Pauls 2013 Diary – April/May/June

mAY 2 DAIRY

This is ‘Pauls Diary 2013’ simply entitled in my name as it’s ‘my’ diary. I have done this so if my wife doesn’t agree with the content then I can remind her that it’s mine and not hers. For earlier entries/lies and other nonsense cobbled together written since April they are now on separate pages.

As with last years entries – some of the following may be made up, exaggerated or simply lies! As I do that just to keep you on your toes and to make fun of other people at their expense. I shalln’t be promising to update this everyday as to be honest, especially when travelling through the internet-free zone that is France, it became a chore on occassions – not writing it up as I can spout rubbish all day long – the time spent trying to locate a few French MB’s became tiresome.

30 June – I have just ‘proof read’ last nights diary entry and its funny how just one letter creating one wrongly spelt word can mean something completely different. Having said “you couldn’t bear watching the Rolling Stones” rather than ” you couldn’t beat…” made it sound like I wasn’t a fan. I am. So we nipped out to catch up with some of the foodstuffs that we have missed whilst being away and it was a trip to The Plough and Harrow for their famous Beer Battered Fish, Chips and mushy Peas. Yum. We couldn’t find a curry house or a Chinese on the way home so that’ll have to wait for another day. Tomorrow we are helping my ‘up the duff’ daughter catch up on some of those jobs that she has overlooked since she became ‘heavy with child’ starting with obtaining an MOT for her car which expired in December of last year. At least its not something important 😉

29 June – The weather in the UK has at least had the decency to be good for us as we are now back – its been lovely all day here in Wales. I’ve scrubbed the motorhome clean and washed my daughters and husbands cars too – its like a day at work! And I don’t ‘do’ work. I have had fun watching Glastonbury on the telly and whilst I enjoy all sorts of new music and bands you couldn’t beat watching the Stones finishing off Saturday nights entertainment. All these years on and they are still ‘doing it’. Great stuff*

*see that – no mention of traffic anywhere

28 June – Well I promised last night to promise something ‘nice’ but after another hideous motorway journey towards Cowbridge in South Wales with more death defying driving it is difficult. It had taken NINE hours of driving to get from Dover to Cowbridge (252 miles) thanks to texting lorry drivers and wit-less driving techniques displayed by the ‘South of England Shite Driving Club’. However it was ‘more than nice’ to get back to Kirsty (my daughter) in South Wales to comfort her through her last few weeks of pregnancy (hampered by high blood pressure – Oh, I wonder where she gets it from!) and for her concerned Mum and this fretting Dad to fuss over her. We are still on our ‘tour’ I would add – we are still in the motorhome parked out the back of her place in fact 🙂

27 June – we have returned to the UK today and our experiences in the traffic force me to apologise to every Spanish/Portugeuse/any other nationality driver I may have ever berated here. We have witnessed some spectacularly poor driving in just six hours on Englands roads. At a guess we witnessed/experienced at least ten to 12 ‘calamities. We were cut up ‘badly’ three times, I saw three bad cutting ups including one where a truck towing a forklifr on a trailer nearly lost it thanks to ‘Costa Coffee Man’, an aimlessly drifting lorry (driver texting), and encountered three ‘proper’ accidents – including a four car shunt with one on its roof on the wrong side of the barrier (in a field). All this in a six hour drive – a six hour drive which covered just 180 miles! I managed 310 miles in that time across four countries two days ago! The Germans drive at 130 miles an hour with no upset – no horns honking and no accidents. For all our rules about no phones/texting/getting drunk we still haven’t sorted out the problem – the arrogance of most (UK) drivers. I have just 90 miles to cover tomorrow – I’ll write something ‘nice’ tomorrow evening – I promise,

26 June – Well – and I kid you not – the local council were around to cut the grass at the side of the road this morning! However it didn’t matter as I wasn’t asleep as thanks to some French turd – in a Renault 21 who repeatedly honked his horn at both 0430 hours and 0650 hours as he passed this morning – I was already awake. I can only assume that this is because he was on his way to take his mother, wife and sister up to nearby Dunkerque so that they could meet the sailors and truckers off the ships to enable them to pay for sex. I might be wrong but they may have had room for his father in the car as well. Had I known he was driving back past us to return home for a spot of necrophilia before he returned in the afternoon to pick them back up I would have waited at the side of the road with flowers, or a flame thrower. Tonight we wait in Dunkerque harbour for the 0600 ferry so we can get back to the UK to see daughter Kirsty and her ‘bump’ (and her high blood pressure etc) so it is unlikely we will get a quiet night – especially if that Renault driving turd and his family of neer-do well sex workers come a knocking. PS – Yes (Gillian) I was actually quite angry. 😉

25 June – I am pretty much convinced that the Europeans have an obsession with hedges and strimming. This obsession is limited strictly to the early morning and about – lets say – four to six o’clock, when you might want to either remain asleep (as its too early to get up or you fancy a snooze because some idiot from Bad Coldsore Council woke you up earlier that day. After my encounter with Heinz last week we were woken this morning – in the middle of nowhere – by another Audi driving, sausage munching, beer swilling… (ok – you get the idea). He didn’t wake us – his pal from street cleansing, Otto Knowbeiter, broke our slumber at 0700 hours with his need to clean the quietest street in Bad Foorsleeping-lating. We were held up on the motorway earlier today by – not a serious crash on Europes fastest motorway – but the men in green tractors from the council cutting the hedges whilst men in black BMWs passed (or tried to) at 170 miles an hour. Luckily thy had spotted the gleaming white four wheeled sardine can that is ‘us’ careering out of the way of the gardening klutz in good time and had slowed down to a misery 130 miles an hour as they clipped our wing mirrors. We should be alright tonight as we are parked in a layby in France – yes that is three countries away from earlier today but we have had to return to the UK a bit sooner than we hoped due to a small family emergency – if the hedges need cutting here tomorrow I will be sure to let you know 😉

24 June – I can’t help noticing how sometimes, some folk go about things in the most difficult way. Take recycling (in Germany) for example. Now I’m all for the idea that stuff gets recycled and I think most of us in the UK are pretty good at putting the right things into the right bins and even whizzing down to the tips if you have an embarrassing amount of wine bottles after a heavy weekend. In Germany there is a deposit on lots of the glass beer bottles but not the wine ones and most of the plastic bottles now have a levy to ensure that you are forced due to financial reward to take them back. The problem is though that often the deposit is greater than the value of the product and in the case of a 19 cent bottle of water there is a 25 cent refund on the bottle. This means that at the end of the week your house is full to overflowing with plastic – there’s too much of it to go to the shop on your bike so you end up taking your three litre Granada to the recycling bins. Now forgive me for being cynical but that’s hardly helping to save the planet is it? Furthermore the machines that identify the type of bottle and how much of a refund you are to get back are like the cat scanner at Christies Hospital in terms of complexity and often pack up as they misread your spring water, thinks its ketchup and shoot you for putting glass in the plastic slot.

