Sunday, 22 January 2012

France beckons, yet again!

Our youngest daughter gave us the news that they had arranged their summer holiday for the family at a Holiday Park in Benodet, Southern Brittany, towards the end of July.

Now, for some perhaps obscure reason, they don't mind the old folks tagging along and we are delighted that they do. The thought of being with our daughter, husband and two of our lovely grandchildren again is great and always a delight. It's also a marvellous excuse to plan another trip to France in the Morgan.

So it wasn't long after hearing the news that I was on the computer trying to organise ferry crossings and accommodation close to Benodet.

Benodet area on our last trip in 2008
Of course, with one grandchild at school, we now have to get used to the fact that, if we are invited to join our offspring for some time during their  holidays, it is going to be at peak holiday times. As a consequence of this, it is always going to be extremely busy, so it was not surprising that although it is still only January and I was booking a ferry for the end of July, one of them, the Friday overnight sailing to St Malo had no accommodation available. This was not a situation that appealed to us, we are long passed 'slumming it', so a different strategy was called for.

 An alternative was the high speed ferry from Poole to Cherbourg, docking at around 10.30 am, not as close to Southern Brittany, but offering the prospect of a lovely drive south down the Cotentin Peninsular, then west across Brittany to Fouesnant where we have now booked an apartment with a company that we have used before.
Watch out for that seagull!!..Benodet 2008
The apartment is situated about four miles from the Holiday Park, a hundred metres or so from the beach and most importantly has very secure parking with security number access only. We have booked it for a week and hope that it could prove to be a useful alternative for the family, adding a convenient beach element to their holiday.

Our return ferry crossing is the 10.30am Saturday sailing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth, which docks at around 18.30 and then it is a relatively short drive for us to Camberley in Surrey, where we hope that we can stay one night with our eldest and her family before driving north.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Just pottering about!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word 'potter' thus, "to work or occupy yourself in a desultory but pleasant manner."

For the past few days that is just what I have been doing........ oh the joys of retirement!

As far as the Morgan is concerned, it has stayed in the garage following our latest trip, but I did have a look at the mileage, in between other jobs, to make sure that we hadn't exceeded 1000 miles since I last greased the front suspension. I was pleased to see that we hadn't because I just didn't fancy grovelling about under the car with a grease gun in the present cold conditions. In any case it is due for it's service at Life's in Southport in around four weeks time and it will obviously be done then.

The question of regular 1000 mile greasing was a subject that occupied not just my mind, after buying the car, but also my fellow Morgan pal in Mid Wales who bought his 4/4 Sport soon after mine.

Bearing in mind that our 4/4's are relatively new, 2007/8, it states categorically in the Handbook that the greasing should be done every 1000 miles. However, both of us had conflicting advice on this subject, from both dealers and individuals, who said that in view of the new materials (stainless steel) used there was no need for this to be done and in one instance I was informed that it could be left and done at yearly service intervals, unless I was going to be doing 6000 miles annually!

Needless to say perhaps, I was a little concerned about this, having done rudimentary Mechanical Engineering at Grammar School where I learned that two metals rubbing against each other needed lubrication!

I finally checked with the factory and received categorical advice that this should be done, as per Handbook.

Certainly worth doing, because the price of replacing King Pins can reach as much as £500 at dealer prices!
Morgan garage on left veg on the right

Moving away from this sticky subject and with definite signs of Spring in the garden, I visited the local garden centre and bought a couple of standard roses to fill the gap left by the sad demise of our beautiful Robinia tree which, as I mentioned in a previous post, succumbed to the current incurable disease that has smitten Robinias nationwide. Anyway I managed to pick up these roses at £10 each instead of £35 and £45 respectively.

The pond and vegetable garden
On the day that I intended to plant them the ground was as hard as iron so it had to be delayed until the following day, but I used the time in starting to plan my vegetable garden for this season. Shallots will certainly feature, along with Early Potatoes, Broad Beans, Runner Beans and Leeks (we are still enjoying fresh Leeks from last season).

