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No 15

Bonnie England

Spent the first night last night in the caravan and I had forgotten how cold it is in UK at night, the bed clothes that I had in storage were not enough, got through the night with a couple of towels on top of the air cell blanket and that just worked. Today I bought a Duvet so that should sort tonight out. Still have to get the battery connected, the voltmeter that I had here has also disappeared, I may sort out the shower fitting and get something better, but that is tomorrow!

Today I have been to a "Car Boot" sale, bought a car radio for £1, ( it did not work, well what do you expect) I had gloves on it case it was HOT! And kept my fingers crossed that it would work! A cell phone with out a charger for £2, same story! A small vacuum cleaner for £2 and some Readers Digest books for 20p each.

Well it was a hot night, last night, with the new duvet, fortunately I did not use it with a blanket, so I am now ready for what ever England can thro at me… almost.
Was in a shop today to see if I could get a lighter duvet and they said NO that is a summer weight, did not feel like telling her that yes it might be a summer weight if you are in a caravan that does not hold the heat, but I thought, what is the use. This is the weight that they have in the hotels I have been staying in and I strip out the duvet and just sleep with the duvet cover on me which is, a double sheet, you could say!

Well from the Car boot sale the Vacuum cleaner works, the books are good, the phone is no good.

In a caravan you wake early, like almost when the sun rises, so I am usually up by 7.30 if I sleep in, but cannot do anything constructive till 9.30 when the office opens, I download my email then I can go shopping!

Today I ended up devoting most of the day to being in traffic jams (not planned) and at the car Auction. Went out there first and then back to the campground to get my watch so I could keep track of the time and on the way back thought, well I could drop into the hardware shop on the was and that is one more job done, well that was the first traffic jam, as the time was moving on I thought, the hardware shop will have to wait, so on back to the Auction. There with 30 minutes to spare, bought a catalogue, well three sheets of paper stapled together for £3, Ned Kelly is their name (a early Australian bush ranger)

So for today I just made a note of what the cars sold for so I could get an idea of how the prices related to the "Car price guide" I bought.

The auction had a lot of dealers there so if the car was any good they bid on it to just under what they would give as a trade in! There was an old BMW 320 that they could not get even a £50 bid on! Well when they reached half way through the cars left were too new or too small for what I wanted so I wandered on.

Next was to try to find a pawnshop, they often have all sorts of tools for sale at a very good price, but it was not where it was meant to be. Found the cell phone was useless! Bought a smoke detector (the one in the caravan was too old), and a carbon monoxide alarm. That will make things a little safer.

Went and changes some of the old English money that I had that was out of date, order a new pin number for my English bank account, tried to draw some money out of my NZ bank account and every card I had was refused.
With that, I became a little worried, one hears of bank accounts being cleaned out by crooks, so I headed back to the campgrounds and went into "Banking on line", everything was OK so it was just something wrong with the communication between UK & NZ.

I am still trying to find a replacement shower taps set to make it easier with having a shower, the one in the caravan is VERY primitive, but then I did not pay a lot of money for the van!

I have been looking for a fold up chair so I can sit outside and had not found one that I liked, but tonight just as they were closing shop (by then I had been in three more traffic jams) so I bought one, with perhaps one more to follow if I like it!

So it was off to join the best traffic jam of the day on the way home, stopped off at the supermarket to do some shopping, and then home, threw the groceries inside, pulled out the table, unfolded the chair and sat down in the field with the rabbits feeding in the distance, the birds chirping and the traffic a very distant hum.
Decided to have a simple dinner and just enjoy the peace and quite, I had Jim Beam for company.

Well tonight I went down to the meeting place of the Bedford Camera Club, to find that they have closed for the summer, it appears that in Bedford a photography club is just a winter business.

Today again to the Camp office to organize the caravan to be cleaned and to send & clear my emails, quite a few business ones so that took a few minutes sorting out the replies. Then into the town center to do some shopping for tools and bits for the caravan and before I knew where I was it was 12 noon.

