UK 2016

Lauren and Gareth's Wedding

Owen and Julie in the UK

France 2013.



Photos 1 Photos 2 Photos 3 Photos 4

The map below has the red line from 2012 and the blue line for this year, 2016.

2016 sees us on a shorter trip than we are used to, but long enough anyway.

11 June. Hayley kindly drove us out to the airport, leaving home at 0345! The check-in was a breeze, no queue, and we even got our boarding passes for the Dubai London leg tomorrow. The bags still got terminated at Dubai as we are staying the night at the Best Western Premier Deira. Emirates do a good job of organising that sort of thing. Boarded on time and we were left with a spare seat between us which we were hoping would be the case, but the reality was there were so few passengers that we could have had 4 seats each in the middle with no problems. The flight went well, and we were ahead of schedule until we got put in a holding pattern for 40 minutes approaching Dubai because some moron was flying an unauthorised drone around the airfield. Other than that, our passage through passport smart gate was without a problem and our bags arrived soon after we did at the carousel. Good taxi ride to the hotel in one of the pink taxis. The women do drive better than the men here. Checked in at the hotel to find we weren't booked in, until they worked out we were booked in under Russell's name. All OK. Not Russell's fault. A quiet afternoon taking it easy with a light dinner before an early night.

12 June. Up at 0615 to get ready for breakfast from 0630. Sat next to a Melbourne couple at breakfast and they use the same hotel for the same reason as us, that is, break up the flights. Saw them again twice at the airport, almost couldn't get away! Left the hotel at 0745 and had one of the fastest rides to the airport ever. Don't think we were ever more than a metre from any car in front! Baggage check and passport and security all went very well again though the flight was about 30 minutes late getting away. Missed out on getting our 3 seats between 2 this time. There was a big group of Australian Vietnamese students on the flight and one poor guy got the seat between us. We offered him the window seat and he took it. Didn't bother us too much as this flight is less than 7 hours. While it makes a difference, it's a huge difference for an 11 hour flight. Fingers crossed for the return flights. Caught the tube to Marble Arch and did my weekly workout carrying the cases up and down stairs at a couple of stations. Walked the remaining few hundred metres to the Club and checked in about 1530. Feeling OK and the flights were probably the easiest we have done, but we are just a bit over the whole long haul flights. A means to an end, but would be nicer to be teleported. Tomorrow we will hit the town with a tad more energy than we have today!

13 June. Had a great breakfast. At the club here it's a traditional English breakfast. Heaps of eggs, real bacon, and all the other fatty stuff, excellent. Went for a walk to Oxford Circus to get a data SIM for our MiFi modem. £16 for 3Gb over 3 months will do us just fine. Then took the tube to a coffee shop on Leather Lane called Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. A pretty cool little cafe. Back home for a rest and light lunch then off to the East End (not our normal stamping grounds) for one of the Pub Walks from the book we have. We did 3 of the 5. The second we couldn't find and the 5th we passed on because we had had enough to drink and it was getting late. Trained back to Marble Arch intending to have dinner at the pub across the road from the VSC but found it was no longer there. Damn. Another walk back to St Christopher's Place for another drink and a shared pizza then home to bed. Another big day tomorrow.

14 June. A big day. We had booked a time slot to visit the Sky Garden near London Bridge, which is a rooftop greenhouse on one of the taller buildings in the area. It is almost next door to the Gherkin and just across the river from the Shard. The weather was not good, but the view was fine although not good for photos with rain on the glass and lot of support bars on the windows too. Even if we could have gone on to the balcony, which was closed due to the weather, the glass wall around it is tinted, so still not good for photos. It is free to visit the Garden but you must book a slot. Worth every penny, it is a good spot. Made our way to Canary Wharf which is a bit like Melbourne's Docklands. the old docks having been converted into a trendy residential area. Went to the Docklands Museum to learn some of the history and then back to the station. Nice place, but pretty deserted today with the rain.
Back to the club before the evening onslaught. Had an early dinner before heading to the Cambridge Theatre for Matilda. On the way there, we had the Tokyo Crush on the Central Line tube. Had to push our way on to the train then push out again to get off. That'll teach us to catch a peak hour train. Anyway, Matilda. What a great show. Half the cast were young kids, guessing around 8 to 10 years old. Their performances were amazing and you could tell they were revelling in the roles. Extremely entertaining on all aspects, a great show. Home again by train. We love London by night, so alive.

15 June. Another big day. Started with a VSC breakfast which basically gets you through to dinner. Packed our bags and left around 1000. Good run through to Upminster on the tube. The new rolling stock on the district line is a 1000% improvement on the old ones. Considered using Uber to get from the train to Cranham's but the estimated fare was within a pound of a taxi, and the taxi was right there waiting for us, so taxi it was. Got to Cranham's to find that they were not sure if the work had been done on our van, but could we get it from storage and check! We went to the storage area to find it exactly the way we left it, so nothing had been done. To my surprise, it started straight away. We drove it out in to the yard to a very embarrassed and apologetic Paul who organised to have it cleaned and the tap replaced (things we had emailed them about) and we did get the tap replaced but they couldn't get the cleaning done right away. In the meantime, Julie and I went up to the scooter and trailer and uncovered it from the tarps, connected the battery and that started too. Amazing. Put all the tie downs in place and hooked it up to the van. One good thing about all this is that when we bring it back, they will wash and wax it and put it away in storage for us. A good thing, because that is what we want on a normal basis. Cleaning the outside without the right gear is not easy and not fun.
Drove to Theobald Park, a campsite north of London, just outside the M25 ring road, that we have used many times before, We got our site, unhitched the trailer and drove to the local Sainsbury's supermarket to stock the van. It takes a fair amount to fill the bare pantry and cellar. We had spotted a tyre place on the way and were going to go back to them on the way home to check out some new tyres for the trailer but it was impossible to get to it from the other side of the road in peak hours. We went home for afternoon tea anyway and afterwards I took the scooted back to check on the availability of the tyres (4.8 x 8) because I didn't expect them to be in stock. Sure enough, they weren't, and if they were, we could not have them fitted because the fitter had a motorcycle accident. They are getting a pair in tomorrow for us, and we will get them fitted at another place at our leisure. Also treated the van to a new set of wiper blades. For £30 for the pair, I hope the van appreciates them.
Organised a catch up with John and Rainbow on Saturday near Swindon. John is playing at the Bourton Club, he is a one man band. I called the club and they are happy for us to free camp in their carpark for the night, so all is good. We have been trying to organise this since 2012 when we first met them in Dorset.
We have now finally set up the motorhome to our expectations. Tomorrow we are having a quiet day. The last few days have been full on.

16 June. Having a "set everything up day" today. The fresh water tank was full of floating debris, so we flushed it and refilled it. Washing done. Tyres picked up, bluetooth speaker bought (attached to the media centre laptop so I can hear it) and lots of other little jobs that mean we can now take on the open road. Rained on and off today with thunder this evening. Tomorrow we hit Windsor, home of HER castle!

