Trains Not Bikes

Monday 6 Jan 2020 Stephen hasn’t (quite) forgotten how to write a blog post even though the last one was nearly 18 months ago and left our readers dangling in the US! Sorry if we left you on tenterhooks but we returned home for the funeral of Stephen’s uncle and then “life” got in the way.

Anyway, we off on our travels again! Christine has always hated the British winter (cold, dark, wet, miserable) and aspires to heading off somewhere warmer after Christmas for as long as she can get away with. Last year she surprised Stephen with an 8 week trip to the Middle East and The Maldives to celebrate his big Six Oh. This year the plan was a bit more modest – a train trip to Sicily, perhaps with a side trip on the ferry to Malta or even Tunisia thrown in.

As soon as the cheap Eurostar tickets came available in October Christine was on the computer booking us in to Paris and then trains down to Rome via Milan. The planning then ground to a halt while we waited for Italian railways to get their cheap tickets to the south sorted and Christmas got in the way.

However, over the festive period we received an email saying that because of the strike action being taken by French railway workers (plus ça change…..) our sleeper train from Paris to Milan was cancelled. This prompted a furious tapping of the keyboard to find out how we could get out of Paris and on to Italy. 

The costs started to mount up and then a suggestion was made that it might be cheaper to do it with an Interrail ticket. This seemed like a good idea but then it occurred to Christine that we could perhaps go further afield with such a flexible ticket. In fact we could relive our student days! So she leapt into her favourite website ( investigating how to reach Istanbul by train.

And that’s where we’re going. Due to technical reasons (I’m not going to explain but “cockup” may be involved!) we are not leaving today as originally intended when Sicily was our destination but are off tomorrow. This has given us a chance to do the packing in a slightly more measured fashion (but we’ll still find we have forgotten something inevitably) and let Stephen go on his usual Monday morning bike ride with the U3A.

Christine is a ‘Tough Girl’

Tough Girl Podcast! Today it is Christine


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Rude Words!

23/8/17. And lots of them!

While walking a stretch of the Welsh coast path this morning we received a phone call from our estate agent who spoke with our tenants last night. They informed her that they will NOT be leaving our house on Friday despite the Possession Order from the Court. This means we will have to apply for bailiffs to be appointed to evict them.

What a mess!

Books Read Update

Stephen has updated his list of books read here.

We can both thoroughly recommend two books that cover cycling journeys in this part of the world.

Firstly, Andrew Sykes’ “Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie” in which he details his journey from the southernmost point of Europe, Talifa in Spain, to the northernmost at Nordkapp, which is even nearer the Pole than Kirkenes where we started from. There is a lovely passage about why he wrote his blog/diary which sums up at least one of the reasons why we write this stream of consciousness – it’s the only way of remembering all of the experiences we are having because there are so many that there isn’t room for them all in our brains and some fall out of the other end!

The other is Tim Moore’s “The Cyclist Who Went Out In The Cold” about his journey along the Eurovelo 13 cycle route from Norway to Bulgaria, the first part of which we are following. The main difference is that he started his trip in March when the temperature was in the negative teens. And we think it’s chilly in the middle of June. In addition he used an old shopping bike from the GDR. He is seriously insane! However, the book is absolutely hilarious (as are the other two books of his which we have read).

We would heartedly recommend both of these even for non cyclists (and you never know – they may inspire you to set off like us!)

Trials and Tribulations

15/5/17. Long time no speak! When we last spoke,the news was that we were unable to get into our house because our tenants were refusing to move out. This was because their own house (which is being rebuilt following a fire) is not finished. It was expected to take 6-10 weeks for legal proceedings to force them to return our home to us.

Since then it has become apparent that the situation is worse than that! Amazingly, the estate agents managing the property while we were away failed to keep themselves up to date on new legislation in the lettings market and missed a change back in October 2015. As a result, they failed to use the correct form to give notice to vacate the property when we returned at the end of April. So they have had to reissue the notice last week which gives the tenants a further 2 months before we can start the proceedings to reclaim our home -assuming they do not leave as “requested” on 11 July which seems unlikely given their previous stance and that their house is nowhere near completion. This means we will not be able to get into our home until the end of August at the earliest!

We have been staying with Alaric and Annabelle at their home in Didcot which has been most enjoyable and kind of them. However, it is a small house and 4 adults is a bit of a “squeeze”. Diana and Hywel, the parents of our daughter-in-law Tamsin, have very generously let us use their family holiday home in North Wales for a week (by the way, get yourselves to the Llyn Peninsula if you can – it’s absolutely gorgeous!).

All of this is fine and dandy – but it is also incredibly frustrating as we were so looking forward to spending the summer in our own home. In particular, we were anticipating spending time getting the garden back into fruit and vegetable production and excited at the prospect of welcoming family and friends for Derby Day (a longstanding tradition for the first Saturday in June). This is not now possible.

So the big question is what do we do with ourselves for the next three months?

We’re sure you will have guessed! We’re going off cycling!!

Once Christine has some dental work completed (which involves traipsing down to Surrey from Didcot several times) we are going off to the top of Europe to ride down the Iron Curtain Trail which,as the name implies, follows the border between the East and the West from the Cold War days. It goes down through Finland and into the Baltic republics before heading along the coast of Poland and into Germany. It then heads south along the border between East and West Germany and on to the Black Sea between Bulgaria and Turkey. We won’t have time to go all the way, given the speed at which we cycle, but we’ll see how far we get.

By the way, Christine’s leg has healed well, thankfully, with almost no pain, but she does have a nice scar – in a place that is not very visible!

Welcome Home. Not.

24/4/17. We arrived in Southampton on Saturday and were kicked off the boat early (presumably so they could start the preparations for the next voyage immediately). As a consequence we had a wait for our son Alaric who kindly drove down to pick us up. We stopped off in Chandler’s Ford to have a coffee and a brief catch up with Stephen’s sister Jo before heading to Didcot to stay for a few days with Alaric and Annabelle until the tenants leave our house when the lease ends on Wednesday.

This morning (Monday) we received a call from the estate agents who have been managing the lease for us to say that an email had arrived saying that they (the tenants) would not be leaving as planned and they would be staying until the end of July as their own house (being rebuilt following a fire) is not finished! The barefaced cheek of it!

Towards the end of January they did ask for an extension of the lease either until July or some indeterminate date in May or June (the “story” kept changing). We made it clear that we wanted the house back at the end of April and would not extend beyond. However, it appears they will not take “No” for an answer! So we are intending to take legal action but it seems that it normally takes 6-10 weeks to evict tenants from when notice of proceedings is issued.

Ho hum.

We are calling them all sorts of rude names because we want to be in the house so we can make as much of the vegetable growing season as possible.