The drain monster

Jack and I have found a drain monster.

No really, we have.

We were walking in our favourite place in the park and Jack as you know is banned from being off lead here after getting badly bitten, and after getting stuck down a pipe. So he’s wandering about on the long lead and started investigating a drain cover he’d found in the grass. I tugged him to follow me but he wouldn’t so I went over to see what he’d found. As I approached I heard a thud, like a heavy body hitting the floor but with a wet sound, and then nothing. I looked down the drain but could see nothing.
Jack was scrabbling about like mad so obviously something was done there, and I decided it was probably the rat or whatever it was that bit him the other week.

I stood there a little while letting Jack hone his hunting instincts and suddenly I heard a mooing. Yeah, just like a cow. Right, imagine a cow, with it’s mouth closed, mooning dejectedly. That’s what it was like. No I haven’t been smoking or drinking anything!

Picture of a dog on a lead scrabbling at a storm drain cover
Jack hunting

Here’s the drain, all you can see inside is 3 pipes coming from north south and west. They’re about 10-12 inches in diameter so whatever is down there can’t be huge. Like, it’s not a cow even though it sounds like one :s
We left after a while, and we may never know what lives down there…

Another lens broken

Yet another item has failed on me, this time my new 24-105 Canon L series lens that I bought last year from Portus Digital. I’m so frustrated with these constant problems at the moment. The 17-40 lens is the only one I have left working now that is of any general use on the streets of Venice.

Portus digital want me to send it to them, oh yeah what the hell is that going to cost ahhaa

Camping Rialto

I’d found Camping Rialto on the ACSI map and it was €21 a night but being an ACSI member it was only €16. Leccie, showers, laundry and a bus stop right outside the gates, what more could you ask for?

Image of a campsite
Camping Rialto

The reception staff were really helpful and friendly with great English and although the pitches are typically much smaller than British ones there was no problem at all. It’s lined with trees everywhere and screened from the road by more trees and bushes. All the services were immaculate and they used standard HU sockets so no adaptor needed.

They sell bus tickets at reception so it was easy to prepare for nights in Venice and although I never used their onsite bar it was pretty busy each evening and everyone sounded like they were having a fun time. A nice site and not charging a rip-off price. I like it.

Kong!

Image of a dog chewing a rubber toy
Jack chewing his Kong

Things got hairy here, for what reason I have no idea but everyone was asked to leave the car park, and when I parked along the road I got 11 hooters in one day! That’s the worst anywhere. Public holiday maybe? I have no idea but I came out to Jesolo anyway and it’s very relaxing here, especially for Jack who loves his purple Kong when it’s packed with misfits lol He sat in the grass for a few hours happily chewing away totally oblivious to all the spiders and god knows what that were crawling all over him.

Photo of some bright yellow beach umbrellas and beach loungers
Umbrellas on the beach

Sadly we’re not allowed on the beach at all. We did go to see it, it’s the Adriatic I think, and it was virtually empty even though there was tons of furniture out there. I wonder if it’s just off season? We did miss the chance to have a little run around and a paddle in the water but hey, we’ll live! lol

Jesolo has a main street where all the shops are. At least half of them are tacky gift shops selling the same old rubbish as you get the world over and yet people seem to like it. There is the obvious bars and cafes and hotels and a jeweler who

Cars laden with people holding a football club flag driving down a main street
Football fans parade

had a private, armed security guard on the door. We walked this each day as it was about 3-4 miles long so was good exercise.

Whilst I was there a parade of cars and vans filled with football fans waving flags and banners and tooting their horns constantly drove up the main street. I think they were Juventus fans and everyone thought it was fun. Except me. Football hating grump that I am. The spectacle was fun though. There’s more photos of Jesolo here if you’d like to see them.

Taking time out

Some evenings I’m simply walking the streets with the dog, enjoying being in Italy, not even going into Venice sometimes. Other times I go into Venice and walk around aimlessly, it’s very nice there so easy to do. I’ve come out to Jesolo now though as there’s a place to park here that is a bit more deserted and quiet. I’ve got loads of work done, and have decided it’s time for a campsite.

