Tilting at Windmills

Sunday 16th August 2020.

The book Don Quixote [pr: Key-ho-tey] revolves around the adventures of one Alonso Quixano from La Mancha in Spain, who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and decides to revive chivalry by serving his country under his new knight-errant name of Don Quixote de La Mancha. With his trusty servant Sancho Panza he has many adventures in which he fails to see the world for what it is, preferring to imagine that he is living the life of a knight-errant in a more romantic age. One of his adventures involves tilting at windmills that, in his madness, he believes to be giants. (‘Tilting’ is the word for the medieval sport of jousting).

An Illustration of Don Quixote fighting windmills. From the 1910 book Stories of Don Quixote

This rather long introduction outlines the origin of the expression, ‘tilting at windmills.’ which means to pursue a fruitless cause or to attack non-existent enemies.

It also, pretty much, sums up our attempts at a Scottish adventure. The role of Sancho Panza was played by my trusty side-kick Mrs P. My romantic notion was that a trip to Scotland could be undertaken in the same style as a trip to the Alps. Like Sancho Panza, Mrs P provided the earthy wit (and a great deal of patience). My knight-errant name, like the windmills we mistook for giants, is yet to be revealed.

The story of Don Quixote was brought to mind as we passed the 152 wind turbines of the Clyde Wind Farm in South Lanarkshire. The book was first published in 1605 and things have changed a bit since then. The windmills are long gone. Replaced by the wind turbines built either side of the M74 motorway leading from the border of England to Glasgow.

A Scottish wind farm (but not the Clyde Wind Farm – I couldn’t find a free image of that): Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

We tilted at those windmills on the way in to Scotland. Those same windmills laughed at our efforts a few days later as we ran from Scotland like Edward II fleeing Robert the Bruce after the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). Our battle had been only with the elements, traffic and the COVID-19 effect. Our casualties had been only to our egos (read; mine). It had however been a rout and our departure marked the end of a rather fruitless, and very wet few days ‘Scottish holiday.’

  • Days in Scotland – 5
  • Days with flooding, diversions, road closures or similar frustrations – 5
  • Days driving in queues of traffic – 4
  • Days on mountains – 1
  • Days climbing – 0

My Knight Errant name..? Sir Robin. This may mean nothing to many of you until I reveal the family motto and link;

When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled.

Edward II would have (not) been proud of us.

With hindsight, or as Mrs P would say; “I told you so”, my idea of going to Scotland was flawed from the start. The lockdown effect, the lack of planning, the weather forecast, the lack of planning, the number of vehicles on the road, the lack of a planning (did I mention that I had no real plan?) and my unwillingness to listen to the voice of reason, aka Mrs P. led to more days in Gandalf than are conducive to a relaxing time, no matter how much we love him.

We did however, manage to rescue, from the embers, some fun times which, over the next few posts, I will précis. We also returned home to Berkshire early, to avoid the storms forecast in the north. We did some fun things bacjk at home, which I will also provide some pictorial evidence of in my next post.

For now, I leave you with a hint of things to come…

Scotland, Frustrating but beautiful.

The positive person’s guide to COVID-19 recovery

August 6th, 2020

So, as I said in my last post (sounds ominous!?) ‘I’m getting better.’ I also promised to tell you why I had been so quiet on the blogging front.

You will remember that I said I never had a cough, never had a fever and certainly didn’t lose my sense of taste (though I have occasionally worn red trousers and a red t-shirt so, maybe I did!?). Anyway, that didn’t mean that I didn’t get some weird symptoms. You’ve heard it all before if you read my previous blogs; headaches, nausea a very strange feeling in my head/chest/somewhere in a different but strangely connected dimension.

Upshot is that my brain has been struggling. After a day working on the computer (I’m working from home and all my work is computer based) the last thing I feel capable of is spending time writing a blog. I suppose I could’ve written something but, I doubt it would have either made much sense or provided the high class entertainment you have come to expect from my humble blog.

So, by way of a précis of the last 12 weeks; weekends have been filled with chores (lucky me), like chopping wood…

This sartorial statement provides further proof that I may have lost my sense of taste after all.

