Sunday, 31 January 2010
This particular story starts almost sixty ears ago when my father's only sister announced that she wanted nothing more to do with any of the family and that if any of them wanted to contact her in the future, they could do so through her bank. Although I never knew the cause of the rift, I have always assumed it had something to do with her marriage as it occurred at about that time. Anyway, my mother, who had been very close to her sister-in-law, managed to stay in contact and I know we visited the aunt on one occasion and understand that my mother visited on another after a child was born. I suspect that my mother tried to heal the rift, but only succeeded in making matters worse by being told that she was no longer welcome. Years later, my brother managed to track done said aunt and phoned her, only to be given the cold shoulder. I discovered that aunt's husband had died, and that the daughter had joined the army and later married. I even knew her married name, but it is too common a name for her to be traced easily.
Then, out of the blue, another aunt rang - something previously unheard of, the only contact between us having been after my mother's death. My cousin had been in touch with her, wanting to learn about her grandparents. The second aunt wondered if she could put cousin in touch with me. 'Of course,' replied the Old Bat, who had taken the call while I was out.
A couple of days later, I received a letter from the cousin and we subsequently spoke on the phone. I have now undertaken to tell her what I can about our family, her mother never having spoken of it, and we have promised each other to meet up when the opportunity arises, which shouldn't be too far off.
Saturday, 30 January 2010
Katy & Roy up before the lark to start harrying the agent again. Meanwhile, the rest of the party take the opportunity of a hot shower courtesy of the RMPs. Difficult to work out exactly what is: a) the correct procedure and: b) the problem with the customs. It appears that the Croatian customs are refusing to give clearance out of their country. Without that, the Bosnians won't let us into their's! The Croatian hang-up seems to be that our manifest shows that we are carrying coffee. They want to know how much and whereabouts it is on the lorries. We can't seem to get over to them that we have no idea how much or where it is as it is split between more than 2000 shoe boxes, which are themselves in various parts of the lorries. We ring our contact in Vitez, who promises to fax further documents to the border in the hope that these will clear the way for us.
Sue meets a 26-year-old soldier from Seaford, her home town. Presumably they live just around the comer from each other. Well, Seaford isn't that big. Possibly at school with Sue's daughter, though she (Sue's daughter) is a bit younger. His Scottish colleague shows us the way on his IFOR road map, then gives us the map. This will be a great help if we ever get through the border and into Bosnia.
1100 Kamensko (still). A vehicle bearing the logo of Children's Aid Direct has pulled up having just cleared the border from Bosnia into Croatia. Katy and Brian realise that we are heading for Children's Aid in Vitez, so go over. Gary takes baby David from his wife, and she and Katy go to harangue the customs again as the wife speaks the local lingo. Bosnian herself, perhaps. What a difference! Seems that it had not been appreciated we were carrying humanitarian aid, or so they say, and within 15 minutes we are cleared to approach the Bosnian customs.
1115 Kamensko (still). Bosnian customs man clambers into the back of the Leyland and starts investigating contents of boxes. Very interested in toys, hints that we should give him some for his boy but Tony is having none of it. Puzzled by a pair of golfing shoes so Tony, perched on top of a pallet, demonstrates golf swing. Brian thought he would fall out of the lorry.
1145 Kamensko (still). Cleared at last and we are now all in Bosnia. Actually we have been walking back and forth across the border at will, almost daring them to challenge us, but now all of us and all the vehicles are here officially. We say our goodbyes to the troops, who have given us a generous supply of bottled water. They tell us that it will take us 5 hours to get to Vitez.
Our route takes us through Livno, Bugojno, Donji Vakuf, Turbe and Travnik and we see many place names that became familiar during the extensive TV coverage of the war. The army names for the roads are Magpie, Pelican, Albatross, Opal, Gull and Diamond and the roads are well signed so even Brian, who was navigating, had no difficulty in following the route. In Donji Vakuf the bridge over the river has been blown. It has been replaced by a bailey bridge, with a British tank guarding it.
The scenery is, in many ways, much like we passed through yesterday. The main difference is that most of the villages are not completely destroyed. Some houses are only slightly damaged by bullets although the rest of the village stands in ruins with doors and window frames ripped out for firewood. We guess that the undamaged houses were, and still are, occupied by people supporting the winning faction. So this is ethnic cleansing. Elsewhere, people find shelter in ruined buildings, as is evidenced by the washing hanging out. The farmers are still very poor and we have seen muck-spreading and ploughing being done by hand with seed sown by walking up and down the field broadcasting it as in Biblical times. House cows are led into the fields on halters, with someone standing holding the halters while the cows graze. Most farmers have one horse to pull the cart or plough. Some are rich enough to have two, but only the really wealthy can afford a tractor.