Part of the reason is that I need my mail sending over with my new driving licence, ACSI camping card and a couple of other things. They’ve got full WiFi in with the price so I can save my bandwidth, and I could really use a proper hot shower too… So I emailed a few to get a feel for them and chose camping Rialto. It’s about €21 euros a night including some tourist tax whatever that is. But mains leccie saves me about £22 in petrol over 5 days, and I can get decent showers for a few days too. The bus stop is right outside and it’s still only €2.60 return ticket to Venice as it’s only about a mile or so from where I’ve been staying.

I reckon another 2 weeks here and I may be ready to move on lol

Avant kicks Opera’s butt

I’ve been using Opera browser now for about 20 years or so. I’ve never liked Internet Explorer, Netscape was awful, I can not get used to Firefox and it often has lots of bugs and problems, and Chrome is just plain nasty. So I was amazed last year when Opera said they had done a study and no users wished to have bookmarks! What!? Bollox! Everyone I know uses bookmarks, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t! Now one of the main things I like about Opera is their speed dial. It’s a page where you have small thumbnails of your most used websites. Click on one to open it, so it’s just like a quick and pictorial bookmarks of your favourite sites.

So I set off looking for a replacement and that had to have similar features. I found two possibles that I’m trying now. Midori and Avant, they’re both free. Midori 

A screenshot of Midori browser
Midori browser

as you can see in the screenshot here  has the speed dial page, although it is not customisable as Opera’s is. The resolution is not great so it looks blurred too, which kind of sums Midori up for me, it sort of feels ‘blurred’, or half done. As if they forgot to finish it off. Despite them saying on their website that it is blazing fast it’s not, in fact it’s very slow, so it’s second choice at the moment.

A screenshot of Avant browser
Avant browser

Avantbrowser is the other and instantly the speed dial, which holds 5 instead of three columns looks better. The whole browser feels better and it is quite fast. It’s brilliant for video playback and has a button to easily download any video you’re watching. It’s got ad blocker as Opera had and you can also quickly zoom the page in and out if you wish.  Like anything new I have to get used to it but I’m liking it already so I’m moving over to trying to use it all the time now.

It feels odd not using Opera after so many years, almost since I started using computers regularly but hey, it can’t be worse than divorce can it? haha

Lightning…it’s very, very frightening!

I went into Venice last night as the sun had come out nicely and it looked as though it was going to be a really nice evening and night. My plan was to go to the Fondamenta Salute which is as far as you can walk to the southern end of the Grande Canal and you’re looking directly across at San Marco square, and on the other side is San Giorgio Maggiore island with it’s lovely church and bell tower. I also wanted some nice general night shots of Venice as I don’t have any yet.

Photo of sunset in Venice
Sunset in Venice

However as I got to Fondamenta Zattere Al Ponte Lungo which is the path that is the southern most edge of Venice’s main island, I could see an amazing sunset behind me and a very dark sky developing in front of me.

This view shows it clearly, the sunset and the sky building up above the Giudecca and the famous Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel.

The boat at the right of the frame is a cruise ship, there’s a permanent terminal here and many of them are bigger than the tallest buildings in Venice.

Anyway, I continued toward Fondamenta Salute and as I approached there was some terrific lightning and after only 5 minutes I decided to concentrate on that instead. I swapped to the wide angle lens and set the tripod so I could quickly swing between San Giorgio Maggiore and La Giudecca as they both have interesting buildings which would make for a great scene if I caught the lightning.

I initially set the camera at ISO 100, f8 and the exposure times were between 5 and 15 seconds and I’m pleased I set up as the lightning was amazing!
I quickly changed the settings and used mostly ISO 200, f9 and 8 seconds. I was simply firing off shots one after the other, hoping that the lightning would strike whilst the shutter was open. I’ve never photographed lightning before so I was very pleased with the results…here are a few of them:

MK3_4128 MK3_4132 MK3_4173 MK3_4178Needless to say…I am over the moon! I could see the brief review of each image in the back of the camera for a split second til I pressed the shutter again and I knew I’d got at least 2 decent ones. Some didn’t come out at all and I think I had the settings too long so some brief flashes got burned out by the light that was still around in the sky.

I was constantly changing the settings to see quickly which might work and which wouldn’t but each time I did this there was a bolt and I was scared I was going to miss the best ones. I had no idea at the time, but this display went on for over 2 hours. There were still some bright flashes as I was getting the bus later on and even though I knew I had a few decent shots by then I felt like staying to get more.