Repairing patios…

Hard to tell if this is before or after.

Getting all creative and building an inukshuk from the detritus of patio repairs..

Every garden should have one

Gentle exercises such as kayaking on our local stretch of the Thames…

Tales of the riverbank

Walking and cycling. Both road and mountain bike…

Mrs P at Sonning Bridge. It’s where the Clooney’s live.

Only problem is, while doing all these things, I feel like this…

Perhaps a little over dramatic but, I certainly feel pretty rough.

It would be easy to just give in to it and crash in front of the TV but, I feel I need to gently nudge the envelope of how much I can do. (The log chopping and patio repairs were DEFINITELY too much by the way).

All that said, as you may know by now, I like to see the upside in every situation, the silver lining, the positives. So, here then is the positive persons guide to COVID-19 recovery.

Listen to your body. If it is telling you that you need to rest then do just that. But, and it’s an important ‘but’, make sure you eat well (read: Eat cake or scones or anything sweet and unhealthy really and wash it down with sweet black coffee)…

A master class in the recovery process

… look After your wife. After all, she looks after you (and makes the cake)…

Is that Kate Humble?

Enjoy the fact that you are not currently capable of epic feats on the bike and take the opportunity to introduce your better half to road cycling…

Mrs P. Mountain biker gone rogue

…and coffee stops…

You can lead a cyclist to a coffee stop, but you can’t make her like coffee

…remember to see the funny side to all mishaps that may happen along the way…

I took up rowing when lockdown restrictions were lessened. 20 minutes later I took up swimming (read: I fell in!)

…and remember to try to have fun. No matter how rubbish you may feel.

Floating is easy, even if you do feel wiped out.

Is my recovery going well? 12 weeks on I would say that it could certainly be better. I have faith that I will get there, however slowly that may be. In the meantime we are going away for a week or so. Gandalf can look after us and maybe, just maybe, I will feel better and do some more blogging.

I don’t want to go on the cart!

I’m getting better…

The above, for those under the age of 40, is a still from the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the scene a cart is being pulled around a medieval village taking away those killed by the plague. One man tries to put an old man on the cart who is clearly still alive. This is made obvious by the fact that he says: “I’m not dead.” It’s a very funny film and a very funny scene.

To coin that same phrase from that very film I would just like to say…

I’m not dead

I may have been quiet since my last post way back in April but I am still alive. Despite Covid 19’s attempts to put me on the cart. There are even 2 drafts (unpublished obviously) that prove I did mean to write more but, it all came to nought. This time it’s different. This time I will finish my post. This time I will fill you in on how I failed to die.

After a week of feeling rough, watching a lot of mindless TV and having Mrs P closely monitor me to check she didn’t need to call the man with the cart, I got, wait for it… worse. I experienced some very odd symptoms; permanent headache; mild nausea; passing out while lying down!; having my whole body start to ‘fizz’ – that word incidentally does not do the sensation justice but, is as close to a description as I can get – and being unable to think straight (maybe that is normal?). I was worried. I called 111 (NHS helpline). They told me to go straight to hospital , do not pass go, do not collect £200.

I was dropped off by a rather concerned Mrs P at about 11am. She was not allowed to accompany me. 6 hours later she was, unsurprisingly, wondering where I was. So was I. I had been seen by a doctor and told to sit in the waiting room especially for those who may have Covid19, where incidentally there is little or no phone signal. Now, I love the NHS but, in the waiting room I was mostly alone; mostly curled up in a ball and completely ignored. For 6 hours. I’m pretty sure I passed out twice, but was too ‘out of it’ to go ask for help. Eventually I managed to get up the energy to ask what was happening and shortly after I was taken through to the consulting area. Seen by a doctor and told I was going to be admitted to a ward. I think this was because they didn’t have room for me to be sitting around cluttering up the place. I was also tested for Covid 19, which involves a nurse dressed up as an astronaut shoving a 7 foot long cotton bud 5 feet up your nasal passage until she is scratching the furthest reaches of the inside of your skull.

