Q & A | Part 4

The final part of the series and moving away from caravanning and travel but still some subjects close to my heart. Here we go, let the inane waffle commence:

Your favourite ale, considering all the research you must have done by now, or are you still looking?

Second part first, I’m always looking! There are now well over 600 beers in the Ale Archive that I’ve sampled at least a pint or 500ml bottle of, over the years. Thanks to caravanning I’ve been able to try beers from other parts of the country that just wouldn’t make it down to my part of the world, be that local seasonal brews, where limited quantities are made or ones deemed not commercially successful nationwide. Very few - less than half a dozen - I’d never try again and I’ve been fortunate to come across some superb ales.

I generally although not exclusively, prefer darker bitters but, ever since trying a pint of Camerons Castle Eden in Robin Hood’s Bay in 2007, having drank lager for around twenty years, I’ve tried all sorts. I like stouts and porters too and sometimes a golden ale works for me, particularly in warmer weather.

Right, to my favourite. Or favourites. I’m going to preform a minor cop out and pick two because I enjoy them both equally: Fullers’ London Pride and Timothy Taylors’ Bolt Maker. A pint of Pride, in a Fullers pub where it’s likely been expertly kept does it for me every time. A pint of Bolt Maker in a Taylor’s pub in Ripon was one of the best I’ve ever had. But as I said, I’ll keep looking!

Was Trev part of the school bus team, also did he enjoy real ale or the contents of your wine ‘cellar’?

Yes, in fact Trev joined the college about three weeks before I did. It was only ever meant to be a stop gap before we headed off in to Europe for our long trip with Patsy. The house wouldn’t sell though and cash was running dry. I’d been applying for numerous jobs with no joy but one of our then neighbours was Transport Manager. It’s not what you know etc. Anyway, Trev moved away from driving regularly but joined the Security team adhoc and that’s how he first got involved in the college Open Days. His skills at coaxing drivers of huge 4 x 4’s into the tightest of spaces in order to cram in as many as possible were legendary. Later he moved to become Caretaker at the Nursery & Pre-Prep school but spent the last year working adhoc for various departments. He was due to re-join Transport as a regular driver in September 2018 for his last year before retirement.

Trev returned to real ale at the same time I did. He much preferred it in a pub though and rarely drank at home at all, the odd nightcap notwithstanding. When caravanning, if he were to drink in the van, it was usually white wine. He loved red but in later years it didn’t agree with him.

If you were invisible for a day…

Ooh, the possibilities! However, keeping it clean, I’d like to roam the corridors of power and listen to just how our political masters come up with some of the decisions that they do. More personally I would like to have been on on some of the meetings at the school that have had direct implications for me, Transport and the wider college community. I suspect though that it wouldn’t be long before I blew my cover with shrieks of exasperation and dis-belief!

If you had created the Teletubbies, what would you have named them all?

Ha ha, that may appear a real way out question for some. However Trev and I shared a childish fondness for them ever since his days as a cabbie in Cambridge. He’d go in very early on Sunday mornings for the juicy airport runs, along with some of the others, and they’d normally be back in the office around seven am. Someone was despatched to McDonalds, bad coffee was poured and cigarettes were lit. The telly in the drivers room was on as per and gradually a bunch of cabbies in Cambridge joined the army of toddlers and late night clubbers watching the antics of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La-La and Po each week. Daft? Yeah but why not.

At the companys’ Christmas party several of them had got together and presented Trev with a Dipsy back-pack - the green one, to take on our upcoming trip across to the States and on to Fiji, New Zealand and Oz. Photographic evidence would be required and of course we were always up for challenge:

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Dipsy although now 24 years old, still accompanies me on all my trips, as he has since we started caravanning. Weird? Yes, but harmless.

So getting to the point, names. Given my er, sartorial bent, this wasn’t hard: Leathery, Gothly, Rubbery and Hunky. You can probably guess what I’d have them wearing and I doubt it would be suitable for children's TV…

Best show you have seen and why?

