Maths, Munch and a School Day

My day started with me getting ready for school. I quickly left the house at 8.50am as I wasn’t going to be late for the maths and munch session. Our  seven year old granddaughter, Vicky had invited me to attend a Parents meeting to hear how her school were changing the way they taught maths and they used the promise of a bacon buttie as a lure . It was explained that they had researched the way maths was taught around the world and they came to the conclusion that Shanghai produced the best results. The first part involved us being told that the children were going to be taught and tested on their times table as though this was some amazing method they had just discovered. Anyone reading this of a certain age will remember the Friday mental maths tests we endured saying our times table as a rhyme. Then we were shown the pictorial examples of tuition that had many of us looking confused. Eventually it sank in and we were all there happily laying out counters and drinking straws, creating shapes and graphs that were remarkably similar to an abacus ( remember Shanghai) .

An hour and a half later I was busy loading the camper van with supplies and the extreme knitters vast array of clothes and shoes. All these years and she still hasn’t taken on board the travel light concept .

Ruby stayed with the feral daughter at the crazy shack and Elsie came with us for her longest road trip so far.

It’s now becoming a foregone conclusion that we will always revisit Scotland. So there we were winding our merry way to the Scottish border like a couple of geriatric gypsies, but we were going to go a long way around.

A change of plan to break the trip down into shorter chunks had us heading towards Wales instead, Betws-y-coed, Snowdonia to be precise.

When the Extreme knitter asked where we were staying that night I said “At the Swallow Falls Hotel darling” and she seemed impressed by my choice.

I knew that the Swallow falls hotel offered overnight camping in their car park, so that’s where we went, arriving at 5pm to settle in for the evening. Not quite the en suite hotel room with spa that the E/Knitter was expecting.

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In the Swallow Falls Hotel car park we spotted an unusual tree that we found out much later was in fact a disguised mobile phone mast

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Out second day started as any other as you do when you’ve woken up in a Hotel car park. We ate bacon butties and wandered over the road to look at the Swallow falls. Paying our two pound entrance fee we walked down the many flights of steps . The roar was deafening and the air was saturated with water spray. The recent rain meant the waterfall was in full flow and turbulent.

Swallow Falls

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I suggested that we visit the Zip World forest just to have a look, as you do. I think the extreme knitter could see through my ploy as she’s got used to my sneaky ways .

Zip World

The forest coaster is a fast down hill ride that twists and turns sharply down through the steep forest on a track. She even agreed to go first while I gallantly held Elsie. The first of her three rides was a gentle amble down the track with the brakes on. However the adrenaline kicked for the second and third rides, she let it go full speed and enjoyed it.

Now I’m not one to be beaten by a girl, so I had to man up and just let it go as fast as I could. Wow!!! the rush you get is exhilarating.

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The Extreme Knitter going at full pelt and obviously petrified. This was one of the official photos as all the ones I took turned in to blurred images at that speed.

coaster

 

 

We headed back to the Hotel car park for a second evening stop over after a very pleasant wander around Betws-y-coed. We couldn’t be bothered to cook for the evening so drove back down to a pizza shop in Betws-y-coed .  The extreme knitter went in and ordered a ham and pineapple pizza.

” Sorry we don’t put pineapple on pizza, but if you supply your own pineapple we will cook it and charge you a 15 pence fee” said the guy behind the counter. In a state of shock she accepted the ham pizza and departed. Why no pineapple? I don’t know.

Before we set off for this trip our Grandson Sam and his partner Lauren gave us the news that we were going to become Great Grandparents as they were expecting a baby girl in November. We couldn’t more proud of them and thank them for the wonderful gift they are giving us. As you can imagine The Extreme knitters skills were going to be used to the “extreme”, providing far more baby clothes than any child can possibly wear.

 

 

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Overland Wild Party

Come to our Wild Party, the Face book post said, so we did. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we are open to something different.

The Wild Party/Festival was being held at a farm in Ailsworth, Peterborough which is the headquarters of Nene Overland, the suppliers of all things cool and adventurous.

Nene Overland

Nene Overland had organised the event to Coincide with the Land Rover show at the Peterborough show ground.