17 June. Drove to the campsite near Windsor, taking on the traffic jams on the M25. Arrived here at 1100 (not supposed to check in before 1200) but took a punt on getting in. All was good. Found out the easy way to the castle and scootered in. About a 20 minute wait in the queue to get tickets and then another delay getting through the airport-like security. Once inside, we realised what an expansive complex Windsor Castle is. It is huge. The only 3 things open to the public were St George's Chapel, Queen Mary's Dolls House and the State Apartments. All were stunning, with the apartments showing the usual royal excesses in the decor. Unfortunately, you can't take photos in any of those places, so you'll just have to take our word for it. Spent about 2 hours there, initially expecting longer would be required. Certain things now have less impact than they did the first time we saw them, such as magnificent displays of fine china or the hundreds of high quality paintings of family members going back centuries. They are very good but we have seen so many over the last few years that we are a little desensitised to them. We still appreciate them, just spend a lot less time admiring them.
After the castle we took in some of the town of Windsor, much of which is businesses riding on the back of the castle. Nice little town, situated on the banks of the Thames. Eton (and Eton College) is right next to Windsor. They have a very formal uniform! Failed to turn left at the lights on the way home and almost ended up on the M4, not a good idea. Worked our way back to our start point and went the right way. Nice little caravan park on the banks of the river. Off to do some shopping now at Tesco. They normally have Vegemite!

18 June. Time to take the scenic route to Bourton. The M4 would take about an hour, but we wanted to take about 3 or 4 so we didn't arrive too early. Planned the run through Henley-on-Thames, Wallingford, Didcot and Wantage. This area of Oxfordshire is the southern part of the Chilterns. First hurdle was the 20 minute traffic jam at Henley, mainly because of the famous rowing regatta taking place there. It was crowded. We would have liked to stop and have a look around, it is certainly a pretty town, but there was no way we were going to be able to park the van within about 5km, so we kept going. Visited Nuffield Place, the residence of Lord Nuffield, aka, William Morris, of Morris motorcar fame. Lovely country estate left in the same time period as when he died in 1963. The drive so far has been very picturesque with many sections of the road totally covered by foliage so it feels like driving through a tunnel. As we got closer to Bourton, the countryside was more open pasture type and the road followed a ridgeline giving great views. Bourton is a one horse village, so small that it didn't warrant a sign post until we were less than 1Km away! We drove past the Bourton Club and had to come back around, but it gave me a chance to check out the lay of the land for the motorhome. Plenty of room for it and got to park right at the back out of everyone else's way. The club was putting on 90th celebrations for the Queen, as most places have over the last few weeks. There were not too many people there, but those that were, were very friendly and welcoming. The motorhome was a huge hit. One guy said it was his dream to get a setup like it so I offered an inspection of it. Next thing, half the town is having a look. All good.
John and Rainbow arrived about 1830. We had bought Rainbow a bottle of Bundaburg rum duty free from Perth as it is her favourite drink and very hard to get in England. Lots of brownie points there. It was a great night, John put on a good show and I put Aussie flag stickers on the hats of the young kids who had transfer type tattoos of the English flag. They thought it was pretty cool.We almost felt like we had celebrity status, everyone wanting to talk to us, getting picked out to draw a ticket in the meat raffle. Julie won second prize in that, drawn by someone else fortunately, and took a pair of lamb steaks! One girl there was talking to us and asked if we liked planes. Said yes and she said there was a big airshow in about 3 weeks that she was going to. Turned out, the Lancaster will be flying there, so we bought tickets. It is something we have been wanting to do so now is the chance. Thanks Kim! Best "mingling with the locals" we have had on any of our trips.

19 June. We organised to meet John and Rainbow back in their home village near Weymouth, so this morning, we are going south. "A" roads almost all the way, but some are less "A" than others. A few tight spots and lots of high hedges. Hard work in daylight, Rainbow drove back after midnight last night. Not my idea of fun for a 2.5 hour drive. There is a caravan park in the village 200m from the pub, so we are staying the night here. We have a water leak in the van. I suspect it is a split hose in the plumbing system but can't get to it to find out. We'll be looking for a motorhome service place very soon.
Met John and Rainbow at the Kings Arms for dinner. Good food and good company, though I think we were all a bit knackered from the night before. Since then, it has rained non stop for at least 12 hours. Hopefully that wont be the ongoing trend.

20 June. Since arriving at Portesham yesterday, it has barely paused in the rain and the low cloud and fog has had visibility down around 200 to 300m the whole time. Rainbow picked us up to go back to their place for morning tea and admire the spectacular view. Shame about the fog. We did get to see a photo of said view though, and it would have been excellent if we could see it. Back to the van and we headed for Glastonbury at midday. We got there and as expected, there was nowhere to park in the city, not for a motorhome with trailer anyway. We called the caravan park there to see if they had a spot free for one night, but again, as expected, due to the impending Glastonbury Music Festival on Wednesday, everyone was booked out. Looked like a nice town too, maybe next time we will stop and smell the roses. Called ahead to a campsite in Bath and got in for 3 nights. According to the map, it is very close to town, we will find out just how convenient tomorrow. We nearly got caught with a low bridge on the way in to Glastonbury, 2.7m. Our van I estimated at 2.76, going by the specifications and the addition of the TV antenna. Turning was going to be a pain so got Julie and another woman, who was waiting for us to move, to check the clearance. As I crawled under the bridge they would keep waving me on. I am sure there were 2cm of free space! Got through OK, otherwise it was a case of taking the trailer off and reversing all the was out, about 100m or so, to the other road. Pleased we didn't have to. Set up camp in Bath and will go for a walk to the Avon River next to the park before dinner.

21 June. Slept in this morning until 0850. Not a surprise for me, but very late for Julie. We have been full on the last week, so I guess we needed it. Before we have even gone anywhere here in Bath, we decided to stay another day, so we get 3 full days. Now that we have been in to the city, that may still not be enough. We took the bus in to town, not being sure how motorcycle friendly they are for parking. Probably a good idea too, the first scooter we saw parked had an infringement notice stuck to it. Checking the net, it appears that as long as you park in a parking bay, there is no fee, but you are expected to comply with the time limit as set for cars. Now we know that, we will ride in tomorrow. We started off with the Roman Baths, which is appropriate because it is the reason for Bath's existence. They date back 2000 years and are really quite extraordinarily well recovered and restored. The baths are exposed to sunlight, unlike when the Romans had it, they covered it, and the baths are subject to algal blooms, hence a green appearance and a warning not to touch the water. There is a place in Bath where you can bath in the thermal spring water but I suspect that is out of our price range. After the baths, it was time for lunch so we went to Sally Lunn's, a 300 year old establishment that sells the unique Sally Lunn buns. We ordered a savoury and a sweet one and shared them. It is a signature dish for Bath so we had to try it out. It was very nice too. Then came the Abbey. On the way there was a large town square with a couple playing music. They were really good, so we bought a CD from them. Relatively innocuous but should be pleasant to listen to when we are driving. The abbey was a little different to your normal cathedral in that the ceiling arches were more ornate and had more branches to them. Otherwise, it was another cathedral. Like all of them though it was an amazing structure. I never cease to be amazed what they could build 1000 years ago. Then it was a walk up to the Circus, a circular road surrounded by a circular building of apartments. The inner part of the circus had 4 or 5 huge oak trees, biggest we have seen in England as far as I can recall. Very impressive and expensive. Up the road to Royal Crescent which is like the Circus, but only 180 degrees instead of 360. Walked back down to the Jane Austen Centre. Julie had a quick check of it and decided she would definitely go there tomorrow or the next day. I might entertain myself elsewhere. Back home on the bus for another dinner in.