23 June – Contrary to what you might think I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth or given up on the blog – it’s just that where we have been in Germany over the past half a dozen days hasn’t managed to catch up with the 21st century just yet and we haven’t been able to connect to the internet. I will catch up previous entries but for now I’ll be leaving you with tonights entry. The reasons are two fold. One – its late, and secondly I seem to have polished off more German beer than is humanely possible and typing is very difficult. I can’t imagine why I ever thought I manage to type stuff given that I am hardly able to speak. It is the end of six days of solid ‘Old VW stuff’ and reunions with friends from the UK some of which we haven’t seem in years (they live in Germany now). So before I make too many more smelling pistakes – Good Night!

22 June – It’s a bit bizarre bumping into lots of English people whilst wandering around a quiet German village but as it’s an old VW car event (called Hessisch Oldendorf) literally dozens of us with the same love for all things Volkswagen shaped have centred in on this part of Germany for this ‘once every four years’ event. We planned to meet up with six of our friends anyway but bumped into at least 20 or more in addition. If it wasn’t for the schnitzels and beer I’d imagine we were in Solihull – thankfully we’re not. Full day tomorrow with a visit to the largest collection of VW’s/Porsche/un-pronouncable manufacturers name who have since gone bust. Who says I don’t know how to treat Alison to a great day out!

21 June – Well I can finally get some revenge on her indoors reading the last book that she read out to me at every available opportunity. I am now reading some of those bits back to her in the same style that she read them to me. I may take the ultimate revenge and read a really bad book myself and quote loads of boring bits back to her. We’ll see. In fairness it is a good read but its now effectively been read four times at least between the two of us. A week or so ago we were at a lovely little town/village called Ebern – and it has a great charity shop and being German is well stocked with local beer glasses and better still, steins, with local places/beers printed on them. They are all dirt cheap too and I got a great one for one euro. I have a cunning new plan to pop over here, buy a cheap VW transporter (to sell back in the UK at great profit) and fill it full of cheap charity shop steins and beer glasses. That day the stein came out earlier, in an impromtu beer session that presented itself near the camp wardens office. We went over to check on our ‘washing’ but were hijacked by ‘Hans’ with bottled beer and more laughs than you can shake a stick at. Whilst we understand very very little German and they even less English we all had a good laugh and a giggle – probably at each others expense. If nothing else I now understand what erection, stupid, and grandfather are in German.

20 June – It’s our 32nd wedding anniversary today and what better way to spend it than with six of your pals, halfway through a six day ‘car event’. Who says romance is dead? We’ve enjoyed el-cheapo fizzy wine – rather too much of it I fear – and a hearty BBQ in the sun. That’ll have to do!

19 June – I seem to attract all the noisy ‘nut jobs’. We were disturbed by the sound of someone cutting a hedge last night. Not only did we suffer the noise of the cutter, but it was powered by a generator towed by a tractor! And the time I can almost anticipate you asking – was nearly half past midnight. I ‘politely’ indicated my displeasure with the stout German gentleman who responded with a request for ‘just ten more minutes’. I abruptly responded with a ‘£%&$ that Heinz’ – its time for bed whilst miming the act of my head hitting the pillow and pointing at my watch. He repeated again with the request for ten more minutes (which would doubtless merge into halfway through the next day and I repeated my ‘foxtrot oscar’ denial of nocturnal hedge topiary whilst walking towards him. He stopped cutting but ensured he was back 0900 hours sharp the next morning. The arse.

18 June – Well. We are in Wolfsburg – where they make the Volkswagens – where they have made millions of Volkswagens. For those of you who have never had a Volkswagen then you don’t know what you have missed. As a car they are great unbreakable cars that generally go on forever and cost you very little to run. If you get to like them a little more (like we have) then they become a bit of a lifestyle choice. For us its possibly more than that – it is the reason we are travelling Europe in a motorhome – probably – I cant imagine we would have got hooked into cars and then campers by buying a Vauxhall. We visited the autostadt today – a huge ‘car’ based theme park with Porsche, Audi, and of course VW being the major par of that theme amongst many other motoring names. We are off to the museum tomorrow for a detailed look at the really old VW’s – and I know may of you will wonder just ‘why’ – if so. Then, you can just wonder. 😉

17 June – Ah. So you are still with me then! I thought that after yesterday diary and my tales of ‘all things smelly’ I might have lost a good chunk of my audience. On our journey today we witnessed the first road works in a long while – not normally a memorable event either unless you count the section of Spain last year in which the road works were over 200 miles long. This was simply humorous – ‘health and safety’ seems to leave Europe alone largely and we have seen men halfway up trees cutting down the ‘other half’ above them completely oblivious to the fact that the bit they are cutting will fall on them. We have seen all sorts but nothing like that we witnessed today. A man sat in the bucket of a ‘digger’ using a measuring wheel being driven down the road by his mate. He had to lean all the way forward to carry our this dangerous feat of measurement and we can only assume had been doing it for miles as otherwise you would just walk with it. If he tipped too far forward then his own chauffeur would surely run him over. I only wish that I could have captured it on video.

