Creaky appears to be on an even keel for the time being, and herself has 4 days leave left to be used by the end of next month, so we decide to risk a few days away.
The van is given a good old deep clean, and no longer smells of dog, and Vera is treated to a service by PC in readiness for our planned jaunt to the land of carpets.
Thursday 28 June
Only our third trip out this year, and it's showing in Herself's and my general attitude and touchiness, so it was with more than a little excitement the the van is inched out of its cwtch as soon as rush hour has finished, and she's hitched up to Vera and ready to roll.
We're climbing the gradient onto J48 at just after 10am and settling down for the tow with the usb feeding tunes into Vera's speakers. Traffic is quite heavy, but at least it's moving at a reasonable speed, and we're waving to the Wicker Man just outside Bridgewater the other side on noon.
We fancied a pitch tucked away in the corner, but the git occupying the adjacent pitch is doing some serious space grabbing the way he's parked his car. I'm all for a confrontation, but Herself is having none of it. We settle on a pitch that should afford some evening shade and go about setting up, and must have been putting on a good show as the geriatrics over the way turned their chairs to face us in order to keep a close watch on proceedings.
It was hot, it was damn hot, and despite a waterfall that would give Sgwd Eira a good run cascading off my follically challenged bonse, in little or no time we are able to announce to Facebookville that" WE is ARRIVED!"
Setting up wasn't incident free though, it never is, but no, I didn't maime Herself with flying pegs or crush my fingers, or anything like that.
You see, we had a key related incident, well two full sets of keys actually. On arrival we had the 2 sets, but in the set up process
On her way back she spotted one set on Vera's roof (where she had put them), but still no sign of the second set. Vera was moved incase they were under her, I crawled under the van just in case, but still a blank. It was when we were clearing the canopy to lift the ground sheet that Herself started to give me "The Look".
Some joker had only left them in the door lock of the caravan hadn't they!!! There followed a period where I took myself off to have a quiet word with myself, as these senior moments are coming round far too frequently for my liking these days.
A cold lunch was washed down with a beer before Herself embarked on some personal contemplation time while I got very frustrated as I tried to set up my IT in the van. Soon enough thoughts turn to filling our faces, we'd clocked a decent looking beer garden on the way here, not three gear changes back along the A road.
Vera is abandoned in the car par of The Eagle Tavern and dogs clipped on leads as we head straight for the beer garden. Choosing a table is difficult. We want one in the sun and beyond screeching distance of the play area.
On checking in, Heir in Charge had handed us a leaflet. I usually bin them but Herself had given the text a cursory glance. The leaflet gave directions to two dog walking areas, as the site only has a fenced in area for toileting the hounds. We chose the top one for no other reason than it was the top one.
We park up at Snowden Park and it's doggy central. We find a quiet path initially before heading onto the field where the dogs can sniff other dogs' arses inbetween chasing a ball. We even met the site wardens half way round, and other dog walkers were keen to pass tips on for doggy swimming locations in the area.
Back on site we sit out in the comparatively cooler evening air, blowing the froth off some cheap Lidl lager until it's time to hit the hay.
I've not been following the World Cup as I have a loathing for Wendyball, but my guess (going on the number of England flags flying) is that England have a game this evening.
It is also my guess that they lost (going on the number of flags that were lowered before dusk!)
Friday 29 June
Our pitching up with a tree line to our west paid dividends last night. The van was shaded throughout the evening, and by bed time was reasonably cool. We left the fan running and by 4am I even had to pull the quilt over me. A great night's kip was had and I'm back up at 6am sitting at the laptop catching up on some work while Herself catches up on some missed ZZzzzzzs.
I'd invested in an Echo Spot just before coming away, it doubles as a clock / alarm clock, and to tell the truth I've not really got the hang of it yet.
I'd set up a daily weekday alarm for 7am, and forgotten to disable it. Come 7am and Herself is still in a deep sleep. I'd not bothered with my hearing aid so did not hear it going off. Herself did and sat up in bed politely asking Alexa to turn off the alarm. This then progressed to firmly asking Alexa to stop before shouting at me to turn that effing thing off!!
The pressure was on and I spoke to Alexa, to no avail. All the while Herself getting more agitated. Finger swiping over the screen was also ineffective and Herself's tirade of abuse towards me is getting more and more pointed. I'm quietly impressed by the range of her colourful vocabulary.
I resort to pulling the plug on Alexa, and watch her screen shut down. The alarm is still sounding though, and out of the corner of my eye I catch Herself's phone, shrieking, flashing and vibrating away. Picking it up and hurling it towards Herself in one seamless movement I say "Here, turn your own bloody alarm off!" Before taking the moral high ground once more.
It's a beautiful sunny morning, and by the time I've taken the dogs up to the scamper to sort themselves out Herself has got the recliners out and a mug of tea is waiting.
