Thursday, 23 October 2014

Day Trip To London With The Curry Club 2014

A group of us from work regularly meet up for a curry and a pint and as this grew from once every couple of months to meeting up on a regular basis we some how came to be known as the "Curry Club".

Made up at the moment of 4 couples who enjoy a beer and a good laugh, we used to all work together but recently Richard went off to drive big rigs out of Southampton docks.

We had a simple plan, lets all go to London for the day and be complete tourists. There was another reason for our trip all together and that was to celebrate Richard and Kjersti's 17th wedding anniversary. Why they decided to celebrate with us lot is still a mystery!!

I have to confess that I have been into London countless times but the last time I was there as a tourist I was less than 10 years old!

Brilliantly organised by Robert, Richard and Kjersti and Marc, all we had to do was turn up on the day!

The train tickets were pre-booked, £32.00 included the return train trip and bus and tube whilst in London. Not a bad price at all.

Tickets were also pre booked for the "London Eye" and for a "River Cruise" on the Thames.

As with all our meet ups, unless your working the next day alcohol is involved. So as the train pulled out of New Milton station our first can of Blackthorn Cider was consumed at 0837hrs! Rock n Roll style!



The trip up was "merry" and at the next stop at Brockenhurst Marc and April joined us complete with bacon rolls! Brilliant!

We were on the fast train so with limited stops it took us no time to reach the "Big Smoke"

Once at Waterloo station it was just a 10 minute walk over to the "London Eye" For those who are not familiar with this, basically it is a massive and I do mean massive "Fair Ground Wheel" which was built to celebrate the year 2000 but it has been such a success that it has stayed!

I have not seen it in real life but was taken back by the sheer scale of the construction.


But before we left Waterloo a quick pee, as 4 cans of cider was working it's way through. Here I found to my dismay it costs 30p to have a pee, which takes the piss (excuse the pun) not only that but the old saying about "spending a penny" is well and truly out of date. That's inflation for you!

A quick inspection of the tickets found that we had time to kill and that the river cruise would be the first touristy thing to do.

So with half and hour to kill we had time to locate a pub and have a pint in the Slug and Lettuce.

People always say that London is expensive, food and drink especially. Well, all I can say is you need to spend some time in Lymington to know what expensive is all about! I found the drink to be cheaper in all the pubs we went into, and the food was equal on price. So no, London is not expensive unless you decided to eat in Langhams!


Roll call from left to right Myself - Kiera - Kjersti - April - Richard - Jenny - Rob
Marc was taking the picture

Queuing for the boat trip was quick, probably less than 10 mins but with a few pints on board it was rather immaterial!

A trip up and down the Thames was good, I had never done this before and it was great to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and loads of other famous landmarks from the water. Well worth it if you are ever in London.











Next was the "London Eye" as soon as we got off the boat it was a 30 second walk up the gang way and straight into the "Pod" on the "Eye".

Richard was not to good with heights but he coped well all things considering, we were lucky with the weather and had brilliant views of our fabulous Capital City!










Once we had landed it was a wander up and over the bridge to take a look at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.


And by this time we were due another pint - We found the Red Lion in Parliament Square and downed a quick pint!

From here we wandered down past the Cenotaph towards Trafalgar Square, where I was amazed to see a Big Blue Cock!


I'm not too sure what it is or why it is there, Trafalgar Square takes it's name from the Napoleonic battle of the same name in 1805 where Lord Nelson kicked France's arse rather convincingly. With the cockerel being an emblem of France it leaves me slightly confused!

Onwards and towards China Town! But a pit stop at Waxy's Little Sister for another pint or two kept us occupied whilst Rob, Jenny, Marc and April spent some time in the M and M Emporium.

From here a wander where we spotted this musical:-


Not too sure what that is all about at all!

From here we took a walk to the Tower of London to see the poppy display, a ceramic poppy planted for every soldier killed during World War 1. I have to admit that I was overcome with emotion, I could not speak and there was a tear in my eye.

Kiera asked me what upset me about it. My answer at the time was "I don't know" but thinking about it a number of things came to mind. Firstly the scale and number of poppies and what each one represents, secondly, the fact that like each and every one of those soldiers I also signed up to protect my Country and took the Oath of Allegiance which I still standby even today.

I wonder if I was around in 1914 would I have joined up? Now 100 years later would I be represented by a ceramic poppy?





