Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The search begins

Jackie's mum, Jackie, her uncle Martin and Annabel
The sunny, warm weather lasted until Sunday and now we're back into usual dull, cool, occasionally drizzly weather so typical of a British April, but at least we made the most of it and our search for a motorhome has begun, with a Saturday visit to the motorhome show at the Peterborough showground.

As expected, our minds were full by lunchtime and we hardly got halfway round, but we did learn a huge amount of what we should and should not be looking for so, although we didn't decide on anything, it was really useful.
A view of the Welland Viaduct
Our initial thoughts are 6 to 7m long, narrower width: 2.2m'ish, fixed bed in the back with large garage underneath for all our ski, climbing, walking gear plus bikes, oven (how else would I bake cakes?) and fully 'winterised', which seems mean different things to different manufacturers. It seems to rule out all British manufacturers, their vans are 2.4 to 2.7m wide, making driving on narrow roads hazardous, their definition of 'winterised' means waste water tanks don't need to be insulated or the drain tap is exposed and their build quality seems to be in question. German manufacturers seem to understand what full winterisation means and their build quality is noticeably better. Hymer and Carthago seem to be the ones to aspire to, but they are also the most expensive, but they do have lower cost subsidiaries, Sunlight by Hymer and Malibu for Carthago. So that's where we're up to, next step is to visit various dealers round the country and see what's available. 

The visit there, all day on Saturday, was made possible by us visiting and staying with Jackie's uncle Martin and Annabel in their house in the beautiful Rutland village of Lyddington, in their renovated 17th century house. Everything in the village is built of stone and many are of a similar or older date and listed, making any alterations very difficult and subject to all sorts of special building requirements.
The classic car show in Uppingham on Sunday morning
They have however renovated it to a high standard, making it feel like staying in a posh hotel with fabulous view over countryside at the back and we had a full programme of activities apart from our full day at the motorhome show. We took Ella, their dog for a long walk over Spanhoe woods, near the old USA WWII airfield and had a great view of Welland viaduct. Just so I can show Martin I was listening to him, the Welland viaduct is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in Britain. It has 82 arches, is 1275 yards long and contains 30,000,000 bricks.
Interesting car tax disc on one old vehicle
The area we walked through was an old quarry (although it looked like green, rolling countryside) that was dug out by 'Sundew', once the largest walking quarry digger in the world, weighing 1700 tonnes. There, I'm sure I got all that right! Oh, and I musn't forget Planet, the local cow kept as a pet by its millionaire owner. She seemed happy enough chomping on the grass in the field. We were even treated to a bit of an air display by a small plane flying low near the local airfield doing barrel rolls and a loop the loop, either showing off to some spectators at the airfield or scaring a passenger half to death, assuming it was big enough to carry a passenger. Just to show my knowledge of aircraft I can tell you it was red, as hopefully you can see in the video!

Martin and Annabel discuss, with Pauline in front and Jackie behind
A dinner treat on Friday night in Don Paddys Irish gastro pub in Uppingham (a bit posh Uppingham is with many famous and rich people sending their children to Uppingham Old Grammar school!) and then another visit there on Sunday morning for a classic car show, which turned out to be a trip down memory lane for all of us, with modern classics like the Morgan cars a plenty, but cars from my youth, the MG Magnette, the Austin A40, both of which my brother had models of as a youth, an old VW Golf, a Spitfire like Pauline used to have, Triumph TR4's, 6's, Stags and an old Fiat 500 that looked tiny against the new version in production now.

Annabel and Jackie demonstrating how small the old Fiat 500 looks
An old MG Magnette
We left around midday to visit Tim and Jill's house in Hilton, Derbyshire, who we have housesat for twice before. They are old friends of ours and, along with Bill and Mark, made up the Monday night drinking club we've all taken part in for the last 20 years or so. We are less frequent visitors these days due to our unusual lifestyle, but we will be meeting again for the next three Mondays as we'll be temporarily local, so it was great to catch up at Tim and Jill's and make arrangements again, It seems like we've not been away already! The event was Tim and Jill's daughter Ellie's 18th birthday party on Friday last, where they erected a big marquee in their huge garden  and, as it was still there, an excuse for us lot to go round and make use of it and re-celebrate both Ellie's 18th again and Tim's mum, Betty's 83rd birthday. Tim and Jill went overboard with their hospitality with fabulous food and we had a great time, even if it became a whirlwind weekend for us.

In the marquee at Tim and Jills. Ellie is at the back left of the entrance, Jill is looking down on the table nearer, Betty is in the red and pink with her, Bill is almost out of shot on left, Tim is leaning back right of the entrance, Jackie and Pauline are with Mark on the table to the right
Three generations, Betty, Ellie and Tim
We were back at Pauline's (Jackie's mum) for Sunday night and, on Monday afternoon, drove down to the village of Mells, near Frome in Somerset, which is about 30 minutes south of Bath in order to look after Stanley cat for our next housesitting assignment. Had a lovely evening with Christine and Simon, who look after Stanley, a rescue cat who just turned up at their house and adopted them some years ago and, this morning they went off on their four day holiday to visit friends in Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Tim with Ruby dog
We've been into Frome to get some shopping and look round the town and now we've finally stopped for the first time since getting back to the UK last Wednesday evening and we're chilling out in the lounge with a sleeping Stanley on the sofa with us, it's heaven! Unfortunately it's not going to last long as we have outings to about four motorhome dealers in the vicinity to continue our search for our perfect motorhome so, up early, feed Stanley and then out fairly early. Hopefully Stanley won't mind!

Six month old Ruby dog who we will be housesitting for in August with Stimpy cat when Tim and Jill go on holiday

Here we are in Mells, near Frome and this is the view from the lounge with the metal fox cut-out and noisy pheasant

And here's sleepy Stanley cat

He has a hard life!

One of the very old streets in Frome

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