Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Again for reasons that I am presently unable to go into here, I am currently not a big fan of insurance companies in general. In my recent experience they bend over backwards to sell you their products, and then in the unfortunate event that some disastrous occurrence actually happens, whether be it in your control or not, the first thing they will all do is bend over backwards once more using all the underhand tricks of their murky trade that they have been trained in, to actually refuse to pay what is both due, and morally right for you - their customer to expect.

However, I once again find it necessary to seek quotes for insurance cover, as with a motor home also being a motor vehicle (any mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road), it is a requirement in law, just as having narrowboat insurance is a requirement of the waterways licensing authority it is to be used on. I would suspect that most of us head blindly into the first insurance contract that happens to be the cheapest on offer, but I would suggest that a little more care be taken in reading as much of the small print within its schedule that you possibly can without the need of employing your own legal eagle at this early stage. (Although the mass market marine insurance policies that most leisure boaters buy are all much of a muchness, and as all marine insurance is - governed by the Marine Insurance Act of 1906).

For those who may be interested, here is the process I have just followed in order to insure our new motor home.

First, I checked all the on-line comparison websites. These produced a list of around 10 insurers willing to take on my business. The cheapest was £348 annually, and the most expensive was just under £1000. Scarily, there were 3 more at the end of the list who were unwilling to quote due to our postcode! None included a UK and European breakdown recovery service, which I have decided I would like to have.

Then I rang a single company, who is a well respected specialist in the field of motor home insurance. This time my enquiry was by 'phone, and their standard cover included a premium UK and European breakdown and recovery service. Their final annual premium, which also utilised a "mirrored" full no claims bonus that I have with my car, came in at £522.38. At the end of the process I was asked if I already had other quotes, so I gave them the cheapest one I had found plus their breakdown recovery. They immediately reduced their quote by £100 to match it.....Grrrrrrrrrr. This final quote included all sorts of introductory offers from here there and everywhere, and I suspect next year's quote would be through the roof.

To finish with, I rang the company who already provides my car insurance as well as our home insurance. They are well known for their no nonsense approach to elderly gits like me. (I bet you know who they are now don't you?) Their cover, which also includes unlimited size and weight in its own 3rd party provided premium breakdown recovery service, included a total final quote of £475.31. I think I will stick with the devil I know, and will arrange cover early next week to allow collection of "Le Randonneur", (French for "the hiker" for those who like to know these things).

You pays your money - and you takes your chance. Should it really be like that though in such a tightly regulated service?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Our Boating Days Are Over!

Some may have noticed that my last boat related post was back on the 10th March HERE when I wrote about having the boat routinely blacked, but with the tougher 2-pack epoxy blacking. Well, I can reveal that we did have that job done, but for reasons that I am unable to divulge here yet, our narrowboating days are now over! Once we get everything cleared up with that aspect, for better or for worse, I will tell my story then, but for now, we are to pursue a life of travel on the roads of the UK and Europe with our new motorhome!

I have been researching motorhome ownership for months now, and we have visited many dealers to view all the different makes, and the quality of their fit out. Importantly though, it should be the layout that is the most important aspect of investing in a motorhome. If you get that wrong I guarantee it will be for sale again within the year. We have finally gone for a compromise, so that our son and his young family might be able to share it for their own holidays. As such we have chosen ours with a fixed rear double bed, a pull down double over the cab, and 4 belted travelling seats. We absolutely loved the quality and layouts offered by the Autotrail Frontier range, but in the end, we saw this, a Rapido A class, which relates to its type, rather than the model. A class motorhomes are completely coach built over their donor vehicle chassis, rather than being simply grafted on, and so maintaining the vehicle's identity. Ours is based on the ubiquitous Fiat Ducato 2.8 turbo diesel, and is in superb, almost unused condition, but looks like a Rapido motorhome not a Fiat van cab with a motorhome body.
Although we had considered buying new, in the end we decided to go for a mildly used example not only to avoid the initial depreciation that is inevitable on all new vehicles, but also due to the circumstances we have now found ourselves in.
I intend to retain this website, but it will now feature motorhomes rather than narrowboats, as well as all the other aspects of our life in retirement that I sometimes go on about. I hope you will stay with us.

Continental Europe here we come.........Probably next year in this, as we have already booked an apartment in Southern Spain for this autumn. We take delivery next week.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms.

Today's outing was back to central London again with the intention of visiting Churchill's War Rooms, which are located in King Charles Street off Whitehall. This involved a short 25 minute journey on the Tube to Charing Cross, with a short walk down to the location which took us past some of the touristy views of the City. Today's venue is run by the Imperial War Museum, and further information can be found HERE.

The War Rooms themselves are excellent if you have an interest in modern history, as I do. The entry charges are £17.50 per adult, £14 concession and free for children 15 years and younger. However, as always, we looked up the internet offers prior to leaving home. We managed a 2 for 1 deal with our rail tickets, and then had one "concession" with us - Margaret! The total entry charge was £31.50. Although the building fabric has undergone modifications to allow the public entry, and some contents have had to be re-instated using the memory of those who served there in war time, there are several rooms that were simply locked up on VE Day, complete with all contents and remained that way until opened again in the 1970's. One intriguing aspect of this was the ration of sugar lumps on the desk in the map room, which were found still wrapped up in a locked drawer, and re-used for the current display. 

