Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New Awning

You may recall that our old Full Size awning was too small for our new caravan.  Well we put that up for sale and had decided that we no longer needed a full awning as the kids don't come away with us much anymore.

While we were away in Devon and Cornwall we realised that we miss a full awning on longer breaks.  While down there we had 3 teenagers stopping with us for 5 nights and herself's parents were stopping at a nearby B&B for 3 nights.  We simply did not have the room for everyone to sit around.

Not only did we miss the extra space a full awning gives you, but in Devon we were on a sloping pitch and in Cornwall we were pitched on a rather exposed cliff top.  Those of you that caravan may appreciate that a porch or part awning does not sit particularly well on a sloping site and is also far less robust in high winds.

I took a phone call from someone who was interested in our awning while we were in Cornwall, and the gentleman concerned gave us the asking price for it on  our return.  The search was on for a good second hand one as we were loathed to pay the price for a brand new one for the use it would have in a year.

Searching e bay I was shocked at the money people were asking for rubbish, but the search continued of all the on line classified ads.  I stumbled across an ad that was placed last March in the Caravan Club Classified ads for an awning in the size we needed.

I hesitantly made contact with the seller as the ad was placed 5 months ago, but was pleased to note the awning was still for sale and that the seller lived not only in the same county as us but in the same town.

The awning was bought new in 2010 has been looked after and has only been used 3 times,  It is immaculate, and with a bit of haggling we got it for 40% of what it would have cost new.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Billy no Mates at Pembrey

Thursday 23 August

Today has been a bit of a day.  I've been stuck in work and was staring down the barrel of a 5pm finish, but as luck would have it the police phoned in an incident at 2pm.  I was on site by 2.30pm with it all sorted by 3pm and Mandy was tearing down the M4 at warp speed towards home by 3.05pm.

Roids was getting his GCSE results today, very well he did too, both academically and financially.  He had a cheque to bank from Nana Coupons and herself was making a transfer straight into his account as a rewards for his examination efforts.

By 5pm we are hitched up and on our way to Pembrey CC Site, which is just down the road from us.  It's only 3 weeks since we came back from Cornwall, but a busy 3 weeks in work ensures we are ready for the break.  The site is packed on arrival, so the choice of pitches is minimal. Luckily we are 'Billy No Mates' this weekend as Mr & Mrs Shag are still in France with Mr & Mrs Tatasports.

The only hitch on setting up was that the EHU point had tripped.  Well to be truthful it wasn't our that had the fault, it was the one belonging to the adjacent pitch that had tripped out and rather than go see the wardens to have it re set they plugged into ours.  It's not the fact that they did it bothers me, it's that they watched he plug in and then waste 5 mins trying to rectify a non existent fault in the caravan.  They could have at least said, instead of just keeping schtum.  Revenge, however, is a dish best served cold, and they might just wake in the morning to a defrosted fridge.

Supper tonight is minted lamb served with mushroom rice washed down with a bottle of pink fizzy stuff.

Friday 24 August

We wake this morning to the familiar sound of rain hammering onto the roof, well it is August BH after all) and the not so familiar sound of the RAF's finest doing their level best to shake the windows from their frames!

Breakfast is an unexciting bowl of Weetabix before we decide that herself needs a proper coat before our winter jaunts in the van.

We go for a spin to Carmarthen and I spoil her rotten with a Regatta anorak and a pair of walking sandals from the C&P Country Stores.  I know how to treat a woman I do!  From there it's a quick stop in Morrisons for a few odds and ends, including a sewing kit for the van.  I am flabbergasted to note that the sewing kits are not kept in the 'women's essentials' aisle!

Back on site we lunch on a ham salad before doing not much all afternoon, except read, chill and watch the selfish git behind us pack up and leave.

Why selfish? You may ask.

Well, you're supposed to be off site by 12 noon so as to give newcomers more choice of pitch, and at 2.30pm he's still there faffing about with his awning!  Oh, and he's a git because I have developed an irrational dislike for him because he drives a gleaming, new Range Rover Sport.  That good old fashioned Welsh trait of jealously has noting to do with it.  Honestly!

There are quite a few newcomers in our little close, and many appear to be new caravanners just starting out.  Herself has commented that the lady opposite us bears a striking resemblance to Olive from 'On the Buses', and I have to admit herself has got it spot on. I wonder if she too has cravings for pickled onions!

Another lot are starting out on a shoe string.  Their awning has obviously see better days and will do well to survive tonight's fore casted wind and rain.

A few bottles of Welsh cider and a few G&Ts ensure we won't be bothered by the winds tonight.

