Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Supercaravan

Z showed me an advert, disguised as a news story, about an American, um, thing that claims, for financial or fiscal reasons, to be a caravan but is in fact an incredibly badly designed almost uninhabitable shack.  Sleeps six.  She’ll provide a link to the details if you persuade her to.

My caravan is four feet wider than the American thing.  It also comes with the benefit of Joseph.
I was awoken at 1.33 am precisely by a roaring noise.  Usually that signifies stormy weather, but I knew that wasn’t the case.  So I forced the pace and got out of bed.  The noise seemed to be coming from the bathroom, but when I went in there it seemed not to be.  ‘Ah ha,’ I thought.

Of course, it was outside plumbing, yet again.  I turned off the mains supply tap and went back to bed, thinking dark thoughts that can’t and won’t be retailed here.  ‘Enough’ was the softest.

Next morning, I managed to bump into Joseph.  Once he’d finished his complicated conversation with Brian, he came over in his Lan Rover and fixed the problem in minutes, once he’d found the necessary parts.  I can’t explain the process in detail, because that would require me to imagine lying flat on my back in a brambly ditch underneath a caravan, doing fiddly things with plumbing.  All I can say is: he’s a hero, and worth every penny of the £(fillinyourownnumber) rent I pay him.
In other news, we went to Carew (pronounced, I still firmly believe having been so taught by my mother in 1952, Carey) Castle, which is about as good as ruined castles can get.  And then to the Creselly Arms, a very basic pub on the beautiful Cresswell estuary that used to sell just local beer but has recently moved upmarket by offering cheese and pickle rolls too.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

The New Highway Code

Test your knowledge with these six easy questions:

1.     A stationary vehicle has both its indicators flashing.  What does this signify?

2.     When should you signal to indicate a turn?

3.     When should you NOT signal to indicate a turn?

4.     What is the rural speed limit for motorbikes?

5.     On a dual carriageway, when should you pull in from the overtaking lane?

6.     On a smart motorway, what does the sign ‘QUEUE – CAUTION’ mean?

Answers:

1.     The vehicle is illegally parked.

2.     When you have begun to make the turn.

3.     When there is a vehicle waiting to emerge from the road you intend to turn into.

4.     Whatever the speedometer goes up to.

5.     Generally, when there has been no vehicle to overtake for half a mile; however, you should pull in when a) there is a car’s length gap between two lorries which you can enter in order to immediately pull out again, or b) you are undertaking.

6.     A queue has been caused by the sign being switched on.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Fish Supper

Z was going to be out for the earlier part of the evening, so it fell to me to cook.  Paul the Fish calls on Monday mornings; we usually have a debate about what’s best today, what do we fancy and so forth.  This often becomes the ‘you choose’ ‘no, you choose’ dialogue, where Paul ends up as the adjudicator; but in this case it was obviously entirely down to me, so I just went random and said ‘hake’.

We had a batch of leftover cherry tomatoes, so I invented a recipe that Z told me I should write down, as I could be the next Nigel Slater (who specialises in making a lot* out of whatever’s available).  So here it is.
All the chopping is best done in an electric grinder/chopper.
Finely chop a fat clove of garlic and put it in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Let it just turn light brown over a medium heat.
Meanwhile, smash up about 20 cherry tomatoes (no need to skin them; if using bigger ones, you might choose to) and add them to the pan.  Add a small glass of dry vermouth (or whatever white wine you have to hand; vermouth is best though).  Season with salt and plenty of pepper.
Cook for about 20 minutes until fairly concentrated but still liquid.  Halfway through, finely chop a small bunch of basil leaves and add them to the sauce.
Cut the hake fillets (any firm fish will do; monkfish or turbot would be great) into large chunks and add them to the pan.  Stir gently to coat the fish, cover and simmer until the fish is just cooked through.  It was about 5 minutes for the hake.
If the sauce seems a bit wet (the fish will have added some liquid), remove the fish and boil hard for a minute or two.
We served it with the season’s first marsh samphire (not local yet, from France, but tres bon).

 *Including money

Friday, 8 June 2018

Learning Norfolk

I am, slowly but surely.

We had to go to something called Reedham Ferry for lunch.  For reasons too devious to mention here, Z drove.  The satnav said it’d take 45 minutes, which seemed s bit much until we worked out that that included the ferry crossing time (see below). Anyway, after a couple of U turns we got there.  That is, we got to the south (I think – the only compass points that seem to matter in Norfolk are east and, if you insist, west) side of the Yare.  But the pub is on the north side.

So what you do is cross the river on the eponymous ferry.  We’d done a bit of research and established that the thing to do is park on the south side and cross as pedestrians, which would cost us much less than taking the car over and then bringing it back again, which would anyway have been pretty pointless.  (My brother and sister were both already on the right – I mean north – side of the Yare.)

