the Geant Casino where we later returned with the right wallet for petrol and a bottle of Gaz. Still on for bbq chicken and a stir-fry tonight, but France seems to lack the concept of a stir-fry sauce and the soy sauce was a silly price, so it will be a curry-paste-stir-fry.