Another toughie. I love theatre, both musical and plays - although they have to be comedy for me. Those who read my travel blog posts will know that I’ve been taking the caravan up to London quite regularly since Trev died and I’ve made a point of going to the theatre too.

As I said I enjoy plays too so I’m going to pick one from each category - first up: Musicals.

Bat out of Hell was one of the most awesome shows I’ve seen, the energy and emotion gave me goose bumps - the questioner knows how much I enjoyed it as we saw it together. However the one that JUST trumps it for me was Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Yeah, I know, such a cliché, a gay man liking a show about drag queens but it was full of the music I love, the story was quite touching at times and the set was the most stunning I have ever seen. It was a 40th birthday treat too

Of the plays, the two I’ve seen most recently were superb - The Sacred Crow and The Play That Goes Wrong. The latter just gets the title though - pin sharp script and the most exquisitely timed slapstick made for genuine laugh out loud comedy. Superb.

If you were to walk in the steps of a woman for a day, what would you do/change in the world?

Whoa! Right, well I wouldn't do it in high heels for a start if my experiences with Cuban heeled winklepickers are anything to go by. Jeez, torture for the feet. I’d do my level best to remove the expectation that I should wear them - be it in the boardroom, or at dinner or anywhere else. However I would take a pair with me and use them to poke in the eye any stuffed shirt that requires it for his peers, secretary or P.A and that applies just as much if said ‘stuffed shirt’ is a woman. I wouldn’t ban them - just remove the ridiculous expectation that they are somehow part of the ‘uniform’.

I’d applaud any woman - and indeed any man - who has pushed for equality, but I’d also shout down those who, although perhaps believing they’re doing good, end up alienating themselves thanks to personal agendas.

Changing back, as a gay man I have watched largely from the side-lines as others have thought for equality - marriage, work and pension rights to name but three, often putting their livelihoods and sometimes their lives at risk, particularly back in the dark days. But I cringe at those that, by outrageous behaviour and self promotion have alienated us from Joe public and there are those amongst the campaigners for womanhood who are doing exactly the same I believe.

What is the best memory of a moment when Trev was alive?

There was another question, very similar, that would have elicited the same answer so I’m going with the first one to come in.

This was ultimately quite easy. We shared many, many happy times of course in our near 30 year relationship - obviously our Civil Partnership - later Marriage - just over 14 years ago is pretty high up.

However, I’ve chosen an occasion whose significance didn’t become important until the following day:

31st July 2018, Essex. After a great day out exploring Colchester we went out for a superb meal at the Layer Fox pub south of Colchester then, headed out to the Abberton reservoir just a few miles a way and watched as the sun went down. It was a lovely warm night and later we sat outside the caravan for a while before adjourning for a small nightcap before lights out. Simple pleasures but they’re often the best. Thankfully I had no idea then what was to follow in the morning but that time, just standing together, looking over the reservoir I will forever treasure.


What does success mean and look like for you?

Happiness, or at the very least contentment. What brings either those is where we as humans vary. It’s never been about money for me. Some deem a well paying job and the goodies that that brings, success - or at least a component of it. I’ve never sought such things so never strived to work to get them. I was lucky to share a large portion of my life with a wonderful man who made me happy and content and we got what was for us, the perfect work/income/life balance. I’m pretty much doing the same now although of course on my own. I don’t decry the go-getters, far from it - we need people like that to build up businesses and employ people like me. Someone who sets up a company from scratch and grow it I admire a lot, it’s tough out there. I don’t admire the relentless pursuit of money by the super rich, earned often on the aching backs of others though.

Right, that is it. Thank you to everyone that posed questions. You got me thinking - not something that comes naturally, but if you’ve slowed my brain turning to much during our confinement, then it’s been well worth it.

Thanks too for reading if you’ve made it this far! Until, next time,

Beers & Cheers


Q & A | Part 3

In this part we carry on talking caravanning then move on a bit to more general travel related questions. Lets go:

What part of the country would you like to take Patsy that you haven't visited before?

