Driving Miss Daisy Too!

It’s that time again! Two weeks just me, Daisy and that other lady in my life heading on to the road to find adventure, new experiences and lots and lots of cake.

If you are of a mind to join us I will be posting regular updates over the two weeks. Hopefully you might get some travel tips, become jealous of the food I am eating and have the odd laugh.

Daisy is on the charge as we speak, trembling with excitement on the drive outside. She passed her MOT without studying a single day, I have touched up her paint so she looks pretty for all the Mazda Bongos she might come across, and her tank is filled to the brim.

First stop is Edinburgh tomorrow night. The Rolling Stones play Murrayfield and we have our tickets in hand. Then it’s off to Liverpool!

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Dorset

We stayed one night in the New Forest, walked on the nearby moor (because our bikes were out of action) and then set off for Dorset.

That was quick eh?

The journey to our current campsite was a little more eventful.

Sybil appears hell bent on taking us down the most challenging single track roads possible, regardless of what settings I fiddle with. Worse still, she is one of those satnavs that went on sale at Aldi some time ago and everyone in the country seems to have one. That means we meet everybody in the country coming the other way and they’re all is as frustrated with the damn settings on their satnav as me.

There were horns honking, red faces, foul language and near misses aplenty.

Not that I can blame Garmin for the tractor in Dorset that just about ran me into a field of tatties. Having tyres the height of my camper seems to make the farmers here feel invincible and the road is ‘damn well theirs’. Tourists have no place it seems. Daisy hit the ditch, I wrestled with the steering as we passed through a letter box sized gap, and something caused us to bounce (cartoon-like) into the air (I swear we left the ground by at least a foot!). When we landed we couldn’t believe we had not mashed the farmer’s tatties and ourselves along with them.

Daisy seemed none the worse for the ordeal – but then she is something quite amazing.

I can only imagine Porta-Potty got a bit of a slooshing in his little cupboard. ‘Porta-Potty no like slooshing in cupboard….’ (remember the robot voice for these gems).

After that we made our way into Bournemouth (or Borinmouth I now call it) which was nothing to get too excited about. That’s unfair of course, we didn’t have too much time there, but the time we had was boring. We did have a fantastically sweet New forest ice cream by the beach and we saw lots of … yawn … nah it was boring. Sorry Bournemouth – we moved on.

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The highlight of Bournemouth.

Here are some views of Portsmouth which is much nicer.

We decided we would head for a campsite in Corfe Castle right on the South Coast. We took the ferry across to the peninsula and found the campsite close to a lovely little English village. Now this is a great little place. Not at all like Borinmouth.

 

We were put into a reserve pitch as the campsite was full but it turned to be the best corner of the whole site. Nice and secluded and close to the path to the village. We meandered off into the village and visited the National Trust Norman castle. We also had a fine high tea in the little cafe.

I visited their excellent facilities 😉

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‘What a lovely castle! Pity it’s on that big hill – we’ll just have tea instead.’

Now with so much in the area to explore we booked two nights in this lovely setting and decided to do the local bus tour next day. With such lovely weather we looked forward to a little seaside shopping in Swanage, a nice bar meal in the bustling town of Wareham, some great photo shots of the unusual rock formations on the coast and countless cream teas in the shady gardens of Dorset’s charming tea shops.

When we got up it was teeming down with rain.

Undeterred we headed into the village to catch the bus praying they left the open top back at the depot. It made no difference; we were soaked by the time we got to the bus stop.

Swanage is a small version of Borinmouth – but less interesting.  We hunted down a side street bike shop (just to find that they didn’t stock the part I was after) and then we made our way to the harbour to find that we had to pay £1 to go onto the pier. Since I don’t pay to go on to piers that was a waste of time. Borinmouth had the same ‘pier toll’.  A tourist rip off if you ask me.

We were double soaked by this time.

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Beautiful architecture in Swanage.  (this is actually a painting on the wall…)

Still undeterred we took the next bus to Wareham, confident a hearty pub lunch and a visit to the local shops would cheer us up. We walked up and down the street passing a few lovely looking pubs all offering some excellent looking grub. We had to choose right so we took our time.

Finally we plumped for the Anglebury House which looked utterly charming.

Pity the waiter wasn’t.

The jakey who spilled out of the public bar and staggered over to our table to tell us the waiter ‘might be a bit slow but he is a good lad’ was charming. The waiter didn’t want to be there.

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Anglebury House deceiving us into thinking it is quaint and charming.

We ordered two large diet cokes and were presented with two pints of flat brown water. I asked for a fresh one (perhaps just a tin?) and some ice and got my half drank glass back with a few cube of ice in it. I passed on it and determined not to pay for it at the end. No point in pushing it too far when the staff still have control of what is about to enter my digestive system!

