19 June 2022

And there we are – back again before you’d even noticed we’d been away. It’s been a great week. We had the first proper outing in the campervan and I’m pleased to say that both the dog and the two elderly campers survived the experience. It also gave us a chance to visit a dear old friend (i.e., she’s been a friend of ours for a very long time and she’s older than we are so she must be old!). Splendid.

We spent a couple of nights at a very pleasant and well-appointed campsite on the Dorset/Hampshire border – our friend Mary and her husband live in the charming little town of Fordingbridge. Lots of streams and rivers around so I suspect there was once a ford which was subsequently replaced with a bridge?

We set off on Monday about 11.00 and were pitching our “drive away” awning and erecting the tent by about 13.30. Miss Daisy wasn’t delighted at the prospect of riding in the campervan at the start but eventually quieted down and accepted her fate. It must seem like the Campervan is pure magic – you get in and get bounced around for an unspecified period of time and then magically, when the doors open, you’re in an entirely new and different environment. Magic!

Our tent is one which has inflatable tubes which hold it erect, eliminating the need for tent poles and guy ropes. It’s very neat and very quick to put up. It also has an awning which attaches to the campervan forming a very neat and comfortable space. When you want to explore further on the following day(s) you just detach the awning and drive away leaving the tent in situ to reserve your space. Nick chose this particular setup and it’s very cool.

A couple of handy tips though should you wish to emulate our foolishness and try it for yourselves. Firstly, when inflating the structure of the tent be sure to remember to close all the other inlets/valves before you start pumping. Naturally, I didn’t and merrily pumped away for some time to no avail. We then found the second valve, closed it off and set off pumping again. Still no joy! Unbeknownst to us at the time, there are four valves, each of which was initially in the “open” position. After we finally closed all the valves the tent erected itself in a matter of moments.

Secondly, do yourself a favour and do a bit of research on how the awning actually attaches to the campervan. Putting it on in the first instance is very easy – it’s the first thing you do and then the tent gets inflated and, “hey presto!” you’re up and away. However, when you come to detach the awning from the van you discover that there is no actual way of doing so other than driving the van forward (into the adjacent hedge by about a foot) so that the awning can be slid off the track holding it to the van.

One of our fellow campers with a similar VW Campervan and awning/tent observed our struggles and sauntered over to give us a hand. He looked at our setup and concluded that we were missing a couple of vital pieces. As it turns out, these don’t come with the awning/tent (although I suspect they should). Perhaps it’s because there is more than one method of attaching awnings to vans?

For the time being there was nothing for it but to drive the van into the hedge at both the attaching and detaching stage of the exercise. Thankfully, we’ve ordered the requisite parts and will be suitably equipped for our next adventure.

After successfully erecting the tent and then detaching the awning, we drove off to say hello to Mary and her husband Norman and to introduce them to the delight that is Miss Daisy. Naturally, she was so delighted to be made such a fuss of that she widdled on the rug in the kitchen and then later, just for good measure, she peed on the rug in the lounge as well. I keep telling myself she’s still just a baby and she’ll get the hang of it and I know she will. Thankfully, Mary has had lots of dogs and understands puppies who have not yet passed Housetraining 101.

Back to the campsite to drive the van into the hedge again so that the awning could be reattached. Dinner, an episode of Better Call Saul on the iPad and bed. We were very comfortable and slept like the proverbial logs.

Next day it was back to Mary’s to collect her for the day’s adventures. Firstly, we went to the Potting Shed Café just down the road from theirs for a splendid breakfast. Absolutely first rate. And, Miss Daisy behaved herself immaculately. Until we came to leave and all the staff came out to admire and make a fuss of her. Penny and I should have known – she had been asleep under the table and often when she first wakes up she needs to be whisked outside. Unfortunately, the staff admiration prevented the timely removal of Miss Daisy to the outside world so she widdled on the floor. Hey, that one’s on us! And the staff still thought she was gorgeous.

From the Potting Shed we sauntered down to Mudeford just near Christchurch which was glorious. We moseyed around the quay and watched the boats come in and out of the harbour which Daisy found particularly fascinating. The weather was absolutely glorious – baking hot with clear blue skies and just a gentle breeze. Naturally, as it had been at least an hour since breakfast, we were obliged to take a bite of lunch at the café – fish and chips for the girls and a prawn baguette for me. Delicious.

Back to Mary’s to drop her at home and then back to the campsite to drive the van into the hedge. Again. Lovely fish pie for dinner, another episode of Better Call Saul and bed. Two shattered but very comfortable campers. And a dog.

Wednesday morning we had to “break camp” so, after driving the van into the hedge again to detach the awning, we deflated the tent and packed up. Surprisingly, the deflating of the tent was decidedly quicker than its inflating. You live and learn.

Astonishingly, everything went back into the van with not too many missing and/or spare pieces and we set off to Mary’s again to say good-bye. We had decided to make a stop at Salisbury Cathedral on the way home which is only about ten miles up the road from Mary’s. Penny and I had been once before but it was still every bit as stunning as it was the first time round. Again, the weather was gorgeous. We were even able to spot one of the famous Salisbury Peregrine Falcons circling the spire as it swooped down to feed its chicks. Inside it was lovely and cool and, after a brief bite of lunch, it was on the road home again.

So, we survived two days in the campervan as did the dog. The correct parts for the awning have arrived and I’m ready to go again. Where to this time?

Thursday and Friday last week were absolutely gorgeous – more briliiantly hot and sunny weather which was crying out for a bike ride. So, off I went.

Taking this mileage into account I’ve completed Stage 5 of le Tour and am still in the yellow jersey. Since they don’t start for another two weeks I should be able to hang on to the jersey until then.

You Could Not Make It Up? Very quickly – the second of the Prime Minister’s ethics advisers quit on Thursday. I think many people were surprised he even had an ethics adviser because clearly, he has no ethics. The first one resigned about a year ago when the Home Secretary refused to resign having been found guilty of having a bullying and intimidating manner and the Prime Minister refused to sack her. Unprecedented at the time but that was so long ago.

The latest resigned because he found himself in the invidious position of having to defend the indefensible and, according to one friend, he was fed up of being lied to.

The prime minister has now driven both of his own handpicked ethics advisers to resign in despair. Two in two years. It’s a badge of shame for this government.

Fleur Anderson, MP

That’s putting it mildly. Or, as someone else put it, “To lose one ethics adviser may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” Or symptomatic of someone with no ethics, no morals, no compassion and an extraordinarily inflated sense of entitlement to whom normal rules and standards don’t apply.

In the recent vote of confidence of Conservative MPs 41% voted that they had no confidence in him. Imagine how embarrased they’re going to be when they find out it was them who selected him as leader of the Conservative party in the first place.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, be careful, wear a f**king facemask in crowded places and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,

Greg

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