There’s lots of places in the UK that I would like to go to, or explore more deeply. My planned trip to the north-west for the schools’ Easter break would have done just that, stopping first again at the lovely Somers Wood in Warwickshire before heading up to the Wirral club site. We have actually stayed there once, just overnight, after getting off the ferry from Belfast at Liverpool. Whilst we had a day in Liverpool on a previous trip some years ago it’s an area we’ve largely unexplored. Lots of things were on the list including Port Sunlight, a walk along the Wirral Way and a run into Wales for the Llangollen heritage railway. Next stop was Englethwaite club site up near Carlisle. I was planning on doing the Settle/Carlisle railway and some of the pretty towns and villages that run along the line to Newcastle, amongst other things. Then it would have been down to Bolton Abbey - another new site for me. 

I’ll get there, eventually.

I would like to know more about your experience of travelling through the night/leaving early morning to avoid traffic. Would you recommend it and did you find it easy to park up and wait for sites to open?

We have done this twice, three times if you count our trip to France when much of the overnight was on the ferry.

The first was to the Cardiff municipal site in 2012 at the start of our three month around Britain trip and only our second time out. We’d planned to leave at midnight but storms and high winds delayed our departure somewhat. That and breaking the jockey wheel handle when hitching up! Our thinking was - as novices - the roads would be quieter and we wouldn’t be in anyone's’ way. We took a break somewhere on the M4 and again at Magor services, just the other side of the bridge into Wales. The idea was to complete morning ablutions and bed down for a bit of a kip, but with neither of us being able to sleep we were back on the road in less than an hour, hoping to chance our luck at the site. Fortunately there was a large empty car park by the entrance and we waited until the Warden appeared. She took pity on us and very kindly let us on. We set up - in the rain - shared a bottle of wine and went to bed for a few hours.

Just over a year later we did the same for a trip down to Cornwall, near Lands End. The site had indicated a lay-by which we could pull into and wait, and to give them a call when there. This we did, somewhere around 9am and, it not being school holidays yet there was plenty of room. They let us pitch early. We did so, once again in the rain.

When we went to France we got the overnight ferry, departing Newhaven - which is just a few miles from us - at 11:30pm. We arrived in Dieppe at 5:30am I think and, it being Sunday too, the roads were lovely and quiet, perfect for my first experience of towing abroad. We got to our first site around 9am and they were very welcoming. There were no restrictions on arrival or departure time and we promptly set up, you've guessed it, in the rain!

In terms of leaving sites early, it depends when and where. Crystal Palace is always one I like to get away from early to avoid the traffic. I pack up as much as possible the night before leaving the essentials until the morning, trying to be as quiet as possible.

When and why did you start up that awesome resource Site Arrivals?

Aww, thanks Rog. The Site Arrival videos  were Trev’s idea. He thought it a useful resource for caravanners and motorhomers and as no one else had done it then, a gap in the market as it were. We tried to do it on the cheap as per usual but eventually invested in a proper dashcam in the summer of 2016, our first proper arrival video being Cirencester club site.

Trev already had a YouTube channel on which he’d posted bits and bobs from his phone but the Legs Down channel was launched in November 2016. Initially and for a while we would record the commentary ‘live’ as we were heading to a site, but as I got the hang of Windows Movie Maker - a superb program for beginners by the way - I learnt to add commentary and edit footage. I now use Corel VideoStudio  - one of the rare occasions I’ve actually paid for software - which allows me to add in snapshots of road signs etc. It’s constantly nagging me to upgrade but my laptop struggles as it is and in any case it does all I need, for now.

A good half of the videos now use footage sent in by others, for which I am extremely grateful. It has helped the library grow to nearly 140 videos and whilst I continue to visit new sites and folks continue to send in their dashcam footage it will grow further. It’s fair to say they're hardly blockbusters, but if they help one person then it’s worth it in my book.

If you could go anywhere in the world in a leisure vehicle, where would you go and why?

