Category Archives: Waste Disposal

Another day, another car park


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.



There are patterns in any life that have a predictability to them, a sense of normal consequence, an inevitability. Take, for example, the look on people’s faces when I tell them that, for a significant part of my time, I travel around Europe in a large, American, RV. I have always interpreted it as a mixture of surprise and excitement, with a genuine delight for me that is sometimes tinged with happy envy.

But I’ve been living this life for a while now, and I wonder if I am mistaken: perhaps that look actually means, ‘Shit, you’ve no idea what you’ve let yourself in for, have you, girly? Rather you than me’.

They might not be wrong – allow me to elaborate on some misconceptions I once foolishly had.

We can go anywhere we want.

Er, no. Not in our particular van, Georgie.

Can’t go down narrow roads, under low bridges, or over 6 ton limit ones. Can’t go into large towns with complicated one-way systems, or through tiny villages with chicanes at either end.

Can’t do really sharp corners in less than a 15-point turn, or go up very steep hills at any speed greater than 8 miles an hour. When we do, we worry all the time that Georgie’s not going to make it, and that we’ll have to attempt that 15-point turn, on a mountain road, with a sheer drop to one side.

Can’t park on sharp inclines because our levellers can only redress this a certain amount, and if it’s too far out of whack, we can’t open the slide-out without the risk of Georgie tipping over onto her side. Plus, the bath won’t drain, and the water pump keeps freaking out because all the water in the tank has gone to the other side. And how does a water pump freak out? Well, it sort of screams.

Also, can’t park on grass if it’s likely to rain because… this.


We can just camp where we like.

Again, no, not if we want any services. Like a laundry or wifi.

I recently watched a film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland: they played an elderly couple who just took off in their old camper van. One morning, Donald’s character (who was ill) wet the bed, and Helen promptly stripped the bed to wash the sheets. Then they drove off along the highway, and I spent the rest of the film wondering where the hell she’d hung that sheet to dry. Seriously, where? It never appeared again and, can I just say, her sink was the size of a walnut.

As for wifi…

Before we left England we were under there impression that McDonalds always had wifi. To which, yes they do, but its speed is slow to impossible, and it is also restricted, so that I can never get to this blog, for example. So when we are a bit off-grid, most of our time is spent wifi hunting, which, in many ways, is the safari of the 21st century.

We went to Menton, a perfectly gorgeous little town in the south of France, just near the border into Italy. An artist friend of ours has been going there for years and his descriptions of it are utterly enchanting. I pictured myself wandering along the sun-speckled promenade, before stopping at a delightful little bistro and being served croissants and coffee by a super-slim, dark-eyed, waitress.

But in reality? Yes, it was very pretty, and yes, we raced down the promenade, but mostly we needed to go online in order to pay our bills and check our bank balance.

After much dithering about we found a cafe that advertised wifi – but, frankly, that was just boasting. In two hours I only managed to upload three pictures onto my already-written-in-Word blog, and I was close to kidney failure from all the coffee. The super-slim waitress had become super-surly, and my legs had fallen asleep.

We can leave behind all the responsibilities of a house.

If you want to know about ‘responsibilities’, just try taking a week’s worth of wee with you, everywhere you go. After Menton, we tried to find an Aire that had the right facilities, because our waste was nearly at critical mass, and we were running off to the public bogs every chance we could in order not to cause overflow. Our water had run out, too, so we were making do with a bucket and cup to hand-flush the loo at night, and a couple of bottles of bought water for drinking.

And then Clumsy Week happened. You all know about Clumsy Week, right? Those days when everything you touch breaks, snaps, fuses, or is smashed? Just imagine when that happens in a van, with limited tools, or space to store spares.

Imagine, also, that you are probably some distance from the shop or the repair person that is needed to solve the problem (if you even have a clue as to what shop that is, of course, because you are somewhere foreign and remote, and DIY is not universal). Trying to explain to the only person you can find with even a smattering of English, in the unpronounceable village miles from nowhere that you’ve fetched up in, that you just need to buy a small rubbery thingy, with a hole in it, about so big, or possibly a sort-of gromity whatsit, is nowhere near as easy as it sounds.

On Clumsy Week I basically broke everything, including our door handle, roller blinds, glassware and taps just by looking at them, I swear. Our normally functioning leisure batteries decided to go on strike, and however many times Steve re-did the wiring, nothing happened. When he climbed onto the roof to check the solar panels, the ladder broke away from the back of the van.

Ergo, we had no lights, and the fridge and freezer had to be turned off. I located a box of candles I’d intended to use for mood-lighting rather than emergencies, but they’d been stored too near a heating duct, and they’d all melted together to form one, long, wobbly candle, with several night-lights and a glass holder sticking out the side.

We couldn’t turn on the heating because the fan wouldn’t work without electricity, and our generator is too noisy for built-up areas. Plus, and God knows why, our steps suddenly decided not to retract, so we couldn’t move anywhere anyway.

We will see places we never knew existed.

Well now, this one is true, as long as we’re talking car parks. Georgie’s too big for supermarkets, but Chinese Shops don’t seem to mind us. Motorway Truck Stops are usually free when abroad, and a much better place to stay now that we’ve learned to park as far from the refrigerated trucks as possible (they literally chunder all night long).

But we were still having the same trouble with Georgie breaking down all the time that had been plaguing us since taking on fuel in Albania. Some of our desperation for wifi was so that Steve could find out what was wrong. Research suggested we needed to source the right fuel filter. This entailed locating mechanics who worked on diesel trucks, and hoping that our Chevy engine wouldn’t confuse them too much.

So the Renault truck garage forecourt at Beaune was home for a little while (no picture, it’s too depressing), as was the Scania truck version at Montelimar (where we were locked in at night). My daily view was now of burly, grease-stained, middle-aged men, with sloppy trousers and butt-cracks (FYI the Czechs call these coin boxes – isn’t that brilliant?) using noisy tools and glaring at me a lot. Ah, the romance.

It will be wonderful to drive along without a care in the world.

Until the sodding Mistral gets you. Again.