We did get two quite nice meals – a short rib of beef and a chicken and mushroom pie. Now I am being generous – they were fine.  The bill (minus the flat cokes) was £20 and I did, as I always do, tip the guy a quid for turning up for work when he clearly would rather be at home playing World of Warcraft.

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We’ve eaten worse.

We then headed out into the pouring rain and walked a few steps before thinking – ‘I’m a bit hungry…’

We tried a couple of tea shops to see if we could cheer up our lunch with a nice cream scone but both offerings in town looked unwelcoming.

We were no longer undeterred.

We were completely deterred in fact.

So the dramatic coastline would have to wait until tomorrow. We headed back to Corfe Castle and returned to the National Trust Corfe Castle team room where we enjoyed an utterly magnificent cream tea. Best I have had so far I would venture. It made the day better but I would have preferred it if we didn’t have to spend £18 on bus tickets just to find the best time was to be had right back where I started.

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That’s not the castle again, it’s my scone!

The rest of the day was spent writing this blog while listening to the rain drumming on Daisy’s head, trying to connect to the internet via the mobile phone and reading the books I brought but never intended to read.

The evening came (at around seven pm for us). Tuesdays on the campsite is the day the fish and chip van comes round and the happy campers queue up to sample the traditional fare of the seaside town. We hurried down in the howling gale and pouring rain to join the feast. A cod and chip and a single cod with two English baps for dinner. It was a treat and warmed us up just fine.

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We are told the weather is back to unusually hot tomorrow.

Heading South

Here’s some advice for your ‘to do’ list.

Hampton Court Palace – do this only if you think its worth seeing inside of some parts of a stately home and being denied the really interesting bit for a serious wad of your cash.

U2 – spend whatever it takes.

But first some toilet humour.

We enjoyed our night in Walton on Thames and our first experience of ‘porta-potty’ life.

If you have not been camping on a campsite there are a few potty lessons I have learned over these first few days that may be worth recording – for posterity as well as your amusement.

  • It turns out most campervan/caravan types are of a similar age to me. Interestingly this makes the toilet block a place male social gathering at 3 a.m. I am told there is another such gathering at 5 a.m. for the over sixties.
  • Even though there are only two of us, the awning would have been useful to allow for me being banished to stand outside while her grace carried out her ablutions.
  • Choosing a restaurant is no longer just about the food. The availability of toilets is an important aspect. Places like Costa and Starbucks with their ‘one loo for all’ closets don’t feature in camping life.
  • Our porta-potty now has a robot voice (a bit like a baby Dalek). He likes being out at night but does not like going back in the cupboard. This has filled our evenings with amusement when there is nothing else to do.

Having survived our first night without facilities we set off for a full day of activities in the West of London. Key to our decision making was, as stated, excellent and clean sanitation. Hampton Court Palace seemed appropriate being a) posh and b) nearby.

Now my good lady loves her Royalty tosh. She just loves all the Kings and Queens of Engerland of Olde, Henry the Eighth and his fifty wives etc. She’s the girl who thinks William and Harry are ‘a credit to their mother’ instead of two privileged layabouts like the rest of the modern world.

So we forked out £20 apiece to see the grand palace where Henry VIII letched after numerous women in the name of the Bible (which he had to rewrite  in order to fulfil his desires). The gardens were lovely and you had pretty much full access to them.  The palace access was the usual … a handful of made-up rooms (all of historical significance I will grant) and a lot of barrier rope saying ‘No Public Access’ to areas you just know have the stairways to the turrets and other cool places.

The ticket price could have been £23 if we had been kind enough to donate £3 to the ‘upkeep of the palace’. I can’t quite fathom was the £20 is going on if they need every visitor to donate to its upkeep. We passed in any case.

For lunch we crossed the road to Henry’s Burger in the village. A bit trendy for us old fogeys – most of the clientele were about 20 to 30 years old, looked like a burger never passed their lips and were, in fact, eating breakfast. So not in bed by ten then?

The burger was decent.  Almost everyone is serving a good burger now. They achieve the softness of McDonalds by using Brioche buns and create a stack to tempt the eye by skewering it down the middle. This allows them to pile on the ingredients … which is no bad thing.

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Henry’s Burger

But they still make the meat too thick and cook it too long for me. What you get it a lovely soft bite at the start, a jarring of the jaw as you hit well done burger, and a clash of teeth as you  hit the soft bottom half unexpectedly. I had a sore head after eating it.

