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! 

 

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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!!

 

 

From Hot Tub to Campervan!

So it’svan MOT time! I now have plenty of time to go nagging the doctor to check out wear and tear of this poor body that has been neglected for the past 35 years due to work commitments and that dreadful saying “I just don’t have the time to go to the doctor!”I have been having a niggling pain in my groin and hip for a few years now so it was time to sort it out! Well, it’s arthritis of the hip – also known as wear and tear – and one day I will need a hip replacement! Just keep taking the tablets in the meantime. It was a sunny day and on the way back from the hospital I had planned to go looking for an all singing, all dancing hot tub!! A present from me to me using up all my retirement money. I have no concept of money and lovvan 1e to spend it when I have it. So on the way to the show room I decided to call in and look at camper vans, as one does! It took me 25 minutes only to leave that garage having put down a deposit on a VW T4 camper van! Oh my!! I fell in love with it!!! I didn’t drive it, try it out, ask many questions – not at all. I  was a salesman’s dream come true when out tumbled those beautiful words of which I had no control – I’ll take it!!

A bit of mechanical work, an awning, camping equipment, wet suit, body board, table, chairs, CDs and a year later I can pronounce myself as one happy camper! One very happy camper! I love my van! I use it for a few night’s break or for day trips. I take anyone who dares step inside with me including my 95 year old mother and 15 year old son.

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I have always wanted a camper and now I have one! Living in Wales, we are very fortunate to have some of the most beautiful scenic routes in the world and we don’t have to drive too far to find them.

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We also love to have animals block our roads for a few minutes!!

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My son and I are off to the Belgian GrandPrix at the end of the month so the old van is currently at the garage having its MOT and a service but I shall still be taking out a Relay Cover with the AA just in case and then off we go!! I shall no doubt track our journey and report back at a later date!