Taking The Bus

Dookes H.Q. is situated on the edge of Bodmin Moor, an area of high granite moorland covering 80 square miles of North East Cornwall.

There’s only one slight problem, it’s a bit remote. Not exactly “Off Grid” to use a trendy term, but certainly a bit rural, we call it “Out in The Sticks.” Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but occasionally it can be a bit awkward, like today; I had booked my car into the local garage, eight miles away, for a service and Mrs Dookes was working 60 miles away at the other end of the county. Not good planning.

Let me be very clear, I love where we live and I’m not moaning!

I had three options:

1. Borrow a “Courtesy” car from the garage.
2. Book a taxi.
3. Catch the bus.

One thing about living in a rural area like ours is that you can easily slip into a sort of “bubble” existence and traveling everywhere by car only heightens that feeling of isolation; you look out at the world rather than being part of it. Another issue is that us rural dwellers often moan about the lack of services that townsfolk enjoy, like Post Offices and Public Transport. Often though the problem lies in us not using what is provided, the old “Use it or Loose it” conundrum!

Having spent a career running public transport services, on rails, I hang my head in shame to say that in sixteen years of living at Dookes H.Q. I’d never used our local bus. This is a service that is viewed by the good members of Cornwall Council to be of sufficient social necessity to warrant it being subsidised.

So with all things considered, I took the decision that today I would ride the bus!

With three spaniels barking to greet the dawn and eager for their breakfast, most days at Dookes H.Q. start pretty early. It really wasn’t any hardship therefore to drop my car off at the garage just after eight o’clock, which was great as I had time for a leisurely double espresso and perusal of the newspaper before catching the bus outside a local supermarket just after nine.

I found the bus waiting at the pick-up point, it’s engine running and the driver busily mopping the floor. The previous trip had been collecting up school children from the surrounding areas and their muddy shoes left evidence of the rural nature of the catchment area.

Just a little bus!


This morning I was the only person joining the bus at the start of it’s journey.

It turned out that my jolly driver, Julian, was originally from Romania. I more friendly person you couldn’t wish to meet. He explained that he was an economic migrant looking for better opportunities for his family, his wife was a school teacher and they had two children – I found all that out before we had even got moving, it was a glimpse into life on the little bus!

We looped around town to our next pick-up stop; road-works with temporary traffic lights played havoc with Julian’s schedule, but he kept smiling.
“Try driving in Bucharest,” he grinned at me, “A million times worse than this!”

I don’t doubt it.

Leaving the town centre there were just three of us on the bus. Julian, myself and an elderly lady who was travelling to an outlying village to play table tennis!

The three of us happily chatted the miles away, as the morning sun rose higher in the blue winter sky. As the route looped around a number of villages it drove home to me just how many widely splintered communities this little bus served. Small numbers of people joined as the bus made sporadic stops, sometimes in villages, sometimes at scattered farms. The atmosphere on board was like a friendly club; everyone knew each other. Well except for me, I was like the new boy in school and came under friendly scrutiny; this was quite a microcosm of the local society!

It’s tight on these rural lanes!


Sadly my destination point hove into view and Julian slowed the bus to a halt for me to disembark, where had the last hour gone?

I waved farewell to my travelling companions and set off to walk the two miles to Dookes H.Q. where the first Snowdrops are now in bloom, perhaps Spring is just around the corner.

Snowdrops

On such a lovely morning it was a joy to meander back to home along the lanes, it gave me time to ponder the service that such buses provide to rural communities.

Near Dookes H.Q.


With the exception of myself and one other chap, everyone else riding this morning was a senior and therefore in receipt of free bus travel. It was clear to see that this little bus not only provided a vital lifeline to the communities that it served, but it enabled people to access amenities that otherwise may be beyond their ability to travel to; it provides a real social need. In addition one little bus this morning kept a dozen cars off the road and that’s good for the environment as well, everyone wins!

