The VW Transporter changed my life!!

The one and only rule of owning a VW van…. don’t ask “What can I do for the VW Transporter?” but “What can the VW Transporter do for me?”

2008 was my first experience of buying a van, and of course for me there was only one van that’s stood the test of time…… only one van that ages the best of them all, only one van that most people desire over other vans and that’s the VW Transporter.

BABY

We were having a baby and it was on the way….. not by post…… my wife was pregnant.  I wanted a vehicle that was friendly, good quality and looked cool.  Even though the T5 had been out for a few years, my budget at the time could only get me a T4…..and may I say, ‘there’s nothing wrong with that!’  I had found a nice one, a white panel van, it was a 2003 T4 Caravelle 888 special (oooooooohhh look at me!)  The 888 special had cruise control, captain seats and it had a longer nose on the front end, which was my preference.  I drove 150 miles to see it and knew ‘this was the one’, but still I struggled parting with the money….. why?  Because, I couldn’t quite get my head around buying a van as my main family vehicle.  My mind was still thinking vans were for builders, airport taxis and parcel deliveries (Silly me! Oooooooohhhhh silly silly me! )

T4

Once the VW Van was back in the Frantony house and grounds, my first job was to take the old ply out of the rear of the van and steam clean it.  Whilst that was drying, I cut out the panels for two side sliding windows and a rear window.  After fixing all the windows it was time to insulate the van with foil back bubble wrap, stuck on with spray adhesive.  The ply boards were carpeted, the floor had black and white chequered rubber tiles and a rear double seat was bolted in.  The outside had a re-spray and the old steel wheels were changed for a nice set of alloys (paid for by my acting job on the film, IronClad!)

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Having my son in the pram at the time was easy peesy lemon squeezy, as when it rained, we’d go in from the tailgate at the rear of the van….. it’s the size of a bus shelter.  We could lift the pram into the back, take him out of the pram and in to his travel child seat.  Close the tailgate from inside by the handle, hang my coat up on the hook, bungy strap the pram down and walk in between the captain seats…… and Voila! I’m in the driver seat…..and by the way, in all the time we had the pram, not once did I ever have to put it down.  I know, all parents with saloon cars and people carriers are saying ‘Can this be true?’  Why YES my friends….. would I lie to you??  Never!

There’s NO getting wet as you stand outside your car whilst trying to strap your child in the travel seat, as you frustratingly fold down the pram and ram it in to the boot over all the shopping and new clothes you’ve just purchased (Grrrrrrr!!…… I hear you say)

Then there’s the VW Transporter day out experience….. it was a day at the coast overlooking the beach with the sea glistening in the distance. The tailgate open, the kettle on the boil and……..wait for it…….in the frying pan next to the fresh warm bread and pack of real butter…….. was BACON, mmmmmmmm….. and lots of it!  This……. my friends, is a van of options and style!   But wait….. what made it all the more desirable…… parked next to us was a BMW 5 series.

BEACH

Lovely you might say but it didn’t look that good as we grinned, watching the couple face out the windscreen (for you beautiful American readers windshield) looking over their plastic Tupperware boxes on the dash, sipping tea from a flask in-between taking bites from a cold, drab ham sandwich.  Don’t get me wrong….. I love a ham sandwich……but not next to a hot bacon sandwich with real butter melting through the fresh warm bread and a freshly made cup of tea (no flask tangy taste on my watch!)  With a full belly from nice hot bacon sandwiches and hot tea, Mrs Frantony relaxed on the beach whilst my son played in the sand, and of course….there’s never a problem with space when changing back in to her clothes.  And as for sleeping in the van…. well, it’s lovely and comfortable, warm and never damp.

Now we’ve all experienced a bit of IKEA from time to time, and I’ve seen how people are so focused on what they want to buy and then FORGET how they’re going to get it home? I’ve seen this first hand whilst eating one of their hotdogs as I watched through the window down on to the car park.  They have one foot by the trolley wheel, stopping it from rolling away and stretching in and on top of the car making sure everything fits…… no matter how big the newly bought items are.

IKEA

Well, not me….. why?  Because I’ve got a VW Transporter van, the only problem that I have going to IKEA is that I’m happy to follow the arrows on the floor, write down what I need, find what I need in the store part of the shop, take it to my van and take it home to then build it up myself…..and I still go back……it’s like a big vending machine…..wait a minute this isn’t an IKEA blog….. Note to self  ‘Dave, write about that another time!’

Anyhoo…. back to the VW van, all was well until one winters night, a tree decided that after 140 years, it was time to lie down….. on my van! Whilst I laid naked sleeping like a starfish in my super king size bed.

STARFISH

And that Ladies and Gentlemen………was the end of my VW Transporter T4….. my lovely, lovely van that I was going to keep forever; it now was only good for posting through a letter box.  For five years after that, I travelled in the wilderness of having no van (you may feel for me at this point…….well go on then, I’m in tears as I write this).  My mind, my body ached for another VW Van, I was lost driving anything and everything due to my insurance doubling over night, even though it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  I was waking up in cold sweats knowing my body…. my soul needed another VW van…. I was getting close to wearing a straight jacket.  Then a day like no other, as I walked a lonely path with the sun on my back, I felt a strange tingle through my spine.  I looked up to the sky, I knew the VW Transporter Gods found favour with me, they took time out spoiling other people in the world with nice new VW vans and pulled out the Dave Frantony life file.

