We have just sold/relinquished our beloved "Campy" after 11 years of touring Europe unfettered by schedules. We followed our noses from Faringdon to Ferrara and freedom beyond. We climbed mountains and rattled helter-skelter into valleys. We lounged beside the sea and sipped wine alongside lakes. Now we're at the crossroads.
I won't say the decision was entirely predicated on Brexit but that episode of dumbfoolery certainly stripped the gilt from the gingerbread. Waving goodbye to our innocent pleasures on the road was quite an emotional journey in itself.
So this is an ode to the freedom of the road and freewheelin' in the EU. I thought to start with photos of Campy posing in mountainous beauty spots and beside lakes and rivers but in trawling through thousands of images, it seems insufficient credit was accorded to our benefactor. A bit like saying: "You got us here Campy, but don't expect to be in the pictures."
Actually there are quite a few but there are huge gaps, too, so that when embarking on this project Shan and I were quite nonplussed that, for example, we had nothing from my 60th birthday, tracts of central Italy and France, or withstanding gales in St Ives. There are pictures there in our archives but they just don't have Campy in them and therefore break the rules of this tribute to our home on wheels for substantial parts of more than a decade.
The power of pictures
This sad state of affairs took me back to an episode In Liverpool and the adventures of Flossie the blowup sheep ... *** irrelevant tangent alert ***. It all started with a programme I was managing in a major insurance company on the banks of the Mersey. There were some specialised talents involved that necessitated recruiting a few top notch IT chaps from Kiwiland. We appointed a team leader, Gavin, and he'd read all the text books on team leadership. During his first week he did the team leadery thing and took his team members out for a few pints in Liverpool. Looking for a bit of endorsement for the evening Gavin mentioned to me that he had a brilliant idea ... he would play a practical joke on his Scouse team members.
"Gavin," I cautioned him, "do not take on the wags of Liverpool!
"These guys are the mothers and fathers of practical jokes, especially if stirred up by a bit of provocation."
But he threw caution to the wind. To be honest, his wind up was that insignificant I can't remember what it was. What I do remember was the payback.
A couple of the team members planned an outing to a notorious Liverpool novelty shop.
"We're going foraging for a blow-up sheep," the ringleader announced to a select audience, that excluded Gavin, as they left the building. It didn't take them long and they were back, bearing a substantial package.
"We asked the guy behind the counter," the ringleader whispered, "do you have any blow up sheep?
"His face was expressionless as he responded with three words: 'black or white?'
"We chose the white," he concluded, removing the outer wrapping to reveal a box emblazoned with with the words Flossie the Blow Up Sheep - with genuine love passage.
How they managed to keep it secret from Gavin I don't know. The grand unveiling was to take place at the England vs New Zealand cricket test match at Old Trafford in 1994. A few stalwarts of Gavin's team had the Friday off to spectate. Gavin didn't. The whispers on the day before were that Flossie was to be bedecked in Kiwi colours, inflated with helium and flown from the England corner of the ground. The final touch was the phrase emblazoned on Flossie's flank: I ❤ Gavin W****2.
That evening, as a consolation for not having the day off to watch the cricket, I took Gavin to the pub. We returned to our separate abodes to catch the late test summary only to intercept a conversation that went something like this:
English commentator, I think it was Geoffrey Boycott but I stand to be corrected: "What do you think of the flying sheep then, Richard?"
Sir Richard Hadlee's response was somewhat irritated but went along the blustering lines of how many millions of sheep there were in New Zealand in a vain attempt to deflect the story.
(I think it was) Boycott who replied: "Yeah but not many of them named Gavin W****!"
Gavin and I both heard the story, as did half the IT division of our very large customer. Gavin had instant notoriety. I can't say it did him any harm especially as, being an all-round decent bloke, he took it on the chin.
Flossie went on to become a cause célèbre. A substantial number of colleagues asked if they could take Flossie on holiday with them as click bait. "Gavin's" sheep was loaned out on two conditions:
Back to the main story and its missing pics
So apologies if our picture story laid out below does not tell the whole saga - for that readers will need to explore other nooks and crannies of this site for additional detail.
To save repeating redundant instructions, all captions are situated below a set of photos and individual pieces of information refer to the individual pics from top to bottom and from left to right, so without further ado ...
Our first encounter with Campy, sitting outside his1 first owners house in 2011; a heat map of those places in which our motorhome did crack a photo.
Our first trip of any length was driven by Shan while I laboured East to West on my bicycle with Campy frequently in evidence; two views of our accommodation facing rearwards and frontwards respectively; having lunch with Kate alongside Chew Valley Lake after an ambitious cycle up from Wells (Campy arrived with Shan and Kate via Cheddar Gorge); Ponies in the New Forest; a sea view in Seatown with an appropriately named pub, The Anchor; the first of a fair number of barbecues; Campy in full regalia at Slindon.
