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  • …grayblog…- separating the wanted from the unwanted » travel

    Friday 3 June 2011

    Willys

    This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Willy’s MB – popularly known as the Jeep. The first four wheel drive vehicle that many people came into contact with through service in the forces in the Second World War, it provided the springboard for the whole 4×4 industry – particularly once the Land Rover came along in 1948. There are an awful lot of Land Rovers – nearly five million in their various flavours.

    One of them is sitting on our front drive – a 2003 Freelander. Want to buy it? It seems the market for older second-hand 4x4s has died. Our car has a book price of £3200, but the best trade-in we’ve been offered is £1400 because “nobody wants ‘em”. With most 4×4 manufacturers now offering much more economical models (the latest Freelander diesel has similar mpg figures to a Ford Focus, compared with our model’s 29mpg on a good day, downhill with a following wind) and petrol at £1.35 or more per litre, people are shunning older models in favour of cheaper options.

    As always, those who can not afford a new car are left to run more expensive models. Using the tax system to penalise drivers of gas-guzzling cars may seem well-and-good and is well intentioned, but it tends to penalise the poor twice over – first on the extra cost of running the car (be it an aging 4×4 or an aging saloon) and on the higher tax disc costs. In rural areas, a 4×4 is a pragmatic choice – when roads around here were effectively closed to non 4x4s by snow for more than a week earlier this year, if you wanted to get to work, school, the shops or – in our case – infirm parents who might need help at a moment’s notice, an older gas-guzzling 4×4 is vital. Our road is full of them (at least eight in a road of just 31 households).

    So, what do you do? Wait for the new car fairy to wave a magic, fuel-efficient wand?

    Post title inspired by this.


    Monday 8 March 2010

    Double Dutch

    Tom: I was thinking about Domburg.

    Me: Yes? What were you thinking about?

    Tom: I was thinking about when we saw Kraak en Smaak.

    Me: Well, we actually saw them in Middelburg, in the Abdijplein. But it isn’t far from Domburg.

    Tom: Yes, that’s right. [pause] Abdijplein is a funny word. It’s double Dutch! Abdijplein! Heeheehee! (pronounced perfectly: ab-dye-pline)


    Thursday 11 February 2010

    Snow

    I’ve just experienced this first hand. Contrary to the reports, some areas, particularly Folkestone, have received more than 15cm of snow. I stood in it and it was nearer 20cm and drifting.

    I was supposed to have gone to Dover today and on to the Netherlands for work. Normally it takes me about 1 hour 40 minutes to get to Dover. After an hour stuck on the M20 going nowhere at the Channel Tunnel exit, I managed to get off the motorway and turned back. My round trip took me six and a quarter hours.

    I can also recommend avoiding the B2063 Hospital Hill in Folkestone when it is like this. It is, um, interesting to descend when covered in thick snow and ice. The row of damaged and dented cars abandoned on the side of the road does not give confidence.


    Monday 10 August 2009

    Stamford

    Stamford, Lincolnshire. Historic market town. Beautiful stone architecture. Lots of old buildings. Peaceful atmosphere (but then it is Monday night). So why then can’t I find a half decent looking pub that might serve a decent pie and a pint after a hard day’s work? And what idiot converted that church into a Boots and Vision Express?


    Sunday 22 February 2009

    Breaking a duck, err bone, duck… bone.

    We have just taken the opportunity to have a little holiday. Well, that was the plan. I had to go to Angers for an exhibition and took H and T along with me, something we have done for four out of the last five years.

    After staying in Angers for a couple of nights and a (very successful) day at the exhibition, we took the car to Saint Malo, via Rennes and Dinan. We got to our hotel and wandered into the Intra Muros, had a nice meal and then, to entertain Tom, clambered up onto the city wall to head back towards the hotel. So far, so good. But it was mightily dark and I decided to carry Tom as we descended the stone steps. Hels stumbled on the last step as we went down. And then I fell down on the same step, heavily. I managed to hold on to Tom and lower him gently to the step. But I had a fair idea that I’d really hurt myself. I could tell this by the tears in my eyes and nausea, not to mention the pain.

    We hobbled back to the hotel and went to bed. But, in the morning, it became quite evident that I was in agony. The evidence consisted of me yelping with pain whenever I stood up, and yelping twice as much if I put any weight on my left foot.

    With guidance from the hotel receptionist, Hels took me over to the hospital. After a short wait, an x-ray revealed the tiniest chip off a bone. My reward – a French plaster cast with matching crutches and painkillers. My first damaged bone. Bugger.

    We changed our homeward travel arrangements and got ourselves on the next ferry from Saint Malo to Portsmouth (we originally planned to travel to Dieppe and then back to Newhaven – but if ever you take that boat, pack a lunch as the food is utter crap). I’m hoping that my insurers will pay for the change of ferry plans and the lost night of accommodation (about four hundred quid in total).

    Since then, I’ve seen umpteen medical people and been the centre of much attention. I’ve got to wear the cast for at least ten days before it is swapped for a removable boot. Which means I can’t drive, can’t put weight on it and can’t walk more than a few paces. Which will make life a little difficult, to say the least.

    And, to top it all, Tom has chickenpox. Spots. Lots of them. And itchy.

    Hels has got her work cut out. She’s pretty amazing.