People of the first light. Thanksgiving.

23 Nov

Today is Thanksgiving. My son blessed us by marrying  a beautiful American girl and we shall be celebrating in the American fashion with some of her delightful family. I have a beeswax candle from Plimoth Plantation to light on the table.

In the first winter(s) of 1620-1621, the Pilgrims from England were helped by the Native People, already there for over 15,000 years ( according to fairly recent DNA finds in the USA,) Known as the The Wampanoag, this tribe gave food to the starving, freezing English. This distorted (?) picture shows things differently:

The English particularly, had already taken some of these truly “green living” people into slavery. People who lived with a light footprint, taking what they needed but not wasting what was taken. Not quite in keeping with the slaughter of the buffalo which was to follow, for example.

Half a century ago, at Church school, we celebrated with Harvest Festival. One of my favourite times of the church calendar. Although no longer religeous, I still remember it with fondness, although some of that lingers on my waistline !

Recently, I revisited a local Motor Club. Forty years ago, I used to vigorously take part in Road events, single venue stage  rallies and autotests in several versions of my old Minis , Dolly Sprint and Mazda 323 Hatchback. To my delight, some of the former members were still there ! Many of my former friends, competitors and aquaintances had sadly passed away and for a while I was rocked by the shear numbers now departed. But others remained, some bearing the scars of illness but still breathing, in and out, still driving their cherished cars with vigour.

I think that most of us have lots to be thankful for. Enjoy your day. An old cliche, but it is the first day of the rest of your life !


A touching tale from Lac de Maine, Angers, France

12 Nov

In 1994 we were motorhoming in the Loire valley in France, fifty years after the Normandy invasion by Allied Forces.

Next to us on the campsite at Lac de Maine, Angers, was a delightful, elderly French couple who spoke no English. The gentleman was obviously still very fit and was interested in our bikes, particularly my French mountain bike. In the late 50s and early 60s he had been an Olympic level racing cyclist. It was difficult for me to comprehend a lot of what he said due to his cleft palate.

In our chat, we were asked about the Normandy invasion and we said that we had visited the museums on our way to Angers. In passing, I mentioned that my father and uncle were born in Canada. The old lady immediately became very tearful and hugged me, kissing me repeatedly on both cheeks. She clung to me for quite some time. I was shocked and puzzled and wondered if my poor French had been misunderstood somehow.

It turned out that during the invasion of Normandy, she had fled Caen with her mother. Shot at repeatedly on a straight road by German fighter planes, they had dived into a ditch and pretended to be dead near a culvert. They were rescued by Canadian soldiers. Fifty years later she expressed her gratitude to me, a token Canadian. I felt that it was I who had rescued her ,which was most humbling to say the least.

This is just one reason why we should remember the acts of protection shown in war and the shear sacrifice of those who gave their all.

  This was the trusty steed at the time. Five berth with an “origami” bed made from many cushions and drop down/swing out plywood supports ! Great fun though. We carried the bikes vertically hung on the rear on a home made carrier. We towed a little Suzuki Alto Auto using a tow dolly on the front wheels. The 2 litre petrol engine on the Talbot did 24 mpg average but did not like very hot weather. The fuel used to cavitate in the line to the carb (remember them?) . I had to build a heat shield from bits of tin and wire with aluminium foil added. It did the job ! The cab corroded and had to be resprayed but eventually rain poured in via the accomodating seam across the roof. Elle est morte !!!! Lovely van to drive. Light handling and I had a decent gearchange once the linkage was lubed and all tightened up. This may have been a rare good ‘un……………

Be thankful

11 Nov


Just returned from the Soldier Memorial in Madeley Heath. I only just made it on time. Lucky not to be on a charge!

In our house we have a constant reminder of memorial. This model cenotaph captures a view from a previous home where we lived for 3 decades. Ultimately, the model may go to a British Legion premises for display. Here is the Soldier Monument at Little Madeley: 

If anyone needs justification to buy a Poppy for Remembrance then perhaps you should read the very entertaining family story of Marcel Pagnol in his book(s) ” The Glory of my father, the castle of my mother.”

Try to ignore the cruelty and yesteryear standards behind trapping small birds and game, which in the 1880s was part and parcel of feeding a family, particularly when the father had died, leaving a troupe of children hungry. I almost abandoned reading at one horrible point involving an owl. Persevere !

Instead, enjoy the escapades of the 9 years old Marcel and his 8 years old friend Lili ( a peasant boy) in Provence in the late 1800s. But, read right to the closing chapters for the justification of remembering those lost in War.

Nice, short chapters, ideal for repeated bedtime reading as you nod off.

(A similar post has been put on my Facebook page)

We enjoy a wet , grey day and a strange surprise.

8 Nov

We headed off on Wednesday towards Wrexham and Oswestry but on the way, in the Parish of Dodcott cum Wilkesley we passed the often seen pub, The Combermere Arms in Burleydam.

We were confronted head on by an oncoming young Fox Hound. It swerved off onto the pub car park as we screeched to a stop . We were well within the 30 mph village limit, so there waqs little drama. The car park was packed with horses and riders, many in Hunting Pink. I spotted a free space, did a “U” turn and parked up in the drizzle.

