Day 40: Sheep, Talent and Suarez


We got up early to go and see the “famous” sheep drive where the sheep come down from the hills to spend the winter on lower ground near Kipfenberg. I went to post something in the village and popped down to see how the event was warming up: it wasn’t. No crowds, no roads blocked, no traffic calming, no sheep. Maybe they forgot. Or maybe the sheep decided to stay up there on the hills. Maybe some loud-mouthed leftie sheep held a rally last night and told the rest of them that the time for following the sheepdog was over. “they’ve been pulling the wool over our eyes for decades”, “The time is right, it’s up to Ewe!”

Then the rain came on. And it’s still on. It’s half past ten at night and there’s a big bubble in the roof of the awning which I need to empty before bedtime. In the caravan it’s delicious. It’s warm, it’s cosy, it’s relaxed and I’ve managed to find Astra 28 so we are watching the stuff you’ve been watching. I have never actually watched an entire programme of “X-Factor” except the finals, but tonight I lose my talent contest virginity. I lie back and allow Gary, Sharon, Louis and Cheryl to have their wicked way with me. I feel celebraped. And what do I think? This whole setup is awful. They all “say it best when they say nothing at all!”

To be fair, Cheryl Cole is absolutely gorgeous and her Geordie accent is strangely attractive. I feel she could have been there in the centre of Whitley Bay, the night before Sam’s christening, along with all the other girls wearing so very little. That’s the night I got flashed by 3 girls from the top floor of a hotel on my way to the hole-in-the-wall. I don’t remember much after that!

Let me tell you a story about talent. About 10 years ago I was in Pitlochry with the other members of our Munro-bagging group “The Lofty Peakers”. They were a bunch of great lads, all teachers from St. Andrew’s High School, Kirkcaldy except me, there only because I was close friends with Abe Gallacher. We did a couple of Munros that day, got back to the digs, washed and changed and then went for some dinner at the famous Moulin Inn. Refreshed we came back down into Pitlochry and sought out a place to finish the evening with a couple of pints.

There was only one place open after 10 p.m. and to our consternation it was karaoke night. As we stood around drinking and jibing as to which of us would do a turn, we were aware of a tiny lad with a goblin’s face dressed in an orange suit with double-breasted jacket, the local loony and a bit like wee Alfie who haunts the pubs in the west end. Suddenly he was up on the stage, microphone in hand, and we could see he intended to try and sing Elton John’s “Don’t let the sun go down on me”. We settled down to have a good laugh at him and shouted general abuse in his direction.

To my dying day I will never forget the opening bars of the song when, like Susan Boyle many years later, this weird-looking little man struck the entire audience dumb with the amazing quality of his voice. His rendering of this difficult song was quite exceptional and he drank for free for the rest of the night. “Don’t judge a book…..”

Something else happened that evening which still haunts me. After his shower Abe decided to have a shave. I was sitting on the bed looking towards the bathroom as I saw him squirt a green gel into the palm of his hand, rub both hands together and produce a mass of white shaving foam! I was astonished by this sorcery and immediately contacted the Witchfinder General. Abe was later burned at the stake.

Sorry, I lost it for a moment there. He wasn’t actually burned at the stake. He was put in a barrel and….. No, really, I’m OK now. The point is that, ever since that moment, I cannot use shaving gel without Abe’s name popping into my head. Has such a thing ever happened to you? Let me know.

MOTD is half an hour away. Lineker says it will be a cracker. Bed, wine, cheese, footie, Mary.



Day 39: Surely he should be booked for that!


After this morning’s bonus rant I sort of drifted off into a wee world of fantasy where everything I wanted came true. It was fun but not real life although our real life at the moment is fun.

I don’t want to win the Lottery (at least not the 10 quid Mary won last week), I don’t want fast cars and beautiful women – I have them already – but I DO want to get published. I would dearly love to see the words I’ve written printed in a real book and on sale in the shops. That would be a big thrill for me and a lifetime ambition achieved.

