Friday 30 June
I finish work and again risk a fistful of penalty points in my rush westwards along the M4. Herself has thrown some clothes into the van, so without wasting any time she's inched out and hitched up to Vera.
Traffic is heavy, and by the time we're approaching Carmarthen on the A40 we're at a standstill, and stop start for the last 1 1/2 miles to Pensarn.
With that bottle neck cleared we follow the A40 westwards towards St Clears. The sun wasn't exactly burning the grass when we left home, but the further west we travel, the worse the weather gets.
I'm playing navigation roulette today, no Satnav and no map. I'd taken a brief look at Google maps for the location, but that was about it. Luckily for us, once past Oakwood Theme Park our destination is well signposted, and we are guided straight to the gate without incident............ Well except for me overshooting the entrance and having to reverse back down the lane .... that was fun!
Setting up was easy, and went without a hitch. There were no lost tempers, no cross words and no objects thrown in anger.
That is except for the heated debate as to where on the spacious pitch to site the caravan, getting one side to stay up on the levelling ramp, the blame game for leaving the dog tie outs at home and Herself's continual "I'm freezing!"
Oh, and we had a continuation of the leaky air beam saga!!
Readers of the last blog will recount a rather unfortunate episode with an airbeam on our awning .......... well .........
We start putting the awning up and Herself asks if I'm going to change the airbeam first. I say no as I'd rather put the thing up and have some shelter from the drizzle to do it. Fair enough. the awning gets put up and pegged out. I then deflate the faulty airbeam and remove it from the sleeve, replacing it with a brand new, straight from the package from Vango. It all gets zipped back into place and I set our electric pump to do it's magic.
Seconds later it's up to 4psi and we're cooking on gas. I unscrew the inflation hose and you don't have to be a genius to work out that something isn't right. It deflates quickly and immediately!
Oh bugger, I think, assuming that I'd not closed the valve properly, so have a fiddle and re inflate.
By now Herself can start to see the smoke coming from my ears and retreats a safe distance inside the van, locked in the shower room!
The bladder gets zipped out for closer inspection, and no matter how much I play with it, I cannot get the valve to seal. I'm seething and am hunting my phone to remonstrate with the people we bought the awning (and replacement airbeam) off. Herself opens the toilet room door and peaks out.
"I'm not giving you your phone until you've calmed down a bit, you ranting at them won't help!"
She has a point.
The old, and slightly less leaky, airbeam is zipped back into place and inflated, and I resign myself to frequently pumping up the offending structural element. I promised Herself that I was now calm, putting on my best "I am not angry" face, before Herself unconfiscates my phone.
I immediately start getting stroppy and raise my voice with the unfortunate lady on the other end of the line and Herself retreats to the safety of the shower room!
The dealer was most apologetic, and to be fair did as much as they could, but this is the third holiday in a row that we've had issues with this awning. Not good enough for a piece of kit costing over a grand.
We are both starving, but have no food in, not a biscuit. We have a tin of tomatoes, but somehow that just won't cut it. Vera is pointed towards Haverfordwest, where we visit Halfrauds for a new electric coolbox (our 15 year old one finally packed up last time out), Poundstretcher for a load of stuff that we don't need, and then Morrisons for some food and drink.
Back at the van I get into JFO mode and produce a Surf n Turf for tea. It didn't touch the sides.
I then settle down for an evening of G&T sipped out of a jar with a straw .... one of my better purchases in Poundstretcher earlier.
Saturday 1 July
I wake to a sight that only caravanners can truly appreciate fully, and the joy it brings. I just hope that the weather has also improved in west Cornwall to the same degree, else Mrs Shag will be polluting my timeline with insults and expletives!
I get a good enough 4G signal to fire up Sky Go on my ipad and settle down with a mug of tea to watch the Lions.
We won. We won a test match mind. Against NZ in NZ mind. the Kiwi's ain't going to like this one bit.
Despite some very strong hints to Herself, the act of throwing some bacon into the pan falls to me while she pampers Herself in the shower.
With breakfast out of the way I go about cleaning some filth off the front of the van. I take a shot of our pitch again, as although I took one yesterday, there is far more colour of it today.
Shaved and showered, I sit down in the recliner to embark on some personal contemplation time. I close my eyelids, and I hear Herself, from the comfort of her own recliner, announce that Vera needs a wash.
Without a murmer I get up, dig out our collapsible bucket, some car shampoo, a sponge and watering can, and set about the task in blazing heat. By the time I'm done my eyes are stinging from the sweat running off my folically challenged suede.