The thing is though, these services are audited for the number of people riding and if those numbers fall to far, there is a real risk that the route will be cut or at least severely reduced.

I made a promise to myself to go ride the little bus again and get others to do so too.

“Use it or Loose it!”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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And Now For Something Completely Different!

A few years ago I took the somewhat, for me, momentous decision to retire early.

Since leaving a high-flying position the railway industry I had been running a grain storage cooperative for a bunch of ingrate farmers and had grown fed up with the job. I had a brilliant working relationship with the Company Secretary, he was fantastic to work with, but the politics of Directorial self-interest, coupled with what I believed to be a general air of Board incompetence which was holding the business back, finally got to me; I’d had enough it was time to move on!

I was fortunate to be in the position of not having to work. My pension plans had worked nicely for me, true Mrs Dookes and I weren’t going to be the next millionaires on the block, but we were OK. Who wants to be the richest corpse in the graveyard anyway?

One of the things about me is that I stew over things, I call it mental processing, but Mrs D calls it worrying! Faced with what was a pretty fundamental life decision I was frankly a bit bewildered. What the hell was I going to do with myself?

Now Mrs Dookes is a wise little bird…
“Don’t worry, everything will be alright,” said Mrs D and she promptly packed me off on a motorcycle trip!

I set out to explore the Größglockner High Alpine Road, Monza Racetrack and other parts of the Alps on Baby Blue. To be honest I was looking for a bit of head-clearing.. Click here to see more of that trip.

On the Grössglockner, sunny but cold.


Part of my planning was buying that brand new Harley Ultra Limited as a retirement present to myself, so I had put some thought into things!

It was whilst I was away, in Pavia just South of Milan if I remember correctly, that I got a call asking me if I was interested in helping out with English Heritage? EH is the organisation that manages the National Heritage Collection of England’s historic buildings and monuments which span more than 5000 years of history.

I had a blank page, so the answer was yes, with conditions. I wasn’t retiring to go back into full-time work. I wanted space to do other things that interested me, plus having more time for family and friends, not to mention riding motorbikes!

As a result I’ve two and a half years of fun playing around a number of amazing historic places and yes time for other interesting things…which leads me to the point of this post!

Just before Christmas I was talking to my good friend Alan, he runs his own stained glass business called Angel Stained Glass; you can get the link here.

New windows designed by Alan.

Alan gets involved in all sorts of interesting projects and by the very nature of stained glass windows much of them are in historic buildings, such as churches.

Poor Alan was a bit under pressure. Christmas was fast approaching. Christian churches as you may know, get very busy at that time of the year with all the carol services and suchlike, the pressure was on to get two projects finished!

Being the sort of chap who both likes a challenge and to help out a mate, I volunteered to give Alan a hand, plus I knew that it would be an interesting thing to do.

Which is how, in the week before Christmas, I found myself basking in winter sunshine, sitting forty feet up in the air on scaffolding outside a church in Cornwall’s County City, Truro. I was happily helping to repair a series of Victorian windows. My job was to check each tiny piece of glass was snugly held by the lead beading; any that were slightly loose needed attention with “lead cement.”

That’s me on the other side!

The name “Lead cement” is a bit misleading, it’s actually a type of black oily putty that is worked between the lead and glass to secure it all together, keep everything watertight and add strength to the panel. Working with the black gloopy stuff is highly satisfying and quite relaxing; well it is to me anyway! As an added bonus, when you are working on site with the windows you are right up close and very personal with the architecture. It’s quite a privilege to be able to touch things that normally you have to crane you neck to even see!

I’ve come to the conclusion that Alan’s line of work consists of three facets:
• Artistic creativity, particularly in the case of new windows.
• Diligent patience and sympathy with the materials.
• Hard, yet careful, physical work when moving the delicate leaded panels.

There is another factor though, that’s absolute total satisfaction and pride in the job when it’s finished; because its going to last another 150 years!