VW GODS

I was in the privileged position to buy a new VW T6 Transporter Combi van…..with extras!… and this didn’t mean garlic bread or onion rings, and for this I am grateful, very grateful!  Swivel seats, twin electric sliding doors and leisure battery.  It’s given us freedom like no other vehicle can.  A weekend camping trip is nice and easy, and my son who’s now eight years old loves it.  He’s more excited sleeping in the van than he has been in any Hotel we’ve stayed in.  Cooking the bacon sandwiches is still a joy, and being able to easily fit 3 mountain bikes in the back, driving to the coast or to different trails or to canals venturing along the tow paths is a privilege.  The captain seats are awesome…….I really do feel like Captain Kirk or Jean Luc Picard of the Starship enterprise driving along sitting in them.  I’ll be honest with you…..sometimes I even say to myself “Make it so, number one.”

It’s comfortable, you sit high up on the road, there’s hardly any difference in length to that of a family saloon car, yes it’s higher but that only makes it easier to see the road.  The VW Transporter gives you options and a life style that I am grateful for.  Even though it’s not as aero dynamic as a fighter jet, the MPG is very good……. it’s averaging 42mpg…… and I’ll prove it. Here are my calculations over many nights in front of the black board.

VW PUZZLE 2

And may I say……and this really happened, but only once when the conditions were right, as in the VW Gods were all happy and laughing, the Transporter was at its cleanest, the wind was dead centre behind the tailgate and the roads were quiet with not a pot hole to be seen and no insect flying in the sky and inadvertently unbeknown to them as they go about their daily deeds waiting to be squashed and weigh the windscreen down. Not to sound like a VW Transporter SUPER HERO, but on a long run we once had 52.5 mpg.

VW SUPERHERO

So that my friends, is my love of the VW Transporter van and my love goes deep…..so deep, I cannot see the bottom. So to all you VW Transporter owners out there……. take it easy…. don’t worry and live life to the full, venturing to places where no man or woman has gone before!!  Always remember, as the famous speech goes of Sir Winston Churchill in a parallel universe….

“We shall defend our VW van, whatever the cost may be; we shall drive them to the beaches, we shall drive them to the camping grounds, we shall drive them to any suitable, idyllic field and park them in the streets, we shall drive them to the hills (because the view is nice); we shall never surrender……. to any other van!”

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As ever on the Easy Blend, I’ll let you know what I’m listening to.  Today it’s Madcon feat. Ray Dalton, Don’t worry.

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Dare I camp again…..??

My first camping disaster on a campsite. I actually have three, but for this blog I shall only tell you one though I do believe that, the Gods of this world were telling me “Dave…… Camping, my friend, is not for you!”

It was a beautiful hot summer’s day, 2 weeks off from work, still living with my parents (the year 1991) so had not a care in the world. My 3 friends and I decided to take a trip to Cornwall. We packed some clothes in any old bag and squeezed a rather large tent that none of us had ever seen before, into the back of my friends Fiesta XR2i. Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Cars’ tape was turned up full volume, the windows were down and the wind was fiercely blowing in my ‘then’ hair……..life was good…… and easy!

Severn Bridge

Travelling along the M4 Motorway, to our left in the distance was Chepstow, as we approached the old Severn Bridge taking us over the Severn Estuary. The question that always comes to mind is always……”will the tide be in or out?” I’ve heard the currents are very dangerous…. not sure about the sultanas though. Of course if the tide is out then there’s miles of mud, even now I think “Don’t want to be stuck in that when the tide comes in!” But why would I? I’ve never been down to the mud bank, Punch in the mouthso unless I fell out of the car window it wouldn’t happen. Anyway, we had just paid £1.00 to drive over the old Severn Bridge. Yep, remember the good old days when it was £1.00 each way, not like it is today, £6.80 for a car!! This price always leaves you feeling like you’ve just been stripped naked and beaten!

After leaving the M4 Motorway, we were all feeling good as we drove around the large sweeping bend on to the M5 Motorway. It was always a good feeling as a child, because the M5 was confirmation….. you knew we were really on the way to Cornwall. As I said, the sun was out so it was very hot, but we had already made our first mistake…. well, in fact we had made a few but the first one (that we found, which clearly none of us owned up to), was when we had stopped off at the services for a toilet break. My friends Mum had gone in to the sweet drawer in the kitchen before we left for the holidays and gave us a brand spanking new bag of fun size Mars bars that we placed on the parcel shelf up against the rear window (a rookie mistake, I know). Before we set off on our journey again I reached in grabbing the bag…….. the bag of squidgy, liquid, melted fun size Mars Bars (not so “fun” anymore!) I will take credit for the idea that followed, and that was to tie the bag of fun size Mars Bars on to the rear wiper of the tailgate outside of the car, in the hope that by the time we made it to Cornwall, they would have gone hard from the cold air of travelling at 70mph….. alright 80mph…….. alright maybe 85ish mph. Did they go hard you ask yourselves? I’ll tell you at the end of this blog.   With no traffic to be seen, we were feeling cool taking in the miles and miles ofBlack bales fields either side of the M5 being flummoxed and asking each other “Why it is that no matter what long journey you take, there is always a single dead tree in the middle of a field?” Anyway, as we came to the end of the M5 we made our way on to the A and B roads. The scenery was stunning, field after field with rolling hills in between, laughing at the same joke as we gazed at the many sheep in the fields in amongst the large black plastic balls of wrapped up hay saying “WOW…..The rabbits in that field must be HUGE!!” (I’ll give you some time to think about that one).

