With the trauma of the funeral done and dusted, but with Herself still in pieces a decision has to be made. Do we go on holiday or not?
After much agonising Herself agrees that we will go away only after I suggest that Creaky and Grumbles join us in e few days when Ronnie, Roids and their significant others have left for home.
We go over to have a chat and both Creaky and Grumbles are insistent on us going away, but are overjoyed with the invite to join us next week.
Just as soon as I'm given the go ahead I start racking my brains for somewhere to go. We need somewhere lively enough with stuff to do close by for the first part of the week and then somewhere quieter for the remainder. A plan is hatched and pitches booked at the club sites at Hillhead and Illminster.
Thursday 16th July
Having not made the decision to come away until gone 10.30pm last night we had nothing ready to go. I was up at 7am sorting the van and car out, and Herself not long after sorting out some clothes.
She spent the morning with Creaky and Grumbles, before we set off at around 1pm. The kids are joining us later, but giving us a head start whilst they go for breakfast and then spend some time with Coupons, Creaky and Grumbles.
The journey down was sombre. Not only was Herself holding back the tears, but she was aslo worried about work. They are making cutbacks and 4 people at her level are to lose their jobs. She was forced to interview for her own job just a few days after losing her sister!!!
We pull into Taunton Dean as usual to give the dogs a stretch and I head on in to McDs to grab some lunch. As i return to the bench Herself's phone goes off. It's her boss, so she takes off to a quiet spot to receive the news. What seemed like an eternity later she returns, still talking, but giving me the thumbs up. At least that's one thing that's off her mind.
Traffic was reasonably light until we reached Newton Abbot and the ring road. What a nightmare!! Nose to tail and crawling for the last 15 miles to site.
Our arrival was delayed even further as Herself decided that my satnav was wrong and we should take the first left off the mini roundabout!! This necessitated turning round the outfit in a cul de sac with an audience of waiting cars.
I didn't curse, honestly.
We pull in to a rather misty site and receive a great reception from the onsite wardens at the CC site at Hillhead. They remembered me from when they were wardens at Trewethett Farm when we stopped there for just 4 nights back in 2012! On informing them that we would have guests, and a second car we were directed to pitch 80, half way down the site. It's massive and accommodates the van, awning, annex and two cars easily.
I instantly regret booking a two site break as I am reminded how much hard work it is to erect a full size awning complete with sleeping annex!
Ronnie, Roids and their significant others rock up and Herself and I slip out to get in some provisions. It's been a rather stressful few weeks and we are both on our chin straps, so after an evening meal cooked on the BBQ we just chill in the awning while the young ones head off up to the onsite club house and games room.
We're up on a hill here and the place is shrouded in fog, but people opposite say they've been down in Torbay and have got sunburnt!
After taking the dogs out for a late night walk, we turn in absolutely drained as my thoughts turn to another change of plan..
Friday 17th July
We wake to clear skies after some rain overnight rain. And after some abortive finger swiping on the ipad I head up to the onsite dog walk with Tali and Cerys, and now the fog has lifted it's immediately evident how high up we are, but with it cleared we have a magnificent view down over Torbay.
Dogs walked I take a hike up to reception armed with my ipad, wallet and membership card. Online there is no availability showing for Wednesday, but I'm hoping that the wardens will be able to extend our stay on their system.I explain our situation and after some frantic key tapping and scratching of heads they confirm it can be done, I have to cancel my booking for Illminster first on the ipad though.
We breakfast on bacon rolls before heading down to Paignton, where we bag two parking spots on the sea front before walking the length of the pier.
The walk along the pier didn't exactly go to plan though. You can't get to the end unless you walk through the arcade. I cleared it with one of the young girls about walking the dogs through, and set off with the easily spooked Tali on a short leash.
We're no more than 5m in, and 2 young lads on a flight simulator take off from a flight deck and start firing missiles with gay abandon. Tali's head went straight away and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Hanging onto him for grim death we both sprinted through the arcade, spraying chairs and fellow customers in our wake! Those that know me will appreciate that I'm no athlete, but I'm pretty sure I'd have given Lynford Christie a run for his money over that 75m.
We took in some sea air until the others stopped laughing and I was brave enough to run the gauntlet with Tali again. I waited outside while the others wasted a few fist fulls of 2p pieces.
Next up we brave the sea of Chavs and take a wander up Paignton's main tourist drag. Chip shop, arcade, another chip shop, tat shop, another arcade .......... you get the picture. I get lured into a shop selling knock off phone cases and invest in a rather smart brushed aluminium one for my S5 mini.
The kids head further up into town whist Herself and I retreat to Murphy's Sports Bar on the sea front, and invest some of our pennies in a few pints of cider. Herself confesses to fancying my new phone case, so when the kids return and with Herself's word of "Don't get me one of those jewelled ones!!" ringing in my ears, Roids walks back to the shop with me. He gets one of those Rambo type cases that you can drive over or tie to a submarine, but I'm out of luck with an aluminium case for Herself's S3 mini. Not wanting to go back empty handed I pick out a rather fetching case with flowers on it.