22 June. It rained quite a bit until about 1100, when we decided to go to Bradford-on-Avon, about 15km away for a day trip. Planned the route via google maps but there are lots of turns to remember and the terrain never really looks the same as the map. Took 2 wrong turns but doubted them quickly, checked the GPS on the phone end made the necessary corrections. The roads were wet on the way there, and though they didn't feel slippery, I took it cautiously anyway, and we got to enjoy the beautiful view. Bradford-on-Avon is a very old town, history going back to pre Roman times. It is also a very pretty town with a mix of the river, lush vegetation and a period consistency in the buildings. The overall effect was picture book stuff. Did a walk up to the canal then along to the Cross Guns pub at Avoncliff. We met a couple from Mildura,Vic, on the way and had lunch with them at the Cross Guns. Long walk back in to Bradford and then rode home without a single wrong turn. Hopefully the weather will hold off tomorrow for our last day in Bath.

23 June. Change of heart, we booked another night. That means we will be here 5 nights, leaving Saturday morning. Today, we planned to do the city guided walk. They are put on by the council and are free, with no tips allowed, unlike the "free" with tips expected in other cities. We thought the walk was at 1100 but after arriving at 1040, we discovered that it was really at 1030. Luckily, being a Thursday, there was another walk tour at 1100 which covers the outer part of the city. We did this one, along with one other couple, so the tour was pretty personal. The guide was very well informed though he had no sense of humour, as I found out fairly quickly. The history of Bath is astonishing. Not only does it go back over 2000 years, but the layers since then are intriguing. It was a most informative and enlightening tour, so much so that we will do the city walk tomorrow, even though we have personally visited most of the sights that will be covered. The information that we glean will be worth it. One of the best parts of today was the Pulteney Bridge, one of the 4 left in the world with shops lining the length of it. Fortunately we knew this (that it was a bridge with shops) before we walked across it, because if you walked down the road and over the bridge, you would have no idea it was a bridge at all. The other 3 bridges like this are the Rialto in Venice, Ponte Vecchio in Florence (both of which we have visited) and another in Germany. The rest of the walk was very good. We followed it with Cornish Pasties for lunch. Julie went to the Jane Austin Centre afterwards, while I wandered the streets. Took the bus home then dinner at the Boat House pub.
Today was the referendum on Remain or Leave for the UK in the EU. We will be watching the outcome with interest.

24 June. We woke to a fractured UK. The leave vote has won. Not sure what happens now, but today is our last day in Bath, so the EU takes a back seat. Took the scooter in to the city and joined the walking tour of the city. Same deal as the one yesterday, run by the local council. The guide today was very good, this one having a good sense of humour. We saw more of the city than we would have seen otherwise and it was enlightening and entertaining. All I can say is I am glad we didn't live in the Georgian era. The smell and poor personal hygiene would not have sat well with us. Not to mention the uppity behavior of the upper classes. Again, amazing history. Gregor was a very good guide. Afterwards, we had lunch at the Bath Bun. There is a tower towards the top of the hill overlooking Bath and I thought we should see it, mainly hoping we would get a good view of the city. I got caught in a one way loop in the city that seemed to have no exit and ended up going out of town to the east then back in from the west before we could go north. Some of these old cities make navigation without GPS very difficult. Foumd our way to the tower, which is attached to the local church. The view from the bottom was restricted and it was raining now anyway. The church was closed so we couldn't go up the tower. We did wait under cover for the rain to abate which it did after about 10 minutes. Rode home the way I intended which was a bit of a surprise and got to the van just before more rain hit. Relaxed for an hour or two and when the sun came out we went back to the city to do some shopping to restock the van. Tomorrow, we head towards Cardiff.

25 June. Left Bath. We had a great time there, it is an amazing city. Should be on everyone's list who visits England. The drive to Cardiff was good, including the drive over the Severn Bridge, one of the few toll bridges in England. Massive bridge and very long. The toll signs suggested to us that it was £13.20 for our vehicle but when we got to the booth, they only charged us the car price of £6.60. Even though that is still a lot, it was a pleasant surprise so we actually felt good about it! It did save us over 60km, which would have cost more than the £6.60 just in fuel. Found our way to the caravan park which is in walking distance of the city. They were booked out, but we could park in the car park just outside the gates for the night and they have a spot for us tomorrow. Cost an arm and a leg, £27 for the car park, because of no power, and £30 a night inside with power. Won't stay any longer than we have to.
Walked through the park, where there was a polo event on, to Cardiff Castle. On the way we passed an area of the park that looked like it was being set up for a music concert. As we found out later, it was a big screen being set up for the local fans to watch the Euro 2016 knockout game against Northern Ireland. Thousands of fans turned up draped in the Welsh flag and the Welsh football team colours. Toured Cardiff Castle which was quite interesting, having Roman, Norman and Victorian Gothic levels of development. After that we walked the High St of Cardiff, also filled with football colour. By the time we headed back to the camp, there were quite a few fans who had had too much to drink. Started getting a little rowdy but not ugly. The older and far better dressed people were still at the polo ground, a few traipsing home. Was not unlike the Melbourne Cup where at the end of the day, everyone has had too much and the women are barefoot. Very entertaining and went to show that the older generation make better drunks than the younger ones.

26 June. Julie got some washing done this morning and about midday we went to find Cardiff Bay. As usual, I had worked out the route we needed to take only to find road closures and one way streets were constantly turning us away from where we wanted to go. Amazed at how often that happens, Anyway, we finally got to where we intended. The BBC have their Doctor Who Experience there. It looked as if it would have been excellent if you are a Doctor Who fan, but neither Julie or I have ever really watched it, so it seemed pointless spending £16 each to go in ($64 total). We did the foyer anyway, which had life size models of the Tardis and a few Daleks. There have been so many events happening in Cardiff that we have come across in less than 24 hours. Yesterday was the soccer and polo, today it was a triathlon and the Extreme Sailing competition on the bay. Extreme sailing is like Formula One for yachts. Large and very fast catamarans. Had lunch at the Norwegian Church cafe on the waterfront. We tried to get down the barrage to the other side of the bay, as we had been told we could scooter across it, but there was a "no motorcycles" sign and many pedestrians that we thought we shouldn't push it. Took the long way around and found the Penarth pier by following my nose. This is on the Bristol Channel, rather than the protected bay side. Water did not look inviting, very muddy coloured. The weather by now had gone from miserable to awful. It is hard to comprehend that the summer here is worse than the worst of our winter, but it is. Rode back to the camp without getting lost for a change, even finding a petrol station to fill the scooter. Spent some of what was left of the afternoon researching our next stops, including booking 2 nights at St Davids at the westernmost part of Wales. Heading for Pembroke tomorrow.