At this point Tracy Chapman was still playing (and by the way, I still can’t get enough of the Fast Cars album), when suddenly my friend stretched out his hand to the knob on the cassette player, turning the music down. He looked at us with a smile on his face, “Boys…… the tent doesn’t have a ground sheet, but don’t worry, my Dad gave me a plastic sheet that we can put down over the grass”. I was about to turn the music back up when he spoke again “But it’s the plastic sheet that he uses when mixing up cement on the drive.” We all looked at one another and thanked him for telling us…… when we were past the point of no return!

Eventually we came to the first camp site, so in we drove and made our way to reception. The lady took one look at us “NO!” Yes, we were eighteen years old but we were a nice bunch! I hadn’t even blinked and we were back in the car to the next camp site and the next and the next and the next and… ….Ground sheet floor planwell we lost count of the camp sites that rejected us.   Eventually, the last camp site we came to, the time now 9.30pm, we were given permission to camp but only for 1 night at the cost of…… wait for it (because it still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it) £30…… £30!! It was 1991 not the year 2191. However, he had us by the short and curlies and there was nothing we could do, but put up our tent for the first time ever. By 10.45pm the tent was up (in some shape) with a 12 inch gap all around the bottom of the tent and an even bigger gap around the edge as the sheet of plastic looked like the map of Italy covered in lumps on cement which wasn’t exactly ideal considering the tent was square.

The next mistake we all made was that the 4 of us forgot to bring pillows, so we improvised by rolling up our jeans, you’ll be surprised how comfortable Levi 501’s can be. As we laid in our sleeping bags, the owner of the camp site turned up to see us, he was wearing an Australian bush hat, waist coat and jeans (we figured he thought he was HarleyCrocodile Dundee) on a Harley Davidson! Of course, there was no need to unzip the tent door due to the large gap around the bottom of the tent, so we stuck our heads out through the gap. “Lads, keep it quiet tonight and be gone in the morning!” he then straddled his beautiful Harley Davidson and rode off………it would have made no difference if we had a rave that night and bought the loudest stereo in the world with the biggest speakers….it was never going to be as loud as his Motorcycle.

The next day we packed up to make our way home thinking we were never going to be accepted on any camp site being a group of 4 boys, when another friend mentioned a camp site in Devon, in the little seaside town of Woolacombe. We reached the town mid afternoon and by the power of the camping Gods they let us in straight away and for a week. As it was daylight, we took our time putting up the tent, but it made no difference, the tent and the poles didn’t match. Either the tent was too small or the poles were too long and the ground sheet….. well, we did spend time picking off as many of the lumps of cement but could do nothing about the size or shape. We did have a master plan….and that was to use our bags along the bottom of the tent to save us from the wind but in reality it made no difference. Outside TentThen one of my friends (I can’t give you a name as he now has a very important job now, but he did like to wear big buckles on his belt, and yes his ‘jeans pillow’ wasn’t as comfy as ours) one night decided to sleep half in the tent and half out because he felt sick, which in fact he was, this was the scene we all woke up to in the morning

So the easiest option was to cover the sick with grass (I know…..lovely, Dave) than move the tent, whilst using one of the many gaps at the bottom of the tent as our new doorway.

Now, not having a correctly fitting tent and ground sheet can cause problems…..they don’t stop bugs and insects from joining you, this I know from firsthand experience. As the 4 of us lay on our backs in our sleeping bags chatting and laughing before going to sleep, something landed in my mouth at the precise moment I laughed.

“Alright then boys……Who threw something?”

All together it was a resounding “Nope, not me!”

Luckily I was on torch duty that night, so I sat up and spat on to the grass and there it was……Was it a bit of rolled paper? Was it a bottle top? Was it a blueberry muffin? Was it an Earwig……………..? Sleeping bagsWhy YES! YES it was! So for the rest of the week before going to bed it was “Hit off the Earwigs from inside the tent duty” and once that task was done we would all place pieces of toilet roll in our ears because…. well……. isn’t it obvious they’re Earwigs ‘DUUUHH!’ The last thing we needed was for the Earwigs to take a stroll in to our ears and eat our brains…… just how stupid do you think we were?

Halfway through the holiday I even woke up with the 3 of them staring at me with a look of horror of their faces. I first thought I was covered in earwigs with my brain sticking out of my ears…..but NO! Up until this point in my life only my Mum and Dad knew my sleeping habits, and the one thing I feared happened. Sometimes….and by the way, I’ve not done it for years, but I used to make a droning noise. This woke them all up as they were amazed by how long I could drone for without taking a breath. The only way I can describe it is…… picture yourselves on a sunny warm sunny afternoon having a cup of tea when everything near you is quiet, but far away in the distance you can hear a droning sound of a motorcycle in the distance……well that’s what I sound like…… apparently….

Oh, and just to give you some serious information on the fun size Mars Bars that melted in the back of the car……once melted it doesn’t matter how long your journey is or how fast your travelling if it’s HOT…. they will forever stay melted.

As usual on the Easy Blend I’m listening to some great music, today it has to be Tracy Chapman, Fast Cars

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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On a rally….? Really?

1988 and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go and see a ‘night rally’ through the different stages in Brecon and Llandovery.

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Of course the answer was YES, who doesn’t want to see a Rally?  Lots of fast cars with experienced drivers doing a 120mph through forestry, and let’s face it, the trees in the forestry normally only see a man walking his dog with a stick in its mouth on the weekend.