I have also read a couple of books, that were given to me by my youngest for Christmas, written by Christopher Fowler, an author that I hadn't read before. They were from his 'Bryant and May' mystery series and I have thoroughly enjoyed them, probably because the two main characters are a couple of old geezers like me. In fact I am about to start a third.

The Ranulph Fiennes book about Scott of the Antarctic has been temporarily put on one side and I will continue reading that wonderfully written, detailed and complex narrative of that fateful journey shortly.

Yet another failing of mine was revealed over breakfast this morning, which is almost as thought provoking as that item on the Terry Wogan show on Radio 2 many years ago, pertaining to the serious question of whether you place a toilet roll in its holder with the paper near the wall or away from the wall! I seem to remember that this discussion with listeners went on for days to my immense enjoyment.

Well, enough of Terry, I sat there looking at a sandwich that I had just created and realised that I still hadn't got to grips with the procedure even after 68 years, so instead of the butty (hogs pudding!) being perfectly formed, it wasn't!

What I always forget to do is reverse the second slice off the loaf before I butter it so that it fits the first ones shape perfectly. Similarly, if you are using one slice and fold the bread over, it is important to make sure that you fold it correctly so that it exactly matches the other side. My dear wife says that sandwiches should be cut and not folded, labelling me as a peasant!

Anyway, I am really going to try very hard to remember this and try to do better in future but fear that the pressures of all this pottering will make it difficult!!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

'Hark to Bounty'..... the ancient village inn, situated at Slaidburn in the Forest of Bowland, the place to which we were heading on a glorious winter's day, that yesterday begged us to enjoy to the full.

The open road
With the sun shining and the heater in the Morgan working full blast we approached the village of Scorton, some 10 miles from home, and situated on the fringe of the Forest of Bowland an area of outstanding natural beauty, huge chunks of which are owned by the Duke of Westminster, the lucky blighter!

It's a village that we have passed through on countless occasions during our life, en route to picnic places in the Trough of Bowland and beyond.

Stop for coffee in the Trough of Bowland
The first part of our route took us through Dunsop Bridge, one of two main contenders for the location of the exact  geographical centre of Great Britain, the other being Haltwhistle in Northumberland some 70 miles to the north, on to Newton and thence to Slaidburn, where we would have a beer and a hearty, warming bowl of soup at the 'Hark to Bounty'.

'The inn was known as The Dog until 1875, when the squire of the village, who was also the Rector, had a pack of hounds. One day whilst out hunting, he and his party called at the inn for refreshments. Their drinking was disturbed by a loud and prolonged baying from the pack ouside. High above the noise of the other hounds could be heard the squire's favourite dog, which prompted him to call out...."Hark to Bounty!" 

This is a watering hole that we have used before and we have never been disappointed. The excellent real ale went down a treat as did the steaming bowl of hot pea and ham soup, perfect for a winter's day. We ordered the medium size of soup, just what the size of the largest soup portion on offer is, goodness knows, it must be big! We've never stayed there but the service has always been friendly and the food superb, yesterday the Game Pudding looked gorgeous.

The 'Hark to Bounty'
Fully refreshed we then headed north towards Bentham, a wonderful moorland route that we love, offering superb views of Ingleborough to the eastward, a flat topped hill of 723 metres, and to the north west the Lakeland mountains. The visibility was superb and the total silence magical, why are so many people apparently afraid of silence nowadays, at least Simon and Garfunkel knew how soul wrenching it is.
Looking south, approaching the summit
It is worth mentioning that at that stage we had seen about three cars and a couple of cyclists since Scorton!
Down from the summit of the pass near a hill called Great Harlow (488 metres) we dropped down the road, that was icy in the places where the sun hadn't reached, passed a sign indicating that we were now briefly in North Yorkshire and finally into High Bentham. As we entered, following a large tractor, we were alarmed when it's trailer suddenly detached itself, ground along the road in front of us and necessitated swift , heavy breaking on our part!

 North from summit
We were back in civilisation, the traffic intensified, don't forget it was 'Poet's Day', (p..s off early, tomorrow's Saturday!) as we made our way along the B6480 towards Wray and then the A683 down the Lune Valley, noticing with some sadness, that the 'Fenwick Arms', one of our drinking places in the days before the 'Drink Driving' regulations came into force, had been boarded up.