A few days later we were in the small but delightful Cornish village of Quethiock, population 429, with it’s medieval 14th century church dedicated to St Hugh. No sunshine to enjoy this time, but to work in such old and historic surroundings more than compensated.

The windows that we were working on had originally been made in the 1870’s by the then vicar of the parish the Reverend William Willimott. Some of the pieces of glass were medieval fragments that had been reused, whilst the good Reverend stained most of the rest in a wood fired kiln that he built in the Vicarage garden!

A window depicting St Hugh himself in Quethiock church.

“Willy” was by all accounts a pretty gifted chap, because not only did he make stained glass, but he also restored the church almost single-handed. He made wood-carvings, floor tiles and painted ceiling panels and murals whilst also attending to his Parish Duties. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, he was self-taught too!

The ceiling panels painted by Rev Willimott.

It was therefore pretty humbling to know that the last person to have handled the glass that we were refitting was the illustrious Willimott himself; talk about reaching across the years!

Anyway, we got the work done in time for the church to be readied for the Christmas festival and I have to say that I was humbled to have been involved; thanks Alan.

It certainly made a change from motorbikes, steam engines and all the other things that I get up to and don’t mention in this blog. All of which I wouldn’t be able to indulge in if I was still on the treadmill of full-time employment!

Mrs Dookes was correct. – Everything is alright!

“All right now, baby it’s all right now.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Christmas Eve – Better Than The Main Event!

I always raise a wry smile when I hear people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

It’s as if that one day demands gargantuan effort and logistical planning for it to happen or be a success!

Now I know to an awful lot of folk in the “Christian” Western World that Christmas is indeed a massive thing, both in its preparation and execution; it’s not for me to say that they are wrong, but some years ago I had reason to re-think my own approach to the holiday, let me tell you about it.

In those days I was still working in the railway industry, I was a senior manager in the responsible for the delivery the safe operation of passenger train services. I had a fantastic team of local operations managers and train-crew who were dedicated to the job that they did, we had a great time working together. Our area of responsibility covered the Southern half of the U.K., it was demanding work but very satisfying.

In the lead up to any holiday period we always saw increased usage of our services as people travelled to enjoy their days off with family and friends. The Christmas period on the railways was and still is, a bit different, as it is the only time of the year that trains actually stopped running for the two-day holiday; so there is just a bit more pressure to get people home before the shut-down!

As the Christmas holiday was approaching we were struggling; a virus was going around that was severely stretching our train-crew resources and sadly a couple of services had been cancelled due to staff sickness. Our resources centre was doing a great job covering the timetable and the remaining staff were really helping out by being as flexible as possible, but we were up against it!

By the morning of Christmas Eve we had shuffled the deck enough to cover every train…except the last one.

Now I had a mantra, that basically said Never, cancel the last train.

I talked through the situation with the Duty Managers in the Control and Resources Centre. We were short of a Train Manager (known as a Guard/Conductor, in other places) for the last 200 miles of the last train, as a result the Control staff had already began to look at the possibility of using replacement road coaches.

I wasn’t at all happy about 300 of our passengers being put on a fleet of buses, especially so late on Christmas Eve!

No, it wasn’t a train like this either, but hey it’s sort of Christmassy!


As a career railwayman, over the years I had been trained in and done just about all of the jobs in the operations department, what’s more I had ensured that I maintained my Safety Critical Competency Certifications too. All our frontline staff and union representatives knew that “The Old Man” was quite capable of doing any of their jobs, especially in an emergency and this was an emergency!

It didn’t take me more than a couple of seconds to decide that if the last service needed a Train Manager that I would cover the shift.

I’ve got to say that Mrs Dookes wasn’t over happy when I told her what I was going to do, but she understood; she knew I was a railwayman and running railways was what I did.

As for the train. Well, from what I can remember it all went well and ran on time with no dramas, but it did have a nice “Travelling Home for Christmas” vibe.