The rally started at 11pm, so we left around 9pm with a flask of tea, a

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packet of plain crisps and four cheese and Branston sandwiches tightly wrapped (tight enough that the crown jewels would have been safe).  It was dark, cold and no street lights were to be seen, it was the middle of Wales after all.  I looked the part as my mum and dad hadn’t long bought me a RS Rallye Sport jacket, all the rage back then, and by the way I still have it and it still fits…..!  If anyone else has one, they’re considered ‘vintage’ now and are worth a few bob!

Anyway, the car we were in ….now don’t forget

Fiesta

its 1988, it was the car that most people desired….a MK3 Ford Escort XR3i, in white with a black spoiler.  Yep I know….some of you who are old enough are nodding (YES Dave you are right….a nice car, my friend!)

Now one thing my friend didn’t tell me was that it was an AMATEUR Rally not a world class Rally with all the famous drivers and really, really, really fast cars……

Two worlds

Nope, these were Ford Escort MK2’s, Opel Manta’s, Vauxhall Chevette’s and Mini Metro’s and Talbot Sunbeams.  But please don’t get me wrong, they were fast, but a price of a professional Rally car can be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, these cars were worlds apart.

When we arrived, a marshal gave us a small map with a time table of when and where each stage started and finished.  We drove on ahead of each stage, ready to find a spot to park and a spot to stand with a good view to watch the excitement.  The only worry I was supposed to have had for the night was when do I eat my cheese and Branston sandwiches?

BAD album cover

And not to spill my tea in the car (grey seats…..would have stained easy!)  On the stereo continuously playing from side ‘A’ to ‘B’ was the Michael Jackson album “BAD” (on tape of course), it had only been out a few months and still today when I hear any song from that album it reminds me of this Rally.

So, all was going well until my friend bumped into someone he sort of knew, whose friend was one of the drivers in the Rally, and this is what he said “Why don’t you follow me, I know these lanes like the back of my hand, I can take you to the best spots where nobody else will know.”

Hand

Well….. we did just that and we followed him, and before I go any further this man was driving a brand new MK3 Escort Estate 1.3L, in BEIGE of all colours.   I don’t care who you are or what year it is or was, even what car is on the planet at the time….. no-one sits in their house flicking through a brochure and saying to themselves, “Hmmmmmm……I think I’ll buy a new car and Ohhhhh YES….and I want it in Beige.”  And it had a brown interior.

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The ford Escort XR3i that we were in was a 1.6i and at the time it was a fast car so you’d think keeping up with this guy would be easy, well for a while it wasn’t.  He drove his own car like he had stolen it, like a raving lunatic!  He clearly, in his own demented head, thought he was on the actual Rally as a competitor.  Anyway, I had soon lost my appetite for the last

Hands over face

of my 2 cheese and Branston sandwiches and I daren’t even look at my flask of tea.

I knew things were now getting serious, because the stereo was turned off for full concentration and all of a sudden we could see 2 lights in the rear view mirror…..

Rear view

YEP, hurtling towards us from behind, at warp speed (and NO it wasn’t the Starship Enterprise) it was a Rally car in the middle of the stage which we are were also in the middle of!

In the nick of time the both cars pulled over to allow the Rally car pass, and then we moved on again knowing full well another Rally car would soon be behind us.  We were lost, the ‘FOOL’ in front of us had no idea where he was going and neither did we. I looked at my cheese and Branston sandwich

kitchen

thinking “Mother Frantony will shout at me if I waste them and she’ll shout at me if she finds out that I’m in a Rally in a normal car with normal seat belts no roll cage and no fire extinguisher and let’s not forget the helmet.   So the FOOL in front was speeding off around every bend in the lanes, then all of a sudden he was gone.  Then we saw him way ahead of us, only his car looked taller and thinner…… well, it was going

Car on side

to happen, he was in a ditch with his car on its side.

Standing on the seats with half his body out of the window we stopped, I thought brilliant “I’m going to be in the back and he’s going to want one of my cheese and Branston sandwiches.”  Luckily, he told us that he’d be okay and for us to drive on, so that’s exactly what we did.  5 miles later we drove in to Llandovery town and through the finish line with every one about to cheer but they just stared at us in disbelief instead.

Finish line

We didn’t hang around, so we headed straight home finishing off my cheese and Branston sandwiches along the way and by 7:30am I was tucked up in bed, I didn’t even clean my teeth but I was glad to be home.  I’ve never been on a Rally since; I find it far easier and safer to watch it on TV!  I have no idea who the FOOL was that we were following or even if he’s still in the ditch 28 years on!  Probably not, and of course he clearly had no idea what the back of his hand looked like!

As this is the Easy Blend, I‘d thought I’d let you know what I’m listening to.  Today it’s Michael Jackson – Man in the Mirror

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Eye Sore Nothing…..

In previous blogs, I told you I once worked in a very peculiar place.  Anyway that’s nothing to do with the story, but the incident happened within this very peculiar place, and I also (a very important part of the story) have a small head…. a ‘pin-head’ if you like.

It was the early 90’s and I was a fully grown adult…….YES…..but with a small head.  My job was to repair crashed cars, which obviously meant that I was working with metal.  It also meant working with lots of dangerous tools; I could use them all….. in some shape anyway.

grinder finger.pngOne of the tools that was regularly used was a grinder.  For those who don’t know, a grinder is a hand held tool with a stone wheel that spins around at supersonic speed allowing you to grind metal down and clean surfaces.

So it was a day like any other day and I, Dave Frantony was working on a car, grinding away as I have done many times before.  The usual attire for this type of working environment is as follows:-

Steel toe cap boots, Overalls, Gloves and Goggles.  As I have pointed out….I have a PIN HEAD, and to this day, I have never been able to find a pair of goggles to fit my head.  Do you remember ‘JOE 90’? Well that’s what I looked like.