Driving standards are abysmal: they surely can't have passed a test! Overtaking on blind bends is quite usual, and there seems to be complete disregard for the horses and carts which are common.
There is a very heavy presence of the IFOR troops. We see Dutch, Italian, Canadian and Malaysian vehicles as well as British. All the British troops wave as we pass, but some of the others are a bit standoffish.
Minefields are more extensive, and there are a number of bailey bridges over rivers and spanning craters in the road. There was one particularly spectacular bridge high in the mountains. Had a lorry come off, it would have meant a drop of nearly 2000 feet. Roy said his air-brakes would be no good for that!
We discover a couple more minor problems. The water header tank on the Leyland has split. Nothing to worry about at this stage as the engine has shown no sign of overheating, but Roy will try to seal it with Bostik. The portable charger for Brian's mobile phone has been damaged and one of the wires has come unsoldered from the circuit board. That means that we are now reduced to just one mobile, but at the moment that is no problem as mobiles don't work in this part of the world.
1400 Between Travnik and Vitez. Spot a sign pointing to Children's Aid Direct warehouse. Roy takes the camper to investigate, but it is locked. Carry on towards Vitez and stop to ask directions. We were right before, but as we ask, a Brit with a Glaswegian accent comes along. Turns out to be Stuart Templeton, our contact.
1500 Vitez. We return to the warehouse and Stuart explains that he had accommodation for us last night, when he had expected us to arrive, and will see if it is still available. We ask about parking the vehicles. The lorries can stay in the compound, which has a 7-foot-high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire - and a guard armed with an automatic rifle. (The watch dog, covered in fleas, seems to relish attention and would make a delightful pet.) There could be problems if the camper is parked in the open, so we opt to stay in the compound with the vehicles. We all phone home from the Children's Aid office and set to tidying up. Stuart goes off, but will return in an hour or so to show us the nearest decent restaurant.
2200 Back in the compound after a good meal. Roy and Tony had just decided to settle down for the night in their bunks in the cab of the artic when we heard and then saw a convoy of cars coming off the mountain with horns blaring. Our guard shoulders his automatic rifle and stands by the gate. Sue, Manda, Katy and Brian decide to play it safe, but Bill goes to the gate to investigate. The convoy disappears into the town. Bill retires to bed to read, the other four settle for a game of Scrabble.
2230 A burst of automatic rifle fire from the town. Katy wins the Scrabble.
2300 The convoy returns, longer than before, and disappears into the mountains, still with horns blaring. Bed.
Friday, 29 January 2010
1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink )I'm either too mean or not silly enough for that)
2. Swam with wild dolphins
3. Climbed a mountain
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
6. Held a tarantula
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
8. Said "I love you" and meant it
9. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise (though I don't recall seeing the sun rise on any of those days/nights)
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne (if champagne/brandy cocktails count)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse (But I have bet on a winning dog)
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can - probably as a baby!
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was wasted
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River - or was it the Colorado River?
82. Been on television news programs as an expert
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Eaten fugu (pufferfish)
89. Had a one-night stand
90. Gone to Thailand
91. Bought a house
92. Been in a combat zone
93. Buried one/both of your parents
94. Been on a cruise ship
95. Spoken more than one language fluently
96. Performed in Rocky Horror Picture Show
97. Raised children
98. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane - but I have piloted a glider
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
135. Selected one important author who you missed in school, and read something they wrote
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone's life
Thursday, 28 January 2010
0540 On the road early today. Delayed a little by Tony falling down the steep, rocky bank. Fortunately, little damage, grazes and abrasions, but Tony saw his life pass in front of his eyes as he plummeted towards the sea. Murphy's Law operates. Had we driven on last night for only 5 miles we would have passed a dozen or so restaurants, many with ample parking. It's so easy to be wise after the event. Travel along the winding coast road, through barren mountains. Mainly loose rocks, with a few scrubby bushes. The islands just off the coast, large as they are, look no better. Perhaps things will improve when the sun gets up. Through several small hamlets or villages. Can't think how they make a living, other than fishing. According to Plan A we should arrive in Sarajevo early enough to clear customs before they shut down for the weekend. We haven't a hope! In any case, we are now bound for Vitez, not Sarajevo.
