Sunday, 26 July 2015

Hastily Arranged Hillhead ........ Part 2 (Meeting The Meeks)

That's part one of the week over with, and with the kids gone home we await the arrival of Herself's parents.  We were supposed to be packing up here today, but we like it here and the thought of packing up and pitching somewhere up country again was just too much.  Plans were changed and we are staying put.  I love the flexibility of caravanning sometimes.

Tuesday 21st July

We wake to blue skies and sunshine.  The dogs get a long walk before breakfast.  Herself's parents are on their way down to stop with us for a few nights, so we need to go shopping again.

Ronnie and Roids had been over to theirs this morning to set his satnav and help load up the car before they set off at 10am.  We were expecting them at 2.30 pm so at 2.15pm we made our way up to the bar on site for a pint.  No scrumpy today as I'll be driving later on.

No sooner that we'd sat down but Creaky rings to announce their arrival.  Herself asks where they are and is informed that they are by a no entry sign.  This has us puzzled as we cannot remember one!  We neck our pints and go to find them.  They come round the corner and it's immediately obvious that all is not well.

The savage gets rather excited whenever their car slows down and makes horrible whining noises.  This had irritated Grumbles, who lost concentration and turned into the staff car park and service yard.  With the savage still making a din he did not hear his rear parking warning beeper going off and reversed into another car!

We get them booked in and unpacked.  It took a while, but Creaky does not travel light, what with her oxygen making machine and other assorted shite!

Once unpacked Grumbles wastes no time at all in getting into holiday mode.

Chicken off the Weber for tea is wolfed down before we pile into Miranda heading for the bright lights of Paignton, only this time I don't think we'll be going to the fair.

We cruise along the front and take the turn for the car park.  It's closed, but none the matter, there is this youngish lad there directing traffic to park on the green in neat rows.  He ushers us forward and tells me when to stop before turning his attention to the next car.

I'm starting to get us unloaded when this older bloke comes over and announces that we'll be clamped if we park here.  I explain that we'd been directed there but he is insistent.  I go over to speak to the bloke who'd directed us and he denies having anything to do with it!

The red mist is starting to descend now and I recount of how he waved us forward and raised his hand for us to stop before waving forward the next car so that we were all parked in a neat row.

He puffs out his chest and I am informed to get out of his face and go back to where I came from!  Now I'm usually quite tolerant, and have been in just one fight since my teens, but this bloke was really getting under my skin with his jinks and following attitude.

Dickhead!!!!  He retreated before Herself had to step in and physically restrain me.

With adrenaline still pumping we found our way to the multi storey and walked down the main drag towards the sea front.  the fair has grown over the last few days and it's a very pleasant stroll along the prom to the pier.

Grumbles and Herself are in their elements and spend a few hours pouring 2p pieces into the machines.  Creaky has had enough after 10 mins and I take her off to the cafe for a hot chocolate.

It's gone 9pm by the time we are reunited, and armed with arm fulls of more soft toys we make our way back to the car park, after spending far too much time arguing over the shortest route.  My heart sinks as I clock the security meshing that's pulled over the entrance to the stairwell in an effort to keep the glue sniffers and junkies out.

My mind is racing and I suggest Grumbles catching a taxi back to the site to collect his wheels and come back to pick us us.  They all look at me as if I've two heads. In unison they all shout at me "What about the dogs?" who are all locked in Miranda in the locked multi.


I keep my mouth shut as we walk the perimeter in search of an opening.  My rear end is making buttons as we arrive at each locked stairwell until we reach the main entrance which has not yet been closed up.  There's no way I'm pushing Creaky up 7 or 8 ramps so I leave them as I go to retrieve the car.

We take the scenic route back to site having a nose around the marina at Paigntion on the way.

Back on site Herself goes about making up the front bed for Grumbles, Creaky will be on the fixed bed at the back right next to the shower room while Herself and I will be pretending to be real campers in the sleeping annex out in the awning.  I'm in my late 40s and have not been looking forward to this.  I've not slept on an airbed on the floor in 15 years and don't rate my chances of getting off it without a crane in the morning.  And what about middle of the night expeditions?

