Friday, 6 June 2014

Home, Hammock camping and parties...

After a relaxing week in Amsterdam it was time to touch down with reality...

There always seems to be a few administrative things to get done when I'm back in the UK. Whether that's to do with the property I let out, Self assessment tax, vehicle licensing, MOTs, Insurances etc etc, so it always takes a few days and a couple of books of stamps to get it all done. But once it's done I'm happy in the knowledge that we can drive, ride and crash whilst being on the right side of the law.

I say ride because I've got a new motorbike! A lovely Kawasaki Versys 650 with a Givi top box and scott oiler fitted. She's really nice to ride as you sit upright and feel like your 'inside' the bike rather than on top. Kerry gets on great riding pillion, especially as she has the top box behind her.

She came from a friend of my Dad's who only bought her last October to ride through the winter months before taking receipt of a brand new BMW GS1200 last month in March. Over that period he only put 700 miles so I was fairly confident taking her in for an MOT and she passed no problems.

We have some really good friends and it's always a pleasure to meet up. Whether for a good tasting home cooked meal, Jaunt down the pub, or, my favourite, we all meet up for a big buffet style Indian dinner.

Ross wined and dined us one evening with a Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal... quite an impressive Chicken Laksa which is a type of mildly spicy noodle soup with lots of coriander and a nicely marinated piece of grilled chicken. I enjoyed it so much I attempted to cook it over at a different friends house, Claire, but I've got to say that Ross's was better! It's quite nice to not be cooking every day! Even though I have been keeping my culinary skills in check and cooking for my Mum and Dad.

Ross's Chicken Laksa
The van came out of storage ok once I'd charged the battery up. For some reason the solar panel had developed a fault with the controller and stopped charging them, however after a 5 minute reset all was good and it started to pump power in to them. I was a bit concerned for her over the winter. All we heard whilst we were in the Alps was of the torrential rain and howling winds that seemed to last 3 months constant. But the field where she was parked had good drainage and non of the nearby trees came down on her.

It took Kerry and I a whole day to sort all of our stuff out and remove it from the van. We threw a lot away, which is a great achievement seeing as everything we owned fit in to a motorhome! But we've slimmed down even more on stuff we didn't think we'd use again. The hoover came out and the inside cleaned from top to bottom, then I had to fun task of washing the outside of such a big vehicle, climbing on the roof and everywhere. All of this was so that she could go up on ebay and be sold. She's a good van and done us proud through 4000 miles of European roads, even if we did have to stop for a bit whilst she was repaired. Mind you stopping in the South of France isn't exactly a tough job!

Within a couple of days of the ebay listing being active I'd had 3 phone calls, one from a very interested guy who was due to get the train from Cardiff the following weekend. Well... If someone is prepared to get the train to come and view the van, I don't expect they would want to get the train home again! So I was confident that there was a sale in the near future. Nevertheless I had a viewing with pleasant couple from Brighton midweek. They were very interested and offered good money should she pass an MOT that they would pay for.

So we got her booked in for the Thursday and unfortunately she failed... Leaking fuel from the return hose on the injectors. The guy buying it said it shouldn't be much of a problem, but wanted to drive to his house to have a closer look. On the drive back we were chatting and he suddenly said "Aww heck, I don't need to have a look, Let's just go inside and we can transfer the money over now". And with that Mildred was sold. The metal's gone but the memories remain.

So now it was time to earn some money... And it was convenient that my Dad needed some work on his house. Throughout the very wet winter he had water pouring in through every wall. The mortar between the bricks was not up to scratch and the entire house had to be re-pointed. Basically my job was to spend hour after hour grinding the old pug out with a 4 inch grinding disk, then knock up a gauge of new gear ready to be squirted in. Sometimes it was mind numbing work, but after a few weeks we had finished and I was no longer pulling dust out of every orifice.

I also got back from the Alps to a lovely Christmas Present from my Mum. A DD Travel Hammock, a sort of camping hammock that can be used either as a bivi on the ground or strung up in the trees as a hammock.

I chatted with a guest in the French Alps about camping and it transpired that we both watched the same bushcrafting people on youtube... Mike got in contact when he knew I was home and we setup a little excursion to test out my new hammock. Mike is a tree surgeon during the day and so was in the best profession to teach me some useful knots and, having his own camping hammock, was a useful guide when it came to setting up the hammock and sleeping in it for the first time.

To say I had the best nights sleep I've ever had camping would be an understatement. When you get in the hammock it is like getting a big hug from all sides. Lying in the hammock diagonally means you sleep flat instead of the banana shape you expect. We stayed for two nights, cooking on an open fire, whittling sticks in to eating implements (partly because I forget anything to eat with!) and generally catching up, wilderness style. I learnt a lot and I have Mike to thank for that. Hopefully we can get some more nights under the stars this summer.

So my Dads house was now ready just in time to throw a big party. We spent a few days getting the garden and house ready, battling some 70 mph gusts of wind that resulted in one severely broken gazebo and 3 others tied down using every piece of rope available. He brought in 3 barrels of beer from the brewery he is a syndicate member of as well as a fish and chip wagon turning up later in the evening.

It was a brilliant night, meeting some of his old friends for the first time, catching up with his friends I knew, telling stories by the camp fire and finishing up in bed at about 3am! As parties go (and for an old boy) he sure does know how to throw em.

One day to recover from the hangover, then a little 650 mile jaunt down to the Dordogne region of France... To work on that campsite... Yeah... the one with sun, swimming pool and hangovers!
Uncle David, Craig, Dad and Woody enjoying the ales

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