0622 Senj. Stop to buy bread.
0745 Breakfast - boiled eggs, cold ham & fresh bread. Living like kings today! Carrying on down the Dalmatian coast we see a few small herds of sheep or goats, each with its shepherd or goatherd. No flock larger than 10 animals, 6 or 7 more usual. Still little for them to eat. As we get nearer to Zadar we start seeing signs of the recent war - burnt out vehicles beside the road, buildings damaged by gunfire. At one place a lorry had gone off the road and was being looted as we drove past.
1000 We need to turn away from the coast towards Gracac, but the camper is getting low on fuel. We decide that the safest thing is to send the camper into Zadar if necessary while the lorries wait. It could be some time as Zadar is about 20 miles away. Brian, Tony & Sue head off into what would be the sunset if this were a few hours later. They pass a sensitive military installation where photography is prohibited, then over several bailey bridges linked together to replace the sunken ferry beside it. On the return, Sue takes photos claiming that the "no photography" signs only operated in the other direction.
Martin Illings recommended that we cross into Bosnia at Karamenko and has faxed details of the route through Gracac, Knin and Sinj. Our map shows that part of the road between Gracac and Knin is unmade, but passable by vehicles. The map also shows a similar road through Obrovac which would reduce the distance considerably as it is a much more direct way from here to Knin. Let's go for it!
1020 We have turned off towards Obrovac but have a problem. Beside a burnt out factory the road forks. There is a signpost for Obrovac, but it could indicate either road. The one which looks the more used has a "lorries prohibited" sign. While we study the way ahead through binoculars a man appears from the factory. He says the "lorries prohibited" road is the one we want. At least, we think that's what he says. Sue muttered "It's not his lorry!" Press on again. The road is narrow, and runs downhill steeply, round numerous hairpin bends. Fortunately there is little traffic until, as we enter Obrovac, we meet a bus coming the other way. He has to back down the hill as there is no room to pass. It is quite obvious from the sign language what he thinks of us. Fortunately there is nobody from the nearby police station who is interested. The bus station is burnt out, as are the dozen or so buses standing there. Through Obrovac and back uphill out of the valley - more hairpins but the road is a little wider. Signs for Knin at the offset crossroads at the top of the hill, but not the way we expect. We ignore the signs and really motor along a good wide road with no other traffic. Through deserted villages, every building in ruins. Still desolate, rocky countryside.
The rough track ahead looks passable, but Roy takes the camper along it to check out whether or not we can get the lorries through. From our high viewpoint we can see houses dotted around, but all in ruins. No other sign of human life and we are probably 6 or 7 miles from the next human being. Just after Roy returns, a battered Lada pulls up with two men in it. They head off along the track after telling us that the made-up road starts again 4 kilometres along and that it will be OK for us to go through. Sue mutters "It's not their lorry either! And what about land mines?"
The rough track. Are there any landmines?
We decide to follow. Soon pass the Lada pulled up at the side of the track with the two men having a picnic! It's a mighty long 4 kilometres, but eventually, after passing through more deserted villages, we find a proper road again and increase speed above 10 mph. Everywhere still deserted but at last we spot a house still occupied, then another. Not many of them, though. Coats are to be seen hanging on hooks in some of the deserted houses. What has happened to the occupants? Fields are untended and going back to nature, fences broken. Occasional white or yellow tape indicates uncleared minefields. Unfortunately we don't seem to be heading the way we should be, but eventually Brian finds out where we are. We arrive at Kistanje, a smallish town which should be a busy little place. Almost a ghost town - just one car with driver and one pedestrian. On towards Knin with buses, lorries, cars and even a tank lying burnt out beside the road. Approaching Knin we joined up with an IFOR (Implementation Force) convoy and followed them through the town. From here on we were to see many IFOR vehicles.
1515 Vrlika. Fuel stop. While we filled up, a car with two very loud and scruffy young men pulled up blocking our exit. Garage attendant refused to take our money with these yobs around, but as we descended from our vehicles they decided that discretion was the better part of valour and took off, having put just a little petrol in their battered car. On towards Sinj, running through beautiful scenery with a lake beside the road for many miles. Roy fancied a swim.
1610 Sinj. Stopped by police for document check. He wanted to see tacho card and complained that the time on it was wrong. Great difficulty explaining to him that our journey had started in UK, so we were running on British time. Eventually he got fed up and let us through.