It was delicious. I am being harsh. The chips were rubbish … frozen fries in a cute little deep frying basket.

We returned to the palace to play briefly in the maze and then made our way to Twickenham by bus.

I was a fan of U2 in the 1980s but grew out of love with them when they got all preachy and tried to be a moral compass for the Western world. I think it is good that people like Bono try to make best use of their privileged position by being a good role model, but that doesn’t need to be so blatantly anti-capitalism. It’s capitalism that allowed an average young musician to become wealthy enough to take the time to ‘travel to Africa to see it all for himself’.

Anyway, U2 were good enough to recognise me in their audience and played 95% unpreachy, good old rock-n-roll.  The 5% preachy was appropriate and well thought through. I even enjoyed some of it.

Having missed U2 paying throughout their heyday, this was a bucket list gig and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘call to attention’ drum intro of Sunday Bloody Sunday quickly followed by the Edge’s lone piper guitar and Bono’s pleaful voice kicked off something I can describe as the largest mass-participation event I have ever experienced. They made Twickenham seem intimate and you couldn’t help being part of the hysteria. Tens of thousands sang their way from start to finish, helping Bono through the second half of the Joshua Tree (as he was less familiar with the tunes), they waved their iPhone lights in all the right places and bounced up and down whenever the drums gave them a rhythm to match. The worms under the Twickenham pitch must have been popping up everywhere to see what the fuss was.

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Now that’s a big telly….

We got home by midnight using the local bus service and a taxi for the last couple of miles. My sleep was disturbed by Elevation.

In the morning we set Sybil to avoid motorways and made our way down to Portsmouth. We located the road with the most motorcycles per mile in the Universe and, coincidentally, the most police vehicles per mile also. In fact we counted six police vehicles of various types in five miles of the A32 south. It was a beautiful part of the country so no hardship for them I guess.

We lunched at the village tea room in Southwick where we met a lovely couple who gave us loads of advice on places to see in Cornwall. They also let my wife pet their massive dogs so she was happy. We have missed Harry.

Two doorstep bacon butties, tea and a cake set us back £20 but it was excellent and the setting was lovely.

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For dessert (cake is not dessert – it’s an accompaniment to tea) we waited until we were on the Portsmouth promenade. We had a whippy ice cream while strolling through the seaside mania that comes with good weather. Young boys were being chased by the police for obtained free entertainment by jumping in the water (sad times) while the good folk of Portsmouth were putting their money into the hands of dodgy traders offering a chance to die on one of their shoogley-bolted rides on the seafront.

Still, Portsmouth is very pleasant and watching the shipping activity is fascinating when you consider the history behind the city.

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Our final destination this day was to the New Forest where we intended to camp and take our bikes onto the ‘extensive cycle routes’ through the National Park. Sadly I had an argument with a tree which grew an extra branch while we left our Daisy parked beside it, and that damned branch hooked the rear wheel of one of the bikes as I pulled out and bent it out of line.

Evening cycle scuppered! Halfords tomorrow and the road West.

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Homemade camper burger!

Two Days of Driving

Day one of our merry camper trip started well enough. We hooked up overnight to get the fridge cold as planned and Miss Daisy fired up perfectly to get us on the road by half nine.

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Woody Learns to Drive

My only real aim for the first two days was to get some miles behind us,  arrive safely and eat a big plate of fish and chips. We did it all of course.

Our route to the first campsite  took us via Penrith in Cumbria and across the country into Yorkshire. We had a mediocre sandwich at Marks and Spencer in Perth and an ice cream from Burger King at Gretna services. Hardly anything to write home about….

Anyway, our journey was uneventful enough until I discovered that my navigator (ahem)  decided that, instead of inputting the postcode for the campsite we were staying in, any old Yorkshire campsite post code would be near enough. Weary of my seven hours (as pleasurable as Daisy is to drive) journey we pulled into the reception of Any-Old-Campsite-On-the-Wold and discovered that, yes you would hardly believe it, we weren’t booked in there.

After checking where we were actually booked into we set off on the return journey North for another hour and a half.

Ah but that’s the joy of camping isn’t it? Wee mishaps we can all laugh about later.

We pulled into Thirsk, a small Yorkshire town in Yorkshire close to where we were staying in Yorkshire.  A pee was needed and, rather usefully, the nearest loo was inside a chip shop.

The White Horse Cafe in Thirsk served amazingly good fish and chips. Perfect in fact.

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A woman nearly died to bring me this feast.

The lady who served us could have moved a bit quicker, but only if she was still alive.  I had memories of Julie Walters attempting to serve ‘two soups’ as she approached – but thankfully she kept her balance and presented us with our food before I fainted with hunger or she turned to dust.