We delivered the passengers to their destinations on time, then put the train away at the end of the run.

A taxi was waiting to take me home, which was about 100 miles away, I walked into our decorated house at one o’clock on Christmas morning…it was still Christmas Eve to me!

Waiting on the table was a candle-lit light meal of delicious goodies that Mrs Dookes had prepared and a chilled bottle of champagne to go with it too!

That’s how we have celebrated Christmas Eve ever since and in a way it’s become our most important tradition of the festive period, better than the main event in many ways!

I was incredibly lucky in my railway career; I worked in some amazing places alongside incredible people doing special things to keep the wheels rolling. Sometimes things were grim, but I have lovely memories of the camaraderie that we shared doing a job that most of us loved.

Tonight, when Mrs Dookes and I sit down to our supper I’ll raise a glass of something bubbly, toast railway people the world over. Then I’ll quietly think of that Christmas Eve so long ago and thank goodness that I’m married to a wonderful lady who understands what makes me tick and who created such a lovely tradition out of my stubbornness not to cancel a train!

Have a peaceful Christmas everyone!

Dookes

Solstice Bells

“Now is the Solstice of the year.
Winter is the glad song that you hear.”

It doesn’t take much to make me happy, which might seem a bit strange for a chap who owns two big Harley Davidson motorbikes, but it’s true. Today, for example, is one of those things that no-one can own, hold or claim; it’s the Winter Solstice and I’m a very happy Dookes as a result!

It’s probably fair to say that this has become my favourite day of the whole year!

In our Northern Hemisphere it is the shortest day, when the Sun barely shows itself above the horizon and then for the briefest possible time! Sunset today was just before 16:00hrs!

Stennes Sones Orkney


The Solstice marks the turn of the seasons when the days begin to grow longer and the warmth of Summer begins its long return journey.

It’s also the real beginning of Winter.

I written before how the relevance of this turning point has become stronger for me as I have grown older; I understand the ancient people who venerated the turning seasons and the Celestial Calendar.

It appears that since the dawn of time our forbears have found reason to celebrate a festival of light in the depths of the darkest day of the year. So why not have a party to celebrate the ending of one celestial year and the beginning of a new one?

Sounds good to me, but then I am a Welsh Wizard/Dewin Cymreig!

Let’s not forget that many other cultures and religions around the world also celebrate festivals at this time of the year and have the rebirth of light firmly as their focus.
The Christian Church has celebrated the birthday of Jesus Christ, Christmas, on December 25th since the 4th Century when Pope Julius I chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Feast of Saturnalia. In several languages, not just English, people have compared the rebirth of the sun to the birth of the son of God.

It’s also interesting to reflect that the origins of many “traditional” Western Christmas decorations such as the Yule Log, Tree and Wreath can trace back to pre-Christian times.

Familiar decorations of green, red and white cast back to the Wiccan traditions and the Druids. The old Pagan Mid-Winter Festival of Yule also included feasting and gift giving, doesn’t it all sound very familiar?!?!

When I was younger we always did the usual Christmas decoration stuff, including a highly non-authentic artificial tree! My late father did little to dress the tree, but had his own take on the whole decoration thing that he insisted on doing himself; every year he would garland the house with boughs of green holly and evergreen, it was only then that I truly used to feel that things were being done properly. I suspect that my Celtic blood has a lot to do with this and I still carry on that tradition today in Dookes H.Q., I adore the house smelling of pine and other evergreens! image

Many Pagan religions had a tradition where it was customary to place holly leaves and branches in and around dwellings during winter. It was believed that the good spirits who inhabited forests could come into their homes and use the holly as shelter against the cold; whilst at the same time malevolent forces and spells would be repelled.

Mrs Dookes enters into the spirit of the season with her splendid handmade evergreen wreaths. This reflects another Celtic tradition, the wreath’s circle has no beginning or end and the evergreen represents life in the depths of winter.