1710 Kamensko. Trying to get out of Croatia, but it seems they don't want to let us go. At least the camper has got through without trouble and is parked beside the temporary buildings and tent of the Royal Military Police and the ambulance section of 23 Para who maintain a post just inside the Bosnian border. They make us very welcome. It becomes obvious that there is no way to get the lorries through the border tonight, so we adjourn to the restaurant for a meal. The local brew doesn't agree with Brian, who is rather unwell. Bed reasonably early, 2200ish.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
The break up of the USSR, the unification of Germany and other events might have accustomed us to the redrawing of international boundaries, but a recent pronouncement by Dominique Dupilet, the council leader for the Pas de Calais département in northern France, seems just a little surprising. M Dupilet has stated, 'I consider that we are the south of England' - although he has not actually ceded any territory to the UK and his overlords in Paris might well seem fit to disagree with him. But it is really just part of a cunning plan to make money from the 2012 Olympics. The Pas de Calais has allocated 12 million euros to upgrade hotels and sports training facilities and is working hard to attract teams to the are for their pre-Olympic training.
And now to the world of not just political correctness, but political ultra-correctness.
Somebody wanted a cleaner and tried to place and advertisement at their local Job Centre which specified "a reliable cleaner". The advertisement was refused on the grounds that the inclusion of the word "reliable" discriminated against unreliable people. I am rendered almost speechless - but did wonder if the inclusion of the word "cleaner" would discriminate against cooks, bus drivers, teachers etc.
0745 On the road after cold night. Great views of mountains when we woke. Snow on the tops. As we drank our coffee in the brisk air, a British car stopped. Guy comes from Blackpool. We sympathised and told him somebody had to. The old ones are the best!! He was on his way to visit his girl friend in Slovenia. That's true love!
0851 At Austrian border. Camper goes through quickly as a car. Lorries have to clear customs. 30 minutes to pass out of Austria, then 2 hours to get into Slovenia. Talk about red tape! The drill is to take T forms (customs declaration forms) plus passports plus white forms received just before into the freight agents (in our case InterEuropa). They make out new T forms. Pay transit bond DM1000 which will be repaid on exit to Croatia. Take both new and old T forms plus receipt for transit bond plus all other papers to Slovenian customs, who stamp new T forms. Back to agents who hand back any papers they retained before plus exit form for each lorry. Take lorries to customs for checks on passports, green cards, seals etc. All this work by agent cost DM173.
1125 Cleared by customs.
1130 Stopped at toll booth for the Karawanken tunnel which we came through just before customs. They want to retain copy of letter confirming aid status. Katy dashes back to agents on border to get photocopies.
1405 Pivka. Passed through several toll stations with no trouble - they all accept the camper as part of the deal, so no cost. We have passed round Ljubljana and are heading for the coast at Rijeka, but road closed and diversion signed. Doesn't look too good.
1440 Ilirska Bistrica. It wasn't. Tortuous narrow lane with villages crowding the road. Very tight blind bends in the villages. Katy said the she and Roy were enjoying it because they were having to do some real driving. Now there is a sign indicating that lorries are not allowed to use road to Rijeka. Press on regardless!
1455 Out of Slovenia at Jelsane, into Croatia at Rupa. Lengthy delay for lorries. It's interesting what you can see happening at the back of some of the lorries when the customs man comes to check. Customs post closes for an hour at the shift change. Guess what, we caught the shift change.
1817 Lorries move forward for customs clearance.
1826 Cleared customs and on the way.
2005 Crikvenica. Passed through outskirts of Rijeka - glad it wasn't the rush hour. Fairly extensive docks with some medium-sized ships. Have been looking for a suitable 1 night stop for some time and have just spotted sufficient space to get all three vehicles off the road, right opposite a bistro.
Later. Quel dommage. The bistro had no food, not even a loaf of bread, but we decided against driving any further as it was then nearly 9.15 local time and goodness knows when we might find somewhere else. Of course it is possible that there are language difficulties as only Katy has any words of German and they are not particularly extensive. We buy a round of drinks. Every bottle a month past its "best before" date. Two more half-rounds (all still out of date) and there is no more beer. We've drunk the place dry. Back in the camper we eat cake for dinner while singing "A Pub With No Beer".
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
0735 On the road after morning checks on oil and water. Must remind Roy not to park next to refrigerator truck tonight as we were woken in the early hours by the one next to us.
0955 Lenting. Stop for breakfast - bacon & eggs cooked by Bill & Manda. Delicious. Decide to have a limerick competition, to be judged on ferry Calais to Dover.