The Mo Farrah of the wind world, it rips up through France looking for old RV’s to scare the bejesus out of. Apart from the alarming rocking from side to side along roads that favour ditches over hedges, there is the awning that flaps itself into unrolling and tearing, and the outside lockers that burst open, ready to spill all your shit under other trucks tyres. If I weren’t driving behind in Nibbles, I dread to think how much damage would be done, and how much stuff left littered across Provence.

It will be an adventure.

Well, this just makes me snort tea out of my nose.

So why do I do it?

Why do I travel around knowing that Another day, another car park is a pretty adequate description of my life?

Because even though most Aires and Sostas do turn out to be the corner of a car park, this is often better than it actually sounds. Okay, it’s not the romantic view down a vine-covered Italian slope that I once envisaged, but it can often be quite near a beach or other local landmark.

The following were all in the space of a week or so. This one, at Coucy-le-Chateau-Auffrique, had a nice ruin on a hill to gaze at (ooh look, there’s Nibbles, my Smart car)…


…and this one overlooked a river.


Here we had an interesting view of some troglodyte houses…


…and this was in the car park of a vineyard and wine warehouse. With free wine tasting. Nom nom.


And where else but in a car park would we have met Bid and Ger, the Irish couple just starting out on their year’s journey, and who write the Facebook blog, Pilatesinavan? Super nice.

Or see the trucker obsessed with Joan of Arc?

Or have the wonderful opportunity to understand, to really understand that it is not where you are, or even where you are going that matters: it is how you travel.

And – if you are lucky enough – who you are travelling with (like a man who’ll wear this hat because his granddaughter wanted him to). IMG_8745

NEXT TIME: The story of the postman and the stumbling block. Thanks for reading, and ciao xxxx


The best driver in the world


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.



It’s me. I’m the best driver in the world. Or I was, for at least one day.

It all began quite normally: Steve and I set off to drive back up from Greece to Croatia, crossing Albania and Montenegro on the way. Travellers be warned: I have found the original road that is paved with good intentions, and it is the A5 north out of Patras. It is advertised as having plenty of service stations, but they are actually all still in construction. Ergo, the look of panic on most of the motorists’ faces, as their fuel dials drop precipitously low, is so common here it counts as local colour.

The first place you can get off the motorway and fuel up is at Amfilochia, a little town on the shores of a sheltered inlet. They say that all journeys begin with a single step, but ours frequently seem to start with a handy restaurant, a table of locals taking us under their wing, and some lovely old drunk bloke giving Steve a hug.


This chap was the husband of a friend of Costas’ mother (stay with me here), and all four of them adopted us when we stopped at Amfilochia and went to find somewhere to eat. Costas is an interior designer of the calibre that is required in super-swanky hotels all around the world.

Being a nice Greek boy, he takes his mum on trips all around the world too. He showed me pictures of the two of them everywhere from Bali, to Dubai, to Graceland. The drunk fella chatted away to us quite happily, regardless of the fact that we couldn’t understand each other, and bought us another jug of wine. The mum and her friend just smiled and nodded and laughed. Good times.


Now, I’d had a problem with my windscreen wipers, but Steve had bought me a new one, so that was sorted. And we’d also discovered that my heating had stopped working on the drive up. Steve reckoned it needed a new heat sensor, so we kept our eyes open for a likely place to get a new one, fuelled up, and headed off up to Albania.

Albania. A place that even Google Translate can’t cope with: when we stopped at a café it told me I was eating ‘connection specs’.

At this point I’d like to say that I’m sure the coastline is beautiful (we didn’t see it), and I’m sure it has lovely cities (again, didn’t go near them), and that the people are as nice as it’s possible to be (didn’t actually meet any).

But we drove straight up the middle, in winter, in the pouring rain. And it was even more of a grim and unrewarding experience than the first time, because it was daylight, and I could see more.

For a start, they have a significant rubbish problem, as two-fifths of the country’s waste is never collected. And because the land alongside the rivers is free, that is where two-fifths of the population go to get rid of it.

We saw them doing it as we drove through, just parking up and lobbing bags of the stuff into the river. Recent flooding had scattered it all, so that the land was covered for about twenty metres on each side, and the trees and bushes that bordered it were totally festooned with plastic. I’ve never seen anything like it.

(I couldn’t stop to take a pic so I’ve borrowed one from another site. It gives you a slight idea of what it was like, just imagine it on a much bigger scale.)


And I have to mention the potholes. Because you know those holes so deep that Chinamen pop out of them in American cartoons? They were that sort, but full of rain (I’m sure I mentioned the eternal sodding rain), so you couldn’t see how bad they were until after you’d lurched to one side with a sickening crunch of your tyres. I spent the whole day apologising to my own car.

And then, of course, there were the drivers themselves, who like to overtake you on single carriageway roads – on both sides at the same time! – horns blaring, and never indicating or using their lights, even (or especially) at night.

In towns, it is just a big free-for-all at any junction, and there are no lights at all in the tunnels.

What with the endless rubbish, the awful weather, and the nightmare drivers, my preferred descriptor – Albania, the armpit of Europe – seemed appropriate. When we passed a village called Puke, it didn’t surprise me in the least.

And of course, there were the technical problems that added to the experience. My windscreen wiper (my DRIVER’S SIDE windscreen wiper) wasn’t fixed by getting a new one. So that was … challenging. Georgie kept losing all power (including the power steering) and grinding to a halt, after being filled with Albanian diesel. And then Steve’s phone cut out (with the sat-nav on it).

So, to recap: it is winter and I am in a soft-top car with no heating. I am wearing woolly tights, jeans and leg-warmers. I have on a vest, a long-sleeved T-shirt, a really thick, hooded sweatshirt and a body-warmer. I have shoved my legs down the sleeves of Steve’s padded coat to simulate salopettes, and have buttoned it up to my waist. I also have on gloves and a scarf, and I can barely move. Later, I add joggers, another jumper, and a hot-water bottle, just to stop me shaking.

