Ups and Downs

cast and crew.jpg2017 started so well with my delightful trip to Barcelona (see previous post)  and then the beginning of rehearsals for Steel Magnolias. I was blessed with a wonderful cast and crew and it was an exhilarating feeling to be back at the Neath Little Theatre and involved in my first directorial production in almost 12 years. So it was full steam ahead.

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My fabulous cast 

Steel Magnolias is a beautiful play. It was a great film but in my opinion, the play is a better option. The film is a watered down version of the play in that we meet many different characters and visit a variety of locations. In the play we meet the 6 main characters only and the story develops from the conversations that take place in one setting. We learn about their relationships with their partners, families and friends from the sometimes hilarious conversations they have while assembled at Truvy’s Hair Salon in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana on a Saturday morning. The action unfolds here. We are the onlookers as these ladies prepare themselves for the social events of their lives: weddings, funeral, parties. Here they are applying their public faces while at the same time revealing their very private selves by confessing their deepest fears, greatest hopes and heaviest burdens. It is a beautiful play – a bittersweet, tragicomedy, fulfilling experience. If you get the opportunity to catch a production in your area, then do so  and don’t let anyone say that it is a play for women only. Men need to see this play, too!

My wonderful set courtesy of Paul and Lee and thank you to Tony of Nine Croft Road and Celtic Prop Hire for the props.

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Towards the end of the rehearsal time, I ironically found myself embroiled  in a tragic drama all of my own. It was a Saturday evening at the end of February at 11:30pm. I was comfortably catching up on Series 2 of Broadchurch and could hear what I believed to be  the doors banging upstairs, caused, as I thought at the time, by a draught due to the open windows in the bedrooms. When the banging became a nuisance I decided to resolve the problem once and for all by pausing Broadchurch, climbing the stairs and closing all open windows.  I reached the landing only to find the upstairs bathed in a golden light which I couldn’t fathom for the life of me. Looking out of the  bathroom window I discovered that the golden light was coming from huge, raging orange flames shooting out of the camper van and the car. They were both ablaze. This caught me completely off guard and very slowly panic started to creep in. I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. Instinct made me rush for the phone, dial 999 and get the fire engine to the house as soon as humanly possible.  I could not begin to imagine what would happen next!! There was banging, popping, fizzing and all sorts of firework sounds coming from the scene!! The flames were stretching higher and higher and there was NOTHING I could do! After what seemed like an eternity the engine arrived only to find that it couldn’t get down to the house from the top of our drive and therefore the hose had to be unravelled, attached to a hydrant and dragged some 150 yards to the vehicles. Barred from going outside the back door, I sat helplessly at my kitchen table in despair! By 3am, the fire was out and the shock of the evening set in. A sobbing me thanked the police and the firefighters for their efforts and away they went leaving me grieving pitifully the loss of by life companions. For those who read my blogs and know me, you will know that my van, aka Vin Diesel, has been a prominent feature in our lives over the past 18 months and now, he was gone!! Gone!

I was heartbroken. I am still hertbroken. The van was also packed ready for our next trip. Camping equipment, awning, tables chairs, bedding, karting overalls, helmets, winter coats, clothes, jackets, you name it – it was in the van. The car was also reasonably packed with clothing, bedding, chairs, duvets, pillows and things that are just left in a car! All gone up in flames.  Seeing them both in ruins was so difficult. Watching them being towed away was heart wrenching. The fire caused damage to the driveway, the electric cables, my hot tub and the guttering and windows of the house, but thankfully, nobody was hurt and we were lucky to get away relatively lightly.

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van 5  van 7van 6  van 4

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Two months down the line I am still vanless. The insurance companies have been wonderful and peace has been restored. However, I miss my dear little van so much. I drive around in my new car and see VW campers cheerfully zipping down the roads heading for fun holidays and feel such a pang of longing. I am keeping an eye out for a new one as I have become accustomed to  being a proud and happy ‘Dubber’ so, as they say, watch this space.

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The best is yet to come. I’m retired! 

