On the road again…. 19/2/19

The last couple of weeks have seen the UK at its best in the winter.  Cold and crisp and generally dry with blue skies, however we have had a couple of mornings with freezing fog… which inevitably led to freezing Gail and Keith whilst outside doing exercise but at least we have managed to get back into our routine!

Slightly less manic than the first week or so back in the country we are pleased to report that since the last blog I have only managed to break the tap in the kitchen sink…. which was easily replaced courtesy of Amazon.  Hopefully therefore we have got all breakages out of the system and are ready for the road again….. even the snow chains arrived earlier than expected so things must be going our way!

I have now completed two weeks of photography challenges with my nephew.  Week one was ‘Take a self portrait to reflect your personality’….. for everyone who knows my 13 year old nephew, I think that it is fair to say that he put a lot of thought into his and it represents him to a ‘T’ ….

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As with most teenagers, getting him out of bed is hard work!

Mine was a little more difficult but eventually decided on using my travelling companion, who as most of you also know has been most of the way round the world with me over the last 32 years….

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He doesn’t appear to have anywhere near the same amount of grey hair or wrinkles as I do… but he could definately do with a bath!

Week two is all about Composition and Movement, so a little more creativity required….

Zak’s photos are clever, definately showing good usage of shutter speed and movements

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And mine was a bit of a blur…. but its good to be forced to do something that I haven’t done for 20+ years as you can get some fantastic effects. We may need to revisit this one in six months time and see what we both do then!

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It’s a good little challenge for both of us and hopefully I can use each weeks challenge to bring you some slightly different photos that I may never have thought of adding previously!

We have also had some time to get back into a bit of cooking in Hattie – baking bread,  making soups, cassoulets, fish pie and even some brownies, it is lovely to have an oven!

We also needed to check the Bar B Q to ensure that it wasn’t mouldy, obviously the best way to give it a good clean is to burn it off…. whilst cooking some bacon…. yum! Definately a couple of packs coming with us for the journey!

Keith has wanted to learn how to fillet fish for a while – possibly something to do with my hatred of bones – so we had a quick lesson over at Paul and Carly’s (Keith’s brother and wife’s) house last week before eating the produce the following night when there were only a couple of bones found… still plenty of time for practice!

As we were getting closer to leaving and we couldn’t avoid it any longer, we finally decided to actually look at the detail around what may or may not be required should there be a ‘no deal’ at the end of March.

The complications are greater for us as we are going before the 29th and don’t plan on coming back until afterwards.  Therefore we have to assume the worst which as we found out this week actually means the following for us: –

  • Green Card for the motorhome – not an issue, although needed to pay £20 for the privilege as it isn’t a legal requirement yet.
  • International Driving Permits (IDP) – we needed two each @ £5.50 each
    • 1949 – covers Spain, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Iceland
    • 1968 – covers pretty much everywhere else
  • Maximum of 90 days out of 180 days travel in Europe without a visa

Well, that makes our life interesting….. Green card is fine although we would need a new one sent out to us when our Insurance runs out in May.  The maximum of 90 days travel in every 180 days will be interesting if it happens but we can deal with it if necessary, just means we will be back in the UK a bit more or possibly get a visa. However the Driving Licence for Spain is a bit of a nightmare.  If there is a ‘No Deal’ and everything stays as it is currently, we will not be able to drive our motorhome on our standard licence after the end of March in Spain as the IDP 1949 doesn’t allow us to drive anything over 3.5 tonne as it is so old, not breaking the categories down on the driving license in the same way.  Therefore if we want to drive anything over 3.5 tonne in Spain we would need to do our Class C license which enables you to drive anything static (not arctic) up to 32 tonne….. this would have been the same for Mika our old motorhome as she was 3.85 tonne.

So….. the current plan is to head down to Spain and take a call on the 27th March as to whether we need to get into France before the end of the month.  Then, depending on how long we can be out of the UK for, probably spend a bit more time enjoying France but we will see what evolves over the next few weeks.

We set off this morning and had a good journey arriving in Saint Valery sur Somme this evening, even getting on and off the train with Hattie was a doddle…. although just as we were arriving Keith realised that he forgot to pick up the levelling blocks for our jacks which we left in the field.  Thankfully we don’t always use them but it helps if the ground is soft …. heh ho, life goes on, we’ll get them back at some point!

As always, if you want to keep track of our route and progress you can see where we are on a map by clicking here.

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Things can only get better…. 6/2/19

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Well, when you land into Heathrow at 5:30am the temperature is -2 and whilst leaving the airport you look at the incoming traffic which is already stacked up almost all the way to the M4 you realise that this is the reality check of the UK in January …. cold, Dark and way too many cars!

The flights from New Zealand were fine, the first which took us to Singapore was during the day and took just under 10 hours but was pretty painless.  The stopover in Singapore was just under six hours which was hard work as we were just waiting around and it was way passed what should have been our bedtime… although access to the airport lounge definitely helped.  The second flight was fourteen hours and we were pleasantly surprised when the doors shut and there were still a lot of empty seats – so much so that pretty much everyone in the area where we were (right at the back of the plane) had a set of seats to themselves … Keith and I had four seats each.  You never really ‘sleep’ but it certainly helped get some rest.

Thursday was a long day but we made it through to dinner, when Keith’s mum very kindly cooked us Stew and Crust (Keith’s favourite) with Jacket Potatoes (my favourite…. I am pretty simple!) and Veg …. it may not be everone’s cup of tea but on a cold day when you are tired, it was very welcome and enabled us to crash out on full bellies by about 9pm!