16 June – this is probably going to be my most offensive diary entry so far – and probably the last offensive one as once I have said my piece we’ll be done. If you are a/ easily offended, b/ about to eat your lunch or c/ a moany miserable sod then just tune back in tomorrow when I will have got this off my chest. One of the jobs (or as Billy Connelly would have put it – ‘jobbies’) that us chaps have inherited in ‘motorhoming’ is the task of emptying the cassette. Now, for those who have never been motorhoming, and I know there are a few of you, the cassette does not hold 30. 60 or 90 recorded minutes of your favourite tunes from the ‘hit parade’ (although it does rhyme with ‘hit’) nor does it contain a blockbuster film recorded by your video player owning mate. It is the grey plastic box that collects anything and everything that lives below your toilet seat – this isn’t a house with soil pipes and soakaways – it’s a Volkswagen with a bog! Most of the week we are lucky and have the use of a ‘proper’ toilet – a porcelain throne of loveliness, but sometimes (and for several weeks last year at Gale in Portugal) you have to rely on ‘plastic shit storage’. The cassette itself is fantastic – it holds ‘yesterdays lunch/dinner/snacks etc in there with great and huge dignity – it doesn’t stink and does the admirable job of keeping your shite in one neat place. The plan collapses though when it comes to emptying our grey and yellow cludgy. The places that you can empty yesterdays meals (or last weeks if you have been a bit bunged up) can be a bit sketchy. Today I found a stick to help carefully open the hinged, stainless (yeah right!) lid avoiding any contact with my neighbours stomach contents only to let the lid slip back into its ‘home’ position splashing water of unknown and questionable content about my once clean face. I resisted the temptation to lick my lips or even breathe until a ‘baby wipe’ was procured/ At this point I hadn’t even encountered my own (or the misses’s faeces) just everyone else on the camps! I finally launched our cassette into the ‘dump’ (well there’s no other word for it really is there?) relieved (another appropriate term) that I managed to keep all of it from splashing about my person. You have to do all of this whilst ensuring that no one else ‘sees’ what you are doing as for some strange reason we are very secretive about our ‘toilet habits’ – I wait until ‘the coast is clear’ before I ensure that the ‘coast is not very clear’ and in fact it is eye-wateringly grotesque. The cassette is back in the ‘player’ and hopefully tomorrow we will have the use of a ‘Twyfords’ again. Sweet Dreams

15 June – And its another evening with the Germans as we were invited round to barbeque with Robbie and Andrea on the only other occupied pitch at this quiet stellplatz in mid Germany. We parked up and after an hour or so Robbie came round to offer to plug our electric cable into his extension so we could power our fridge off the ‘free’ electric that the site offers. We arrived too late to get into the electric panel but as they were here earlier they got in quick. It is good of them to offer to help us out. I don’t see the same public spirited helpfulness back in the UK I am afraid. We took our BBQ across as soon as we smelled the starting of the coals and then spent a very pleasant evening with them. We simply bought some pork from the supermarket and took that round to cook but they seemed horrified to see that it was not marinated in any sauce and we were going to plonk it straight on the BBQ. It was taken inside and treated to all manner of coatings of tasty stuff and came out to be cooked for us by Robbie and tasted very good indeed. Germans, not very friendly? Arse. Another lovely evening.

14 June – I think we have the worlds first Nazi Sat Nav – Sat-Nazi has a good ring to it – as I swear that it says ‘at the next roundabout take the Third Richt’ – or maybe because we are in Germany I just think that it says that. Some people accuse the Germans of not being very friendly and one particular fellow traveller said that – and I quote – “most won’t even talk to you”. Er, you halfwit – that might just be down to the fact that they don’t bloody well understand us as we speak a different language – A bit like a lot of us ‘don’t speak’ to them for the same reason. If fact we have found the complete opposite – those that can speak a ‘little english’ (who them generally are quite good at our language) will go out of their way to help you. Yesterday the girl in the supermarket was more than helpful when it came to selling us some fresh fish. Equally the directions given to us on how to find the supermarket via the girl in the pharmacy were also delivered with a smile. When it comes to not understanding us ‘they’ do that same thing ‘we’ do when faced with a communicative brick wall – they say it again, and louder and repeat it if you still have a gormless look on your face. It’s often easier to just nod and agree (as if you understood it) however there is a risk that you might agree to something immoral or dis-tasteful – or both by unwittingly agreeing to be tied up with an apple in your mouth – or something!

13 June – Well it was ‘all Hans on deck this evening’ as out of the blue/blei the wind picked up and started waving our motorhome awning abound like a flag. We quickly ran out to find the other occupants of Stalag Sausagecamp trying to rescue their equally expensive and fragile awnings before they were wrenched from the side of the vehicle like an unwanted tooth. The Germans all managed to get theirs away with great efficiency whilst I stood there like a spare ‘part’ at a wedding. The handle that Fiamma provide to wind your £800 awning in is made out of cheese and snapped last year – I did effect a repair but for some reason once cheese has been welded you can never get the original strength back. The chap next door ran with his twizzler but alas the hook part was a different shape due to the fact that all the awning suppliers got together about ten years ago and had a meeting agreeing that no one would make the hook part the same shape as anyone else so that there would always be an infinite number of combinations in order to render anyone as unfortunate as me with no alternative but to watch my awning self destruct during late night winds. With a pair of pliers and a collection of English and German swearwords Herr Schmitt and I were able to get the fokker back in the closed position. It was just like the troops coming out of the trenches on Christmas Day to play football and sing ‘Silent Night’.

12 June – I am well on my way through the book I am /Alison has half read to me – it’s a bit like reading last weeks newspaper – except that it contains a bit more truth/fact. I can see why she wanted to read so many bits to me as it draws so many parallels to what we are doing. It is a couple who like us are travelling for a couple of years and are following a similar route and set of experiences as we have. I must ring the author tomorrow and ask if his own wife read the whole story out to him ‘en-route’. As we travel I often make up nicknames for people that we meet along the way for whom we do not know their real name. I have a list of hundreds which I will share at some other time. However – and to some degree – I might share a new one tonight. The people ‘quite close to us’ (next door) are the only people that I have ever met who manage to out do me. I could not get a word in edge-ways. They were extremely adept at interrupting each other, they said things like “I know” when you told them something they had never heard before – as you had just said it. She interrupted hom with details about when stuff had happened – that didn’t matter because to Alison and I the fact that it happened eight OR ten months ago didn’t ACTUALLY matter as we weren’t there. I’ve lost all thought of my good ideas for a nickname now so it will have to wait until tomorrow.

