Sunday, 20 September 2015

Only one sleep to go–part 2–The summer

Dawn is just breaking as I write this (I don’t sleep well) and it’s thick fog outside.  That means only one thing – Autumn is coming and it’s time to get away to sunnier climes.

So what have we been doing with ourselves over the summer?

A lot has been done to the house.  At least coming back to live in the house we have had the opportunity to get it up to scratch again for letting, but things were slow.  We got back into the house on about 21st May and had no viewings.  May had gone by, June had gone by – and of course we’ve got to find the mortgage and the council tax and bills from our savings. Plus we had to spend quite a bit on decorating, preparing etc. The biggest job was to have the parking area repaired and new tarmac put down. So to save some pennies we didn’t go out very often, nor did we go away in the van very often.

Of course the obligatory MOT was due and we organised this for mid June.  So a couple of nights stay at our favourite campsite in Cheltenham (Briarfields) and as we had use of our/my brother’s car it meant that we  could put in a visit to Iain’s son near Cheddar whom we hadn’t seen since early last August.  For those of you who don’t know, Connor is severely disabled and the visit is really just to check that he is ok and being looked after well, which we have to report a positive on both counts . Connor doesn’t really know that we haven’t been for nearly a year.   We used to visit every 4 to 6 weeks when we were in the UK and now we are his only visitors as his mum and sister have both passed away in the last three years so we do like to visit whenever we can.  Connor goes to the Atmospherics Trust in Wells every week for a therapy session and as we pay for this, Iain asked if we could go along to a session to see what it was all about.  Well it was a bit holistic for Iain.  We met with the group in Wells and Iain went into the session while I took the dog for a walk.  There’s a fantastic reclamation yard next to the place and I had a wander around there.  If you are ever in Wells then it’s “Wells worth the visit!!!” Sorry for the pun. Massive “The Thinker” statues; an old Russian tank (not for sale); life-size deer, bears, dogs; a life-sized horse made from saws and other tools and loads of other stuff.  Then I went back to Atmospherics and joined in the second half of the session. 

I was escorted onto a blow up bed on the floor in a darkened room of about 20 beds, while relaxing music was played.  I then (under instruction) covered my face with a coloured silk voile and waited.  From the ceiling there were silk voiles hanging in rows and two women walked up and down the room wafting the hanging voiles around to emulate waves that would gently lap onto your face – got the picture?  There were overhead projectors around the room and these showed lovely relaxing patterns  which projected onto the hanging voiles.  It was actually very relaxing, however I couldn’t resist thinking how I would do it differently – I’d have stitched those voiles together, I’d have this running off a computer so that the patterns could be easily changed.  So I didn’t really feel the full benefit (if indeed there was one).  Anyway, Iain wasn’t having any of this and sat in a chair during the whole process.  However I did hear some “yabby yabby yabby” coming from Connor, so I knew that Dad would be sold on the idea.  Actually the people running it couldn’t have made us more welcome.  We were treated like royalty.  I know some of the Clients (that’s what they are called) at the home Connor lives in don’t have many visitors, so I don’t suppose Atmospherics have many parents come to see what it’s all about.  Whatever we thought it was clear that the group got quite a lot out of it and it is something for them to do each week. After the session we met Iain’s dad for lunch in a pub in Wells, he had driven up from Devon to see us.    Back to Cheltenham and Motorhome Maniacs (aka Motorhome Medics), some banter from the guys there,  MOT and service all sorted, another night in Cheltenham and we headed back to Fillongley. 

In early July, we had a few viewings, one being the new Coventry City Football manager, Tony Mowbray.  We didn’t really think it would be a good house for him, being in the middle of a village with a social club next door that has a football team.   However at least the natives would be friendly – that is of course as long as Coventry City did well, if not it could be eggs on the windows.  We also thought that as The Sky Blues had had 13 managers in 12 seasons that this might not be a long-term let so not a good tenant for us.

