Monday, 26 May 2014

How many times have us "Poor Dabs" been here?

I've been taking some stick of late because of the way I choose to holiday. One joker constantly referring to us caravanners as poor dabs because we can't afford a proper holiday, and actually believes that all caravanners survive on a diet of tinned sausage and beans.  I've said before that caravanning is not everyone's cup of tea, and as it says on the top of the page, you either get it or you don't.

Friday 23 May

Another bank holiday upon us and another chance to drag the tin shed off to some far flung, exotic and sunny location.

Under cloudy skies we hitched up just after noon and pointed Miranda's nose west.  The tow to the coast of West Wales was interesting.  There are many steep climbs and roads busy with ferry traffic until we hit the narrow and winding B roads to take us to St Davids.

The Caravan Club advises to avoid the direct route through Solva as there is a very narrow section flanked by solid stone walls that would be very unforgiving should you be unfortunate enough to meet a bus coming the other way.  The alternative route is to divert through Wolf's Castle and Castle Morris.  Whilst it avoids the narrow Solva it does add around 10 miles to the journey and the road is always filthy.  As we thread our way out of castle Morris, true to form the road is covered in mud and cowshit.  Miranda's wheels do a good job of flinging globules of the stuff over both the front of the caravan and ramblers that we pass on the side of the road.

As we approached from the north from Mathry I noted that the outside temp had dropped a few degrees and the wind was picking up somewhat.  We rolled up at the Caravan Club site and Herself goes to jump out to book us in,before jumping back in poste haste and reaching for her fleece.  With the paperwork out of the way she jumps back into Miranda complaining of the bitter wind outside.

We selected a pitch away from crow alley and started to set up.  I should really have taken notice of the lack of awnings attached to the sides of vans on site,and Herself's continual questioning of the wisdom of trying to erect an awning in these winds.

With the van up on it's chocks I unpacked the awning and proceeded to open it out.  Have you ever seen a kite surfer on the beach?  Well, picture a very fat kite surfer, in a Mongo hat with his hands tangled in the guy ropes being dragged across a very slippery field!!

Herself again questions my wisdom, but by now it's a man thing, and failing to erect the awning would somehow be an affront to my manliness.

Ignoring Herself's pleading to abandon all efforts, I continued to wrestle with the kite and somehow manged to thread the beading into the rail.  Unable to fly anymore, the fabric proceeded to slam itself against the site of the van, taking one or two of Herself's fingernails with it in the process.  I was becoming more popular as the seconds ticked by.  I could tell.

By now we have an audience, which makes me more determined to succeed.  Herself is now on her knees begging me to stop, but I am on a mission.  We somehow manage to peg it down and put up the frame, but the awning looks in a sorry state and I've seen better looking erections in the shanty towns of Rio, but it's up.

I step outside to take in the admiring glances, but they've all retreated to the safety of indoors.  Herself screams at me that the poles are coming apart and that one had hit her on the arm in the process of making it's break for freedom.  My plans for later on this evening are unraveling fast.

To add insult to injury, the madly flapping fabric starts to pull the pegs out of the ground.  Our pegs are 10" rock pegs, and for those readers who are unfamiliar with them, just imagine 10" nails.  The pegs are being flung through  through the air with gay abandon, and at one point it crossed my mind that a nail bomb had been detonated nearby!  It was at this point that I considered walking up to the site shop to see if they sold any Kevlar body armor.

I didn't actually make the decision to take down the awning, the wind did it by itself while I just stood there dodging flying rock pegs like as if I'm stood on the oche at the Embassy World Darts.  The fabric was pulled out of the rail and again I went kite surfing across the site face down in the mud whilst herself nursed her bruised arm and trimmed what was left of her broken nails.

As always when we come down here I get a text from Mr Shag saying that they are lost.  When they do roll up I see something that makes me start to question Mr Shag's sexuality.  Mrs Shag is towing! We shall have words after.

