Thursday, September 27, 2007

Games we play

Gman and I have finally found a game that has hooked us and we play a couple of games a few times a week now. The Dutch guys in France this summer bought it for us as a gift because they spent so many evenings with us drinking Gmans beer.
We seem to be quite evenly matched so Gman has a good chance of winning. We wait until the kids are bedded down for the night and peace reigns......then we peel back the table cloth and away we go.......

There are other games we play that he has absolutely no chance of winning such as Canasta or Scrabble, and we do play these on holiday too, but more often we play something that everyone has an even chance of winning such as this version of dominoes. My brother introduced us to this when we were over in Canada. Gadgetgirlie prefers this card game and Gteen just prefers gambling since he was bought this game last Christmas.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Monday Rendezvous

Having written this last week I am delighted to report that my Monday evenings will be spent studying French.

Phone calls to last years students attracted one, and another came in to class last night.

Fantastic....It does mean though that because we are only 9, we lose half an hour a week of class time. No doubt Catherine, our teacher, will make it up in homework for us.

That reminds me, best I go off and get on with what she set us last night!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend by the river

We were so lucky with the weather this weekend so had a fab time camping at Hurley Riverside Park.

with friends from the British expats forum who are also in the process of emigrating to Canada.

The Thames

Gadgetgirlie looking her best

My son and I

.......And Gadgeteen having a go on the Trike.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

All loved up!

Gadgeteen's girlie is here today and Gadgeteen has an ear to ear grin. I think he is besotted. I must say that he's been much nicer to be around since he's met her, more co-operative and helpful even, and is even doing his homework too.

She lives a couple of miles away so Gteen can cycle over as well as catch the bus and they seem to find the time to spend an hour or so together most days. How sweet they are together......

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Today is the day that we finally get plastered. Our mate Bob has kindly come round after work to put a couple of layers on the landing ceiling. This is a job that has been outstanding for the last 3+ years and means that we can then get on and decorate the hall, stairs and landing. One step closer to finishing the house. No doubt we will have to paint again before we sell when we get our Canadian visas, (when as opposed to if, I say), especially as the kitchen and dining area are lime green and yellow.

Incidentally, I don't think that I mentioned that before we went away for our French holiday, we received our AOR, (which is acknowledgement of receipt), on 1st August and that indicated a 42-48 month wait before our application will start to be processed/looked at. An incredibly long wait isn't it? Just goes to show how many applications are made each year, but as I mentioned before, the CHC in London only issue 16,000 visas each year and between 32-48,000 apply!

Since our return I have received my pension forecast and discovered that I have to work until 25th August 2011, so another nearly 4 years. Hopefully this should all fall together nicely, but an increase in the points requirement would put a spanner in the works wouldn't it! We can but carry on with living our lives and see what happens.....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What! No French?

I am on tenderhooks now for the rest of the week. Last night I went to my first French class of the year, a GCSE course this year. I wondered as I sat down and looked around, I wondered whether there would be sufficient numbers for the course to run. Only 5 of us were there, then another, and after we had started another came in so we were 7 and the course needs 10.

A woman came in and told us that the first class would run, but that we would be contacted by the end of the week about whether the course would continue.

I really want this class to continue because I want to get to the stage where I can help us get some more points on our Canadian application and I need at least an 'A' level for that.

By the end of the evening we had decided to contact last years students to see if any more of them wanted to continue, and if not then we can work privately with our teacher in a group that visits a different one of our homes each week so that we can sill do the year.

So I wait anxiously and hope for the easy option, Anyone want to join us? We only need 3 more!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Soggy Moggy Rally

Early on last week a friend rang, saying, ' I've got those tickets you wanted.' 'Tickets? What tickets,' said Gman. ' The ones for the Soggy Moggy Rally that we discussed months ago, and it's this weekend,' came the reply.

Gman managed to get home extra early and had packed the trailer for the weekend away so straight after work and school on Friday, off we rode up to the Wood Green Animal Sanctuary near Huntington in Cambridgeshire. Took 3 hours and it was dark o'clock by the time we arrived. The field was packed with bikes, trikes, and tents of all shapes and sizes and live music filtered across the field from the beer marquee.

