Monday, 28 May 2018

Last Gasp Digital Detox at Phillistone

This week we were supposed to be heading to the west midlands, but as usual with us things changed pretty rapidly in the days leading up to our planned departure.

You see, since November Creaky has been exceptionally creaky and had had more rides in an ambulance with flashing lights than I've had in a taxi in the last 2 years!  Sunday morning brought a phone call that saw her being rushed to Glangwilli (via Prince Phillip - but that's another story) and 36 hrs in an intensive care bed.  The booking for our site was immediately cancelled and a stern telling off from the Caravan Club was received for breaking their 72 hour cancellation policy.

We both still have leave booked but are resigned to spending it pottering about the house in between hospital visiting.

Wednesday 23 May

We wake (at home) and the sun is high in the sky when we are having our first cuppa of the day.  The phone rings, and it’s good news, they’ve got Creakey’s latest episode under control and she’s being kicked out to go home.

Herself immediately asks where we are going and some frantic finger swiping reveals that Caravan Club sites in Wales are fully booked over the BH weekend as are a few CLs that are on our “must visit” list.  However success comes in the form of an old favourite and we set about the task of getting the van ready for the off.

Vera needs fuel, so I nip the Dafen to fill up and pay the illegals a fiver to throw a bucket of water over her.  Herself has loaded up what we need by the time I get back and at midday we are heading over the Loughor Bridge towards The Gower.

The last few miles towards Llanmadoc are hair raising at best (see my previous blogs) but thankfully we didn’t meet too many vehicles coming the other way.  One we did meet was the site owner, and we pause for a chat in the passing place.  He was on his way out, but Gower farmers are renowned for their acumen with money – probably second only to folk from Cardigan!

He’s handbrake turned his Yeti and perusing us down the lane with the scent of purple notes filling his nostrils as we rumble over the cattle grid into Phillistone Farm.  We exchange pleasantries again before a fist full of £20s is swapped for a plethora of recycling bags of assorted colours, and we are left to set up.

It’s hot, it’s damn hot, and the sweat is stinging my eyes as it cascades off my forehead. Setting up is delayed as we catch up with Mr & Mrs Velindre on pitch 3, who have been here a few times before at the same time as us.  Turns out they have just come back after doing the NC500, a road trip that is on my bucket list.  After grilling them for any tips, in no time at all we are able to announce to Facebookville that “We is arrived!” and are set up with a view over Broughton Bay.

We has a bit of an incident.  Herself was climbing the steps into the van and one of the legs gave way on the uneven ground below, she panicked and tried to get into the van sharpish, but smashed her toe in the process.  Now I’ve not fessed up to this yet, but it is probably my fault, you see, last summer I carried out some “modifications” to our steps that involved drilling numerous holes for LED lights, and it would appear that these holes have weakened the structure.  I’ll pick my time to let Herself in on my secret once the swelling goes down and the throbbing subsides.

By now Creaky will be home, so we head back to see her and Grumbles (via Eddie’s Angels to buy a new step) now that she’s back in Civvy Street.  We also bump into Roids and TF and invites are extended to join us for the evening.

Back on site i waste no time in assembling our new step, complete with bolted on handrail that will help Herself and her crippled knee.

I cremate some burgers to be thrown between some baps while Roids throws a ball for the dogs now the heat has gone out of the day.

With full bellies, I chuck a few of those joking logs onto the BBQ and we settle down to get corned beef legs while getting merry on a few jugs of Turbo Pimms.

Thursday 24 May

After a great night’s kip I spring open the blind next to me and this is the view I woke up to from my pillow – find me a hotel that I could do this!

A rather idle morning is had around the van doing absolutely nothing except brimming the Aquaroll for us both to have showers.  Herself has stopped moaning about her toe, so my guilt complex is receding along with the urge to fess up about my step modifications.

Stomachs are starting to rumble and Herself suggests a walk up through the lanes to the Brittania Inn for a boozy lunch, so with the dogs in their harnesses and clipped onto extending leads we set off on the rather scenic 1.2 miles.

We reach the church and there’s a bit of a commotion.  An elderly couple have managed to get their 3 series stuck on a grass bank, and it’s rocking like a see saw.  There are enough people there helping, even a farmer with a sling and tractor to pull it off, so our assistance was not needed.  Herself however dares me to record the event on my mobile for this blog, with a look that leaves me in no doubt what would happen if I did.