No bacon butties though, but a quiet word soon sorted that predicament.
We sit facing the sun for quite some time, catching up on magazine back issues and watching a bloke with the worst case of OCD pack up and leave site. They'd only been here overnight so didn't have much out, but by the time he'd unlocked and locked lockers 6 or 7 times, checked the windows were shut 8 or 9 times and reorganized his boot tidy 5 or 6 times, it took him 2 1/2 hours to hitch up.
As the sun gets higher it's getting hotter, and the dogs are feeling it. I set up their paddling pool for them, and three Aquarolls later there's enough water in it for them to have a splash about. The cool water was too tempting though and my chair is moved so I can cool my feet down.
We could have stayed put all day, but Gwawr was starting to protest. She knows caravan time means going out time, and if we don't she gets a right old mood on her.
We decide to head up to the north coast. Once all in Vera Herself says she want to walk the dogs in Chard first. I point out that this involves an 8 mile detour, but Herself is insistent.
With that out of the way we drive through Taunton and over The Quantocks. As we approach Watchet Herself remarks that she didn't realise that Minehead was so far away. It was lost on her that she'd added 8 miles at the start of the journey!
We pull into Dunster beach and I secretly regret not checking the tide tables before we left. The tide is that far out we could have walked to Barry Island on the other side!
The sun is baking hot, but luckily there's a warm breeze to raise the comfort levels as the dogs have a good run on the sands and through the rock pools.
With their legs run off, we make tracks into Minehead. The check in area of Butlins looks busy, but the town itself is rather quiet, and I'm taken back at how many of the arcades are not open yet. Finding a parking spot was easy, although I had to walk half way back to Dunster to find a working parking meter!
We walk up the main drag as far as The Hairy Dog where the effort becomes all too much and we grab an outside table under the shade for a few pints and a meal. If we both didn't have tattoos we would have felt a bit out of place here.
Heading back down to the sea front, passing the vape shops and walk in tattoo joints it really strikes us how quiet it is. Maybe it'll liven up in a few hours once all the stag and hen doos have dumped their suitcases.
We take a bench looking over towards the harbour to enjoy our deserts. Double Rum n Raisin cone for me, a tub of Vanilla for the dogs and bar of Nougat for Herself.
The journey back to site is broken at Mothercare in Taunton, where Herself makes full use of their sale buying some outfits for Beastie.
A well oiled machine gets to work back at the van, we know what needs doing, and it needs doing quickly. Herself sets up the chairs and table out front, while I get the drinks together. Herself is on the Lady Poison while I throw together a jug of rather potent Turbo Pimms for myself.
We have a lovely evening sat out away from my laptop and Herself's TV. The conversation flowed (which is quite remarkable) as we laughed, joked and criticised other caravanners on site! It's been hot today and as the sun goes down Herself starts to complain she's cold. It's still 23 degrees mind, but she's insistent that she needs her blanky.
As it goes dark, and I finish my jug, I've got a bit of a buzz on. Herself goes into the van for her phone and clocks just how much Gin and Pimms I'd poured into the jug a few hours earlier, and I get "The Look"
I've got the munchies now though, and I'm hardly capable of getting into the van, let alone drive into Chard for a takeaway. Just Eat is of no help either - not one bloody Kebab shop that will deliver. So as I'm gulping the last of my concoction it dawns on me that I'm looking at my supper ....... strawberries, oranges, cucumber and a few mint leaves!!!
Herself went to bed and left me sitting in a chair while the world around me spun.
Saturday 30 June
We need some provisions, but with it being too hot to leave the dogs in the car, I head off into town early doors while Herself stops at the van with the dogs. Tesco is rammed, and judging by the fights at the meat counter, a BBQ and get pissed on cheap lager Saturday is planned.
By the time I get back to site Herself has the bacon and sausage baps ready, which are washed down with a pint of iced OJ sat out in the sun, before we embark on another morning of doing nothing at all. The sun is a bit strong though, and as I've a bit of work to catch up on, I set up office under the canopy.
It is 2pm by the time we get motivated to go out. A few nights back while we were at Snowden Park Herself got chatting to a local who had waxed lyrical about the local reservoir, a small part of which is a dog free nature reserve, the rest is open for dogs and they can swim to their hearts content.
Ideal, we thought, especially with the mercury tipping the 30 degree barrier this afternoon, so off we went, find the car park, clip the dogs and set off.
We find a map and study is closely, taking care to avoid the nature reserve. We needn't have bothered as most of the bloody place was a nature reserve, and the map showed in big red symbols, no dogs here, no dogs there. I think Mrs Worzel was having a laugh at Herself's expense the other night.
We head to the dog area and glimpse the enticing water through the trees. Tali can smell it and is getting excited for a swim.
