Latest Blog

Nobody Expects The Chinese Inquisition!

Recently we met a descendant of the last Chinese emperor. He was camping. How strange it was to meet this ridiculously high born man in such a lowly place. It was an exceptional encounter which we thought would bear retelling, in view of this weeks announcement by the British Government to remove all Huawie products and services from all telecom businesses operating in the UK.

Our new best friend.

We were visiting Morocco, motorcycle touring with no plan, and had come to the lagoon town of Moulay Bousselham. On our first afternoon in the stunning campsite a fellow English man turned up in a tatty pickup truck, and we fell into comfortable conversation. In no time at all we had agreed to share an evening meal and the three of us took a sunset stroll to the little market to see what we could find to eat.

Moulay Bousselham market

Well provisioned, we headed back to the campsite to prepare a feast. Now this guy had it all, a tent on top of his pickup truck, and in the bed of the pickup, under the base of the tent, was stored all his ‘essentials’, accessed by dropping the tailgate. Where we had a simple trangia to cook on, a plate and a fork each and a couple of penknives for food prep, he had the works. Out came a home made, three part bar-b-q, plates and cutlery galore and cooking pans of all descriptions. What his vehicle lacked in style, it more than made up for in substance.

Three part, homemade BBQ

The three of us chatted as we ate a delicious and very simple meal. We agreed that what had caught our eye here on site, was another pick-up truck; pristine, bright, cherry red, with a tent on top, and sporting a blemish free, bright daffodil yellow, sea kayak. This was pure bling. It had Chinese number plates and everything looked brand new. Who on earth owned something like this? What were they doing here?

Camping in Moulay Bousselham, Morocco.

We went to bed that night full to bursting. The next morning our new friend was gone; we had said our goodbyes the night before, as he had planned a dawn getaway. The super-duper pick-up truck was still on site. We admired it before heading out to explore the lagoon. When we wandered back, there was the cherry red pickup truck, parked outside the campsite cafe. We decided it was time to have a drink and strike up yet another conversation. We stepped out of the sunshine and into the cool, dull gloom of the cafe.

This way to the interrogation centre

Sitting at a table, facing the door, was a robust Chinese man. As we entered, I said, in my very best, ‘help the foreigner understand’ simple English, “Hello. You have kayak?” Point at the boat on the pickup truck. “We have kayak. We kayak sea,” Point at myself then, wavy hand gesture. “You kayak sea?” We waited, as, saying nothing, he fixed us with a condescending stare. Then on I blundered, “Where you from? We from England.” He pointedly looked us up and down. I began to feel a bit of a Wally as I stood at his table with his contempt washing over me .

He drew a languorous breath, swished a regal hand and asked, “Would you care to join me? You’d be most welcome. Please, sit down.”

His English was flawless, well pronounced and more complex than my first few sentences to him. And so began a long conversation, or interrogation, lasting several hours.

We had stumbled into a trap which has left us pondering the Chinese State ever since. He told us his name; we forgot it, he said that he is a non teaching professor who is married to a professor, who teaches in a German university; we cannot remember which university and finally, he is a direct descendent of the last Chinese emperor; that much we remember about him. He was a drifter, who could come and go from China as he wished, sponsored by the Chinese government. It soon became clear that, what at first seemed to be a flattering degree of interest in us and our lives, was really a quest to garner the zeitgeist of us and the non-Chinese peoples and how we perceived China, it’s people and it’s politics.

It was interesting to hear how the Chinese people had to be governed by a totalitarian state, as they were happy with this and would find it impossible to cope with a full range of choices, should they ever be afforded the chance. The State oversaw all businesses, so no business was fully private. As all business exists for the good of the nation, it is only to be expected that the nation is involved in all businesses. He had difficulty understanding why we found that preposterous. He felt all peoples would be happier if controlled by a paternalistic state. Of course he was looking for a visceral, honest response, rather than a polite, British understatement. The conversation was wide ranging and frank. He was phenomenally well read and intelligent, able to call up any and all facts, figures, international historical details and dates as well as financial and political information, as needed to illustrate his arguments. Academically, he left us standing, and we have our foot on at least one rung of the clever ladder.

The Emperor’s descendant’s rig.

So we now knew who owned the red pickup truck and what he was doing here. The emperor’s descendent was wandering the world to find out how the people of other nations, any other nations, would respond to being ruled by a Chinese Government. How hard might it be to subjugate an entire nation? Would it be worth the trouble? Would we, the non Chinese, submit to totalitarianism and, if not, would we at least be happy to keep buying their goods?

We enjoyed the conversation that evening. It is not that often that we have to work hard to answer deep and searching questions whilst parrying with our inquisitor. He was leaving early the next day and he asked that we meet him before he left as he wanted to exchange details. He hoped that we might get together again in the future. He offered to drive with us across Europe and into China. Sadly, by the time we crawled out of our tent, he was gone.

We were relieved. I think we got off lightly.

