It's New Year's Eve and we're parked up at Fairbourne in Wales, overlooking a stormy sea, with rain lashing the windscreen and the dark clouds rolling in….and it's just started to thunder and lightning! We'll be heading off to the campsite at Graig Wen shortly for three nights. So with some peace and solitude, with the seagulls battling the winds overhead, it seems a good time to reflect on the year.
2015 seems to have flown by. It only feels a short while since I was writing about 2014 and all that happened; certainly this year has been much better. We finally took ownership of our camper van - El Nido - in April, after a long struggle. The first converter made a real mess of it and, we found out later, had ripped off many of his 'customers'. I reported him to Trading Standards, who prosecuted him. He initially pleaded Not Guilty but, with overwhelming evidence, he changed his mind and pleaded guilty to all six charges in court on 1 October. This meant I didn't need to attend and give evidence, but in some ways I would have liked my day in court. He's also being prosecuted by the police for various other offences and that trial starts in less than two weeks, on completion of which 'our' charges will be taken into consideration when sentencing. Hopefully he'll get what he deserves.
But we've put all that behind us now and we were really pleased with the conversion completed by A&E Services in Anderton. We took delivery of the van on 16 April and the next day drove down to the Peterborough Showground for the National Motorhome Show, but more importantly, the annual gathering of the Myrtle's Mates Massed Meet Up - a group of like-minded motor homers from around the country. We always have fun when we meet up with them but, by God, it was cold in the marquee this year! We followed this up with another MMMMU at the Malvern Motorhome Show in August, when the weather was much kinder. We're already booked in for Peterborough in April 2016 and look forward to more laughter with a few drinks and a BBQ.
So once we had 'El Nido' we were able to start to live the dream. Considering we've only had him for 8 months, we've covered a lot of ground and enjoyed lots of weekends away. One of the earlier ones was a return to the Llyn Peninsular over Cathy's birthday, including another overnight stop at our favourite spot - Porth Iago. Our big trip this year was to France again, starting in late June for two weeks. We visited some of Normandy, including 'Skipper's Bar' - a small, family-run bar we found about 15 years ago that serves the best Moules Frites. The little children we met when we first visited after they recently opened the bar were now teenagers and helping their mum and dad. We stopped off in Brittany before heading down to Ile d'Oleron, where we spent five lovely days in hot, sunny weather. On the way north we also witnessed Stage 7 of the Tour de France, which was on my birthday - what a day that was! We also spent a week in Yorkshire, staying in Swaledale and the areas around Malham and Gordale Scar. The late August bank holiday was a bit of a wash out, but the weather improved and we enjoyed some lovely walks in sunshine later that week. We also had a few good weekends away, particularly at the end of this year when the weather has been rough - stormy and very wet - but it's been a good test for the van. We've had a few niggly problems, but A&E soon sorted that out and, with a recently fitted new awning, the van's looking good and ready for the years to come.
So 2015 has passed quickly and, as we get ready to move into 2016 at midnight tonight, we're planning our major trips for next year. Our fortnight in Europe will hopefully cover four countries - France, Belgium, Germany (along the Mosel Valley) and Luxembourg. For our week trip, we're thinking of returning to Northumberland, where we spent our first ever motorhome trip. We like the vastness and solitude of the place - lovely in any weather. And no doubt we'll have a few weekend trips away to break up our working weeks. The year 2016 will also bring us another year closer to our dream of giving up work and spending the winters in the sunshine of southern Spain and Portugal. We continue to plan for this and save all we can to reach the financial independence we'll need to make it happen, whenever it happens......
We'll no doubt have our usual quiet New Year's Eve and wake early tomorrow for what we hope will be a better day weather-wise, so we can get out for a walk. Whatever you're doing today, tonight and next year, we wish you a very happy, healthy and successful New Year.