1110 Crossed the Danube. Doesn't look very blue - more a mucky Thames-brown.
1200 Stopped at services. Looked big enough for possible tilt repairer but no joy here. Get fax from Martin lllings with names etc of contacts in Vitez, not Sarajevo. Directed to possible tilt repairer at Bad Aibling, a small town near Rosenheim. Press on through still magnificent scenery - narrow, steep valleys with churches or castles perched on high, pointed hills. Still broad-leaved woodland in autumn colours. At one time we climbed long hill out of a valley. Looking down from a height it looked like a snow-filled valley, or rather the view from a plane. Tremendous sight all the same.
Past Munich we have problem following directions to tilt repairers. Eventually decide we are lost so stop to ask directions Sent to transport company with own workshop. They do repair unofficially and for no more than a drink, then one of their lorries acts as guide back to motorway. At T-junction on the way the driver gets out of his car - he's a Lion. Joins with lorry as additional escort back to motorway!
Into Austria near Salzburg - will Julie Andrews appear with the von Trapp family? Really starting to motor now, although nearly half a day behind schedule. Rather a pity that we are travelling this section in the dark and are unable to enjoy the mountain scenery. Perhaps it will be light on the return journey.
1730 Stop high in the mountains to check route. Are we supposed to be heading for Graz or Villach? Loos in lay-by, thank heaven! Some phone home using mobiles. Very quick connection and good quality sound transmission.
1800 On the way again, towards Villach, so we are on the right road.
1830 Toll station, all pull into the side. Possible charge of £250 for the artic alone, but we have papers confirming status as aid convoy and therefore toll-free. Roy works it for the lorries, but we have to pay for the camper.
1915 Gmund. Overnight stop at nearby services. We have passed through several tunnels, some quite long, but Manda has managed very well despite suffering from claustrophobia. Ready for bed at 2100 after good meal.
Monday, 25 January 2010
0845 On the road. Camper seemed colder than we expected when we woke this morning - found out that Brian had pushed open the rear window with his feet which ended the night sticking out and waving in the breeze.
1030 Propsteirwald services, near Aachen. This was where Roy had wanted to stop last night - according to plan A. Try to sluice out the water tank, but not much joy. Bill bought a large plastic container fitted with a tap, but it leaked. Took it back and changed it. Much better. Now we can carry fresh water supply again. Roy's attention was distracted while parking the artic. Result - another tractor unit now has a smashed-up cab. Our lorry drivable after pulling out side protector bar using chain attached to 17-tonner. At least nobody hurt. Problem with tilt, which has a tear. Load is therefore effectively unsealed for Customs. Roy thinks we might be able to get it repaired nearer the Austrian border.
1220 On the road again. Pressed on south-east through Germany, past Bonn, Koblenz and Frankfurt. Magnificent scenery - broad-leaved woodland in full autumn colours. Spotted buzzards galore, kestrels, hawks, hooded crows. At one place there was a flock of sheep in an unfenced field beside the motorway. Under trees at the edge of the field was the shepherd, on one knee, with crook and sheepdog. The MacDonalds sign high over his head rather spoiled the rustic picture! Trouble-free drive until after dark, though slow. Top speed 54 mph, just 20-25 mph on the uphill stretches.
1915ish Pull up on hard shoulder. Roy has no lights on trailer. Camper goes on to next parking place, nearly gets stuck in mud. Lighting problem found to be bulb shorting as result of accident. Press on.
1955 Rasthaus Haidt. Had hoped to stop at previous services near Wurzburg, but full to bursting. Tony has heard a lot about Wiener schnitzel and orders one. Next in queue asks for same. Bad luck, that was the last. Couldn't think why one guy was so long in the shower while Tony and Brian waited. Tony in eventually - found dirty mag in bin!
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Monday, 21st October 1996. Trafalgar Day.
0800, Broadbridge Heath. The weather is bright as the team for Sarajevo assembles in the car park beside Tesco's. At least, four of the team assemble. Bill, Brian, Manda and Sue are here - what's happened to Roy and Tony and (What was his name? Oh, yes.) Martin Illings, the fireman who has agreed to come with us as the second HGV driver? Roy and Tony soon arrive in the second lorry. Problem number 1: Martin Illings has pulled out, as late as Saturday apparently. Local radio reporter who is here to cover the departure calls the station, who put out an appeal. Sue rings a friend (Katy) who is a freelance lorry driver but only gets the answering machine.