11 June – I think I mentioned that I was reading a book ‘by proxy’ – well I am reading it on my own now (as I finished the last one) Alison has promised to stop reading excerpts (ie: the best bits) out of it to me. I’ll see how I get on – perhaps I could tell you all about it here and save you having to read it! On a subject completely unrelated to her annoying literary habits – We are never really in a hurry which is just as well as a fully laden motorhome doesn’t actually have the hurry ‘App’. With all your worldly possessions (well enough for a holiday anyway) and your cupboards rammed with crockery and cheap local wine its never a good idea to take a bend too ‘enthusiastically’. I refer to our engine as a ‘Rolls Cannardley’ as it rolls down hills and cannardley get up the other – Boom Tish!

10 June – My wife has been reading a book – not to herself as most normal people do – but to me! Now, I’m not 8, I can read all on my own, and nor am I partially sighted however she insists on telling me the best bits out of her latest read. This is irritating enough as it stands but as I have already told her that I would like to read it after she has finished it’s even more galling. I’m reading one at the moment and every now and then I have to ask myself if I am suffering a ‘Deja Vu’ moment as I’m sure it’s familiar – that’s because she virtually read that book to be last week – reading out all the good bits!

9 June – We are back in Germany today where I think some time back that I mentioned that it was probably illegal to drive a crap car here. We witnessed earlier today some very sad and depressed looking children in a Citroen C5 – quite possibly the most crap car since the Maestro – as we entered the country near Cheiming. They were pale, they were gaunt and they looked like they were considering throwing themselves out of the rear doors into the motorway traffic. I couldn’t blame them. As Mercedes and Porsches passed them by being overtaken by BMW’s and top of the range VW’s you wondered what sick father would insist on driving his ‘kinder’ about in a French tractor. I am glad we have a VW motorhome to be honest as the shame of driving anything less would be too much to bear. As we went for walk around the small village near our Stellplatz this afternoon we passed no less that three Porsche 993 cabriolets in ordinary peoples driveways – it is their weekend plaything – I very much like that.

8 June – Well, I (we) am (are) in another country yet again/ We have returned to Austria en route to Germany and we stopped off at Werfen to see a lovely castle that the used for the ‘war film’ Where Eagles Dare. It is an impressive sight and site. It sits on the top of a high hillside looking very bold and impressive and just the sort of thing that would make a ‘war film’ all manly and heroic. I fancied going inside and having a look at the 1648 built castle which boasts prison cells. large dining halls and suchlike amongst its attributes on Wikipedia. We climb the 15 minutes up the side of a vertical wall (well it felt like that) to get to it only to find that on entering and after being left some 32 euros lighter that you can ‘experience’ a falconry display followed by a Birds of Prey discussion. Excuse me – for 32 euros I want to meet Wilhelm von Klink or similar, I want to be locked up in a cell and I want to see something of the castles ‘real’ past – not a bunch of owls or turkeys or whatever made it up there on the day. For such a magnificent building to be reduced to guided tours about budgies and parrots is sad. We walked back down the hill with 32 euros still in our pockets.

7 June – Inspectorio Rex was a corker of an episode last night! So I am told. He’s managed to track down the Bum-sniffer Gang who have been wee-ing on the bin bags outside the church. Unfortunately it is a ‘two-parter’ and we will miss tonights as we are in a different country. Whilst filling up with fresh water and throwing out the fowl I bumped into ‘Caravan Club Man’ who wanders about with a clipboard and looks a bit like Norris Cole off Coronation Street (or Rex’s vet of Inspectorio Rex for that matter). He claims he works for the CC checking out campsites in Europe. I’ve never seen such a review in any CC publication so I suspect he has made this role up to make him sound exciting. He asked me how I have enjoyed my stay so I played up a little and told him that the naked Jacuzzi parties at our end of the camp were a hoot and that the Breakfast in Bed was a little late for my liking. A puzzled look and then he asked me to rate it out of ‘5’ – so I said 8. He then told me again that he worked for the Caravan Club so I told him I worked for M15, tapped the side of my nose. shoved my toilet cassette back in and bid him farewell.

6 June – Well, I have seen it all – here we have a site where thanks to todays heavy rain (despite sweltering hot sun – a bit like a monsoon) some pitches are full of water and folk are ‘making do’. so people in tents (generally the ‘poor’) have had to go home, which is probably another tent but somewhere drier. Whilst our BBQ was hotting up – as it did brighten back up – two Italian motorhomes drove on, found a pitch, and then another – churned up the grass as they moved – and then re-appeared and re-appeared again each time stopping only to try out the satellite dish. Now we are in a ‘basin’ surrounded by mountains and I frankly am surprised that we get air (and the internet) let alone ‘the telly’ but these two intrepid ‘stop at nothing Nomads’ would not rest until they could pick up ‘striscia la notizia’ or ‘I cesaroni’ or worst of all ‘Inspectorio Rex’ – the detective dog – an alsation at least. They spent a full two and half hours moving from one space to another from one end of the campsite to the other – we lit the BBQ, let it settle, I played a few tunes on the guitar, we ate, drank wine, washed up and sat back down to laugh at these clowns whilst they still twiddled with their £1400 satellite dishes which were up and down more times than a brides nightie. They may have spent even more time trying to lock into a satellite, whilst they threw even more mud up at the few surviving tent people, but we ended up drawing the curtains to talk to each other go on the internet.

5 June – As we packed up to move out of Croatia today and whilst trying to tune into Radio Two before we set off but in the meantime caught up with some local radio. Anyone who ever complains about local radio in the UK should list to local radio in Europe before they even open their mouths. Now Radio Two doesn’t even enter into this argument as seeing as we all pay for it and the government give them cash too they can afford to play some decent music and have some half decent guests, and some crap ones too. The search for a radio station starts with fumbling around with the tuner to find something you might recognise and indeed you will – but I guarantee that two songs after your listen to the last minute of Coldplay, and then the Eagles they will play ‘Bing Boddle Bish Bosh Boing’ by Ernst Klepfertnitzel followed by ‘Schnush fer Gimbletsh einer Wimplespunk’ by the Ffnerrert Brothers and then some really odd stuff. It is truly woeful. Just as you think you have nailed a ‘proper’ radio station they cut short the end of Hotel California and bring in Ernst but only after an awfully played out advert for sausages or chicken nuggets or a mobile phone – but in ‘foreign’ – you can just about understand it as they use the word schnitzel/McDonalds/Vodaphone but you can just tell the ‘storyline’ is painful. I switched off and whistled

4 June – After four days in lovely Pomer we decided to move up the coast a little. To be honest I got a little fed up of being mistaken for a German (see May31) and lo and behold as we are about to pack up I hear a voice not dissimilar to half the cast of EastEnders announce – “oooh they’re English”. Quick chat and empty of the toilet cassette (always a conversation killer) and we were off. We set up at a site near the almost unpronounceable Muscenicka Draga and as I fettled around the outside of the van a very English looking old lady blurts ‘Gutten Tag mein Herr. I went inside to put my lederhosen back on.

