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.

DAY 5 (7th July)

The weather doesn’t know whether to shit or cough. Today we’ve had heavy rain, bright sunshine and drizzle. As I write this in Chateau de Martragny, an impressive thunderstorm has just arrived. The journey from Les Eaux was uneventful: an earlyish rise; breakfast of croissants, baguette and comfychair; and a leisurely packup allowed departure before 10 o’c and a prompt arrival at Martragny. Given the dodgy weather, we set out for the nearest of the three daily markets but (if it was ever there) it had given up before our arrival at Asnelles which was greeted by heavy rain. We continued to Arromanches (site of the Mulberry Harbours that my father worked on) which boasts an extensive D-Day display, some leftover D-Day hardware in the sea, a large party of English schoolchildren and not much else, except the church (rebuilt in C19), which has some relatively recent stained glass, which obliquely depicts WW2.
Eschewing a bar in the town, we headed towards Bayeux, in search of a supermarket for tonight’s salmon and (after some supermarket- and soul-searching) a pack of Hollandaise sauce. On the way to the Intermarche, we noticed an impressive-looking church not far off our route and tried to locate it on the way back. Taking (what seemed like) the appropriate turn, we never saw it again and may try again tomorrow on the way back from Bayeux itself.
Back for a bier, a read, then salmon, hollandaise and a stirfry. We watched two episodes of Frasier on the DVD player, which has performed excellently – opting for the 9” screen rather than a 7” was definitely a good plan. We brought Leap of Faith (not yet played), Frasier, Outnumbered and Due South.
One entertainment failure has been the lack of all-night radio – my normal response to sleep failure is BBC Radio 7 (now rebranded as 4extra) on a pillow speaker. We failed completely to provide for radio entertainment and information although the car will supply a noisy 198 long wave. Tonight I might hook up my ipod to the Dab radio and listen to my current story,  Reginald Hill’s Stranger House.
Tomorrow, scrambled eggs for breakfast then the tapestry and back for butter chicken from a Patak bottle.
The original plan had been to camp again for one night at Rookesbury when we return to Blighty, but if the weather remains dodgy, we’ll head straight back for London: no point in spending a soggy night in a field with no awning as we couldn’t be arsed to raise it for a one night stop.
The talk for next summer is of a long ferry down to Spain. We did that years ago and cut straight across to France on the way to Rennes-le-Chateau and the Mediterranean,  but this time a tour of Spain may be the plan.

DAY 6 (8th July)

Saw the Bayeux tapestry and found a market on the way at Trévières. A modest market where we bought veg and pêches. The nearby church proudly displays a statue with war damage.

We failed to find the hidden church or, indeed, any supermarches on the way and so will try again later.

The tapestry is a remarkable thing, perhaps the first portable cartoon as cave paintings are perforce static displays. Photographs are not allowed and so these images, showing the comet and Harold getting one in the eye,  are sourced in Google. We entertained ourselves (and probably annoyed our fellow observers) with our witty and trenchant interpretations of the images and inscriptions. In the gift shop we bought cartes postales for the grand-meres (which, unusually for us, we managed to both write and send while still on holiday), my usual commemorative fridge magnet and I secretly sneaked in a DVD of the tapestry so that we can relive the pleasure tonight.

Bayeux cathedral is large but visually unexciting.
We found the supermarches and the way to the church but the latter, in Sommervieu, is not accessible as it is owned by some Fraternal Ordre de Christ.

One more night (with butter chicken) and 8 o’c alarm clock with an intended 10:45 departure. A dry awning would be good, but looking increasingly unlikely.
The principle: we have concluded that caravan camping is superior to camper camping because of the added freedom the car provides.
The details: the bed is significantly larger, far more comfortable, and much easier to put up. The water supply (cold in both) is usable in the puck. We haven’t used the cooker in either because curries tend to linger and, in any case, I would prefer to cook outdoors. The external table is also a boon.

LAST DAY (written on 10th July, the day after returning).

The butter chicken was very good, for a bottle.

More rain overnight, so we packed a wet awning, the clincher in deciding to head home. The journey to the ferry was well-timed but the ferry ran an hour late. The gendarme on French border control insisted on opening the Puck to look for “stowaways”.
Although in first place on the ferry, there was no advantage as they let the cars off first – the only effect was a covering of spray, which dried to a hard salt coating I spent this morning washing off.
We eventually arrived back at home closer to 9 than the estimated 7 o’c and managed to get the Puck back in place with some neighbourly help.
A jolly good trip.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Further preparations

There's a Brompton in the post and another auction finishing today: we could pick that up on the way.

Just ordered a DVD player to pick up later today, a 9" Toshiba.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Preparations for France

No camping in June, but three outings booked for July, a week in France and two 2-night trips to Nottingham and Brighton.

Some new equipment to report, following the success of the firepit and the failure of the Wilko hatchet, I have invested in a folding saw from Amazon. And tongs from Ikea.

In accordance with French regulations, I have ordered an Hi Viz Tabard. We already have a set of bulbs and a warning triangle.

We are trying to buy a couple of Bromptons on eBay before we go. [Got the first, 26th June.]

Sailing from Portsmouth to Le Havre on LD Lines, we are booked into Rookesbury Park either side of the crossing. We plan on three nights at Château de Lez-Eaux (we spent some time there in the VW, probably a decade ago) and two nights at Château de Martragny.

A propos de rien, here's a pot of Puck cheese spotted in Asda today.

Monday, 30 May 2011


Incleboro remains my favourite campsite, especially if you get one of the secluded pitches. The weather was variable, but most of the rain was at night.

Several of the new items were great successes. The old cast iron BBQ has been recycled as a firepit,  small but delightfully effective.