At last a couple came to view the house  with two small children and then came back for a second viewing.  Great – we’d got a tenant – I was getting excited - a bit under the asking price but hey, that’s ok, however they didn’t want the house until the middle of August as they were going on holiday.  Everything was going swimmingly and they were going to come around on the Saturday before their holiday and we could discuss what furniture they wanted us to remove.  I asked the agent for their names and expecting only their first names they gave us surnames as well.  So me, being me, got onto Google. I found out a bit on her from facebook pictures etc and nothing on him. So I googled them both together and WOW!!! Things were not looking good.  I won’t go into detail, but Iain called them “Snake oil Salesmen”.  Of course, me liking to speculate and Iain refusing to do any such thing (as he always deals with something when it happens and absolutely refuses to concern himself with a plan B until plan A actually fails) I really was wondering if these people were the sort we would like to rent our house to.  If they were prepared to shaft their customers and staff in the way I had been reading on the internet then they might also shaft us.

Finally the agents came back with the referencing checks and they were very sorry but they could not recommend them as suitable tenants.  I think the agent was quite shocked when I said I wasn’t surprised.

So it was now the end of July and back to square one and me getting fed up because without a tenant I couldn’t make a plan.

We just had to get away in the van. 

1st August was Joy’s birthday and we had all agreed in Spain that as Joy was the only one of the six of us who had a birthday in the summer that we would use it as an excuse and meet up somewhere.  We were keen to entertain our friends at the house (just because we could) so we wanted it to be close to us.  Not knowing if we would still be in the house for 1st August it was difficult to arrange something until quite close to the date, so by the time we could do so, The Village Hall was booked, Corley Village Hall had a function on, so there I was putting out an SOS on Facebook for a bit of land for us to use.  We had also asked as a surprise for Joy, Mick and Shirley from Alnwick and Paul and Ruth from Swindon.  These were also people that we had met in Albir.   I managed to find a field, which just happened to be next to the pub where we stay in our van so it was quite handy for us.


Waiting for Joy, Nick and Matthew to arrive

Friday all arrived – much to Joy’s surprise and delight to see 8 people  waiting for them, not just the 4 she expected and we had a quick tea at camp.  The weather was very kind to us and we were able to stay out in the evening (blankets required) and somehow the whole thing just degenerated into some silly game which somehow involved wearing Nick’s hat wrapped with a string of fairy lights. Bizarre………….


On the Saturday morning, we had a very unfortunate incident with the two male dogs which required a visit to the vet, so it was a good job that we had a car available, no lasting harm done though which was a relief.

In the early afternoon we all trundled off to our house where some went for a walk, some to the pub and some of us prepared and cooked dinner.  It gave us a nice chance to have a chat around the kitchen table. Thank you so much to Ruth, Jo and Shirley for all their help in preparing all those veggies.


Joy, The Birthday Girl                            Waiting for dinner (we sold our patio furniture some years ago)  Feeding time at the zoo for 11 – beats squashing into one awning.

After dinner, those that could, walked the mile or so uphill, back to camp with the dogs and those that couldn’t got a taxi, including  Paddy who was a bit dopey from the drugs after the earlier incident.

The following morning, the boys went off to Jacksons of Arley, the big camping shop at Arley  which seems to be  the camping capital of the Midlands and just happens to be our neighbouring village, while the girls (and Matt, Joy’s son) relaxed.

fill5fill 9

Just had to include these pictures of Bree, Joy and Nick’s new dog relaxing in the sunshine.  It was a bit warm for the other dogs, but Bree lapped up the sunshine and didn’t feel the heat as she was born in Australia.  I don’t know why she likes to relax with her foot in her mouth but apparently that’s “just what she does”.

We said goodbye to Ruth and Paul who were returning home but couldn’t resist a photo before they left.

Fillongley Rally

Until we all meet again – hopefully in Albir.

Sunday we took advantage of the hospitality at the local hostelry with lunch and then all chilled out for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, I think a little jaded from the night before.  Monday morning we all went our respective ways.  A fantastic weekend was had by all and we’re already planning to repeat it next year.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Only two more sleeps–part 1- returning to mortar home living

But only two more sleeps and we’ll be back on the road again.

I haven’t posted about our travels since May, but then we haven’t been on our travels so there seemed little point or motivation. But at last we are soon to be on our away again and I seem to have found the enthusiasm to share with you our experiences since then.  I know this is meant to be a travel blog, but actually having lived in our motorhome for some 18 months and letting our house out, it seems quite fitting to actually write about the experience of letting and the transition back into a mortar home.