3 June – thanks to the power of the Internet – free at the site we are at currently – I was able to listen to Radio Two today. I love Popmaster and even tried to get on the quiz just before we left. I failed the dead easy questions they set you in order that you don’t sound foolish to half of the UK. Such didn’t happen today as ours hapless contestant failed the first two ‘dead easy’ question spectacularly – if you are going to fail then do it in style. having chosen the bonus category which songs contained the word ‘please’ failed to identify The Beatles number one hit ‘Please Please Me’ in which the key word constitutes two thirds of the song title! By the time he had finished I was in stitches. Comedy gold.

2 June – we both admit that we have found that ‘secret’ part of heaven that no one lets on about. Where we are is great. Superb views and lovely site and a great bar at the end of the site. I cannot report on what we did today as we did nothing – nothing at all. We had a lunch and bubbly on the beach and did nothing else. As the Germans strolled along the beach I was once again ‘assumed’ to be an ‘Erik’ – a great big German – by a lovely old couple wandering down the beach. They were so disappointed that I was a scummy Englishman but they put away ideas of shooting me away for the rest of their walk at least after a few Auf Weiderseins and Guten Tags 😉

1 June – First BBQ of the trip (although I did manage one on my own whilst in Edinburgh) and the moment I lit it (which was stupid as I should have known it would curse the proceedings) – it started to rain, much to the amusement of fellow campers and those sitting at the bar who generally are still wandering around in their anoraks as they don’t reckon it gets warm until August. We did by contrast witness another visitor to the site with her sun chair parked in the water with her bikini on and dangling her feet in the water – it’s not that warm yet. Other acts of stupidity include a cyclist who thought it best to cycle down the busy road – tackling crossroads and traffic alike’ with his arms tucked behind his head. Now call me a traditionalist but that’s just plain and simple showing off. I consider it unwise to take one hand off the controls to scratch my nose just in case something untoward happens. This suicide jockey – who had no reason to park his mitts behind his head – is just asking for trouble. We managed to get back from our cycle trip ‘eventually’ learning quite quickly that it was only signposted in one direction with some of the signs set up before the junctions/change of direction so it was no wonder we were literally going round in circles on the trip home.

31 May – We should never make assumptions – I did today when a chap passing our motorhome asked if we had travelled from England. He seemed impressed when we said ‘Yes’ and he and his family carried on down the path. I said that he seemed impressed with our journey however I said it must be nothing compared to his journey given that he and his family were Chinese. As he came back down the path he asked how long it had taken us and how far was it. We told him and he congratulated us on our efforts – thankfully I held off with the “but you much have come much further” comment as he then told us that he was from Austria and had driven the 400 km in a hired motorhome. Ah, so its Saltzburg not Shanghai then mate. Amusingly his 5 year old son corrected him, in German, reminding him that it was a mere 396 km – Dads eh? We arrived at the campsite, parked up and went to reception to be greeted by a chap who rattled off instructions on where to go and what to do in fluent German –we looked at each other and pointed out that we were English and he swapped over to good English (like most Croatians). Whilst convincing he did sound like he had learnt his German from listening to Colonel Klink out of Hogans Heroes* He assumed from our appearance (I do look a bit like a sun-lounger thief) that we were German and hence his error. I will stop turning up at new sites wearing Lederhosen, swilling beer out of a stein with a sausage perched behind my ear in future.

*anyone under fifty should ‘Google’ it or ask an old person.

30 May – I feel a bit cheated as I thought last night was my 300th night in the motorhome since our announcing we were travelling starting March 2012. I kind of missed the day once I double checked and that was a couple of days ago and I am now on night number 302 – which for OCD types (a little bit like me at the moment) has no real reason. I was going to write about my 300th night in the motorhome but I have now forgotten what or how memorable it was. To be honest it probably wasn’t all that memorable – unless making sure your feet don’t poke out of the end of the bed into the front cab so they don’t get too cold count. As it happens they didn’t and they therefore didn’t get cold. I did learn one thing though – don’t leave it two days before you empty the toilet cassette when the ’empty’ is so far away. Two days worth is a heavy load – I am glad I shared that – I’m certain you’re not.

29 May – Carrying on with a theme – I struggled with signs at the campsite today. The sign for the ‘gents’ has fallen off/faded/never fitted so I looked to the right and saw a ladies sign so thought “Hum, this side must be the lads side”. I even followed a lady into the loo/shower as she had a ‘cleaning staff’ shirt on and its common to see these ladies doing a great job of cleaning the loo all day – even when the men are in there doing their best to completely negate their good work (some of these guys must eat raw sewage to be frank – my eyes were actually watering!). I was wrong it would seem as I encountered two more women and still thought I might be in the right place. It wasn’t until I clocked my own wife in there that I realise I must be wrong. I bid my farewell and left to the other side of the block.

28 May – Different signs today in Fazana – signs that indicate that you must wear clothes, probably even funnier than the ones that say you ‘cannot’. I’ve not seen anywhere in the UK where a ‘Clothes must be worn’ sign was required – mind you its generally a bit cold at home for walking around with ‘nae clathes’. I’ll be keeping my plums in the fruitbowl for the record – hot sunshine or not. I can see the appeal of sunbathing or swimming as nature intended but the idea of carrying on with your daily routine with just another item to get in the way is rather lost on me – and as for sitting in a tea-room having scones and a brew – no thanks.