Saturday 25 August

It's not raining, but the skies say it won't stay like that for long.  We have a leisurely breakfast and spend the morning lazing around the van and watching the comings and goings on site, in between the very heavy showers.  After their early morning walk the dogs seem content anyway.

I suppose one advantage of being 'Billy no Mates' this weekend is that we can do as we please.  People go and new arrivals pull in and I am in my element watching all the activity in the rain.

Time to go out though because Roids has a game of rugby today in Brecon and we are off to watch, just over 50 miles each way from where we are.  It's a lovely spin up through Carmarthen, Llandeilo and Llandovery and we arrive at the ground at the same time as the team.

Ronnie, DD and her parents are also coming to watch.  They have a static caravan near Cenarth (about 63 miles from brecon in straight line) and had set off at the same time as us.  Kick off time comes and there's still no sign of them.  They arrive about 10 mins into the game and the grin on Ronnie's chops tells us they've had an eventfull journey.  For reasons known only to DD's mam thay came via Narbeth, travelling some 120 miles in the process.  Still it must have been a nice spin!

Llangennech Youth easily Brecon Youth, and a night of celebration and team bonding is planned.  All had to wear a wig for the evening, or suffer a forfeit.  Roids had got himself this nice little Jedward number for the evening.

Herself had generously volunteered to drive (read press-ganged) so I took the opportuntity to throw far too many pints of lager down my neck in a very short space of time.  Time to leave, and as we exit the club house we are treated to the sight of one of the youth boys necking a pint of god knows what and promptly spewing the lot back up into a bucket!

Herself was not best pleased with me on the way back to the van.  My guzzling of the Grolsch ensured that toilet stops were necessary during the journey.  For reasons only known to herself, 3 or 4 pull ins were passed and my eyes now watering with the pain.  We get to Llandovery and herself screams into the car park where she knows there are some public lavs.  Mandy is still rolling as I exit her in the style of Bodie and Doyle, making a bee line for the bogs.  I clatter into the (locked) door before reading the sign - 20p entry - FFS.  Dancing around I fumble through my pockets for a 20p with little luck.  Herself is trying not to laugh too much as she looks for her purse in the abyss that is her handbag!

The riot police have water cannons that operate at a lower psi than what I generated in that toilet and I'm suprised that I didn't blast a hole in the back of the urinal and through the wall to outside!

Back on site we have new neighbours, a family with an old Retreiver as a pet.  They seem nice enough, but, both parents are very, very heavy smokers.  We caravan with friends who smoke, so that in itself does not bother us.  These two though are chain smoking what I can only assume is an exotic mix of horse shit and bus tickets!

After cooking our steaks on the Weber, we dive inside for cover and settle down for the evening.  Herself has developed a taste for expensive cider whilst I have reaquainted myself with the delights of G&Ts.

I'll sleep well tonight.

Sunday 26 August

@DerekTheWeather has promised that today would be the best day of the weekend, and fair play for once he's got it right.  I peek out of the blinds and there are blue skies above.  I dress and take the dogs out for their early morning consitutional.  Inside Pembrey Country Park we walk up to the view point and are rewarded to views across the estuary towards Gower.

We've no plans to do anything today except laze in the sun by the van.  A few phone calls later and all that's changed.  The olds, in the shape of Nana Coupons, Nana Creaky and Grandpa Grumbles are joining us for the afternoon.

They will be expecting to be fed, so a trip to the Co-op in Kidwelly is called for to get in some supplies.  On returning, herself does all the food prep ready to save work a little later before joining me out in the sun.

The olds arrive, and herself goes to the security barrier to let them onto site.  We're not too far from home this weekend, only about 12 miles, and Roids turns up on his pushbike.  We have a nice afternoon sat out in the sun and manage to feed 6 adults from the Weber and Caravan before they all disappear as the sun sets.

Olive and her clan come back after being out, and look set for a big cook out with her mam and dad who are staying a few pitched away from them. It really would have been easier all round if Olive had pitched next to her parents, because all weekend they have worn a path across our paddock as they trapse from one van to another.

We drop the awning in readiness for our departure tomorrow and sit outside for a while observing the early evening activity on site.  Olive comes over for a chat with herself and explains that they were supposed to be stopping at Freshwater East CC site but had been told not to travel due to waterlogged pitches.  At least this site drains quite well so should be ok no matter what @DerekTheWeather throws at us.

Next door come back after a day out and immediately recommence their smokathon.  We retreat indoors and settle in for the night.