After this I was in dire need of a pint, so a swift pint in the "Liberty Bound" where we all composed ourselves but not before having to find the public loo's and being charged 50p to take a leak! What on earth is all that about!? For that I was expecting someone to escort me in, warm the seat and wipe my arse!

Feeling refreshed and relieved we caught a Boris Bus, back into China Town. I liked the new bus, not like our bone shakers. It will be along time before we see anything like that down our way!

Back in China Town and with a massive choice of restaurants we finally found one that would seat all 8 of us on one table.

The food was excellent and once more I was pleasantly surprised by the cost of the meal. We have certainly paid more at home.

In fact the only thing annoying me about London so far was the Big Blue Cock and the cost of having a pee!

Finally we decided to head back to Waterloo, walking over the Jubilee bridge, the one where it wobbled when it was first opened. Here we stopped for a few more pictures.




We had been lucky with the weather, almost to the point of it being a bit to warm! The final walk back to Waterloo was hard work, we were all knackered!


A slow train home stopping at every station meant we got back around midnight!

A fantastic day was had by all, with feet aching and lots of laughs and memories stored away to remember for the future.

Till later........................

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Ground To A Temporary Halt!

The conservatory is now completely plastered and dried out, but not before the roof developed a leak, enough to form a puddle on the floor!

This was sorted the very next day, and now we are dry and water tight once more.

Blinds have been fitted to all the windows, with the final one being fitted later today. It was measured up wrongly and did not fit.

The thing that is stopping us at the moment unfortunately is me!

I had a minor operation to remove a mole, just 4 stitches required but right on my side and movement feels them pulling, so lifting and driving a bus for the next few days are completely out.

However, this has given me time to read and catch up on the many blogs that I have neglected to read over the last few months.

Autumn has arrived, the tree's are turning  wonderful colours and we have had some high winds the last few days.

We are hoping to have a night out in our VW camper on Friday night, hoping the rain stays off for the evening as we plan a trip locally just down to Hurst Spit.

A meeting on Thursday at work will reveal if I still have a job or not. Drastic council cuts will see bus routes going or changing, redundancies are expected. So we will see what the outcome is soon enough. Fingers crossed I keep my job.

It is not brilliant, but I would rather find another job whilst having one than be under pressure to find one with no income coming in.

Talking with others, we feel that being as short staffed as we are at present (5 down) and with at least another 4 or 5 to retire the beginning of next year we may be lucky!

Last weekend saw us take a trip up to London for a day of sight seeing and fun with friends from work. I will write a separate blog post for this as there are loads of pictures.

So, till later..................................

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Conservatory Build Update

It has taken a while for us to get to this stage, but we finally have a conservatory that we can use!

It's not finished, we still have the walls to paint, the floor to lay and a radiator to be installed.

The delay was down to the manufacturing of the various roof components and glass. Once this was ready to be fitted it took just two days to be installed.

I was watching the guys install the glass roof panels and was amazed at how much flex there was in the glass!


Once the roof elements and glass had been completed it was time for old "Vic" to come back and finish off.





Plastering was required, along with the final top screed flooring and the finishing off of the cat flap.

The electricians had also made an appearance and installed a couple of plug sockets for us.



It is a lot taller than we had thought it was going to be which is great, it certainly gives us plenty of much needed extra space.

We currently have a small table and 4 chairs which will do for now till we find what we are looking for, but we have all ready bought a 2 seater pine pew.

Where we removed the windows, the largest opening will be shelved with glass which will let light in but will also make good use of the space.


Once the plaster is dry the walls will be painted white and that will be another room completed.

We will then be moving onto the kitchen and lounge. The lounge only requires flooring, which we have decided will be the same from lounge through the kitchen and into the conservatory.

The kitchen is getting a make over with new tiles, along with a new kitchen work top of oak and a porcelain sink to replace the mankey grey stainless steel one.

With just the down stairs loo and hall to paint that will be the downstairs completed!

Slowly but surely we are getting there.

Till later...............

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Summer 2014 Still Going Strong!

This weekend I find myself home alone!

Kiera has gone off with the girls for a boozy weekend in Glasgow, the kids are at their Grandparents which means only one thing.

In the words of William Wallace "Freeeeeeeeedommmmmmmmm"!!!!!!!!

Only kidding!

But with the weekend off myself, I thought that I should make the most of it and head off out on my trusty Honda C90 aka "Lucille".