New Zealand, without a doubt. I’ve been fortunate to visit a couple of times and on one occasion - 1999 if memory serves, Trev and I spent six weeks touring both islands in a rent-a-wreck which, thanks to the strength of the pound against the Kiwi dollar, cost us just eight quid a day. An ex NZ Postal Service Toyota Corolla with the rear seats removed and a flat bed laid to give plenty of luggage space.

We started and finished in Auckland, first heading north to the very tip, then south, crossing the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton in the South Island, eventually down as far as the Fjords in the south west, staying in Motels along the way. It was fabulous, we had the time of our lives, skinny dipping - well I did - in beautiful lakes, dolphins swimming alongside a boat off Kaikoura, seeing the Fox Glacier, motels with swimming pools fed by hot water from thermal springs, even riding a horse. I’d do all that again and more in a motorhome, living the outdoor life, rekindling old memories and making new ones.

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If money wasn’t an object, what would be your number one holiday/trip/experience/destination to embark on? No caravans allowed!

Right, I’m going to assume that if money were no object, then neither would time, which makes the question a little easier to answer. I would travel the world. I’d take first class flights, cruises and travel the world’s famous railways - the Orient Express comes to mind as does the one up through the Rockies, along with the Indian-Pacific from Sydney to Perth traversing the Blue Mountains and the mighty Nullabor Plain. I’d take harbourside apartments, quaint little condo’s with roof terraces and beach side shacks. I’d wander the streets of the worlds cities, read a book on a sandy beach under the shade of a Palm overlooking beautiful blue waters. Some places I’d employ guides, others I’d amble alone. And I’d mercilessly bombard you all with blogs along the way!

And we’ve reached the end of Part 3. I thought that would be it but there’s plenty more questions to go. I hope you enjoying reading these as much as I have writing them.

Until Part 4, Cheers & Beers


Q & A | Part 2

Thanks everyone for your kind words about Part 1. I hope that it entertained you or at least kept your mind off this blimmin virus and occupied for a few minutes! The caravanning questions continue here below:

How did you arrive at the name Patsy for your caravan?

When we first picked her up in March 2012, we had some friends around that evening for a few drinks in her and she was jokingly called the Pikey van, however it was soon decided that that was not really appropriate and likely to cause offence. Many of our previous cars had had names though so we wanted to come up with something. Patsy 1 was a Coachman Pastiche and we were looking for something that would work with that and Patsy the Pastiche had a nice ring to it.

Our second and current van was a VIP, so Vera was briefly considered but we decided to stick with the original name and as someone pointed out that worked too - Very Important Patsy!

On another level the name works too as she shares many of the traits of her TV namesake from Absolutely Fabulous, the most obvious one being that she’s often full of booze!

Will there be a Patsy 3? Who knows? Hopefully P2 will be around for a long time to come yet.

Had you not been swayed by the quality of Coachman back when you bought Patsy 1, what’s the closest model or brand you and Trev would have considered - then or when you were changing to Patsy 2, and why?

Back in December 2011, 4 months before we bought Patsy 1, we had a day visiting lots of dealers in the area with our friends who mentioned Coachman's’ quality - as newbies they all seemed the same to us.

In March 2012 when we finally made a decision to go out and purchase we visited five dealers I think before landing at Roundstone Caravans in South Water, West Sussex. By now we had settled on a layout - two berth, end washroom and they had three in our price range - two Coachman's and an Abbey. Remembering what our friend said, we narrowed it down to those, then plumped for what was to become Patsy 1 as she had a motor mover already fitted. For the record she was a 2004 460/2 Pastiche.

When we decided to change and get the layout that, in truth we should have gone for to start with - side dinette - we did look at a Sterling as we really wanted to buy from Roundstone again. However we sat tight and scoured the listings until we came across Patsy 2 - a 2007 520/4 VIP - at Marquis near Hailsham in East Sussex.

And the perfect layout?

The perfect layout for me is the one I have now - side dinette and rear washroom. A big ‘van for one person But I’ve found in the last 18 months I can fill that space easily. I’m not the tidiest person and although I’ve slimmed things down a lot I still don’t travel light.