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The long drive on Friday afternoon to Nene Overland led to the campsite in a field beside their offices and workshop.

We were the first to arrive and had the choice of pitches in the vast camping field. A Big top marquee hosted the entertainment along with the obligatory beer tent and Kids zone tent which I was barred from as I was rubbish at colouring in.

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In the evening we dined on our usual Meat balls in home made tomatoes sauce then tottered over to the beer tent to sample the beverages on offer, well it would have been rude not to.

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Saturday was the main festival day with food, drink served all day and entertainment in the evening. We had a very chilled out day just lazing about reading and eating. Elsie had a massive field to run around , so she was in her element. We had a wander around the Nene Overland displays and their 1st Class workshop facilities predominantly catering for the Land rover owner. The Land rover sales pitch was full of stunning vehicles and the showroom displayed their range of overlanding equipment. The list of vehicles that I would have happily driven home in was vast, but I particularly wished for the Ex Army ambulance as they make an excellent off road camper. Sadly it had the sold sign on it. One day perhaps.

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Sunday morning and most of the campers headed off to visit the Land Rover show. We had leisurely drive home.

This was the first time the festival had been staged and it’s pretty obvious that the future ones will be a popular venue once the word is out there. We are certainly looking forward to next year’s event.

I will probably meet up with them again next weekend as Nene Overland will be attending the Adventure Overland show at Stratford on Avon racecourse on the 22nd & 23rd September 2018.

Adventure Overland Show

 

The Cheeky Monkey and a Toad in the Hole

Our latest cooking gadget is a Toasted sandwich maker or Pie iron made by TF Gear, but more commonly know as a “Ridge Monkey”.

The TF Gear iron is identical to the Ridge Monkey, so we have nicknamed ours “The Cheeky Monkey”.

TF-Gear-Sandwich-Toaster

I was hoping that this would be the camping nirvana after all the good reviews I had read. We don’t have an oven in the campervan, so it limits our possible menu.

I tried the Omnia oven, but I couldn’t get on with it and it was a little oversize for our campervan hob.

Omnia Oven

We have a similar sandwich toaster called “The Diablo” that toasts sandwiches, but they were small and you had towaste a lot of bread cutting it to fit the round shape. The TF Gear is a square shaped pie iron that makes toasted sandwiches using a gas hob, open fire or barbeque. It is very popular with fishermen who cook breakfast on the river side. So far I have cooked Bacon, Burgers, Eggs and a small Pizza, well warmed one up. As the cooking process is enclosed, the top gets a chance of being cooked.

A Chicago pie pizza approximately 3 “diameter fits nicely. I heated one side of the iron until hot then turned it over and placed the defrosted pizza on the unheated side. The theory being that as the pizza base was directly on the bottom of the iron, preheating the top would give the cooking of the pizza top a head start before the base burnt. It actually worked. I did turn it over once just to brown the top. I shall be asking the extreme knitter to make some homemade pizzas that fit the Cheeky Monkeys shape and size. If they are thinner they might cook quicker and more thoroughly.

I’ve tried McCann’s frozen oven fries as they were thin. These cooked perfectly. I think the trick with frozen food is to thaw it out first, so that your cooking time isn’t taking up having to defrost first.

The next try out was Toad in the Hole, an easy to make quaint English recipe that is basically sausages cooked in a dish of batter mix using a very hot oven. The batter would normally rise in an oven enveloping the sausage in a crispy Yorkshire pudding. Cooking it in the Cheeky monkey was going to be a challenge.

 

Start by cooking 3 or 4 sausages in the Cheeky Monkey. I like to butterfly mine to make sure they are thoroughly cooked.

 Monkey toad in the hole (2)

While the sausages are cooking make your batter mix

1 cup of plain flour

A pinch of salt

300mls of milk

Whisk these ingredients until you’ve got a smooth liquid (without any lumps)

This will make approximately 450mls.

Boil some water.

When the sausages are cooked take them out and pour a good glug of veg oil in the Cheeky monkey and heat until smoking hot.