The phone gets put back into my pocket and we press on, dodging the piles of sheep droppings as we go.

Tables are taken outside the pub and I’m dispatched to order lunch.

“What do you want?”
“I’ll just have the same as I had last time.”

This is a trick, I know it is, so I play along and go inside.  At the bar the owner asks me what I want to which I reply .......

“Give me a second, I need to try and remember what Herself had last time we were here a few weeks back!”

The puzzled look on his face was something else!

I return to our table and plonk down 2 pints of Thatchers – both minus a few gulps – well I didn’t want to spill them coming out.

“What did you order me?”
“Same as you had last time.”

As I lose myself in my own pint and mentally chalk up a 1 in my column.  The salt marsh lamb burgers arrived a short while later, and to my relief I’d guessed it right.  They were superb and were washed down with another pint of Thatchers while we talked to a couple down in the area from Yorkshire.

The walk back to site was a little more difficult with bellies full of burger, chips and half a vat of cider, but we make it just in time as it starts to rain, with the pitter patter sending us off into a late afternoon doze, fuelled by Thatchers Gold.

I spent a few hours (in vein) trying to get my Solwise wifi antenna to work, and I’m beginning to think I have a dud one – no matter what they say to me.  I don’t like being fobbed off and I'm really missing my Facebook and Twitter.

Early evening arrives and thoughts turn to an evening meal.  We both have a dose of CBA and it is decided on taking a spin back as far as Donksville to pick up a curry from Paprika.  We’ve had food from there before and it’s been very nice, but tonight’s offering of a Lamb Tikka Saag was quite forgettable.

Friday 25 May

I had an all nighter last night, but that means something completely different in my 50s than it did in my teens and 20s ...... yep, slept through the night without having to get up for a pee.  As a result, when I woke at 07:30 hrs I was feeling as fresh as a daisy.

A lazy morning was had around the van .......... well Herself had a lazy morning in bed.  You see, my monumental sleeping effort last night was accompanied by some over vigorous snoring, and it would appear that Herself did not sleep quite as well as I did.  I have a list of jobs to do.

First job of the day is to fix the flush on the toilet.  Herself has yet to fess up to breaking it last night.  Well it must have been her as it was working when I used it just before hitting the hay last night.

It should have been an easy job.  I peeled off the cover and popped out the circuit board, seeing immediately that Herself had been a bit heavy handed with it and the board itself had separated from the plastic housing. I tested the board and the miniature button powered up the pump.  I disconnected the power to make it easier to re pair the board with the housing before reconnecting the power.

Nothing ....... ziltch ...... dead again!  Some considerable cursing later I wondered if I'd pushed the block on in reverse, swapped them over and still nothing.  I go make a cuppa before I lose it and do some serious damage.

I've said before, the Thetford c250 is the worst designed piece of junk I've ever had the misfortune to own.

A mug of tea later and my patience levels are restored.  The board is once again taken apart and methodically put back together, noting there is only really one way it can be properly connected.  Still dead, but no worries, I know what I've done now.  My hunch is I've also blown the fuse, so outside I go fishing around in the toilet compartment to locate and check the fuse.

Fuse had blown and was replaced ...... back in the van and a press of the newly stiffer button and eureka!

Feeling rather pleased with myself I have another cuppa while trying once again to piggy back off the adjacent holiday park's wifi.  I failed, so we are still cut off from the outside world.

I clean the front of the van with a waterless wash before I run out of patience and go back inside to wake Herself from her dreams with a cup of coffee and a shove.

We breakfast of bacon butties before heading out on a mission.  The plan was to get a few things in Swansea before going to Mumbles for a walk and an ice cream.  We get to the south Gower road and it starts to rain heavier, and it's not stopping so we divert to Trostre which is nearer.

First I want some wellies.  Don't know if my age is catching up with me, but wet feet on camp sites is starting to bother me, whether it's just the discomfort or an irrational fear of trench foot is anyone's guess.

B&Q first, but they had nothing bigger than a size 6, Wilkos only had some croc style green shoes and The Range didn't have anything at all.  Screwfix was my last hope and I found a pair that would suit.  I went up to the till and started my transaction with the heavily pierced and tattooed young lady.  She confirmed the details, took payment and  gave me my receipt.