Also: it is pouring with rain, and I have to duck down and to the right to see out of my window every time the wiper cuts out. The traffic is coming at me from all sides, and there are no road signs or markings that either make sense or are adhered to. My windows are misted up due to the lack of heating, and the only way to clear them is to open the side window until I turn a fetching shade of lavender.

Furthermore, I am desperately trying to avoid the potholes, as well as the dogs, children, donkeys, mopeds, and little old ladies that just march in front of me with some kind of mad, Albanian death-wish. And now Steve is several cars in front of me and he’s asking me to give him directions through the town, because his sat-nav has gone bye-bye. WTAF?

My visibility is shit, my life-expectancy – either from hypothermia or multi-car pile up – is on the low side, and I’m having to work out what instructions he needs before it even appears on my phone screen.

Major driving skills and endurance? Yes, I think so.

By the time we get to Montenegro I am long past all rational thought. We get a ferry over the river, and I am halfway across before I notice that Steve and Georgie aren’t even on board. They put him on the next one, thankfully, and I wait in a layby for him to disembark.

But the cold, and the long drive, and thinking I’d lost him freaks me out so much that I forget to turn on my lights, and immediately get stopped by the police. Steve is unaware of this and has already gone ahead. By the time I’ve worked out what the cop is saying, Steve is well out of range of the walkie-talkies.

The fine is thirty euros, but Steve has all the cash, and his phone died in the middle of Albania. I have nothing on me, apart from all the clothes that I own and a rather stupified smile. After a long discussion the cop says I have a week to pay, but I point out that I’ll only be in his country for another half an hour. Eventually he gives up and lets me off with a warning.

So, considering I got pulled over, why do I claim I’m the best driver in the world?

Because I drove like that, from the freezing pre-dawn darkness, through the wet, grey and terrifying day, and back into darkness again, FOR THIRTEEN HOURS!


Who’s the fucking Man?

I am, that’s who.

I absolutely dare you to disagree.


Bohemian Rhapsody


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.




(Pronunciation: make the sound of someone clearing a hefty wedge of phlegm from your throat, whilst simultaneously being punched in the gut. Followed by val-sheeny.)


We are at a lovely campsite just on the edge of the village. It has been run for the last 20 years by a Dutch couple, Jan and Arns (spelling? not a clue here). Naturally, it’s full of Dutch people, which is fine as many of them speak passable English and are generally very laid back.



The village is typically southern Czech – a couple of pubs that serve good beer and cheap homemade food, a couple of shops (one of which is always a Coop), a massive and pretty church, and a couple of technicolour schools. They like the colour orange here (as an exterior paint colour), closely followed by yellow or lime green, and the schools are particularly colourful.

So are most new houses and flats – often painted in colour-blocked designs of orange (of course), yellow, pale pink, raspberry pink, lime, mauve, and terracotta. You really can’t miss them and they are not very nice, but I’ll give them an A+ for effort.

At the campsite we are surrounded by forested hills and open meadows, so we went for a walk in the woods. We saw a fox-sized, fox-coloured animal dart across the meadow, and disappear fox like, into the woods. Steve said, ‘I wonder what that was?‘ I mean, seriously?

We both heard the hammering of a Woodpecker, then the sound of chirping coming from a tree nearby. A Woodpecker’s nest, with hungry babies. We skirted away quickly, so as not to freak out the mum into deserting the nest. I was also delighted to see mounds of purple Lupins growing wild beneath the Pines, Silver Birches and Lime trees.


We passed the obligatory shrine, and then stumbled upon a couple of old railway carriages on the edge of the woods – and they hummed, loudly. One was being used as a massive bee-hive, the other as a shed by a lovely fellow called Jiri.

(pronunciation: Yeer-Zhee, and Czech for George).

My dad used to keep bees, so I know to walk slowly and keep the buggers out of your hair, because otherwise they will get stuck there and panic. Jiri invited us into his shed to see how he strained the honey and offered us some if we brought him a jam jar.

We walked back through the meadows, which were spectacular (like the ones you see in films that can’t possibly be real, only better). So many drifts of wildflowers in so many varieties. Butterflies, birds, weird and wonderful little striped bug things, and others that had bright orange arses and a tendency to hover around you like tiny drones. It was magical.

Steve took a jam jar up to the woods and then rolled back down the hill over two hours later. Jiri had produced, first, a beer, and then his home-brewed Rowanberry liqueur. 52% proof. Not a typo – genuinely, 52%! They had quite a few shots, enabling Steve to happily sit there with bees all over him, while a fully-outfitted Jiri went into the main carriage and pulled out racks of bee-cloaked honeycomb to show him the Queens in action. This is the pair of them after a few bevys.

Cesky Krumlov

(pronunciation: pretty much how it looks, except the C is a ch and the Krum is a kroom)

10km down the road from us is the medieval town and Unesco World Heritage Sight of Cesky Krumlov. Arns leads a guided walk there every Monday evening, so we went along to get the lowdown from a local. It started with us all congregating in a pub and having a beer, which is a very good start in my books. And it certainly is a lovely little place.

It nestles in the lee of a vast castle, built around 1250 by the powerful Rosenberg family who owned…everywhere, according to Arns, for about three centuries. The main gates are still guarded by two bears that prowl around a pit that extends under the bridge into the castle. A remnant of earlier times. But it is the gloriously decorated castle tower that dominates the landscape.

The Old Town itself is circled by a loop of the River Vltava. This means that on a sunny day you can sit in almost any pub, with a beer and a schnitzel in front of you, watching boat-loads of people scream their way over the weirs and then fall in the water – right in front of you. Good times.



The Old Town is incredibly pretty, with many of the buildings being decorated either with paint, or with repeating tile patterns scraped into the stonework.

It was also the home of Egon Schiele’s mum, so there’s a nice museum with some of his work. For my birthday, we climbed up the castle tower for a view over the town.


Sadly, ever since his stroke, Steve has had problems with balance and vertigo. And when we got to the top, he had a bit of a wobbly moment (well, a really huge one, actually), so we went back down.

But it was my birthday, so we went back up again. Aren’t I a cow?