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When your grinder is spinning full pelt on metal, it shoots off 100’s of sparks and ‘swarf’, these are red hot and will be glowing for a few seconds as they leave the wheel until they cool down.

Grinder

For some reason on this day, and I don’t know why, maybe it was the angle of the grinder and the angle of my head and the shape of my head, and the shape of the badly fitting goggles.  In fact, let me show you the calculation just in case you’re ever in my situation.

Anyway, some of the red hot swarf made its way (at a terrific speed) not just into one eye, but right into both eyes….  What were the chances?  Yes, they were badly fitted goggles, but they were covering my

Dinner plate eyes

eyes.  It was as if my eyes decided not to like me anymore, and wanted to get me in trouble, so they took it upon themselves to turn to the size of dinner plates.

Let’s talk about the pain….. well, it hurts.  It’s like a quick sting, then your eyes start to feel rough and you then start to rub them, and by the way…..you must NOT rub your eyes.  So this is what you have to do next, if you can’t wash the swarf out then it’s a trip to the hospital.  Now, if you don’t wash the swarf out then a film will cover your eyes and the swarf will rust and then everything and everyone will look orange….and you don’t want that (but of course if you did allow this

big teeth face

to happen you will lose the ability to spot the people that live under sun beds and trowel fake tan on themselves by the lorry load).

Well after washing my eyes, the swarf was still there so a phone call was made to Mrs Frantony to pick me up and point the car in the direction of the hospital to the A&E!  Once the doctor confirmed that I definitely did have swarf embedded into my eyes, it was then time for the dreaded ‘swarf out of the eye’ removal part.  For this, the Doctor drops brown dye in to your eyes which thankfully also numbs them.  Then your head is placed into a clamp…. no, don’t think vice, a clamp.

Big massive eye picking needle

Once my head was tight and couldn’t be moved and my eyes were numb, the Doctor….using a massive needle….. picked out the swarf as you would pick a splinter from your hand.  The only problem is as he picks your eyes with the needle, they do bounce around a bit, so when he’s finished you think you look a little bit like this.

Cross eyed

After the weird experience, the nurse placed a patch on each eye, of course one eye would have been okay but two……?  She then took me out to the waiting room; Mrs Frantony (so I’m told as I can’t see) stood up and they both laughed “HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa.”

A&E

After about ten minutes had gone by, Mrs Frantony stood behind me and placed her hands on my shoulders she walked me out of the hospital and took me home…..

The patches had to stay on for 24 hours, not ideal when you have to stand up and pee…….. though on that I shall say no more…..!

 

As ever on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to some great music, today it’s Newton Faulkner, Gone in the Morning

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Fun in the Forestry

Now I’m trying to be informative for this Blog.  I’ve been away for the week having fun, getting wet and wild and being naughty.  Panting hard, a little out of breath sometimes whilst indulging myself in things I don’t normally do……but isn’t that what some holidays are all about?  I know you’re getting excited just imagining where I’ve been…….center-parcs

 

I’ve been on and off for the last twenty years and love it just as much as the first time; for us it’s always a winter holiday.  For those who have never been……let me give you an imaginary tour of what goes on.

You can either go Friday to Monday or like the Frantony family, Monday to Friday.  Since it opened, we drive to the Longleat Centre Parcs as its only a 1.5 hour drive from where we live.

driveway-in

As you turn into the entrance off the main road, you’re immediately on a lane driving through the forest where you collect the keys to the villa (which you can’t go in until  3pm) from the log cabin reception.

So what to do until 3pm?  LOTS!

Park the car/van/ Land Rover Defender in the car park just past reception then taking the bag of swimwear (that you packed in a separate bag), take the 5 minute walk to the main swimming dome.

dome

As you enter through the glass doors, the first operation is to take your scarf, hat and gloves off at lightning speed as its very warm inside.

In the Dome you have Restaurants, Coffee shops, mini super market, Bars, gift shops and a bowling alley, lush green plants, waterfalls and fish ponds full of gold fish and large Koi Karp and if you want to take a closer look, there are some stepping stones and a wooden bridge.  By the way, if you open the swimming bag and there’s nothing in there, don’t think you have to swim nude, as there’s also a swim shop at the entrance to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.

There’s plenty of changing rooms with a door either side; one for in, the other out and in to the shower area.  Please remember to close and lock both doors as I walked in to a cubical once and saw what resembled something that would be suitable for parking your push bike in.

Once inside the centre of the swimming dome (constant temperature of 29.5C) where the swimming pool is situated, you see that the walkways are all in crazy paving with stone walls and more lush green plants everywhere.  It’s free to enter and everything to do inside is free too!

white-slide

As you follow the lovely crazy paving pathway up an incline you have a small bar area where they sell hot food and drinks (Amstel beer on tap) a rope bridge with timber flooring and more crazy paving, and then the junction where the fun begins.  Before I go any further, don’t think this is just for kids, there’s a mix of all ages, shapes and sizes and I mean all ages, shapes and sizes!  You’re never too old to smile and have fun, I know because I tried being an adult and being serious…….its way over-rated…..I won’t do that again!

slide-racing-car

To the one side there are two white slides, one is straight, the other has a bump in it.  Both are very short, but don’t be fooled as you’ll reach the bottom before any F1 car.