We take a spin to CKs for a mooch while they set up (wisely leaving their awning in the bag, and despite the fact that we have enough red meat back at the van to clog up the arteries of a rugby team, we are rather taken with a tray of minted lamb chops that we fancy for our tea.

Back on site I BBQ in the light rain while blowing the froth off a few cold ones with Mr Shag as we watch someone try to reverse onto their pitch for some 20 mins turning their little corner of the site into a rutted swamp.

With tea out of the way I promptly fall asleep on my chin straps, only to wake up at 10.30 to go to bed.  I open the blinds and see a figure lurking near the bushes, and once my night vision kicks in I see that it is Mr Shag.  I reach for my torch and wait.  I'm sat in darkness in the van he can't see me as I watch him furtively look around to make sure no one is watching.  Looking rather shifty he lines himself up against the hedge, looks around once more before he unzips, flops and opens the pressure relief valve, I wait a few seconds until he's in full flow, then bang, he's lit up under a flood light.

I thought it was funny anyway.

Saturday 24 May

Due to my very early night I was sat bolt upright in bed and wide awake by 5.30am.  Looking outside it was evident that the wind had dropped and it was a lovely morning. I briefly entertained the idea of going out to make a start on putting up the awning,but even the dogs gave me a 'you cannot be serious' look.

I held off until 7am then went outside to start clanking poles and hammer in pegs.

With the awning now set up it was time to take the dogs for a walk, and I take time to appreciate the scenery in this part of the world.

Then something happened that was so significant I wouldn't be surprised if the world shifted on it's axis. Wait for it ......... I breakfasted on cereal.  That's right, just cereal.  By now I've been awake for nearly 5 hours, and could have done with going back to bed for a nap!

Herself has spotted a flea on Cerys, so we need a pet shop.  I vaguely remember seeing one on the road here and have an inkling that it was on the St Davids to Fishguard road.  As we approached Fishguard harbour it is patently obvious that I was wrong, so while Herself popped into Tesco Express for some odds and ends I quickly Googled pet shops in Fishguard in an effort to make it look as if I knew what I was doing.

Fishguard is rammed and there's some sort of festival kicking off, so parking is at a premium.  Herself runs into Pampered Pets and runs back out clutching what appear to be very expensive looking small boxes.

We round the corner and park up near the Marine Walk and lead the dogs to go for a stroll.  It's very scenic (if you look in the right direction) but there's no hiding from the fact that the ferry port is bloody ugly.

With the dogs knackered we head back to site where It's still bright, but the wind had picked up a bit.  I've got lunch on the go on the Weber when I hear fain t cries for help.  I turn round and Mrs Shag is flapping her arms wildly.  They are trying to put up the awning and it's not going well.  It was all hands to the pumps until Mr Shag can get a few guys pegged out.

In a rush to beat the wind I am pegging from the outside while Mr Shag is faffing about with poles and pegging on the inside.  A lack of communication results in us both going for the same pegging point and Mr Shag's hand feeling the full force of my rubber mallet. He swore, but I didn't feel a thing.

With lunch out of the way I decide to have a power nap.  Some 4 hrs later I wake with a wet tee shirt, but feeling on top of the world..  Mr Shag has been out with his dogs and Herself clocks them returning with all three dogs sporting doggy coats.  Herself is quite taken with the idea,considering we had to spend 20 mins towelling ours down earlier, and I just know in my heart of hearts that this is going to end very painfully for me in the wallet department.

It is now Bow O Clock!

I BBQ some hefty looking rump steaks for tea before we embark on a mammoth session in the awning, all cwtched up around the halogen fire getting corned beef legs.  Mrs Shag leaves to go to bed but returns several times to tell us to quieten down.  The bow has taken a hammering and Mr Shag gets up to leave at what I think is 11.30 and I go to take the piss.  I glance at my phone and realise that it's close to 2am!

Very enjoyable evening was had by all.