0900 All the bigwigs are here now - DG Mike Adams, VDG Bill Blake, Mayor (or is he Chairman?) of Horsham, Uncle Tom Cobley and all - for civic send off. Speeches from DG Mike and Chairman (not Mayor after all!), prayers from Chairman's chaplain. Too windy to hear what they said, but perhaps the local radio reporter had better luck. Hope so, as it was being broadcast live. TV was supposed to be here. We even unwrapped the artic ready for them, but had to wrap it up again. All a bit pointless really. Then into Tesco's for breakfast.
1045 No response to pleas for a driver, so we decide to chance it and twist someone's arm to take the lorry at least as far as Dover. Someone says that we will pick up another driver in Calais. Really?
1200 Clacketts Lane services, M25. Wow, we are making progress! Stopped to wait for Martin Illings to come over from Essex with rather important documents, like green cards and customs papers. Meanwhile, Sue tries her friend again. Amazingly, Katy agrees to throw a few things into a bag and meet us at Dover. While we wait for Martin, Roy shows us all the fax from the Foreign Office which says "Don't go to Bosnia". Bit late now!
1415 Dover Eastern Docks. We've refuelled the lorries (£180!!) and Bill and Sue drive off to meet up with Katy. While they wait, they decide that they need to top up as well. Seems to take an age and the fuel gauge shows the same after £20-worth of 4 star. After Katy arrives and leaves her car in the police compound at the docks, we move forward to Customs. Easy enough to seal the artic with the special cord that goes right round, but the cord for the smaller lorry is too short. Roy takes the camper to the nearest supplier, the other side of Dover, but returns with a second cord the same length. Off again, for a short one to extend the original. While away, he decides to fill up with petrol (unleaded, not 4 star). So that's why the gauge didn't move. They had filled the fresh water tank with petrol. Roy remarkably calm.
1730ish Lorries sealed by Customs, on to get tickets. Whoops, the camper shouldn't have come this way. Sent back like a naughty puppy to get ticket in car lane. Still, we put it on the weighbridge so we know it goes 2753 kilos.
1845 We set sail, Roy having found his boarding card in the nick of time. All into the freight drivers' restaurant (you can't call it a caff) for 3 course meal plus quarter bottle of wine - £5.30. Fruit juice, tea, coffee free. Must try this again. Only just time to visit duty free. Brian says he must get the old bat some perfume or life won't be worth living.
2000 Calais. Decide to keep our watches on British Summer Time as the tacho clocks in the lorries show this and will have to stay like it to avoid confusion. Plan A shows us 5 hours earlier than this so that we could clear France and Belgium today and overnight at service area near Aachen. Agree to press on for 3 hours.
2300 or thereabouts. Service area near Lewen, east of Brussels. Time to call it a day. Put the kettle on, make up the bunks under Roy's tuition and eventually into bed at 0030.
Saturday, 23 January 2010
The trip lasted some ten days and involved two lorries and a motor caravan travelling in convoy. During the trip, most of us kept a journal of some sort and after we had returned to England, the scrappy jottings were amalgamated and transcribed into a souvenir diary. I have mine in front of me as I write and as it might prove of some passing interest, tomorrow I shall open the Secret Diary of the Sarajevo Seven and we can begin our journey from Sussex to Sarajevo.
Friday, 22 January 2010
I have just finished Traitor's Kiss, having only just found a copy in the library although it was published several years ago. This is one of those books that I find difficult to put down, although with 500+ pages it is not one to be read at a single sitting. "Ferret" is a high-ranking officer in the Russian navy and has been passing information to the British for four years. A simple slip-up puts him under suspicion and he sends a message asking for help. Both the SAS and the SBS having refused assistance, his former handler emerges from retirement to organise the ex-filtration.
Seymour has been described as the finest thriller writer there is, and this is certainly one of his better works. Star rating: a straight five.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
The United States was very quick off the mark after the disaster with typical American generosity, dispatching an aircraft carrier, helicopters and 10,000 troops as well as substantial amounts of food etc. But they have been criticised by a French minister for "occupying" Haiti. Quite what aid the French have sent is something I don't know, but criticism such as this is quite out of order. I was interested to read that one of the world's richest countries, Saudi Arabia, has sent a letter of condolence. And what of Syria, the country that paints the US and the UK as limbs of Satan? Zilch. Doesn't that just put matters in perspective?
