This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Honda CRV – Gear stick boot replacement

Yes, it’s non-stop Mardi Gras here. I doubt this will be of interest to many but if you DO have a CRV – and your gaiter is looking a little tatty – it may come in handy.WP_20161116_09_19_39_ProWP_20161116_09_02_35_Pro 

Firstly, the old boot. After eight years it’s starting to fall to bits.

And this is what the new one looks like straight out of the packet. Procured from eBay it cost less than seven quid and is leather – unlike the original.

A little bit of research – I.e. google – brought me to the CRV owners forum whose members have posted some excellent advice on the procedure to be followed. Without this I wouldn’t have known where to start but it’s quite straightforward – once you know.

First the aircon control panel that sits above the gearstick needs to be removed. A thin bladed screwdriver at either end unclips it. A further clip at the top and the unit is free bar the cabling. I unplugged that too so the unit wasn’t dangling in the way and putting stress on the rather delicate looking wires.


The plastic panel holding the boot can then be unclipped by hand. Once free, I held the collar of the gear knob underneath and unscrewed the knob allowing the whole unit to come away.


The legs of the boot are stapled to plastic lugs. A combination of a small screwdriver and long nosed pliers removed these.


WP_20161116_09_38_11_ProTo ease fitting of the new boot the bright surround was unclipped – this made it easier to feed the legs of boot through. Once the legs were all through the surround was clipped back in place after ensuring the boot was level. The legs were the folded over the plastic lugs and stapled in WP_20161116_09_36_21_Proplace. I use a domestic stapler which worked fine and penetrated the plastic and leather easily, although the staples were only just long enough to fold over on the other side.

The boot is secured to the collar of the gear knob by a cable tie. I didn’t have one to hand and the old one wasn’t reusable so I used a length of wire tightened with pliers which should last until I get around to doing it properly.

The unit was then lowered over the gear stick, and the gear knob screwed back on whilst holding the collar underneath. Then it was just a matter of clipping that and the air con controls back into place. Job done in less than an hour, again thanks to the excellent advice on the CRV owners forum.


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Review – Squashed Possums by Jon Tindale

Reading ranks as one of my favourite past times – at home but mostly when we are away in the caravan. Whether it be outside soaking up the rays in the lounger or inside on a chilly wet day, I love relaxing with a book. Nothing heavy and mostly crime fiction but a do like a good travel yarn too.

Some will know that BC – Before Caravan – we used to travel a lot further afield. Australia was our favourite but we also made it to New Zealand. Size wise it’s more manageable by car and back in the late 90’s we had a wonderful six weeks touring in an old banger stopping at motels along the way.

WP_20161004_09_42_00_ProSo a book about caravanning in New Zealand was a must read, although to be clear the caravan featured in the book is no longer a tourer, but now very much a static in the middle of the ‘wop wops’ – or the wilds of the New Zealand countryside.

The author spent a year or so living in the ‘van and his narrative is interweaved with that of the caravan. Yes, you read it right, the caravan tells part of the story. Unusual? Yes, although a number of us on Twitter have been ‘conversing’ with a caravan for a while in the guise of @elvisthelddis.

Ok, so it initially at least may seem a little bizarre to have an inanimate object tell a story but in fact it works very well. You hear about it’s life on the road – while it still had wheels – and some of it’s more eccentric occupiers too. It intersperses well WP_20161004_09_42_06_Prowith the authors own recollections of his time in New Zealand and in the ‘van. Particularly in the winter when he has none of the creature comforts that makes modern caravanning so much more enjoyable. Like heating!

You get a bit of history of New Zealand too – clearly a lot of research went in to this book and whilst that was interesting, personally I would have loved to have heard more of the Authors exploits too. Overall though it was an entertaining and informative read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jon very kindly sent me the paperback version that you can find on Amazon for – at the time of typing - £4.99, or those with Kindles can download the ebook version for 99p. It is also available from Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

England Rugby at Brighton College

The England Rugby Squad – well those that were not still on playing duties with their clubs -  visited our school for a number of training sessions prior to a ‘friendly’ with Wales before heading off Down Under. Coach Eddie Jones was so impressed with the set up here when we provided training facilities for the Japanese team for the Rugby World Cup that he was happy to return. Here’s a few photos:


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Five down, one to go.

Nearly there! Just one more week before the half-term break and gawd will I be glad to see it. It’s seemed a long old run since Christmas. Tough having to work 35 weeks a year aint it!

