Where's Frankie?

Stella Gets a Brain Implant

Thursday 30th March 

It had to happen one day and Monday was as good a day as any. Stella needed to have her maps upgraded but she really didn’t want to play ball. I thought that it had all been done the week previously but it turns out all I’ve managed to do is upgrade the city maps. She refused to accept any memory boost and in the end I had to phone up technical support.

It turns out that one of the files has managed to go a bit freaky and keep writing and rewriting itself and in the end it took up all of the memory – a file that should have been 4Mb ended up as 840Mb and once deleted everything went smoothly. The file in question just happened to be the ACSI sites database which sends me into another story.

Three years ago I purchased the ACSI guides which were meant to give me cheap off season sites – highly recommended by everyone and his dog. In three years we’ve used them twice and to be honest, for the cost, they really weren’t worth the money. What I didn’t realise is that you don’t buy one years worth of ACSI membership, you subscribe. It renews itself annually, it is for a minimum term of two years. They send the books out in November / December (when we are abroad). Most of the sites close over winter (we found just two sites open over Xmas in Italy). It is very difficult to unsubscribe. I’ve managed it but the details were buried so deep in the website.

Anyway, I digress. We left home on Tuesday and reached Canterbury in plenty of time to catch the free park and ride bus into the city and take our last dose of Wetherspoons goodness for 6 weeks. One of the beers, Adnams Inquisitor was on tap, only £2.09 a pint but you can’t buy it in pints, only halves – it was 8.5%. Very good but half a pint was more than enough.

Wednesday morning short trip to the port and before we knew it we were off the boat and motoring through France. The ferry trip used to be a big part of the trip but now it just seems common place. They have made it so easy, go online, book a ticket and be at the right place at the right time. No need to print off a ticket, it’s all done by number recognition.

Our first stop was at a town called Watten, it’s about 12 miles equidistant from Calais and Dunkirk.

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Small aire taking about 6 motorhomes next to a canal. It’s the right price and in pleasant surroundings. What we didn’t realise is that being so close to the ports it is used by people with early and late ferry crossings. One motorhome came in at 11.30, another went at 2.15am, another went at 4.00am and one came in at 5.00am. I didn’t sleep that much and then the bells started.

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Double barge, fully laden passing by early in the morning but who can complain – the sun is shining, it is starting to get very warm.

When I got back to Frankie I discovered that the fuel filler cap is missing. Am I that stupid that I managed to put the cap on incorrectly and it fell off when we went around a corner or over a bump, or more worryingly, has someone nicked it so that they can get keys cut to suit so they can get into the motorhome? Whichever, I really don’t want you to tell me!! (If you know what I mean).

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A mile away from the aire is a huge concrete blockhouse built by the Germans using slave labour. The above is one of the information signs, lots of information, in English, and this applied throughout the site. The site is one of the V2 rocket factories where the rockets went through final assembly, fueling and then dispatch. It was kept under close surveillance by the British and at the right moment (27th August 1943) a few bombs were dropped causing insurmountable damage to the facility.

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On the walk up to the blockhouse were numerous displays of military technology – radar, anti aircraft guns and these torpedo type devices. I’ve not seen them before so thought you might be interested. They are used for minesweeping, try and imagine 30 or so of these deployed behind a minesweeper in a wide grid pattern. As they are pulled along they oscillate up and down similar to a Dolphin or Porpoise and that oscillation is enough to detonate a mine.

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This is a one man German U-Boat, designed towards the end of the war When I was younger, my Dad told me stories of him and Chalkie White in their 2 man sub when they managed to blow up the Graf Spee and Bismark in the same afternoon. Only later did I discover he was 6 years old at the end of the war!

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Lots of bombs. These are actually German practice bombs, most of the British bombs kind of disintegrated when they got near here!

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The first proper view of the blockhouse. The top 9 feet is solid concrete and was built at ground level. Once finished it was lifted up 6 feet and the walls built up to support it. The process was repeated, I can see at least four lifts.

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Round the front and this is where building works stopped. There is bomb damage to the front part of the roof caused by one of Barnes Wallis’s Tall Boy bombs but the real damage was caused by a tall boy that dropped just to the right of this photo. It caused what is best described as an earthquake and upset the foundations and moved parts of the wall. The engineers decided that the high pressure pumps used to lift the roof were dangerously exposed so further construction stopped.

This building was going to be used to generate the liquid oxygen for fuelling the V2 rockets. Air was compressed and then cooled down until it liquified. Oxygen, being heavier than nitrogen sank and and could be drawn off from the liquid air.

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Some of the bomb damage. The tall boy bombs were dropped from over 3 miles high, they weighed 6 tons and were designed to strike the reinforced concrete at a speed of Mach 2 before detonating after a short time delay.

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One of the unloading bays for the U2 rockets which were built in Germany.

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While my Dad was posing a major threat to German shipping, apparently my Mum was flying Spitfires and knocking out V1’s with nothing more than a glare. One day her name will go down in history as the glare that won the war.

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Bargain of the day Mick Monk, Clive Brooker where were you? Little box of French red wine, I took a gamble because it was a full €20 (€19.90 to be precise). Not only that but “Buy one, get one free”. €1 per litre, sometimes I really love France.

We had guests over tonight. We’re staying in an aire in Richeburg, the price is right (free), we have 8 spaces but only five of us here. Each pitch has a hedge border and at the moment it is really quiet. Opposite us are Chris and Claire from Wiltshire, they both know “The Only Sue” and to be honest, who doesn’t? Chris is a bit of a wine connoisseur so I didn’t let him have any of my red nectar although I did manage to snag a couple of glasses of his 12 year old Abelour Malt whisky.  Great evening, lots of drinking but Chris and Claire are on a mission to do all of the north of France in 5 days, we’ve got 6 weeks.

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