Monday 27 August

Pack up day, and I wake to that familiar sound of rain hammering on the roof.  @DerekTheWeather has promised no let up today, so after putting it off until as late as possible there is no alternative other than to put on a coat and my mongo hat and go outside in the wet and get on with it.

Till next time.........

Friday, 3 August 2012

Moaning Mandy

Since Monday or Tuesday Mandy has been making some terrible moaning and groaning noises - somewhat similar to those that women make when reading that 50 Shades of Grey book!

It had got to the point that it was getting embarrassing to be out in public with her.  I had no intention of being the next tourist to be ripped off by a local garage in Cornwall, so did what every sensible male would do ........... ignore the noise and pretend nothing is wrong!

Anyway, the out of sorts Mandy got us and the caravan home from Cornwall on Wednesday evening without missing a beat, but must have woken up half of Llangennech with her protestations with every gear change or change in direction.

Now home, the time had come to get it sorted, so Thursday morning saw me taking Mandy down to PC in the village.  After a quick fumble of Mandy's more private parts, PC ever so eloquently informs me that Mandy's power steering pump is f****d.

He gets on the blower to Fords who tell him that a new pump costs £380 plus the VAT.  Just what you need on returning from holiday ...... NOT.  Anyway, PC phones around and sources a reconditioned unit for the far more reasonable £125 plus VAT, so including fitting and fluids I'm staring £200 plus VAT down the barrel to replace the pump.

As arranged I dropped Mandy off with PC this morning and ask him to give her an MOT while she's with him.

Calling back early afternoon I am greeted by PC who informs me that I'm in for a shock.  He tells me this 3 or 4 times as if bracing me for bad news.  I am now expecting him to tell me that either the problem was far worse than expected or the MOT turned up some nasties.

After PC toying with me for a while I get the full story.

It transpires that the reconditioned unit was faulty so could therefore not be fitted, and while playing about with the existing pump some debris flew out.  PC then flushed out the system, re primed it, and the powers steering feels good as new!  Still waiting for the sucker punch I tentatively ask about the MOT.  "Yes, it's passed no problem" he says "but you'll need to change the brake pads in a few months."

It pays to use a garage you can trust.  There are many out there that would have fitted  a new pump regardless.  PC didn't do this, which is the reason why he gets our repeat business.

My wallet is now less than £100 lighter, which I consider to be very reasonable for about 2 hours labour, fluids and an MOT, and Mandy is no longer moaning and groaning in public.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Musical Pitches in North Cornwall (without the effin music)

Sunday 29 July

Having witnessed some of the tail backs in the lanes to the A38 this week we wanted to get away nice and early from our site in South Hams.  We hitched up in bright sunshine and were on the road by 8.30am en route to our next site In North Cornwall.

We towed down the A38, over the Tamar Bridge and into Cornwall in bright sunshine.  On emerging from the tunnels and heading North West is was a different world.  It started to cloud over, and as we climbed we could see the rain in the distance coming towards us.  It lashed down, and Mandy's wipers were working overtime.  As we neared the coast and drove through Boscastle it cleared up and we arrived at Trewethett Farm,some 56 miles later, in sunshine.

It's 10am, and 'Heir in Charge' informs me that they cannot book me in until after 11am.  I go off for a wander around the site and am frustrated to note there are many pitches available that we could now be starting to set up on but are locked out, not yet within the circle of trust.

I can understand why they do not let new comers in until 11am though, because inside the barriers (stealing a phrase from 'Nige Donk') it's like musical pitches without the effing music!

Everyone is running all over the place bagging a recently vacated pitch that has a better view of the sea than the one they are currently on.  I have no such plans to move, once we are set up we will stay set up.  As I'm wandering around sussing out the vacant pitches, Mr Ignorant Northerner shouts to me "You can't have that one, I'm going there now!"

I had no interest in the pitch because it was directly opposite the entrance to the dog walk, and with our two barking at every passing mutt we'd have had no peace.  Pissed off with his attitude, and never one to miss the opportunity to wind someone up I replied "Not if I get booked in and bag it first you won't!"

With that he waddles off to get his car, screams across the site and virtually handbrake turns into the space.  He smugly smiled at me, but I still had an ace up my sleeve.  Pointing at my watch I say "It's 11am, I'm just going to check in."  He then twigged that he had not been to see Heir in Charge to get a pitch card from her.

Breathlessly he bursts into reception to see me picking up the card for another pitch as he tries to barge through to the front. His Mrs is now moving their caravan half way across the site using the motor mover (a few hundred meters) and the battery runs flat blocking off the main access to the site.