So, what’s been happening in the world of Nonsense! this last couple of weeks? Well, Patsy – our caravan is safely back in storage after the trauma of her annual service. Trauma for my credit card anyway. The suspected delamination of another area of the floor was, as expected just that. What wasn’t expected though was that we’d have to pay for the repair, adding another couple of hundred quid to the bill. Delamination, I was advised, during a frank exchange of views with the service manager, was not covered under the warranty. I pointed out that it was covered the last time it needed doing. “That was done as an act of goodwill” came the reply.”No, that was done, because the ‘van was like that when you sold it to me” I countered. I was tempted to try and find a higher horse to climb on to by knew it would be a waste of time, and as a friend pointed out: when it comes to warranties – if it moves or wears it probably ain’t covered….

So, with all work completed it was time to pick her up and take her the 30 or so miles back to storage. With the dealership still on their winter weekend opening hours – i.e. Saturday mornings – and us busy with another open day at the college, it meant picking her up during the week. So, yes, at the age of 44 it was time for my first er, solo tug……

Hitching up at the dealers was easier that I could have hoped. Yes, I could have asked for help, but was worried I might be presented with another invoice! Patsy was on slight downward slope so it was easy to ease her forward and onto the towball using the handbrake. Utilising a recently learnt trick of wedging the leg winder between the brake pedal and drivers seat to check the lights I was all set. The journey itself nice and straightforward.

Over at the storage yard I contemplated briefly reversing her back into her slot, but with limited space and no-one to spot decided the motor mover would be a better bet.  Having observed numerous arrivals on site in our short time caravanning, I am sure some guys consider that using a motor mover is somehow a dent in the masculinity. Not for me, I’ll take the easy option every time!

The undoubted highlight of the last fortnight (apply your own levels of sarcasm here) was the Open Morning at the school where we were employed to manage the parking and shuttle service. This was for the Senior School and is always well attended. Parking at the school is extremely limited and no vehicles, other than open morning attendees – i.e. potential customers - are allowed on site. Even the resisdents – housemasters and so on have to park elsewhere for the morning. Sadly though, some parents see the school as a handy car park for a saturday mornings shopping expedition in Brighton. We had at least two who, having dropped their kids off for whatever activities they were engaged in, blatantly lied and said they would be attending the open day. They didn’t of course and both sneaked off. One woman in particular dropped off two kids – both at senior school, so that’s aproaching forty grand a year in school fees alone. Another forty grands worth of Audi – and she has lied and decieved – in front of her children – in order to save a few quid in parking fees. What a great example to set. I find it astonshing – but probably shouldn’t. Anyway, the weather was resonably kind to us and everything else went smoothly.

Monday was of course the start of February, which meant ‘Dry January’ was up. Yes, I did manage a whole month without the grog and at the time of typing have still not had a pint – making it 38 days since my last drink, which is probably the longest time ever, since I had my first pint many, many (many) years ago.

Do I feel better for it? Well, physically no. If nothing else I hoped that laying off the grog would help me shed a few pounds, but in the last two weeks I’ve only shifted another pound, so still haven’t got back to under thirteen stone.

Psychologically, though I think it’s done me good, going without. It’s true we’ve not been out as much but when we’ve had I’ve not had a craving for a pint – not much anyway. This is important to me because, I am well aware of my addictive personality. Generally, if I like something I want more, be it a pint, grub or a leather coat! It’s probably just as well I never got into experimenting with drugs as a kid. Both my parents – once very moderate drinkers – became dependent on alcohol after my dad had a massive stroke when he was 46, rendering him severely disabled. He wasn’t a particularly active man but loved his garden and allotment. My mum had to give up her job in a shoe shop – a job she loved - to become his full time carer. The grog became a tool to numb the boredom of a rather stark existance for them both. I was 14 when dad became ill and as I got older went through a few years of spending nearly every night in a pub. I convinced myself that because I wasn’t drinking during the day, the grog didn’t have a hold over me like it did my parents. Nonsense of course.  That’s why I’ve found it important to have some ‘time off’.

Yesterday – Saturday at the time of typing – saw us back in our old home town of Cambridge to visit Trev’s Mum – the frequently mentioned HRH. We drove up Friday night, as soon as I’d finished the school bus run, and whilst the urge was there to get my foot down and get there as soon as possible, I managed to restrain my right foot, and Rosie our eight year old 99,000 mile Honda CRV rewarded us by returning over 50 mpg. With in-law duties complete we returned yesterday afternoon.