We managed to find ourselves a space and it was a case of all hands to the tent to get everything sorted so that we could go off to the beer marquee and find some friends. The band playing was 'Camouflage' with an extremely entertaining lead singer by the name of 'Big Al'. He really understands a biker crowd and knows how to play his audience well. What a laugh he is. It's funny to me that off stage he is actually quite a shy and unassuming bloke in his forties. He often sings one night and then the band stay on for the second night to party with the biker crowd. He even joined in the 'silly games' on Saturday. We last saw him at 'The Over the Edge Rally' on The Isle of Wight in May.

Gadgetgirlie and I retired early, well at just before midnight actually and left the boys to it. What a cold night though, and I didn't dare move cos I would find the cold bits. Oh and it was awful to need a wee in the middle of the night too!

Saturday morning was beautiful, just how we would have liked every morning to be during our summer holiday. This was our set up, we decided to use our old tent because it's so much easier to put up, just has a much smaller inside sitting area. Gman cooked us all a fab breakfast of sausages, eggs and bacon, with bread and butter on the side. No good for the waist-line but perfect for a bike rally.

Later on we visited the animal sanctuary, It was so sad to see all those dogs without homes. Seeing the cats was fine cos they are far more self-sufficient but the dogs looked out at us so hopefully, with big pleading eyes that seemed to say 'I'm the one you've been looking for, pick me, you know you want to'. It was sad to read of how some of them came to be there too, you know, older dogs out-living their owners and no longer having a home, marital splits, abuse and neglect, dogs not getting on with other pets in the family, or not fitting in with children. We had a look around the small animals section too and Gteen tried to persuade us that we needed an intelligent rodent in the house. We left empty handed.

We strolled back down the path through the woods to the rally site just in time for the silly games, the best we've seen.

First there was 'Moped Mayhem', basically moped racing around a figure of eight course with occasional crashes in the middle.

Then there were the 'sack races', with a difference though because as you can see 4 fitted in each builders 'yard' sack. Co-ordination was essential but usually lacking with hilarious results of all 4 toppling over and struggling to take one single jump forward in some cases.

Gman then took part in the 'Sledging races'. Once again they are slightly not what you would imagine. In this case both bikes or trikes would start on opposite sides of a round course and when the whistle goes the winner is the first one to catch up with the sledge rider being towed in front. Such a laugh to watch because often the rider would fall out of the sledge and the bike/trike rider would be totally unaware and carry on. We would all shout at him and the sledge rider would have to try and chase the bike, get back in and move off before the other bike drew level.

Then there was the punting, much more serious to watch as each team struggled to load each roller from the aft end of the punt to the front to keep the punt rolling forward.

Next was the 'beer bundle'. I heard this being called out on the speakers as we talked and walked around the stalls selling biker related clothing and bits & pieces. -'Only the first 10 bikes into the arena will be entered for the beer bundle,' I heard. I pushed Gman in the direction of his trike and told him to get on out there. He got into the arena as one of the 10 and his mate Phil then joined him as his runner. The idea of this game was that hidden amongst a pile of hay in the middle were 9 cans of beer, The bikes and trikes rode around in a big circle and when a whistle was blown each runner threw him/herself into the hay to find the beer. so a bit like musical chairs except that in each round someone was not going to find a can of beer and was 'out'.

Last of all was 'The Noisy gits' - a decibel test of the noisiest bike when the engine was revved. Again it was a race for the first 15 into the arena, but only those who thought they had a loud machine would bother. the loudest at full revs was 121. Didn't seem that loud really. Oh and in 1997 the legal limit was set at 80 decibels! Not sure if there has been a change since then though.

Then it was time to deal with all the Rally virgins...I have never before seen so many willing volunteers, usually 4-5 are coerced into taking part...but look at this lot....

Most discarded their shoes and accessories like watches and leather waistcoats, and one woman even donned a bath cap!

This years theme was 'Breakfast' apparently, which means that in all those buckets and bottles are all the edibles found at a breakfast table somewhere. There was a bucket of 'chocolate and croissants', another of 'fish savoury rice', (though I'm not sure who has that for breakfast), raw eggs, flour, tinned tomatoes, baked beans, cold tea and coffee and some other stuff that I can't recall now but equally yukky.