The sea gulls round here are clever. The pub has invested a huge amount of readies in hanging a net over the beer garden as well as installing devices to frighten them off. We laughed as one cheeky little bugger ignored all that to feast on what a family had left behind as they departed in a hurry.
Before finishing our drinks I present Herself with her new phone case. She was overjoyed with it, she was, and I quote directly the flowing verse of thanks that fell off her lips. "What the FFFF have you bought me that for. It's FFFFing hideous. What did I say before you left?"
I stashed it away in my daysack. Maybe she'll warm to it.
We pile into the car and make tracks to Babacombe. Parked up we climb down the steps onto the shingle and pebble beach where Cerys has a dip and Tali looks on bewildered (he doesn't do water). I find a steel ring on the shore and pick it up. I've not a clue what I want it for, but am convinced that it'll come in handy for something ......... one day.
Ice creams are the order of the day and I hand over a King's ransom for a fist full of them as we take a table on the promenade over looking the beach and breakwater to devour them.
A gay couple are sat on the pebbles and start stripping off. They get down to their Y fronts before putting their shoes back on and striding off into the sea for a swim!
Back to site we head and the Weber gets pressed into action to prepare tea for the six of us.
It's been a lovely day, nice and warm, and we round it off superbly with a bit of a party.
Saturday 18th July
We wake to nice clear skies. Today is no ordinary day though, as today is the anniversary of Ronnie's birth. And at 22 years of age you'd think he'd remember to bring along his birthday cards that he'd collected at home before leaving!
As it was he just has a card off me and his mam, a card off his brother and one off his significant other to be getting along with.
The youngsters have plans for today, they are going to the water park at Goodrington for the day.
After they left I delved into the depths of my daysack and retreived the stunning phone cover that I'd so thoughtfully purchased for Herself yesterday. She took one look at it and told me to put it up for sale on E Bay, as most certainly wasn't going anywhere near her phone. I stashed it back in the pocket, may be she'll warm to it.
We hop into Miranda and head off out. I ask Herself where she wants to go, and I'm told anywhere! Great help!!
We cruise down the lanes to nearby Stoke Gabriel, I swing into the car park and as the yellow vested bandit was making his way over to me Herself blurts out "Why have you brought me here again?" and I suddenly remember coming down these roads last October .... she didn't like it then either! So spraying gravel in the general direction of the yellow vest we sped away leaving him trying to roll back up his reel of tickets.
Herself still hasn't let me know of anywhere she'd like to go so I am cruising the roads of Torbay aimlessly until I spot a national trust sign for a castle. I follow the signs diligently through the lanes, but as we draw near my heart sinks as I clock the locked gates. A sign tells me that it only opens 3 days a week, and today is not one of them.
I park up and switch the engine off. I turn to Herself and insist that she gives me some direction as I'm not moving until she does.
She looks surprised and utters "I thought we were going to look for new camping chairs." I say nothing and fire up my Samsung which tells me there's a large camping supplies place in the vicinity called Outdoor World.
We head that way stopping off for a pub lunch in Newton Abbot. With my wallet nearly £90 down we head back to site ... complete with 2 new chairs ..... that's 4 chairs I've had to buy this year .... crying inside I am, crying.
We get a text off Roids to say they are eating out before coming back as they are hungry after a day on the slides. We stopped off at ASDA for supplies and he fired up the Weber to warm up ready.
Desert this evening is Ronnie's birthday cake, and very splendid it looked too, complete with sparklers and a firework poked into it.
How wise it was to fire up this lot in the confines of the awning was debatable, but at least we avoided having to call out Fireman Sam and his mates.
In passing we've seen a funfair setting up on the green in Paignton, so that is the destination of choice tonight.
We park up on the sea front and make a bee line for the fun fair. It's not cheap and Roids is holding back. Tighter than cram that boy, so Herself helps herself to a few notes from my wallet and gives them to the kids.
They have a go on a few white knuckle death traps until my money runs out, and then attention is diverted to the stalls, where myself, Ronnie and Roids are pressured into spending a small fortune in trying to win cuddly toys for our significant others.
Having put enough cash in the general direction of the gyppos on the fair we stroll over to the pier to spend some time getting ripped off in the arcade.
I hate arcades, as they cost too much money to spend any length of time in them, so left the others to it and retreated to the car to take the dogs for a walk.
It wasn't too long before Herself joined me, and we had one of those moments that you can neither buy or plan for. We sat on the sea wall in the darkness, far enough away from the hustle and bustle to only hear the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, looking over to the lit up pier and the reflection of it's lights on the water .......... really special it was.
Back at the van we supper on bacon rolls before hitting the hay, absolutely knackered.
