About Us

My photo
Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Last Ride Out

Last ride out of the year seems a long time ago, but it was between Christmas and New Year. We have been very lucky with the weather all winter, not turning cold until mid February.

As usual, Ed and I had no idea where we were going! There does seem to be a conversation of sorts, but it tips from Spanish into Valenciano, whereon we get totally lost. Still, following the bike in front is not too difficult! As we filled up for petrol, we were joined by two other chaps that we hadn't met before, which made a nice change.

This time, we headed off towards Xativa and then up the motorway. Unusual - but after just one junction, we were off again, and we headed out towards the windmills that I like. A couple of the guys scooted off ahead, but I was happy to sit behind Julian. It was pretty chilly, so bimbling along with the heated grips on, was fine by me. Also, I had my winter trousers on, for the first time and had to get used to skidding up and down the seat all of the time!

As we got to the top of the world (well, it certainly feels like it, out there in the wilds), we turned off towards a village we have been to before. A-ha - breakfast in the village bar. Sure enough, we all pulled up outside the bar in the deserted square. It looked like a scene from a western, but with bikes instead of horses!

Breakfast was great. It's astonishing how much food and drink you can get at these little bars, for around 5 euros. The cafe owner even fired up the gas heater especially for us. Good job too - one of the lads was only wearing jeans. It may not have been cold, but it certainly wasn't summer temperatures either! He was freezing.

After an hour or so, we set off again. Well, we tried to , but my bike wouldn't start. I had left the heated grips on. They are meant to turn off when the ignition is off, but, whatever the cause, there wasn't enough power in the battery to start the bike. Everyone was very kind (no 'silly girlie' type of backchat) as we tried to figure out the problem. Eventually, Ed suggested bump starting the bike. Fine - you do it. I have no intention of possibly falling off my bike as I try to bump it! Needless to say, with Ed on it, and two other chaps pushing him down the hill, all was well within a few yards!

We had a lovely ride over the mountains, then into Moixent. Once there, one of the new lads mentioned which road we should take. Julian seemed surprised, but off we went. What a nightmare. It was the worst roads we had ever been on. The asphalt was breaking up all over the place, making it terrible to ride on. Potholes and mounds of gravel, combined with the cold made it very entertaining. Suddenly, Julian stopped dead in front of me. I managed to stop in time, but I had visions of bike domino-ing behind me. Thankfully not! Julian thought he had a puncture, his bike was handling so badly. I laughed at him, and said no, it was the road surface. On we went... for another 10 miles or so. Terrible. Once we finally got to the proper roads again, we all breathed a sigh of relief, but that was very short-lived. We had all picked up tiny stones in the treads of out tyres, and were now spitting them out at the poor soul behind! Everyone wanted to be at the front - it was hilarious.

Paco and one of the lads (on a Ducati) swapped bikes, and we returned to the village for a final drink. We all howled at Paco, as he could hardly get off the bike. This is a toy for a young man, not an overweight chap in his 50s! Needless to say, he won't be putting one of those on his wish list.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

National Memorial Arboretum

On a cold and windy day, Jess and I took Mum to the NMA at Alrewas, near Lichfield.

Mum wanted to see the special memorial bricks that are laid around the church, like simple memorial stones, dedicated to those that served the country in one way or another.

The staff were all very helpful. One gentleman put his coat on and came to see if he could help us, having spotted that we were studying the floor very closely! He explained everything to us, before leaving us to chat amongst ourselves. Jess and I then walked up to the main memorial, while Mum was shown the church by the guide.

The grounds were amazing. Everything is beautifully kept. We had recently had terrible weather, floods everywhere, but everything here was almost prestige. You could fault nothing. We walked up to the monument and walked around it. It was incredibly windy, but once protected by the curved walls, it wasn't too bad. It was very touching to see something of this magnitude having been built so very recently - especially when you read lists of names from wars that are still going on.

It was starting to dark and I spotted the guide climbing the stairs. I smiled at him and said; "you're closing, we have to go", but no... he had come across in that terrible wind, to explain the monuments and the statues that we could see and to tell us about the other monuments around that were now shrouded in darkness. He was evidently not a forces man himself, as he muddled some things up, but I couldn't fault his enthusiasm or dedication to his job.

This is truly a beautiful place to visit. There is a train that goes around the whole site, for those that are unable to walk (or those that simply want want a ride) and it is possible to get on and off at sites of particular interest.

Special Note: There is now a memorial brick with dad's name on it, near to the church.

A New Geocacher

Tim, Jess and I took Abbie geocaching.