Sunday 25 May

I wake with a very thick head at 7am and sit in the darkened caravan until 10am feeling very sorry for myself.  The dogs need walking, so pulling myself together I start to get ready and clean up the awning at the same.  Mr Shag puts in an appearance and lifts my spirits - he looks as bad as I feel and he informs me that he didn't make it as far as bed, spending the night in a chair.

With the dogs on their leads I join the throngs of serious walkers exiting the site, except that I don't really fit in.  Whereas they are all clad in Craghoppers' finest, I have thrown on some jeans a tee shirt and a pair of Crocs!

Back at the van Herself has got the bacon going and I guzzle a few gallons of orange juice in a bid to revitalise myself.  With bacon sandwiches wolfed down Herself reminds me that today we must purchase water proof coats for the dogs.  My protestations that they already have their own furry coats falls on deaf ears, so I storm over to Mr Shag's caravan and shout at him through the front window that it's all his fault.

We leave the site in light rain, drive through a heaving St Davids and take the very scenic road through Solva and Newgale and its new road towards the metropolis that is Haverfordwest.  We park up outside Pets at Home and I know exactly what's coming.  I get mugged.

As we line up at the till I ask myself why I let myself in for it time and time again.  herself not only is clutching two rather expensive looking doggy coats, but is also struggling to hold onto a bag of dog food, some doggy treats, some doggy deodorant and some soothing cream for doggies with irritable skin.  MUN.

Morrisons is the next port of call.  firstly because they have a toilet, and secondly because Herself needs wine.  It's like a Building Regs convention in there.  I meet my Pembrokshire counterpart at the tills and bump into my RCT counterpart in the foyer while waiting for Herself to powder her nose.

We take the same scenic road back, stopping at Newgale to picnic out of the boot of Miranda.  We're parked up on top of the pebble sea defense with the St Davids peninsular to our right and Milford haven to our left.  The sea is like a millpond and there's a few out on the water on stand up boards paddling around and just three kids trying to body board on the massive 6" rollers!

It really is hard to imagine the carnage that this place suffered in the January storms when these defenses were breached.

Back on site the sun is out, so we drag the chairs outside and soak up some rays.  The dogs get to try on their coats and we have a problem with Cerys' in that the belt is almost cutting her in two.

It was the biggest one they did, so an extension to it was hastily sewn in.  During this procedure I had a bit of a senior moment.  I'll spare you the full detail, but it involved a 20 min search, emptying of cupboards, lifting of seat cushions, emptying of bed lockers and much swearing, before finding the buckle exactly where it should be (attached to the coat).  I had to take myself off to have a quiet word with myself after that episode.

As I BBQ a massive rack of ribs for our tea I watch as all the walkers trudge wearily back to their vans on site.  I take a long slug of my Cobra beer, beltch, and remark to Herself that if I'd been out walking for as long as some of these I'd be wanting a ticker tape parade to mark my return to site!

With tea out of the way, Herself and Mrs Shag head off for an early night, whilst myself and Mr Shag have a go at blowing the froth off a few cold ones, but to be honest after last night's effort our hearts really aren't in it, and we call it a day at around 10.45.

Monday 25 May

We woke with a bit of a  start this morning, well Herself did. I was lying in bed when all of a sudden I got cramp in my calf.  I do not do cramp quietly, so was screaming and thrashing about in bed.  Herself thought I was having a heart attack!

We were both awake now and the sun was streaming through the blinds so as it was about 8am we both thought it better to get up and make a start at breaking camp.

The above is a lie by the way.  Herself was pissed off at me waking her and got up thinking that we'd both make a start at breaking camp.  I went back to bed leaving her to it.  By 9am I can stand the banging no more and winch myself up out of bed to pitch in.

Breaking camp in the warm sunshine was pleasant enough and we are pulling out of the site gates at 10am - just at the very same time that hoards of day trippers are heading in the opposite direction towards Whitesands.  Lets just say the few miles to the main road were interesting.