I know I need an Agent, someone who knows how the system works and who can take my work around to the right people. So far I’ve offered the book to 2 publishers, Black & White and D C Thomson. Black & White liked it enough to pass it on to their commissioning editors and I’ll hear back from them in the next month or so. They take an average of 3 months or more to reply!

Unfortunately D C Thomson have failed to acknowledge my submission on 3 separate occasions and I find their lack of manners inexcusable and actually hurtful as I really hoped the local publishing giant might at least have taken a look at what I was offering. If anyone out there knows anyone at D C Thomson who could persuade an editor to give my book the once-over I would be eternally grateful even if in the end they have no use for it.

The whole day has been spent going over things connected with my book about wee Georgie and it is amazing that I finished it almost 9 months ago. I’ve also written 20,000 words of Book 2 taking me from 11 years old up through the first couple of years at Lawside but I haven’t written anything else except the Blog since we left.

Can I once again ask anyone who is following the blog but hasn’t actually clicked to accept our invitation to follow it to please do so now. That way we can keep up with the number of hits we get each day. Well done to those who are posting comments now. You have a long way to go to catch uncle Gerard but keep posting and you might overtake him when he swans off to sunnier climes.

I didn’t kill any more wasps today. And apart from my hands I didn’t wash. I brushed my teeth though.

Bonus Rant

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Last night I dreamed Alec Salmond moved Scotland to the space between Italy and Croatia. Oh boy!

It is 10.30 in the morning. I am sitting outside in the warm sunshine, stripped to the waist, cup of tea on the table, the lovely Mary sat close by. Rearrange that if you want. Yet I feel two itches I need to scratch. Whilst mine are metaphorical, Mary’s are six or seven bites to both ankles delivered yesterday somewhere, somehow, by some bloodthirsty insect. Anti-Histamines and Germolene have been called to the barricades but those dastardly creatures have sown their havoc in her system already and my best pal is not a happy bunny.

If you watch “Pointless” on the Beeb (because you’ve switched the box on too early for the six o’clock News) you’ll get my drift if I suggest that we all know a pointless answer to the question “Which insect would you most likely invite round for tea?”. The answer is, of course, a wasp. There was one on the table about ten minutes ago and I observed it with interest, although at a polite distance. It landed near my Sgt. Pepper’s mug, did a couple of circuits of its base, crawled up to Marlon Brando’s face (Go on, check the album cover), crawled back down again then moved to the broad expanse of free table to the left. It had not booked the table but I fear it cared not a jot. If my observations are accurate, it proceeded to try to sting the table to death by repeatedly slamming that black spike protruding from its accursed behind into the surface.

I am pleased – no, actually smug is a far more accurate description – to report that Formica plays in a different league from wasps and there was no contest. Twenty to thirty jabs with the poisoned dart left my fold-down table unaffected and the wasp with, hopefully, a sore arse. If anyone out there feels the slightest hint of sympathy for the little black-and-yellow terrorist then please tell me why. I promise to post it. There is however a sting in the tale. You may hate me for this, but I know the last thing this wasp ever saw was the base of my mug coming down out of the sun-filled sky.

One letter away from “wasp” is “wash”. The latter is an obsession I fail to grasp. Campsites are a frenzy of assorted bohemians washing themselves, showering, bathing, shaving (mostly the men), brushing their teeth, washing their clothes, washing the dishes twenty seconds after eating from them, washing their cars, washing their caravans, washing their motor homes, washing their children and their children’s clothes, washing their dogs (there are quite a few with pets here), washing their bicycles and I suspect washing the grass outside their caravans. At night I bet they study the skies, looking for meteor showers!

I have flicked through many a travel brochure in my time but have so far failed to open at the sections entitled “Clean Breaks” or “Go ‘n’ Wash” which offer the chance to “escape the drudgery of daily life and let us whisk you off to a paradise where water flows endlessly from every orifice”. Flights to Washington, Bath and Waterloo included!

