Category: Domestic Matters

The Lockdown Summer

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign travel in 2020 was problematic and, as we couldn’t go south into Europe nor could we cross the Atlantic to Canada, we decided to drive north up the A1, following the route of the Great North Road. Everywhere was extremely busy as folk were eager to make the most of the excellent summer weather. We stopped to admire the now derelict Ram Jam Inn in Rutland, frequented in the 18th century by Dick Turpin. We travelled north slowly and eventually reached Dumbarton where we spent a few days with family before turning south. We stopped at Poulton-Le-Fylde for another family visit and finished our Tour by visiting friends, Judith and David who lived near Cookham. We spent a wonderful afternoon on the Thames in their river launch, well supplied with beer, wine and nibbles.

We didn’t waste the weeks we were locked down at home and we continued to carry out modifications to our truck. Toby Butlin (our nephew) of Marine Decking Services replaced our inferior vinyl flooring with marine grade decking which he normally supplied to boat owners. The result was amazing, both visually and practically and we were hugely indebted to Toby for his efforts on our behalf.

Our Class 7 MOT had expired but, because our vehicle weighed 15 tons, we struggled to find a company able to carry out the test. After a couple of failed attempts we found Ian Meader of IM Services in Romsey who cheerfully carried out the MOT and we passed with flying colours.

We needed to find somewhere on the vehicle to store our heavy snow chains and tow rope. The rear of the vehicle was already carrying enough weight so we wanted a store box at the front of the vehicle. Mark Blackburn of Blackburn Trailers did a wonderful job designing and fitting a removable metal box attached to our front tow bar which would contain this scarcely used but essential gear.

Mark of Breeze Blinds had the fiddly job of designing and fitting insulating blinds to the cab windows and windscreen. These helped protect the cab from sunlight and the cold as well as being a security asset.

All these one off jobs were carried out at reasonable cost and with great skill, innovation and humour. We were grateful for the expertise of such fine craftsmen working in our local area.

RIP Ken de la Hunty on 12th November 2020

Domestic and Technical

We were delighted with the truck and how it was performing. When it was chilly outside it was beautifully warm and cosy inside. The shower was full size and delivered a good amount of hot water. Our beds were comfortable and, providing we were sensible, there was enough space to store our stuff. The truck held enough fresh water to last us a week or more and the electric Cinderella toilet worked well, reducing two weeks of toilet waste to a small bowl of innocuous ash, without the use of water. The washing machine was a real luxury and would save us a lot of extra hassle and, hopefully, keep our clothes smelling reasonably sweet.

We did have several technical problems with the truck that had to be sorted before we could carry on our journey. We were waiting for a replacement water pump for the diesel water heater which had an intermittent fault due, perhaps, to impurities in the cooling system.

The truck had a Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS) that worked off the engine compressed air brake system. Unfortunately, we had never been supplied with the adaptors that allowed the connection between the CTIS hose and the wheels. These connectors were being sent on to us from Poland and we were reluctant to travel on to Morocco without the CTIS being in good working order.

The most bizarre and inexplicable problem we faced was the omission of a gas regulator fitted to the gas tank feeding the outside barbecue – notwithstanding the fact that the truck had been issued with a Gas Safety Certificate. When we tried to use the barbecue a rush of gas blew past the burner valves at a rate of 150 psi – Tony could have lost his bushy eyebrows and more. It was proving difficult to source an in-line regulator locally and, without the gas barbecue, we would have to rely on our small diesel hob and having to do all our cooking inside. Not a deal breaker but a real nuisance caused by a schoolboy error.

As the number of days we stayed at the camp site increased, we began to get to know our neighbours better. Most folk stopped for a chat if we were sitting outside, usually showing an interest in the truck and our travelling plans.

An English couple passed by our pitch several times a day, walking their elderly little dog of indeterminate breed. The dog was called Sonny and had a wonderful party trick. The owner would say, “Listen Sonny, I have had enough of you – it’s time for you to go.” Then the owner made his two fingers into a gun shape, pointed it at the dog and said “Bang!” Sonny immediately fell over with its legs in the air, playing dead. It was very funny to watch.

Accident!

We were cycling into Poznań during a brief lull between violent thunderstorms – and, perhaps, rushing too much to avoid the next deluge – when my front wheel got caught in a gap between two uneven paving slabs on the cycle path and I was abruptly tipped  over the handle bars.  I was very shaken, the bike’s handle bar had crashed into my groin and my ankle had been wrenched as I made my swift descent to the pavement.  It took me several minutes before I was able to get to my feet, aided by three worried looking young men who had stopped to help.