I had by this time managed to get a message to Mrs P to put her mind at rest. I was briefly wheeled off and admitted to a ward where they fed me and gave me a drink. I was finally released back into the care of Mrs P at about 10pm. 11 hours after I had arrived.

I spent the next week or so being phoned daily by the hospital ( I still think they are great) to check my blood/oxygen levels with the promise that, if the reading went below 94%, I had to return to hospital immediately. I once reached the dreaded 93%, but convinced them that I wasn’t too short of breath and would just get in the way. I asked them to call back in 30 minutes by which time my reading had gone back up to 95%.

Anyway, long story short…

I’m getting better.”

That’s another quote from the same scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail by the way. [Spoiler alert] It doesn’t do him any good. He ends up on the cart. We all end upon the cart eventually.

For your information, I tested positive for Covid 19 on April 29th. As a result of which I wasn’t allowed to go to my poor old Mom’s funeral. At no point have I had a cough or a high temperature. Oh, and Mrs P has been very worried.

In my next post, should you return and should I survive long enough to write it, I will tell you why I have been so quiet on the blogging front for nearly 3 months and how, even now, nearly 11 weeks later, I am still struggling to return to full fitness. Don’t feel sorry for me though. The following picture shows that things ain’t too bad, they never are.

Admitedly I didn’t cycle so far or so fast but I still deserved the coffee and cake

How did I get here? Thursday 23rd April 2020

How’d I get here?

Yesterday morning (Wednesday 22nd April) at about 7.20am I woke on the floor in our bathroom looking up at something white and some wood. Quickly into focus came Mrs. P looking distinctly worried.

For some reason my first instinct was to say; “I’m really sorry.” Over and over again. Why was I sorry? Had I done something wrong? Why am I lying on the floor and why am I staring up at what looks like a broken piece of the bath? All white plastic, wood and ceiling.

I had a feeling that, if I placed myself in the capable hands of Mrs. P all would become plain so I closed my eyes and continued my “I’m sorry..” mantra. Mrs. P was in efficient mode and was calling an ambulance.

There is still a gap in my memory about what happened immediately prior to this but, I remember, when I woke that morning feeling not 100%. I know my place though and that particular place at this time in any given morning is to get up and make tea. I didn’t feel that bad.

I went to the bathroom and, standing in front of the mirror ready to do my teeth, I suddenly started feeling considerably less than 100%. I didn’t feel dizzy, just like I had proper flu. All I wanted to do was go back to bed. I remember saying to Amanda, who was still in bed; “Would you mind making the tea. I don’t feel great and want to go back to bed.” Next thing I know is; “How’d I get here?

Mrs. P has filled in the gap. She says my voice sounded funny so she immediately got out of bed to see if I was ok. It is little more than a single step from our bedroom to the bathroom door where her normally Adonis like husband was standing in the doorway looking like an anemic extra from the film Night of the Living Dead

This ghostly apparition then just crumpled, falling backwards with little or no consideration for health and safety. She tried to reach out to stop me but I fell back and bounced my head off the bath ending in an unconscious, unglamorous heap half under the bath.

At this point everything is fine and hunky dory, for me at least, as I have no idea what is going on. I am officially ‘away with the fairies.’

Meanwhile, back in the land of the conscious, things are far from great for Mrs. P who describes a ‘very long’ 10-15 seconds where our hero, is staring, eyes wide open, at the ceiling. Completely unresponsive. Poor Mrs. P thinks I’m dead.

Made of stern stuff she knows she needs to call an ambulance which explains why I am briefly alone when I come round. This gives me time to work out, if not how I got there, at least where I am.

An ambulance arrives very quickly, by which time I have made it to the bedroom and am looking a bit less pale. Because of the risk of Covid19 I have to go alone to the hospital. Paramedics are ace by the way and not just because they admired our antique skis on the wall.

Long story short, I end up at the Royal Berkshire Hospital where I get to do lots of tests. We discover the following: I’ve not had a heart attack. I’ve probably got COVID19, hence the flu like symptoms and the passing out. (FYI passing out is NOT a symptom of Covid19. It is a symptom of not sitting down quickly enough when you feel rubbish). X-rays of my lungs look good. The prognosis; probably a sore head and neck, now would you please go away and stop bothering us! We are busy.