So off to the next town 12 miles away to visit the caravan supplies center and while I was there I checked to see if I could get the van checked over, yes in one month! Then to look at second hand vans while I was there to see what I liked in case I wanted to trade up next year, no other bits there that I wanted, except I got the sales person's version of what you needed for a tow car.

Into the Town Center to see if I could find a reasonable priced cell phone and while I was looking saw a men's hairdresser that had no one in the chair so in I went, came out looking a different person, I sort of like the one with longer hair!

However they say the difference between a good haircut & a bad one is six weeks, in this case I guess it will be seven weeks!

The hairdresser told me that the news agent across the road sold second hand cell phones so across I went.....

It was interesting there were three people in the shop, two assistants and one person chatting to them, one knew the main export from NZ, sheep meat, but then he was a Muslim, but no one could place NZ in the world. They knew it was not up by Alaska but were prepared to believe it was above Denmark. When I told them it was beside Australia the owner did not want to believe me, here was I thinking it was only Americans that did not know geography

Back to the camp to collect the dirty washing and forgot to look at the caravan to see what it looked like cleaned so just grabbed the laundry bag and was away, half way down the drive I realized I had not collected the soap powder so came back and the caravan looked wonderful, worth several hundred Pounds more!

The laundry was pretty basic, no change machines, no automation for paying; you just have to bring a hand full of 20c & £1 coins. It is amazing what using good laundries in other countries leads you to expect.

I am just looking out the caravan window at a small rabbit sitting up on its hind feet washing it face with it two front feet, real pretty!

Well I am slowly getting things organized in the Caravan and getting everything working, and if it does not work I am deciding how important it is to my comfort and what my comfort is worth!

Today I was intending going to the next town to do some shopping, but first I thought I would see what was at the car auction. There were a few Peugeot 405's which I thought was just big enough to pull the small caravan that I bought, so went one became available at £325 I bid for it, it did not make the reserve so they will phone me later, I am assuming it will be sold so I will see next week if I got a bargain or a lemon. The insurance for theft & 3rd party cost more than the car! Hopefully it will do for this year so I will see.

Went to the money machine to draw out some money and again it would not pay out, and this was practically bad with one machine owned by Lloyds that has most of the shares of the National bank of NZ, maybe they know too much!

I will probably just get funds remitted to my UK bank account and draw on that, so much for "use your cards right around the world, must admit they have worked well till I got to the UK.

So now have car, caravan, insurance, just need to get a tow bar fitted, the car checked over and I can start moving around the country.

So they phone me to tell me that my bid was successful, I had just finished lunch so I drove the rental out to the auction, left it there and drove £325 car back to the campground then I walked down to the bank from the campground, a walk of about 40 minutes, to get some money out of my UK bank account, then got a taxi out to the car auction and collected the rental. That along with some shopping and minor work on the van was my day.

So I then sat out in the late afternoon sun read the Times, had some dinner all at a leisurely pace and as the sun had passed the yardarm I was allowed a drink so it was all very peaceful, it is becoming quite unlike me.

Started the day as usual down loading the email, did not go well this morning, kept on getting disconnected, but eventually made it, will go over to the office before they open as they only have one phone line & it ties them up for business.

Rang the Caravan Club and YES the car is big enough to pull the caravan, I had a feeling it had to be, but it was nice to have the information confirmed. While I was in the campground office their mechanic rang and they asked me if I want to get him to check out the Peugeot, so that will go in tomorrow.

For many years we dashed past a place called "Milton Keynes" , we heard it mentioned in a play in the west end, the children of the old person had come all the way from… , the other day the hairdresser said how he never went there because it was too American, I questioned him about this comment, no he had not been outside UK, but that is what he had been told and he did not like it.

So that got me interested to today I drove over there, quite involved getting there if you missed the ONE sign you were done! So I parked and went inside and it was big, in fact the 40 minute walk I do every day at home over about six city blocks, no it can't be THAT big, but it took me about the same time to quickly walk around it, but I wander, when I got to the information booth I collected a information brochure to find out a bit about it, THEN I got the biggest surprise I have ever had, well almost!