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, The Solstice, Dongzhi, Yalda, Saturnalia, Malkh, any other festival that I may have missed, or just looking forward to having a restful holiday, have a truly wonderful time and maybe spare a thought, or penny, for those less fortunate.

Thanks for joining me for the ride this year, it’s been a ball and I hope you will saddle up with Harls, Baby and I in ’18 for more two-wheeled adventure and opinion!

“Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

With grateful thanks to Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull for sharing the Solstice over many decades!

Time – It’s Relative

I have had a brilliant career, or as I’m now retired, perhaps I should just say I had a brilliant career!

No, I’m not bragging, I’m just one of those incredibly lucky people who have been fortunate enough to do things that didn’t seem like work and as a bonus I got paid for doing them!

When I was younger, one thing that I remember happening fairly frequently was bumping into colleagues who had retired and hearing them extolling the virtues of retired life.

“I’m so busy, I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work!”

That was a line that I heard often and which normally caused me to turn a quiet smile and gently shake my head…but guess what?

Those old fellas were right!!!

Retirement is a funny thing and I guess is different for different people, but for me it’s, well, hectic! From time to time I do some voluntary stuff, try to sneak in a few motorcycle rides, attempt to keep on top of the acres and trees here at Dookes H.Q., maintain the 300year old pile that is Dookes H.Q. and goodness knows do a host of other things that frequently leave me wondering where the days and weeks have evaporated away to!

Which is a round about way of explaining why Dookes has been “Off the Air” blog-wise yet again!

Keeping a Promise

Our nephew Christopher (Chris) is a super chap, I’ve written about him previously.

He’s one of the folks that life has dealt a pretty rough deal, but with the love and support of his family he has ploughed a pretty good furrow, despite a number of medical issues.

He works as a mechanic in his other Uncle’s garage and specialises in off-road motorcycles. To have some independence Chris lives in a chalet in the grounds of his parent’s home, whilst still conveniently in reach should he need help.

Because of Christopher’s medical situation the authorities won’t allow him to have a car driving licence, but will let him ride restricted motorbikes, which is just as well, because he’s pretty good at it!

Here in the UK we have a thing called a CBT, Compulsory Bike Training. It’s normally for people just setting out into the world of two-wheeled transport, or those who really only want a machine up to 125cc for a bit of local commuting and travel. No pillions are allowed for a CBT rider and the bike has to display red ‘L’ plates (for “Learner”). Once completed the CBT certificate lasts for two years, then either the rider has to do the course again or go pass the proper motorbike test.

For Chris, the CBT is ideal. He only needs a small bike for the distances that he normally travels and with a review every two years it means that he gets a regular independent assessment of his riding.

The great thing for Chris is that he is surrounded by motorcycling relatives; his cousins ride, as do two of his Uncles, so we all keep an eye on him!

I make a point to ride out with Chris every now and then, partly to see how he is getting on, but mostly because I enjoy spending time in his company, I think that’s how it should be with nephews and nieces.

Earlier this year Chris visited us at Dookes H.Q.. He really was desperate to ride his bike to us, it would have been his longest trip ever, about 70 miles and he wanted me to ride shotgun alongside him. As it was then in the height of summer and our Cornish roads get stupidly busy with visitors, I didn’t think it was such a great idea, so I put him off until the autumn.

Now the thing about Chris is that he doesn’t forget…so a few weeks back he reminded me of my promise and we rearranged things. That’s how a couple of Saturdays ago I found myself setting off at the crack of dawn to go and collect him.

Needless to say, he was raring to go when I arrived. He greeted me with a big grin and proudly told me that he’d washed his bike especially for the occasion! We packed his bags into Baby Blue’s ample top box and panniers, then hit the road; he takes after his Aunt, Mrs Dookes, just how much stuff do you need for a weekend away?