This was a new experience for her and turned out to be a good day. The weather stayed bright and dry although a little cold. She was also the most sensible one, and had wellies! Our first cache was along part of the Staffordshire Way, which was a trek through squishy muddy bit of footpath, before finding the hidden treasure. This was a particularly nice one, so it was a great introduction for her.

We then drove around the staffordshire countryside, jumping in and out of the car and hunting behind hedges and under fence-posts. We actually had quite a successful day, only failing to find two out of the 10 or so that we looked for. We even found one that Tim and I had searched for before, but had not been able to find. I suspect that someone had removed it when we looked before - maybe not - it was a bit buried, which is not the idea - but we got it in the end!

It is certainly a lot easier with the app on a phone! I have to print out the information before I set out, but Jess and Tim simply pulled up the nearest ones, and off we went. We did struggle with one. We all had an idea of what we were looking for, but we were wrong. Tim and Jess found it with some determination and were impressed with it when they finally figured it out.

I often think I should put a few more out, but I would like to make some clever hiding places, rather than just putting a box in a hollow spot somewhere. I have some ideas, but I'll have to get Ed crafting in the garage. We will see.

Happy Birthday v2

Having had one celebration in Germany, we then had another birthday party for mum back in England.

We had a lovely meal at home, with the table positively groaning with food as usual. It was very sad, as Dad was no longer with us, but we moved the chairs around, so that there was no head of the table, which made it a little easier to bear.

This time, Tim had invited his girlfriend Abbie, which was lovely. I hope she didn't feel too interrogated, but equally, we didn't want to ignore her. I'm sure she felt a bit out of it at times, as we had so very many in-house jokes, but she seemed to take it in her stride.

To make up for the lack of pudding in Germany, we had done our usual selection of at least 3 options. However - they are not really options. They all taste so good, that it is necessary to have at least one portion of each! (As well as a secret spoonful or three when taking the dishes back out to the kitchen afterwards.)

And yes - Red Cross Parcels were given out at the end of the night. (ie, the leftovers were distributed to everyone!)

Happy Birthday v1

We had a wonderful meal to celebrate Mum's 75th birthday in Germany. The family met up in the restaurant at the Schloss (castle) which had been booked. In reality, this meant that we ended up with the room pretty much to ourselves.

I did think that we were the only people there, but, I later realised that there were actually several rooms in the castle that are used as the restaurant. This was ideal, as it meant that each of the parties on that evening were completely separate, giving a feeling of exclusivity.

Having eaten there earlier in the trip, it was very easy to decide what to eat on the night. No one had a starter, but we all selected wonderful main courses. My poor Grandma chose duck, but was rather shocked when she got half a duck presented to her. It may have been delicious, but she could only eat a little. (Mind you, she did have a go at finishing the whole lot!)

It was wonderful to see my aunts and uncles and we had a good time. Somehow though, I missed the ordering of any deserts, and, as we sat talking, uncle Conrad was presented with a plate of ice-cream as if by magic. Jess knew what she wanted, so, when the waitress came back for another drinks order, I asked for a desert for her ans well as one for myself. Evidently, this was a surprise to everyone else, as now there were just the two of us eating! Well - someone had to do it.

After the meal, Conrad persuaded one of the staff to show us the cellar downstairs. This was an old coal bunker, which had been cleared out and was now used for functions. There are actually 3 separate rooms - one, nice and cosy for intimate events, one big enough for weddings, and another, usually used for parties or discos. As we came back up the stairs, the manager was really nasty to the girl that showed us around, and demanded to know what she had been looking for. Sadly, I wasn't quick enough with my German to defend her, and Conrad didn't like to get involved. It was a shame for her, as she had done nothing wrong at all - in fact, she was being very helpful to the patrons. I hope that she was able to explain herself later, without being reprimanded.

Thankfully, Andreas now lives very close to the castle, so we were able to walk home in just a few minutes. Many is the time, that I had to hold both of my brothers up, as we staggered down the hill and up the other side in our attempts to get home from town! Now we just eat out, then drink loads of Altmeister when we get back.

Schloss Droyssig

We can't visit Droyssig without a visit to see the bears. Jess had her 'bear hat' on, so off we went, to see if they were around.

When we got there, the compound was empty, but then one of the bears came out. Evidently, they had been left some food, as the second bear came out too a little later. It appeared that they had a chicken carcass as well as some veggies, but they pretty much ignored us as they munched away.

I know it is a sad state of affairs to have the bears in such a small enclosure - even though it is 3 times bigger than it used to be - but I was glad to see that the locals come and see the bears too. They are a very traditional part of the village and they are well looked after.