I was unsure where to go with a loose plan of watching the sunrise out at Calshot spit, but a last minute change of mind had me booking a ferry ticket to the Isle of Wight.

It has been many years since I was last over, and that was on business so no time for sight seeing then.

For a full report please visit my other blog at www.fatbloketravels.blogspot.com but a couple of pictures for you to wet your appetite.




To be honest the best part of the island is the South West Corner, with spectacular views and a rugged coast line. I also spotted numerous camp sites and some great spots to wild camp in the VW.

However, the ferry is not cheap, £34 return for me and the bike! £70 plus for a car!

A great day out was had, and when I got home a quick shower and then off out in the VW as I had pre bought all the ingredients to make a wickedly hot chilli.

Off down to Keyhaven Marshes and I cooked myself a fine tea. I had contemplated staying there the night, but decided against it in the end and headed home. I was shattered.



Till later......................

Owning A Vehicle That's A Bit Different!

Between us we own a number of vehicles.

1. Mitsubishi Pajero
2. Hyundai Santa Fe
3. Austin Mini
4. VW T25 Camper
5. Honda C90

Now, the first two really do not have any kind of status, all though there is a Pajero club scene, all though a bit of a small one.

However, driving around in either the Mini or the T25 as soon as you pass another it's all waves and big smiles!

I found this with the Honda C90 as well.

Parking up in our T25 tends to always get admiring glances or in a lot of cases folk coming over and starting up conversations with you.

It really is fun owning classic/iconic vehicles.

But with this comes the cost of up keep. Last week we required a new fuel pump for the Mini. The VW though sound, does need a bit of body work doing to it. Engine wise I think she is good but a full service is on the cards soon. More money.

But you gain so much more joy out of these vehicles. Driving around in a square box which looks similar to all the other square boxes has no appeal for me.

Which brings me onto the fact that with two 4x4's in the stable and not a caravan in site something really has to go.

I'm afraid to say the Pajero is or rather will be, once I have emptied it up for sale.

She has served me well and runs brilliantly. So the full spec is as follows:-

Mitsibushi Pajero 2.8 Long Wheel Base. A full 7 seater with cloth interior. The 4wd system all works and she is a dream to drive.

Tow bar obviously with twin electrics. Great for towing, you often have to remind yourself there is a caravan on the back!

She has the winter pack which includes full insulation in all door/body panels, heated front screen so no scraping of ice in the mornings and a diesel pre heater.

A bit of a long shot but if anyone is interested email me at joolsmauro@gmail.com for further information.

Till later......


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cadac Carri Chef 2 BBQ Skottel Combo Latest Review 2014

I've said it before and I will say it again, the Cadac is an amazing bit of kit and with the new upgraded version even better.

For those of you new to this a Cadac is essentially a gas BBQ with an assortment of pans.



I used one when I was full timing, cooking everything from roast chicken/lamb/pork/beef etc to a curry! As well as your more traditional general BBQ type food. I really don't think there is much you could not cook on a Cadac! 



In the above picture I am using the pan stand and a large flat pan bought from IKEA for less than £15.00

We also bought with this one a Pizza Stone, which slots into the top and that worked well, in fact it was rather rapid! With it up to full temperature of almost 200 degree's it cooked the pizza to perfection in just 5 mins!


A number of things were different on the new Cadac. Firstly there is now a temperature gauge in the lid, a handy addition.


The way that the pans sit in the base has also been modified and works a lot better now. The lid handle has been changed and a new starting switch and gas flow knob has been redesigned.

However with this version the griddle pan is different. My old griddle was reversible, griddle one side and a flat pan the other. This one only has a griddle on one side. It is non reversible. I guess the people at Cadac thought why sell one pan when we could split them up and sell two and make double the money!?.

So far I have only cooked a Pizza, breakfast and BBQ food. But I can say it cooked it all really well. Roast next!

If you are in the market for one of these then I strongly urge you to get one. It packs up small enough to lug about in it's very own carry bag and not only can you use it in your camper/caravan but when your home it is big enough to use in your garden. So save your money and get one of these that can do the lot!

There is a smaller table top version available. Personally I haven't tried it, it just looks a bit too small for my steaks, but it has it's place if space is an issue.