EVERY shopping mall I have ever been to has free parking! NOT Milton Keynes they have "pay and display" and the fine if you do not is £60.00, can you imagine it, and the people STILL SHOP THERE! I guess that is why the national anthem has the words "There always be a England" because I am not sure what other country would put up with it.

Reading this I am beginning to sound like a whining Pom in reverse, well its about time they were told it is not as good as they think!

So I went out to thew car to check this out and found not only had I not paid & displayed I has also parked on a handicapped zone, so I shifted the car from a handicapped persons zone and found a space inserted £1 coin, (That is $NZ3) for one hour 10 minutes, Ned Kelly is alive & well and living in Milton Keynes, and making a fortune.

So I wandered around for about a hour, today was market day and in a area reserved for this were a lot of tents with all sorts of rubbish for sale. The shopping was a few book shops, travel agents, Men & Women's fashions, food shops, a few other things, but I would not return there, there was not the variety at for example, the Santa Monica Mall.

So that was Milton Keynes! So I headed away back to Bedford and after about a mile I saw something under my windscreen wiper, Yeap the got me while I was in the Handicapped area, gee they were fast, will write to then & see what happens, Hell $NZ180.00 …hell!

Found a drycleaner, it is always a problem in a strange town.

Went back to collect a printer for the computer from PC World, the one that I wanted (it was the price) was discontinued, and the sample in the 36 hours had been sold.

So I did my block, the nice little guy went and got the duty manager and he blew it, he did EVERYTHING wrong in handling the complaint. They have 110 shops and advertise that "they strive to exceed their customers expectations" and if you are not happy ask to see the Duty Manager, but they do not train their Duty Managers on how to handle complaints, and it is so easy once you know!

He kept on asking me to describe the person who served me or what was his name, hell they need a sign in their shop saying "if someone promises you something make sure you get his name, HELLO! Anyone at home!

He also would not let me talk he was wanting to tell me how the could not do anything about the fact that one of his staff and told me 36 hours earlier that they would be in stock.

He had never been told that the Good Lord had given him two ears and only one mouth and there was a reason for that!

He also let me get to him which is a no no if you are placed in a situation of handling complaints.

Question who do you talk to if you are unhappy with the duty manager? They obviously have not thought that through! They spend millions in fancy shops, in good locations, on advertising, the web, staff, stock, but they blow it on the most basic details, and all that money is wasted.

Incidentally I bought another printer from a shop about 5 miles away for substantially less than their next cheapest printer!

Bought some wood to put in some extra shelves in the cupboards in the caravan, they are quite high and could very easily be divided into two horizontally.

Bought a voltmeter the other day so I was able to check the voltages etc in connection with the battery and it look like I will have to get a expert to look at it as it does not seem like the battery is working, the agent had a one month delay on bookings for the service dept, need to see if the Campground here have someone that can do it sooner!

Over to the office first thing to clear my emails, still having problems with my bank and the credit/cash cards and getting them to work, only solution is to bring over some money in one lump and hope the NZ currency does not go up too much.

It was a "working on the caravan day today" after failing to get the front locker to open I decided to drive to the next town to get some new locks. While I was there I looked at the in-board pumps, it thought NO I have just bought the other type of pump, so I did not buy it, of course the other pump failed tonight so that is another 20 minutes drive tomorrow morning…. Oh well…


to top right....

From bottom left

The rest of the day was spent on putting in shelves into the cupboards to make easier to store things, things that should have been put into the unit when it was built. So there were several trips to the hardware shop as I ran out of things, then I took the 405 down to the garage, following the campground owner, who was taking down one of his "moving, towing caravan pullers" that he uses for moving the caravans in storage.

I left instructions at the garage for them to drive it round the block and if there is some thing serious to phone me, they were going to do this, this afternoon and as the phone did not go that noise I heard can not be that serious, so they will now give it a complete service costing about £110 and hopefully that will see me right for this year! All I need then is a tow bar fitted then I an on my way!

