/ Ireland2018

Kathy's Song

I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls

I left off yesterday saying how we'd really just paid for the view at Carlingford Aire. What view? We awake this morning to what we believe is referred to as "a soft day". It's that sort of heavy drizzle rain that obscures vision, especially views of marinas and soaks anything that dare venture out in it.

Conscience time now. We've parked overnight, used no facilities and not even enjoyed the views this morning, do we go find the marina office and pay the €10 parking fee? Consciences and full wallets never go hand in hand 😔

Hold on a second! Shouldn't that act go rewarded rather than punished. I fire up the engine, start the windscreen wipers to clear the screen and the driver's wiper blade assembly falls off. It's drizzling horribly, I grab a raincoat but have open toe shoes to drive in and discover a puddle in front of the bonnet. Wet socks now! Looks like the blade assembly got pulled off when I put the silver screen on last night, looks like nothing damaged so just needs putting back. Have you tried to work out the exact configuration of a wiper blade assembly in the pouring drizzle, with spectacles that seem to absorb water and trench foot an ever increasing possibility. Wiping the glasses every few seconds it takes about 5 minutes and a detailed exploration of the kama sutra of windscreen wipers before finding the position where the blade snaps down and locks

First stop is Newry, just over the border. What border?? There was a small red and white post stuck in the verge like some vertically mounted weather-worn barber's pole that we'd have sailed past were Liz not using the map and GPS to look for the actual crossing point, where a year or so from now we would be leaving the EU. A couple of hundred yards later a speed limit sign in mph (60mph as opposed to 80kph equating to 50mph just a few yards nearer). Soon a petrol station with diesel more expensive than unleaded (it's the other way round in the Republic) and the same price in Sterling that it previously was in Euros.

Now if the roads in Newry are anything to go by I can see where the DUP could spend its Tory windfall. Horrible, rutted, potholed surfaces. Now add to this the seemingly NI fascination with speed humps, great viscious things every 50m and Brian The Snail was indeed reduced to a snail's pace. At least when we got to the new Quay shopping centre the road surface was decent but he still had to bump ourselves into the car park. The reason for visiting - Sainsbury's to restock life's essential victuals. Of course, our first choice would be to find small local shops but despite a significant lightening of the drizzle this is not wandering around weather. And anyway, remember we said we could find no toilet at the Carlingford Aire, a large Sainsbury's can always be relied upon! Essentials completed and shopping gathered we head back to the van, or would do if the torrents desisted. Using Sainsbury's magazine rack as a public library we spend a few minutes until the risk of getting washed away abates and scurry back to the van.

NI is different, not just to the Republic but to the rest of the UK as well. It's not just the bad roads and the accent that makes brummy seem pleasant but weird things like having little gates around the alcohol section. I can only assume that Sundays these gates are locked so that the only way wedding guests can get a glass of wine might be through a water conversion miracle. Curiously I expected the Republic to be all holy on a Sunday yet there the main shops are open all day, far longer hours than in the UK.

Next stop is Downpatrick. We'd really like to stop here as it is only 40 mins from today's campsite and we'll be there to early without a stop. I turn the wipers off and the drizzle seems light. Liz spots a small shopping centre on the map so we take a chance at finding a coffee shop. I pull into the car park as the drizzle increases again so find a spot right next to a pay and display meter and not far from the entrance. It's not been my day. In the now heavy drizzle I discover the meter is out of order so have to march the full length of the car park to its working counterpart. No coffee shop in the shopping centre. No shopping centre really, just a small B&M store, a post office and a couple of closed down units. As I peer out of the door at the far end of the centre I notice a coffee shop in the high street, right next door. Coffee and cake. Well coffee and cookie actually, the cake very didn't seem that great. Still it's stopped raining!!!!!! We venture the high street, mainly into the 4 charity shops to try and find books to replace my defunct Kindle. We do, one has 4 books for 99p but I buy just 3 (including a Terry Pratchet) along with a CD and another has 3 for £1 so I but I find just 2 (asking with a DVD). We did haggle upwards in both shops, paying about double the ridiculously low asking prices. Well that's books sorted out for the rest of the trip. Not that I get time to read - this ruddy blog absorbs all the free time ( more accurately, fighting with predictive text whilst writing this blog absorbs all the free time (

On to the campsite which is council run and administered by the nearby ice rink. Our online booking provided us with the site's barrier code and the very secure gated complex is very much a DIY job although there was a guy in a hut (who left shortly after we arrived) who provided no help at all. Actually it is a really good model. It's a secure site. Everything, main gate, pedestrian gate and toilet block is accessed by a barrier code. It has level concrete attend pitches set amidst the grass (you select your pitch when you book) and each pitch has its own electric and water points. If you need anything else (like tokens for the washing machines) it's a 10 min walk to the ice rink where they can sort you out. 10 mins the other way I'd an Optiplex cinema complex with attendant restaurants etc. Up on the main road buses run every 30 minutes into town but a 15 minute walk takes you to another route that runs about every 5 minutes. A really good city campsite and the warden free model is something other councils could adopt. Only negative is that it's WiFi doesn't actually seen to extend beyond the toilet block!

Well we've used the showers, a load of washing has gone through the washing machine and all but the socks are dry. Dinner has been consumed. All that is left is for me to post today's route

BTW today's title song was courtesy of Simon and Garfunkel if you didn't recognise it.