As his Yamaha 125 will only just about hit 50mph (downhill with a good tailwind) I chose a route that avoided the main trunk roads and settled in for a leisurely trundle, thank goodness that my big touring bike has a rather good music system.

Just over halfway we stopped to enjoy a sandwich and cup of coffee; Chris was worried that he needed petrol so we topped up the bikes, his took just under two litres… talk about economic riding! My Harley needed about ten times that amount!

Eventually, after nearly three hours, we arrived safely at Dookes H.Q..
Then next day we did it all again, but in reverse.

Chris and his bike wait to ride home with Baby Blue.

True this wasn’t the most taxing thing I’ve ever done on a motorbike, but just to see the look on my nephew’s face after he completed the two rides it was undoubtedly one of my most fulfilling.
Promise delivered.

Riding motorcycles is a bit like life.
It isn’t always about how far or fast you go, sometimes it’s about sharing the journey with someone else and watching them enjoy the ride!

Thanks Chris, for sharing some of your journey with your old Uncle; lets ride again soon.

“Those are the memories that made me a wealthy soul”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Hitchhiking the Galaxy

Yes I know, old Dookes has been off air for a week or so…but sometimes if you’ve nothing useful to say its best to keep your mouth shut!

Life trundles on here in Cornwall, the first storms of autumn and winter have arrived and it seems like a good excuse to light up the log fire and get snug.

First it was former tropical hurricane “Ophilia” that shook the roof slates and now we are just getting over storm “Brian” who was, I believe, described as a weather bomb! Actually he was a bit disappointing, not quite the vicious beast that the meteorologists and media made him out to be, but hey I wouldn’t have wanted to ride a motorcycle as he blew through!

Before all the wind and rain started with a vengeance I managed to sneak out for a quick 150 miler with my old mate G. What a pair we were too…G with his semi-rebuilt wrists and me with two knackered shoulders. We worked out that he was OK turning right and I could manage left, then we ended up in a gravel covered car-park….!

Do you know that feeling when you get a bit stuck, then can’t help laughing and then you really can’t move? I’m still chuckling thinking about it!!

Our trip took us to the Western end of our County of Cornwall; one of those “Going Nowhere Particular” sort of rides, but just great to be out on two wheels again.

Mounts Bay in West Cornwall, simply beautiful.


Then just as life starts getting back into some sort of routine something happens that sort of puts everything back into perspective and highlights just what is important and what is trivial.

Yesterday evening I was at an informal social event with some friends who like me do a bit of looking after ancient ruins and sites. We were having a great time, a bit of ten-pin bowling and supper. I made the observation that I hadn’t seen one of our number for a while…only to learn that he had passed away a couple of weeks ago after a very short battle with savage cancer!

Now in the light of a beautiful Cornish Autumn day I’m trying to get my head round it.

It’s the fragility of life that’s so haunting; it’s not great that I’m typing this at a desk with a mirror behind it either! Whilst on the inside I’m looking out of what I feel are a 19 year olds eyes, what I see confirms that the rest is considerably older. A few weeks ago Mrs Dookes lost one of her dearest Aunts, yes it was a bit of a shock, but the lady was into her 80’s and as my dear late father used to say, “Had a fair innings.” Chris, on the other hand was around the same age as me, not at all good; no I’m not in my 80’s yet either!

Just for once I’m pleased to have tinnitus today, it’s giving me a sort of curtain to hide behind whilst I process the departure of Chris.

Chris, who had an air about him that was a cross between cultured indifference and barbed cynicism; but whose intellect was as sharp as a razor, yet gentle a silk and observations on life the universe and everything would leave me a helpless wreck convulsed with laughter. The lucky sod still had an amazing full head of blond hair too!

The sharp-eyed amongst you will have spotted my oblique reference to Douglas Adams brilliant book, “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.” Chris loved that book, as do I and we would frequently trade quotes in greeting to each other. I’m going to miss that.