I do not adhere to the notion that a clean person is necessarily a happy person. I am aware that Mary scrubs up well on a daily basis and I know Gavin has more showers than the Outer Hebrides. But I simply do not feel the need. If I look dirty or start to smell, that’s a different matter. But I cannot put washing at the centre of my universe. Life is, as we all know, too short. Do you really want to spend half of it in the bathroom? If you already have, then take heed. St. Peter will not check behind your ears.

Stef, the husband of my cousin Renée, is on his last day at work. I send him congratulations and best wishes. He deserves it. I hope he realises that life begins again tomorrow.

Day 38: It’s not blue…….. but it is beautiful.

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Another first was reached today. No, Mary didn’t do the dishes or hoover the floor. This first was a big one, especially in my mind because I finally saw a river I heard about an awful long time ago when I was wee Georgie but which never flowed through any of the places I visited as I grew older.

Johann Strauss made it famous and his tune fills 5 minutes of my favourite movie “2001: a Space Odyssey” by the man whose works we saw in Amsterdam, Stanley Kubrick. It is a tune we all know and can hum or da-da-da-da whilst waltzing around the living room. Immortalized in painting as well as in music, the river Danube stands as a major player in European history and culture and has captured the imagination of romantics and thrill-seekers over the decades. It has an iconic status, similar to that of Vienna or the Orient Express, and is the river of choice of every spy in Europe.

Today we visited Regensburg, a town we hadn’t even heard of before, but the first town we have ever visited which stands on the Danube (or Donau as the Germans call it). Before we got there we were in Bitz where we stopped for diesel, but what a great name for a town. All the inhabitants are in Bitz – must be the stress.  I love towns with names that make me think of other things. I remember years ago, having been to Rouen, finally finding a wee village called Recques, which allowed us to say we had been to Recques and Rouen.

But I digress, as Frankie Howard used to say. Regensburg was our target simply because it stands on the Danube.  Now this turned out to be rather unfair on the town as it presented itself very well, had a charming Altstadt, a beautiful Dom and a cracking good Eiscafé where we treated ourselves to cones. Indeed we might have stayed longer but our parking ticket was running out and I didn’t want Mum calling me” reckless” again for putting her daughter in danger from a German traffic warden!

I have to tell you about how terribly clever Victoria was today. She was totally in charge of the journey to Regensburg as neither Mary nor I had the slightest clue how to get there. I knew it was East of where we are in Kipfenberg and I knew the Autobahn wasn’t part of the route, I knew it was on the Danube and quite close to the Czech border. Mary knew it was in Germany!

Anyway Victoria took us up hill and down dale, through long valleys with towering rocks to either side, alongside streams and lakes and eventually the Danube itself but maybe only 20 meters wide. We both agreed it to be one of the best ever car journeys we have undertaken, for the sheer beauty of the scenery. Once again I must tell you that Germany is ridiculously scenic and pleasing to the eye, rivalling the best places in Scotland.

Tonight we made progress with the next part of the adventure, plumping for a few nights near Heidelberg, 3 near Strasbourg and then some time in Freiburg near where Marc and Jud live in Andolsheim. Hopefully we can meet up with them on the weekend of the 6-8 October.

For those with computers and a liking for Facebook, ask Scott to make you a friend and then you can see all 237 photos he has taken so far on his own adventure. We Burtons don’t hang around, you know!

Tonight the air smells fresh after one of those great continental Thunder and Lightning storms which roll in every now and then. Two of Santa’s reindeer were in the sky: Donner und Blitzen.

Day 37; Reality


Today was probably the best day we’ve had so far.  I got up early and made a cup of tea while Mary slept on like the proverbial baby.  When she awoke she was quickly anxious to find out if Scott had communicated during the night (his day), having tried to set up a Skype conference last night but having failed to establish a link before it got too late. We tried the Skype again but nothing came of it so we simply called him on his new mobile and chatted away for half an hour. Best pound fifty we’ve spent this whole trip.