I stood back to wait for my goods. Metal Mickey is now looking at me a bit strange, and asks me what I'm doing.

"Well, waiting for my wellies."
"They'll be in tomorrow."
"They'll be in tomorrow, they're special order."
"Didn't you think to tell me that before you took payment?"
"But, they'll be in tomorrow."
"I heard that, but I wanted them today."
"But, they'll be in tomorrow, we don't stock them."

Metal Mickey just isn't getting it and the red mist is starting to descend.

"Can I have a refund then please?"
"Well didn't the web page tell you they were special order?"
"No ..... and frankly I don't care, just give me a refund before I start swearing."

This now involves calling the manager and filling in numerous forms.  the manager(ess) arrives and has a similar number of piercings all over her face as Metal Mickey, but is minus the full sleeve tattoo.

"How did you pay?"
"By card."
"It will take a few days to refund to your account."
"Funny how you can debit straight away but take days to refund? But that's OK, I'll live with that."
"But the wellies will be here tomorrow."
"Just give me my (insert expletive here) money back!"

Her pierced lip started to tremble.

The day isn't going well. In between the different shops in the hunt for wellies I also been trying to purchase a PAYG Data Only sim for my MiFi.  Herself is on Tesco with limited connection on site, while my ee has nothing at all.  I figure that as Tesco piggy back off O2 that would be the best bet.

Into the O2 shop I trot and am greeted by a pretty young girl clutching an ipad.

"Can I help you?"
"Yes, I'd like to buy a PAYG Data Sim please."
"I need to book you in with a customer adviser, but as you can see they're busy."

As she gestures to the two sat down busy conning people into signing up to more expensive contracts than they need. 

"But I only want a PAYG sim card, surely I don't need a sit down appointment for that?"
"Yes you do."
"I won't bother thanks." as I turned round and left.  I know exactly what their game it, and I'm not falling for it.  I don't care if they make more money off contracts or not, I need the flexibility of being able to change data networks when travelling about.

Tesco was next, but they didn't sell data only sims, suggesting I pop into O2 over the road as they'll have them.  My hysterical laughter puzzled her.

Carphone Warehouse was next.

"Sorry we don't sell O2 data sims, you can have an ee one."
"No, that's no good, my phone is ee and that's got no signal at all where we are."

She fires up the ee coverage checker and is adamant that ee would be good.  I bite my lip and shake my head.  The 3 network page is then checked and reassuringly the area we are staying is one big purple blotch.

"How much data would you want?"
"About 8GB would do me."
"OK, I'll have to get someone from Currys, as they sell the 3 mifi units."
"I already have mifi, I just need a sim."
"Are you sure yours will work on 3?"
"Can I buy a sim or not?"

He trots off to find someone, and after a while they return having been to at least 4 cupboards and I'm invited to sit down by the desk.  I do so and clock the sim pack he''s holding.

"Is that a monthly contract sim?"
"Yes, they're much better value than PAYG."
"But, I'm happy with PAYG, I don't want a contract because I use it in the caravan and I can't guarantee having that network where we go next."
"But this is only £20 per month, you get so much more data for your money."
"You're not (insert expletive here) listening are you!" as I get up and walk out.

I sit in Vera and start counting.  Between the sim saga and the welly hunt i'm at the end of my tether. I race past 10 and barely see 20.  By the time I get to 30 Herself pushed her phone in my face.  She's reserved a sim in Argos, a shop we are sat outside.

I love Herself sometimes, and she must have been relieved that I got at least one of my target purchases before being trapped in the confines of Vera with me for a while on the trek back to site.

The trip back is broken by a quick stop off in CKs and then we park up in Donksville and sit under Vera's tailgate for shelter looking over towards "The Promised Land" while munching on some rissoles as the dogs have a sniff around.

Back on site I fire up the mifi, but have limited success.  the signal is in and out .... more out .... so the digital detox continues as I work my way though my Practical Caravan stash and Herself gets herself lost in a puzzle book while the rain hammers on the roof.

Late afternoon and the rain eases off so a plan is hatched.  First we play chicken with the kamakhazi lambs in the lanes before pointing Vera's nose towards Port Eynon.

We roll in and the place is deserted, I fear many people have cancelled their Bank Holiday plans due to @DerekTheWeather and his work of fiction.