Do I have COVID19? The National Health Service (NHS) here in the UK only test front line workers for the virus so we will never know for sure. Either way, me and Mrs. P are now in lockdown. Me for 7 days from first signs and her for 14 days, unless, blah, blah, blah…

I can think of no one I would rather be locked down with. She acted in a cool and calm way. She is my saviour.

Afterward: It’s been difficult to start writing again. Mom died only a week ago today. I was going to write about her but, have been struggling to write less than a novella. You will also know that mom is suspected to have died from COVID19. (If you don’t know this already, please try to keep up.) So, since I spent many hours with her at the end, I have been monitoring my health just in case.

Did I get this from mom? Who knows. I do know that, if I did, I would have preferred a watch or some other token to remember her by.

Present Tense – Past Tense – Wednesday 15th April 2020

The original Mrs P is not well. My mom.

Mom, Dorothy and my dad, Bernard on their wedding day in 1955

This forces me to follow the herd and talk about COVID 19 as mom is in a home where the dreaded virus has been confirmed and mom, never one to miss out, has decided to join in.

My brothers can’t visit. One is asthmatic the other has a wife in the high risk category. Since there is only Mrs. P and I and since we have no mates the brothers have declared me expendable. So, I have donned my PPE and traveled up to sunny Bromsgrove to visit mom.

Some would suggest that PPE improves my looks.

Not much more than a month ago most people thought PPE was something you might have been miss-sold by a solicitor with dyslexia. Now, we all know. The fear factor that has been hard wired, with perhaps too great efficiency, into the public psyche means that we don’t just know what it is but we now all want a piece of it. Whilst I like to think that I rock the look, none of it will be forming any part of my daily sartorial choices.

Did I mention that every cloud has a silver lining? If one can be derived from this situation it is this…

…wait for it…

Gandalf is, technically, back on tour.

Gandalf to the rescue

Mom’s home is almost 2 hours away. I will be with her all day but don’t want to impose on the staff. I also don’t want to interact with people on my return journey since I will have been in direct contact with the dreaded lurgy. I also want to eat and drink. So, Gandalf is coming with me to provide a lunchtime sanctuary, a means of making tea and a bed if necessary. He is a star.

The true stars here however are the staff at mom’s nursing home, St. John’s Court, Bromsgrove where Mom has been a resident since 2015. Mom has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and, shortly after Dad’s death in 2015 she moved into the home as she was no longer able to look after herself without Dad’s help.

St. John’s is a bit like Hogwarts for the elderly.

What lies beyond platform 9 3/4
Mom, about to put on the Sorting Hat shortly after her arrival – Hufflepuff

Mom loves it here. She is always singing the praises of the staff and telling us how lovely it is. She has thrived with these marvellous people to care for her. And then we have the acid test of how good the place is. Margaret, mom’s twin sister. Margaret, and her husband John, visit every couple of weeks. Or, at least they did before lockdown. They are well known here (some would say ‘infamous’) and Margaret thinks the place and the staff are just great too. Boy would we have been in trouble if we hadn’t found somewhere for mom that Margaret approved of.


Yesterday, Mom and I spent as pleasant a day as is possible under the circumstances. Unfortunately however, her condition worsened over night and I was back today. Holding her hand and wittering on about inane rubbish. She never woke up. She didn’t suffer.

Mom died at 8.15pm on Thursday 16th April. A fighter to the end.

Mom and Dad in happier times – Circa 1953

R.I.P. Dorothy Evelyn Pitts.

8th August 1933 – 16th April 2020

Easter weekend comes and goes and still we are here – Monday 13th April 2020

I didn’t write anything yesterday, or the day before. Normally I have a myriad of activities and interactions throughout any given day that spawn at least the beginnings of a ramble.

It’s not like I’ve locked myself in a cupboard though. I get out, in line with government guidelines, and there are many things I could scribble about. The only problem is, they are all Lockdown, Covid 19, Coronavirus, call it what you will, related. And I really want to write about something else.