The journey home back in May is worth a mention albeit brief.  For the first time we travelled up the east side of Paris.  It was a little longer than our normal route, but it was a lot easier.  We came roughly up through Lyon, Troyes, Reims, travelling our normal 200 to 250 miles in each day.  Taking some 6 days this gave us time to stay for a couple of nights on two campsites which were both lovely and situated beside lakes.  The weather was warming up nicely so this gave us some pleasant walks.  I really must ask Iain where they were.  especially as we’d be quite happy to stay at both sites again.

At the first site, because we were a large van and it was out of season they allowed us to park on the tent field so we had a massive pitch all to ourselves.

France 1France 2France3

This would be a great site for families, if only I could remember where it was.

The second site was just opposite a lake and it had a bar and a pizza restaurant, also with some lovely walking around the lake area but very popular with the locals and a lovely beach.  I forgot to take my camera, but at least I got a picture of the decorations on the site


Our last night in France was spent on an aire about 10 miles north of Calais.  The immigrant problems hadn’t quite kicked off then, but we didn’t really want to stay too close to Calais, as it’s been a problem for some time although not on the scale it has been over the summer.  Me being the worrier, we normally get to within about 25 miles of Calais (or any other port) and stay overnight, taking a fairly early ferry as I always worry about getting stuck in traffic or something happening and missing the ferry, but in hindsight though the journey up from our last campsite was really easy going and we both wished that we had done the last leg and the ferry in one day without the overnight stop, especially as we were only going 10 miles the other side of the ferry to Folkestone.  But hey, that’s one to remember for next time.  France for us is these days just a means to an end of getting to somewhere else.  We’ve done France many times when we had jobs and only two week holidays and it was a bit of a shock at the prices after being used to Spain for so long.

One night stopover with Iain’s brother and his wife and then we came straight back to Fillongley as the house had been empty for about a week by then.  We had planned to stay at the pub again for a few nights until the tenancy actually ended but the tenant had already left the keys behind and gone so we went straight back into the house.

Now that was a shock.  It felt really odd to be back.  Although the house wasn’t exactly wrecked, I felt the need to clean everything thoroughly.  There had been some damage to door frames when the tenant moved his furniture out and the garden was a mess. We only have a small lawn area but  Iain had spent years getting it to look good and we came home to weeds over two feet high.  You should have seen his face.

lawn 1front1tarmac1

The front looked no better, not much wonder we hadn’t had any viewings in the month it had been advertised, there really was no curb appeal. The tarmac parking area was so covered in weeds that when we (or rather Iain) pulled out the weeds, half the tarmac came with them.  Now I know that it was terrible before but at least it wasn’t breaking up.

Inside the house there were a few things that he really should have told us about, such as a tile had fallen off the bath panel and another couple were loose in the kitchen behind the sink taps.  Now we would have just got these sorted but of course with water getting behind the sink tiles the wood was soaked.  Luckily both these were rectified without any real trouble.  However there was an adjustment to his deposit payment to cover the gardening and the damaged door frames. The carpets really needed cleaning with many “puddle” shaped patches on them and we know they had a puppy.  The trouble was that we hadn’t had time to have the carpets cleaned before they moved in so there wasn’t much we could complain about there. So we just had to live with the carpet for ages, there wasn’t any point in cleaning them when we moved in as we would have to clean the when we moved out again.

We would rather have sold our house than rented it but after 7 years of trying and not being prepared to give it away we took the only option to get us on our way and that was to rent, it is also the most sensible option financially.  So “c’est la vie”.

We spent the first few weeks, cleaning, painting, gardening. The latter two (well almost completely by Iain), gave him something to do. I did manage to paint the kitchen though.

As for the transition back into the house, it was certainly strange having a deaf dog.  Normally when you want the dog to come you just have to rattle her food bowl or shout, but now we have to go looking for her.  She soon got back into looking out of the windows and barking at anything going past, but I think she has struggled with the stairs, especially when she’s just woken up.  The strange thing is that she was always an indoor dog but having been living outdoors for so long she loved just sitting in the garden on her own in any sunshine that we may have had over the summer (what summer).