Swansea Council rob me of £3 for the privilege of abandoning Vera in a field for 2 hours, but we head straight for the beach to let the dogs run free, straight into the sea chasing stones chucked (not very far) by Herself.

With the dogs soaked through and sufficiently worn out we make tracks to The Ship Inn.  Advertising hoardings have promised live music outside but the awful weather today appears to have sabotaged those plans and we are spoilt for choice for vacant tables outside.  I'm dispatched to the bar and emerge laden with glasses Gower Brewery's finest, a pint of their Smugglers Cider for Herself and Lighthouse Lager for mois.

Back on site a late supper of spiced lamb chops and rice is consumed as the rain starts to hammer on the roof once more.  Our digital detox continues as the mifi refuses to pick up any signal shining bright red lights instead of nice green ones.  Herself is also getting frustrated as the heavy rain blocks out her TV signal and we have to resort to conversation to pass the time away.

My Gin stash takes a hammering as G&Ts in a jar are drunk through a straw much quicker than they would be sipped from a glass.

It was at bed time that I had a monumental eureka moment.  The mifi is sat in the front window to give it a good chance of picking up something, and I've left it there in the vein hope of some success.  We close the blinds ready to go to bed and I glance at my phone to see the time.  The wifi is connected and transmitting.  So what I think, it's just decided to kick in for a few seconds.

I climb into bed after a pee, look at my phone and it's still the same, so I catch up on events in Facebookville while the going is good. 15 mins of finger swiping later and I'm still connected, and through the foggy haze of a Gin induced stupor I realise what is going on.

The silver backing of our blinds is helping the mifi pick up a signal.  Tomorrow we shall be sitting inside the caravan in the dark!

Saturday 26 May

It stopped raining at some point overnight, and when I wake at 08:30 hrs it looks quite pleasant outside.

 I open my laptop and the mifi is still connected and is working at lightening speed.  My digital detox is over ...... yay! So I catch up on happenings in Facebookville over my first cuppa of the day.

I've a job to do this morning, one that is well overdue, so while Herself enjoys a coffee soaking up the morning warmth, I set about giving the walls of the caravan the good news with a pot of Mer and a buffing cloth.  I'm 3/4 done and lovely smells start emanating from the caravan . No not Herself's perfume, but hot lard, bacon and sausages.

Herself calls me in and I'm presented with a full Welsh breakfast, including a portion of cockles and lavabread.  Going down lovely it was, then I noticed something was wrong.  Herself has a pout on, and something was wrong.  I have no idea what she was upset about, I only asked where the black pudding and mushrooms were!

Sometimes women can be so touchy!  Post it notes were once again required for communications as we settled down in the recliners to catch some rays.  The hours flew by and several periods of personal contemplation were enjoyed, moving only to pour glasses of chilled sparkling water.  We've no inclination to move anywhere today.

Soon enough it's late afternoon, and only when Herself opens the coolbox do we feel it necessary to start up Vera, you see we have no beer or cider for this evening and that simply won't do.

Back to Donksville once more to stock up on bottles of Gower Brewery's finest before taking the scenic route back to site over the marsh at Crofty.  Now usually it can be quite frustrating to get caught behind a tractor, but tonight we were quite content to take our time watching the collie doing a balancing act as they bounced over the uneven surface.

Herself resumes her position in the recliner while I sit inside watching The Scarlets play out in Dublin.  Sadly it wasn't to be, but the pain was eased somewhat by guzzling chilled Lighthouse.

Too nice to eat in so we set up for tea under the canopy and the cremated meat is straight from the BBQ to the table as we look out over the water to Pendine.

@DerekTheWeather really has got today wrong, his work of fiction had promised torrential rain for most of the day.  If it started raining now my follically  challenged bonse would be steaming! A fire is lit to see us through dusk as the Lighthouse Ale continues to get a hammering.

We'd (apparently I'd) neglected to shut the fly screen while we sat outside and by the time we retreat indoors for Herself to catch up on some TV we have a fly infestation to deal with.  I try the easy way first by lighting some burning sticks, but while they make the inside of the van smell nice they do nothing to scare away our guests.

There then follows a rather entertaining half hour whereby Herself chases them round the van spraying hairspray in their general direction to slow them down enough for me to swat them.  A caravan is a confined space and I'm taking no responsibility for the occasional miss with the tea towel that side swiped Herself quite by accident ...... honestly.