The only other thing I noticed different on this one was the cover. My old one had a sewn in handle on the top. All you had to do was pull on the handle and off it came. The new one doesn't have one. This may sound like nit picking, but the handle was handy for hooking over your jockey wheel winder or anything else to hand to stop it blowing away!

But all in all, very pleased with it. You simply cannot go wrong with one and if you are it's because your probably doing something wrong!

Till later..................

Camping Test Run In Our VW T25 aka "Duckie"

This was a full blown test run with full camping gear which included the drive away awning, the Cadac the fold up tables and the LED light to name just a few things.

We were all packed and ready to go, we just had to collect the kids from school and load the food we were taking into cool bags/boxes.

I had a 12v cool box which we plugged in for the trip. We filled the fridge to the brim and placed a frozen blue ice block in the ice tray, and a couple of cool bags.

The VW fridge runs off either the 12v supply or gas. Running if off the 12v supply will drain the battery sharpish and running it off the gas eats up the gas, so to be totally honest after leaving in the blue ice pack and opening the fridge door as little as possible we did nothing with it. It kept everything cool, which for just a couple of days is fine.

We had booked 2 nights at Freshwater Beach Caravan Park near Burton Bradstock, as I said in a previous post, not my normal type of camp site, but for the kids it was perfect.

Reception was still open when we arrived as it only took us and hour and a half to get to the site. We were issued with and information pack and pitching instructions and a map of the site.



As you can see we had a good view over the rest of the site, I would say approx only 1/12th full. I was rather glad of having a corner pitch, only having neighbours on one side.

Setting up on the site was fairly easy, it wasn't level so I am glad we had invested in the levelling ramps! I did see a motor home with a massive set of ramps which I rather liked the look of but finding somewhere to store them may be an issue!


So once level, we pulled out the awning and got to work putting it up. It could not of been simpler! Two large poles which slot through from corner to corner, peg out the base and hey presto, the awning is up!

Now the tricky bit of connecting it to the awning. Well it could of been, and probably would not of worked as well as it did if we had done it correctly.

The problem being that it clips onto the roof rail on the VW. However when the van was resprayed the rail appears to be clogged up and solid with some kind filler?! So attaching the clips proved impossible.

We were aware of this as the previous owner had told us about it and they said they used bungy ropes to attach it. We inserted the pole that goes along the entrance to the awning and with a couple of bungy ropes over the roof of the VW and down to clip on the wheels we attached it to the van.

Now in doing this it did a number of things. Firstly this whole section became taught and attached much better to the van, but the best thing was that it lifted the entrance up higher. If we had attached it to the van rail it would of just of been above the sliding door entrance. With it being lifted higher it was a good 30 to 40cm above which meant getting in and out of the side door so much easier.

So all in all it worked a treat. The awning had a sewn in ground sheet and three doors, however we only used the one. Both us us were very pleased with not only the ease of erecting the awning but the size of it and it's use ability.

Not tested in wind or rain, but have no complaints so far about it.





Next was the Cadac, what can I say that I haven't said a million times before - brilliant! The new model, considerably improved over my last one worked as it should. I will write a complete post on it as I really do think it deserves to be covered in a little bit more detail.


The folding tables also worked well, all though the large one was a little tricky to put together and you had to be careful when moving it around as it tended to come apart!

The site had direct access to the beach, I'm sure that I have written about Chesil Beach before, but if I haven't then it's worth taking a look at. It stretches for 18 miles and it has been said that in the old days, the smugglers would land on the beach and new exactly where they were by the size of the shingle as the further from Portland you get the smaller the stones get. I have also heard this story about Mackerel fisherman landing.


Now the site itself was spotlessly clean and the loo's and toilets were tip top. Some of the shower cubicles were massive and included within it a sink and loo which is great if you have young kids. The water was hot and plentiful as well. So they deserve a pat on the back for getting that right.

However, two things left me rather puzzled. Firstly, no recycling at all. The only bins were the big industrial ones where everything went into. You would of thought they would of had general, glass, cardboard and plastic ones?

And the one thing that does annoy me no end, chargeable WiFi !!!! In this day and age you should not be charged for internet access. Certainly not £4.00 a day! Not only that but you were limited on data usage as well! Rip off.

All in all a good weekend away, all the kit was used and it all worked extremely well.

On our way back we stopped for ice cream near Corfe Castle over looking Poole bay, then we headed home via Studland ferry. A bit of a wait to catch the ferry, but nothing too long.




So where next??

Till later.........................