*ask a Scotsman for translation

27 May – I am often amused by the simplest of things. Today was no exception – as we cycled down the beach to nearby Rovinj we passed the ususal array of signs requesting that you ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’. There’s the usual sign depicting a ‘squatting dog’ with instructions to pop its fall-out into a bag (usually ignored in Europe – but unless Croatias dog population is housed in the Capital we haven’t seen many four legged friends). There’s ‘no littering’ signs which again would appear to be well adhered to as it is very clean here in Rovinj. What I did notice today – slightly out of the ordinary was a sign telling you that on this particular section of beach you couldn’t wear clothes, or even more bizzarely – take ‘shampoo’ onto the beach. So, it seems that a session with the Head and Shoulders is taboo yet its alright for a chap to walk about with his reproductive organs dangling about in the wind. Strange world.

26 May – I’m afraid I’m going to have to ramble on once more about how hospitable our Croatian hosts are. Once again our day with them was perfect in every way – more good beer and wine and fantastic food to round the day off. We even received a trophy for attending the meeting – later we were told that we ‘were a gift to them’ for attending – it’s not often I am stuck for words. A wonderful group of new friends. That is all.

25 May – Well, you would have to drive long and far to find people more hospitable than the Croatians. We joined their VW meeting two days ago and struggle to buy a drink. or a meal, or anything! We have been fed and watered like nothing else. Tonight we had a blues band playing to entertain us too – he was Eric Clapton and a few other guys – amazing 😉 We are off tomorrow to see the local town – I expect the bank will open and throw money at us as we pass 😉

24 May – It is our first full day in Croatia and we have been spoilt rotten. It started last night with a lovely welcome from the organisers of the VW Buba meeting here in Rovinj. Food and drinks a plenty. We have a great bunch of VW friends in the UK but we have been made just as welcome by our new Croatian friends as we would have been by our old pals in the UK. It restores your faith in humanity. Tonight, we met the most drunk man in the world (in a good way – he was as nice as pie) we enjoyed a traditional Croatian meal compliments of our new friends and met countless new friends to boot. People keep thrusting beer and food at us – it’s fantastic! The event doesn’t really start until tomorrow. My next diary entry may be illegible.

23 May – We drove into Croatia today with quite a few miles through Slovenia. they have a few very specific rules in both Slovenia and Croatia when driving. One of them is that you must drive with your sidelights on – we were halfway across Slovenia before I realised that this was to simply identify yourself as ‘moving’ – somewhat obvious given that you were actually ‘moving’. I had originally thought that you turned your lights on to indicate to other motorists that you were using your mobile phone whilst driving (as that seemed to be the ‘modus operandi’) but alas it is less sinister than that 😉 You have to put your hazard warning light on when reversing in Croatia – but you can still text/facebook your buddy about it whilst you carry out the manoeuvre. You can probably eat a horse burger whilst you are doing it too…

22 May – One of the things that is a ‘must see’ whilst in Ljubljana is a visit to the ‘Hot Horse’ stand. No, it isn’t a dating site for Equine Fans it is an eatery serving up variations on a ‘horse themed’ menu. A sort of ‘Stable to Table’ establishment – Shergar and chips with a diet Pepsi and Red Rum Roast if you like. I’d heard about it from a travel book and was chomping at the bit for a delicious Horse Burger. It huge! Just as well that I ordered it as my ‘mane course’. Alison wasn’t quite as hungry as me so she had something from the ‘My Little Pony’ menu in the form of a tortilla wrap but that’s another tail. I’ve had horse meat before (and I don’t mean un-knowingly in a Findus ‘Horse Pot’) when in France and I think its all good as part of a stable diet. Its another country where an animal can go from race course to main course all in the space of a day. No pun intended 😉

21 May – There was a time when we seemed to strive for gadgets that seemed to get smaller and smaller. The mobile phone started out life as something similar to a car battery with a ‘trimphone’ glued to it with a curly cord similar to Eric Clapton’s guitar lead. I remember boasting about a new digital camera that I bought that could easily fit into your shirt pocket being not much bigger than a two fingered Kit Kat and not long after the gigantic mobile phone I mentioned earlier came a phone about the size of a Mars bar (albeit not one of those tiny fun size things you pay a quid for these days). I recently bought Alison an iPad as I thought it would be useful when I run off on business with the laptop or when (more likely) we are away travelling as it does lots of great things that a laptop will do – it stores ‘Kindle’ books, music, photos and even has an App that will replicate the sound of different types of ‘farts’. It also has a camera facility which is where I start to wonder where we went wrong – at a whopping 8 inches by ten inches is probably the worlds largest camera (next to something they may have on hand at Jodrell Bank). I watched a lady wander around the campsite this morning with one taking pictures of the cows – the photo must have been practically life size if displayed on the screen. Whatever next – a 52 inch television in a wheelbarrow posing as ‘portable’?

20 May – We’ve managed to do it again – it is a Bank Holiday over here and as a result there is no where open. That means another meal generated from the tins that live in the back of the cupboard. Last night was Spam and custard followed by a Sardine Tart. Tonight might even be something weird. We have travelled on to Austria where everything is also shut for the same holiday that the Germans are taking. Luckily the fuel stations are open as we were down to our last few litres of diesel – as we have no alcohol left we have taken to siphoning the tank and drinking that. And, no, I haven’t been drinking – it’s my night off! As we get ready to climb into our ‘make them before you get into them’ beds I notice that Alison has got her knickers on inside out. On telling her she proclaimed “Oh, Brucie bonus, I’ll turn them the right way round and get another day out of them” Good Night!

19 May – We have left Ingolstadt in Germany and what a great place it is too. We will be back I am sure which gives us a bit of a problem as we keep added places to a ‘must come back and see again’ list. This is fine but at this rate I am going to have to live to be 113 years old at least. Oh well, its something to aim for. I was going to write a diary entry last night but the O2 dongle I bought wouldn’t reach the ‘internet’ sockets in the sky. I did ask a German chap if I had inputted the passwords in correctly but he just laughed when he saw the O2 symbol and announced that O2 ‘was schizzer’. My little grasp of German tells me that ‘isn’t good’. Deflated I returned to the motorhome and watched a DVD instead. My ‘little grasp’ of German got me into trouble yesterday as I ordered what I thought was going to be two beers (as there are only two of us that would be a sensible quantity) but alas ‘drei’ means three and three beers and three pretzels is what we got. The waitress could hardly contain herself as she plopped them on the table one after the other. I – of course – had to drink the extra one so it wasn’t all bad. And finally ‘schizzer’ or not the O2 dongle is working here tonight despite the fact we are close to the Austrian border. I’ll try and remember not to shout G’day Cobber to anyone I see tomorrow.