Pour a small layer of the batter mix into the hot oil that will seal the underside, them place the sausages in and pour some more batter mix over them. I used about 250mls. If the mix is too deep it will burn before the middle is cooked. I cooked it on a low flame for 20 minutes turning the Cheeky Monkey over regularly to stop the mix from burning.

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Make a small amount of gravy using gravy granules and the water that you boiled earlier. (yes, I know, but we are camping so short cuts are allowed).

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Much to my amazement it worked out and tasted good. I didn’t rise as it would in an oven, but because it was thinner it cooked all the way through.

The batter mix could be made at home before setting off on your camping trip to save time.

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll be asking what about the 200mls of batter mix that I had left?

Well that’s for pudding, three Pancakes to be precise. Even though it was Sunday I like a Fat Tuesday

These can be made in the Cheeky monkey by pouring in a small amount of veg oil and pouring a third of the mix on top. They can be made sweeter by slicing some bananas into the mix or possibly pineapple chunks. The beauty of the monkey is that you just turn it over to cook the other side.

Monkey toad in the hole (12)

The experimenting goes on.

 

 

 

Downwards to Uphill

At last we were rolling again after a long period of inactivity and we were heading down to Weston Super Mare or the Uphill region to be precise.

I quickly popped into Morrisons at Weston to get some bits and pieces.

Uphill Boat Centre have a campsite at the Uphill Marina. The large pitches are set around the perimeter of a salt water lake. The site facilities were closed down for the winter period to stop the water freezing, so we used the showers and toilets at the reception building. These were clean and immaculate.

We were only staying for one night as this was Elsies first trip away in the campervan just to see how we all got on together.

Uphill Boat Centre

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It was just a short walk down the road to the beach passing a small café/shop that has good reviews. The beach links to Weston Super Mare and it’s very popular with dog owners. Ruby and Elsie just ran and ran. As usual with Weston it is rare for the sea to come in, so Elsie didn’t get chance to swim.

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Elsie stationery for one minute.

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After the breezy walk along the beach we settled in for the evening and had our old favourite first night meal of Meat Balls, Pasta in a home made Tomato Sauce and I had a nifty Barcardi and coke. Heating on and we were all cosy for the night.

Elsie needed a wee in the night, but she woke me to let her out, so we are getting there.

 

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I think the girls enjoyed their short break.

We had to vacate the pitch by 10.30am which is early for us so we hastily packed our gear and headed to Wells, where we parked up and cooked Bacon baps before hitting the city.

Wells is always a pleasant City to wander around taking in the sights particularly the cathedral. We bought a Cornish pasty and a cake for lunch then heading home.

All in all it was a successful trip the dogs enjoyed the run around on the beach we needed the break away from our commitments.

45 years and we still don’t know each other

Our kitchen sink has a draining board and on that draining board sits one of those draining trays that you can stack the cups, cutlery and dishes to dry off. We’ve had several replacements over our married life.

Today I plucked up the courage to ask the extreme knitter why we had one.

She said “because you wanted one”.

I said “I never wanted one, I hate the dam thing”

She said “I hate it as well”.

45 years of married bliss and all this time I thought the E/knitter wanted it and she thought I wanted it. Lack of communication I think, but we are still getting to know each other.

The dish tray is now in the dustbin and all is well in the household.

 

Ham Burger

Following on from the last post about Faggots, I remembered that it used to be rumoured that the Ham burger was originally invented in the Black Country. The story went like this.

The History of the Ham Burger

In 1925 on a cobblestone street in Dudley, butchers boy “Billy King” rode his delivery bike. His cargo of freshly made Black Country faggots sat proudly in the bicycles wicker basket.

His bicycle ran over a discarded horseshoe. Hiss!! His front tyre sprung a leak.

He placed the faggots on a nearby wall, removed the tyre and repaired the puncture in double quick time. Unfortunately a gang of grubby urchins from the Priory came along and set about him.

They called him a Wimp. in fact he was such a weakling that his nickname at school was “Wimpy King”. They pushed him backwards against the wall and he landed on the faggots and squashed them flat.

Disaster! What should he do, he decided to ride on to his destination or he would have been in great trouble back at the Butchers shop.

He finally arrived at Mrs McDonalds house and presented her with the tray of squashed faggots.