So we parked up and got onto the ferry.  It’s a very small chain ferry, crossing about 250 yards of river.  A chain ferry drags itself across its stretch of water by winching a pair of fixed chains through cogwheels on the ferry and so dragging its cargo across and safely discharging it on the other side.  There are ramps that enable roro.  R opined that the chains were a bit shorter than they used to be and so higher in the water, which would make it a bit riskier to drive a boat over until the ferry had fully completed its voyage.  But the boat drivers seemed to manage. 
Z and I stepped aboard.  The price list said ‘PEDESTRIANS 50p’ and ‘MINIMUM CHARGE £1.50’, which was a bit confusing until the young man manning the ferry asked us if we were going to the pub, in which case it was free – at which point I remembered that I was in Norfolk.

Afterwards, I remembered the previous time I’d been on a chain ferry.  Sandbanks to Shell Bay.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

The caravan evolves

We’d taken a circuitous route rather than the usual boring bomb down the M4, because Z had arranged to visit someone in mid-Wales for business reasons, which seemed, from my perspective at least, to offer the possibility of revisiting the scenic route my father liked to take on family holiday journeys back in the fifties.  It didn’t quite turn out that way, mainly because the satnav refused to take us up the A417, over Birdlip Hill, and through the Forest of Dean; nor did I get to see that Black Mountain view down from a dizzy height to a reservoir with a toy train running alongside it.  But the company and the lunch were compensation enough.

Very few of the people I think of as my ‘old caravan mates’ attend frequently nowadays; indeed, some have given up their vans completely, and others I know have health issues.  I can’t expect to relive heady occasions like my 60th birthday, when I happened to mention it to a neighbour in the gents (no in-van plumbing in those days) and an hour later was joined on the newly-laid patio by a tipsy horde of about sixteen glass- and bottle-clutching Welsh party-makers.  Nor can I expect again to stagger glass- and bottle-clutching up the hill towards Dave and Marilyn’s and fall over halfway under the influence of an unaccustomed cigarette.  Just as well really.
Of course, the next generation has mostly inherited, as well as the property, at least some of the behaviours (though I don’t think they’re as good at them as we were).  I can’t expect or want to be drawn into that.  Watching the little ones will do now.
And the rabbits, which are back in force and still burrowing under the front of my caravan.  Joseph assured me they can’t excavate a big enough sinkhole, but I noticed that a bag of cement had been left behind the van, and was tempted to tip it down there just in case.  Probably just as well I didn’t.  I’m not sure that the insurance covers failed attempts to fill in undermining rabbit warrens.

 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

On a whim over breakfast, I suggested that we go for an outing.  The choices were the coast or Bury St Edmunds, and I was pleased that Z opted for the latter.  I used to collect cathedrals.  Failing memory and neglect mean that I can’t name them all, but I can recall a few favourites – Winchester, Salisbury, especially Chichester – and now I can add this one.

It’s quite austere as cathedrals go.  Its main nave dates from 1503, so probably the cathedral as we see it was born too late to be too much of a victim of the Reformation depravation.  The relatively low-key flashy bits are mostly later add-ons; though my sole source of historical information, a little brochure handed to me by a charming greeter, of whom later, is confusing to say the least.  The showpiece stained glass Susanna window, for example, is dated around 1480, so must have been recycled from somewhere.  And it’s called St Edmundsbury, which makes one wonder which came first, the saint or the town?  I’ll have to look it up.*
The man who welcomed us proved to have Yagnub origins, to have been slightly acquainted with the Sage, and to have a few bits of Lowestoft china which he might want to sell at some time.  Z was quite moved by this reminder of the power of coincidence, I think.
Next time we go there, we will take a picture of a commemorative wall plaque that manages to write the history, from tragic to happy, of several generations of a local eighteenth century family; find out more about the project (comparable in scale to the Fishguard Last Invasion tapestry) that resulted in hundreds of uniquely embroidered kneelers on the pews, one for each and every parish in the diocese and well beyond, as far as we could make out; and walk in the cloisters.

Afterwards, we wandered out and around the town, admiring how graciously ancient buildings have mostly managed to absorb modern commercial functions, and unsuccessfully looking for non-chain-outlet food, before we took off and found a well-concealed but deservedly popular lunch venue at a vineyard just off the A143.

*Or await a clarifying comment from one of my many readers…

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Caravan Diaries – Rules?

There are rules.  I’d always known this, of course, just never knew what they were.  Joseph has remedied this by publishing a long list of them, mostly aimed at preventing and penalising sub-letting.  He assures me that they don’t really apply to the likes of me.

If I didn’t know as much as I do about how Pembrokeshire works, I’d find that slightly patronising.  As it is, I decide to find it amusing.  He’s a nice man whose spirit and skills are in practicality – mechanical problem-solving, farming – not in commercial rental management, and some people have undoubtedly been taking advantage.  But he really should have had someone check it out before publishing.  Some of these so-called ‘rules’ are absurd, not to say self-contradictory, and a lawyer would have a field day if it ever came to it – not that it will, Pembrokeshire law is mostly about how to avoid itself.

Some things called O-rings in the shower mixer unit have been damaged, probably by my insufficient unscrewing of the tiny grub screws when removing it for over-wintering, resulting in a slight, steady drip.  Joseph might have some spare ones, or can get some, and will fit them.  A list of the rescues he’s performed for me over the years would bore you to snores and probably overflow the internet.  I have to allow him a few stupid rules, don’t I?
 
The sea never changes, and is never the same.