At least all of this is allowing me to get things sorted out on the caravan which is good!

I finished the day off by fitting a dead lock to the caravan door which will add a bit more security, but it will of course keep only a honest man out!

Well the usual download of emails, I answer all of then off line and send them next time I am on line!

Then it was thro to the caravan spares and bought a new pump, back to the camp ground for lunch, the day does not go far when you have to wait till 9.30 to log on! Then to return my printer that did not work, it was interesting their approach, they did not want to know want was wrong, would NOT allow me to connect my laptop to show them the fault, just wanted to replace it! As I say interesting!

Good news on the car only some bulbs, wiper blades and some new brake hoses tighten up the rattle I heard and the car is on the road.

Campground has filled up a bit and there will be 30 10-15 year olds camping here over night.

So I fitted the pump, took a while, waterproofed the lock around the hole I cut in the door, wrote the letter to the parking ticket people and that was it. Does not seem much for 8 hours, but I guess that is the way it goes.

My the water pressure is worth every penny I paid for the pump, not sure how the water will hold out but I soon will find that out!

After downloading the mail, was talking to a guy three caravans along from me, he remembered me from when we camped here with the 694 Hymer, remembered the van!

Well by the time we were finished talking it was almost 12 noon, so I set off to look at some German caravans that were featured in a caravan magazine, in a village this side of Northampton. Interesting drive so many little roads going off in all directions at each round a bout and the directions are not always postive, but O well it is only a Sunday drive.

Found the place of business but no thanks to the signs from the road, no mention of the name of the business at all! And they told me they had been featured in three magazines, I know what I would have done, but I assume they would consider me vulgar, but I would have done the business!

They were a interesting range of vans, very well build, they would need some thinking about their layouts, not as practical as the English.

The little village close by was delightful, lots of thatched cottages, now I understand why they designed wide angle lenses, the streets are so narrow in this country you need one to get all of your picture in, of course I only had the 75-300, so it was stand back and get a picture!

Then it of off following signs to the canal boat museum, another interesting drive down long narrow roads with high fences either side, finally got there and there was some do on with some people dressed up in period costume. Only problem was to find a park, I illegally parked on a double yellow line (you are not supposed to do that are you) grabbed the four photos left on the film and retreated back to the car.

On the way back into town I stopped at the DIY store, I am still looking for a tap to control the shower better, the new pump is wonderful but to conserve hot water you need to be able to turn the flow off while you soap up! Found instead a small hand vacuum cleaner with a small revolving brush that sweeps the floor as it sucks, in the style of the Hoover, well it remover so much dirt & hair you could almost eat from the floor.

My £2 one I cut the plug off (worth £3.50) and took the tired old beast over to the caravan next door and made a present to them, you would have thought I was giving them to crown jewels the way they thanked me!

Then it was a matter of resealing the shower, with the sealer I had left over from the motorhome, then off to the supermarket to top up on groceries, spent £40.31, must keep the docket & compare the list with back home, bought some Sunday papers, one the told me was the scandal paper but it had Robbie Williams & Rachel Hunter on the cover so I bought it just for the folks back home.

Then spent two hours reading the papers, and then it started raining, the computer started playing silly devils so I thought I better let it sleep over night, as you can see with this note it woke up in a working mood!

Down town to find the post office, register the car based on a cc rating £86 for six months, it was raining on and off most of the day so I decided to just read a book, I an in the waiting mode at the moment, waiting for the car to be serviced, waiting for the caravan 12v system to be sorted, waiting for the tow bar to be fitted, waiting to return the Peugeot but the end of the week should see it right!

Drove thro to Hemel Hempstead and collected a copy of last years site directory, like head offices everywhere they have no idea what happens in the field! When I rang the head office they said YES ALL the campgrounds have directories for sale, the branch says "we never have had them"!

The larger the coy the less idea the people that work there have as what happens out at the coal face.