As the weather was very good again, 20 degrees and sunny with no wind, we decided to erect the awning to give us that bit more space and we achieved this with the minimum of fuss. “Ubung macht den Meister” as the Germans would say “Practise makes perfect”. After a delightful lunch of cheese and ham rolls I settled down under the awning to browse the net for things related to next month and beyond. I wasn’t entirely successful in finding everything I wanted but the process was relaxed and cool and put me in a truly brilliant frame of mind. Mary stayed inside reading (what a surprise!) but that is her way of relaxing and long may she continue to do so.

I found time to chat with a newly-arrived English couple doing something similar to us except for a shorter length of time then we introduced ourselves to some new German neighbours, both 77 and on a cycling tour of Bavaria! That’s right, be envious.

It would seem that we no longer feel guilty about sitting around doing almost nothing. It has taken us a wee while to get to this point but in the end we have started to come to terms with our decision to do this thing and we have stopped worrying about what is happening elsewhere. Sometimes we still get a bit giggly about where we are and what we’re doing but that’s natural when you consider what we’ve already experienced.

Our evening spent under the awning after a delicious Spag Bol was a time for us both to reflect on what was and what will be and while we have both had our hard times we know we are in a better place now, at least mentally. If the 9 months pan out as planned we will be able to look back and say “Well we did what we had always wanted to do.” Edith Piaf would have warbled “Je ne regrette rien!” So far that’s how it feels.

For those of you who follow the blog on a daily basis, can I recommend you look back on the last few posts as I have had time and upload speed to add some photos and I wouldn’t want you to miss them.

Great comment from auntie Marie today despite her situation with her injured leg. I am only happy that in some small way my nightly rantings are helping her through her difficulty. God bless her (and her chutney!)

Day 36: Machine Wars

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I put the halogen heater on as soon as I awoke this morning. It was cold, really cold. But outside was blue sky and a smiley sun which quickly got to work and chased Mr. Kalt away. Breakfast was followed by a walk into the village of Kipfenberg to see what there was to see. Ten minutes later we had seen it.

We did however sit down at the local Café which was quite crowded outside, given the lovely weather, and found ourselves in the middle of coffee break for the crew of Bavaria Rundfunk, the local TV outside broadcast team, who appeared to be setting up for some big event. That could well be the annual parade of the lambs on Saturday but so far we’re not sure we’ve read the posters correctly. Still we’ll see on Saturday. Can’t wait!

Using a phrase from a German textbook I once worked with “Wie komme ich am besten zum Schloss, bitte?” I got directions to the castle at the top of the cliff overlooking the village and off we went. Upon reaching the castle a couple of hundred feet up and having done as instructed by the lad at the café to “Folgen den Weg Zick-Zack!”, we were gutted to read that the castle could not be visited as it was someone’s home and that the grounds were not accessible because of a “bissinger Hund!” or “dog that bites”. OK we’ll just not bother.

So instead, Mary played Jill to my Jack and we went to the top of the hill but couldn’t fetch a pail of water. But we did find the strangest thing. We suddenly chanced upon a sign telling us we were at the geographical centre of Bavaria. Hopefully the photo will prove it. I’m not sure if I’ve been at the geographical centre of anywhere before although Mary tells me I tend to think I am at the centre of the Universe and everything revolves around me.

                 Middle Earth!


Back down at the campsite we settled down to a late lunch, read for a while then bundled up the dirty laundry and headed for the washroom. The clothes got washed easily enough but the fun started when Mary put them into the dryer. I was back at the caravan wondering why she was taking so long when she suddenly appeared to tell me she was in the middle of a group of young women all looking to use the machines.