Sunday 27 May

We had a drop of rain over night, but it has stopped by the time we get up at 10:30 hrs.  Herself gets on the blower to Grumbles and Creakey, and it's hammering down just over the water (we could see it from the van) so they decided to cancel their planned visit.

We have a fly problem to deal with and a trip to the village shop is fruitless as they don't open on a Sunday, so Herself gets on YouTube and instructions are followed to make a fly trap.

Useless it was, and didn't catch a single fly all day.  I shall be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint to the content provider.

We had planned to go over to The Welcome in Llanrhidian for a spot of Sunday lunch.  Tow things scuppered that plan.  Firstly @DerekTheWeather and his work of fiction appeared to be way off again today, and it was brightening up instead of pouring torrential rain on us, and secondly a chat with the owner revealed that the above mentioned establishment was not having a good time of late due to a drug problem.

It is decided that a bag of chips on a bench overlooking the sea will be the better option.  We roll into Port Eynon and spot Mr & Mrs London from the adjacent pitch having a mooch.  More coins are fed into the daylight robbery machine and we head straight for the beach, where to dogs run free, and Tali leaves a present for us to pick up that is so large I'm considering calling Rugby Ref over to survey it for Ordnance Survey.

We play with the dogs at the water's edge for a while before heading back to the village for lunch.  Now I know I'm tight, and I know it was a bank holiday weekend, and I know we were in Port Eynon, but I didn't expect to pay £10 for a thimble full of chips and a sausage each for Herself and I plus two cans of pop.

The young assistant seemed perturbed that I took exception to this and voiced my disapproval before taking the moral high ground, turning on my heels and walking out ......... only to have to return meekly before I'd exited the establishment, smiling "Forgot the forks!"

A moral dilemma then followed.  herself notices that the benches overlooking the beach are filling up.  We could have gone back to Vera to eat on the grass, but that would have defeated the object somewhat.

We're heading for the two vacant benches, but there are two elderly couples making their way towards them, three of the four needing benefit sticks to get about.  Now I know I'm no Lynford Christie, but the odds are stacked in my favour should it turn into a race, and we're tempted.  Others around can see the predicament and suddenly take an interest in matters as they unfold.

I'd a;ready made the decision (Herself had made it for me actually) that we would do the right thing and hold back, when in a moment of divine intervention old git #3 decides he would like an ice cream and they turn round to go back to the shops.

Chips are eaten on a bench overlooking Port Eynon beach, while we watch familiers play in the dunes, dogs run free (on the dog friendly side of the beach) and Kayakers lose equipment as they drag their vessels through the sand in a hap hazard manner.

Tali looks onto the beach longingly, instantly forgetting that it's not 5 mins since he was down there himself running free in the water.

It's really starting to warm up and hazy skies are giving way to clear blue ones.  Back on site we waste no time in getting out the chairs to catch some rays and reflect how hopelessly wrong our @DerekTheWeather has been today.  Bless him.

Herself's phone goes, it's Ronnie, him and YG ask if it's OK to come over to visit with Beastie.  The coals are lit and we wait on the sound of Ronnie's beamer rattling over the cattle grid.

A lovely evening is had, so much or enjoyable than our planned start to pack up ready to leave in the morning.  Mr London comes over clutching a map and I show him some areas they may be interested in visiting while down in the area.

The sun has set by the time we're waving at their tail lights, and we set about enjoying the last night of our little getaway.

Monday 28 May

We are up and at em this morning, not such an easy feat when you've been still up drinking at 1am, as we need to vacate the pitch.  We're not usually late pulling off this site as we like to be clear of the approach lane before the day trippers start arriving, but on arrival the owner was a little twitchy, not just about purple notes but about us vacating the pitch as he had a camper van booked onto it.

Tali and Gwawr are seasoned caravanners, and know we have a different routine on breaking camp day.  They take their place out of the way in Vera's boot looking very sorry for themselves that it's time to go home.

We're hitched up and rattling over the cattle grid by 09:30 hrs, but our timing was out.  We're too early for the beach day trippers but not for the delivery vans, it was tight and involved lots of breathing in and tucking in of elbows (why do we do that?) but we squeezed past each other, before hitting the relatively open space of the north Gower rd.

Until next time .... da bo.