Testing... testing. One, two three. Knock, knock, anybody out there?
Okay, I know that I have been neglectful. Last update in February? Well, would you believe me if I said that was actually Brunhilde's last outing? Not last as in "final" but that we have had no trips since then. It has been a busy year, with much poor weather. Summer has not really arrived this year but that is no bad thing as it would have been heartbreaking to spend so many weekends on DIY in the house if the sun had been shining.
Well, the DIY is completed for now and we are ready for an escape or two.
Brunhilde is in need of her annual MOT - can you believe that it is almost exactly a year since she came to live with us - and is in fact on her way to the ferry even now as I write this. Mr Snail will drop her off at the test centre and then come home as a foot passenger. I have spent this week in preparing Bruni for a trip and so she has gone off with the bed made up, her kitchen cupboards stocked with a few staples, and plenty of knitting projects in my overhead locker..
When the call comes to say that the van has passed the test, we will sally forth once more but in the car - leaving it for a test in Bruni's place - and we shall go off for a few days and then collect the car on our way home.
Our hope at the moment is to go to Hoy for a long weekend. This will be our first visit to another of the outer islands - so far we have been confined to Sanday and the big island, so this is very exciting for us, and all the more so as Hoy has hills to walk.
Our next trip will follow fairly quickly, we hope and if Mr Snail can be granted his leave request we want to spend a week at the Orkney Science Festival. We can leave Bruni on mainland Orkney and pop home as foot passengers on the ferry to stock up the cat and hen feeders and check that all is well, then return again at will.
At the end of August, Mr Snail goes on to three-day working, with four-day weekends. That's more weekend than work! We should be able to wander far and wide but with a consequently reduced income and the price of ferry tickets, who knows how often we will be able to get away in actual fact. Time will tell.
After a year of these three-day weeks, Mr Snail will be fully retired. Then the world is our oyster and Brunhilde may takes us anywhere that we want to go and for as long as we wish. It is an exciting prospect. Our ideas have been generated just this week and already seem coalesced into a fairly firm plan. We are going to France, to explore Brittany and Normandy first. A leisurely journey to Folkstone will be a significant part of the holiday itself and not a simple slog to the tunnel; we have ideas about how to break up the journey and where to stop en route to the Channel. These are largely spots that we know of already. On the way home again we will explore and look at places we have not been in the past.
Things will firm up but for now we anticipate a month in France with a week's journey in either direction making it a 6 week break. We could wander further afield, perhaps into Belgium and may well yet do that but our current idea is to spend time in the places that we stop, and to become familiar with them - not just hitting the tourist hotspots and moving on to the next. We are already looking at some likely Aires, using Streetview and have found some beautiful places in picturesque villages and market towns and I am finding the whole idea really exciting.
It's a year off yet but we are motivated and there is so very much to do - from sorting out passports for ourselves and pet passports for the dog and perhaps the cat, to brushing up our linguistic skills, learning the driving regulations, and investigating the mysteries of mobile broadband. I need to figure out how to handle the thousands of images I shall be capturing and then how to get them out into the world without a desktop PC. We shall need to buy suitable clothes that will take plenty of hard wear but can be washed in very little water and the drip-dried quickly. So many things to think about and to prepare for! Mr Snail has already ordered the appropriate maps and Rough Guide - we have yet to select a language course.
Is the vision showing through? Mr & Mrs Snail at large in rural France in Autumn, shopping and eating like locals, avoiding the Highways and exploring the by-ways. I see lots of cheese in this vision, and a deal of Normandy Cider threatening those early morning trips to buy freshly-baked bread. That is one thing that I shall miss, being able to bake my own but alas, Bruni has no oven.
Having no oven could turn out to be a positive. I imagine that with the wealth of good breads, cheeses and charcuterie, we will be eating simple cold meals for much of the time. Eating out as often as funds allow will enable us to try regional dishes and to expand our gastronomic horizons and relieve the boredom of three-ring cooking (endless meals of spag bol? I trust not!) Well, I say three rings but in practice I can never fit more than two pans onto Bruni's three burners.
Should we add a small BBQ to our travelling paraphenalia?
There's another thing - what can we take with us and what will have to stay at home. There is some space, not a lot, but a key factor is weight. Bruni is not rated for a great deal of weight.
So. Great excitement. Watch this space, as they say.
There is another outline plan, but this one is only pencilled in in very faint lines and depends entirely on what happens with the possible new North Sea ferry crossing to Norway. If it happens, we will be off. Just as soon as we can and most likely in the late Spring/early Summer of 2017, we will go and see the frilly bits, the mountains, the lakes, the midges. I have been looking at the map and fancy driving all the way up the E6 and around the top of Norway as far as the Russian border.
Wouldn't that be a trip.
PS. Yes. I know that last Autumn's trip to Scotland is still in need of a full write-up. I will get to it. I will. No, really, I will.