(pronunciation: heap of shit)

Yesterday, we drove to the nearest caravan and camping shop to buy a new water pump, as the old one didn’t like its leak being ‘fixed’ by Steve, and decided to die instead.

Yesterday, we drove to the only caravan and camping shop in the Czech Republic.

And it was 150km away.

But Steve has installed the new one – and it makes a noise like an Apollo rocket lifting off, and the loo now flushes with a certain reluctance.

Grown-up problems. Sigh.


Next week we are moving on to a place near Nepomuk (don’t ask, just Google it) to do some volunteering. Steve’s sister, Roxy, introduced us to Helpx, which is where people who need help with projects give you board and lodging in exchange for your muscle power. In this neck of the woods, that is mostly on organic farmsteads or other eco communities.

But we are going to meet Barry (yes, I know), who is setting up an Arts and Music Centre with the aim of using them to bridge cultural boundaries and language barriers. Steve is going to be installing a basic kitchen and I will be doing some decorating.

After that, we will be spending a couple of weeks helping groups in a ‘language immersion’ program improve their English.

Just by speaking to them.

Which I can SO do.

Talk about playing to ones strengths.



Georgie gets mugged by the Mistral


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.



I remember learning about the Mistral in Geography, over a million years ago when I was at school. At the time, it honestly never crossed my mind that anything I learnt there had any relevance to my life, devoid as it was of subject choices such as How to date Donny Osmond and The Politics of the School Bus.

But now I wish I’d paid more attention. Because, although Georgie didn’t get blown off the road or rolled onto her side (she does weigh 7.5 tons, remember), and although Nibbles didn’t get blown clear into Switzerland, we did suffer an awful lot of damage.

Here’s how it went.

After leaving Mini Hollywood we headed off towards our next destinations – Barcelona and Figueres, because I wanted to do some arty stuff and see lots of Gaudi and Dali.

About halfway there we found an Aire on the spectacular Delta de l’Ebre, near Amposta. This sweet little nature reserve contained a spit of sandy beach cradling a lagoon, and a series of wild fowl breeding lakes surrounded by reclaimed land that was used for growing rice. The reed beds, paddy fields, duck population and river estuary had produced a unique and sustainable way of life that had flourished for centuries.

But now it was mostly home to thousands of flamingos. Oh yes.

I loved it because I’ve only ever seen them in zoos, and a flamingo in flight is a glorious thing. For starters, they have the most vibrant salmon pink armpits, and you see stripes of white, black and rich pink as they soar above you. Plus, they make an almost perfect X shape. Don’t know why that’s cool; it just is. And lastly, they can’t always be bothered to straighten their long necks, so they flap along looking like they’ve swallowed a bent coat hanger. Great big pink comedy birds. Brilliant.

We saw Marsh Harriers, Kingfishers, Purple Herons and loads more that we couldn’t identify because they were chased away by the Marsh Harriers. The view out of our front window was of a small pond called El Clot. I’m not making this up.


But, in the middle of this idyll, we got the news that our lovely brother-in-law, Nigel, had been rushed to hospital, and it was serious. Very serious. Within a few days it became clear that there was little-to-no hope for a positive outcome, so we packed up and started driving home as fast as we could. Heart-breaking.

We rushed around Barcelona, shot off up into France and ended up at another Aire, this time not so picturesque. It was located in the car park of a run-down looking café, and run by a smiley and smelly old drunk gentleman who lived in a caravan in the corner. He only let us have ten minutes worth of water and then invited himself to coffee with us when we went to breakfast in the caff.

The next day we made an early start for Toulouse. The wind had been picking up and the land was very flat. However, the forecast said that it would become tornado-strength if we stayed where we were, whilst Toulouse was predicted to be calmer. And I’d forgotten everything I ever learnt about the Mistral.

So that’s where it all fell apart – quite literally.

We’d hardly gone 10 miles when, simultaneously, Steve heard a banging noise, and I – driving behind in Nibbles – saw something swinging out from Georgie’s left side. It appeared that the awning that tops the slide-out had become loose, so we pulled in as quickly as possible…

…and jumped out into 100kph winds…

…to find the awning had broken free of it’s fixings at the front and was flailing around like an octopus in a horror film.

It slammed up onto the roof and back out into the traffic as we tried to grab it, and we saw that it had started to rip apart. The fixings were broken and scattered across the road: we had no choice but to try and tear it off in one piece, and stow it in the van. (I spent the rest of the journey tripping over the damn thing, as it was bungeed to the table leg to stop it rolling around when we drove.)

The slam on the roof had dislodged the grill from the air-conditioner, but that was a problem for later. Right now, the difficulty was staying on the road and in one piece. We put everything heavy we could find into Nibbles’ boot to give me more stability, but nothing could stop the wind opening the front outside locker on the RV every half a mile or so. That journey took a long time. A really, really long time.

But we got to Toulouse in one piece and the wind lessened enough for the rain to start tipping down and pouring through the broken air-conditioning unit. That slam on the roof had smashed the plastic cover to pieces. It was not safe for anyone to go up there (even if we aren’t both really bad with heights, which, obviously, we are), so we put out a bucket and went to bed.

For the following days we just drove up towards Calais. The Eurotunnel is a brilliant way to travel quickly and is cheaper than the ferries. The queues were quite small, so I ended up shunted onto an earlier one in Nibbles, then had to hang around and wait for Steve to show up in Georgie. Bit panicky: thought I’d missed him. Plus, this driving on the left-hand side of the road felt a bit weird.

Sadly, by then, our brother-in-law had passed away, painlessly at least. So we went back to the site we’d stayed at previously, in Sevenoaks, and went to visit Steve’s sister to see if we could help.

We still had the problem of the broken awning and there happened to be a Caravan and Camping Show that weekend, which seemed like a good place to go for help and advice about getting a new one. But it turns out you can’t, really. Have to get them sent in from the States.

But we did get some brilliant stick-on solar panels (see the Reith Xmas lecture) and a jar of lemon curd, so that wasn’t wasted. And Steve realised that we had enough material left in the original to re-attach it if we were careful. And bought the right glue. Or tape. Or both.