The things I like about the house is 1.  being able to entertain friends and have them stay over; 2.  being able to do the washing when and how often I want without having to queue, book or even just having a terrible fluffy wash like the rubbish washing machines at Cap Blanch; being able to have a shower without having to trek to the shower blocks; 4.  Sooooo much space (especially in the wardrobe department). 5.  Being able to leave my “toys” out, ie laptop, printer, sewing machine and not having to put them away tidy after each use; 5.  Having an ironing board and a steam generator (I gave up ironing when we were in the van) and of all the household chores I’d rather do the ironing than anything else. 

The things I don’t like:  1.  Housework!!!!!!, with 13 rooms if you did it properly it would take at least a day a week;  2.  It’s 7 steps from the food prep area to the bin (not just the “drop it in the carrier bag” hanging from the cupboard handle); 3.  Paying the mortgage and the bills.

So all-in-all I’m happy about the two sleeps left.

Be back very soon..

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Please support me and spread the word

Hello again to all my readers, it’s a long time since I last posted, in fact we were in France in May.

We’ve been back in the UK for 3 months now, living in our Mortar home until we can find another tenant – more about that in a future post and hopefully we’ll be back on the road again very soon.

However I haven’t just sat back and been miserable at the thought of all this space to spread out in, being able to shower when you want and not having to hike (or bike) off to communal showers and not least the fact that I can do my washing, whenever I want and how many times I want without booking/queueing/paying for each load – oh and so much room in the wardrobe that I even took to hanging up pillow cases. Oh and much to Iain's delight, I’ve found out how to use an iron again.  

No, in my quest to keep my grey cells active (and hopefully a way to earn a bit of pocket money)  I’ve been busy with my latest venture and now I’m looking for your support and help to spread the word.

A couple of years ago I came up with the idea of combining my love of sewing and crafting with my computer skills (being an ex-programmer and just a little bit of a techie) and of course it had to be something that I could do anywhere and everywhere so The Wendy House was born. The name came from my name of course but when my niece was little I bought her a Wendy House for her birthday and she always called it her Auntie Wendy House and that has always brought back fond memories for me. So there it is The Wendy House.

It's taken a while for me to get it all up and running, My good friend Joy inspired me over the winter to get on with it and after a chance meeting with an artist in early August who thought it would be a great idea, that just gave me the push I needed.  Crafting stuff just leaves Iain cold - as Joy says "These men just don't get it" so it's nice to have someone people  bounce ideas around with.

So what is is?

Well it’s a website, from which you can get crafting and sewing tips and tutorials (mostly free) and a range of crafting and card making digital downloads for printing at home and making yourself.  I’m not going to embellish that any more as all that information is available on the website The Wendy House.

As time goes on I will be adding more crafting ideas, cards and other media.

My new affiliate designer is Ellie Sheffield, who under the name of Fizzy Fairy Paintings, creates beautiful water colour pictures of imps, fairies, dragons and suchlike and together we have created some cards that have been designed exclusively for The Wendy House. With the exception of the Fizzy Fairy Paintings products (where I have done all the computer stuff), the website and all the products, tips and tutorials are all my own work.

And today I’m pleased to announce that The Wendy House is released in all it’s glory

For my launch, Ellie has kindly donated an original water colour print, painted especially for the release,  which can be won in a free prize draw.

All you have to do to win this original painting is to sign up with The Wendy House to receive regular news and updates.

Here is the picture that Ellie has donated and it can also be purchased as a high-quality download of full A4 size, and as a  “Quick” card with a matching envelope.

The prize draw runs until 30th September 2015.

Please show your support of my venture by viewing my launch announcement , liking my Facebook page, sharing my page with all your social media contacts and asking them to share with their friends – you can do all that at a click of a button on my website. And if you want to be included in the prize draw then sign up to receive regular news by email (you can do this when viewing my launch announcement) .

Also if you know of anyone who might like to join me as a affiliate designer, someone who takes wonderful photographs that would be suitable to be turned into cards (I’ve got my eye on some of you already), or someone who loves crafting and can submit ideas to the site, please especially pass this onto them.

I hope you like my website and I would be delighted to receive any comments and feedback that you have.

Thank you for reading and promise I’ll be back soon with my travel blog.

See you soon.