Went on to shop at some of the super stores on the outskirts of London, I saw the shops several times as I passed them going different directions, but do you think I could find the turnoff? In the end after two hours I decided to save my money and go home, I had forgotten what I was going to look for in any case.

Back at the campground Graham (the owner) told me the repairer for caravans would be in later in the afternoon so I sat down & read the paper and after about one hour he arrived, found a fuse had blown and now after searching thro Bedford to get the special fuse I have a 12volt system that works, all I need now is for the battery charger to be working and things will be fine.

I need a number plate, I can not get one with out the log book (that is what the call the ownership papers here), the log book has been sent to Wales for change of ownership! If I got the number plate before I set it away I guess the would not have given them to me with out my name on the papers, so now I have to phone Cardiff and get some sort of number so I can get a number plate, traps for young players!

The couple in the next caravan have just sold there house in Bedford and are moving to the south of France to retire because it is 20% cheaper, and it is warmer with better weather. At home we can sell a house & buy a new house and the change can take place on the same day, here they have to camp here for 16 days before the money comes through!

Wednesday 3rd July,
Went back to the Post office today to find out where to ring to get details of the "Log book" they gave me a number but of course it had been changed, and of course the call was not forwarded, you had to hang up and ring again, cant make it to easy can we, well the first time "sorry we can not take your call at the moment", second later in the day, you are in a queue, please wait, the third time I got thro after three minutes waiting, NO they can NOT help! You will just have to wait three weeks.

Back to the number plate people, NO without the number on the log book to feed into the computer we can not help, BUT there is a spare parts shop down the road that will do it for you without papers while you wait! Yes it will be ready in half a hour they said, by this time it was almost five o'clock so I elected to call back tomorrow. Well that's fixed, thanks for the ethnics who run these shops!

Sick of carrying around my undeveloped films so I took them into a Kodak Express shop, ready in two days at £3.66 each 36 exp. Interesting that was the price I was quoted for develop only! Pay cash up front! It is good to see the English have put themselves above the American "dog eat dog" syndrome "of not helping your competitor" and are helping the underdog as the Kodak Express guy said "And we will give you these six rolls of Very Good Agfa film"! From a Kodak Express? What next a Burger King hamburger?

Interesting on the walk through Clapham Village the dates on some of the houses, there were the Rose Cottages 1862, The Laurels 1899, of course they were all built out of double brick and were very substantial. There were many without dates that looked considerable older, nothing of course like some we have been in that were 400+ in age!

When I returned to the caravan I undid the deadlock, that is all I have been using, and found the other lock somehow was locked, all of the keys were inside! Fortunately the toolbox was in the boot of the car so first I tried the poly grips NO Luck then a large screwdriver inserted in the key slot, turned, and it opened. I felt good about installing the deadlock!

It was market day in Bedford today and the fruit & veges stalls were very busy with everyone shopping, buying fresh & cheap, Right, well I bought some bananas that were priced at £1 a pound of weight, later in the supermarket I saw they were £1.09 a Kilo, in other words about 2.5 times cheaper in the supermarket! Yet the market place was packed with people buying! I found the electric jig saw that I paid £13 in the market place last week, which sounded OK and possibly was for the brand, but at a DIY I could have bought one for £9, which would have done my job just as well. Something else learned which it seems most here still have to learn!

Today was collect the car day, I had been waiting for the campground owner to go out to collect his car so I could get a lift with him but again he had a full day so his car & my lift was going to have to wait for another day. Then I said to my self, walk it, I had walked longer distanced in Paris and have done very little walking since I have been in England. So off I set and after a bit I thought it must be soon so I started looking at the map with the next cross street and I had got up steam so well that I had walked about one Klm past the garage, I hate to think where I would have been if I did not have the map, still walking, surely not!

So we went over what they had done to the car, talked about costs in each of our countries, crime, housing, told them it was winter in the southern hemisphere, they had not thought about it, I payed the man the money £443, booked a tow
bar to be fitted from their phone, one was a week away the other was Saturday so Saturday it is!