Weird as it may seem, this is a true tale. If you’ve an unusual encounters tale to tell, please share it with us; we love hearing from you. Simply use any of the options below. The Wallys xx

Extreme Egesta?

Imagine, twice in the same place, a rural Spanish lane, a year apart, seeing this.

It was 2020 and this dog’s owner was so proud they left this stool for all passers-by to admire. I must say it is pretty awesome.
The year before, 1919, and a pet pooch proudly posited a poo pile for lucky walkers to stumble across. A nearby sign was begging to be utilised; who could resist?

And both times the sight of them made me chuckle. Childish I know to have to admit that creative caca cones can crack me up.

L’Ampolla, Sun, Sea, & Sand Cycling

  • Who would not want to spend time in a shimmering seascape?
  • Who would not want to spend time with Flamingos?
  • And who would not want to try cycling on sand?

It was a yes to all three questions, which is how we came to be in this wondrous bay for a few nights.

Nestling between Barcelona and Valencia is L’Ampolla

It is the place for a quiet winter stop over. A water-world that draws you in. The sheer beauty of the bay with it’s pretty and fairly sophisticated little town, long sandy beach and, just inland, lagoons is breath taking. The more we looked, the more we saw and the more we saw, the more we liked.

A beautiful sandy beach next to a shallow sea with it’s Flamingos. L’Ampolla shimmers in the distance.

Sadly as we arrived the Covid19 lockdown was about to be confirmed by the president. We had one day on site, at the most; possibly, if we were lucky, two nights. As things turned out, we made the most of our one whole day by exploring the area on our mountain bikes, only to get back to the campsite to be told that we would have to leave by midday the following day.

We will definitely return to this magical bay.

A Sand-Cycle tour of L’Ampolla’s Nature Reserve.

Please click below to like, follow and comment. We love to hear from you. All the best, the Wandering Wallys. xx

Catching the Wave

This person’s ready for the second wave.

The reason Spain has managed the Covid19 situation so much better than the UK may, in part, be due to their stringent rules. Until recently people could only leave home if they were alone, carried ID and had a permitted reason to travel. If a member of the public was in violation of the current edict, the police, who were out in force checking paperwork, were empowered to fine and send them home.

These restrictions were eased within very strict margines and are now lifted. We in the UK still have a long way to go.

Slow Building

So we invented this idea of ‘slow build’, I say invented, we don’t hold a patent or anything like that, but we claim the concept. It began as an excuse to parry our friend’s enquires, “Have you finished your house yet?” our reply, “It’s a slow build, a bit like slow food”. Okay maybe twenty years is stretching the concept a bit, but it has its practical benefits. We were still able to go out and play, during the build process and we still enjoyed the odd holiday. It turned out that there was another upside too. Living in an unfinished building project allowed for the endless gestation of ideas; ideas that have consolidated into what has turned out to be a cosy, practical and efficient home. It’s still not quite finished. It’s a slow, some would say, glacially slow build.

Mini Digger

Let’s start at the beginning “a very good place to start “ as Julie Andrews said. We bought the house, at the second attempt, twentyish years ago. It was in a poor state and after practically throwing the previous owner out, we took possession. An old single story, stone farm building had been turned into a dwelling, by the addition of two floors of bonded brick, perched atop the existing two feet thick, Cotswold stone walls. The authorities call this a ‘non standard construction’, by way of a barely disguised insult. Non standard construction appears, periodically, in the progress of our work. We wear it as a badge of honour.

The art of destruction.

As self taught, amateur builders we learned our trade by trial and error. One early incident involved Jen heading for the attic bedroom wielding, amongst other tools, a sledgehammer. From this I discerned there was remodelling afoot. I tried hard to ignore the sounds of destruction filtering down to the ground floor, until there was silence followed by an expletive. I meandered to the top of the house and, amongst the hanging dust clouds, could make out a masked figure inspecting a stout timber. The attic room had previously been divided into two by a partition wall. We had decided to ‘open up’ the room to reunite the two halves. In this process Jen had discovered a vertical timber that was supporting the roof, it was resting on a massive steel joist hidden below the floor. Fortunately, due to her light build, she had been unable to dislodge the timber and, as a result, the roof remained intact. Over the following years much of the house has been remodelled in this way. Partition walls moved, staircases repositioned, kitchen demolished and rebuilt. For a small building a fair amount of abuse has been exacted in the name of ‘improvement’.

Ready for external insulation.

When we took on this project we were young, energetic and full of ideas, now we are older, knackered and still full of ideas. We’ve learnt much, overcome problems, occasionally argued, but stayed true to our ‘slow build’ ideology. Our home is a brilliant manifestation of us, “we done it” without compromising in the face of bullying ‘we know best’ experts. It works, at least to our satisfaction, and that’s all that counts.

Pre coronavirus PPE!

Interested in what we are doing and how we get our ideas? Please contact us and let us know what you think. To see some more of our efforts visit our build blog here.