 

Barcelona

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Barcelona, the city of my youth. The city where I settled for 6 years at the tender age of 22 years and experienced  a life of mischief, fun, gastronomic delights, sweet love, life-long friendships, marcha, juerga, fiesta – totally unforgettable experiences. It was a six year holiday interrupted 5 days a week with something called teaching – long hours of teaching,  including evening tutoring to bring in enough pesetas to live my holiday in the sun!

Life in Barcelona in the 80s was a thrill. The vibrant city screamed ‘live life to the full’. And that’s exactly what I did. Tapas, vinos, discos, Costa Brava night life, Costa Brava long daytime beach naps, all year round suntan, Sitges, Las Ramblas for people watching, open air concerts – Supertramp, Genesis, Lou Reed, Elton John, OMD, Police, Tina Turner, to name a few, winter skiing, love and romance and my beloved moped!! Oh the moped! mobylette-moped-60039s-70039s-3A one saddled bicycle with an engine to weave through traffic and avoid the jammed early morning buses that we had to catch to get to work each morning. It was also helpful to zoom down back streets to avoid the traffic of the busy city and very often carrying two people, which made it very uncomfortable for the back seat passenger, believe me!

logoI worked at Oak House School. At the time it was a relatively unknown private bilingual school for Spanish children. Today it is a very successful, well-known private school in the Sarrià district of Barcelona and has grown massively in size to the point that on my last visit in January this year, there was very little left of the school I once knew but I suppose that is what we call progress.

There were naturally many unfamiliar faces but there were also some wonderfully, welcoming familiar faces of friends and colleagues from ‘back in the day’ that burst into smile and delight when I arrived. We ate lunch, chatted non-stop, laughed, wondered, burst into laughter, cries of “Ah! Si, si, claro, me accuerdo …….” when reminiscing on the glory days of Oak House, recalling stories and memories that have been hidden in the back our minds for 30 years just waiting to see the light of day again. And there among the older faces were the grown up faces of children I once taught who were now working  at the school or dropping off their children at the same gate they were left at some 30 years ago!

What a trip down memory lane! But this is something I am prone to. I LOVE the past. I adore meeting up with friends from a different era in my life, I enjoy visiting the places where I once lived and wonder in the changes that have occurred over the years. What is wrong with a touch of nostalgia? The past is what has made my present and will have an effect on my future. Why would I want to forget it, the people the places, the sounds the smells? Remembering the past doesn’t hold me back. I live my life forward, but sometimes I think about the past, and I find it comforting. It makes me feel happy, thankful, it makes me laugh and makes me sad. I appreciate the roots that were planted back then and which will continue into my future. It makes me feel good and I gather strength from my past to move forward.

The city has changed and it hasn’t changed! It has developed immensely,  the biggest changes made to accommodate the Summer Olympics in 1992. The port is unrecognisable and there’s a beach!! How did that get there? The area of Sarrià has completely changed. I wouldn’t know how to get to work anymore!!

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The road into the city from the airport has altered and the network of roads in and around the city are all unfamiliar. My favourite area, known as Las Tascas where I spent some wild and wonderful hours, no longer exists, as were many other memorable sites, and that was a massive stab to the heart, but the smells, the atmosphere, the life, the heart of the city, the vibrancy, the people ……..  they are unchanged. Barcelona has caught up with the times, it has opened its doors to a flood of tourists, it is more modern, cosmopolitan, more people speak languages other than Spanish, there are shopping malls to compete with the once empirical El Corte Inglés, the parks, the buildings, the streets have been cleaned up. Gaudi has sprung to life! The Parque Güell, my stomping ground to get rid of a hangover on a Sunday morning back in the early 80s and overlooked by me when I had visitors, as in the ignorance of my youth I was more focused on bars, restaurants and the beach than some dusty park with a few mosaic-like statues and lots of dust, has now been cleaned up and brought to its full glory! You even have to pay to get in!! It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too, and is quite magical . Why didn’t I see it this way back then?? Other buildings have also been cleaned up and are quite majestic in appearance these days all adding to the attraction of the city. The Las Arenas, bull ring in Plaza España is now a shopping mall. The last bull-fight took place there in 1977 and was used as an outside concert hall during my years there. La Monumental continued to hold bull fights into the 90s but it is now empty and waiting to be renovated, no doubt into another mall.