Only as we approach and come up against another "No Dogs Beyond This Point" sign it would appear that the only area that dogs are allowed is fenced off from the water. We stop for 3 seconds to enjoy the view before turning around, with Herself vowing to punch Mrs Worzel straight in the throat should we bump into her again.
We did find a dried up stream though where other disappointed dog owners had made a dam to get enough water for the hounds to splash about in, and we take a bench while Tali and Gwawr churn up the bottom.
We now want to make tracks back up country. We love our van and the layout, the only fault being that the day beds up front could be a little longer. It'll do us another few years, but as a 2010 model we know we will have to change it in a year or two, so we're scouting around now for this year's new models that will be available second hand (Did you see that? Second hand, none of your pretentious "New to me" or "Preloved" rubbish here - just simply second hand) when we come to change.
We pull into Highbridge and park up leaving the dogs in Vera's open boot with a bowl of water, and set off in the searing heat in search of that perfect model.
We didn't find it, and to be honest after about 5 vans we lost interest. They'd not bothered to open any up to air them, so each van was like an oven.
Giving up on that idea we head towards the Sea Front at Burnham. It's chav central. Herself decides we are not stopping, making up the excuse of the footpaths would be too hot for the dogs. To be fair it has reached 31 degrees by now.
We make tracks back towards site, on the lookout for a pub to stop for tea. We didn't find any. They were either shut or had smoking workmen stood outside the entrance. On we continued until we were just 1 mile from site and stop off once more at The Eagle Tavern. I went for the healthy veggie option.
The site has filled up a bit today, and we set up our recliners to people watch while blowing the froth off a few cold ones.
These late arrivals rocked up and proceeded to have a full blown argument in the middle of the site at full volume. Apparently they disagreed on choice of pitch. Herself would never do it, but if she'd spoken to me like that in public I'd be in the car, do a circuit of the site straight out the exit, and leave her standing there.
Things then quietened down after he gave in, and I settle down to my own little snore fest, until it's time to go in and go to bed.
Sunday 1 July
We wake this morning and it's decidedly cooler outside with some cloud cover overhead, by the time I've taken the dogs for their early walk it's spitting.
Breakfast is bacon, cockles and lavabread, and is eaten inside the van this morning as we have our first drop of rain for weeks.
@DerekTheWeather is promising heavy showers all over the west today, so there's little point in sitting it out. We leave site and head west, only we've not gone far and you could see what we were driving into. It came down that heavy there were inches of water on the road with nowhere to go.
It then dawned on me why the sudden change. Not only is it hammering down, but the temperature has also dropped to what feels like a chilly 15 degrees. You see, the boys from @legsdown start their summer holidays today, and they always get rain!
As we float into Sidmouth the rain is easing, but many drowned rats are scurrying from cafe to cafe. herself has already decided that we are not stopping and she is not getting out of Vera. Something to do with recently washed hair. I don't see the issue as I also washed my stubble this morning. Am I bovvered?
While turning round I clock a shed, high up above us, clinging to the cliff top. There are signs warning of dangers from cables and such like. How about a sign warning that a shed may fall on your bonse?
The sun is actually coming out as we leave and I just follow the lanes. Herself asks where we are going and my reply was probable a little curt and uncalled for.
"I don't know. Does it matter? You won't get out anyway!"
We bounce over the potholes in silence until we happen across a place called Budleigh Salterton. Rolling into the car park I check the signs to ensure dogs are allowed, before parking up Vera and heading to the pay machine.
A sign tells me it's out of order. Bonus I think, but the message goes onto to say use the other machine on the other side of the car park by the play area.
I know my lamps are getting worse, but I could hardly see the other side of the car park let alone walk to it. We drove to pay, I'm ashamed to say!
We climb over the shingle bank from where the dogs make a bee line for the sea while Herself and I struggle as we sink ankle deep into the soft stuff with each step.
The weather has improved now and we can feel the heat of the sun once more as Tali continues with his habit of curling a bag full down for Herself to pick up as soon as he can smell salt water!
Back in the car we take a spin through the town. The dogs are too wet to even contemplate taking them into crowded places, so we don't stop. We'd never heard of this place, let alone visited it, but like the look of it, so will be back on one of our regular jaunts to Worzel land.
Not wanting to travel any further away from site we make our way back east, with no particular destination in mind. Vera needs a drink and I see a sign for a cycle fest in Seaton as I fill up in a Texaco, promising stalls, rides and fun for all the family.
Abandoning Vera we head for the fun. A few Gazebos are dotted around outside the Tramway station selling over priced Hippy tat, and a bloke is chancing his arm with a Prosecco bike, with flutes at just £4 a piece. He was quiet!