Having said that, a fixed French bed layout could work too - something we never considered as a couple as, both being beer drinkers there would be the inevitable nocturnal visits and one would end up clambering over the other - me having to do the clambering no doubt. The likely compromise in living area space would put me off though - at the moment. Making up the bed is a small price to pay and, there being just me, I can leave one side made up as a bed if I’m feeling lazy. I’ve tried this a few times but it does give the feeling of being in a bedsit.

One layout that did get us thinking was fixed rear singles, with the washroom at the back, and we looked at a few of those on our last visit to the NEC, probably at least three years ago. With most though, the lounge space had been compromised but one that did stand out was an Adria something or other. Beautifully finished but with a price tag of £30k a new one was never a contender and would have necessitated a change in tow car in any case.

Following the launch of the Bailey Phoenix in the Summer of 2018, we seriously considered taking up their offer of a loan ‘van. It would have give us an opportunity to try out the fixed singles arrangement to see if it would work for us. That wasn't to be of course and it’s not a layout I would consider now, as a solo caravanner.

If you could change one thing about Patsy, what would it be and why? If you change to a different layout, what would you choose and why?

Whilst it’s rude to discuss a woman's’ weight I am afraid we must because it would be just that. She’s heavy - although solid - for her size and at the M.T.P.L.M we’re looking at about a 93% ratio with car. Rosie is no longer in her youth in car terms with her mileage into six figures and at times she does feel underpowered these days.

Patsy IS a bit lighter though now. A few years ago we took out the fourth bed - the fold down bunk over the dinette - most of which now resides behind my sofa. Whilst I decided to put the microwave back in, the pull out canopy - quite a considerable weight - has now gone. I tow with the Aquarolls, Waste Master, mains cable, locks and clamps etc in the car and this helps to keep the nose weight thereabouts too.

As for layouts, when the time comes to change Patsy - and I hope that’s not for a long long while yet, along with the fixed bed mentioned above, something smaller and lighter would be considered as that may mean I can keep Rosie a little longer if she doesn't have to work as hard. I suspect I would miss the build quality of the old girl though.

Tell us Patsy’s best bits.

Ironically, her solidity, which of course impacts on her weight as I was just moaning about! Sure things have worked loose and parts have been replaced but at twelve years old she’s allowed a bit of leeway, particularly given the mileage she does. The finish is good, the seating - the old fashioned sprung type - remains supportive, yet comfortable. Inside she is a proper home from home, the colour of the décor and furnishings giving a lovely warm cosy feeling on chilly nights.

Although  just another white box, she still looks mighty fine in my eyes, even more so when polished up, despite a few ‘war wounds’ that have been inflicted on her by us over the years, not least when trying to retract the pull out canopy on my own for the first time. I swore loudly. A lot!

Moreover, she has helped make so many great memories of our time together and that is perhaps her best bit.

And that’s it for Part 2! In Part 3 there’s some very interesting questions on travel generally, as well as ale and of course Trev.



Q & A | Part 1

Firstly, thank you to everyone that took the time to read my previous blog post. Not my usual tone I know but it was important to me to try and accurately convey how I felt at the time. However, on to more light hearted matters.

Thank you again to everyone that came with some great questions. They really got me thinking - a rare and sometimes hazardous occupation given the state of my brain cells just recently. I’ve roughly collated them in to caravanning and non - and in some sort of vaguely sensible order too. So, here we go with Part 1:

What made you start caravanning?

In 2011 we holidayed in Spain at an apartment own by friends of friends. We got talking - well Trev did - and enquired how they ended up where they were. When the decided to sell up and retire, they knew they wanted to move to Spain but wasn’t sure where. They hitched up and toured for several months trying out different places until they settled on somewhere they felt they could call home. We’d had vague notions of ‘doing’ Europe and perhaps eventually retiring to Spain too. This started us thinking.

Back in the UK that winter we got talking to two friends who were long time caravanners - the only two caravanners we knew at the time - and had a nose around their van. Not knowing anything about caravanning we were really impressed with all the creature comforts and what a home from home it was.

