Ride like an angel….

It takes a shed full of certain magnetic twists and turns within the world’s atmosphere, that’s unbeknown to man and woman to ignite a supersonic glow inside us as we open the curtains on a given morning and think ‘BIKE’.  You rub your eyes and open the window, the smell of a beautiful day soothing

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your nostrils and caressing the face and mind.  The sun glistens across the tarmac and then…… as if in another biker’s dimensional world, the road speaks in a way as if it knows you are listening….. and in a sexy alluring way it simply says “HELLO….. ride all over me!”

Immediately after one more sniff of the fresh air, the head tilts towards where the Motorcycle sits, for me it’s the garage.  The urge now uncontrollable, it’s as if a magic finger has pressed the fast forward button that

Kitchen

controls you.  The shower is on and you’re underneath it, using the smallest amount of shampoo as time is of the essence.  Within a split second there’s breakfast in front of you, less milk, less cereal than usual, eating standing up of course, there’s no time to sit.  Me…. I’ll be standing in my pants, so I properly dry off as there’s nothing worse than struggling to put the leathers on with slightly damp skin.

Then whilst still chewing the last spoon full of breakfast I pull the cover off, the bike is revealed, the leathers and boots are on……. eventually, the helmet is on so the last thing to fit in to are the gloves.  For me, I want to feel like Batman so I sit on the bike then press the key fob and the garage doors come up (you know, the part where Batman and Robin drive out of the Bat cave in the Bat mobile).  I slowly manoeuvre up the drive that takes me on to the road of freedom.

No matter who you are or where you are in the world, no matter what type of bike you have, when the weather is right, the mood is unstoppable. There’s nothing like it, smooth long winding roads with beautiful scenery.  The sound of the engine, especially the cheeky rev at the traffic lights, the feel of freedom with only the elements against your body and the hint of anonymity as the helmet covers your face or in my case now, a buff (open face helmet).  I don’t know what it is…… I didn’t ask for it, it’s just built in my DNA, but I always smile when I hear a loud bike, I have to look, for me it’s a low rider with their arms and legs stretched out in front of them………COOL…… I always say ‘May the ride be with you!’

For me living in south Wales, my usual ride is Brecon or beyond, the scenery is lovely, I don’t travel much further at the moment due to the bikes I own…… keep reading…. the pictures will follow.  So once I’ve reached my destination, either Brecon or Tal-y-Bont on Usk, I like to have a cup of tea and a hotdog whilst enjoying the view, whether it’s the mountains, the river or the Brecon Canal and if I’m lucky the RAF Jets fly past very low……. I love that! I jump every time….. I wave but they never beep their horn (for you beautiful American readers

Frantonys of Porthcawl

‘Honk’ their Horns!)  Of course, I always want another hotdog but I don’t.  Made that mistake when riding home from the beach in Porthcawl, the time when I used to own a Kawasaki Ninja 636….. you know, the sports bike where you have to lay all over the tank to ride it.  Not good in tight leathers looking like a mini Power Ranger after eating a big bag of Fish and Chips…… that was a long ride home….. and by the way, the fish and chips were this big!

It’s not that I haven’t got friends, although as I get older the less I have, but I prefer to ride alone, it gives me more freedom to go where I want and even change my mind half way through and ride somewhere else.  Also it helps me not to ride naughty, YES some of you reading this are saying ‘but sometimes Dave, naughty is nice!’ and sometimes I agree with you.  But let’s consider, if there’s 3 of you out for a ride and you’re over-taking, the

Nun, Vicar and Cardinal

1st rider does it easy, the 2nd rider squeezes in but the 3rd who always wants to make sure they keep up and stay with the pack will either make it without leaving enough room for a fly with his wings in his pockets beside you or…. well, the unthinkable.  I know, I know, I‘ve been there and YES, some days even if you put a Nun, a Vicar or the Pope on a motorcycle, at some point it will bring the bad out in them and the naughtiness goes straight to the wrist and they’ll want to twist and go faster.

Also it’s not always the biker’s fault, as the saying goes “Think Bike, Think Twice!”  If I was running for Prime

Big ben

Minister or President (don’t get too excited, I’m not…… not this week anyway) I’d make everyone take their bike test just so they’d understand how vulnerable you can be on a motorcycle.  There would also be other things I’d do but I’m not telling you……you might never vote for me.

Lots of things left to do in my biking world life, I was supposed to travel through America with a friend for our 40th but we both forgot to save for it……. we were stupid, I think we thought 40 was a long time away.  Top tip for anyone else, it takes 40 years!  Same time for everyone and it comes around quick.  I’ve not yet ridden a bike with Ape bars (I really want to!)  Still hoping to travel across America or maybe ride around the Italian lakes or Lake Michigan, I’d love to ride the Californian coast with the ocean to one side of me as my arms and legs stretch out as far as possible enjoying the views and the sun on my face….. maybe my 50th (not started to save yet though) or I’ll find a very generous American new friend with far too many bikes who says to me “Dave, have a month off, come ride with me…..” and his name would be Harley Davidson.  I’d even be happy having a few hours riding the Hollywood Hills, with a cup of tea and a hotdog in the middle of it all (am I asking to much?)

When the time is right I’ll know I’ll be there, but until then I’m happy where I am, The Kawasaki Ninja 636 was sold a few years ago (saving for a new bike).  I have 2 bikes which I’m keeping, both restored by myself.  I have a year 2000 Vespa et4, 125cc, it’s lots of fun, twist and go.  I also have a 1978 CB400T Superdream Cafe racer, gets lots of looks, it’s very nice…. and sounds like a thunder storm.

Bikes

For the new bike yet to come….?  Well, I’m in two minds, I’m torn, 50-50, half and half, chips and rice….. you know what I mean.  For me, it’s a choice of only 2, and they are the Harley 48 Sportster or the Triumph Bobber.

harley-48 & Bobber

I’m not the tallest of people and I know I fit on either one, both lovely though…..  Well, when either one arrives I’ll let you know, but until then, please ride safe you have a family waiting for you at home.  Enjoy your motorcycle, life is always better in the wind with a bike between your legs.  Let the riding clear your mind and soak up the scenery and the hotdog and a cup of tea or coffee.  But above all else, make sure if it’s a sunny day and the road is calling you, you always come back in one piece and it’s your bed you sleep in….. MAY THE RIDE BE WITH YOU!!

Brecon

As ever on the Easy Blend, I’ll let you know what I’m listening to.  Today it’s Bruce Springsteen, Rocky Ground.

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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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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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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