So, this time next week, will be up in London, retruning to the Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace. We have no specific plans yet, but I can assure you that ‘research’ will feature prominently, and we hope to get on the London Eye if the skies are clear enough. The London Dungeon was mentioned too – I haven’t been there since I was a kid – although concern was expressed that I might be mistaken for one of the exhibits…….

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Three down, three to go

Well, so much for the weekly blog! I did actually start a blog last weekend – but there wasn’t an awful lot to tell, so here it is – the new fortnightly (‘ish?) blog update.

So, we’ve had the first taste of winter down here on the south coast – as wintry as it is likely to get anyway. Hopefully. Temperatures began falling  the week before last although as a result we were blessed with some lovely sunshine and clear blue skies. Normally service was soon resumed though. Mild and wet – and pretty depressing. Monday may have officially been the ‘bluest’ day of the year but for me Friday had a pretty good stab at it.

Last weekend we woke to the first dusting of snow – although by the time we emerged to go and get my school minibus for Monday morning, the roads were clear which was a relief. Yes, it may look pretty but when you’re job involves driving – of any sort – it can be a right royal pain in the arse can’t it? Our minibuses handle well in the dry – remarkably well given their bulk, but put them on an icy road it’s pure guesswork which direction you’re going to go in. And as soon as more than a couple of flakes fall part of my bus route gets shut anyway thanks to a couple of hills. We don’t ‘do’ snow very well down here.

Well, I’m well over  half-way point in my quest for a dry month. It’s been easier than I thought although lime and soda is starting to lose it’s appeal. It’s interesting too how the price varies – I’ve paid as little as 45p for a pint or as much as 2 quid for what is essentially fizzy water with a dash of cordial . I’ve rediscovered my childhood love for cream soda too as a rather bizzarre alternative to a beer in the evenings when  in front of the telly.

The weekend weigh ins havent been  pleasing as I’d hoped. After the first weeks dramatic drop, last week I managed to a pound back on – and this week I’ve stayed the same.  Hopefully it’s only a blip as I ‘ve been taking my morning walks - at least a mile – when the weather has allowed. Of course regular visits to a gym would be the answer, but  no thanks. Been there and done that – a long while ago – and found it so bloody boring.

Last week, the eldest on my bus – who is in the final year of Sixth Form – found out that he has been offered a place at Churchill College, Cambridge after an interview in December. Yes, he has had the benefit of a private education – and a very good one if the league tables are anything to go by – but he has still had to work hard for it, so the very best of luck to him. Well done.

We finally got our Easter holidays planned and booked too. After Twittercamp in Cambridge we are heading up to Ripon in Yorkshire for a week, then down to Buxton in the Peak District for a week before finishing up in Surrey for the last few days. All new sites and places for us, so we’re very much looking forward to them.

Talking of caravanning, Patsy – that’s our caravan for the unititiated – is currently in dock for her annual service. She’s in the last year of her dealer warranty – otherwise I’d get a mobile guy to do it. Not only that but a section fo the floor looks like it’s becoming delaminated – and that’s a warranty job. What isnt is the wheel bearings which apparently need replacing. We’re not at all surprised – the caravan is nearly nine years old and has covered al awful lot of miles in the two years that we’ve had her.

Trev has worked late on the last couple of Wednesday nights so rather than rustle up something at home I called in to Andy’s Deli just up the road in Saltdean’s main shopping street. Andy used to work for the school in security and last October opened his own deli and restaurant. I like to call in when I can not just to support him but because he makes mighty fine pizza and the hot Mexicana is just yummy. Add in reasonably priced great tasting coffee (don’t forget I’m on the wagon!) and delicious ice cream and it’s always well worth a visit. There’s also sandwiches, baguettes and soup on the menu and a great range of cooked meats, cheeses, olives and the like. You’ll also find a huge range of chili based products – from sauces and powders to chocolate and seeds. Andy has done a cracking job and it’s well worth a visit – find him in Longridge Avenue, Saltdean – next door to the Co-Op.

Yesterday was the schools Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep Open Day. We were engaged as usual to help with parking at the Pre-Prep where Trev is now caretaker. With the palying field out of action due to the recent rain it could have been tricky, accomodating everyone’s cars with the very limited parking spaces that we have but in fact it was uncharacteristictly quiet and everything went smoothly. Next weekend is the Open Day for the Senior School - that is generally a lot busier and with building work due to start and a large area being closed off as a result it is likely to be more of a challenge.