In the caravan next door were Andy and Jo and their little daughter Khalisi (I know, right?). And if there’s one thing that we can rely in in this life, it’s that as soon as Steve starts messing around with tools, blokes start gathering. Blokes on campsites with little else to do. Blokes who no longer have a garage or a garden shed. Blokes who like being useful. It’s just moths to a flame, honey. And so Andy was great in helping us to fix the awnings.

(Notice I said ‘awnings’, plural. Because of course, our other awning had a broken piece too – that had nearly taken out our friend Phil’s shoulder when it snapped in Seville. But now we had an address and so the postman kept turning up with replacement grommets of metal, and new, unbroken and un-leaky bathroom sink taps, and the wrong strength bed struts – of which more, later.)

I glued and taped the old awning over the rubber ‘piping’, while the guys filled holes, re-drilled them and reconnected the holdings for the awning. Steve had found a place in Seal that sold us new metal rods that they’d drilled holes into at a charge of £28. If you added in the cost of the tape, glue, and the pop-riveter, then the whole lot came to under £60, which is fantastic when compared to the £800 it would have cost us to get a replacement. My husband is bloody great that way.

Then Andy and Jo had to up sticks and move to another pitch on site, so it was left to me to help Steve put the awning back in place. That meant spending a whole day on the roof, half of it hanging over the side supporting the weight of a very heavy pole and awning. I am so effing proud of myself – I even did the pop-riveting (new skill)! Then we had to re-tension the other awning, and I’m making this sound much easier than it was.

By now we’d said goodbye to our lovely Nigel at one of the most moving funerals I have ever been to (I’m not going to talk about it), caught up with the grandkids, and moved on to a site near Henley on Thames. It was a beautiful site, right by the river, and we were a given a fully serviced pitch. This meant that we had electricity and a constant water supply, PLUS we didn’t have to move the van to empty our tanks – we could just drop a hose down the hole and let it drain out, as and when. Luxury.

We met a lovely couple called Les and Christine, who told us stories about meeting their dads, for pretty much the first time, after the war.

Les hadn’t seen his for seven years, and was not best pleased when this stranger appeared and ousted him from his place in the double bed with his mum. On a crowded bus he loudly demanded to know, ‘Mum, is that soldier gonna be sleeping in your bed again tonight?’ To which his mother, much to the disbelief of all the other passengers, hissed, ‘He is not a soldier: he is an Airman, and he is your father’.

Christine said she hadn’t seen her father since she was a toddler, with a gap between her two front teeth. One day, she saw a guy with a limp and a stick walking past her on her way to school, but she didn’t like the look of him so she gave him a wide bearth. As the family had recently been re-housed, the man took one look at the young girl, recognised here tooth-gap and called after her, ‘Oi, Christine – where does your mammy live?’ Terrified, she yelled, ‘Down there,’ and scarpered. Later, she said, ‘Mammy was nowhere to be seen and the bedroom door was locked.’

I spent another day on the roof, this time with Steve, sticking down our swanky solar panels. So when my sister’s husband came to visit, there was Steve with his tool box out again. Adam (being a bloke) had a lovely day helping him sort out all the wiring. Thanks, mate.

However, not all our DIY has been quite so successful. For instance, before we left the UK, we bought a newish mattress on Ebay. It was slightly longer, and certainly heavier, than the old one so the gas-filled bed struts that raised the bed base had slowly given up the ghost. Steve ordered new ones but the fixings were different.

So, bought wood. Cut and glued. Drilled holes. Bought bolts. Eventually fitted new struts. Then found out that Steve appeared to have had a brain-fart and bought struts that would lift Georgie, let alone our bed. After several hours spent sweating away in a confined space (and not in a good way), we realised we didn’t have the combined weight or strength to push the bed base down. An elephant sitting on our bed might‘ve just about managed it, but it would’ve needed to be a real porker.

So, we started again. Undid the lot. Ordered the correct ones. Searched for the pieces that belonged to the first struts. Panicked because Steve thought he’d thrown them away.

I left Steve to fit the new ones.

There then ensued a lot of huffing and puffing and swearing, so I went to investigate. Steve had decided to save time fitting the new parts by holding up the entire weight of the bead and base …. on his head. He was starting to complain about his back hurting, so I asked him why he hadn’t removed the heavy mattress first. He said, and I quote, ‘You don’t really understand men, do you?

And on to Stafford. Where there was Kevin – the only chap in the UK who could sort out the condensation in our windows. Not a big problem, except in the driver and passenger door windows, where this would stop us getting the MOT. We parked on his driveway, and spent four hours learning how to get the damn things out (saving ourselves £150 per window, but hastening our divorce). And it only took two and a half hours to learn how to put them back in.


Filling in the gap with a patchwork of foam board.

Which brings us to today. Penkridge. And the last bits and bobs are getting done before the MOT tomorrow. Steve is just off to Halfords, I don’t even care what for.

And, oh joy, all that time at Henley has caused a toilet blockage. Because the water was constantly draining, the tissue just sat there and dried out. Now we have a tissue mountain. Fuck, fucketty fuck.

So before we move off to Bath on Thursday, we will need to fill up the waste tank with water so that it can slosh around for the whole drive down, loosening … things, and leaving the most God-awful smell. Words can’t describe.

And that’s when the family are coming to visit.

When people ask me ‘Are you having wonderful adventures?’ (which they do, by the way, a lot), I say, ‘Yes’. Despite the certain knowledge that what they mean by ‘adventure’ and what I am discovering it means, are poles apart.

Have I ticked any of the great wonders of the world off my bucket list? No. Have I been to truly awesome and unexplored places? No. But can I pop-rivet, conquer my fear of heights, take out an RV window, and take dodgy toilets in my stride? Hell, yes. Life skills, baby, life skills (just not necessarily aspirational ones).

Flood, mud, mushrooms and poo (Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub)


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.




Under the heading ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ sit most of the things we have done since I last blogged.

To break you in gently, here is a picture of our local Police Station. Our PINK Police Station. Brilliant, right?


But back to real life.