27 June. Tried driving via Barry but Tomtom kept taking us down narrow lanes so we headed back to the M4 westbound. We were held up for quite a while because of a serious crash on the M4 near Swansea. After all my glowing praise for British drivers, I have to qualify that to exclude the Welsh. Because of the crash, we had to merge right as only one lane was open. A truck which would normally have let me in (we were either stationary or crawling) on the one for one basis, refused to leave a gap, as did the car behind the truck. First time in all our driving in UK and Europe that we have come across that selfish arrogant attitude. Expect it in Perth, although less and less these days. I refused to let them win, so I drove further forward and someone there let us in. Rather disappointing. Anyway, we arrived at the campsite which is on a farm in Pembroke. Nice spot except for the farm smell but we can get used to it. Lovely weather today, blue sky and sunshine interrupted by some scattered cloud. We took the scooter for a run around the peninsula. This is where the scooter really comes into its own. Narrow little lanes and winding roads. Stopped at Freshwater West Beach, which is on the ocean, so not fresh water at all. Then headed in to the town of Pembroke to do a bit of shopping. The traffic was very heavy and gridlocked at 1530. We found the Tesco, did our shopping, and rode back to the camp with no traffic. We figured it was the school pick up traffic jam! Starting to cool down now approaching 1800.

28 June. It started raining as were packing up to leave Pembroke and besides a few breaks, it has been raining since. The drive to St Davids was ok, but would have been spectacular in good weather. The coastline is rugged and visually stunning. We got to the campsite which is not far from the edge of the cliffs and we have a superb view over the ocean. If only it wasn't blowing a gale and raining, we could really appreciate it. We arrived about 1100 and have been hiding in the van for the last 4 hours. The heater is getting a good workout. It is 10C outside and the windchill factor is very high. At this stage, I am contemplating taking the scooter off the trailer so when the weather does break, we are ready to make a dash for the town. The rain did stop for a while, and the wind dropped, so we walked to the edge of the campsite and had a look at the coastline from the coastal walk path. Great view. Had about 20 minutes of fine weather before the wind and rain re-established themselves. About 5pm, there was a break in rain and we thought we should make the walk in to town, all 15 minutes of it. We got to the park gate and turned back because the rain was too bad. Come 6pm, the sun was out and we made a run for it. We got to the town, visited the cathedral area, not inside, that will come later, but the total surrounds are awesome. Much bigger than expected and some much older as well. The sun was still out and the scene was wonderful. We had dinner at the Bishop pub and walked home. It is now 2120 and the sun just setting and hardly a cloud in the sky. You just have to love the Wales weather. It makes Melbourne weather look stable and consistent.

29 June. The day started the same as yesterday, gale force winds and driving rain. The forecast said it would clear after 2pm and sure enough, it did. The sun came out and the wind died off. We had been hibernating until then. Hit the road on the scooter, and went back to the cathedral. It still had the wow factor about it. Had a look through the cathedral and while it was much the same as others in most aspects, the ceiling was very different. I am guessing that the ceiling as it is now is a suspended one. There are no signs of the arched ceilings though the windows design give away the arches. The new ceiling is carved oak squares in a flat level style. Interestingly done but one does have to ask why. After the cathedral, we rode to Rhosson and the St Davids life boat station. Fun ride, as the lanes are so narrow that even a small car coming the other way requires one of us to stop. The coast here is very rugged and the water is rough, which you would expect in 30+ knot winds. Walked some of the coastal cliff walk to get better views. The path is right along the edge of the cliffs with no fence, only the tiniest of signs and even more amazing, no keep out signs saying this is too dangerous for your own safety.
Rode back to the camp for afternoon tea as the rain was starting to hit again, then checked out the farm shop about 200m away. Some really good fresh produce there, including raw milk. Can't buy that in Australia, far too dangerous!
We have now booked the next 3 nights, tomorrow at Brecon then 2 nights at Abergavenny. It is starting to get difficult to get in to campsites on weekends and school holidays start in a couple of days, so we thought we should pre-empt our stays.

30 June. Today will be a headliner day, but more of that later. Packed up and left St Davids heading to Brecon. In 2012 we stayed 2 nights in Brecon to find it could rain heavily non stop for over 38 hours, the time span of our stay. We thought we would give it another try. We arrived at the same caravan park as we stayed at the last time, although it is now a Caravan Club site, which is fine because we are members. We parked the van and Julie went off to check out the brochures of things to do here while I started to get the scooter off the trailer. Normally I would wait and we would take the scooter off as a 2 person job. This time, I thought I would do it myself, as I have done without incident in the past. I lifted the crossbar that holds the scooters seat to the top of its support pole and wheeled the scooter off. I then folded up the ramp and put it in its place on the trailer. Because I had not tightened the crossbar, it dropped as I put the ramp in place. Normally it would shudder down the pole and actually require an effort to get it to slide smoothly. Not today, it dropped like a rock right on to the top of my head without any warning at all. To say it took me by surprise is an understatement. Julie was still away and I had blood pouring out of my head, over my face and the back of my hair. The crossbar is about 30mm square steel tube. It is heavy and it hurts. Julie saw the blood and decided I needed medical attention. One of the guys who runs the campsite took us to the Brecon Minor Injuries Unit, a name which seemed suited to my needs. The upshot was 5 stitches in the head and a letter to the next unit when I get them out in about 10 days time. They looked after me very well and there was no charge in the end. We celebrated by having afternoon tea at the local church which runs a cafe inside as a fundraising activity. That was good, then we walked back to the campsite via the Brecon canal. The people at the campsite were very interested to see how we got on. Nice folk, as we have come to expect in the UK. A quite night tonight and hope I wont bleed too much on the pillow.

1 July. I did bleed on the pillow, but not too much. The head feels OK but it will be a few days before I am back to doing anything too strenuous. Left Brecon and drove south through the Brecon Beacons National Park. Very pretty drive. Through significant roadworks to Abergavenny and then to the campsite. It is part of a golf club and staying here gives us access to the clubhouse which includes a bar and a basic restaurant. We could even get a discount on a round of golf but for the rain and the head wound. This evening, Wales are playing off against Belgium in the Euro2016 football to see who goes into the semi finals. It's been a long time between drinks for Wales. We will go to the golf club bar tonight to take in some of the atmosphere. Probably wont have to buy drinks if they win!
Had dinner at the golf club and then watched Wales win 3-1. The crowd were pretty happy!

2 July. Tried on the helmet and it felt OK, so we rode in to Abergavenny. Lots of market places and interesting people. Abergavenny is a pretty and quaint town. the name means 7 hills and they can be esily seen from most vantage points. Walked around most of the town, did a bit of shopping at Aldi and rode home. Later in the afternoon we played some "pitch and putt" on a very short par 3 course here at the golf club. The average was about 45 to 50m so it was fun tryibf to judge the length of the shots. All fun and we needed something outdoors and easy. The weather has been patchy showers most of the day but we have managed to work around it quite well.