The following day my ankle was extremely sore so we felt it advisable to have it checked out at the local hospital.  I had to produce my EHIC and drivers licence and was then triaged by an English-speaking doctor and sent for an X-ray before returning to the same doctor for diagnosis – fortunately no break, just a sprain.  I was given a prescription for a foot brace and some gel for the pain and crutches too.  Everything had to be collected from a medical supply centre (not a pharmacy).  The doctor wrote down the address but we had no idea how far it was so we (Tony) decided that I didn’t really need crutches, brace or gel for the pain!

A & E Reception

The hospital reminded us of something from the 1950s.  There must have been half a dozen other patients receiving simultaneous treatment and we saw as many staff as we did patients.  Instructions were given to us in a peremptory manner and we got hopelessly lost finding our way to the X-ray department, Tony valiantly pushing me in a pre-war style wheelchair!  The corridors were deserted and there was no one around to offer us any help.  We eventually found X-ray but we, apparently, came through the wrong door and everyone seemed very displeased with us.  One member of staff shouted at us and when we failed to understand she just shouted louder.

XRay Department

No-one took any medical details or asked whether I had other injuries (my groin was a mottled purple colour by then but no way was I going to show them that unattractive part of my anatomy!  My sore ankle was roughly handled by the woman in X-ray and again when they put on a bandage but we were grateful for the assurance that the ankle was not broken.  The whole visit had taken two hours, we were not asked for any payment and we may have spotted indications of kindness and concern if we had had a common language.

Puglia, Italy

The town of Ugento was by the Gulf of Taranto, part of the Ionian Sea.  We chose to stay in a resort because we urgently needed to use their laundry facilities.

The Laika carried 120 litres of water which was 3 to 4 days supply if used carefully for drinking, washing up etc.  Most sites provided big sinks for laundry purposes or, better still, a washing machine which left the clothes well spun so drying was speedier.  One of the first jobs when we arrived anywhere was to string up a washing line (blue job) so, when the sun shone, laundry could be hung out to dry and bedding hung out to air.

Small items of clothing were easily washed and dried but it was the towels, dish cloths and tea cloths that were problematic.  Cloths left in a damp state soon began to smell and if a cloth was used in an emergency, for example, to mop up some spilled curry sauce or to wipe hands after gutting a fish, that cloth soon began to hum; as did beach towels after a few days at the beach.

I would scald dish cloths with boiling water and a drop of vinegar to keep them sweet, making sure they dried out between uses.  Larger cloths were not so easy to keep fresh.  If the weather was wet, the problem multiplied and I have occasionally been forced to carry a sealed bag of toxic laundry in the garage, waiting for hot washing facilities.

Riva di Ugento was a huge site alongside a beautiful beach.  The pitches were randomly set in shady clearings in a pine forest.  The ground was sandy and covered in pine needles.

A good spot for a family holiday

Dotted about the site were rental cabins as well as caravans set beside large wooden decks which had fridges and  cooking facilities, as well as table and chairs. A good place for a family holiday.  Unfortunately, thunderstorms made regular appearances and every time we ventured out, we got soaked.  The weather was  warm enough, 21°

The Beach At Ugento

 

Domestic Matters

As a rule we use the campsite toilets for calls of nature but the loo in our camper is an essential, especially at night and whilst driving. The toilet has a cassette that takes a dose of chemical solution, rendering everything virtually free of smell – usually. On one occasion the cassette flap had stuck open (my fault as it was due it loo paper). It was not long before there was a serious odour emanating the the toilet cubicle. Tony soon found and solved the problem but there was a bit of mopping up to do – which Tony manfully undertook. Job done, he reported that everything was now fine and he had used the white cloth in the cubicle to do the final wiping up. I am so glad he told me as that was my face cloth!

We stayed three nights at Camping des Oliviers, each evening our meal arrived at our camper, the last evening we had Tagine Royal with beef, prunes and almonds. The cost of our stay was £37 for food and £21 for the site, including use of the swimming pool, electricity, hot showers and so on. A pity the town outside the campsite was not so attractive.

Piscine At Oliviers
Piscine At Oliviers
Dish and Clothes Washing Area
Dish and Clothes Washing Area
Outdoor Restaurant
Outdoor Restaurant