At one point I changed my ISO to 12800. This is a ridiculously high ISO and results in tons of noise but I wanted to get a decent shot of a ship in front of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. The shutter speed was now 1/6th of a second and I had only taken 3 when on the fourth one…look what I got!  <<  Amazing, I could barely believe my luck so quickly changed the settings back again.

I think this may be my favourite though. This was one flash of lightning, a real cracker which lit the sky and everything around me. I could even hear squealing and wooping coming from people in San Marco square across the canal, about 400 yards away!

All in all a brilliant night and although I got nothing I’d intended to, I’m amazed and thrilled at what I did get. Go me! 🙂

Jack nails a hat trick!

You can’t make this stuff up!
There we were walking through the park, with Jack on the lead for you know what and what! But we got to the top end of the park by the new marina and I took him off so he could run around a little.

As he ran around stretching his legs I started day dreaming like an anxious parent, what if he fell in? how would I get him out? I was idly thinking there was a ladder about 100 feet away, so no worries if he fell in I’d go in for him.
Just then re came running past me and I’ve never ever known him be so distracted, but he turned to look at me…and fell over the harbour wall!!

I’ve seen Jack on the side of cliffs, hanging on by his claws and he’s never fallen, I was absolutely amazed! It sums up this weird time over here.

IMAG0401Anyway as I’d been daydreaming, I simply had him swim to the ladder, and went down it far enough to grab him and fish him out. He didn’t seem perturbed in the least and frankly, I laughed my head off, partly because it was exactly what I’d been daydreaming about!!

Here he is none the worse for wear, but soaked and smelly lol Oh and where is his flashing night light? Torn off when he barged under a fence last week chasing frogs!

 

Take a brake

You may recall that when I first came to Italy my brakes faded out, you may have read it here. I just checked a price back in the UK and for new brake discs, decent quality pads and new shoes, plus the whole system bleeding through with new fluid, they reckon 4 hours work and just under £300. As I don’t have any tools myself I’d say that’s not a great price, but it’s not a really bad one either.

Thing is I may have to have them done in order to get back in July. Wish me luck in trying Italian garages lol

Thanks DVLA

Just got round to contacting DVLA today about my lost driving licence. Someone told me you could contact the British Embassy and they’d sort you out but when I rang them they were about as helpful as a sack of garden waste. I tried to get a replacement online, but the DVLA’s system won’t recognise my address and when I rang this lovely patient girl said “It will work, log in and I will talk you through it.” 15 minutes later she agreed it would not work and she could only think that the Post Office had not updated them with post code details LOL

Never mind I paid £20 over the phone and will have a new driving licence in the post within 2 weeks. So in 2 weeks I’ll order my mail, then book onto a campsite and wait for it to come.

By the way I did pop back to Lidl’s and the camping shop and ask again if my wallet had been handed in but no luck 🙁

IMAG0378My thermometer said 36 degrees today. I doubt it was really, but it was very hot and Jack, freshly shampooed again last night and having enjoyed an early morning walk today, has a long relaxing sleep on the sofa. It’s a dog’s life eh?

Jack and bloody culverts!

Despite his fright in a drainage culvert yesterday, Jack decides to nip down another one and investigate. I hadn’t seen where he’d gone, he disappeared into a stand of trees and bushes so when I faintly heard his yelping I wondered what was wrong. On finding the culvert pipe my heart sank cos this is one of my worst fears…him getting stuck somewhere that I can’t rescue him from.

I called him over and over again and all I heard was tapping in the water as if he was walking but getting nowhere. The ground around the culvert was rank and filthy, and it was too dark to see more than a foot or two inside as the pipe was so small. After calling him and shouting and cajoling it was clear I was panicking him and in fact he was frightened now. So I spent a little while calming him as best I could until I could hear nothing at all from him.  I was really worried now and began to fear having to call some authorities out to help me, but I decided to head back to the van and get a torch and see if I could see him.
As I walked away I called again lightly saying “This way” which is what I say when I want him to follow me, especially if we’re changing direction. I heard him yelping again so I stopped and was sure it was coming closer. So I ran back to the pipe and to my utter relief his backside came into view, struggling furiously to reverse out of the pipe which was not as high as him.

I grabbed his tail and gave a tug and brought him sliding out of the pipe filthy and soaked and stinking but otherwise safe. RELIEF!