You’ll splash in to the water at a terrific speed in what looks like a cave….. “Ooooooooohhhhhhhhh” I hear you say! That’s right, a cave, that’s what I said!  Then you have two green tube slides, if you’re hard, the lower and shorter one is for you, but if you’re double hard, then the higher and longer one is for you.  Feel free to cry in either one as you’ll be disguised by the lashings of water hitting your face, again you’ll come out in what looks like a cave.

Once you walk back around to the junction of fun, in whatever exciting thrill you seek next, you’ll have the entrance to the outside pool.  As I’ve said, we go to Centre Parcs in the winter and it really doesn’t matter what the weather is like.  You’ll see steps that will take you in to another pool with a plastic curtain, and as you swim through….well, it’s all outside.  The water is warm with steam rising up, rocks and plants and trees cover the edges of the pool.  Standing outside the pool there are more life guards that you can shake a stick at, which is always good to know.

Halfway around the outside they also have a plunge pool (its icy cold) only once I’ve experienced jumping in…..NEVER AGAIN!!  I had to double check my birth certificate to see if I was a man or a woman.  Also outside you have the ‘Rapids’, very long rapids that cascade with fast running water into bends, dips and slides.  Again all amongst rocks, plants and trees and if you make it to the end it will take you back inside the dome ready for you to repeat it a 1000 times…….and you will.  But I do have a few tips for you on the rapids.  I always leave my wedding ring at home, WHY?  Well, it came off my finger many years ago in the rapids and I thought it was gone forever.  The lifeguard took down my name and villa number telling me he’d check the filters at the end of the night, and miraculously he found it!!  Again a very big thank you!!

kicked-in-rapids

As for other tips …….  For the men entering the outside pool down the steps and through the plastic curtain, if there is a small child in front of you, it is imperative that all hands are covering your privates, because you are more than likely to be kicked in them.

 

Once reaching the start of the rapids, you climb over a smooth concrete lip from the nice warm pool into the rapids.  At first its a little cold and you’ll be slightly bashed about by the force of the waterfall coming out of the rocks.  Don’t worry…. you will be laughing, then with no control whatsoever your journey begins.  rapidsThe first rapid slide will be in full view of a decking watch point for passersby, I cannot stress this enough….make sure all your naughty but nice bits are not on show.   Men, you must make sure the string on your shorts, are tight.  Ladies….keep the bikinis for the beach in some exotic country, always were a swim suit if you can…..!  I kid you not; it’s as if the rapids have hands.

Don’t feel that you have to do the British thing and apologise to every person you bump in to along the way; always remember you are on very fast rapids, no-one is in control, its so much fun though.  Once you have had enough fun and you want to relax, there’s also a hot pool, again surrounded by

hot-pool

rocks, plants and trees with the floor covered in crazy paving…….very nice!  At night, if you sit opposite the plastic curtain that separates the inside from the outside.  You’ll be staring through the steam coming off the hot water at the silhouettes of people as they enter or don’t enter the hot pool, it’s like ‘Stars in their eyes’…..”Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be….”

The main pool has a wave machine that comes on once or twice an hour.  To announce it coming on, you’ll hear a Tarzan sound, but it’s always a disappointment for me, as I keep looking around for Jane…..but she’s never there.

hot-air-dryerWhen your body is telling you it’s time to get out of the pool and have a shower (shampoo supplied) and dry off, we like to use what we call the human hair dryer, (£1) it’s worth it.

Then it’s time to go the Villa; cars are only allowed on the day of arrival and the day you leave which is really nice.  The villas are all nestled within the forestry with narrow winding block pavier leading you to the front door.  Single storey with flat roofs and made out of a mix of render, timber and glass, our villa was 3 bedrooms with 2 wc’s, lounge area with large corner sofa, T.V and dvd player with paper log burner in the corner with large glass sliding doors facing the forest without hardly seeing another villa.   Small but perfect kitchen with dishwasher, microwave and good size dining table, all open planned.  It has a bath with shower (they also supply bath towels).  Outside you have a place to park your push bikes, a patio area with table and chairs and a BBQ.  In the evening you can sit down with a glass of wine and relax, and read a good book……. Farrago: TenTall Tales maybe…..?

I’ve never measured the forestry, but all you need to know is that it’s big, there’s even a Pancake House and a nice restaurant in the middle of everything.  In between our villa were the ‘Cascades’ that you walked amongst the red woods and small water falls (all lit up at night), which took you to a large lake with boats and pedaloes to hire and above you have tree top climbing and a zip wire that takes you over the lake.  An Aqua Sana (a place to seriously pamper oneself) with lots of different rooms and many treatments to be had.  Then theres the ‘Jardin des Sports’.  Here there’s a sports bar, clothes shop (sports/outdoors wear), a Newsagents, a sports bar with restaurant, an Indian restaurant, climbing wall for the kids, table tennis, badminton, squash, keep fit classes, snooker, pool, roller skating, tennis, crazy golf (indoor and out) and more.

land-train

If you don’t want to walk or cycle anywhere then there’s always the land train that runs every 20 minutes from each stop that’s nearest to your villa, wrap up warm though…it can be cold.