She stared at the tray in disbelief.

The faggots were for a special evening supper party she was holding in her garden for the orphans of Dudley.

“What shall I do” she exclaimed.

“I know I’ll put them in a bread roll and call them? O bugger what can I call them” she said.

“That’s it, I’ll call them buggers, Ham buggers,” she cried in her strong Scottish accent

She clipped the butcher’s boy around the ear and sent him packing, then proceeded to cook the squashed faggots on an open fire in the garden.

The Orphans enjoyed the Buggers so much that it became a regular trip to Mrs McDonalds every Saturday to saviour the tasty delights.

She felt a sense of pride as she watched the skinny orphans start to put a bit of meat on their bones.

Mrs McDonald would sometimes give away a toy with her Ham buggers, perhaps a spinning top or a hoop & a stick.

Her Ham buggers became famous through out the Black Country and indeed all the land.

Her nephew Ronald was travelling on a World tour with the circus as a clown and so it was that her Ham buggers reached the shores of America in his packed lunch.

The Ham buggers became an overnight success with the Americans and Ronald set up restaurants through out the USA selling McDonalds Ham Buggers, although he was a successful businessman, Ronald couldn’t forget his true vocation and still dressed every day as a clown.

Because the Americans couldn’t speak proper English or Scottish for that matter they pronounced Bugger as Burger.

Back in the Black Country “Billy King” the butcher’s boy who sat on the faggots was now a Butchery tycoon owning a chain of butchers shop through out Great Britain.

Being the entrepreneur, he set up a chain of Ham Bugger restaurants in England and called them Wimpy’s.

Alas the Wimpy restaurant chain hit hard times and he had to sack all his employees and close it down.

The disgruntled employees decided to set up a new restaurant chain and because they hated Billy King so much they called it “Bugger King”.

And what became of the orphans? They grew into extremely large pillars of Black Country society, know as “The Buggers of Dudley”

V Southall ©

A new proposal

gretna shops

The Extreme knitter wanted to visit the Gretna Gateway Outlet Village as we started out for our last night in Scotland. After the knitting problems the previous day I wasn’t going to argue with her.

The complex was a small designer type setup with some well known shops. Totally out of the blue I was treated to a Craghopper fleece gillet and I splashed out on a Subway meal.

While the E/knitter wandered around the shops I nipped into one of those “Olde worlde” sweet shops and made a special purchase that would be revealed later.

Suitable over shopped and over fed we returned to the campervan and I phoned what would be our next and last campsite.

I managed to bag the last pitch available.

Next stop was the Blacksmiths shop in Gretna Green famous for performing wedding ceremonies for eloping couples from England.

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It was here that I produced a pair of wedding rings crafted by Haribo confectionary that I had bought in the sweet shop earlier and we renewed our wedding vows to each other as we exchanged the rings. 45 years in July, we are starting to get the hang of this marriage thing. I’m going for the endurance award.

Haribo Rings

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With our marriage now extended, we headed north on the A74 towards Moffat.

The Camping and Caravan Club 181 pitch site at Moffat is a really a staging post for visitors travelling to and from Scotland to break the long trek. It is always busy.

The welcome was very pleasant and efficient. The site wardens obviously had the site running like clockwork and considering they had spent the day showing hundreds of campers to their pitches, still had time for a bit of good humoured banter.

Moffat Camping and Caravan Club Site

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Once we were settled I sent the feral daughter a text message to say I had just married her mother, which came as a bit of a shock to her.

Then she was upset because she missed out on the wedding do. Our evening wedding supper started with a fine beef soup produced especially for us by Mr Heinz and that was it, nothing else. What did you expect? The two Haribo wedding rings used up my budget.

A short walk from the campsite led us to Moffat High Street. At that time in the evening the shops were closed, O dear, what a shame.

Moffats claim to fame is Sheep, lots of them.

The Ram Statue in Moffat

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We had only just returned to the campervan when the heavens opened up and gave us the first rain we had experienced during our trip.

We woke the next day to find the pitch slightly waterlogged, but at least the rain had stopped.

The trip home is always the same, driving back down the motorway feeling slightly melancholy after an enjoyable trip.

Until the next one.