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But the bars, tapas, food, cakes, narrow streets, lanes, markets etc are all still alive and well. Estupendo!!

The Barrio Gotico is as beautiful as ever and for me, must be visited at Christmas time. It gets cold, but not for long. But cold, blue-skied sun-filled days are bearable, enjoyable and acceptable. And being retired, I can  now visit any time!!

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The End and the Beginning!!

Oh my! It has been such a long time since I wrote my last blog! Where has the time gone?? I am now settled into the life of a retired 50 something year old and finding myself so busy that the lap top has been through a stage of neglect and running around has taken precedence. Time to slow down, methinks and open the office door and spend more time at home! Or was it that the run up to Christmas had became all-encompassing? It took me nearly 3 weeks to decorate the house.

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The mammoth job began early in December, however,  it was a case of ‘little and often’ as the decoration boxes were stored in the garage and wtreeere very awkward to access. The walk between the garage and the house became quite tiresome so, after much deliberation and failed attempts at getting my disgruntled ‘stop-turning-the-house-into-a-grotto’ son involved in this festive activity, I settled for putting up the Christmas tree only. This took me a full 3 hours as the lights were tangled and seemed pretty nigh impossible to untangle and place neatly and strategically on the tree. I must add that instead of buying one box of lights with lots and lots of twinkles, I strangled the branches with 3 sets of 200 lights! What a palaver! This followed with a wild panicked search looking for an extension block to accommodate multiple plugs – 3 felfor the lights, one for the TV, one for the DVD and one for the Now TV. Oh and what to do about the lamp??? By the time the tree was up and the lights placed I was exhausted and needed a glass of wine or two! Thus ended any further attempts at decorating but it was definitely the beginning of endless Christmas cheer!  Wine, Elf and a lit Christmas tree! What could be better??

The next day I managed to conquer, effortlessly, the breakfast room. Followed by the kitchen 2 days later. That took another 3 hours. The tinsel refused to stay up and the drawing pins kept bending as I tried to loop the tinsel around the room. Ahhhh!!!  This was because the picture rail had been painted and for some reason the pins refused to stay, or because I chose the same holes as last year which had by now doubled in size resulting in the pins slipping out!!  Then the whole lot would fall down! Climbing up and down the ladder became a nightmare due to my bad hip so the wine had to rescue the situation again and put an end to any more festooning!! And this is how the story continued for the next 3 weeks and still, on Christmas Day, the decorating was not finished!! Oh well!! No one noticed. At least the lights were a success and the house had a warm cosy glow, filled also with a welcoming cinnamon and berry aroma from the numerous candles burning from every corner possible!! The transformation, indoor and out, was so magical it stayed this way until January 17th! Yes, my friends, I must confess that my decorations have only been down a week! BUT there is a reason. After such a traumatic lead up to the great day, the day itself and the ensuing week, I felt the need for some escapism and so dropped tools and flew away leaving Christmas in tact until
my return.

Barcelona to the rescue!

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Oh what a beautiful place. It was my home for 6 years many years ago but the ties there are as strong now as they were then. There followed 5 days of catching up, eating, drinking and making merry. An Easy Jet flight for £48.50 could NOT be ignored. It would have been very rude of me to do so and so, with a cabin sized suitcase a few euros, a non-reserved seat I set off on a cold Monday morning for a week of pure delight!

Ahhhhhhh! The joys of being retired! 

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to be continued……….

Go, Kart, Go!!

