Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Quiet Zone

We went back into London today. Just a flying visit. Sarah had some unsold paintings to collect from an exhibition. The train takes about 40 mins. We'd done it before, seen what there is to see out of the window, so we picked the quiet zone carriage so we could read. Quiet zone? We were the only ones not on mobile phones. Mind you there was some serious business being transacted.

  • Hi, it's Jim. I'm on the train.
  • The train, yeah.
  • You okay?
  • Yeah, good.
  • Yeah
  • Yeah
  • Sounds Cool
  • Lovely.

And on and on. I'm staring at the pages of my book and I'm thinking, someone from South West Trains will be along soon and will tell them all to keep it down, because my glaring, furrowed-brow attitude isn't working. And then...

"Welcome to the 1312 to Basingstoke. Calling at, Clapham, Surbiton, Walton-on-Thames and just about every other station on God's green earth."

Then there's a pause. I read a sentence of my book.

"Safety notices are displayed throughout the train."

Good, I think. And I read the sentence again.

"If you see any suspicious packages, please tell a member of staff."


  • Hi, Jim again. Forgot to say. Be there about forty minutes.
  • Okay
  • Cool
  • Lovely

And then I put the book away. I look out of the window and consider fifty ways of murdering Jim, including throwing him from a moving train.

Anyway, we said our farewells to Jim, then back to the caravan, a quick pack, and we're on the M40 on our way home. A most enjoyable few days, especially as we know we have found our caravan legs once more. Can't wait for the next outing.


Monday, 26 April 2010

Botanical Days

We've had a couple of days visiting botanical gardens. Yesterday was Wakehurst, today we went to Kew. I'm not an unfit person but there's a certain kind of walking that really takes its toll. It's the slow, shuffling and creeping that does it. Museums are bad enough, and half an hour is usually enough for the first signs of museum foot to show up. Gardens, though. Gardens are like museums with gradient. And two in two days – that is hard. Then throw-in a hike to the railway station at each end, and a stretch along Brighton prom in the middle, and you are heading full steam for the knackers yard.

So we did Wakehurst first, and it really is a terrific garden – lots to see, lots of hills to go up and down. It's also home to the Millenium Seed Bank and this turned out to be a place of wonder and story ideas, so I was more than happy.

Having driven to Wakehurst we thought we might as well go and see Brighton, since it is only down the road and neither of us had been there before. I wasn't expecting much, kind of Blackpool with a cockney accent. But Brighton was a pleasant surprise. It's not over the top and the Pavillion was worth a look, though it was evening when we got there and so the Pavillion was closed and, amazing though it is, we still don't really know what it's all about. And of course we had to try the pier. I'm a sucker for piers. Don't know why. Usually they're horrible tacky places that are a century past their best days, but you can often look past that and see them for what they were designed for. We've been chalking up a few piers lately, what with Santa Barbara and Santa Monica last year, and Brighton is supposed to be one of the best. The surprise is, it really is one of the best. It's cared for. There's pride in Brighton Pier and we were both quite taken with it.

Back to botanical gardens, though, and today we did Kew. I blame the lay lines. Kew is a nice garden, world-class nice, but it is a hard visit. Hard on the legs and hard on the feet. There no hills and it isn't that big, not really. But I always suffer at Kew. This time is no exception, especially after Wakehurst and four miles of Brighton prom yesterday. Tonight I'm suffering. Tonight I will sleep, at least up until that point where I'm torn, screaming from my bed with raging leg cramps.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Hi, my name is Mike, welcome to my first post. Right now I'm sitting in my box in Chertsey, Surrey, on the banks of the river Thames. The box? The box is a twenty-year-old Avondale caravan. Let's see if I can find a photo.


I'll do better than that in future posts, but this will do for now. This is the view I'm looking at right now (or I would be if it wasn't dark right now).

So, what to expect in forthcoming posts? Well, a lot of ranting. Things annoy me. Things like Dutch lorry drivers who park in the designated caravan parking in service stations (Oxford services on this occasion) and who thus cause one to have to three-point-turn. Three-point-turning a caravan is not fun, especially over concrete curbing, so if anyone from Heijboer Transport is reading this, please give the driver of BT VN 69 a special thank-you from me.

I expect I will post about camp sites I like and camp sites I don't like. There'll probably be a lot about chemical toilet emptying as it tends to dominate the psyche of caravanners to some extent. (So let that be a stern warning to any SF people who venture over from 'Mike with a J')

And there'll be other travel stuff, too. Financial constraints are not what they where, and about 12 months ago I undertook my first ever flight. Airport tales are always more interesting from the point of view of those who have only just started to experience those particular delights. A pity I missed the ash delays - lots of great material there. My brother, Andy, probably wouldn't agree with me on that one, he's only just got home. Still, I'm off to Geneva in a month or so. Loads of opportunities for ranting on that one, I'm sure.

Enough for now. Let's see how this unfolds. Maybe now and again I'll wind the clock back and go into the archives, to the days of tent camping or to when we towed a forty-year-old Sprite Alpine to Switzerland. Who knows.