For us going to Centre Parcs in the winter, we love it no matter what the weather, it really doesn’t make any difference, so many places to go and things to do, and the villa is very spacious to relax and cook with friends and family.

caravan

Centre Parcs is nothing like the holidays I remember as a child, in the pouring down rain being stuck in a caravan with nothing to do.  I would look out the caravan window watching the puddle form at the bottom of the caravan steps wondering how big and deep it’s going to get, whilst thinking I’d rather be back in school struggling with a calculation of algebra that I simply can’t do, with a pen that intermittently works as the teacher who I don’t like is shouting at me over the noise of my stomach rumbling, because somebody nicked my dinner money and ate my secret stash of sandwiches, and all before P.E, knowing full well I’ve forgotten my kit….again.  But as well as staring at the puddle growing minute by minute at the bottom of the caravan step, I was soon feeling thankful we were not camping!  I always felt sorry for the person passing the caravan window in their rain coat and wellies, walking to the communal sink whilst carrying a bowl full of dirty dishes to wash.

Anyway…….what to take and wear to Centre Parcs in the winter?  Well…. not a lot.  A super lovely warm hat with gloves, walking boots and trainers and leave your jeans at home and take 2 pairs of cargo trousers.  Even if you’re eating out in one of the restaurants……it’s in the forestry.  Dare I say it……you don’t really need to take shampoo as it’s supplied.  We like to walk everywhere so we have head torches as it’s only dimly lit at night.  It’s the only time I’m not scared walking the forestry at night and feel safe (call me a girls blouse if you like).

So that’s Centre Parcs through the eyes of Dave Frantony and I’ll be back every year, but the most important thing is that my 8yr old son laughed nonstop every day and didn’t want to go home…..and that’s all that matters!  So book and go, I dare you, a 3 bedroom villa in winter can be as little as £329 (total cost for 6 people for 4 nights!)

As usual on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to great music; today it’s A Silent Film – Danny, Dakota and the wishing well

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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Yankee Candle + Man = Diva

For a long time now (and it has been a long time), we as a human race have been grateful for the light bulb.  We couldn’t live without it…… thank you to the inventors, especially Thomas Edison who successfully led the way; SCrooge.pnghis company today called “General Electric.”

Now, the businesses back in the day making candles…. well, they clearly knew their time was up…..for now!  Who was going to need a candle anymore?  Not when you can flick on a switch and have a bulb that can light up a whole room.  Although I am grateful for the candle, because every Christmas when I watch Scrooge, it wouldn’t be the same if he walked around his big house with a lead lamp…

 

But of course, today lots of us like a ‘scented’ candle, whether it’s to make the house smell nice or to create a romantic mood for you and your partner.  feeling-hornyHmmmm…. it occurs to me that it must mean that before the light bulb was invented and every house had a candle lit….. well…… then everyone must have been feeling horny every night …. just a thought…

Or the other thing that most people seem to like (and I have to agree it does sound nice), is to have a nice long soak in the bath with lots of bubbles and a scented candle lit at both ends, one next to your toes, and the other next to your head.  The bottle and of course the glass of wine in your hand….YES….or a bottle of Prosecco, which seems to be baththe desired fuel for females these days.  And let’s not forget on the odd occasion the annoying small drip of water from the tap…….and its always from the cold….no matter whose bath you’re in.

Back in my day as a child in the 80’s, listening to all the women of the day talk about how they’re going to have a glass of Lambrusco when they get home, every woman was Lambrusco mad.  Then on a Friday or Saturday night there was always a group of girls from school that managed to find an adult to buy them a bottle of Lambrusco in the local shop.  Each girl had to fight to be the one to carry it.  I’m sure

lambrusco-king-arthur

that the girl who was first to take the bottle from the adult felt as if they were King Arthur; in fact if you were drinking Lambrusco back in the 80’s you thought you were as cool as the Prosecco women of today are…….Sorry Ladies…..

 

I do believe (in my humble opinion) that all men have a female gene that is busting to come out; mine reveals itself quite regularly, but for some men…..well….they ignore it or keep it suppressed inside.

man-female-gene

I think these are the ones that go a little crazy on the weekends.  Whereas the man that accepts his female gene, is pretty much constant 7 days a week (again….that’s just my humble opinion)…. What do you think?

 

So I found myself standing in a scented candle shop, which was very busy……who would have thought it?  Scented candle businesses that’s who!  As I walked around the shop, I could see some men trying to fight the urge not to pick up and smell the candles.  But one couple stood out from the rest.  I had to stop and look busy but was secretly listening and watching the couple looking at the scented candles, the man really did look like a man, tall and stocky with a beard.

man-beard

Now the man was finding it impossible to take his face out of the scented candles, the conversation went a little bit like this:-

MAN -“Oh love, smell this one…..that’s stunning that is!”

Woman –“Oh, that is lush, Babe!

She also had 2 scented candles in her hand.  “Smell these Babes…….lush ain’t they?”

Man – “Oh…. it is init….imagine how much nicer it’ll be lit!”

Woman – “Yeh, stunning Babe, let’s get 2 of them!”

The man was now grinning like a little boy, who’s just woke up on Christmas morning, and realised that Santa’s just dropped off everyshouty-face present that he’d wished for.

Man – “Oh….Yes…….I can’t wait to light it!”

He was now nodding his head, clenching on to the scented candles like he was carrying a live human heart in his hand that mustn’t be dropped; both of them were grinning.  I on the other hand looked like this…

But….I dare any MAN to fight the Diva in himself as he smells the aromas of any scented candle!  No matter how big and tuff you think you are, you will be transported to another dimension!  The Diva will take over your body!  Does the businessman cry in his candle shop anymore?  NO! They’re knocking up every bit of wax they can find, dropping in the finest aromas that are knee-wobblingly lovely in to the darkest depths of the mix, whilst carefully lowering the wick in to the dead centre of the candle…. Clever!