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So, where to next?? My son has taken up go-karting! It may be a bit late in his young life to become the next Ayrton Senna but he is pursuing something that is bringing him great enjoyment, has met some great people and has certainly grown in confidence since being part of this team. So, my weekends are no longer my own anymore but we are having a good time even though I spend the race time with my heart in my mouth watching these karts go round the circuit at the speed of light!!  Our local karting club is at LLandow in the Vale of Glamorgan , South Wales where we race with a great team called Silver Fox.  We are relatively new to this compared to everyone else in the team but we are learning and bringing a little humour to the camp!silver-fox-logo

 

Click on the links and check us out

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I have certainly seen quite a bit of England in the last few months, mostly the Northampton area and its wonderful karting circuits – Kimbolton and Whilton Mill. There was also a visit to  Dorset and the Clay Pigeon circuit and Gloucester to Rissington. That’s lots and lots of miles in Vin, the T4! And I say lots and lots as  we always get lost on our way to each race meet!! We got lost on our way to Kimbolton – twice, when leaving Rissington we always end up in Cheltenham, and please don’t ask where I went wrong coming home from Whilton Mill. I am beginning to despair with it all. There is one further trip this year to Shenington so my fingers, toes and everything else that can be crossed are crossed!!

kimboltonOur first visit to Kimbolton saw me going 57 miles out of our way! I didn’t get off the M1 as Mary, my GPS on the phone went to sleep and neglected to remind me where to exit the M1. But I don’t know how I got on to the M1 in the first place as I should have been on the M42….. but there we go!! We finally arrived at midnight when everyone else had gone to sleep but the next day dawned bright and sunny and the weekend turned out to be a scorcher and lots of fun!! The boys work hard all day working on the karts, racing, drinking tea, more kart mechanics, changing parts, and  on and on and on……, while the two gorgeous mams prepare PIMMs, chat, read, visit friends, watch a race or two, drink wine, prepare a bbq and basically have a relaxing time!! I am loving it!!

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Setting up!!                                                                                                  Relaxing and sunbathing!!

kimbolton-3    BBQ number 1!!

kimbolton-5   Midnight heat!!   kimbolton-6 BBQ number 2

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Top Team!!!

clayClay Pigeon was another great weekend. We set up camp and the racing was first class. Despite it being October, the weather was lovely, the camping cosy and the racing wizard!! It got a little cold in the early morning but with duvets and pillows and blankets galore there is nowhere warmer and cosier than in the van and inner tent! Not to forget the copious amounts of tea we drink ALL day and something a little warmer at night!! We all camped together in the ‘corral’ and spent a wonderful team weekend together. The BBQ was ‘a la extraordinaire’  this weekend with chicken and meat actually cooked in an oven and a delicious home made coffee cake to finish it all off. So much food but all polished off by hungry karters and tinkerers!!

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The karts

 

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The home xxx

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The Workplace

 

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Watching Rosberg win!! Nooooooo!!!

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the-team

How on earth could I have made time for this when I was in full time employment?

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The Prima Donna Years

Good afternoon. We are now well into October  and having a beautiful week here during my favourite season! ‘ Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’  to quote Keats. The poem, Ode to Autumn, by the way, according to the Guardian, is apparently the most anthologised English poem.

I am now getting ready for another project! Directing a play!! I have recently been having a hankering after a past that did not materialise! I have always wanted to be an actress  or work in theatre – well I did when I was a teenager! I would spend hours locked in my room playing the part of great tragic heroines. I would make up words as I went along and my characters were mostly based on films I’d watched or historic characters I had read about or heard about at school! In reality, the most tragic part about the whole thing was that I would think of all kinds of sad things to make myself cry while acting out the paInn_of_the_Sixth_Happiness-1958-MSS-poster-5rts before my death!! The greatest part I played to my audience of no one was that of Gladys Aylward after watching the film ‘Inn of the Sixth Happiness’! Oh my, how I protected those children from the shootings and saved them all by covering as many of them as I could using my body as their protective armour, huddled right there, on my bedroom floor!  And then the denouement –  my strapping, strong, tanned, handsome love interest, having been made aware of the shooting, would find me draped over the surviving children and take me in his strong, warm arms whispering words of love, tears pouring down his grief-stricken face as I smile at him and breathe my last breath! Waaah!