Oh yes, the title?  Well, all weekend Mr Shag has been asking how many times he's been to this site.  He's been 4 times in total, but is convinced he's only been 3 times.  The conversation took up far too much time that it should have, and despite efforts to convince him, he remains unconvinced. Poor dab.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Plough The Fields and Scatter

Friday 2nd May

This weekend very nearly didn't happen. The plan was a weekend away with Mr & Mrs Shag as well as Mr & Mrs Tatasports.  Mrs Shag can't be bothered with site booking so left it up to me.  In what I can only put down to a senior moment, I somehow managed to book ourselves onto Gowerton and reserved a pitch for 'The Shags' at Tredegar House, some 60 miles to the east.

Mr TTS thought this to be a very good idea, but with some frantic phone calls I managed to locate 3 pitches at Pitton Cross near Rhossilli on the Gower peninsular.

Herself was working, but by midday I am hitched up and on the road, a text from Mr Shag lets me know he's 20 mins behind me and Mr TTS will be over once they've sorted the grand kids out after school.

Gower roads are bumpy, and it's no surprise at all to see the contents of the lockers strewn all over the floor on arrival.  After checking in I am escorted to our pitches by a bloke on a quad.  Mucho jealous I am as I've always wanted to work on a campsite just so as I can drive round all day on a quad telling people where to pitch.

He warns me that the ground is soft and asks that I use the mover to get the van onto the pitch so as to save the grass.  Happy to oblige I unhitch and fire up the mover.  It didn't go well.  The jockey wheel sunk into the soft ground and proceeded to plough a trench that I could have planted spuds in.

The van was soon hitched back up to Miranda, and with much revs and much black smoke she dutifully pushed the 1.5t tin shed back onto the pitch, leaving a few ruts in the not now so smooth paddock.

The the van levelled Mr Shag arrives, his van being towed by Mr TTS (Mrs Shag has the car in work).  Mr TTS proceeds to reverse onto the pitch.  He didn't get far before losing traction with his fwd car spinning wildly on the damp turf.  We unhitch, push his car out of the ruts before Mr Shag wins his struggle with the motor mover control and tries to inch his van back onto the pitch, his jockey wheel digs in to plough another trench.

In an effort to reduce the nose weight Mr Shag sits on the toilet in the back of the van while I operate the mover in  a rather erratic fashion and Mr TTS sparodically lifts the jockey wheel out of the trench.  It did work and Mr Shag comes out of his van and says "Bloody hell mun, it's like having a poop on the big dipper in Porthcawl!"

Mr TTS heads back home leaving us to set up.  It didn't take Mr Shag long as he'd forgotten to bring his awning with him.  And with little to occupy his mind it didn't take long before thoughts turned to starting to empty the contents of his cool box.

Mrs Shag turns up and before any efforts are made to put up their awning I am instructed to stay put and watch a video of her horse.  I was impressed, he ran round in circles and everything.  He even managed not to fall over, which is a lot more than he ever achieved in his career as a racehorse!

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a horsey person, but, and I'll never tell this to Mrs Shag to her face mind, he does look like a handsome beast and she's worked wonders with him since his retirement from racing.

I start to help them set up the awning, and get as far as emptying the pole bag before coming to the conclusion that I can't really be arsed.

Mt TTS rolls up, and from experience we know it's not worth him either trying to reverse onto the pitch nor is it worth trying to use the mover.  We hitch up his van to Miranda, and again and with much revs and much black smoke she dutifully pushed the 1.5t tin shed back onto the pitch, leaving a few more ruts in the not now so smooth paddock.

Mr Shag announces he's lighting his BBQ.  We gather round in chairs to witness the grand event and I am warned that any wise cracks involving Bear Grylls and his fire lighting prowess will result in my good self being doused in lighter fluid.

He did get it going eventually, but half of the Catholic population in the western world now think we have a new pope.  I take the dogs for a long walk through the fields down towards Mewslade while they eat before returning to the van to resume the task of emptying my coolbox.

Both the 'Shags' and the "TTS's" have been having problems with their electrics and it would appear that the site owner is getting rather fed up with requests to reset the boxes.