Joining the motorway at Lancaster, we headed south and home after a splendid drive.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Austerity Britain!

When I see the queues diminish at Car Washes, I will truly believe that people are 'hard-up'. There must have been ten cars at one situated by the A6 at Garstang as we passed this afternoon and they weren't all top of the range models either.

Surely if times are hard and money is tight, you get off your butt, fill a bucket of water, grab a sponge and wash the car. I can shampoo and wash my Volvo in around 20 minutes and all it costs me is a dose of shampoo in the bucket and some water.

What a soft, pampered society we've become!

Not only that, people are still driving their cars at totally uneconomical speeds with scant regard for the additional cost of the fuel they are wasting.....and the quality of the driving, well that is another matter!!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Morgan 4/4 at the Dock!

As promised by the Met Office, the day dawned calm and bright, so with with lightness of heart and a skip and a jump, well perhaps not quite as athletically as that, I raised myself from my bed, completed my morning ablutions with a vigour that could only mean a drive was planned and gobbled my breakfast.

Let's face it, I was desperate, after waiting for a small window in the weather that would enable me to get out in the Mog and that window was small, from 8am to 12noon and then things would start to deteriorate again with another weather front due, bringing yet more rain and wind.

Glasson Dock
Oh, the joy of winding up the engine again and listening to it's captivating sound. I let it idle as I shunted the Volvo out of the end of it's garage, into the garden alongside the Morgan's home, thus enabling the Morgan to be reversed through the double-ended Volvo garage and into the drive. It's a bit like Crewe Goods Station marshalling yards!

With my wife settled in the passenger seat and dressed up to kill in her arctic gear and new ear muffs we were off with a stop at the first petrol station for fuel, where I was yet again bombarded with questions about the car. What a beauty! How old was it, how fast does it go, how much did it cost? and fair words my boy!

The roads were relatively dry and the winter morning sun was shining but barely clearing the horizon, which caused us to use the sun visors to good effect. Top down, they are only of use while the sun is low in the sky, either in the evening, soon after dawn or on a sunlit winter's day.

Towards Sunderland Point, River Lune estuary
With the heater on full blast we were comfortably warm and mentioning this brings to mind a conversation I had with Helen Thorne as she took me out on a test drive in a Plus Four prior to buying our 4/4, sadly for her from Life's in Southport.

As we all know when purchasing a vehicle, perhaps especially a Morgan, you need to get the full approval of 'er indoors', otherwise you are likely to be batting on a very sticky wicket, because most women cannot see the obvious benefits in buying a Morgan as opposed to a shiny lump of rock for their finger or something similar. Helen suggested that in order to counter this, just mention the fact that the heating system is superb when top-down in the winter and that could serve as a very good additional bargaining tool when discussing the acquisition! It must have had some effect!
North east towards Lancaster

Our destination, a place called Glasson Dock, is an ancient port on the Lune estuary, just south of Lancaster. The route I had chosen was due east on the A586, from the Fylde coast to the A6, then the B5272 to Cockerham, where it joined the A588, taking us towards Lancaster and finally a minor road off that to Glasson. The return trip would be along the A588 and back home.

Arriving at Glasson we parked firstly by the dock itself and then moved to higher ground in the west where we could settle down to a well earned cup of coffee, as we looked across the River Lune towards Sunderland Point and Heysham. The weather held as we watched as massive flocks of geese circled over the coast opposite confirming that this coastal area is a very important bird-watching location.

East towards the Bleasdale Fells
The darkening clouds in the west, plus a request from my illustrious navigator to go to the local supermarket when we got home, suggested a speedy departure and that is what we had, a lovely fast drive on a quiet road, flat as a pancake over the Cockerham sands, an area of salt marsh that at one time used to flood on virtually every tide and where I think the RAF carried out target practice in the last war.

All that has changed today with new sea defences and even if the RAF were still operating there they wouldn't have been able to catch us!

I'm off into the garage now to wipe down my trusty steed!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Manna from Heaven!