18 May – we are still in Ingolstadt – home of the Audi Factory – and as I have had a few Audis including a fantastic TT, and the fact that I wrote a column for Audi Driver magazine I thought I would give the museum a twirl. And twirl I did give it – its a fabulous museum and at first I thought I would blag my way in with an ‘I am a freelance journalist/Audi Driver mag/do you know who I am malarky’ but on spotting it was a mere 2 Euros to get in thought better of it. Two Euros must be just enough to keep the riff raff out as they certainly cannot maintain that place at 2 bucks a shot. I did manage to tag along with three American Audi big-wigs who were getting a personal tour ‘in English’ from a very knowledgable guide. They twigged I was ear-wigging in the end but as I managed to answer a couple of questions that Herr Guide couldn’t recall they put up with me. They even asked me if I enjoyed the visit at the end – yes I did.

17 May – I wasn’t going to view Germany with the usual stereotypes of beer drinking, lederhosen clad men and the munching of Pretzels but today blow that all out of the water. On returning from the Audi museum (which was superb in every way) I cycled back through the main square in Ingolstadt to find lederhosen clad men giving away free beer and pretzels. I quickly phoned Alison (she didn’t want to join me for the Audi museum for some strange reason) and told her to join me. Further stereotypes were cast in stone when ‘ooompah’ bands set up and men started slapping their knees. It was a great afternoon – the best kind too – totally unplanned and totally magical.

16 May – No trip in the motor home would ever be complete if it didn’t start with an ‘incident’ on immediately heading off. This is – I am sure – the work of Saint Hymer to put you ‘on guard’ for the rest of your journey, wondering just what might happen next, or if the thing that just happened, happened again. Last year it was the nearside indicator deciding to part company with the front wing the moment we got onto the M6. The chances of that happening should be fairly slim – but fall out, it did. Sods law in full application. This year was no exception with the driver’s side (had to be) wiper deciding to leap away from the screen – again on the M6. Another swerve over to the hard shoulder for some roadside maintenance with huge artics flashing past you at 70 miles an hour. Thinking that this was to be it we carried on all the way to Harwich dock with no further glitches. The next glitch was every ferry users nightmare and as we had camped over on the queuing lanes the night before (with permission) it became a double nightmare. I turned the key and absolutely nothing happened. Not a ‘flat battery’ sound or a ‘not ready to start yet’ sound but a gut wrenching ‘you aint going anywhere – least of all Europe’ SILENCE. The sound of one hand clapping, Lenny Henrys audience cheering, The Chigwell Mute Choir Christmas sing-song and so on. I pictured us sat there three hours after the ferry had gone – minus one white VW – waiting for Doug from the AA to come and tell us what we already knew. As our old van did this one or two times before (loose ignition key) I tried a few jaunty key angles and even tried poking my tongue out of one side of my head and finally it roared to life. I’ve now christened this the ‘shit yourself mode’. I have left it until now to write about it as I didn’t want to tempt fate and in the way that you get a flat tyre after boasting you haven’t had one in ages, make it happen again. I’ll be sure to let you know if it does.

15 May – Apparently this week marks the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid. I shall keep that to myself, I think, given our location. We’ve spent a couple of nights at ‘freebie’ sites already although tonight we splashed out on 8 hours of electric for a Euro – well it is a holiday! We are also going to treat ourselves to a shower tomorrow as we haven’t had one in over a week*. It keep the flies off the sandwiches at least. Anyway I must dash as I need to run round the car park with my arms out-stretched singing Daaaa da da da da, da da da da da….

*this is of course a lie used for comedy effect

14 May – We ‘merged’ into Germany today from Holland. In fact we hardly noticed anything other than after about half a mile suddenly the Sat Nav indicated no speed limit and a raft of Porsche/BMW/Audi/Mercedes and of course VW’s were rocketing past Alison’s ear at warp factor 10. There is no limit on the Autobahn and in fact it would seem to be a – slur on you manliness if you don’t at least make the vehicle you have just overtaken sway in the resultant wind vortex you create as you whistle by. To be honest this would worry me if we were in Portugal or Spain as whilst the drivers in both those countries would indeed have a go out of getting 120 MPH out of their 32 year old Renault 16TL it would neither travel in a straight line or be able to stop if required. In addition the driver would most likely be half drunk (unless it was after 5.00pm when of course he would have had enough time to be 100% inebriated). As the only cars you tend to see in Germany are “Porsche/BMW/Audi/Mercedes and of course VW’s” (as quoted earlier) and they are maintained to a high standard thanks to the TUV test the cars will be able to do all the things that the Renault 16TL mentioned earlier wouldn’t. I would also be worried if we were in France as there isn’t a decent car come out of their car industry since the Panhard. I am of course stereotyping here – but it’s only funny if I do that and at least I didn’t mention berets, stripey shirts or strings of onions.

13 May – we are settling down to our first night in Europe, and in Holland to be more specific and yes they do have the internet here. They are powered by windmills so says the guy at the house where you pay your fees but I suspect he is telling fibs. As way of paying him back I may catch his long eared rabbit and serve it up as lunch tomorrow and tell him that’s what us English do – that’ll serve him right 😉

12 May – A bit early (I nearly always do these at the end of the day but as I’m uncertain whether or not the Netherlands has the internet yet I thought I’d do this now). There is always something you forget as you dash off to your holibobs and this time there is no exception. I seem to have forgotten to ring the Royal Bank of Scotland* to ask them to cancel all our credit and debit cards. It’s a shame because trying to get them all renewed last summer proved to be endless fun and gave our trip a real purpose. It also means that our friend in Luz, Hanna, wont have to spend endless hours queuing in the Post Office to see if the parcel that was never actually sent, did or didn’t arrive. It means I won’t have to hide thousands of Euros in all sorts of illogical yet cunning places in the motorhome – some of it never to be found again as they were so cunning I was unable to find them. Worst still though I wont be able to collect a couple of hundred pound compensation on my return for all the faffing about. Good bless the bwankers.