It's all rock 'n' roll this caravanning lark, and at some point I fall asleep in front of the halogen fire and proceeded to dribble a reservoir onto my chest.  I'm awoken by the arrival of herself at 10pm, Roids empties our fridge before departing again,  Mr & Mrs TTS have an early night, and while their caravan rocks on its steadies Mr & Mrs Shag come round to ours where we stay up till 1.30am putting the world to rights and having a good old catch up.

Saturday 3rd May

After last night's events I didn't rise very early this morning. I woke at 10.30am with Cerys whining pitifully by my side with her eyes watering.  My mouth feels like a herd of elephants have taken a dump in it, but I trow on some clothes and take the dogs out for a walk over the fields. It's quite cool and a bit grey, but I suppose there are worse places to wipe the sleep from your eyes.

Tali discovers mole hills and runs round the field from mole hill to mole hill digging furiously.  I have to pick up far too much dog shit that is good for me as both of them decide it's time for me to do my morning stretching exercises using little black bags as props.

I am happy to report that Herself has got her act together and a full cooked breakfast awaits me on my return.  There was no mug of tea though, but I'll allow her that slight oversight, just this once.

After breakfast I have an urgent need to replenish the coolbox, so with Mr Shag riding shotgun we head off to Scurlage to empty their shelves of Bow.  That is as far as we went today; Mr & Mrs Shag took a spin over to Worms Head and got ripped off for the sum of £3 for the privilege to park up for an hour.

They are back by 3pm and it's Bow O Clock, and boy did the Bow take a hammering!  The site is coming back to life as people return from a day out and light up their BBQs.  Mr Shag is on a mission because of all the piss taking and his BBQ is at full heat in no time at all.  We have half a cow's arse each with some potatoes roasted in garlic and herbs before the bowathon resumes.

The highlight of the evening (for everyone else and not me I might add) was when I managed to find myself in the centre of a dog fight.  Why always me?  No blood was drawn, but a £30 pair of cargo trow are now consigned to the bin.

Roids rocks up with TF and ask if they can stop the night.  By now I am in such a state that I have a pool of dribble on the front of my tee shirt, so herself does all the organsising sorting some booze out for them.  I've no idea where they got it from, but there is no doubt it involved £20 notes leaving the secure environment of my wallet.

I think we had a great night, retreating to the relative warmth of the awning by 10pm, putting the world to rights and generally talking shit.  By the time midnight arrives both Mr Shag and I can hardly stand.  For some reason this causes much hilarity to Herself and Mrs Shag.

I am far too long in the tooth to count how many drinks I've had.  If I want a drink I'll have a drink.  But it's not too difficult to work out how much I've drunk tonight.  I didn't bring any Strongbow with me and this afternoon I bought 16 x 500ml cans in the shop.  I now have just the one left!

Sunday 4th May

Ouch my head!

I get up out of bed at 7.30 and am still pissed and having a little trouble standing.  I go back to bed but the burning sensation in my guts becomes quite urgent by 9am.  Our bog is full to overflowing so I have little choice.  I bump into Mr Shag outside who has the same dilema! What a sorry sight we must have looked up at the bogs.

A lazy morning was had, with Herself knocking up some bacon butties for breakfast.  By the afternoon I feel I ought to do something, so while Herself is having a powernap I take it upon myself to go out for a walk with the dogs.

Not one of my brightest moves.  I didn't tell herself I was going, nor did I leave her a note.  I also didn't take any water with me for the dogs or me (very foolish considering my dehydrated state after last night).  Never the less off we set making our way through the fields from the site towards the coast.

Right at the very start of the walk there is a notice board telling you which arrows to follow for a different destination.  I ignored it.  All was fine for a while as we ambled from one field to another following the arrows and taking care to open and close the gates as we went.

Then when we got about 8 or 9 gates into our walk we had a bit of a dliema.  The path split with a blue arrow pointing one way and a red one pointing the other.  I look at Tali in a futile hope of getting some inspiration but in the end spun a stick in the air.