3 July. One of the problems, if you can call it that, is to work out where we are going next. We had thought we would go to Worcester but at the last minute, Julie changed her mind to go to a Camping and Caravan club site near Malvern (not the Melbourne one). We decided to go for 3 nights there for a number of reasons. We needed to get some wahing done and we wanted a bit of casual relaxation. The washing was done this afternoon and I did a recce into Malvern. One of the attractions around here is the Morgan Car Factory. If you are not familiar with Morgans, do a search for them. I have been familiar with them for 40 years and to have a car that is still hand made is something pretty special. Anyway, I am doing the factory tour tomorrow while Julie checks out Malvern. It is a lovely area, very pretty and not too crowded. At some point we will do a run in to Worcester from here.

4 July. We rode into Great Malvern in the morning. I dropped Julie off in the town centre and rode to the Morgan Car factory for my guided tour. The tour was excellent, showing cars being built in every stage. They are essentially hand built chassis and body with either Ford or BMW running gear. Extremely interesting and they have been building cars for over 100 years in the same place. Most of the classic styling has not changed a lot but the technology has definitiely kept up. After that, I picked Julie up from her two and a half hours of walkiing the streets of Great Malvern. She visited the Abbey, the Priory (for morning tea) and the local museum. It is a lovely town, as are most around here. Home for lunch and then we rode to Upton-on-Severn. The morning had been sunny and warm but the afternoon ride called for thermals and heavy jackets with heavy overcast and a much cooler air temperature. Upton was a very pretty riverside village with more pubs in a small area than we have seen anywhere. You could do a literal pub crawl, they are all within a crawling distance. Almost every other store was second hand goods or clothing. The village had a lot of character and we stayed for an afternoon drink at one of the riverside pubs. Filled the scooter on the way home in preparation for the big 9 mile ride in to Worcester tomorrow.

5 July. My birthday, so Julie did the breakfast dishes. Around midday we rode in to Worcester. We did the cathedral as we normally do, and were not disappointed. King John is interred there as per his final wishes. There is also a significant display about the Magna Carta and King John's role in its creation. They left no punches pulled in denigrating the man. I've never seen so many quotes by famous people as to what a rotten, evil, nasty and generally unpleasant man he was. I guess it is one way to leave your mark on history. The cathedral was restored in the Victorian era, over an 18 year period in the late 1800's, and it is a credit to the craftsmen of the time. We then went to the tourist information office to find more about the city, one of those things being that the scooter would get booked if we left it where we parked it. I usually ask the question if I am in doubt. Julie went to the Royal Worcester Museum while I went to find a better place to park the scooter. I tried doing a search for motorcycle parking in Worcester online but found nothing useful. The guy from a shop across the road was watching and I went across to have a chat. He confirmed that I would indeed get booked if I overstayed the 45 minutes and I explained I needed a few hours. He put me on to a spot in the side street which was untimed, so I moved the bike about 40m. Met Julie back in the city once she finished the museum (great having local phones) and we had lunch in the cafe area. Greyfriars was next on our list. This is a house built in the 1480s in the tudor style. Amazing place that was slated for demolition in the 1940s. Saved by an eccentric sister and brother and bequeathed to the National Trust. Not a square or level place in the building, excellent! Very interesting history. We missed the next small museum being that it was almost 5pm when they all close. We rode a little out of town to Manor Farm, a Crown Carvery pub. We have been looking for one of these since we arrived. For £4.79 each we get a serving of roast gammon (ham), turkey, beef, a yorkshire pudding and as much vegetables, stuffing and gravy as you can eat. Best value meal in the UK. Even the drinks were good value with 2 small wines (125ml) coming in at £5.40 for both. We ate well then rode the rest of the way home. We intend staying another night here but need to get in early tomorrow morning as the office was closed when we got back.

6 July. We managed to get another night here, making it quite a good little holiday break. After another load of washing done and, we headed to Tewkesbury, famous for its Abbey. It is another pretty town among many in this area. When we first arrived, we parked at the Abbey carpark and the attendant said there was a funeral on so the Abbey would be closed for visiting until the service was over. That was OK, we went to the tourist office, got a map of the town, and went to the market which is only on 2 days a week, Wednesday being one of them. We were expecting a lot more than was there so the market was over in no time. By the time we then walked back to the Abbey, the service was over and we got to go in. It is another very old church but with its very own personality. Beautiful ceilings among other things. All the stunning architecture that one expects from a Norman style cathedral, with more colour than normal. All in all an impressive building. Lunch at the local Wetherspoons pub, a walk along the river and then back to Upton upon Severn for more walking around the river and a quiet drink on the balcony of the Boatshed wine bar. Home again and both feeling exhausted. Tomorrow it is time to move on again.

7 July. We had planned on visiting Leicester but one of the locals at the dishwashing area said Leicester was his least favourite city in the UK. That and the fact the campsite we had picked out was about 10 miles from the city and the weather was going to be suspect, we decided to keep going to Sherwood Forest. Very nice campsite set in the forest in a place called Clumber. Now really, who would call a location "Clumber". It is part of an English Heritage site within the forest which is very pleasant indeed. In the afternoon we did a scooter ride around those parts of the forest we could access, expecting to find a back way to the forests visitor centre but that proved to be fruitless. Getting late in the day anyway so we will do that tomorrow even though it means taking the main A road. No mobile service in the campsite and the TV is only by an amplified signal within the camp. Fortunately we have a long TV lead for just that purpose so tuning it in now. We are staying 2 nights with the site booked out on Saturday. We will review our needs and options on Saturday morning.

8 July. It poured with rain about 5am but gave way to finer weather around 7. This was all good, we are happy for it to rain when we are not intending to be outside anyway. We scootered in to the Sherwood Forest tourist centre and did a walk around part of the forest, including the "Major Oak", a massive oak tree over 1000 years old. Legend has it that the mythical Robin Hood used to meet his merry men there. The tree is propped up with struts as the branches are so big and heavy, they woud definitely collapse without support. A very impressive tree. The whole forest is a tribute to the British efforts to rehabilitate the countryside. By the end of the second world war the forest was pretty much devastated but the recovery has been worth the effort. Back home for lunch then rode in to Worksop (that is not a typo, it's another wierd name, almost makes Clumber seem reasonable) for shopping.
Being a Friday, there was a fish and chip van on the campsite. The prices seemed a little on the high side but the size and quality of the fish made it good value. Some of the best fish and chips we have had anywhere in the UK. Moving on tomorrow, probably to Lincoln, but without internet here, it is difficult to plan ahead.