Above is the "old" Scotland Yard, at 4 Whitehall Place. The name came from the street that the rear entrance was located on - Great Scotland Yard, which later became the public entrance, and the name stuck. The old building was used until 1890, with subsequent buildings being called New Scotland Yard. The current building on Broadway, Westminster was first used in 1967.

Here we have the guards to the barracks of the Household Cavalry, and very smart they were too. I don't know how they keep their faces straight with all the attention they get from tourists. The Museum of The Household Cavalry is here, and further information about that can be found HERE.

And on to Downing Street, that famous den of iniquity.

Above is the War Cabinet Room underneath Whitehall. During the war there were armed Marines on every corner, with entry granted only on a needs must basis.

This is Westminster Bridge, with that other famous gathering place in the background.

And just across the way - the London Eye and the South Bank. We had a bite to eat in one of the many fast food outlets along here before catching the Tube back home before the 4pm deadline for off peak travel. The cost of today's trip on the Tube each way was just £2.70. Off peak travel times are after 9.30 am, to 4.00pm and then after 7.00pm on week days.

Once in the London area that is covered by the Underground system, travel is quite reasonable for the visitor, and a car is pretty much useless. The cost of mainline rail travel to London from Wigan, can also be had for as little as £12 pp each way, if booked up to 3 months in advance. This service is provided by Virgin Trains for us, and is excellent. Why the government wanted to change the franchise last year is beyond me. Thankfully, as usual, it was another cock-up, and Virgin are still there doing an excellent job.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A Country Walk In An Urban Landscape.

Within a short walking distance of where we are staying on our current trip to London is Merton Abbey Mills. This is a historic water driven factory built on the site of Merton Priory where Arthur Liberty, founder of the famous London fabrics store once had his silk printing works. William MorrisEdward Burne-Jones, and Dante Gabriel Rosetti, along with Ford Madox-Brown, and others set up Morris Marshall Faulkner and Co., a decorative arts company in 1861 designing chintz, stained glass and tapestries. While Morris was also closely linked to Liberty and Co., he, Burne-Jones and Rosetti were all associated with what became known as the  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. All were fellow artists, some linked by friendship, to my great great grandfather Warwick Brookes who was also famous in his lifetime as an artist in the medium of pencil drawings. There are drawings of his in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum here in London, as well as in the British Museum, and Manchester Art Gallery. Back in 2003 this site was the subject of an episode of Channel 4's Time Team.

A fabulous, warm and sunny spring day today for this interesting walk through history. There is also another historic water mill further downstream.

Once an 18th century corn mill in the grounds of Wandle Park, which was once the gardens of the 18th century Wandle Park House, demolished in 1962. The land is now owned by the National Trust, and the mill has been re-developed into luxury apartments. In its recent past it was the leather works of Connolly's, famous for supplying material to the prestige motor industry. The building was designed and built by John Rennie, also famous for many canal building structures.

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Good Friday Day Out.

Today we decided to have a day out at the coast, as is the tradition on Good Friday. The forecast was fair, and although we anticipated crowded roads, we headed out by road through Croydon towards the South coast.
Our destination as a start was Kent for a drive through, before heading to East Sussex and Camber Sands. A lovely beach for a day out, but not my idea of a holiday destination. As with many British seaside destinations, it is looking a little neglected these days, although the Pontins holiday camp that is still there appears as popular as ever, and this beach front property wouldn't look out of place in Malibu.....

After an hour or so's walk, it was back to the car for the drive to Hastings via the picturesque village, and harbour of Rye. Once in Hastings it was a walk around town followed by lunch at the Golden Arches because we had money off vouchers. We certainly know how to live it up!

A pleasant day, although the weather wasn't as good as expected, but there were no traffic problems.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Enjoying London Again.

We are spending the week over Easter with our daughter at her new place in the leafy suburbs, with a short walk to the nearest underground station and about 25 minutes out of the city. She bought this place early in the year, and hers is the penthouse overlooking the river.

Today we had afternoon tea booked again at The Wolseley on Piccadilly, so we took the opportunity to look around all the usual sights again.
First it was off to St. Paul's as Margaret had never seen the interior, but when we found out on arrival they wanted £16 per person to go inside, they can dream on!

We then walked up Fleet Street, and on to The Strand, passing the Royal Courts Of Justice on our way to Leicester Square, and Yates's to enjoy a pint of Bombardier before walking down Piccadilly towards our tea.

We called in Fortnum and Masons to have a look at their £39.95 Easter eggs, the size of which you can pick up at Asda for £1 a piece, and they also come with two cream eggs!
A look around Piccadilly Arcade brought us close to The Wolseley, which is next door to The Ritz, at the correct time for our booking. After the usual indulgent tea there, which, although by no means cheap, is a fabulous treat, we used nearby Green Park underground station to make our way back.

A most enjoyable day, in lovely Spring sunshine.