......And this is what they looked like at the end.....and there was only one shower in the mens toilets and one in the ladies. What a mad race there was at the end, some were chasing the club members who doused them, trying to give out free grubby and wet hugs, and others were chasing after friends who 'volunteered' them and the rest were racing for the showers!

Gteen is now allowed to have a go on the trike whilst on site. He is so pleased as punch and proud that he is old enough to be trusted, and is getting the hang of it really well, mind you... he does have experience of riding a motor bike so has a good idea of what to do. He was smooth and calm and handled the trike really well. I was more nervous than he was I reckon.....

The request by the sanctuary of all of us was that we come to the rally with a tin, or some kind of food for dogs or cats. This was the 3rd trailer on it's way to fulldom. I'm sure that the sanctuary staff are more than happy to see us bikers there for a rally if we can produce so much food to help towards the care of all the animals that the sanctuary take in.

During the second evening in the Marquee we saw more silliness in the form of 5 club members doing a 'Full monty' strip to music for the girls, and 4 female volunteers painting each others boobies with a smiley face with a prize for the winner.

I'd forgotten how noisy the rally campsites are at night, after camping in France for 3 weeks in complete peace. The second night was warmer but neighbours partied late and a couple of revellers nearby ended up having a barney resulting in a few choice 'f' words and someone storming off somewhere.

I'll finish here with a photo in particular for Meredic, who complains that there aren't many of me but plenty of the others..... I'll call this one.................. 'Around Robin', since that's what I am at the moment! Not a particularly flattering photo but obviously untouched and real.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rivers and/of Sunshine

We're back from our hols now and our photos are uploaded and in my Flickr account in the side bar for anyone who is interested.

I gather that we had as much rain over in Brittany as most of England did for the time we were away. The first 4-5 days were hot and sunny enough for us to only want to be on the beach for a few hours during the afternoon. We played in the waves and laid in the sun and enjoyed the warmth. Then the rain set in, each day we would hear that it may improve the next, and each day we woke up to overcast skies and strong winds, and often, lots of the wet stuff.

Of course this meant that we couldn't go out on the Trike, so we played lots of games and read alot, (7 books by me). We had Mexican dominoes, Scrabble, Uno, Rummikub, Canasta, and towards the end of the holiday the Dutch lads bought us Triominoes too. The kids were happy because they had friends to hang around in tents with, and at times, several of them joined us in games.

One day we headed off to St. Cast de Guildo, about 20k's away, and sat in a beachside cafe for a while. When we returned to the Trike we discovered that the 2 K & N filters on the carburetors had been stolen. Someone had come along in broad daylight and armed with a screw driver and just unscrewed the hose clamps and gone off with them. We knew that there was no point in going to the Gendameries because they would take one look at the Trike and have no sympathy because Trikes are illegal in France, though we are legal as visitors. So off we headed back to the tent. Gman has a French friend on site who has a 4x4, and after explaining what had happened he took Gman off to find some replacements.

Another day it poured with rain and during the morning Gadgetman and Gadgeteen decided to catch the bus into a nearby town for the afternoon. Near enough as soon as they were off the rain came down harder and harder and before long, a lake gradually appeared in a dip next to the 'party tent'. It got to the point where I was bailing out the lake to try to prevent flooding the area under the party tent because next would be our tent. Friends from surrounding tents and caravans came and helped with buckets, saucepans and dustpans for scooping and the rain stopped for a while. We thought we were winning when we reduced the lake down to a puddle and all my helpers retreated back to the comfort of their tents to dry off.