Farewell Chris; on reflection it’s probably good that I didn’t get to say goodbye face to face, I want to remember you as I knew you.

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

P.S. “Don’t Panic.”

Red Sky In The Morning.

Sometimes it’s worth getting up the first time the alarm sounds and not hitting the “Snooze” button. Yesterday in Brittany was a case in point.

Surprisingly the evening with Denis didn’t get out of hand and I slept “The sleep of the just,” with only the alarm disturbing me. I got out of bed and threw open the shutters, dawn was breaking in the Eastern sky with rich hues of amber, red and gold; it was too good to miss, so I sat I the window taking in the show that the sun was giving.

In the back of my mind I pondered the old adage,”Red sky in the morning, sailors warning.” Hmm, oh well, we’ve taken pretty much everything that the weather clerk has thrown at us this trip, something else won’t matter. Will it?

Denis was waiting when I wandered downstairs, his smile every bit as warm as the sun.
“Bonjour Gallois, bien dormi, ça va?”
“Oui mon ami ça va et merci, j’ai très bien dormi!”

He broke into a rare bit of stilted English,
“Bacon and eggs? Zee full English?”

He roared with laughter as I shook my head…he knew what I was going to say.

“Merci, non. J’aurai une omelette, comme d’habitude!”

More laughter, Denis knows I always have an omelette for breakfast with him; it’s because they are the best, which I frequently remind him. Anyway he gets fun out of the bacon and eggs routine!

Of course there’s the usual French breakfast fare to go with it; bread, croissants, pain au chocolat and as this is Bretagne, little Madeleine cakes…which just beg to be dipped briefly in your cup of coffee to give sublime breakfast happiness!

Soon, too soon, it was time to hit the road again and in the French way there were hugs and kisses all round. Ann stood on the steps of the Château waving me goodbye, Denis had disappeared off to feed his horses, he doesn’t do the actual departure bit very well.

I turned Harls North West and headed for our ferry port at Roscoff, just over 100 miles away through delightful Breton scenery. True, Brittany isn’t as spectacular as the mountains that we’ve been in for the last fortnight, but to me it has a homely feel. It’s the region of France where I first “got it” about the country and the people, that’s wholly down to Mrs Dookes; she worked here years ago and imparted her love of the place to me. I’ve never really looked back since!

Then there was the weather, what a lovely day it had turned into and stayed that way right to the ferry. Thank you La France, I’ll forgive you the downpours we had to endure previously!

….and so to sea. The ferry link between Brittany and Plymouth is really convenient for me as Dookes H.Q. is only about 25 miles from the port and usually a doddle to cover.

I like travelling with Brittany Ferries, that’s not an advert for them – I’m just a satisfied customer. I always get a cabin, irrespective if it’s a day or night sailing, as it makes a good base to securely dump things whilst I enjoy the facilities of the ship and also because I appreciate getting some sleep. No difference this time either!

Getting near to the U.K.the weather closed in and by the time we docked it was full-on driving rain. Oh joy in the darkness!

Then, just to add to my overflowing cup of happiness on the way home, the highways authority had decided to dig up the road and install diversions…then we ran into fog and still it rained…bear in mind that these are rural roads with no street-lighting, not fun. That blasted red sky!

Grumbling aside, it was good to roll Harls into my workshop, shut the doors, turn on the dehumidifiers, thank her for a job well done and promise in the next couple for days to wash the considerable amount of road grime off her.

2736 miles without missing a beat. “Pas mal,” as Denis says, yes not at all bad for an old lady, the true star of the show!

Incredibly big thanks to Mrs Dookes for the latitude that she gives me to go travelling, whilst she keeps H.Q. ticking over; yeah I know that I’m a lucky chap in so many ways.

There’s more to tell about this trip dear reader, so please pop back again soon when I post more pictures and stories of things we saw along the road.

“Let me be a travelling man, I’m a roadrunner baby, roadrunner.”

Catch you soon

Dookes