In our brave new world, there is the continuing issue of grey, and black, waste (or stuff from the sink, and stuff from the loo, respectively) and the disposal thereof. The corner plot we’d been given had electricity – and its own water supply, which was a big bonus – but wasn’t very close to the sewer point. In order to reach it, Steve had to drive Georgie through the trees on Frank’s orchardy bit in the middle of the campsite. I find this unbearable. Although he drives expertly through a very small gap, the screeching of the trees as they scrape along both sides of the van drives me nuts. I am constantly on the lookout for branches to snag on the wing mirrors, or awning pole, and be wrenched off. There are mere centimetres on each side. I usually go and have a shower and avoid the whole thing.

So one day I foolishly muttered, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a little extra hose and then we could reach the sewer without packing everything down, lifting the levellers, bringing in the slide out, etc., etc.’ And he heard me, and bought a great long length of hose.

Now, the original hose is nine centimetres in circumference, and folds flat so that everything gets squeezed out as you roll it back up. It is also opaque.

The new hose is barely six centimetres, solid, and transparent.  The sewer point is also slightly uphill.

There are clues here as to what went wrong.

Can I just say that Steve connected all the hoses beautifully: perfect joins, no leakage. The new multi-hose snaked its way over the grass and through the trees with aplomb. Then Steve turned on the macerator and we watched the original hose inflate as the effluent made it’s way up to the new piece. After which it filled the hose with horrible, visible, lumpy ………… you get the drift, and then it choked, and stopped working.

And we were left with MILES of hose filled with last weeks lunch.

To be emptied by hand. Oh yes.

I stood in the orchard holding the new hose over the sewer point, while Steve rolled up the first one from the van end, forcing the stuff up to my end. And I had to hold it high in order to make the air pockets (God, I hope they were air pockets) move the right way along the hose, swooshing the – shall we say – liquid? down towards the end. And I watched things I neither wanted, nor expected, to see again swim past me, upstream, like little chocolate salmon. It took bloody ages, as the direction of flow changed according to the size of the ‘air pockets’.

Afterwards, I stayed in the shower for a very, very long time.

While I was scrubbing the top ten layers of skin from my body, Steve screeched past the tress and emptied the van properly. And, for good measure, threaded the outside tap hose through the bathroom window, and flushed the whole system through with fresh water.

Which would have been fine.

It would have – but the hose pulled free and flooded our bathroom. Not a big deal, you think. And Steve did say he’d mostly cleaned it up.

Mostly. Such an innocuous word.

When Georgie was built, the technique was to lay the carpet first, then erect all the walls and cupboards on top. That carpet had been there since 1998. In the bathroom! Yuk. So one of the first things I’d done was to rip it up and replace it with lino.

Because of the structures on top, it was no mean feat pulling it out. I’d got it off the floor (and the accompanying floppy foam underlay), but been unable to lift it from inside the under sink cupboard, or up the side of the bits that cover all the piping, etc. And naturally, these were the bits that’d got soaked.

A week later I was cleaning my teeth, and I noticed something yellow protruding from under the sink cupboard. A swollen bit of underlay, I thought, and went to yank it out. Big shock – it was cold, wet and rubbery. And living.

‘There’s a monster in the bedroom,’ I said, ‘you made it, so you deal with it.’

And it was basically a huge fungus that had grown under the carpet. I think it ate the underlay. The next day Steve ripped out all the carpet that he could reach, and left a fan heater blowing into the cupboard in an effort to dry it out. It has been a week and the fan heater is still being used. The floor is still damp. And we do not know if there is a bath-sized mushroom underneath that, waiting to poke its head out soon. I’ll let you know.


After we’d been here several weeks, it started to get a bit chilly of an evening. The Intrepids had sensibly pointed out that we were already paying for electricity so why use our gas for heating? Go and buy a small fan heater, they’d said. So we did. We bought two – which was just as well, as one has been constantly employed in the bathroom. But before then we had been using the gas. The indicator said it was nearly all gone and if you banged on the tank it sounded hollow, which is the true test, obvs.

However, since our last manoeuvre with the van, Brenda and John had turned up in a largish camper van, and been parked on the corner. This made it impossible for us to get out the way we’d come in. However, Frank had a fence panel that he  routinely removed to let larger vehicles in and out.

But it was at the bottom of the orchardy bit, over grass with some gravel chucked on top, and it had been raining to the point that Noah would have thrown up his hands and quit. Ergo, we waited for a dryish day to go out and fill up with gas.

And we waited.

And waited.

Steve searched for the right adaptor to change our gas feed over to cylinder rather than tank, but drew a blank as our RV is American and the screws go the wrong way, apparently. We discussed getting a small BBQ and using that to cook with, but the problem was that our hot water and the fridge/freezer both ran on gas, and now the indicator said that it was non-existent. And the weather forecast said that the next few days were going to be even wetter.

Whether we liked it or not, we had to go out and get gas.

The day was dry but overcast. Good enough. We got out without any problem.

Then we failed to find any gas. Everywhere we went was closed (despite the signs that said ‘open’), or the wrong gas, or unreachable in a 34ft vehicle.

But we got some in the end, and headed home to find it’d rained, a little, while we’d been away. Halfway through the open fence panel, Steve stopped to check in with Frank.

In the words of Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts, ‘Big mistake: huge‘. Because the back wheel sunk several inches and Georgie flatly refused to move.


It was late, getting dark (which happens fairly instantly here – the sun hits the horizon like it’s trying to do it some damage), and Frank, Steve and all the male Intrepids could not get it to budge. So this is where we spent the night – half in and half out of the campsite, and on a terrible list to starboard, which required cushioning the van against the metal gatepost.


The next day, a local tractor dragged us back out. In the pouring rain, of course.


Frank gave us a new location – right above the sewer point! So now it is easy to empty the waste tanks, but we have no water like we did in the corner plot. Sadly, when ‘plumbing’ us back in, Steve lost his wedding ring. He’s lost nearly 3 stone in weight, and it just slipped off. Very sad.