I am pleasantly surprised how comfortable and cosy it is as I lower my bulky frame onto the mattress and look up enviously at the van.  Mind you we have enough bedding in here to set up another migrant camp at Calais.

Wednesday 22nd July

We slept well, really well, and managed to get up vertical without the help of mechanical aids!  First job of the morning was top walk the dogs, not an easy task with three of them on a leash!

I'm normally quite observant and quite like wandering around the site noting the outfits .. a swift with a RR Sport, an A6 towing a Bailey, a black Vivaro van towing a Bailey Explorer with a Vango blow up awning ....... hang on, that looks familiar.  It takes me a few moments for the pieces to fit together, but I have my suspicions that the unit belongs to The Meek Family.

Mrs Meek emerges and I'm cheeky enough to ask.  We have a conversation about their travels before I follow the smell of cooking bacon back to our van.

What lovely people.  You can follow their travels on the Caravan Club's "Club Together" section of the web site or just type in their name on Google for information on their now year long adventure in their caravan.

Credit to The Guardian for the picture.

I followed the smell of bacon down through the site, into our cul de sac and all the way to the adjacent pitch.  It turns out that Herself has decided that we shall breakfast on crumpets this morning.

A plan is hatched for an outing for the day and we will head east along the cost towards Dawlish warren.  We pile into Miranda and I made the mistake of thinking I knew the way without looking at a map.  We got there, but it took an age and was about 25 miles longer than the direct route.

As we're dropping down the hill to the warren through the static caravan parks I swing a right into a field that's housing an open air market today.  It's nice and warm as we brows the stalls.  I pick up a wire brush to clean the Weber, some strawberry jam and a few pairs of shorts before we take a seat for some drinks.  I got done.  I was drawn in by the Coffee £1 daubed in huge writing on the board and ordered a coffee for Creaky and bottles of pop for the rest of us.

When asked to part with £7 I asked the young girl if she was sure.  She replied affirmative and looked at me as if I had two heads, before pointing to the minute sign above her head and in the back corner of the trailer behind assorted takeaway cartons offering cold drinks at £2 each!

We jump back into Miranda for the short trip further down the hill into Dawlish Warren itself.  After parking up we lead the dogs and walk under the railway and past the attractions.  I take a seat with the dogs while the others look around the shops.

I don't mind sitting outside, and really enjoy people watching.  as the world passes by, and sat here on bench in Dawlish I get the feeling that I'm observing an outdoor fashion show put on by Sports Direct.

Once they've done the shops we take our first table on the deck of The Boathouse with views out to sea.  I say first table because after we'd got Creaky out of her chair and seated, tethered the dogs to the table, got them some water and sat down ourselves. Creaky decided she didn't like that table as there was no shade for her.  So with a rather large audience we relocated to a table that was adjacent to a parasol.  Once that show was over myself and grumbles went inside to place our order for lunch and ask for the parasol to be erected.  Turns out it can't as it's broken.  Grumbles turns into a quivering wreck at the though of having to tell Creaky that she will have to dine under the blazing sun.

Lunch was nice, but there again you can't really go wrong with sausages or scampi and chips in a basket!  With full bellies we retreat to Miranda and take the more direct, and much more scenic route back to site along the coast through Dawlish, Teignmouth and Torquay.

Back on site we sit outside for a while taking in some fresh air, but I'm on my chin straps and rather fancy a nap.  I crawl into the sleeping pod and snuggle down for some personal contemplation time.  I'm just dropping off and Herself shakes me.  I am informed that we have to go out and get some food because if we leave it any later it'll be too late for Creaky to eat.

Making a show of yawning, I climb into the driver's seat and we trundle two miles down the hill into Brixham to collect a few fish suppers to be eaten back at the van.

After food, Herself and the olds settle down to some TV time.  I retreat with a few bottles of beer and my laptop to the awning with the intention of using the £10 wifi voucher I had purchased earlier on in the week.