Then the rain came down again, and not just sprinkling down but absolutely pouring down and there was nothing that I could do to prevent the lake growing and growing until the whole area under the party tent was a lake too. Gteens shoes and football started floating around. Gadgetgirlie called me from inside the tent and when I opened the tent flap and poked my head through, my heart sank. There were rivulets of water worming their way all across the floor over the green floor covering. Everything on the floor was wet, including the electrical things. I got Ggirlie and her friend out and Roget, a neighbour turned the electricity off for me. It was so difficult to communicate because the rain was coming down onto the roof of the tent so hard that we had to shout.
Roget and his wife are on site every year and always have 2 caravans with a porch each, so that their grown up kids can visit during the summer. The second one was empty now, so Roget and Ann-marie offered the use of it to put all the belongings from the floor of our tent, oh, how grateful I was. Our individual sleeping spaces were fine because they are in separate compartments but everything on the floor had to go into the porch of the caravan. It also enabled the 'river', as I called it, to flow through the tent unimpeded too. (This is where I am reminded of the film - 'A river runs through it'). The dutch lads gave a helping hand and ran back and forth carrying our stuff for me, they were so speedy and in no time at all the base of our tent was flowing freely!

Some of the electrical items got a good soaking, like the ice boxes, (2), and phone and battery chargers. This is one of the downsides of being a Gadget family, there is just so much stuff to get wet and so much stuff to move! I am not a natural Gadget person, so find some of what we take so unnecessary but Gman makes sure that we use it so I stay shtum as much as I can.

Gman and Gteen were gobsmacked when they returned later on, said that it had hardly rained where they were. We decided that moving the tent to a place where there was no chance of a lake would be a good idea......

Many of the campers in our area were familiar faces and many were friends, Jeremy, who we met the first year we visited was absent, but he rang us a couple of times from Greece. This is the first year that he hasn't come and I reckon that he was suffering from withdrawal symptons over there on a beach in the sun. His brother Leonard was in our camping area though, with Inge, his wife, and daughter Manouk. Dick and Leni are regulars too, and later on Nico & Jackie and their son Maarten and Wendy with their 2 kids came too. Last year we met Gills & Marie-Lawrence and her associated large family. Gills has a Harley Davidson too and belongs to a club in Paris. He and Gman got on really well and fortunately Gil also speaks some English. We met up with Dirk, a 38 yr old German (who doesn't really speak any English), that we met last year too. This year though he is in love. He has met and fallen head-over-heels in love with Isabelle, who is French, a 41 yr old mother of 4, and lives locally. She doesn't speak any German either, and neither does Dirk speak any French, but they manage. They spent every day of his 5 weeks holiday together, and during the last week he packed up his tent and moved in with her. They popped back for evening visits a couple of times and looked just so happy together.

I spoke French at every opportunity which was every day really. Roget and Ann-Marie don't speak any English, and each year they have noticed that I spend more and more time chatting with them. We socialised with the usual French crowd too, the crowd of about 30+ caravans that all seem to be related or know each other. They are from Angers, so not far really.

We met up with Patrick & Ingrid for a BBQ in night. He used to be the baker and owner of the Boulangerie in the local village. This year he has sold up as a result of the break up of his marriage, and with Ingrid, his girlfriend, has bought another boulangerie a 2 hour drive away. They returned to see her mother, Claudie, who we had popped in to see during our first week.

We started socialising with Melchure and his family this year too. We have seen him and his dad every year since 2001 but they seemed to go off and do their own thing every day and we just didn't get the opportunity to meet and spend time with them. His dad, Pierre plays a mean fiddle and often would practice in the evening outside his tent. This year Melchure is 17, and more out going as a result. I find out that his parents are not together but that every year his mother rents a Gite nearby where she stays with his half-sister. Nicole is a teacher of Philosophy and quite wacky and quirky, and his half-sister, Megali is studying linguistics and although petite, plays rugby. During the days of all the rain we spent a couple of visits with them in the Gite, watching a rugby friendly between France and England, and sharing a roast chicken dinner.

Gman took loads of campers off for rides on the Trike up to the Lighthouse a couple of miles away and is on youtube now. You can check this out for fun.

Well, another summer is over, my first spent without smoking! Yep, managed to keep going with the no smoking but found that I ate more instead. Pain aux chocolates and croissants every day! We had a few meals out too, for us to be satisfied we had to have Moulles & Frites, Gallettes and crepes, and a visit to our favourite pizza place hidden away in Sable D'or des Pins only found by those in the know. We had a couple of visits to the cheapy shops too, and I found a lovely sweet wine so came back with a couple of cases.

Our camping is not over for the year though, we're off to somewhere in Cambridgeshire next weekend for a bike rally, bare essentials this time though, no Gadgets......