Thursday, 31 December 2015

My New Year Adventure

Last year my personal New Year's Day Adventure was to see the sun rise at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, more than a hundred miles away to the west. I was up super-early and drove through half the night to be there.

This year I am looking to do the same, but in the opposite direction. I want to see the sun rise at North Foreland on Thanet, the easternmost tip of Kent. It's not the most easterly point in England - Lowestoft in East Anglia is that - but it will do; and, like Stonehenge, it will take me about three hours to reach. At the moment, the weather forecast indicates a cold and cloudy Kent dawn at 7.59am, but sunny within the hour, and if I'm lucky I will actually get a shot of the red sun as it comes up out of the sea.

I'll say, 'Hello, 2016!' and (if not already said) 'White rabbits!' for luck.

Then I shall look for a decent hotel for breakfast, explore Thanet, maybe take a butchers at Sandwich and Deal, but in any event gradually make my way to Canterbury for lunch, the shops, and the Cathedral. After that, a slow drive home. On last year's experience, I will feel dog-tired by the late afternoon, and I'll time my homeward departure accordingly.

I'm really looking forward to this. I haven't had such a long day out since the autumn, and although by no means stir-crazy, I do feel a great need to get off somewhere on my own.

The drive will do Fiona good too. She still hasn't done as much as a thousand miles with her new auto gearbox, and it remains a trifle stiff in comparison with the rest of her mechanical bits, which by now (at 85,000 miles) are nicely loose and floppy. By 'stiff' I specifically mean that although her gear changes are smooth, at town speeds the gearbox seems a thought sluggish at changing down to a lower gear - auto gearboxes like to change up, and then stay there for as long as they can. Flexibility is gradually coming, but it'll need a series of good runs over varied territory to get that box to the same pitch as the old one. A drive through half the night to North Foreland will definitely be a treat for her. Another lesser matter is the state of her battery. It's nearly six years old, and although I haven't yet experienced any problems with starting, it must be feeling its age. A long drive will keep it nicely charged up.

You might think that a trip like this requires no planning at all, apart from having fuel in the tank, going easy on (or even avoiding) any New Year's Eve celebrations, and setting the alarm for 3.00am. But there is a little more to it. Where can I go to the loo on the way, or once there? What about breakfast - will anything really be open for travellers before 9.00am? I can (and will) make myself some sandwiches to bring along, but something hot is another thing altogether. Tea, coffee and soup all present handling problems inside a car that has no flat surfaces to speak of; and I don't fancy pouring fluids out while standing in the dark by an open rear hatch - that would make me a target for any prowling weirdo or mad axeman. What? You can imagine the headlines:

Sussex Woman Hacked To Death at North Foreland. 
Blood-spattered Volvo. 
Empty Thermos Flask.
Sandwiches Missing.
Dismembered Body Found At Foot Of Cliff. 
Police Question All Thanet Axemen. 

No, thank you - not the way I want to spend New Year's Day, as a lurid news item.

All such problems would of course be solved by taking the caravan to some site in East Kent, and using it as my warm and comfortable base. But of course you can't do that without prior booking, such is the winter demand at the few sites available.

All this said, I'm sure good fortune and serendipity will be my friends. I didn't suffer any discomforts last year, and don't anticipate suffering tomorrow morning. The whole point is to make it seem like a mad adventure with a definite goal, and that means you need to wing it. Let the gods, or good luck, provide.

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