9 July. Well, this will probably go down as our most interesting day for a long time. It started with us getting up about 0830, the rain pouring down and us running up for a shower. Nothing unusual yet, because we obviously are not alert and aware yet. Have breakfast. Do dishes. Come back. Where is the scooter??? It is not under the awning where we left it. In fact, it is nowhere to be seen. I went to the office at the campsite and used their phone (no mobile coverage here) to report the loss to the police. They were excellent. They were very sympathetic, wanted as much detail as I could provide and said they would send a patrol around to check the area. Try getting that service from the police in Perth. I'll give you a tip, I have had a similar thing in Perth and they were really not interested. Thank you sir, here is your report number, now go away. Anyway, I checked all around the caravan park in case it was a prank, but to no avail. This caravan park is notorious for bicycle theft but I would have thought that a 100Kg scooter with the steering lock on and parked under our window would have been safe, not so. After the drama of all that, we left the park and headed towards Lincoln, with the intention of stopping at some point and doing some homework on the internet. One of those was to find a Honda Motorcycle dealer. The upshot of the last 4 years is that we need the scooter. Motorhoming without one is simply not acceptable. We found a dealer in Grantham, south of Lincoln, and called them to see if they had a Honda Vision 110 scooter and they said they had a white one but there may be problems with registering it today (Saturday) but he would see what he could do. We set the Tomtom to the dealers and half way there we got a call from them saying, sorry, it was sold yesterday. We continued on anyway to work out a deal. They could get a red one on Monday (love red ones, they go faster) so we signed up for it. Getting the top box proved too problematical so we put that on hold. Organised to pick the bike up late Monday afternoon.
Drove to Woodhall Spa, where, for the uninitiated, 617 Squadron (the Dambusters, for the very uninitiated) were based in WW2. It had always been on our bucket list to visit here as it is where my Dad was based for his tour of duty with the Dambusters.
We went to the campsite where we had booked in on the phone and paid for 2 nights. We thought we may stay for 3, but thought we would keep our options open, and glad we did.. more on that in a moment. We set up camp and walked to the Petwood Hotel, where Dad was billeted as an officer. Fantastic hotel, lots of style, and they even have the "Squadron Bar" with incredible displays of memorabilia. A bit of a misnomer really, as there is no bar in the Squadron Bar. There used to be, but now you have to buy a drink in the main bar and take it with you. We even found Dad's signature (well, not his normal signature, but his name in his own script).You would have to look hard to find a more sociable bar. Everyone there is interested in the squadron history, one way or another, and we ended up staying there a lot longer than expected. We will be back there tomorrow night for dinner, great place.
We walked home and not long afterwards, I got a message saying I had voicemail. I had to walk up the road to get a decent signal and found it was from the Nottinghamshire police, saying they had found the scooter (that blew me away, I never expected that) and it had been involved in a crash. The offender has been apprehended. Julie and I are hoping he received serious injuries! They did not know the extent of the damage but the minimum would have been a wrecked steering lock, a smashed ignition and whatever else happened with the actual crash. The upshot now is, we don't want it back. However, we do need to finalise whatever needs to be done, and work out what we do with the old scooter. Just as well we only paid for two nights, because it looks like we will be going back to Sherwood area on the Monday. OK, how is that for a days post !!!

10 July. We walked in to the town centre of Woodhall Spa. This place is one big Dambusters town. It is what they trade on. There is a Dambusters memorial park and opposite is Janet's Cafe which has a pile of 617 memorabilia. We stayed there for morning tea, trying to get my messages from the police. The road noise was too loud so I got the messages but didn't try to reply. A bit more walking got us to the Cottage Museum which was more about the history of the family who lived there and by default, a history of the town. They also had a large display of Dambuster memorabilia. You would have to be blind to miss the connection. From there, I managed to call the police in Nottinghamshire and discovered that our scooter was at the recovery agents in Tuxford, about an hour away from Woodhall Spa. We decided to check out the scooter tomorrow. Carried on to the old baths area which gave Woodhall Spa the Spa addition. They were basically just old buildings closed to the public, no longer in use. 50m further on was the Kinema in the Woods, which is a cinema in the forest. It was often used by the officers from Petwood for both entertainment and also briefings involving aerial reconnaissance films. The troops called the Kinema "Flicks in the sticks" which is exactly what you would expect of them. Walked home for a late lunch and a rest. By now we are getting quite drawn by all the things happening around us and to us.
This evening, we walked back to the Petwood Hotel for dinner. We walked a few more of the corridors which had more paintings along the walls. One of those was of Dad's aircraft on the Kembs Barrage raid, for which he got his second DFC. Fantastic to see it there, with the attached explanation giving him the credit. We have the same print at home, but ours has all the signatures which the Petwood one was missing. Dinner on the terrace with the magnificent gardens stretching away into the distance.

11 July. We drove to Tuxford to visit the scooter. We tried to call the company to see if it could be released but it was always engaged. We arrived there and asked about it but were told it was still in the secure area awaiting police forensics or examination at least. We were not allowed to even view it. We managed to get the woman there to at least look at it and give us an appraisal of its condition. That was sort of inconclusive and then we also found out that we would have to pay £150 to take possesion of the scooter when they did finally release it. Nothing like being robbed twice. We asked if they could dispose of the scooter and were told "No problem, if it is not collected in 14 days, we crush it!". What a waste. I rang the police to tell them we would no longer be in a position to collect it as we have to leave for Australia and they said they would try to expedite the inquiry. Doesn't matter really, we neither want it, nor do we wish to be stuffed around any longer. We had come to terms with writing it off, but to just crush it is a travesty.
Left Tuxford for Lincoln with 2 intentions. One to get my stitches out and two to visit Lincoln Cathedral. We called a caravan park about 7 miles from Lincoln and found we could get in for the night, and a one mile walk would get us to the village of Saxilby where we could get a bus to Lincoln. We started walking to Saxilby and after a long time walking, I looked it up on google maps and found we still had nearly 2 miles to go. It was about 3.5 miles, or 5.5Km most of it with no footpath and quite a lot of traffic for a country lane. We decided then to get a cab home. Good bus ride in to the city and we found the "walk in medical centre" without a problem. Waited about 30 minutes to get in, then out again in about 4 minutes. Still no charge even with our Aussie address. Have to love the NHS, although I do believe they have a reciprocal arrangement with Australia. Walked up to the cathedral which is high on the hill over the town. A huge cathedral with cavernous interior and 3 large towers. Did the usual walk through. Very good inside, but nothing overly different from many others we have seen.
Time for a drink afterwards at a pub nearby. Julie had an SB from New Zealand which she was very happy with and I tried a shiraz from South Africa which I am sure would have been nice if they hadn't used battery acid as a preservative. Walked back down a different way, which took in the older part of town, very pretty. Caught the bus to Saxilby and then called a local cab to get to the campsite. Lovely guy who retired and took it up as something to do and add a few pounds to the budget. Good ride back to the camp, much better than walking the proverbial country mile.
Tomorrow, we pick up the new scooter, after switching the insurance policy from the old to the new. With all the walking today, we will both have an anti-inflammatory before bed.
I managed to smack my head again on one of the overhead cupboards ans split the skin again where the stitches had been. It bled, but not as much as when I did it the first time. Mopped it dry and then slept with no blood on the pillow in the morning, so it must be OK. Had a phone call from the police at about 2230, not sure why so late, and got an update. The thief was a white English male which would have been at odds with the expectations of most locals that they would have been eastern European. I've been asked to go to a police station and give a statement about the time of the theft and other legalities for them. The thief crashed the scooter and hurt himself enough to still be in hospital 2 days later. Julie and I are pleased with that outcome.