Music festivals in luxury, this one was the Wilderness Festival at Cornbury in 2012; the sun wakes one up early in mid summer with promises of Wilco, Stornaway and Rodrigo y Gabriela ...
A sad and contentious fact about our motorhome travels was that Shan wasn't present for the first Channel crossing but here she gamely accompanies me on some vintage bike training in the South Downs National Park; loaded up with bikes for Richard and me, Campy looks back across the Channel from Calais; in the mountains having just crossed into Switzerland; in a queue on the Great St Bernard Pass headed towards Italy; in Italy looking North towards the Alps; arrived at our parking for the Eroica at Gaiole in Chianti where there was plenty of company for Campy while Richard and I went off to take part in the event; breaking my own content rules here a bit, but me in Radda in Chianti after a nasty fall on the circuitous gravel route, now getting attention from a German doctor in WW1 costume, aided and abetted by Italian nurses in costume of a similar vintage (if you look carefully, the nurse on the right has a fag in his mouth); having been put on a drip and then ferried back in the doc's van, I felt entitled to a few sips of beer back at the camper parking; having successfully completed the route, Richard is entitled to look a bit smug - I did get my local pecorino for finishing, though.
For a few years Campy was the mainstay refreshment stop for the 200-odd cyclists taking place in the Farcycles sportive with Shan dispensing refreshments and locally made cake, flapjacks etc.; Kate joins Shan in the penultimate frame of the set; Campy publicising the Farcycles Sportive at the 2014 British stages of le Tour de France in Ilkley.
At last Shan gets to mainland Europe and is able to rest alongside Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet; me too; according to TomTom we were parked in the middle of the Dordogne in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne (at this point I'd just crushed the skylight under a bridge at the entrance to the campsite); Shan surveying the Seine at wine time; Campy looking longingly at the sea on the Northern coast of Normandy.
Campy is becoming a familiar customer of le Shuttle through le tunnel sous la manche, loaded down with home-cooked food now no longer an option following Brexit; Beside the Mosel surveying the vines upriver from Bernkastel-Kues; finally reached the Brienzersee at Brienz after a hair-raising drive into Giswil through the Entelbuch Biosphere; two frames looking out over the lake, the latter from Campy as the cold draws in; three views of the Dolomites, the middle one from the 2236 m summit of the Passo Giau, achieved via 29 major hairpins, and the third at an overnight stop on a disused airstrip near Cortina; vantage point from Cervarezza high in the Apennines; exiting Italy at Claviere.
Various trips to France: après déluge at Briare on the Loire; one of our favourite campsites at Chinon on the Vienne (a tributary of the Loire); One of the brilliant free camper stops in France, this one at Château-Gontier on the Mayenne; a stop on a Loire source-to-sea adventure at Digoin; Back to our fave campsite at Chinon, I suspect drinking an Alsace Riesling; over to the Bourgogne for Chardonnay Shan, this one a local 2014 brew from Mavilly-Mandelot where we camped at the winery; we parked for two days in Pommard in the courtyard of Virely-Rougeot; complete serenity at Camping la Faz near Orgelet; the astonishing Millau Viaduct - we went over it and then under it; in the Dordogne; alongside a quiet lake on the outskirts of Dieppe.
Back to the UK and a cosy glass of Chardonnay for Shan during a short break to Norfolk; Campy becomes our permanent home for a while, living on our driveway while renovations/extensions take place; it was quite cosy in the snow; don't ask - suffice to say it was my 67th birthday and we were camping just outside Tetbury; en route to a quick escape in Scotland before Kate's wedding, here in the Northern Pennines with some fresh snow evident on the range in the background.
Beside Loch Linnhe after an emotional trip to Glencoe; man doing fire dance at sunset on Mull with the Sound of Mull as a backdrop; me with broken mirror and fleecy dressing gown photographing the sunset; being welcomed on to the ferry to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula; the road down to Loch Sunart.
It had to be done ... the gin and the frozen granite; Slàinte mhath; and there's a full moon from Rosemarkie.
A last gasp down to the west of England during a gap from Covid: Campy in all her glory in a sylvan scene near Corfe Castle in Dorset; our new Cobb BBQ, the dog's ...; Shan does not like being called Shirley (my Mum's name and Starry's wind-up name); Campy resting in the cool of the evening; Shan occupying herself during a quiet moment; Campy in glamorous company above Lynmouth.
Campy's last day with us, the gentleman in the picture is about to drive him away for ever. Shan and I cannot truthfully claim that it was not a wee bit emotional.
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