I love my home, I really do. But there is rather a lot of wood, and although my taste can encompass retro, vintage, shabby chic, steampunk, modernist, Swedish, opulent, eclectic, and even Romany, it does not extend to country kitchen.

I already owned a lot of stuff that was blue and white, so I’ve started decorating with that as my starting point. Can’t do much about the carpet, for the reasons mentioned above, but everything else is getting distressed to within an inch of its life.

So far, I have done the slide-out. We took the big, wavy mirrors out because of the weight, and the terrible rattling noise as we drove along, and there were forty crappy brass handles – too expensive to replace – so I’ve painted them instead. Dove grey paint on most walls and cupboards, so they blend together. Dark bluey-grey on the old mirror wall. Blue/cream striped ticking on the pelmets.

See before…..


…… and after.



Plus, needed a spice rack that fitted into my tiny cupboards and, despite searching every Chinese shop in the Algarve, I’ve had to make my own out of a spare piece of ticking and some plastic bags. I am on a roll.



These guys are amazing.

We have a couple of new faces who say their names are Ian and Sue, but you can’t fool me: they are Mr and Mrs Jim Broadbent – that voice, face and accent are unmistakable.

They took us for another of their long walks last week, and challenged us to tackle the hill to the lookout point. All the way up, Jim Broadbent stayed next to Steve, because he happened to overhear me saying that Steve’s angina could play up and I wanted to keep a close eye on him.

When they heard that Steve had lost his ring, they were all out the next morning with rakes and brushes, searching through the grass and gravel, trying to find it for him. So sweet. They even spotted a metal detector at a local car boot, and they would have bought it too, if it had been strong enough to respond to gold.

Terry has made us all marmalade from the oranges on Frank’s trees. It is fabulous and I have scoffed half a jar already.

Brenda and John had a ‘happy hour’ that started a three in the afternoon, and was still going strong at nine. I missed most of it by being in bed with bad CFS. But Steve got hammered, which is a thing that I have only seen three times in as many decades. I got him home, gave him some food and coffee, but it was too late – he felt ill and needed some fresh air. Steve never needs fresh air; he prefers the ready-warmed variety. So we wandered down into the orange grove, where he started farting and singing ‘Let it go, let it go‘.

‘I love that song,’ he said.

He also expressed a deep and pure love for the breadboard, so I think his heart is fickle when smashed. It took him several attempts to get back up the (slight) slope to the van, and he required assistance, even then.

The next day, Brenda said, ‘It were that Terry – he wouldn’t let him go until he’d finished that last bottle – or were it two? Can’t remember.’

When we say we are leaving next week, they try to persuade us to stay. John rubbed his eyes in mock crying. Brenda is hoping we will leave the van here and go to Spain by car, so we have to come back.

We will have a ‘do’ next Tuesday, to say goodbye to them all. We have done a test run on the van with eight people, and it was only half full, so I reckon we can get twelve of them in, no bother. I just hope Steve can get the Karaoke machine talking to our telly in the same language by then: John has a party piece, apparently.

The water shortage


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.



Steve wanted me to call this post ‘When my waters broke’, and you’ll see why. It’s another tale of well-intentioned incompetence, I’m afraid.


This was setting off to France with only a carry-on water container and a couple of plastic bottles worth of eau. But hey, we were going straight to a campsite and it was going to be fine.

And you know how that turned out.


This settled upon us at the Municipal sight in Sees. We’d filled our tank on arrival to the one third level; we were only going to stay a night or two, and that would be sufficient. Save us loads of time emptying it at the end, too. Think we’re being clever here.


Yeah that didn’t work. We’d arrived late on Thursday and we’d run out of water by Friday evening. No idea why as did no laundry and used the shower block to get clean. Oh well.

But I like a bit of a challenge, and some problem solving – it brings out the ‘blitz-spirit’ in me. So we put a bucket of water by the loo to flush with, and kept filling up jugs and our water bottles at the tap to keep us going. We were going to move on the next day anyway, so it wasn’t worth the bother of de-camping.


We’ve got this down to about half an hour or so, if we really shift.

First, we pack all the heavy things into my car. Then I put everything that isn’t nailed down into a secure place – so kettle, books, fruit bowl, toothbrush pot, spare loo roll, foot stool etc., etc., etc., all safely stowed. We lift all the mats, fold down the table and bring in the slide-out.

The awning needs to be rolled back in and secured, and the outside chairs flattened and stored. Then all the levellers have to be raised and the boards beneath them packed into side lockers. We disconnect from the electricity and unplug everything else. We wind down the TV aerial, do a last check, and are ready to move.

Then, to set up camp again, the whole lot gets reversed, except the levellers can take ages to get right as it’s me sitting on the floor with a spirit level and one finger on the button.

So we were – literally – bottling out of doing all of that if we didn’t need to.


We didn’t go the next day because my CFS kicked in and I had to have a rest day. Then Steve realised that the adaptors he’d been sold that would connect to the French LPG tanks were incorrect and we were getting low on gas now (for the cooking, and heating the water, and keeping the fridge and freezer going when we were driving).

He contacted the Company that sold them who admitted they’d had a ‘bad batch’, and they agreed to send a replacement by courier, to arrive on Monday morning. Today was Saturday. I was resting and we’d planned a day out for Sunday: how much water would we really need?

So out of sheer laziness we spent another two days with the bucket system.

But to make good use of his time, Steve did all the jobs that had accrued including fixing the washer on the bathroom sink (our ancient taps were ones that normally faced east and west, except the cold tap was now facing north, and he was worried that I’d over-tightened it and it would break soon).


Just before the campsite closed on Monday the bloody gas adaptor arrived. It was now too late to travel to the next site, so we spent another night with buckets and water bottles. This whole luxe camping thing was beginning to be a joke.


Just before leaving a campsite we have to empty the waste waters. We did the business then connected the hose to put some much needed water back into our tank – usually just enough to flush the loo and make a few cups of tea en route, but this time we were going for a goodly amount as we didn’t want to be stuck without water again.


Or something did, because water started pouring out of Georgie and flooding the tarmac. I turned off the tap and contemplated the idea that the reason our water had run out so quickly was that we clearly had a massive leak somewhere. Shit, shit, shit, shit.

