Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Caravan is having an early snooze

It usually gets put into hibernation in October: the site is officially closed from the end of October until Easter, although Joseph has been known to mutter, in a diplomatically deniable choice of words, that were someone to turn up during the officially closed season, ‘I probably wouldn’t notice’.  About ten years ago, his mother celebrated her ninetieth, in the January, and the site was apparently packed out.  (I wouldn’t know for sure – we weren’t invited.  Sniff sniff.)

This year, for reasons too complicated to go into here, the shutdown had to happen last week.  But for other reasons, equally complicated and even more boring to relate (think plumbing), it couldn’t completely get done, so I’m relying on Joseph to complete the job – and then, of course, reinstate everything in the spring.  I’ll probably phone him sometime before the first frost, just to pre-empt my anxiety – an unworthy thought, but which comes first: his promise or my anxiety?  I know my answer; and of course I’ll do it very diplomatically.
So that’s Pembrokeshire taken care of for yet another year.  Long term followers of this blog might recall that I’ve been going there since about 1949, so can claim to be an older inhabitant than many people who were born there.  But it wasn’t until relatively recently that I really got to know the county.  When our parents took us to Saundersfoot and Wisemans Bridge for those family holidays, it was all about the beaches of south Pembrokeshire – Barafundle, Broadhaven, Marloes and the others.  The west and north coasts were largely foreign lands.
So it was a surprise when I finally began to discover those parts, about twenty-five years ago.  They’re very different.  A bit more rugged, wilder, perhaps a bit more dangerous.  I remember randomly driving down a ridiculously narrow winding tree-lined road to emerge at a dizzy view of the Irish Sea; and equally randomly down another to fetch up in Porthgain.
If you ever go to Pembrokeshire and don’t visit Porthgain, you have missed something unique.  Is it possible to be unique in many different ways?  If so, this place achieves it.  I’d taken Z there a couple of times before, but we managed this time to climb up the steps at the end of the quay and wander across the cliff path, past the intriguing brick built industrial ruins and the disused slate and granite quarries, almost as far as the great low tide beach at Traith Lyffn, (about which I’ve blogged here before).  We didn’t go down the steps.

Friday, 31 August 2018


Although ever fewer.

We’d run out of bread (how?), so Z suggested muesli instead of toast.  I haven’t eaten muesli for about twenty years, so I was clearly happy to try a drastic swerve away from habit.  It was delicious.
About a third of the way through, I thought ‘that isn’t a nut’.
It was a tooth – or to be more exact, a metal cap that had, many years ago, been glued onto what had remained of a tooth after the dentist had filed it down to a thin but firmly rooted spike.
Unfortunately, whereas usually if a cap comes off the peg is still in place and so the cap can just be simply glued back on again, in this case the peg had snapped off too.  I knew instantly that nothing could be done, so of course I phoned the dentist to book an urgent appointment to confirm that.  They offered me 11.15.  Z kindly drove me to Norwich, on the grounds that a) if something unlikely could in fact be done, it might involve anaesthesia or sedation or anything that might render me incapable of driving and so entailing inordinate complexity and expense, and b) parking’s really difficult around there.
Andre, our brilliant expensive dentist, confirmed my self-diagnosis – nothing can be done – but filed off a little rough bit anyway.  No charge!  But it was a wake-up call, or a heads-up, or a JFDI.  I’ve been procrastinating for nearly two years now, mainly with the excuse that, hey, I won’t be able to chew on that side, will I? – but now I can’t anyway.  So starting next month, I’ll be getting two whole decks of new teeth, or more efficient and durable equivalents.  I’m not sure whether I want to distress you with the details of this ‘procedure’ (as medical people tend to euphemise major invasive surgery), but I don’t see why I should be the only one to suffer, so here goes.
Firstly, the remnants of the old teeth are pulled out, and holes are drilled into the jawbones.  Threaded implants are then inserted into these holes, and the whole thing is left for three months to settle down.  If that all goes well (I haven’t conducted a risk assessment, yet), pegs are screwed into the implants, synthetic teeth are glued onto these pegs, and after another settle-down period chomping can recommence.  What could possibly go wrong?
Well, given the cost of a decent small family car, I hope the answer is ‘nothing’.  But I’m going to check out any relevant insurance cover.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


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?


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.