The dogs are on the extended leads as there are numerous signs enforcing the matter owing to livestock being in some of the fields.  Six or seven gates later and we hit a problem.  The next barrier is a stile.  Tali darts through a gap leaving me and the fatter Cerys on the other side.

Picture the scene.  Tali is the other side of the stile straining on his lead, I am attempting to lift Cerys up and climb the stile at the same time.  I some how manage to straddle it and gently lower Cerys to the ground.  Well, that's what I told Herself.  What actually happened was Tali got bored, went for it, pulled me off balance and I dropped Cerys.

It was with some relief that I looked around and noted that there was no one within the vicinity with the RSPCA on speed dial that had witnessed this act of cruelty.  While Cerys re composed herself I went to steady myself at the top of the stile and grabbed a length of 4x2.  It was loose.  That's funny I thought as I looked down to note that it was a liftable rail, that when lifted cleverly creates a dog gate at ground level. How I laughed.

The path now narrows and I have no idea whatsoever where I am.  The dogs are panting and the inside of my mouth feels like Gandhi's flip flop.  The walk is very pretty though, gone are the distant sea views and we are walking between some very high hedgerows.  Tali is going apeshit because he can smell sheep on the other side.

The path opens out onto a farmyard away from the humid and claustrophobic path.  My relief is shortlived however as we are set upon by the farm dog.  He was a viscous git, but while I was pirouetting as my leaded dogs circled me I managed to land a foot straight on his chops.  This sent him scurrying and we hurried ourselves along before he regained his composure and came after us for a Rocky style comeback!

A short while later we came across a house with a fridge outside with various goodies like quail's eggs, fruit and WATER in it with an honesty box by it's side.

I must admit to getting a bit excited at this point as I reached into my back pocket for my wallet, then I reached into the other back pocket before checking my front pockets.  Houston we have a problem!

I clock the CCTV camera and dismiss any foolish notions I have of taking a water and returning later on the pay for it and continue on up the hill.  We come to a T junction and the road is busy, with no footpath. There is no way I can walk the two dogs back safely, and there is also no way that I am turning round to deal with the rather irate farm dog who by now will be frothing at the mouth and will have had time to gather up some of his mates to deal with the fat bloke and two pampered collies that jumped him earlier on!

I reach for my phone.  Thank god I had the sense to pick that up, and ring Herself to come and rescue us.

"Can you come and fetch us please?"
"Suppose so, where are you?"
"I don't know."
"How can you not know?"
"Well if you exit the site and turn left, we will be along that road somewhere ....... I think."
"Well we came through some fields, and a farm dog attacked Tali....."
"I'm on my way ......... BEEEEP"

Miranda comes around the corner some 15 mins later on two wheels and skids to a halt.  Herself gives me a disapproving look as she makes a bee line for Tali, before realising that I may have over cooked the Tali being attacked bit.

We get back to the van and I fall asleep in the chair outside in the sun.  This does some serious damage to my solar panel and I just know that a shower later on is going to smart a bit.

Ronnie shows up and we feast on home made burgers before I fall asleep again, only to be woken by Herself when it's time to go to bed.

Monday 5th May

I am woken by Herself at 9am, and after some deliberation we decide to go home today as planned and not stop another night.  Breaking camp is swift and we are on the road by 10am.  It's very windy and we could really feel it as we climbed to the top of Cefn Bryn.

It's usual at this point that I tell you that the tow home was uneventful.  Not so today. As we crested the summit I became aware of some fool behind flashing his lights at us wildly.  I assume that it's because he's a little peeved at being stuck behind Miranda inhaling litre after litre of deisil soot, so I go into ignore mode.

This continues for a few miles before he starts tooting and as we turn a corner Herself says that the occupants of the car appear to be having a fit and are pointing to the roof of the caravan.  Herself checked everything was locked before we left, but now one of the roof vents is wide open!  Must have been the roof vent fairy, because a conversation in Miranda during the next 10 mins firmly established that it was not Herself's fault.

Home now, and happy to give my liver a rest.