The first stop on our Grand Tour was at Linzi and Paul’s boat near Rugby. When they first got the mooring there, Dave went along for a couple of days to help them carve something habitable out of the jungle that made up the canal bank and Happy Daze was tied to a floating pontoon. Six years later, there is piling along the bank, their garden is beautifully established and looking amazing and they have full residential status.
We found ourselves (to our surprise) a bit jealous. Do we want a permanent mooring? Are we ready to stop this life of nomadic adventure? Not quite yet, but we’re fully aware that one day we’ll have to. When we do, somewhere like Linzi and Paul’s would be ideal. Anyway, it was wonderful to spend some quality time with our lovely friends and catch up with all the goss.
After an autumnal misty morning walk round the moorings with Jack, we said goodbye and carried on to Southam for our 6 monthly dental check-ups. We're registered with a dentist there because it was where we were moored when Dave needed to have some serious work done after having two nasty abscesses while we were in Australia. We’ve stayed with them because being in the middle of the country means that although it always seems to be a long way from wherever we’re moored, it could always be further. Dave needed a little filling to fix a chipped tooth and we booked an appointment a fortnight ahead, so we could pop in on our way back.
Back in the car, next stop Wallingford for a brew and a chat with Colin and Julia, our flood/Covid mates. Their mooring in the trees was looking better as well and Smith’s Lady, their replica Dutch Barge, was - as always - just gorgeous.
We spent that night on our camp beds in Mum and Dad’s lounge, then had an early morning packing everything into their car and surprised ourselves by being on the road by 7am. We were at Newhaven in plenty of time for the Dieppe ferry, so we had a car picnic before boarding.
On the other side it was just another hour and a half driving, and we arrived at Chateau Du Verbosc...
...where we were greeted by Michel and got settled into our rooms. We couldn’t quite believe the Chateau, it was like staying in a National Trust stately home; huge rooms with high ceilings and extravagant mouldings and panelling, beautiful old floors and windows and an astonishing amount of period furniture everywhere.
Dear Reader, we won’t bore you with the finer details of a week spent touring round a relatively small part of the Siene Valley in Normandy, suffice to say our accommodation was B&B “En Famille” which meant we had breakfast with Michel each morning, which included a lots of Franglaise and gesturing and went on till at least 10:30. The remainder of most days was then spent heading off somewhere, stopping for lunch before we got there, strolling round somewhere else in the afternoon, then finding a third somewhere for dinner. So mainly sight-seeing and eating, which was all just fine and dandy by us.
Here’s some photos of our little bit of France and the beautiful, meandering Siene.
They're free, so we made full use of them.
Dave did the dark drive back to Fleet and we had another night on our camp-beds before packing everything into the C3, saying goodbye and to Mum and Dad and whizzing off to West Wittering, near Chichester for a camping weekend with the Pompey Puddleducks Citroen 2cv club. Ann-Marie was the founder of this club when she lived in Portsmouth, and it’s fabulous to know that it’s still going. They have a summer camp every year, mostly at West Wittering on a lovely site with super facilities. This year - as we were down that way - it seemed rude not to join them. We got there on the Thursday, Karen and Andrew were already there, so we pitched up next to them.
After a very pleasant evening sitting around chatting, we had an early night and tucked ourselves in. During the night it rained, and we found out why our tent had seemed such a bargain; there were puddles on the floor and our bedding was somewhat moist. As the forecast was for more rain, we got a bit gloomy thinking we’d have to abort the weekend, but it cleared up, the sun came out and it dried up enough for us to get a spray can of Fabsil from the site shop and give it some degree of waterproofing. (It didn’t rain any more for the rest of the weekend and it’s now packed away till next year, so it’ll be a while before we know if we made any difference.) That evening the Puddleducks had laid on a buffet supper which was fabulous. Sitting outside as dusk fell with lovely food and glass of something, surrounded by a big bunch of mates made us so happy and reminded us of all the 2cv club camps and rallies that brought us together.
Life doesn’t get much better.
Another Saturday, another parkrun, this time Bognor Regis.
“Parkrun tourism” is an actual thing and some people go to extreme measures to get the more remote ones. There is also the “Alphabet Challenge” where you have to bag a parkrun starting with each letter of the alphabet. People quite regularly go on weekend trips to Jersey and Zeebrugge just to get the letter. Our nomadic life means we’re getting quite a collection without even trying.
That afternoon there was the traditional convoy.
This year the cars ended up at Selsey lifeboat station where we had a tour and were shown round the Shannon Class lifeboat, which comes complete with its own self-propelled launching slipway. What an amazing and impressive piece of kit! Apparently, the whole thing costs about £2m but you can see where every penny went.
Back at the site we had games to play before a bring-your-own barbeque and a raffle and another evening sitting outside under the stars.
It was Phoebe’s 18th birthday the next day, so what a better way to celebrate than to have a go on a paddleboard in the sea. And oh look! We just happened to have brought two of them with us! We’d not had them in the sea before; we don't usually get waves on the canal, so it was no surprise that neither of us stayed upright for very long. It was fine on our knees but standing up was a whole different ball game. It was the first time Dave had fallen off his, and he was rather surprised how difficult it was to get back on. He’s not a very confident swimmer and out of his depth, until he calms himself down and remembers to trust his buoyancy aid, he gets a bit panicky, so after a couple of minutes struggling and succeeding in nothing more than flipping the board over, he gave up trying and just swam to the shore. In shallower water he managed it quite easily, but we clearly need a lot more practice in the sea. We just need to be somewhere warmer. Phoebe and Fran then had a go and loved it.
They sensibly stayed on their knees and just enjoyed the surf. Ann-Marie (who is part dolphin) stayed in the water the whole time, swimming between the two of them and getting a long-needed surf fix. Dave (whose blood was apparently donated by a lizard) sat on the beach wrapped in a towel, soaking up the last of the September sun.
The same sun had dried our tent out when we got back, so we got it away dry. Back at Karen’s, Mum and Dad came over for a chippy take-away, then we had a final night on our camp beds in the lounge before heading off northwards again. After a quick stop at Basildon Park (NT) for a stroll and a coffee we went back to Wallingford for a night on Smith’s Lady with Colin and Julia. We had a delightful evening with them, lots of happy chatting, a delicious meal and a game of Upwords (a new one for us) then a night in one of their beautiful cabins in a very comfy bed.
In the morning we drove up to Southam for Dave’s dental appointment, then carried on north back to Legend. Happily, apart from the tomatoes and nasturtiums running riot all over the roof, our little boat was exactly how and where we’d left it. We moved closer to the bridge to make transhipping easier and packed all our camping, paddleboarding and holiday paraphernalia back into its various cupboards and lockers. In the two weeks we’d been away autumn had arrived and we needed a fire that evening. We love going to visit people, it’s far and above the most enjoyable thing we do. We are so lucky to have such amazing friends and we treasure them all, but sometimes it’s so nice to be in front of a cosy fire, on our lovely little boat and just be us.