I am not a Hunt supporter at all. Despite owning shotguns, I only ever shoot at clays. I hated it recently when I had no choice but to kill a rat, brought into a bedroom from outside by our cat. But I had a little surprise to contemplate.

I think that this was a Drag Hunt organised by the North Shropshire Hunt. The days of using an aniseed scent are long gone (?) and now a specially scented liquid is soaked onto a cloth which is trailed by a “runner”. The Fox Hounds, a breed in their own right, follow the scent. The riders, lead by The Field Master, chase behind the hounds, jumping hedges and boundaries within a tight etiquette for land use and protocol. The field master was giving his pre-hunt talk after the stirrup cup had been enjoyed by the riders.

I sort permission before taking photographs as a kick in the shin from a green wellington often offends. They were a friendly bunch and have ridden out within the Law since the Hunting Act of 2004 . I watched the hunt depart before moving on for our own hunt. Antique hunting at Bryn Y Grog , Acorn Antiques and Cwmbran  Emporium in Oswestry.

The surprise? I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere despite my love of animals of all types. My wife had mixed feelings and wondered what happens if a Fox is scented during the chase.

Please feel at liberty to comment below.


Where’s Dinkum ? A “camper van-free zone” ?

5 Nov

It’s been over a fortnight since I last posted on the Blog. We have been tied up every day decorating the entire house and completing a loft conversion. We shortly have American relatives visiting England and Wales. My dear wife decided that if they call in and stay with us, then the place needed freshening up. There has been other things going on too, all conspiring to break our routine and stop our day venturing in the camper van.

I still need to get all the auxilliary belts and cam belt and sprocket changed. I have had a recommendation of a small local garage who can do it and have experience and the Nissan locking pins to carry out the work. The Nissan guide says it should be done at 5 years old or 75,000 miles. Although technically , 5 years comes up in 2018, the original van stood for several months during an extended conversion  period. With less than 55,000 miles on the clock, my judgement is that I have some time before this gets critical.

Also, before winter sets in, I am either getting an oil spray done on the chassis and underbody or I may even Waxoyl it myself if I feel the urge. At least I will know for sure that all debris is brushed off and it’s dry and salt free before I apply the rustproofing. If you use Waxoyl properly and prepare with common sense, then I am of the opinion that it does a good job. My old air-cooled Porsche stood the test of time  but that was prepared extensively. That is properly.

We have enjoyed some family time too with our new arrival ( a grandson !) but we are ready for a little National Trust or English Heritage time out. If it rains it may help to wash out the dried paint emulsion in my hair too !

A trip to Chorley and Storm Brian

21 Oct

Decided to take a break from decorating the entire house and finishing off a loft conversion and today we went up to Bygone Times antiques near Chorley in the campervan.We bought some early Christmas gifts.

We took the M6 on the way up and enjoyed decent dry conditions and a 50 mph roadworks restriction for much of the way. If the speed restriction in these roadworks is changed to 60 mph, I predict many more accidents and greater severity. People will still tailgate and risks will increase. It’s not about being alert.

Momentum or stored kinetic energy is =  mass of the vehicle x velocity squared

This means that for an increase in speed of “just” 10 mph, this energy, which has to be dissipated into crushed metal, hot brakes and other destructive damage in case of an “accident”, the increase in momentum is vastly increased.

So, when storm Brian hit the tin roof of the antiques emporium  at about 3.45pm, we decided to take the safer (?) route home using the A49 and not the M6.

The A49 has some history as a busy thoroughfare and is popular with motorcyclists, having mixed character along it’s length and “interesting” twists and turns for a keen biker. This cast iron milestone is just south of Warrington.

The bridge is now a heritage site. Sadly the pub nearby is now closed but I still recall an evening meal there, some twenty five years ago, whilst staying at the pretty Woodbine Cottage caravan site alongside the River Weaver. We once awoke here at Acton Bridge to a huge sea going vessel, sliding past and blocking the sky. Viewed from our old Excalibur coachbuilt motorhome.

We drove home in very blustery wet conditions, but we enjoyed the views and interesting sights in the last of the day’s autumn light.

Further south on the A49, in a section which we often frequent on our days out, flooding is more common, but we did see some areas where the drains simply could not cope with the downfall and we experienced scenes similar to this. The campervan had a good “power washing” of the underside.

Super day out. Enjoyed the van despite the conditions. An adventure not an ordeal.

It’s show time and concepts abound

15 Oct

Martin has again sent in some interesting stuff. We both love all things Citroen and this Possl concept just fits the bill. Just impose your version of your dream on the campervan above and go for it. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

here’s some more


Another of my favourite base vehicles has to be the Ford Transit and Martin also sent this in

Love the “retro” central pop up roof. Very 1960s. Another very desirable conversion.

What a pity that Ford chose to move the Transit factory from Southampton in the UK to Turkey, using EU Grants, I believe. Not good for workers in Southampton or Britain. Not so sure, now, that I would buy a Transit based campervan?