*that shop in some high streets that you aren’t sure what it’s for!

11 May – Here we are the night before we set off on our travels to Europe tomorrow. We head to Harwich tomorrow and the ferry sets off early Monday morning. We need a break as we have spent the past two days helping my son Chris and girlfriend Amy sorting out years of overgrown weeds and a shed that appeared to be made of every old piece of wood that’s passed through Cheadle over the past 35 years. Its all history now thanks to a bonfire bigger than those that normally take place in November. It was so overgrown we managed to find a pond no one knew about! So we have had our take-away Chinese (last night) and Indian {tonight) and once we have double checked that we have got everything – we’re off! Until then – tara!

1 May – Well that eight weeks or so went very quickly indeed. I am back home after my two months with ‘the cooncil’. I spent a total of 57 nights in the motorhome (I enjoyed the use of a guestroom about halfway through for two nights) so I’m not sure if I’ll get used to the idea of my own bed back in Cheshire. That’s the longest I have ever stayed anywhere, including Parque de Gale in Portugal. Similarly I hope Alison doesn’t catch me mistaking the wardrobe for the toilet! Countless DVDs and satellite telly programmes have kept me amused when I wasn’t cycling either to or from work. I’ve covered some 400 miles on my bike and I cant remember the last time I drove a car (the electric van from work being the closest) The motorhome served me well though as I would certainly prefer it to staying in any hotel. I do look forward to a bit more space and some company though.

28 April – This is my last weekend in Edinburgh for a while as my two month contract comes to an end. I have enjoyed my unexpected and temporary ‘return to work’. I even got a ‘leaving do’ even though I am likely to return following our next bit of travelling. Happily the nature of my work means that I can always return to do a ‘clump’ of design work and come back to it at a later date. I had a great time on Friday night at our regular watering hole ‘Teuchters’ bar in Edinburgh where copious amounts of alcohol were consumed. My Scottish colleagues give me regular ‘language’ lessons enriching my already rich vocabulary with words like ocksters, scunnered, pelters, and loupin (google them) To mark this ongoing education my colleague Lisa bought me a mug depicting the meaning of ‘steamin’ which I was indeed on Friday! How appropriate.
I know people often try and sterotype the Scots as mean (amongst many other things) but I’ve never found them – be they in our workplace – or those I have met outside of work to be so and indeed very generous on many levels.

14 April – we’ve been proper pikeys this week as we spent two nights on a pub car park (as reported in my last entry). We had an enviable view of the sea as I managed to bagsy one of the spaces right at the front of the car park. It couldn’t have worked out better to be honest. Alison is with me this weekend – just as well as the washing was starting to pile up and I’m not spoiling my lovely hands with such manual wimmins work labour. That’ll prove whether or not she ever reads this 😉

9 April – Guess what? I haven’t moved a single foot, although I am off this weekend to nearby Cramond for my 48 hours away from the site. The landlord of the Cramond Arms has said that I can stay there in exchange for a couple of pints and a meal over his bar – it may have been cheaper to stay at the other campsite at Mortenhall but it’s a novelty if nothing else. I should be able to look right across the Firth of Forth if I bag a decent spot. Alison is joining me for a few days as well – and it will probably be the last time that I need to move off as the next 21 days should take me to the end of my contract. The weather has only just taken a turn for the better, with no snow, but it is still very cold. Nonetheless I have managed to cycle in to work and back for the past six days despite last Tuesdays temperatures of minus five (at 07.15). Brrrr!

2 April – I am still working away, literally, in Edinburgh. Now a regular feature on the Silverknowes Caravan Club site. I had to move away for 48 hours last week end as CC rules don’t allow you to stay longer than 21 days at a time. But it gave me chance to have a weekend outside of the capital and return to Berwick on Tweed where it was very cold indeed. I cast my mind back to just 12 months ago when I preparing the motorhome for our trip southward and I recall that I was running around in shorts enjoying the last warm weather that the UK enjoyed in a long time. The contrast is quite startling – snow drifts through to Coldstream (where I was enjoying a few creature comforts – eg, bed/home cooked food/company) and the distant memory of last years better weather. Oh well – you cant have it all!

28 March – Having been two weeks since I last wrote a diary entry I though that I had better remedy that. I have been busy working – a strange and new concept – and two weeks ago I commented how weird the weather had been. It’s still being weird now with snow on the ground yet again this morning and gone by the afternoon with the sun coming out for the last few hours of the afternoon. There are drifts a little further down the road and still loads of houses without electricity not so far from here. I still have power, gas and the telly in my cosy motorhome – I suppose it adds to the fun.

12 March – What is it with this countries weather? At this time last year I was out on the drive in my shorts polishing and cleaning the motor home for our trip in the general direction of places even warmer. Last March was lovely and sunny throughout. Last night at 10.30 – when I should have been tucked up in bed – I was scrambling about under the motor home trying to defrost a frozen waste-pipe (I’m so ‘rock and roll’ me) as waste water from the washbasin had backed up through the shower tray leaving my once warm feet cold and wet. I woke up to temperatures of minus six degrees – the first time I have experienced that in a long while. I shuffled up the road on compacted snow and ice to get to work. Still, it looks like it’s getting warmer later in the week – but only because it’s forecast to rain! Roll on April!

10 March – I thought it time I did a Diary entry as I haven’t done one for a while. I am currently away on my own and whilst I am no stranger to working away and fending for myself I am finding it all a bit lonely. Given that Alison and I spent the last twelve months living in each others pockets this is quite a contrast. You may have spotted the word ‘working’ there and before you go and get your eyesight testing I can confirm that I am indeed working. Albeit it only for 6 weeks (temporary contract working on a project in Edinburgh) but it’s an opportunity to top up our ‘spends’ – and to fund the horrendous repair bill generated in fixing the motorhomes faulty speedo. Rather than rant about that bill here – I’ll be referring to it in the ‘things that went wrong’ section of the blog – I bet you can’t wait!

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