12 July. Took it easy in the morning as we didn't have to be in Grantham until lunchtime. A good drive through taking Tomtom's advice to avoid a traffic delay. I have come to trust Tomtom with the live traffic here, it seems very accurate. Picked up the new scooter and gently put it on the trailer. Managed to get a horse blanket (that's what it seems like, probably more a removalists blanket) to put over the seat before clamping it down. Folded over 3 times it seems to give good protection without losing the grip of the clamp. Here is hoping the seat of this one lasts longer than the last one which was somewhat ripped in many places. The rest of the new bike also hit home how hard the life of the old one was. Stayed at the dealers for lunch at the food van permanently setup outside. Chatting with the guy working there and got talking about Scandanavia, which we are planning on doing next year. He was so animated about how amazing it was, particularly Norway, that I think Julie is inspired now too! The boss at the Honda dealer had recommended a campsite near Cromer on the north coast of Norfolk called Deer's Glade so we headed that way. Our drive took us via King's Lynn and the only crossing of the Greater Ouse river for abour 20 miles was Sutton's Bridge. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a bad accident, if the smoke we saw was any indication, and after sitting still for 30 minutes we decided to detour via Wisbech, the nearest other crossing. With traffic in both directions detouring, Wisbech was almost gridlocked too so we lost over an hour on the road. Driving down another narrow lane closer to the campsite we came across a car that had rolled blocking half the road. Fortunately the police were already in attendance and we managed to get through. Very nice campsite and we are ready for some R&R after the last few days.

13 July. We woke early with the sun boring in through the windscreen, the shade on there being less than a block out. Time to get the full block screen out. Of course, it wouldn't matter if it was overcast and miserable, but this morning was actually very nice. We have decided to stay another night here so went to reception to extend our stay. That was not a problem, but we have to shift the van to another pitch. Bit of a pain now we are all set up, but will only take 20 minutes or so, I think we can cope. Rode in to Cromer on the coast, our first real ride on the new scooter. Very smooth compared to the old one so that makes me feel better. Went first to the Police Station to give a statement as requested by the officiating PC. They took all the details, except for the statement, and said they would liaise with Nottinghamshire and have one ready to go tomorrow, even offering to come out to the caravan park if needed. We later had a phone call from Norfolk police saying they didn't need one as the scooter had been recovered. I sent a text to the Nottinghamshire PC to confirm that but still waiting for a reply. Seems the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. No issue to us either way. At least the sod is hurt, that's the main thing! Criminal justice will be much less than he is copping right now. We will see what happens later, but quite frankly, we both just want it to go away. Back to the seaside at Cromer. This place is a pier town, similar to Brighton. Not as flashy or crass as Brighton, but still a little pointless in my eyes. As long as the locals are happy though, that's all that really matters. Rode through a few villages to Sherrington, another tourist seaside resort. Lots of character, but again, the dirty water and the cobble beaches are hard for us to be enamoured by. It is pretty though.
Headed home, with Julie lamenting the loss of the top box on the scooter both for the lack of backrest and shopping storage. Had some lunch and I looked up on the net for motorcycle parts and lo and behold there was a place about 10 minutes away. Called them and arranged to have one fitted when I got there. It was not as big as the old one but still big enough to fit a helmet. A third of the cost of a Honda part the same size! They didn't have the padded rest for it, that will have to come later. When I got home from the fitting, Julie tried it out and it needed the rest, so we bodgied something up with a car washing sponge and some gaffer tape. Fit a more permanent solution next trip. Got home and booked 2 nights with the Camping and Caravan Club site at Sandringham Estate for when we leave here. That leaves us only one night unplanned before we fly home. Getting close!

14 July. We had to move pitches this morning to stay another night and we managed that with minimum fuss. Julie did some research into this area and decided on going to Aylsham to catch the Bure Valley Railway to Wroxham. The railway is on a very narrow gauge one, 15 inches in fact. Normal narrow gauge is 42 inches and standard gauge is 56.5 inches. Gives an idea how narrow 15 inches is. The whole train was like a scale model but is really a rebuild of what used to be a "norm" many, many years ago. It was an interesting ride and the destination turned out to be even more interesting. Wroxham is a town on the Bure River and has many canals around the town. The river traffic was very busy and quite entertaining while we sat on the banks and had lunch. Trained back to Aylsham, did some shopping and rode home. I have to say that the new scooter is pretty darn good. A casual late afternoon at the campsite. Have some great neighbours, very sociable. Time to move on tomorrow.

15 July. We took our time to get going, being only an hour or so from Sandringham. Left a little after 11am and arrived at Sandringham around 1230. The site rules are that arrivals should be after 1300 but they let us through anyway, which turned out advantageous because when we arrived, the place looked almost empty, but the new arrivals just kept on coming after that such that there was almost no spare space of the 175 pitches available. We set up and took a ride to the beach at Snettisham. This area is part of "The Wash", part of the coast with Lincolnshire on one side and Norfolk on the other. The beach was pretty ordinary and very windy. We then went further along the coast to Hunstanton. The beach was better here with almost sand. Back to the camp and tomorrow we will do Sandringham Estate.

16 July. We got to Sandringham, all of about 2km from the campsite, about 1130. Pleased we took our time as it didn't open until 1100 anyway. Sandringham is the Royal Family's private estate. It is only for family use and there are no official functions held there. It is on a vast area of land, beautifully landscaped, and would be a dream come true as a place to bring up children! It includes lakes with fish and is so lush, it exudes peacefulness and serenity, we loved it. The home was impressive and the museum amazing. We had a late lunch at the "Stables Cafe". Headed home again for a quiet period in the late afternoon. We have enjoyed this area but feel we have done enough. Time is starting to run out. Another fish and chip van dinner tonight.

17 July. Packed up and took the van up the road to Sandringham, parked right at the back of the carpark and walked two of the posted walks around the public part of the estate. After the walk, the carpark was chockers with people waiting for us to leave and open up 3 car spots. Drove further down the road and parked in the shade on the verge and had lunch. Left Sandringham and headed to Letchworth Garden City to meet up with Dave and Jane who we met in Heidelberg in 2014 and almost again at Lake Bled, where we were both in the same place at the same time but didn't know it until later. Like us, they have a Russell and a Lauren, and also ride a scooter they carry in their motorhome. Arrived there a little after 4pm to a very warm welcome. A carvery dinner at the local pub with a few drinks and then back to their place to talk until midnight. A great night, wonderful hospitality and companionship. We were put up in the guest room which was a nice change from the motorhome.