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Yes, really! It seems that train companies count a train as having arrived at a station when the front of the train passes the last track-side detector before the station - which can be up to half a mile away. I really shouldn't be surprised. Before I retired, I commuted to London on a daily basis for some fourteen years (and boy, was I glad when that finished!). In an effort to "encourage" the railway companies to improve their performance, the railway watchdog decreed that season ticket holders were to be allowed a discount on renewal if the reliability of the service and the punctuality of the trains had not met given standards during the previous year. It took the operating companies very little time to realise that if they altered their timetables to show an arrival time a few minutes later than previously, more trains would arrive at their destinations on time. Mind you, "on time" meant anything up to ten minutes late.
So why is it that I am surprised by this latest revelation?
Monday, 18 January 2010
Sunday, 17 January 2010
The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society is the third book by Chris Evans about his life as a hill-farmer in southern Spain. The one-time drummer with Genesis turned shepherd turned sheep-shearer established himself in Andalucia to scratch a living from the mountain soils. His books (Driving Over Lemons and A Parrot in the Pepper Tree were the forerunners) are basically a series of anecdotes about life on his farm and his dealings with neighbours both Spanish and of various other nationalities. He has an engaging, self-deprecating style of story telling, always more than happy to tell stories against himself, and the book is an amusing read. He has been compared favourably to Bill Bryson, but I don't think I could go that far.
If I were to rate books with between one and five stars, five indicating a book I will certainly read again and one a book I couldn't even finish, I think I would probably give The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society three stars.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
- - - - - - -
I mentioned some while ago that a lady had left home on 22 December to fetch the Christmas turkey. I gave the wrong date as she actually left home on 19 December. Yesterday's paper carried a report that she hopes to get back home sometime next week.
Friday, 15 January 2010
Now we are trying to work out what we can do to have such fun this afternoon.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
This morning I looked out of the window to find another two inches of snow had fallen, almost completely obliterating yesterday's work: and it's still snowing. So it's back to square one. Well, maybe square three.
Weather this bad is most unusual for us here, which reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite books, HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean. The scene is an inlet on the coast of Iceland during a particularly fierce gale from which a number of ships are sheltering during WW2. The wind blows back the flight deck of a merchantman converted to a carrier. With delightful understatement, an officer on a nearby ship says,'My word, that is unusual'.
Hey ho, time to tramp up to Asda, the dog foregoing her walk this morning (much to her disgust).
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
Our local radio station yesterday announced that there was a four-foot long icicle at Crawley, a town some 20 miles north. I've measured our biggest one as best I can - if I open the window to do so I will knock it down - and I make it almost 4' 6", certainly more than 4'. It can be seen to the left of the window in this picture. We haven't bothered to call the radio station.
Monday, 11 January 2010
There have been comments to the effect that other countries - like Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden etc - cope with snowy winters so much better than we do, and why is it that when we have a few inches of snow everything stops? Of course, what those whingers overlook is that the countries they mention suffer these conditions every year, and for weeks or months at a time. Naturally, they will have the tools and equipment to deal with the problem. I see that many Americans have snow blowers which, I assume, they use every winter. Anyone living in Brighton would use such an implement about once in every ten years, which hardly makes a purchase a sensible investment. Not that one can buy snow blowers in England as far as I know. I have never seen one - not even a picture of one - but I imagine they are similar to the leaf blowers one can buy.
Anyway, the snow has certainly slowed the pace of life, which might not be such a bad thing.
There is one thing puzzling me. When I look out of the windows in the front of the house I see icicles hanging from the guttering and water dripping off the end of them. Do icicles melt from the bottom, or does water run down them to drip from the ends? The icicles don't seem to be shrinking, which indicates that they are just acting as conduits for ice-melt from above, but I would have expected the narrow points at the bottom to melt first.
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Long Time Coming, the thaw, I mean. It really is most unusual for us to have snow and ice hanging around for this long. We were running low on fresh veg and a few other essentials, so yesterday I trudged - and it was a trudge - to our nearest supermarket as none of the nearer shops would have what we wanted. Asda is about a mile away, which is not really very far, but there are three hills to climb on the way. I did wonder if they would have Long Time Coming in stock, but no luck.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
We hear so many conflicting reports about climate change that I have never been able to make up my mind which side I believe in. This all started years ago. I was working in the newspaper industry when it became all the rage (and a government directive) for newspapers to be printed on paper with as great a content of recycled material as possible. On the face of it, that sounds a very laudable ambition. Just think of all those old newspapers that would no longer end up in landfill sites. But there is/was another side to the story. The old newsprint has to be collected and transported to a factory where it has to be cleaned of ink (using noxious chemicals) before it can be pulped and turned into fresh newsprint. The virgin newsprint, however, is/was imported, mainly from Finland, and was produced from timber grown especially for that purpose. There was a lot of rubbish talked about saving the tropical rain forests although no paper was ever made from that timber. What was usually (conveniently?) overlooked was that for every tree felled for newsprint, two were planted - and that growing trees absorb more CO2 than mature ones. All-in-all, recycling newsprint required as much energy as producing virgin newsprint, and resulted in less CO2 being sucked out of the atmosphere.