The gale continues, accompanied by heavy rain, and has caused a great deal of damage around the country but fortunately not at my humble abode, in fact just the opposite, it has yielded a totally unexpected benefit in the form of a sodden £10 note that I found this morning lying on the soil in the garden.

My right hand had been itching on a couple of occasions over Christmas and I must admit that, having scratched it on wood as directed, I was expecting a far larger windfall. Never mind it can go towards the Morgan's service in February!

This wretched weather just seems to continue unabated and it must be difficult for anyone from more temperate climes to appreciate just how frustrating winter in the UK can be. Another dark and dismal morning, as is usual at this time of year, prompted me to bring a bit of excitement and some more variety into my life by altering the habitual sequence of events in the bathroom.

Instead of showering, then brushing my teeth, shaving and spraying deoderant under my armpits, I shaved, brushed my teeth, showered and then finally, happy that I had at least made a move to ring the changes in my sad existence, sprayed under my armpits!

Could it be that these pitiful efforts to add variety to the morning ablutions were some sort of sign of prophetic significance, that prompted the fortuitous events that were to take place in the garden an hour later?

I think not, but I can tell all of those sun-kissed people who do not have to endure a British winter that it does tend to grind you down, when you can't get out in the Mog, go for a pleasant walk or get into the garden to tidy the place up ready for Spring....oh, that far off glorious Spring!

I'm not alone I know, this pent-up frustration is shared by most of the population of the country, working or otherwise. We spend most of our lives indoors especially during a dreary winter. No wonder we all suffer from a lack of vitamin D!

Anyway, the new book on the 4/4, by Michael Palmer, is keeping me occupied and a relief from all the aforementioned misery.

Think I'll just pop into the garden to see if any other odd £10 notes are lying about, thirty or thirty five should cover the cost of that service!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hogs Pudding revealed!

When I wrote my post about this wonderful Devonian delicacy, it was remiss of me not to include any photographs of it, since I had suggested, quite correctly I think, that many residents of that fair county did not know what it was, never mind the rest of the country.

My omission suddenly dawned on me as I was consuming some of my latest batch over breakfast a few days ago, so camera at the ready I took three shots of my breakfast favourite for the world to gloat over!

As I've said previously, please try it, but do beware of poor imitations that are more similar in both texture and taste to sausage than the real McCoy. Historically, it has been made locally by individual butchers to their own recipe, so the product could, and still does, differ dramatically, depending on where purchased. However, the sad fact is that many butchers nowadays are not making it anymore and it could disappear completely.

Like any other endangered species, there is a danger that it's savoury delights will be lost for future generations and that would be tragic.

My supplies are provided via mail order by my 'hogs pud chum', Andy Martin of Martins the Butcher, Chagford and Okehampton, Devon.

I believe it to be probably the best available......and no I am not working on commission or connected to Martins the Butcher!!!!!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

There will be no idyllic New Years Day drive for us, the weather is absolutely appalling. Heavy wintery showers and strong winds mean that yours truly will be getting his feet up in front of the fire and reading more of the new Morgan 4/4 book about its 75 year history.

I did have ideas about venturing out on a dry, crisp and sunny day and giving my wife an opportunity to test the ear muffs that she received as a Christmas present, but it was not to be, ah well!

Yesterday I tried to work out a discreet method of anchoring the fire extinguisher that we always carry loose on the rear shelf behind the front seats in the Morgan. Although I always ensure that it is wedged under the folded tonneau cover, I am also conscious of the fact that if we had to brake very sharply the prospect of having a fire extinguisher impacting with the back of one of our heads is not a happy one!!!

These are just the sort of things that trouble the minds of Morgan drivers as they toss and turn in their beds especially during the Christmas holiday period after imbibing vast quantities of various alcoholic beverages.

Anyway, the fact is that after purchasing a set of 'Velcro' straps from Halfords, that I thought might solve the problem but as yet haven't, and trying to think of other ideas that will not involve damaging the pristine nature of the car unnecessarily, I haven't yet resolved the issue.

We shall just have to wear crash helmets!