Fruity, Nutty, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Lily and

Ginger, Saffron and Amber, Sage and Sea Salt?  What will be next?

fighting-in-ring

Chicken and Chips?  Curry with 2 Onion Bhajies?  Egg sandwiches? A mechanics oily overalls?  The list could go on, and who knows?  The light bulb manufacturers might even come out with a scented light bulb.  You heard it here first folks “I DECLARE THE COPYWRITE OF SCENTED LIGHT BULBS.”  But listen, MEN!

Whatever new scented candle they think of next…… DON’T fight the Diva in you that is waiting to come out.

So now I’m thinking dare I invest my money in to the very vehicles that our ancestors travelled on and in before the automobile?  Do I start at the very beginning and sell horse and carts and use the line of the late Henry .T. Ford “You can have any colour wooden cart you want….as long as it’s brown.  I could even do the horse to match.  In fact if you buy the horse with the cart today, you can have the first 2 horse shoes free and a free deep clean cart sweep out…..I tell you what…..I’ll even throw in a free brush for the horse, but you must sign today…….you can’t come back tomorrow because the offer won’t be on the table!”

horse-cart-stable

 

As usual on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to great music; today it’s Labi Siffre – Something inside so strong.

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

 

Well Nurse……. It’s like this……

There is a serious dilemma to this story that every eighteen year old man could easily be in.  A predicament that I was once in.  It might not necessarily be with a nurse but with a girlfriend!  OH NO…… I  just had a shiver from the very thought……

Garage gloves.pngFrom my very first blog you will know that when leaving school I was an apprentice Panel
Beater working in a garage.

On a day just like any other day,  I had to reevaluate certain things in my life if I was to ever become a real man.  Yes, on paper, being eighteen years old I was given the title as a man…. but I didn’t look or act like one.  It was mid morning and the job I had was to cut a damaged panel off a car, when suddenly my hand slipped and slid down 2 pieces of sharp ragged metal.  I could feel it crying-cut-fingerslice through my little finger and within a super quick second the blood started to spurt out.

I held my hand up in the air, trying to slow down the blood flow as everyone gathered to have a look.  My bones were showing in both cuts, so it meant a lift to the hospital in the works  van….and by the way, the van driver at the time always drove like he was sneaking around; if I didn’t know any better, you’d think the van didn’t have an engine under the bonnet but a single fly on its own with one wing with a piece of string tied Fly towing.pngaround his legs from the front bumper.

Eventually we arrived at the Hospital and the second I stepped out of the van he slowly drove off, you certainly don’t want him to drive a getaway car if you were to rob a bank.  After waiting……and waiting…….. I was eventually seen by the doctor, who said  “HMMMMM……  Dave, you’re going to need stitches.”  He gave me an injection first to numb the finger, and then out came the sewing tin.  Eight stitches in total, four in each cut; he cleaned my finger and bandaged me up.  He told me to have two weeks off work and try not using my left hand, and to keep it clean.  But then it all started to go wrong; the Doctor turned to me saying  “When did you last have a Tetanus jab?”  I shook my head….I didn’t have a clue!  “Okay….the Nurse will be in shortly to give it to you.”car-aerial

Five minutes later the Nurse came in with
a needle the size of a car aerial that she had just snapped off  in the Hospital car park!

She closed the door behind her, she was young and beautiful; I wad eighteen and ‘on paper’ I’m supposed to be a man!  “Right Dave, drop your trousers; the injections going in your backside.”  I dropped my trousers, but the second the waistline hit my ankles I started to shake my head in embarrassment…….  it was the pants that I was wearing; this must be a lesson to all eighteen year-olds in the world today.

Massive needle.png

So, the problem was my pants, and this is where it gets tricky; I was still wearing pants from when I was fourteen years old that mother Frantony had bought me.  They still fitted and were in good condition, but the type of pants you wear at fourteen compared to when you’re eighteen are not the same…… no matter what condition they are in!  Well,Flag pants single.png the pants I was wearing on this fateful day at eighteen, in front of this beautiful young
nurse, who for some reason I thought I might have some sort of chance with, to take out on a date, had flags on them…. different coloured flags!

Yes, my bum looked good, all in the right shape flash-carand just the right size, but at the end of the day, it was in the wrong pants.  It’s like a Ferrari, well built, lovely shape….but
you wouldn’t want it in pink with orange spots.

I know that all of this could have been far worse; the Nurse and I may have met under different circumstances and our relationship might have gotten to a point we were about to make love for the first time, but she was to see my childish flag patterned pants that mother Frantony had bought me four years before.

love-in-a-box

Then the relationship would have ended with deep feelings getting in the way of deciding who bought what CD’s for each other, and that her favourite hair band was in the glove box of my car that she has to have back, and I have to go back to her house, handing it to her with her guessing if I had flag patterned pants on and me wanting to tell her that I’ve burned them all.  But that didn’t happen; she stood behind me (not knowing if she was laughing at my pants) and gave me the injection with what looked and felt like a car aerial, and then just like that, she walked out of my life leaving me to pull up my own trousers and hide my silly pants.

I walked with one leg and dragged the other out of the Hospital, not even thinking about Flag Pants.pngmy 8 stitches or my dead leg, but knowing that when you become a man……you have to renew your pants to reflect what it says on paper when you turn eighteen years old….. you’re a man….. wear pants like one.

 

As usual on the Easy Blend, I’m listening to great music; today it’s Kate Bush, Cloudbusting

You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)

Full cover single

Until the next Easy Blend blog……….. 

Stay warm and fuzzy……..

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