18 July. After a casual start to the day, Julie and Jane took the dog for a walk in the local common while Dave and I took the van and trailer to the light industrial estate to get the new tyres fitted to the trailer. We finally found a place that would do it for us on the third try. Being 8 inch rims (that's very small) they were too small for the fitting machine and had to be done by hand. It was a tough job and Dave and I ended up helping to get them on. Took about 40 minutes on a hot day here with the poor guy at the shop sweating profusely. Got them done and he charged only £15 so I gave him £20 because he deserved it. Back to Dave and Janes place to pick up Julie and we headed for Theobalds Park, the caravan site we use for our final wash and clean of the van. The weather here is hot by London standards, around 30C, maybe a bit more. It's going to be a hot night in the van but it means we can get the washing done tomorrow and the cleaning without walking mud all through the van as happened last year. Dinner tonight at the local pub with Olly Pocknell who we met last year. Olly is related to Don Day, Dad's bomb aimer in WW2.
It was a good sociable dinner, alfresco with a few cold drinks. It turned out that Olly went to school in Bourton for three years. Bourton is the one horse town where we met up with Rainbow and John a few weeks earlier. Most people here have never heard of the place let alone have lived there! Discussed a good range of politics along with the normal family type stuff. I'm still confused about whether the UK should have stayed or left, there are powerful arguments both ways. Next time, we will try to catch up with his family too.
Meeting up again with people that we have met before this trip has been one of the highlights.

20 July. Today is washing and cleaning and some shopping for bits we will need before the next trip, like new ratchet ties for the scooter, a wheel brace that will fit the trailer tyres and some fluoro tie downs for the awning on the van. Wash the scooter and remove the mirrors and battery ready for storage. Not an exciting day. Having said that, we feel more confident that tomorrow will be quite smooth with any luck. As is the case, each year we get a little better at what we have to do. Fingers crossed. We failed to get the fluoro tie downs or the 11/16" wheel brace, but neither are critical. I did manage to get 4 new fine china mugs so we could throw out the other stained and cracked mugs we were using. Tonight is our last night in the van.

21 July. All washing and cleaning done with the temperature in the high 20s. Dropped our travel gear off at Peter and Margarets and then off to Cranhams to put the baby to bed. We have some work for the crew there to do, including finding a water leak, washing waxing and putting away. Here's hoping they get it right, we've lost a bit of confidence in them since Colin, the previous service manager left. Managed to do everything we had to do, and covering the scooter and getting that right is normally time consuming but the pre-preparation work paid dividends. All done by 1330, a record for us so far. Trained back to Peter and Magarets.
Settled down to drinks on the back lawn in the best weather of the trip. A very nice dinner in at P &M's, still out on the lawn.

22 July. A walk in Epping Forest to The Owl pub for lunch. Warm but not too hot. Nice pub and lunch, though the "Owl Burger" was beef! Back home to find Margaret's laptop needs significant work on it. Basically crashed and needed reinstalling after all other efforts to revive it failed. Started working on it and finished a bit after midday the next day. Didn't let that interfere with another excellent Indian dinner in Buckhurst Hill.
The story of the trip for P & M was the visit from the local police looking for me. That happened on Saturday night when they found the scooter. Not sure why they had to visit here, they had my mobile number and knew where we were heading. P & M didn't know at that stage what had happened with the scooter, so confusion ruled for a while.
Last lunch with Peter and Margaret and then a lift to Woodford for the train. Worked very well with no steps at Woodford, no train changes to Marble Arch and not too many stairs there at the end. Settled in to the Victory Services Club in the biggest room we have had so far. As Julie said, we really hit the jackpot with this room. We have 4 nights here. The last two days with Peter and Margaret have been excellent. Enough to keep busy without overdoing it and sensational company. Thanks again.

23 July. Walked to Leicester Square and bought tickets to "Sunny Afternoon, the Kinks" a musical in the West End. Tickets were £22.50 for decent seats. Could have got restricted view seats for £15 but decided what the heck and went top drawer. In the afternoon I checked reviews and all were glowing except many mentioned the loud volume. I bought some earplugs just in case. Julie wore them in the second half but I toughed it out. We enjoyed the show, good acting and good music.

24 July. Walked to Regent St which was having a traffic free Sunday. They have been doing this for the past 3 Sundays and today was the last one. The sponsor for today was Magnum icecreams. We arrived in the area at around 1145 and the Magnum "make your own" stall was due to open at 1200. There were very few in the queue so we thought now was a good time to join. We had a choice of chocolate or vanilla base to start with and it went from there. Julie chose a chocolate base with a white chocolate coating and milk chocolate drizzle. I opted for the reverse. It was interesting, but the reality is we should have joined the "have a free magnum" queue and got a much more professional magnum in a lot less time. All good fun though. There was a bit more going on in the street but we decided to move on to Fortnum and Masons where we bought incredibly expensive gifts for our children. This is where we find out if our children are reading this! A pleasant stroll through Mayfair, then along Park Lane towards the VSC. We stopped to see the new statue at Marble Arch. It is of 2 men grappling, as you would expect in a wrestling match, but they both share the same head. A tad unusual. I am not sure if it is a tribute to a "Liverpool Kiss" gone wrong. The "homeless", and I put that in inverted commas because I am not sure of their status, were lying around under the statue surrounded by mountains of litter. All in all, not a pleasant environment in which to linger.
I had a little lie down after that, which Julie assures me was actually a sleep because I snored. We are both exhausted. We had plans which we put off until tomorrow. Got a tip from one of the doormen here for a pub up the road in a direction we haven't been before. It is the Duke of Kendal, and we had a very nice dinner there. This year, we are trying to expand our horizons from the VSC, taking in all directions. North is Arabic, but other directions seem a little more flexible.

25 July. Did another check online and found we could book our train trip on the Gatwick Express online so did that and now don't have to make a special trip to Victoria station to do it. We walked through Hyde Park to Harrods for a timy amount of gift shopping. Harrods is a rabbit warren of a store and it didn't help that we went to different sections only to find that mobile reception was a blank inside most of it. Found each other again though. Walked back through the park to home. Julie has gone shopping for some clothes and will probably come home empty handed. Tonight is a pub walk around our local area before an early night. We need to be up about 6am to get to Gatwick in time for the 1000 departure.

26 July. Caught a cab to Victoria station and got the earlier train at 0645. Quite a few people on it but we managed to stow our cases and get a seat. It was a good run until we got to within a minute of Gatwick when we stopped, only to be told there was a delay due a fire on the platform! The delay was only 10 or 15 minutes so it didn't really matter. No problems with all the preflight procedures and we got to the departure lounge early to find it closed. Killed time and finally got on the aircraft to be told we had an hour delay for a departure slot. When we finally did get going it was a good flight though we didn't have a spare seat between us. The aircraft was totally full, even though it was an A380. Not a spare seat that we could see. Arrived at Dubai without any fuss, got to the hotel and after a cup of tea and some biscuits, we crashed for the night.

27 July. Jamie Roberts, who I worked with in Perth and is now in Dubai Tower, picked me up about 1330 and we did a run around Dubai including a visit to his home. His wife and son are in Australia at the moment. Jamie now has a Golf R which is the super sports model of my GTI. I'm envious. It makes the GTI look like a standard family car! We picked Julie up about 1730 and went to the Dubai Yacht Club for dinner. Very nice too, not cheap, but then nothing decent in Dubai is. Home again to crash for the last time before heading home.

28 July. Cabbed to the airport, usual thing to get on the aircraft to find we have another hour delay due to the traffic at the airport. It really is a busy place. Again, we got a full aircraft and no spare seat among us. Not fun for a 10.5 hour flight. Got through Perth Airport OK and cabbed home. Finally got to sleep about 4 or 5 in the morning. Another trip over.