Right that’s it for now. Check back in a week for the next enthralling update. Or fortnight. Maybe”"!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

One down, five to go.

Those who know what I do for a living – or indeed any parents – may deduce that I am talking about weeks, and the number there is before the next half-term break. It’s one of the consequences of working for a school – you tend to divide your life down in to terms and half-terms.

Anyway, it’s my plan to bring you a weekly’ish update on what’s happening while we ain’t away in the caravan. We do spend more time at home & work than away, although anyone reading my caravan blogs could be forgiven for thinking the opposite.

Work wise, it’s been ok so far, although the hardest bit has been prising my head from the pillow at silly o’clock, even though I’ve been lying awake waiting for the alarm to go off. Ring any bells?

Many will know that I drive a school minibus – and traffic this last week has been a little kinder than I anticipated, particularly given the weather. Having said that, I did get my first ever complaint after an alledged ‘incident’ Tuesday night. Apparently, according to the message left on the college answer service I overtook a line of traffic and cut in at the last minute. What actually happened was, I decided to utlise the empty outside lane of a dual carriage way, indicating, waiting for a gap, then merging when a space become available as the lanes merged. I wonder sometimes what some people think the second lane is for, decoration? Anyway if the caller thought I was speeding, he clearly hasn’t driven a new type Transit. The transport supervisor and manager wern’t concerned, and the caller didn’t even leave his number.

The overtime has been coming in, though is not as plentiful as last term, due mainly to a change in the sports that the kids do. Although given that our main sports field is waterlogged and currently unusable that may change. Extra work, generally is increasing year on year though. There are less teachers that are old enough to have the automatic ‘D1’ entitlement on the driving licence that enables us to drive  17 seat minibuses, and even less that actually want to take the test. All the better for us, and the extras make the job a viable alternative to something more traditionally ‘full’ time.

A tentative stepping on the scales this morning was a pleasant surprise – 13 stone & 4 pounds – down 6 pounds from this time last week, so I am well happy with that. I’ve been avoiding the snacks, and sticking to a bowl of soup for lunch, along with a mile or so walk first thing in the morning when the weather has allowed. Probably the greatest reduction in my calorific intake though has been down to the fact that i’m going ‘dry’ for a month. Not a drop of ale – or any other grog for that matter – has passed my lips since New Years Eve. That’s longest period of time that I’ve gone without a drink for many years. I’ve not been temepted, though we called in a pub last night for a bite to eat with a friend and Trev’s pint looked very inviting! By the time the month is out I shall be an expert on lime & soda!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A dry outlook.

Blimey. It doesn’t seem five minutes since the end of term. Enjoying the support staff Christmas party, then heading off in Patsy, the three weeks have once again hurtled by and it all starts again tomorrow – Hilary term no less. Every alarm clock on every possible device has been set in readiness for the silly o’clock start although in all probability I’ll be awake well in advance of any of them.

The usual pile of post was on the doormat when we got back from our trip in the caravan – Christmas cards, magazines and a whole load of flyers that went straight to the recycling bin without passing Go. There was also a delightful communication from HMRC informing me that due to a change in my circumstances I will be required to fill in a tax return. Oh what fun! I wasn’t aware of my ‘circumstances’ changing – I’ve worked for the school for nearly three years – so will see if said tax return form actually turns up when the time comes or whether they’ve got their wires crossed.

I had, during our time away, given some thought to pausing my ‘research’ activities for a month and was planning to start  - or should that be stop - after this weekend. However it appears that I’ve climbed on the wagon early! Not a drop has passed my lips since around 11:45pm New Years Eve, so I might as well carry on now. At least the 1st Feb – when normal service resumes – will come around a little quicker! It’s a while since I’ve had more than a few days off the grog – at least 15 years at a guess – and it will be a challenge, but that’s all the more reason for doing it. It will be good for me both  physically and mentally. Having jumped on the scales this morning, at 13st 10Ib I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been. Even my stretchy jeans are finding my backside and thighs increasingly difficult to accommodate!

So, 6 weeks until half-term – not that I’m counting. We’re booked in at Crystal Palace Caravan Club site for the week and are hoping to do a couple of shows, but being half-term, there are no bargains about. Will keep looking. So, until then hopefully there’ll be lots of overtime – not only driving but there are a couple of open days coming up too when our assistance will probably be needed.