And then there was the true story of the very brave Violette Szabo, portrayed in the 1958 220px-carvehernamepridefilm ‘Carve Her Name with Pride’ which is based on her life working for the Special Operations Executive during World War II as a spy. Violette subsequently was captured, tortured and executed by the Germans. I threw myself heart and soul into that role, feeling her pain and her fear, and would recite with great passion, the poem used in the film as the passing on of secret codes, to whoever would listen!! And here it is:-

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

By Leo Marks

Other heroines I acted our were Anne Boleyn after watching the film  3726101  Anne of a Thousand Days 7 times. Kneeling on the old footstool in my bedroom with my hair tied up and speaking words of comfort to my executioner and just longing and hoping and waiting for Richard Burton to barge into the room in his knee length dress and fur cape, halt the execution and wrap me in his arms and carry me away on horseback  to the palace where I would be reunited with Elizabeth and change history forever, but of course that was not to be! And then there was Joan of Arc but I changed the end of her story due to my fear of fire!!

And so, back to present day and reality! When I felt strong and well enough I returned to Neath Little Theatre (NLT) my local amateur dramatic company. I have been a member since the early 90s but with the birth of my son and promotion at work, it got more and more difficult to keep being involved and therefore I took a 7 year gap – but now I’m back!! In December last year I helped out witdancingh a production of Dancing at Lughnasa which was performed in March and ran for a week, then I directed my own short one act play, Bar and Ger by Geraldine Aron.  poster

 

 

Now I have committed to directing Steel Magnolias in March next year and have already begun working on it. There is so much to cover when directing a play and the standards at NLT are very high so no pressure! I need to begin by sorting out the cast, the set, the production team, auditions, and then of course rehearsals and costumes etc etc I am really looking forward to it and have plenty of time these days to give it my all. The play will run for a week at the beginning of March! It may seem ages to go yet but it will be upon us in no time so what am I doing sitting here telling you all about it while I should be at my desk sorting out auditions for next week!!

Enjoy your journey and we will meet up again soon at the next Pit Stop!

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Where Was I?

Retirement means that we can base important decisions on whims.

Senior moments crop up far too often these days! I started out on this blogging journey
wsenior-momentith a clear and definite route  as to which way this blog was going, as it was my first ever attempt at blogging!  I had a plan ( I have planned my working day for the past 34 years!! ) and each page was going address a certain topic  (all in chronological order!) which I aimed at sharing with other early retirees in order to offer support and encouragement during this next phase of life. I had not planned on early retirement and I know many people who struggle when they step off the treadmill and wake up to a brand new life and so that, in short was my intention with this blog, but unfortunately, like my life from a very early age, I am finding it impossible to stick to said route/plan and find myself steering away in all manner of directions!! I digress!! That has been a life time complaint of mine, even on school reports – ‘Janet find’s it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand’, ‘Janet’s ability to digress is outstanding‘! All my life I have found it difficult to stay on course and have found that the route to anywhere I go is never smooth and incident free!! But that is what makes this life such fun, and long may it continue as I ride the rocky road of retirement which I hope you will continue to share with me despite the crazy twists and turns on the way.  Life is indeed different now for many reasons but different in a most wonderful and enjoyable way.

Life does NOT end when you retire – it begins!

So read on , jump aboard and let’s have some fun!! And don’t forget to share some of your journey with me!!

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So, to re-cap the retirement journey to date  (you can catch up on these pages by clicking on the pictures) when I was ready to face the world again I:-

  1. Joined a health club and went swimming.va-logo
  2. Started a flower arranging course,flower-2gel
  3. Lunchtime socialising nancytaylor_4
  4. Tried my hand at Network Marketing. I signed up with Forever Living and fell in love with the products. They are all aloe vera based and I drink the gel every morning and use the creams daily and I feel like a million dollars!!
    Take a look at my FB page that I named Glow With Aloe and if you would like to try something or simply have some info on the products or the business, just get in touch and I’ll help all I can!
  5. Bought a Campervan and inflatable hot tub!! vw-logo
  6. Became a local radio DJ!!radio tircoed
  7. Started a Book Club book-club1