Total costs for the car to date including the tow bar is £1416, that is insurance, registration the lot, so I am quite pleased with the deal, at the moment it drives very well, time however will tell all.

Then with the 405 thro to get the last caravan bits, move all of the things from the rental boot to the big boot of the 405 and it must now be time for me to see how old Jim is, surname Beam!

Today was the day to return Peugeot 206 so it was into Heathrow to the long term car park and it went very easy, yes the traffic on the M25 was interesting!

There were about four in the office, two black, one Aussie, one Kiwi from Auckland, do not know where all the Brits were?

Courtesy bus to the airport, underground to Kings Cross, then train to Bedford, it was good to get one with only three stops, I have been on one that stopped at every station! When the train arrived at Bedford it was raining buckets, OK it was very heavy rain. All the first off the trains were the ones to grab the taxi's so I thought there is nothing for it, this is why I brought the wet weather gear, so I sat down & put it on and that was a signal for it to stop raining, I walked back to the camp ground, well not in exactly fine weather but it was not raining, so I suppose for the inhabitant's of these fair Isles it was fine weather.

When I arrived at the caravan there were four 40ft American motorhomes arrange in a square to keep the Indians out! I wandered over there and they were of course Brits and told me it was just like sitting in a armchair driving one of these buses gone wrong! They of course had their pack of dogs with them and I could not help feeling that they may have had more room that some of the people that I visited in Russia. Certinally the Brits I beleive lived better in their motor homes than mean I have seen here with modern plumbing & air conditioning.

Back then into town to collect the fourteen rolls of film, not bad printing, do as proofs, should have noticed they had a Agfa 101 minilab and they do not have a video monitor so the results could have been better with a semi modern Noritsu!

Then sort thro the films, read the papers, and that is another day in Bedford.

Graham to owner of the storage farm has one staff, the other day he was off sick and I saw him if the post office, Thursday he told Graham that he was having Friday & the week end off….. wonderful being a employer, all the money you make!!!!

Went thro to the caravan supplies AGAIN, discovered the lock that I forced, I had broken one of the levers, if the other broke I would be out in the cold, you can bet it would be pouring with rain, so I thought I would be better to replace it. It cost £19.60, this brought to mind the comment made by the mechanic that did the work on the car "that we think £20 is nothing today" well it is $NZ60+ to me!

While I was at the caravan sales I looked at the new vans and they all had the same locks that I opened with a screwdriver, mentioned it to a salesman how I opened it and he said , but you wrecked the lock didn't you, he missed the point, did he think a thief would not break in because he might wreck the lock! The unfortunate thing is that there is no room to fit a dead lock on the new doors.

Quite frankly I would have expected better considering the number of caravans that go missing and the obvious disregard for personal property in this country, I would have at least expected then to put better locks on the new vans, no they put alarms in them (more money), sell you security identification systems (more money), no locks are too simple (and too cheap)!

With all of the rain I again thought I better be better prepared so I bought a wet weather jacket, did look at the X German Army one but I thought I was a bit old to be fashionable in this type of surplus gear.

Drew some money out to pay for the tow bar, hurray the card worked. Then brought some newspapers to read while I was waiting for the guy to arrive, he was due at 4pm, it came & went, so did 5pm, so I put everything back into the boot and sat inside reading and at 6pm he arrived at the caravan door, so everything out of the boot again, and is working on it now. 7.45 Now finished gave me a invoice with three business cards attached, wonder how many people attach thier business cards to a invoice!

Hooked up the car to the caravan and drove around the farm, everything seems to work OK.

Did my Laundry, the Laundromat was full of men, I think they had been sent out to do the family laundry, it was interesting in the time I was there, there was only one Brit that came in the rest were from all over.

Went for a walk tonight, found a new housing development, asked one of the owners how much the brick bungalow sold for he said £250,000 I feel it would have been able to be brought for that in NZ$ in the Auckland area, not central city but out in the suburbs, Bedford is not exactly Remura!



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