We like a good caravan show we do, and usually they don't come much better than the events at the NEC. Having changed our van just over 12 months ago, we are not interested in a new van, but always like to go along for a mooch. It's always nice to see what's about and to be honest we always spend more time looking around the side stalls selling everything that you don't have but will no longer be able to do without.
It was decided that we'd book the time off from work and go on the opening day of the Spring Show at the NEC, Tuesday, Caravan Club Day (well it is half price for members). We'd also fancied stopping overnight, and where better than the Caravan Club temporary site at the NEC. Or so I thought!
They want £30 a night to drop your legs in a car park, and you have to be on and off by 12 noon, meaning having to stop 2 nights just to visit the show on one day and having to take 3 days off work instead of 2.
Google is yewer friend as they say, and 5 mins on tinternet has us booked into the Travelodge at Birmingham Airport. A one night stay is grabbed for the outrageous sum of £17.50. I'm as passionate about caravanning as the next man, but sometimes the sums just don't add up.
The morning of 18th dawned bright in Turksville, and we were packed and ready to hit the road by 9am. I point Mandy towards the M4 when herself announces that she needs a new bottle of perfume. A detour and £50 ensure that herself is indeed again smelling divine and we hit the M4 by 10am after stopping off at Tesco for some essential provisions.
Mandy is eating up the miles, and the on board computer tells me she's doing 55mpg at a steady 80 mph. In what seems like no time at all we are pulling into the Travelodge car park. We get stung for an extra £10 to check in early and head up to our room.
A look out of our third floor window reveals that we are overlooking the run way.
I get the look from herself that says .... you bloody tight git, no wonder it's so cheap to stay here. What time exactly tonight do they stop flying here. I try to appease herself by saying "Don't worry, it's only a regional airport, it's not that busy."
Bang on queue one of FlyBe's finest screams past our bedroom window.
We go out in silence. Shopping is on the cards, so we head for the city centre. We find a car park in the middle of China Town, and herself gives me another look as we exit the lifts outside a Lap dancing Club.
What are we doing here? she asks. "Listen, " I say, "The Bullring is there, it's a very good shopping centre."
Off we trudge, but I get that huge sinking feeling as we go through the doors into what appears to be a mock up of Llanelli's indoor market, except with more Asians manning the stalls. My day is rapidly going downhill.
We eventually stumble across the real Bullring Centre, and I soon wish we hadn't. Hollister, Superdry and Disney extract far too much money from herself for my liking and I'm glad when herself announces that we are finished with the shopping.
Sometimes it strikes you like a cricket bat across the back of your head that we live in a closeted world in West Wales. As we walked around Birmingham it struck me how many Asians, Arabs and Black people were about!
Shopped out we wrestle with the Krypton Factor challenge that is the self pay machine in the car park before heading off to find somewhere for an evening meal. On the way back to the hotel we happen across a Harvester in Sheldon. Herself announces that we will eat here, as you can't go wrong with a Harvester, can you?
How wrong could she have been? As we waited to be sat, we watched on as a chav dipped her fingers into the sauces on the salad bar, tasting as she went until she found one suitable to pour over her salad!
At best the food could be described as forgettable. Herself's medium / well done steak came out looking like they just about had time to wipe it's arse before plating it and the best part of my mixed grill was the fried egg!
Back at the Hotel we head straight up to our room and make the most of being away together. Herself laid on the bed and watched TV while guzzling fizzy wine. I sat in front of the window watching planes land and take off with our supplies as company!
I take time to Google the flight times, and dare not tell herself that the last flight in tonight has been delayed until 2.30am, with the first flight in the morning being at 5.45am. I am woken at 3.30am by a plane landing, I get up for a pee and look out onto the runway to see a FedEx plane! Bloody Cargo planes are coming and going all night!
We've pre paid for breakfast - a bargain at £7.50 each, and it's buffet style. I load my plate with sausages and bacon before joining herself at a a table.
"What the eff are you doing?" I ask.
"Please tell me you're having more that that!" I say.
£7.50 and she has a bowl of Rice Crispies, FFS mun!!!!
We check out, but there's a bot of a kerfuffle at the car park exit barrier. It wants me to pay another £7.50 to exit. Not having any of it I press the intercom button to remonstrate with the poor bloke on the other end. He's less than helpful, but there is now a queue building behind us. As he's telling me I'll have to park up and come back to the hotel to sort it out, for some reason the barrier accidentally lifts.
I don't think Mandy stopped wheel spinning until we got to The NEC, a mile down the road!
We walked round the show, specifically looking at motor movers. Herself in cringing as I haggle with the vendors to get the best deal possible. Some time later we are the proud owners of a Powrtouch motor mover, having negotiated a sizable discount of their 'special show price', which if I'm honest was already a pretty good deal.
Spent out, we hit the road for home by early afternoon, for a delightful journey in bright sunshine all the way.