I'm tempted to lean on the horn, but herself gives me the look and I think better of it, just smiling as he attempts to manhandle the van the last 30m onto the pitch.

We've chosen a pitch 1 row back from the front, we can see the sea but also have some protection from the winds.

After setting up we remember that we have no food in the van.  The information leaflet promises a Londis no less in Tingadel.  Bugger that, so herself interrogates the neighbours who inform her that there is a Tesco in Launceston some 20 miles away (back in the direction we just came from).  At that sort of distance we did enough shopping to see us through until Thursday.

Tea was a curry provided by Mr Tesco and was washed down with a bottle of Martini Rose.  Herself wants to curl up and doze in the van but I talk her into going for a walk along the adjacent coastal path. "Come on" I say, "It'll be nice" I say, "A stroll along the path to see the sunset." I say.

Walking boots donned we make our way along the path.  It soon becomes apparent that we should have turned left instead of right as we are engulfed bt stingy nettles.  herself is wearing 3/4 trousers and I am in shorts!  Not good.

I get the look that says "I could be curled up watching the Olympics now you TW@T!"

Undeterred we turn round and go left instead.  The path is narrow and although the views of the coastline are spectacular, and gentle evening stroll it is not.  The wind is strong and some parts of the path require the agility of a mountain goat.

We return to the van and set about demolishing a case of Carsberg's finest before turning in around mid night.

Monday 30 July

I am woken by the sound of rain hammering against the side of the van at 7am,but by the time I peel myself off the sheets an hour later it has stopped.  There are breaks in the clouds, but the threat of rain does not seem to be far away.

Breakfast is a lazy effort of a mug of tea and half a packet of moo cow biscuits and we are out of the door by 10.30am, which when on holiday is very early for us.

Our first destination (and second - keep reading) is to be Port Issac.  The brown tourist signs will try and sell it to you as an historic fishing village, but 99.9% of it's visitors are only there because of it's more famous alias.  It features as Portwenn in the TV series Doc Martin.

As we approach we pass all the car parks and I turn down a restricted road.  I's read on tinternet that parking is available on the slipway so I laughed as I passed all those other tourists parking 2 miles out of town and walking in.  Herself is not happy as the road narrows to only 6 foot wide in places, and apart from small delivery vans, Mandy is the only vehicle down there.  People are pointing and staring and it's pretty obvious we aren't supposed to be there.  The sweat is pouring off me as I gingerly coax Mandy through the packed narrow alleyways and breath a huge sigh of relief when we emerge the other side.

Herself is fuming (I can tell) and just gives me the look when I say "Right, lets find somewhere to park up then."  We find a car park and join all the other tourists walking down the 16% slope into the village.  Everyone is trying to make money out of Doc Martin here, and it's like walking around a TV set.

We see the school house, the cafe, the place where the restaurant is and we have photos taken out side the Doc's house.

The climb back out of the village has the calves burning and the lungs gasping and it's a relief to see the car park where new arrivals are fighting over the rare empty spaces.

From there we headed for Rock to catch the passenger ferry over to Padstow.

Padstow is jammed full, tourists everywhere, and everyone seems to be eating something as they walk around, whether it's a pasty, an ice cream or fish and chips.  We walk around doing some gift shopping before hunger takes over as we find ourselves outside Rick Stein's chippy on the quay.  We've always resisted on previous visits but cave in this time. I start to cry as I hand over £7.85 for A a cod and chips (I don't care if it comes with a slice of lemon and a sprig of parsley) and we sit on the floor outside to eat. The meal is average at best and Rick Stein may be an excellent seafood chef himself, but could learn a thing or two about fish and chips from the Bryn Chippie.

The return ferry is caught and we call into Tingadel late  afternoon for a mooch around before returning to site to have a few beers and chill.  Not long after we got back to site the wind picked up and the rain came in.  We spent the evening in the van catching up on events in London and working our way through a box of lager before turning in shattered bt 10.30pm.

Tuesday 31 July

Well, what a bloody night.  So much for getting to bed early.  I was woken at around 11.15pm with a feeling that something was not right.  The flapping of the awning had got a lot louder and the van was being rocked with each gust.

Looking out of the window I could see that the wind had given the awning a hammering and most of the pegs had been ripped from the ground, the awning was now acting as a sail being held down only by it's storm straps.  We jump out of bed and I herself spends the next 30 mins holding onto whatever she can for dear life whilst I crawl around on my hands and knees in the dark pegging down whatever I can peg down.

We get it sorted, but are no longer in the mood for sleep and stay up another few hours watching and worrying.