Sunday 19th July
We wake to clear skies and bright sunshine. Breakfast is taken in the awning looking out at a clear blue sky.
The kids are heading over to Woodlands Adventure Park today, but we have no intention to move. The sun is out and it's hot, so a day chilling by the van is called for. I smother myself in used chip fat, recline my chair, and settle in for a few hours of personal contemplation.
Herself prods me and informs me that it's 3pm. I say "So what!" and am informed that it is Sunday, we have no food in, and the shops close at 4pm.
She then reclines her chair and embarks on a little personal contemplation. From these actions I can only conclude that my trip to Asda will be solo.
I'm checking out and my Samsung is ringing, it's Herself, and she's spooked and wants me back on site ASAP. I race back and she's sitting in the van, turns out some bloke has pulled in next to us and his mannerism made her really uneasy. I play it down but with 10 mins I've been talking to him and she's right. To put it bluntly, I wouldn't trust him around kids.
We put away the shopping and Herself suggests we take a walk up to the club for an afternoon drinkies. After some considerable arm twisting I agree and we spend a pleasant few hours chucking back a few pints of Thatchers scrumpy and listening to some know it all spread his knowledge of every Caravan Club site in the UK to anyone within a 20m radius of him.
By the time the kids return from Woodlands and come to find us, we are rather worse for wear and are not making much sense. the Weber is again pressed into action for tea before we have a great evening in the awning playing cards and getting even drunker.
Monday 20th July
We wake with thick heads and it's also raining. The kids are heading home today, but not until this evening.
After breakfast the weather breaks and they head down to Brixham for a look around. Cerys has not been too well for the last 24 hrs, and at some points we've been left wondering if she'd be coming home with us. Herself then found a tic on her head this morning, and as neither of us has a scooby of how to remove it we must find a vet.
Pets at Home in Torquay comes to the rescue, but cannot see her until 3.30 pm. We leave site as it's clearing up at 12 and find a parking spot on the marina. I'm on a mission. I need a Sports Direct, not that I've an urgent need to stock the caravan wardrobe with Umbro 3/4 trousers and Everlast vest tops or anything. You see the box that I keep all the gubbins in for the motor mover has deteriorated beyond repair and Herself has suggested a tog bag for the purpose.
I leave Herself outside with the dogs and use the escalator to enter the store. I'm about to fight my way through the racks and racks of Umbro 3/4 trousers and Everlast vest tops when my eyes are distracted bu a pile of boxes containing Karrimore sandals, reduced from £59.99 to £15.99 (yeah right!). I pick up a size 10 before wading through the quagmire of cheap clothing in search of a tog bag. Why do they make it so difficult to pay for stuff in these places? 10 mins I spent trying to find the tills, I even arrived at the exit 3 times, and if it were not for the alarms and CCTV I would have been tempted.
I return to Herself. She remarked on how long I'd been and how big the tog bag appeared to be! With still more time to kill we huddled under a parasol to give us some shade from the burning sun (scratch that ..... the pouring rain) and lunched alfresco at one of the numerous harbour side restaurants plying for trade.
In no time at all it was time to head for the vet. We lead the dogs and make our way to the vet at the rear of the store. We are greeted by "Trigger" at reception who appears to be having some difficulty operating the computer! The nurse comes out and beckons Herself and Cerys in to be treated while Trigger gets to grips with his abacus.
Cerys had her tick removed and a quick check over while I sat and watched as Trigger clicked the mouse a few times and peered at the contents of the screen in front of him.
Now came the trickier part. Time to pay. It was only £15, but Trigger was still having trouble getting to grips with technology. A full ten mins we stood there like lemons while he frantically tapped some keys, peered some more at the screen, squinted his eyes and peered at the screen. I was losing the will to live and ready to walk when the vet walked passed, pressed a key and walked off shaking his head.
The printer spewed out a receipt and we were free to leave.
We arrived back at site. the Juke was parked adjacent to the caravan but no one was about. All the towels had gone though so Sherlock summised that they must have gone up to the pool for a splash around.
We walked up to the complex for a drink and to meet them coming out. After they had showered and been fed we helped them pack and load up before waving them off at around 6pm as they head home back to Wales. We would have liked them to stay longer as much as they would have liked to, but Roids starts work with The Scarlets tomorrow on placement treating the rugby players with bumps and bruises and Ronnie has a quad biking expedition planned.
Their exhaust has not had time to warm up before Herself and I go about tidying up, de cluttering and cleaning the van and awning. It didn't take long and within an hour we are sat in Miranda's boot enjoying a fish supper as we looked out over Brixham marina. What a perfect way to round off a day.
Back on site I crack open a beer and take a seat. All of a sudden it hits me how empty and quiet it is. There have been six of us sat in here all week and now I'm Billy no Mates sat there getting corned beef legs off the halogen.
To be continued ...........