So, shall I succumb? Shall I join the myriad who write, think, talk about nothing else? I can practically feel the wool starting to grow on my back. I have a strange and unusual urge to follow; to run from collie dogs and find shelter in wooden pens. To follow the crowd. Admittedly it is a socially distanced crowd and the dogs don’t understand why we won’t all just cluster together so they can get us all into the pen but, I really want to say, “Baaaaaaaa.”

No, I can’t, nay won’t do it. I will not become that sheep and follow blindly. I shall look through my photos from the weekend and find inspiration. Bear with… picture of empty motorway – Boring!… another bl***y BBQ – DULL!… Ooo, here’s one…

Saturday saw some very odd behaviour in our tiny little lockdown world.

Can you guess what is going on here? No? I’m not going shopping. Nor am I about to venture into the outside world where I run the risk of inadvertently being less than 2 metres from a fellow human being (read; Petri dish of festering disease). Am I cold? No. It’s 23 degrees c. I’m melting.

All dressed up and no place to go.

There is a clue on the wall in the background. It is a very popular bee hotel that some idiot decided would be best placed just above where we sit in the sun to eat, chat, drink tea etc. As we are now on the bee equivalent of the M1 at rush hour we ran the risk of inadvertently imbibing a random bee or 3 whenever we raised our cups. It needed to moved. We found a good spot and I began to assemble my ‘safety equipment.’ Mrs P just looked at me like I was a big girls blouse. But, I knew best. I consider myself something of an expert in all matters apiary because I once knew a man who kept bees. He told me everything I ever needed to know; bees can sting and it hurts. There were literally… 1, 2, 3… some bees buzzing around and I was taking no chances.

The village idiot at work

My personal wildlife photographer (Mrs P) was similarly attired – NOT – in shorts and a vest top.

Anyway, long story short. Only 1 bee stayed with me during the removal. The others (all 6 of them) did the bee version of a runner and the hotel was successfully moved. All residents seem to have quickly found their way to the new spot. It is once again a thriving community and way less intrusive at our table.

Bee hotel – Vacancies

Anyway, I’d best not drone on (sorry).

I’m not the only person dressing up by the way. It seems to be a bit of a trend.

This is Anne…

Dr. Anne

Anne is a friend of Mrs P. She is a doctor in Florida, America. She sent this picture of her Easter Bunny outfit. Now, I know, I should be looking at this and thinking, ‘Oh, how brave.’ But, when I first saw this picture I just thought ‘wimple.’ I can’t help it. I think she looks like sister Maria from a dystopian version of the Sound of music where homemade face masks tied up with string are just one of her favourite things and the only reason the goatherd is lonely is because he has a bit of a cough. I’m sure she’s doing a marvellous job, but where was she when I needed to move the bee hotel?

I shall end with a link to a marvellous story of a 99 year old Army veteran who has raised more than £500,000 for the NHS. He pledged to complete 100 Laps of his garden by his 100th birthday with the aid of his walking frame. His original goal was £1,000 but he seems to have beaten that…


Silver Linings – Thursday 9th April 2020

Lockdown. Can’t go climbing. Can’t go away in Gandalf. Can’t do this, that and the other (although I would be willing to bet that there’s quite a lot of ‘the other’ going on). I digress. Where was I? Oh yes:

Lockdown… Ain’t so bad. In fact, there are a lot of positives. Here’s just a few..

The first silver lining I like to call “Up.”

This is up…


This is a picture of “Up” a.k.a. the sky. Taken not 1/2 a mile from our house, yesterday evening. It’s blue and cloud free but, lovely though it is, that’s not the silver lining. We live on the flight path into Heathrow Airport. Usually, on a day like today, there would be one aircraft every 10 seconds from 04.30 in the morning to 11.30 at night flying overhead. Do the maths, I did, that’s a LOT of aeroplanes. On top of that, there is a small airfield nearby kindly providing the accompanying buzz of dozens of light aircraft. Add to that the helicopters taking the wealthy to and from very important places and it all adds up to pollution, noise and poor visibility. I don’t have a picture of it but it looks something like this…

Flight path simulator

With the associated noise it irritates the hell out of me. I have friends who have grown used to it. I have weird friends.