The XMI small amplifier is brilliant.

For the sleeping bag, we chose a Coleman which was a much better fit and remarkably comfortable.

We visited Norwich, the finest feature of which is the Book Hive, Cromer and Sherringham. Sherringham's best pub is the Windham Arms,  which served the best pint I have tasted in several years, Woodforde's Norfolk Nog.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


We have started a Brompton Fund, but in the meantime, I have spent the day trying to resurrect an old Dahon we had in the attic. After spending around £45 (2 inner tubes £9; 2 tyres a bargain £20; a chain tool £8; oil and paraffin £3; and cleaning substances £4), viewing lots of YouTube guidance; and perhaps 5 hours' work in the garden, it sort of nearly works. It certainly looks much better than when it emerged from the attic.

Regrettably, it seems to be designed for people shorter than me and I will not be able to pedal it for any distance in comfort.

And here's another thing, our neighbour, across whose entrance the Puck must be pushed took delivery yesterday of the materials for what I assume will be a patio. The have been working hard today (much harder than me) and there is hope that our exit will be clear for Norfolk on Wednesday.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

now up to date

I have finished posting the previous entries.

We have today booked Norfolk for May and France for July.

Regarding the previous wish list:

bikes, toaster, chairs (suitable for eating with the table outside), a small toolkit, a first aid kit, a larger sleeping bag, BBQ tongs, a set of bulbs for the car and the van, mirror, install a new socket for the all-night radio (on my pillow speaker), speakers for the ipods, perhaps a small TV.

  •  The bikes are probably out for now - 2 Bromptons (even on eBay) amount to a large wad;
  • toaster - which are not much use, for once, so probably a cheap and compact supermarket own-brand;
  • toolkit - here's a start;
  • first aid kit - done;
  • sleeping bag - it is remarkable how much larger the Puck's bed is than the VW camper's -  still looking;
  • tongs, probably these;
  • bulbs - definitely needed for France;
  • socket - no progress yet;
  • speakers - these look good;
  • TV - probably not, while we're waiting for the UK to resolve its digital future. Either take the laptop or consider a DVD player.

15th April 2011

Back today from three days in Brighton . The weather was ocassionally grey but it only rained a bit.
For some reason (plain blind luck last time, I expect), it took even longer to put up the awning, but the next outing should be a breeze (subject to the efficacy of pound-shop masking tape) as I have labelled the components comprehensively.

The new Cadac Safari Chef gas barbeque was a marked success, providing a late night stir fry after a visit to the Little Theatre for Time and the Conways on the first night. Then griddle chicken (pictured) after a day of wandering and preliminary house-hunting. Finally a grand breakfast before setting off this morning. It is light and compact, works beautifully in all its modes, and cleans easily.

The shopping list for the next trip includes: bikes, toaster, chairs (suitable for eating with the table outside), a small toolkit, a first aid kit, a larger sleeping bag, BBQ tongs, a set of bulbs for the car and the van, mirror, install a new socket for the all-night radio (on my pillow speaker), speakers for the ipods, perhaps a small TV.
We have pencilled in Norfolk for May and France for June and September.

30th March 2011

The first outing went very well and the camp site, South Lytchett Manor, was excellent.
The awning was rather a struggle but we'll get better at it. And we should have taken a torch. The old charcoal barbeque worked quite well but I have ordered a new gas model for the next outing.

We parked beside the splendid and ancient VW and Puck combination at Clacket Lane on the way back. [snaps to follow]
The van is currently stored in front of the house where it is a snug fit.

[9 Apr 2011] The Pro-Tec cover arrived on 7th and looks very well made.

Friday, 22 April 2011

24th March 2011

The list of tasks is progressing well. Now a list of stuff.
cutlery tin opener corkscrew bottle-opener plates and bowls washing up bowl (safeway?) w-u liquid and scrubber radio heater bbq charcoal burner and gas hookup lead pot noodle beer wine marinated chicken veg tea towel saucepan milk chopping board and chef's knife large tea cups tea bags coffee and technology of choice beer glasses wine glasses griller microwave matches pillows sleeping bag blanket torch toilet paper kitchen paper wash bags and towels a small amount of clothing maxwell's silver hammer laptop and ipad cameras

14th March 2011

Bought a 2003 model from Poole at the weekend, and will pick it up on 26th. Between now and then, I need to:
  • buy a number plate for the Puck - ordered on eBay 14/03, £4.94, arrived 16/03.
  • buy one of those wing mirror extensions that allows one to see past a caravan - £3.99 on eBay, not much use.
  • insure it - caravanwise £163 - Caravan Club £216 - safeguard £225- Simple (via gocompare) £160 - done
  • get a towbar fitted (2x7-pin with al-ko): indespension £307, booked in for 23rd - Tow Bar Centre £315 - Towbar Express no reply. Done.
  • clear the fitting of the tow bar with the car insurer - done
  • find somewhere to keep it - Norsted Manor Farm, Orpington, no reply and they all look rather expensive. Plan B, keep it at home: thus, remove a small wall - done.
  • book a camp site near Poole for the first night - probably South Lytchett Manor, done.
  • organise the stuff we need to take (BBQ etc.), see above.
  • learn to tow
  • sort out the cash - done
  • order a wheel clamp - ESL Stoplock from amazon, received 23rd.
  • consider a cover - Pro-Tec, ordered £200, 4 weeks.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Feb 2011

We sold Gerald the Camper this year after 15 fun years and, after toying with the idea of a teardrop, intend to buy a Puck.


I started this blog recently on a website but I'm toying with the idea of moving it to Blogger.

I will add the existing entries with headings of the original date, then carry on from there.