All that is not really what I have been thinking about, but it does indicate how ambivalent I am about the warnings of doom for our planet. All the same, it would not be a bad thing to reduce our use of fossil fuels and reduce the volume of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere. With that in mind it occurred to me that if every car driver reduced his/her weekly mileage by just 5 miles, this would make quite a sizeable difference. I don't know how many cars there are in this country (and I have no intention of trying to find out), but I do know that the population is about 60 million. Obviously, not everyone has a car, but if we assume that there are 15 million cars in this country, then a reduction of 5 miles a week for each of them would mean 75 million miles less each week = 3,750 million miles a year. If the average fuel consumption was only 25 miles per gallon, that would be a reduction of 150 million gallons of petrol/diesel used each year and several tone of CO2 less. And that's just in this country: if the idea spread to the rest of Western Europe, North America, etc the savings are potentially enormous. Just by driving 5 miles less each week.
Friday, 8 January 2010
Thursday, 7 January 2010
Instead she presented him with a mince pie she had heated on a log fire.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
I hear on the radio that Gatwick airport is closed and that it is too dangerous for buses to be run in Brighton.
There is no way I can get the car up the drive, and even if I could, the road is, of course, impassable. That means that two dinners today have been scrapped. Being the first Wednesday of the month, today should have seen the Lions' dinner meeting. We were planning a very informal affair, but because of various problems our social secretary was unable to make the arrangements with the selected restaurant. I offered to take the OB out to dinner at the Italian in the village, and we were to be joined by three others. I have just come off the phone with one of them and we have agreed not to venture out.
But we are better off than a Scottish lady I read about the other day. She and her husband live at Cape Wrath, which is either the most northerly point of the British mainland or damn near it, and she set off on 22 December to fetch the Christmas turkey from town. This involved her husband driving her 11 miles to the spot where they keep their boat. Then she sailed across the firth (estuary?) to a point where she could catch a bus into town. Unfortunately, it snowed while she was out and her husband couldn't drive to collect her. She spent Christmas and New Year living in her sister's caravan while her husband was at home, alone but for their six dogs. And a couple of walkers who called into the remote cafe the couple run - on Christmas Day. (It was that last touch that made me sceptical about the veracity of the report. What were people doing walking in such a remote spot on Christmas Day? Where had they come from and where were they going to?)
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
I have been very busy scanning onto the computer some of my collection of 35mm slides and I came across this one showing the MV Athena B which beached near the Palace Pier, Brighton, way back in January 1980. Amazing to think it is nearly thirty years since that happened! I was working in Brighton at the time and managed to get down to the beach during my lunch hour - along with a few hundred others.
Monday, 4 January 2010
I am something of a 'routine' person and it will be good to get back to having the room as it usually is, with the armchair moved away from the television where it has to be moved to make way for the tree. That will save me craning my neck to watch, although truth be told, there hasn't been much I have wanted to watch lately. One good thing is that the news will be broadcast at its regular time instead of being shunted around anywhere between 9.50 and 11.25. I wonder when Jo Kent will be back on our screens?
Sunday, 3 January 2010
- Pressing the snooze button one more time.
- That first cup of tea in the morning.
- Hearing nothing but a skylark singing as it soars over the Downs.
- Watching very young lambs chasing each other.
- The scent of daphne.
- Taking my shoes off after I've worn them all day.
- The feeling I get after a good meal with enough to eat but not too much.
- Seeing Jo Kent's smile.
- Freshly laundered sheets when I get into bed.
Saturday, 2 January 2010
“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do. The pleasure is in having lots to do, and not doing it.”
~ John W. Raper (whoever he is/was)
Friday, 1 January 2010
Another thing I don't do is resolutions, although that is perhaps only part of the truth. I am still keeping one I made years ago - never to make another New Year's resolution.