Silver lining number two I shall call, “The sound of silence.” In short, see silver lining number 1.

The following picture, taken shortly after “Up,” contains a robin. See if you can spot him.

I’m over here!

He’s on the dead tree just right of centre. Pretty small so good luck. Anyway. He was singing his little head off. We could hear him. It was beautiful. It was unusual. It was surreal. Very little traffic noise and zero planes. Normally the little fella would need a megaphone to make himself heard. The silence was positively deafening. From 90% man made cacophony, interspersed with the odd squawk as a pigeon is run over on the main road, to 90% sounds of nature. Surround sound bliss. Sometimes Mrs P and I just stand and listen. Then spend the next 10 minutes discussing where we will move to once this madness is over and if our pension investments ever bounce back (don’t even go there).

Silver lining number 3 goes by the name of “Folk.” There are people (folk) walking, cycling, running etc. all over the place. Normally, when we go for a walk, we are lucky to see a couple of wheezing people walking an asthmatic dog (remember the pollution?) Now, “folk” are everywhere. Using the extra time they have discovered by removing the commute from their daily list of wasted time activities they are finding the time to go for some socially distanced exercise. It may be a bit odd when said “folk“suddenly dive into a hedge and steadfastly face away as you walk past but, at least you usually get a muffled, arboreal “Hello” from the back of their head.

Our evening stroll beneath silent skies. Long may it continue

There are many other little things that warrant silver lining status. Might I suggest you try to look for some yourself because, and I can’t emphasise this enough, there is always a silver lining.

My final one for now goes by the name, “Road safety and the bliss of empty roads.”

I’m still allowed to go out on my bike. I think the advice is, “For your normal amount of exercise.” Since normal for me is around 130-150 miles a week I can still get quite a lot of socially distant exercise in. The difference being that now said exercise is on quiet, and subsequently much safer roads. It’s lovely. Mrs P is very happy too.

Mrs P (and Gandalf) demonstrates a silver lining

You watch, I’ll get run over by a bus now. LINK

They really do exist

Gandalf absolutely NOT on tour…

Well, I have been nagged (and nagged) by Mrs P to write something. She says that people need a distraction during this lockdown. Not quite sure how a blog about traveling in a camper van, when you can’t travel, will achieve that but, I’m up for the challenge.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then, here goes…

Gandalf in captivity

The above picture shows Gandalf on our driveway. Exciting stuff eh? You will note he is clean. Very clean. I polished him at the weekend. All dressed up with no place to go.

Are you cheered up yet? No! Oh well.

We are unable to go far but, we are lucky enough to have a big garden. So, at the weekend we had a mini holiday. Meet, The Hobbit Haus…

The Hobbit Haus a.k.a The Tardis

The Hobbit Haus sits at the bottom of our garden. It was an impulse buy some years ago. It gets a lot of use. It is our mini escape.

Mrs P waiting not so patiently for her dinner.

It seats 10 and has a central BBQ. We’ve had 10 in here a few times. Crowded but fun. Tricky to cook with that many though.

It’s not vegetarian friendly I’m afraid. Deer skins on the benches and antlers over the door. Thor however, would be proud. Apparently Odin, Thor’s Dad, is looking to buy one for Asgard.

We’ve spotted these things in the most unexpected of places. One beside the river at Henley-on-Thames; one just outside Bad Gastein in Austria.

Anyway, I’m not going to write too much in this first blog for ages. My thumb may get tired and we don’t want me clogging up the NHS with repetitive strain injury now do we. More tomorrow? I can tell you our plans, probably scuppered, for the summer; excite your with tales of lockdown exercise regimens (yawn) and titillate you with the best of the non-travel, travel funnies we have been looking at.

In the meantime you will have to excuse me. I am a very busy man…

Calm yourselves now.

In the words of the current trend. Stay safe.