Lycra clad nutters zoom around the deserted streets and we wander in search of a pub to get over all the fun we're having.
I go into The Malt House to get some beers and accidentally order a burger and chips at the same time. The burger was lovely, as was Herself's ham and cheese sandwich, but strangely enough we've drunk our drinks, eaten our food and are getting up to leave as the waitress comes over with our onion rings!
It's Sunday, and it's past 4pm, and Herself has no Prosecco in the fridge - even though she's been complaining of heartburn all day she still needs a few bottles to keep her company tonight. Chard was useless so a spin to Ilminster is necessary. No Co-op there but a Spar attached to a petrol station comes to the rescue, even if it was £9 a bottle!! Me thinks the Prosecco Bike bloke has been giving them tips!
We're sat outside having a drink, and Herself turns to me and asks why I keep going on about carpets. I say that they make them round here. She then rolls her eyes before blurting out "That's Axminster you tube, not Ilminster."
I take it on the chin as I know she has me, and any excuse I try to make up will only make me look even more foolish.
Monday 2 July
It got very hot in the van last night, so at about 2.30am all the windows were thrown open and the fan turned on full. Herself said it went quite cold by 4.30am. I wouldn't have known this because at some point I grabbed her fleecy blanket off her and was wrapped up in it - unmovable.
Anyway, we wake at 9am and it's back to normal weatherwise - bright blue skies. We catch some rays before Herself throws some breakfast together.
What is it with old people? And on this site there are lots. On Saturday we thought we were sitting in God's waiting room. The toilet cleaning times are well advertised here, they tell you on arrival and there's a sign on the door, so there is no excuse. But every day since we've been here, as soon as the warden's trolley rattles over the decking and a chain put over the door the Saga lot are bothering them.
Anyway, once scrubbed up we pile into Vera and set off out for the day. Firstly to Snowden Park to run the legs off the dogs and then back up country where we are meeting Beastie (she is also dragging along her parents and Roids). We got stuck in M5 traffic so they got there before us.
Modern technology never ceases me amaze my technophobe brain. So that we can find where they've parked Ronnie sends us his live location on Facebook, Herself taps on it and it opens up Google Maps and guides us in! I'm speechless.
There is a reason for us being here today though, you see, 3 years ago tomorrow Herself's sister passed away and there is a memorial plaque on the pier. We make tracks for the pier and the old lady manning the till seems somewhat surprised that having coughed £15 for us to walk the boards I was unwilling to pay another £1.50 in the name of Gift Aid.
The plaque is about 3/4 the way down, and once located we pause to reflect and Herself washes off some of the salt with some wipes.
Once Herself is content to move on we make our way back to dry land and take a table in the shade at The Moon and Sixpence overlooking the pier. We enjoy a long lunch together, chatting and reminiscing.
There was a wind related incident. Regular readers may recall my finger pulling incident in Cornwall last summer, but I'm protesting my innocence on this one. Beastie is having a cwtch with Dats when the waitress comes out with our food, as she leans over me to put my plate on the table Beastie let go with one of the loudest, rasping farts I have ever heard - it vibrated through my thigh!
The waitress looks at me in disgust, I give her my best innocent face as I blurt out "That wasn't me!" She wasn't buying it at all and to add insult to injury Beastie lets go with another, but this one was even more powerful and may have even registered on the Richter scale - Cardiff Bay is expecting a Tsunami any time soon.
"That wasn't me either!"
The look of disdain told me that my protestations of innocence were in vein as she gave me a look and hurried off to tell her colleagues.
All too soon it's time to say goodbye as we head south west and they head back to The Promised Land. We visit Snowden park one last time enroute to give the dogs a good run before returning to site.
We're going home tomorrow, and I'd like to get an early start, so our canopy is dropped bone dry and packed away before the recliners are set up and we set about emptying our fridge of lager. No point in towing all that weight back home, is there?
It's been a bitter sweet day. Nos da.
Tuesday 3 July
I'd wanted to be up and away early today, but over enthusiastic emptying of the fridge kicked that idea into touch. We're still packed and hitched up by 9.15am and ready to roll.
I give Coupons a ring and ask her to offer my apologies once we are cruising on the motorway and settle back in Vera's comfort for the 2 1/2 hr tow home.
Vera is doing well on the fuel front this trip, considering she's dragging around 1 1/2 ton behind her.
It's been a cracking few days away. We stopped on a new site, and whist we are quite familiar with the area we visited some new places as well as some old haunts. Weatherwise it's been hot, too hot at times and we've spent a fair bit of time in Vera - with her tinted windows and air con, it's where the dogs were most comfortable.
I got my Solwise kit to work for the first time since I bought it a year ago, and while the reliable internet connection helps, I'm still convinced there's an issue with the router that requires a manual reset after every failed connection.
Until next time ...........