Now as went to leave the lovely market town of Thirsk, Miss Daisy and I had a small disagreement.

It went like this:

Me: (key in ignition) – that was a lovely dinner. Now to find that campsite.

Daisy: cough, cough, splutter, broooooommmmm……

Me: (throttling up) – sounding rough dear…

Daisy: Oh bugger off. (dies)

Me: (trying again): Oh come on lovely girl. I’m tired and we still have to find the Yorkshire campsite we booked into in Yorkshire somewhere.

Daisy: bleh … I’m tired too, and hot. I’m not moving.

To cut a long story short, the AA man came and Daisy got all bashful and fluttered her eye-lashes because he was ‘an actual mechanic’ and started up straight away. She even pretended to him that she had no idea what I was talking about.

Ah … camping misadventures!  They make me laugh.

We rolled into a Yorkshire campsite deep in the heart of Yorkshire about nine pm. The lovely campsite manager welcomed us with the usual friendly greeting, ‘You’re  a bit late!’ (apply strong Yorkshire accent for effect).  However she did let us in and we pitched up for the night.

Next morning we were up with the lark and heading to Walton on Thames. We decided to do it in two legs and stop off in Lincoln to see what the fuss was about.

Daisy fired up first time in the morning and took us onto the lovely Yorkshire roads in the middle of Yorkshire. We headed out through the grounds of Castle Howard to the South.

It was baking hot today and the satnav appeared over-tired and quite irritable. We call her Sybil for no reason I can recall and she sounds like a rather grumpy middle aged woman with very little time for men like me. A bit like someone I know in fact!

One bonus to her strange sense of direction was directing us over the Humber Bridge, which was not on our list. It turned out to be quite surreal as when we approached the tolls the song San Francisco came on Radio 2. See previous blog entry for why.

 

The Humber Bridge is very impressive and the road to Lincoln from here was very scenic too. We were in deepest Lincolnshire heading to its city namesake.

Now Lincoln is a surprise to me. It’s got all the lovely ancient cobbled streets, the spectacular cathedral and castle that York has. And yet it never occurred to me to visit until today. It’s far nicer than York. I was just sorry we had so little time. We had been late for one campsite already. I wasn’t taking that chance again.

I left five clear hours for the three hour journey to Walton on Thames.

We were a minute late.

Yes the M25 car park caught us good and proper – five miles from our destination!  Worse still, as I tried to bypass the hold up by taking an early exit, Sybil decided time and time again to redirect me back on to the blooming M25. She is supposed to have traffic information! She tells me every time she starts directing that she has considered ‘all the available traffic information’ so why try to send me towards the biggest traffic jam in the UK?

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Parked on the M25

Now guess who played a binder with Sybil?

Yes, my navigator who is not known for her keen sense of direction. On coming to a roundabout she raised a finger in a sagely manner and wagged it to caution me.

Now when my wife advises on the North, South, East, West , Left or Right of anything– you should almost always ignore her. But today, with Daisy being grumpy about the heat and Sybil saying just about anything to keep me from my bed, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

And would you believe it, she was bang on!

Sybil would have seen me parked on a motorway until the early hours of the morning and this blog would not have happened. Hurray for the navigator!

Sadly, dear reader, our eating today has been sparse. We had a lovely lunch at a little cafe called Coffee Bobbins in Lincoln but it wasn’t so special that I would advise you to travel nine hours in a temperamental van being directed by an even more temperamental satnav. We had a toasted Panini and a cream scone (Date and Walnut). The cafe was quirky though. The lampshades were balloon whisks and the tables were all recovered treadle sewing machines. Naturally I spun mine while I waited for my meal.

 

Dinner tonight had to be a camping special. See for yourself.

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Yum! That’s the kind of food we expect on a camping holiday.

That’s the hardest part of our journey done. No more three to five hour drives. Now we can relax.

I hope.

battered books

leaf-green lizard

Books are beautiful.

Stacked neatly on shelves with smooth, straight spines.
Perfectly unwrinkled paper.

But the most beautiful books are the ones that have been read and loved. They are the beaten up, dog-eared, peeling, scratched up books that you find in the home of any true book lover.

Of course if I’m borrowing someone else’s books I would take great care to keep them pristine. But I confess to you now – I am guilty of folding the paper when I couldn’t find a bookmark or a receipt or a train ticket that will do. I read the same books so many times the spines break and the covers crinkle. Look at my bookshelves and you’ll easily be able to tell which my favourites are.

Don’t waste your time trying to keep your books looking as if they’re completely untouched, barely opening the cover for fear of creases.
I…

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