I popped back with her just in time to find a young woman about to remove our washing from the dryer. A timely warning from me elicited the necessary the response and she reclosed the door, at the second time of asking! Outside, a Dutch couple who had witnessed this commented that they thought the girl was very bad-mannered and they couldn’t understand what she was trying to do. Back inside to keep an eye on things we found ourselves in the company of 4 perhaps Asian girls (with babies) and tons of washing all milling around the dryer.

That was it! Mary and I set up camp for the next hour in the washing room, staring out these girls who repeatedly returned to “check” on things. It got quite tense and therefore exciting but no-one else tried to steal my socks or Mary’s bras. Worn out by these machine wars we collapsed inside to a meal of Frikadellen and Coleslaw and then watched nature programmes in German all night.

Sunny and 24 degrees today. The weather in Germany is better than Spain which gets too hot and of course Deutschland has more interesting places to visit with its Central European position and history. We really like this country. I’m surprised by its diversity, how good the weather is and how really friendly the people are. Mary loves the architecture and history. We both like the food, and I love the beer. We could stay here.

Day 35: Antennae


The morning was busy with breakfast and preparing to leave. But we are getting good at our respective tasks on “moving” days. I dismantle the satellite dish, unplug and roll up the electricity cable and disconnect the water pump. Mary secures everything in the caravan, cranks up the stabilizers, hitches up to the car and checks the electrics. Mary then puts on the wing mirror extensions (she doesn’t half suit them) and I drive us to the next campsite.

Upon arrival we choose where we want to be then basically reverse the procedure: Mary unhitches the caravan, uses a spirit level to get us nice and flat then drops the stabilizers to the correct height. Meanwhile I connect to the mains, fill the water barrel and set up the satellite. In theory it all goes according to plan and we are soon enjoying a cup of tea in a new spot somewhere in Europe.

But not today. We moved the caravan twice to get a better spot, I had problems getting the electricity plugged in for all sorts of reasons and when I went to fix up the satellite a bit had broken off, forcing me to get out the glue and black tape. I spent 2 hours trying to get Astra 28 for the UK channels and in the end tuned into Astra 19 and got German and French with a couple of English-speaking channels.

That was actually quite an achievement as the LNB was held on with tape now and the angle for reception was very fine indeed. The reward was a chance to watch “Wer wird Millionär?” which turned out to be quite fun. The German Chris Tarrant was a hoot (he looked like an owl!)

Surprisingly perhaps there was not an awful lot more to report. Except our shopping trip to the local supermarket which goes by the rather lovely name of “Norma”. Inside it looked just like Lidl (Happy now Ian?) but had lots of Franco-German products and was laid out the same. Just in case it really was Lidl in disguise, I asked the lad on the checkout if they took Visa. He answered in the affirmative to our great relief.

Half an hour later we rolled up to the checkout, put through all our groceries then found that none of our cards were acceptable. I had Visa and American Express, Mary had Mastercard and some Provy cheques but unbelievably none of them would work. So I had to walk into the village, find a “Geldautomat”, get some cash and go back to pay for our purchases. My frustration was increased by not initially being able to withdraw from the machine but fortunately, at the fourth attempt, I noticed I was using my Camping Card instead of my Debit Card. Silly Boy!

All’s well that ends well as they say and they’re probably correct except no-one knows who THEY are. We had a delicious tea of Camembert in breadcrumbs with a kind of Coleslaw followed by Greek Yoghurt and black and green grapes washed down with a cup of Tetley’s.

Our intention is to do very little for the next few days here in the Bavarian forests except to formulate a plan for the next couple of months. I’ve read on Facebook that some ex-Kelso lads are on their way to Munich for the Oktoberfest and as it’s only 40 kms away we may try to join up with them. But nothing definite. Congratulations to Uncle Gerard on winning the best comment-maker award for the blog during the month of September. Come on the rest of you, smarten up! Get your keyboards out and send in your thoughts.

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