Our job at the time was parcel delivery - we both detested it, it was only ever meant to be a stop gap  - and the company were making things harder and harder. The straw that broke the camels back came early January 2012 and we packed it in. We had a holiday already booked to Gran Canaria and decided that we would use our time there to make a decision, which we did. It was to sell up, downsize our home, buy a caravan and go travelling - for a year or may be more.

What was your first caravanning trip you and Trev went on and did the first setting up go smoothly or was there the ‘set up tiff’?

Our first trip was in March 2012 to the Crystal Palace club site - a relatively short, if not quick, trundle up the A23. Our friends mentioned above were already going, so we could follow without worrying about the route and they would be on hand to help with any teething troubles. I had already had a practice setting up the utilities on the drive anyway and the weekend prior they’d helped Trev with loading the inside of the caravan correctly.

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Set up went fine until it came to the dreaded awning. There had been an awning supplied with the ‘van which the previous owners had left - a little porch thing. I was all for not bothering but Trev insisted - after all, pretty much everyone one else on site had one, so why not? It didn't go well - there were no instructions, not that either of us would have ready them initially anyway - and after many crossed words it ended up back in the bag, and was not used for several months after.

When you and Trev went out in Patsy did you have your own favoured jobs when setting up?

Yes, I did the outside and he did the inside. If I’d completed the outside jobs quickly I’d be inside drumming my fingers waiting for him to get the kettle on!  He’d often replenish the water though once set up, the only thing that seemed to be exclusively ‘my’ job was the bog! Didn't bother me though and the arrangement worked well. The various awnings though - when we had them - were always a joint effort.

Favourite site and why?

A favourite site is very subjective as we look for different things - in the middle of nowhere, close to attractions, on site amenities etc. A strong contender was the Old Hartley club site, overlooking St Marys’ Lighthouse and Whitley Bay, with the added bonus of a great pub not two minutes walk away. However I would have to concur with the questioner on this one and that’s the Berwick-on-Tweed club site. We’d left Warwickshire in snow and had a long drive up the A1. When we finally arrived it was several degrees warmer and the sun was out. The site was easy to get to and the views were stunning, looking out over the harbour and across the the town.


Facilities were the usual club standard and there was plenty to do in the area. We drove up to North Berwick along the coast, down to Holy Island, to Wooler and Etal and Ford. We got the train to Edinburgh and enjoyed walking around Berwick itself too, particularly around the walls surrounding the town. A fabulous stay and one I hope to repeat at some point.

What is your absolute favourite number 1 thing about caravanning?

Seeing so much more of this great country of ours, something we would have never done otherwise. Start up costs aside, it makes places more accessible, being able to stay for longer in our little home from home, surrounded by creature comforts and not tied to meal times. I wished we had done it a long while ago but have certainly made the most of it since.

What single caravan item do you regret wasting money on the most?

Fortunately, neither of us were one for stuff or gadgets, so this was quite easy: the pump-up awning.


At the time, for a bit, we thought it was good but was extremely heavy and prone to condensation. With the purchase of Patsy 2 and the greater indoor space she gave us we found that it was no longer necessary and more of a hindrance. It was replaced with the pull out canopy which was undoubtedly one of the best caravanning items we bought.

While away in the ‘van do you cook? If you do, what type of meals do you prepare?

Short answer is no. I normally bring the results of my batch cooking at home with me and buy or bring sides like frozen chips, jacket potatoes and veg. On longer trips I’ll intersperse these with ready meals or a meal out with friends if they are nearby. Sometimes I’ll buy something like a gammon joint and roast or boil it for a meal and then keep the rest for sandwiches.

However on a recent trip a friend was staying nearby and cooked two delicious meals in the ‘van, both from scratch, and made it look very easy indeed. Cooking has never been my thing - although eating certainly is - Trev did all the cooking by choice and I was more than happy for him to do so.

Right, that’s it for Part 1 folks, I hope you enjoyed it. In Part 2 we’ll cover Patsy, other forms of travel, real ale - sorry, research - and a bit about our life too. Until then…..