IMAG0376Here’s a photo, you can clearly see how small the pipe is compared to him. No wonder he was stuck! Jack is now banned from being off the lead in that section of the park where there are many culverts, mostly hidden by weeds and marsh growth.

 

Jack and the dark culvert

Parco San Giuliano is enormous and we still haven’t explored all of it yet, but we do a little more each time. Today we explored a slightly wild section that edges onto Venice lagoon. The entire park is littered with drainage culverts most of which are situated at the end of drainage channels and most of which are seriously overgrown with weeds and marshy type grasses. It must be a haven for wildlife, and so of course it’s exciting to the extreme for a little dog. I’ve been keeping him away form them a little as there are loads of birds in the reeds and he would have one killed before I even knew it was there if I let him have his way.

Anyway as I walked I noticed he was not keeping up so I backtracked and through the reeds saw a large half filled culvert and I just knew he was in there. I called him and could hear noises and then he stared barking so I knew he’d found something. Then the barks turned to yelps so I put my angry voice on and called him out. He came straight out, blood streaming down his chin! Grr!

I got him to a fountain and got him cleaned up and it was two nasty half inch cuts on this chin. They were very neat so I assume they were cuts, and assumed again they were off one of the large rats that live in some of the culverts.
Jack of course didn’t care one bit. He wanted to go back in! lol

Repairing the bumper

I’ve come out to a place called Jesolo that I found when I first came to Italy. It’s a large carpark which is almost derelict it’s so grown over. It’s almost hidden from the road too I only saw it as there were 3 vans in it when I drove past.
Therefore it’s perfect for repairing the bumper: you know, the one I damaged in Arne back in 2008  *blush*  To be fair it’s had many temporary repairs but it now needs fixing properly. It’s actually in 2 pieces and some of the retaining wood at the side skirts has torn off so I need to replace that too.

IMAG0358IMAG0359
These two photos show the bumper with large chunks out. It’s only fibreglass and easily damaged even if you reverse over shrubs and bushes. The red is the resin I use to repair it, and the two vertical lines show a large square section that was ripped out. On the rear I used almost an entire tin of resin and a large wad of matting to join cracks and splits. Underneath the number plate is a crack about 10 inches long that splits that section in two, and there are numerous cracks in the glaze and smaller tears. The main aim here is to get the bumper into one section and get it fitted properly to the van.

IMAG0360This is the rear of the side skirting. On the outside is a thin skin of aluminium, and on the inside a thin cover of plywood. What you can see in the centre of the ‘sandwich’ is in fact polystyrene! There’s a 1 inch square lath at top and bottom to keep the polystyrene in place, so I’m going to hopefully tap into that to attach the new piece of wood which has to go there. The wood is what the end of the bumper section screws into. The aluminium is starting to corrode too, I am seriously not looking forward to replacing that side skirt!

IMAG0367Where was Jack all this time? Well he’d gone and rolled in some unmentionable stuff which was so bad that for the first time in his life he needed a full and proper shampoo bath.

I attached him to a long tie out line afterwards and he went to sunbathe in the long grass and dry off. It was about 25 degrees today so here he is drying off and sleeping in the sunshine.
Just follow the red line, he’s in there somewhere haha

 

IMAG0371This is the most damaged side, it was all torn off one day when I got stuck down a narrow country lane in Dorset in 2008, and has been repaired and ripped off several times since then. The last time was at the Falkirk Wheel car park in Scotland. There were some small posts in the ground to mark the bays and I reversed too far and one of them went under the bumper. When I pulled away it dragged that whole half of the bumper off, tearing all of the electrics to the lights and tearing the aluminium and ripping the wood stay off.

That corner has taken a lot of work to get it fixed and although it looks ugly right now, that’s mostly resin and glue residue and dirt marks where it was held on by gaffer tape for some time! It will all be cleaned up eventually and I’m very pleased with the job done. 🙂

IMAG0368

IMAG0369And here it is in place. 2 days later after the major work is done and all the resin has dried off. It looks awful with the red and the darker grey scars are cracks that are surface cracks and I’ve not done them yet.

The main thing is that it’s all in one piece now and fitted to the van properly and securely.

The next thing is to use resin without matting on all the cracks, then sand it all down and get it smooth. Then I can use the white gelcoat to finish it off. It’s still quite a lot of work to do but they want £600 + VAT for a new bumper, and the cheapest quote I’ve had to repair it was £300, so I’ve saved myself a canny chunk of money there and also learned something: never mix more than 20 ml of resin and hardener at one time…it goes off before you can use it!