All evening I tried to connect, and I was half a case of beer down before I had ANY SORT OF SUCCESS!!!!

Thursday 23rd July

After another good night's kip on the floor we wake to overcast skies, but it's not raining.  I take the 3 dogs up to the dog walk and get delayed talking again to The Meek Family on the way back.  They are packing up today and heading further along the coast towards Dorset.

After breakfast I point Miranda's nose towards Newton Abbot and it's nearby Trago Mills.  After exiting the roundabout it's immediately obvious that this place is huge and is a large attraction.  We park up under the trees and head off into the simply mahoosive discount store.  Once done in there I go to get the dogs while the others find a table to have a coffee among the wandering peacocks.

The savage is not as well behaved as our two, and leading three dogs and having to lift one out of the car takes some organising.  He continually tries to jump out of the boot, despite being told firmly to stay, and gets a clip for his troubles.

While I was lifting Cerys out he makes a break for it and spends the next 2 mins causing chaos as all traffic comes to a halt as he runs in front of car after car.  How on earth am I going to break the news to Creaky and Grumbles that i have managed to get their dog killed?

After much huffing and puffing I manage to catch up with him.  I look back towards the car and both Cerys and Tali are sat in the boot shaking their heads at him as if to say "you're not supposed to be doing that",  I get him out of sight and we have a serious "man to dog talk" before we all set off to find the others.

I didn't see them among the throng, but they saw us, and Herself had remarked to the olds that one of the dogs must have had a hiding!  her logic for this was that they were all behaving and walking tidy for me! Little did they know.

By the way, the coffee was disgusting and got thrown in the hedge!

This place is weird though, the massive discount store has many independent shops and cafes outside, but it also has it's very own theme park.  We take a wander until we happen across a model railway.  I'm no train buff but am persuaded to go keep Grumbles company while he takes a look.  He spends a while looking at the free small exhibition outside, but is too tight to pay to go inside and take a look at the main exhibition.

I treat him and fork out the extortionate £1 each to go in and he dutifully follows.  He's in his element and remarks how he once had a load of this kit himself, but obviously not on this scale. I have to admit though that the size of the set up is impressive.

We stop for a rest at the exit and take a table for Creaky to have a Coffee.  I've just sat down and herself remarks that she liked the look of some spuds for sale some 100m back into the site.  I do not take the hint and think I've got away with it, but am told directly to go back and buy her a bag!

I'm returning and can see Grumbles up and agitated.  turns out they've finished their drinks and are ready to leave and are wondering where I am.  Without a chance to sit down I guzzle my bottle of Pepsi on the way back to the car.

I decide to take a different route back that will take us through Totnes, hoping to avoid the nightmare rush hour traffic on the ring road.  We stop off at a superb garden centre at Ipplepen and pick up some superb Lamb for tea from the attached butcher shop after Creaky has fleeced Grumbles of far too much money for odds and ends inside.

With tea dishes cleared out of the way, I'm just settling down with a few beers and my iPad.  However Herself has other plans for me.  Turns out that Herself and Creaky have planned a card school for this evening!  I'm no fan of cards, but spend a few hours being parted of all my loose change in a game of Newmarket.  Grumbles will need bigger pockets for his journey home tomorrow.

Friday 24th July

We are still sleeping in the annex and it's really cosy.  I wake at 4am to the pitter patter of rain on the fabric with my bladder screaming at me, but go straight back to sleep and think nothing of it.  Herself and I are cwtched up at 9am when Cerys starts pawing at Herself frantically.  We assume it's just her playing up in the morning as usual, but Grumbles then sticks his head out of the stable door and alerts us to a problem.  The awning roof is sagging and is holding enough water to fill our hot tub at home.  Not only that buy the awning carpets are under 3/4 inch or water.

We jump up out of bed and squelch our way to the van.  Grumbles realises we have problems to deal with, and that we could sort them with them out of the way, so any thoughts he had of stopping around for the day are dispatched.  they have a quick breakfast, and we load them up and they are off on their way by 10.30am.