book-club-titleA year into my journey of recovery as a retired 50 something I decided that I wanted to read again! When I became unwell reading went out of the window. I have always been a reader – whenever I had the time to read, that is (now a thing of the past) and there was always a book beside the bed. Sometimes it would take me weeks, even months to finish one book, others it would be just a few days, but there was always a book!  Then,  kapowfrom nowhere, I could not open a book! I couldn’t concentrate, retain words or follow a story! Fast forward two year and I had to take action! It was time to do something about it! I set up a Book Club – messaged all the people I knew who like to read, invited the to my house for a chat about starting and Book Club and voila!  I haven’t looked back! We meet every 5 weeks to discuss our chosen book while sipping on a vino or something similar and picking our way through  a variety of savouries or indeed, sweets, with occasionally a loaded table of delicious platters, soups and wonderful things to eat! Recently, we have been meeting at a local hostelry, the wonderful Celtic Lodge, which is a warm and cosy place to meet and discuss our books. The members’ ages range from the 20s to the 70s and we all bring colour and our own style to the group. It is so much fun! So if you are looking for something to do with your retirement time I would suggest you set up a group of some kind to meet up every 5-6 weeks and no pressure!! Simply enjoy!  Why not try some of our chosen books. Come back and tell me what you think. You can visit out FB page here, and another Blog I have created which is listed above!  Here are 2 recently read books I would recommend. Click on the titles and read what some of the Book Club members think of these choices. Enjoy!

big-little-lies review-big-little-lies

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Already planning my next Blog so bye for now! Keep smiling because life can be sweet!

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Our Great Little Road Trip!

 

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Summer 2016

 

Well, the summer is over! Looking out of the window I am assured that the summer is over. Grey sky, wet path (invaded by the fattest family of slugs I have seen in a long time!) drips dropping from the downpipes, rather nippy, light mist, no children to be heard (I live near a school and it is lunch time but no doubt they are being kept indoors today!) and just that soggy feel to the air ….. wonderful!

I am not complaining. After having spent 9 days in unbearable (for me) heat driving around France and Belgium in the van, putting up and taking down the awning, walking miles and miles and climbing hills steeper than I had ever imagined encountering when planning this well thought out journey, theseheat-400x280 past 2 days have been a delight! I don’t usually complain about dry, sunny weather. In fact, I spent 14 years of my younger life living in HOT countries and didn’t complain – much! But, is it age? Being unfit? Carrying more pounds than I am used to? Suffering with hip pain while waiting for the replacement? I have no idea. All I know is the 34 – 36 degree heat with no chance of shade and cloudless skies really got to me! The trip itself, overall was fun. Just a shame about the heat!

I will once again digress from my Life’s journey and Simply tell you that I went on a wonderful holiday away with my son in the van. I have christened the van Vin. It was my first overseas journey in it and I experienced a number of sleepless nights before leaving, if I am to be completely honest!! Horror of horrors, Vin had failed the MOT on a MASSIVE list of faults (another story)! It spent a week in the garage and was finally made roadworthy. When I asked the mechanics if they would drive it over to Belgium, I was confronted with wry smiles and shakes of the head and shrugs of the shoulders!! Non committal is an understatement! I think the answer was ‘no way’!! Well, being one not to be swayed by others’ opinions, I had faith and trust van-cropin the old van and was not going to be put off by the experts! Hadn’t I already paid for the crossing and the F1 tickets? There was no going back! I took out EVERY insurance cover possible the night before departure, had a restless night, churning insides but kept a positive mind and attitude. What else is one to do?

Did it let me down? Not on your life!! What a trouper! It behaved impeccably! Big, strong, fast and furious!! Feeding off diesel (maybe a bit too much so vin-2
vin-2need to look into that) as it drove along making me the prouvin-2d owner of my very own Vin Diesel!

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So, Vin, Io and I were on our way! Insured to the hilt just in case, documents in hand, Vin packed, tank filled! Off we went! The journey to the ferry was easy and we got there early so we caught an early ferry!! The sea was calm and the weather was beautiful! But nothing prepared me for the heat in Belgium!! With Vin blowing out hot air (s0mething I have to get fixed soon!!) Elvis and The Traveling Wilburys musically entertaining us, water bottles in massive abundance and seat belts buckled, we trundled along the great motorway of the north through France and into Belgium.

Our adventure  had begun!!