 

 

I think they came to rob me last night…

It was almost 2am CET, and I’d been working on some photos but had not long turned the computer off and was playing with the dog with his favourite toy when I noticed a flashing outside. It was almost like a police light. I leaned up to see through the windscreen as the curtain that separates the cab area was open and I realised quickly it was a torch. I laid still on the sofa watching as it came closer and shone right through the windscreen, shining on the dashboard, then the floor between the seats. It moved away then came back again this time shining through the passenger door window across the dashboard again, then moved round to the front again and shone up into the rear living area where I was. I still hadn’t moved and was watching and there were clearly 2 people out there and the one with the light had moved away for a second but was back again and this time the light held steady shining right into the van.
I’ve got a very powerful Lenser torch so I got it from the wall hook, switched it on and standing between the two front seats shone it directly into the face of the man with the torch. He immediately waved to me with one hand and started shining his torch around in circles on the floor at his feet, as if looking for something.
There were four of them: 1 other beside the man with the torch, one leaning on a tree a few feet away and another standing about 15 feet away, who walked quickly out of sight when I put the torch on.

I stood there watching them as they slowly moved away from my van still pretending they were looking on the floor for something, then the second man turned to me and waved as if to say ‘it’s okay’. I stayed where I was and the 3 that were left all turned and faced my van squarely. One of them gesticulated and it was obvious they wanted me to turn the torch off so I widened the beam to shine on all 3 of them and stayed there unmoving. I was starting to get a little nervous at that point however after we stood and looked at each other for about 20 seconds -which felt like sooooo much longer- the man with the torch began to move away between the trees followed by the others, turning his torch off as they went.

That was it. No more than 3 minutes in total, but I am sure of what I saw and I think had I been out somewhere, as the open curtains suggested to them I was, I’d have come back to an empty van.

What can you do to protect yourself against this? Not much I reckon. You can have all the locks in the world and I know one camper who uses a tie-down strap to tie his two front doors together when he leaves, going out the side door and locking the security bolt he has on that. However those tie down straps can be cut in seconds once the window’s broken so they’re useless. All the security bolts in the world on the camper door do nothing as it’s so easy to gain entry through the front van doors. An enthusiastic amateur thief could break into 99% of campers in about 30 seconds.
I suppose if I’d closed the curtains and left a light on they may have thought someone was in. But then would they simply knock to find out, with some already prepared story as to why they were knocking? You could fit a good alarm, but unless there are people nearby who hear it and are prepared to investigate there is little the alarm will do. I’m sure a competent thief can manage to get some of your stuff in the 15 minutes it may take police to arrive if someone called them.

I know the van is unlikely to get stolen as it’s got a key operated immobiliser and a tracker fitted so I think as campers if we’ve taken precautions then we need to maybe accept that at some point it is possible that we may be burgled and mitigate that event, possibly with a burn proof safe bolted to the chassis to hold money, documents, spare debit card and spare phone? However once we’ve done that I think the best thing is get into a mindset where we accept the possibility and therefore aren’t devastated if the worst should ever occur, and have planned at least to have something left from it to help ourselves recover. I wonder what others think?

Venice…again?

Oh yes. I was awake very early this morning so took Jack out for an hour and watched the sun come up which was beautiful. Then I got my gear and went across the road to see if the local boat was running to Venice. Not only was it open, but it was there at the jetty waiting to go! It’s gone up in price, it’s €10 to get to Venice but what the heck, given the state of my feet I’ll try and save them a little.
The trip across was about 10 minutes and where they stopped meant I got to see a new part of Venice.

I spent from about 8:30am until 4pm on the island and took tons of photos as you’d expect. Once I’ve got them off the camera and processed them I’ll post one or two.

As I was walking around it was blazing sunshine and I was just thinking that my feet were getting hot and wondering what they were like when I felt on of the blisters pop. The downside to that is often that it becomes even more painful and you can’t walk on it at all, and it can take a week to heal properly. I’d put thick socks on to cushion my feet so I carried on and actually it was only slightly sore, not the pain I’d expected.

I think tomorrow I’ll spend the morning in the park with Jack and go into Venice later in the afternoon, staying until evening time. I’ll get to see what it’s like at night then, should be fun 🙂