We woke late this morning, it was still raining but the wind had dropped a little.  I attached a few more guy ropes and re pegged what had again ripped out of the ground.  While the wind is still high we have no intention of going anywhere, so herself goes about cooking us a full breakfast as a rare treat.

The rest of the morning is spent watching the Olympics on TV and I am quite taken with the Netherlands Women's Hockey team.  Nothing to do with the fact that they are all platinum blonds at all, honest,  They play a wonderful passing game.

In between events on TV we observe the spectacle of 'Musical Pitches' on site.  A front row pitch comes free in our cul-de-sac and I look up an note that a race is on.  Two blokes coming from opposite directions carrying an aquaroll each heading for the vacant pitch.  The winner is smug, but has the good grace not to use his aquaroll as a winner's podium to stand on and soak up the adulation of the watching crowd!  He leaves his son guarding the pitch ans 2 mins later comes screaming into the cul-de-sac with caravan int tow behind his ageing Discovery.  Wanker!

Our neighbours have also pulled out,but as the now vacant pitch is not on the highly desired front row it will be left for new comers to fight over.  11am, ding ding, round 2, and before you know it couples armed with site maps are running round like lunatics sussing out any vacant pitches.  An elderly couple like the look of the one next to us but are torn.  They like this one but have not sussed out all the others yet, so unbelievably one of them stands guard on this pitch while the other goes off to look at the others.  He obviously like the look of another one because he comes back and stands guard while she goes off to look at the other one.

It would appear that the pitch next to us is the chosen pitch for the (as we are about to discover over the next 24hrs) very weird couple.  She is left to stand guard while he goes off to book themselves in and fetch the caravan.  We have a heavy shower and she looks very forlorn stood there in the howling wind and pissing down rain.
The weather improves by just after noon so we think about heading off out to Bude.  It's not sunny, but it's really warm walking through the town.  Having failed in my continuing attempts to buy a pair of Binoculars out of my birthday money from Nana Coupons we head back to site, taking in the stunning coastal scenery as we travel.

Herself suggests that we take the awning down today instead of tomorrow so we can have a peaceful night.  Back on site the sun is out and we take down a dry awning with the sun beating down on us, before taking the dogs up to Crowdy Reservoir for s good run around.

Back on site, a tea of spicy pork chops and rice is washed down by a bottle of pink fizzy stuff while watching the ladies football from Wembley. It's a lovely evening and the site is very lively, kids darting everywhere on bikes scooters and skateboards.

Wednesday 1 August

After a great night's sleep I peel myself off the sheets and note that the fore casted wind and rain has not arrived.  I'm beginning to think that our move yesterday to drop the awning was a bit hasty.

By the time the kettle has boiled all that changed.  The wind come from  nowhere and the caravan is rocking!  The rain is also horizontal, and I look out the window feeling smug as the few who still have awnings erected are scrabbling around hammering pegs in.

With no plans to move until the weather blows over, we breakfast on bacon butties as the Atlantic disappears from view in the storm.  In the middle of all this we watch another round of musical pitches where a 10 year old girl is left standing guard on a pitch with the Atlantic throwing everything is has at her whilst her parents pack up their van ready to move.  We recognise the van immediately as the one that was pitched on top of the bank directly behind us (with an uninterrupted sea view).  This is pitch envy to the extreme!

The weather clears just after midday and we go into Tingadel to do some gift shopping and have a nose around. The roof on the old post office looks like it's long since had it's day, and I consider reporting it as a dangerous structure to the council just for a giggle.

We stop off for a beer in the beer garden of The Wootton Hotel and take in the panorama before making our way back up the village to the car park.

We have come to the end of our holiday.  Back on site we decide to head for home later on this evening rather than sleep here and go home in the morning.  In between cleaning stuff and putting it away, there's just time for a few last looks at the Atlantic and lung fulls of fresh sea air before having our early evening meal prior to showering and hitching up.

We've had a wonderful 2 weeks in the West Country, 10 days in South Devon followed by 4 days in North Cornwall.  Despite the storms and winds of the last few days, we will look back on this holiday as having very good weather.  We virtually had wall to wall sunshine in Devon and have not really got wet in Cornwall.  We've been to lots of places we've never been before and the dogs have been with us 24/7.

The olds joined us for 4 days in Devon and Ronnie, Roids and DD stopped for a bit longer.  We've really enjoyed, but strangely for us we are now ready to go home.  This is the longest we have been away without Ronnie and Roids and we are missing them a bit.  They are growing up and I know we will have to get used to it, but it feels strange being on the main holiday without them.

It will be with mixed emotions that we set off a little later on our 215 mile tow back home to South Wales.