The awning roof is sorted easily, so I put on a jacket and my Mongo hat and set about removing the annex before zipping in and tensioning the third side.  There is nothing we can do about the awning floor as the water is coming up from the ground, so rather than sit there and worry about it we head off out for a spin.

It is still hammering down as we leave site and make our way down the hill to the lower ferry at Kingswear.  The upper ferry is bigger and more stable, but the lower ferry is £1 cheaper for the crossing.  As we descend the ramp onto the barge Herself starts calling me names that cannot be repeated on here as we rock on the swell.

We've made that crossing in better weather and on calmer waters, but grounding on the landing ramp was a relief.  It's still hammering down so we didn't stop in Dartmouth and continued up towards Totnes and Steamer Quay.  It's still hammering down so we continue through the lanes aimlessly until we arrive in the hamlet of Avon.  We are drawn towards the Avon arms where we decide it's time for lunch.

Sometimes the best meals are those that are unplanned, and this was one of those times.  We only had burgers, but they were superb and the landlord very friendly, taking the time to come over and have a chat.

We run across the car park in pouring rain and make our way back to Dartmouth.  Once we get back herself has no plans to go outside again so I am dispatched to grab some pasties for our supper.  I got very wet!

Back on site I tried in vain again to connect to the site wifi (there will be refund request submitted when I get home) while Herself embarked on a few hours of personal contemplation.  I was still hammering down when we got the call from creaky to say they had arrived home after a nightmare 6 1/2 hour journey home.  Ronnie also sent us a text to say that it had taken him 8hrs to drive to Derbyshire!

With the rain still hammering on the roof we retreated to our fixed double bed for only the second time during this break.  How can it rain so hard and for so long?  Much more and I'd be expecting Morgan Freeman to rock up on his Avon inflatable!

Saturday 25th July

We wake at 8.15am and note that bit has stopped raining and the sun is shining.  Today marks the end of our break so we have little time to relax.  We have to break camp, but as it didn't stop raining until gone 11pm everything is still wet.

We're pulling off site at 10.30am and spend the next hour in nose to tail traffic until we clear the extensive road works at newton Abbot.

Once onto the open space of the A38 our minds turn to getting some fuel for Miranda.  All the garages seem to be full.  We spot signs for a service station at the bottom of Telegraph Hill and pull off.  While we are queueing at the pumps it dawns on me that there is only one way out of this place, and that's onto the A38 in the wrong direction .......... and up Telegraph Hill before we can turn around!

I've a plan brewing and dispatch Herself into pay.  As soon as she's in the door I slam on the hazards and proceed to reverse out of the pumps and straight across the direct access off the A38, before pointing the rig in the direction of the way we came so  as to avoid having to climb that bloody hill from a standing start.

Herself informs me that the attendants stopped what they were doing to watch my manoeuvre on CCTV with mouths wide open.  I fully expect to be on one of those programs on Sky TV in the near future.

Herself had picked up a few meal deals from the garage, what it cost her I didn't like to ask, but was grateful of the sustenance as we cruised along the relatively empty A38 towards Exeter.  The M5 was busy, but at least it was moving, so progress was good save a few short hold ups as we skirted Taunton.

Now I know caravanners have a bad reputation around these parts and many delays are blamed (unfairly) on us, but there are many others who need to take a good hard look at their driving styles - including the plank driving this lorry who stayed put in the middle lane for a full 15 miles north of Bridgewater.

On open roads we crossed the Severn Bridge and then had to queue at the tolls to pay for the privilege of re entering our own country!!

All in it took us 4 1/2 hours to tow just short of 200 miles from site to home, that's not bad going considering it took Grumbles 6 1/2 to do the same journey yesterday.

So that's it.  Our main summer holidays over with.  It was not what we had planned, and was under very difficult circumstances, but I am most grateful to Herself for being brave enough to make the decision to go away so soon after such a tragic turn of events.

So until next time ....... Da Bo.

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