So we had no choice but to drive off towards Saumur with the bucket system in place again. Trying to keep the loo water bucket steady in the bath whilst driving wasn’t easy, as it was one of those fold flat affairs and it kept collapsing. But we got there.


We found an Aire to spend the night in and went to investigate the water problem. We were very unsure as to what would happen if we tried to put water in Georgie.

Our water tank is under our bed, and Steve had checked that everything in there seemed dry – the leak must be in the pipework. Oh hell. Probably under the bathroom sink then, behind that tiny little cupboard or under all the built-in and carpeted side panels. Double shit and hell.

And that’s when I looked in the sink.

And it was full of water.

And it was hard to see this because that is where I put all the bathroom things that must’t roll around when we are travelling. Including the toothbrush pot with my electric toothbrush in. Full of water. And the plug. Soaked.


‘Er, Steve – you know when you fixed that tap?’

‘Yes. Why?’

‘I think you fucked something up, sweetheart’. Or words to that effect.

But seriously, what could he have done to the pipework that water was now coming into the bathroom sink instead of into the tank? He’s brilliant at this sort of thing, it didn’t make sense.

And when we checked at the Aire, the water was off and so was the electricity. And our buckets were empty.


So we had to leave Georgie there and drive around Saumur until we found a campsite that could accommodate us. And it was getting late, and we still had the problem of what to do about the leak.


Because we got to the campsite and hooked up the hose, with me standing in the bathroom this time, ready to yell at Steve to turn the water off if it starts to gush and flood the van.

And he turned it on.

And the water started to come out of the bathroom tap.

So I turned the tap off a bit more….

Just a hint more….

So that it was still facing true north….

And everything worked fine. The tank filled up. The loo flushed. The tap didn’t leak. Out of eight days we’d only had water for one. And although I was relived as all hell, I still felt a total twonk.

Honestly, I know I’ve said to everyone ‘come and stay, whenever you want’, but we are complete arses and you’re better off where you are.


We have had to have words with Deirdre the sat-nav slut, and we are currently having some time apart. So this is my new driving system. Very hi-tech.


I write the instructions on masking tape, put them in order, and then tear each one off as it’s done. Learning as I go, babes, learning as I go.


By a strange coincidence, I read one of those pop-ups on Facebook yesterday about a French artist who paints ugly urban buildings with trompe l’oeil or comic murals, and today I went into Angouleme and saw about seven of them. Here are two. Apparently there are twenty murals in the city, all specially commissioned. Brilliant.



A stumbling start.


Hey there.

Did you know that a new and improved version of this post can be found here? I’ve upgraded this blog to make it more interesting and user-friendly.

It has a new name – Down Unknown Roads – and a new address (

You’ll find all the old posts (although a small few have different names), and our continuing adventures are now featured there for you to enjoy.

Thank you for coming to this site, and I hope to see you Down Unknown Roads. Ciao XX Bev.



‘…while we’ve got the chance.’

In the last few weeks before moving into the RV, this is the phrase most often used, as in ‘so I’ll just have another bath (again), or I’ll use the washing machine/dishwasher/WiFi/huge oven/whatever, while we’ve got the chance’. You get the idea.

And although our RV is 34 feet long, and hardly lacking in amenities, we try to get as much use out of what we are saying goodbye to as we can.

After all, change, especially from something familiar to the utterly unknown, is always tricky, (and I find myself embarrassed to admit this) but to date, we have never even been on holiday in a motorhome, even for a weekend. And so, frankly, we don’t exactly know what we’re letting ourselves in for. Other than an adventure, of course.

And so, as the clock ticks down and we drop, exhausted, onto the sofa at night, we catch up on a LOT of telly – ‘while we’ve got the chance’.


Our first campsite is just outside Wells

The Lazy factor.

I can stand at my kitchen sink (double sink!!! but OK, no drainer) and put everything away almost without moving so much as a toe. I don’t know why this is brilliant, but it just is.

I can also sit at my dining table and set it up for dinner or a board-game without rising from the banquette. Totes.


And the oven either takes a year to cook anything or it burns it to a cinder in seven seconds flat, so we eat out a lot. Yay.

Oh, and I have a heated massage chair, so I sit there with a glass of lidl’s finest and watch downloads of Mozart in the jungle, while my arse is heated and pummelled.

Now you’re jealous.

Camping toilet etiquette.

Although we have a nice little loo in our nice little bathroom, the less often we have to manoeuvre Georgie down to the ‘black’ waste drain, the better. ‘Black’ is a euphemism for stinky, ok? So visits to the campsite amenities block are advised whenever possible.

But to be seen advertising the fact that one wants to be as clean as gold pants is, apparently, a bit of a no-no. Despite the fact that there are quite a lot of skanky dressing gowns being worn down to the toilet block, for which ‘towelling’ would now be a euphemism for ‘rubbing down with a bit of old sand-paper’.

Drainage is a major concern amongst the caravan community, and anything that could block, obstruct or, sin-of-sins, tangle up a macerator are frowned upon. It honestly never occurred to me that if I were to live the life of my dreams, it would include the use of the word macerator.


Trying to soak my feet in a washing up bowl that is WAY too small.


Diane and Bob have been living in various things on wheels for years now, and know pretty much all there is to know about it. So the sadistic campsite owner gave us the pitch in front of them and we have been their entertainment ever since.

Steve’s first attempts to use the levellers on a sloping pitch were a highlight for them, as we only have a six-inch spirit-level and my eyes.

And there are lots of hoses and things, that have to plug in and out of various places. Well, you can imagine.

In the end, I introduce myself, tell them that we are total new-comers to this life and ask their advice on anything I can think of. A tidal wave of kindness, helpfulness and detailed information washes over me and, before we know it, Bob has shown Steve how to unroll the canopy, found the over-the-wheel inflatey things (technical term), and fished all our old spanners back out of the bin (cos we’ll need them).

All I gave them was a couple of glasses of red and some honey-roasted nuts. Aren’t people lovely!