Right, we’ve nearly devoured all the Christmas scoff. Only the last few chocolates and some cheese remain. What doesn’t get eaten tonight will go in the bin as diets start tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Getting to the point.

Winkle pickers. I just love ‘em. From the plain smooth lines worn with slim cut suits in the 60’s to the zipped and buckled re-incarnations worn by goths in the 80’s and the less bunion crushing versions you see today. It was when I was at the local technical college in the late 80’s that I first encountered them. There were just a couple of goth boys there, and their style was quite different – one favouring the black shirts and long black cardigans  in the style of The Cure’s Robert Smith – and the other, tight glossy PVC jeans and a long black leather coat. Yes, that got my attention too, but they both wore winklepickers. Punctuating skin tight jeans be they denim or PVC they looked just great to me. I had to have some.WP_20151204_14_04_58_Pro (2)

02My first pair, which I still have today, was ordered from some company advertising in the back pages of either Melody Maker or New Musical Express. No slick websites in those days but I was only about 18 years old and that's longer ago than I care to remember. As you can see, two straps and buckles and a with a high Cuban heel and they were never comfortable although I did and do love the look of them, particularly with a pair of bootstrsps. Comfortable they ain't - I would assume that the heavier you are the more it hurts - gawd knows how women do it - but then I've never been a lightweight. Not since I discovered beer anyway.

My second pair were a lot more comfortable. Flat heels for a start helped and with a zip up the front and four buckles, these came from Mr Shoes opposite the Market Square in Cambridge. It may have been that the Goth craze was dying by then - in little old Cambridge anyway - but having scoured all the shoes shops in town they were the only pair I could find. I remember the cost too - £46.50,  so not cheap back in the late eighties.

I wore these a lot - even at work in an office supplies company I worked for. They survived the move down south in 2005 but I cant recall wearing them after that and they ended up in the Sally Army bin soon after. I wish I’d kept them.


WP_20141229_003The next pair came along somewhere around 1998-1999. A time A recently acquired computer sat on the kitchen table of my mobile home. You know, that horrible beige coloured thing tinged with nicotine. Anyway, taking a break from searching for porn I came across a company called Underground Shoes that manufactured and sold the sort of footwear that - at the time - wasn't at all popular. As I recall a shade under fifty quid - not particularly cheap back then, but they've stood the test of time, as I still have them today, 17 years or so later having been worn fairly regularly throughout. Re-heeled numerous times, they're coming to the end of their life now so its fortunate that their duties are now shared. Elasticated gussets ensure they can be worn with all but the tightest of jeans and their smooth lines are a prefect match for a black suit worn on the odd cruise or other more formal occasions.WP_20151226_10_07_39_Pro

WP_20151226_10_06_58_ProI've bought the odd pair of vaguely pointed boots over the years, that certainly couldn't be classified as winkle pickers and most have gone by the wayside, however, a particular pair from Next of all places have retained their place in my shoe (well, boot) cupboard since I bought them in the late 2000's. Comfortable and with a slightly wider opening they are easy to slip on and kick off, although said opening  precludes the option of really skinny jeans. They get worn most with my regular leather trousers – they are almost the same ‘blackness’, and for a while they accompanied my tighter lace-up ones too.

WP_20150320_055It was nearly eight years before I  acquired my next pair. I’d came across The Gothic Shoe Company and browsed their online catalogue many times, then in January 2015 they ran a competition – and I won!. The prize was any pair from their range, and while I was sorely tempted to go  for something outrageous I ended up choosing a pair of  buckle zip and ankle boots, and although I’d always liked the look of the black leather or suede and chrome zips and buckles of the goth boots of the 80’s I went for the all black option – black leather, black zips and black buckles. They look – and feel great and whilst I’ve worn them mostly (and like them best) with my lace up leathers they work well with regular denim jeans and a recently acquired pair of skin tight faux leather jeans too.


And last, but not least – at the time of typing anyway. My latest pair. I mentioned above The Gothic Shoe Co. Well, early in the year they started producing some of their boots and shoes in what they called ‘old school’ style. Sharper points, lower profile soles and flatter heels reminiscent of the boots of the 80’s. Of course I was interested, but it wasn’t until December this year that I finally bought a pair. Lace up, and brogue style, they will provide and alternative to and  eventually replace my Underground Shoes pair, when a I’m wanting a more formal look.