EEC 1, 2nd February 2005

This is the first the first of a few notes, probably both erratic in arrival and variable in quality, about my travels around Europe. If you DON'T want to receive them that's no problem, I won't be at all offended, and there are already too many people on the list of recipients. Just hit reply to this email, if you like add a few choice notes to the top, but if you don't write anything at all I'll still get the message and Ill take you off the list.

First is the good news about Little Cat. I finally managed to get hold of Oren, owner of Little Cat's new home. (I put it like that because I don't think anyone ever OWNS a cat, not in the cat's eyes anyway. You give a cat free board and lodging, it gives you love and attention and companionship, as much as it feels like, and when it feels like it.) Anyway, Little Cat is doing great. Oren works during the day so the house is empty then, and in the mornings when he goes out, Little Cat trots off to the woods behind Oren's house to do his exploring thing, no doubt climbing trees and hunting smaller animals, by evening when Oren returns Little Cat is back in the house. Well he would be back wouldn't he, it's dinner time soon! Birana thinks he's a great little cat, Oren thinks he's a great little cat, and he sleeps on Oren's bed at nights. Oren is even planning to buy a digital camera so he can send me photos of Little Cat which I'll put in my emails. So I would reckon Little Cat's got a good home. I still miss him constant little buddy for almost 6 months..............

I've got part way through my European plans. I went to Cyprus for Christmas and had a super Christmas with my son Daniel, his wife Mel, and my 2 grandchildren, James and Charlotte, aged almost 2 and almost 4 respectively. I returned to the UK to stay with my sister Helen just in time to make my regular Wednesday visit to Nellie's where the 1919 jazz band play on Wednesdays. Well, they did play on Wednesdays. I went there for a couple of Wednesdays and the brewery, right out of the blue, said they were not renewing the music licence and the band had to stop playing there after next week. I reckon that was really shabby treatment, they have been playing there for 29 years, they were not paid anything by the brewery, and they only got a week's notice to go! There was a folk group played at the pub another night, they have been there 29 years also, and got the same treatment. It's a great pity, I was very fond of the place, I even wrote glowingly about it on the last episode of my 2004 travels if you remember, or you can look it up here. The brewery, Sam Smiths, will have lost a few customers and they are being really mean all round, they have even cancelled their pensioners entitlement to 2 free pints of beer at lunch time.

I had a major service on my car, considerable work was needed on the brakes, also I'd been having the battery go flat from time to time and it took a while to find the cause Eventually I left for France on the 20th January, taking the overnight ferry from Hull to Zebrugge, met with my nephew Oliver who is engineer on the ferry. In Paris I met up with my daughter Eleanor - she's studying law at university in Paris - and we went out for dinner and some drinks and met some of her friends. It was really great to see her again after such a long time. Really, absolutely, great. She said after she found out she could not drink so much as her Daddy. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. That she found out, or that she could not! Maybe I'm a bad influence in some ways. We had lunch the next day and then I headed to Maintenon where I used to live. Jerome has been kindly letting me leave some of my things in his attic. I spent some time on line at Jerome's, looking for information on motor homes and houses in the SW of France. I even went to look at a couple of motor homes - camping cars they are called in France - but the two I saw were in too rough a state even for me. I had been hoping to be able to collect my balloon from Le Havre, where it was arriving after I shipped it from the US, but found that the vessel had been delayed for 2 weeks.

From there I headed further south to Poitiers, and Barbara Reed's home, I have most of my belongings stored near there in Marie's barn. I'd noticed the car was using vast quantities of oil since the service so I took that into a garage for investigation where they found some part was broken near the oil filter. It's where the filter screws in. Opel (for that's the make of my car) seem not too efficient in France, even after a week they have been unable to get a replacement. My van (that's extra to my car) has been parked in the barn the past 2 years, and even with the new battery I had brought it would not start, so that has gone to the garage also, to be fixed, serviced, and to have it's technical control renewed. I trust Tim in Longview, Texas,is keeping a good eye on my third vehicle, my American motor home, 2 vehicles out of action is enough! A quick reminder to Tim, he is welcome to use the motor home any time, his daughter might like some weekends camping. Maybe better in the warmer weather but that van does have a heater!

At Poitiers I made annual inspections on both of Barbara's balloons plus another belonging to a local pilot. We made a rather nice flight in Barbara's bigger balloon to round off the annual inspection. I'm staying with Barbara while my vehicles are being fixed, it's nice of her to invite me here. Next, provided my car is running, I'll be meeting Eleanor and driving to Toulouse for the weekend, she's recently gained her driving licence and wants some practice. She doesn't have a car, anyway this is a liability in Paris. I received 70 Euros ($100) of parking fines just in the one evening I met her. There were no signs prohibiting parking, and no apparent reason not to park there, I think you are just supposed to know.

I've now more or less decided that instead of buying a 3rd (European) vehicle I'll convert my van into some sort of motor home, it will certainly work out much less expensive, and should not take too long. If I plan it right I can still use the van to carry a small balloon, or to tow my bigger balloon on a trailer. Of course I won't have the relative luxury of my American motor home, but with the high petrol prices here I need something smaller any way.

I am still planning to look for a home in the SW of France, in the Gers region. I shall live in my van while looking, and after, while touring.

Now I just need to get a vehicle back from the garage (any vehicle), get my balloon from Le Havre, find somewhere to live, and decide what I am going to do with the rest of my life.................

Best regards

David Barker


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