Bright eyed and bushy tailed – well it is all relative – I set out for a run into Eton whilst Keith worked out the jet lag with some HIIT training…. enough to get us ready for a quick breakfast before we packed up the car and headed to collect Hattie.

Hattie has been in storage for three months so although we cleaned her up and turned everything off, naturally we were a little concerned as to whether any pipes were frozen or whether there would be any mould like we had with Mika a couple of years ago…. on the positive note there wasn’t any mould and everything looked fine, however when we tried to start the engine all we got was a bit of tick, tick, tick, ticking ….. flat battery.  It shouldn’t have been as the solar panels were set to trickle charge both the engine battery as well as the leisure batteries but for some reason something had gone wrong.  After a bit of faffing around we eventually called the AA as the battery is really difficult to get to to attach jump leads … the guy from the breakdown company had to remove a couple of the pipes and virtually climb inside the engine compartment to get to it, I am not actually sure how we could jump start it ourselves, so it was well worthwhile.

Once started we left it a good ten minutes to run, turned it off and it wouldn’t start again …. totally dead.  So, the advice was to drive straight to the IVECO dealer without stopping the motor and leave it there until they could look at it, so that is what we did.  Thankfully for a Friday afternoon the M25 was actually kind to us for once.

Unfortunately as we didn’t get to the garage until 5pm there wasn’t any way that they would even think about looking at it until after the weekend and as we had Hattie booked in for her MOT on the Tuesday we just succumbed to the fact that we wouldn’t be back in Hattie for a few more days.

We had pretty much planned every day within an inch before we got back so we had a busy weekend catching up with friends and family before finally picking Hattie back up on Tuesday late afternoon and getting her back to the farm just as the sun was going down…. not great for getting her set up.

En route to the farm we found issue No.2, obviously whilst changing the battery something triggered a fuse to blow for the VB Air suspension and it had completely stopped working.  To be fair, IVECO were great.  As soon as I called them they said they would send someone out to have a look at it in the morning and see whether they could fix it on location or if we had to go back to the garage.  The guy who came out (Richard) was great and managed to find and fix the issue without us having to go back to the garage, bending over backwards to help us and full of useful information.

Issue No.3 was a little more complicated unfortunately, bearing in mind that we appear to have moved back into the motorhome on the coldest day this winter, we couldn’t get the heating to start.  As a last ditch attempt we called Southdown motorhomes who have done some of the work on Hattie and are the UK Concorde dealers/service center.  It was just gone 5:30 and amazingly they picked up the phone and the Service Center manager called us back twenty minutes later and spent nearly an hour trouble shooting the problem with us until we resolved it, finally getting the heating started. We left it running to warm up Hattie whilst we popped out to get some food and collect the rest of our things from Keith’s mums house and it was lovely and toasty by the time we got back.

The reason the heating wouldn’t start initially was due to the liquid in the heat exchange being too low.  So once topped up to the correct levels it started to work.  As always there is a reason why the liquid levels are low and in this case, our fears were proven to be correct and we had a leak.  We kept topping up the water during the night but it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Keith worked out roughly where the leak was and there was a lot of liquid to mop up.  It was later in the evening that he managed to localise exactly where the issue was and we were able to pin someone down to come and look at it and hopefully fix it…. unfortunately he wasn’t available until Tuesday though so we would just have to ‘manage’ it until then.

A couple of rolls of Kitchen towel, a few cloths and a t-shirt later we found some plumber absorption pads online which are amazing. They are basically flat incontinence pads/nappies which are rectangular and soak up 2 litres of water each … great little things, you never know when they may come in use again!

If nothing else we are getting to see what it would be like should we decide to stay in the motorhome in the UK over the winter.  With temperatures dropping to -5 or a bit more over the last week or so, we have definately had a feel for how ‘winterised’ she is and we can happily say that despite the few issues, she is lovely and cosy.  Everything else appears to be working ok and during the snow over the last week we have been comfortable doing our exercise inside… although it was nice to get out for a run yesterday!  We have now also found Issue No 4,  water leaking in from the windscreen….. I had wondered why there was such a big pool of condensation last week when the temperatures were so low, I know it has dropped to -4 or so but a small swimming pool…. I think we will wait until a warmer climate to get that fixed as they will have to take it out and reseal it.  We have however invested in another little gadget …. A Karcher Window Vac – its great, works a treat on the windscreen and doesn’t leave any ‘wipe’ marks!

As the temperature warmed up it snowed, just to give us a good mix! On Friday morning we woke to about 4cm of snow on the field although as the day went on most of it disappeared to slush only to freeze overnight as the temperatures dropped to sub zero again…. definately no running for me!

The weather was obviously a natural way to tell us we shouldn’t have organised something everyday as we ended up having to cancel a few trips.  A shame, although it meant that we got to spend a bit more time in Hattie sorting things out and getting back into a routine which was nice….. I even managed to bake some bread!

Unfortunately as we have been staying locally there aren’t many interesting photos, although I went up to London on Sunday to be ‘guardian’ on a photography course with my Nephew who is just starting to get interested in photography so you can have a few of the photos I took in Soho square whilst playing around with my camera….

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I have decided to set him a photography challenge so we can both take certain photos throughout the course of the year and compare them…. so over the next week he has been challenged to take a self portrait, ensuring that the photo demonstrates something about his personality ….. watch this space!

Tuesday came around fairly quickly and Kevin Lewis from Car Care Services came down and sorted out the leaking pipe and also serviced our gas whilst here….. happy campers!

We had planned to head South next Monday but because of the issues we have had and also the weather we have decided to give it an extra week or so, so will be around in the UK until around the 20th February.  Enough time to get the snow chains delivered too!