Time to head off out before Herself finds some more ways for me to relax! We pile into a sparkly clean Vera and hit the Pembrokeshire lanes in the vague direction of Saundersfoot. We park up at Coppet Hall beach, feed a quid into the machine and join the many on the sands.
We spend some time walking along the shore, chatting and throwing a ball into the sea for the dogs to chase ... oh and watching in disbelief as a rather chubby bloke struts his stuff on the beach in a pair of leopard print budgie smugglers that were two sizes too small for him.
Back in the car we cruise through a packed Saunderfoot and onto the Tenby road. There are queues as we approach, so we swing right and take the Pembroke road, soaking in the views of Caldy just over the water.
Rumbling bellies soon occupy our minds, and lunch is taken in the beer garden of the Swanlake Inn just outside Manorbier. Sandwiches and chips were the order of the day.
We call into Tesco for some shant before making tracks back to site as the weather takes a turn for the worse. With the weather closed in and dampness in the air we settle down for an evening in the van. Time passes all too quickly and as dusk descends I look out of the window and note how cosy the set up on the adjacent pitch is.
They are still sat out though, huddled around their Frontier stove (my next gadget ....... I have not informed Herself about this yet) wrapped up in fleecy throws.
Sunday 2 July
Our pitch is surrounded on three sides by hedges and trees, and while in daytime this can be a bit of a nuisance, early mornings it can be a blessing. The van stays cool and dark early doors, meaning that a lie in is possible.
We don't stir until gone 9.30am and waste no time in lighting a flame under the kettel. Now, Herself is slipping. We've been here a few days now, and she's not made breakfast yet, despite many hints, and this morning breakfast didn't happen at all!!
We're pointing Vera's nose towards Carew by 10.30am on the hunt for some bargains. On arrival the place is rammed and finding a space to abandon Vera for the duration of our expedition takes some doing.
Gwawr is a bit edgy on her lead with all the people around. Not just the people though, every man and his dog is here, and even some of the dogs also have a dog on a lead! She takes a dislike to a terrier and launches herself at it, I have my hand looped through the lead so there is no other possibility than my right arm being raised quickly to the horizontal and then extended with force to the point of being pulled out of its socket.
It hurt,but I didn't cry. Honest.
We make our way round the stalls. We need dog tie out wires as we appear to have misplaced ours. Herself maintains that I left them pegged into the ground at Pembrey a few months ago, but I'm having none of it. The doggy man has a few 15m training leads in a tangled mess. They usually go for £10 a piece, but he offers them to us for a fiver! Kerching!
Outside now, and Herself spots a wicker basket that'll do for keeping Gwawr's toys tidy in the awning. 50p and it's ours. Kerching!
We also need a throw for the bed to keep dog hair off our bedding, a stall has faux mink ones on offer for just £6. My offer of a fiver is accepted. Kerching!
Lastly we need some tidy pillows for the van. We had to ditch all ours awhile back after the caravan was broken into on the drive and some lowlife slept in it. We only bought Argos cheapy ones, and to be honest they've had it. We spot a stall selling off old BHS stock. Now I'm sure they would have been on the shelves for £25 a pair. He wants £6 a pair for them, I wave a brown one in his face for 2 pairs, and fully loaded we head back to Vera. Kerching!
Oh, Herself also stiffed me for another wind charm.
Herself's neglect in the breakfast department is starting to show, and sensing my fraying temper Herself suggests a pub lunch. before you know it Vera is parked up once more outside The Swanlake and we're demolishing a roast beef dinner each.
Time now to play with the dogs so we make the short journey to Freshwater East. Leaving Herself to lead the dogs I go to feed some coins into the daylight robbery machine. A bit of a senior moment ensued as I struggled to work out the tariff and buy us a ticket. People behind me were laughing such was my ineptitude!
The beach was quite busy, but we made for a quietish spot and let the hounds loose. It was a lovely half hour that we spent splashing in the BLOODY COLD sea before we took the scenic route back to Vera giving the dogs' fur a chance to dry off.
The ice cream man gets a brown one from the confines of my wallet and we sit by Vera devouring ice creams and lollies before making tracks back to Cwm Deri.
Back on site it's Pimm's O Clock, with the recliners set facing the sun. I'm all set for an afternoon of doing nothing, that's right, nothing.
Before sitting down I'd given the airbeam a few pumps, as I've had to do every few hours since we arrived! But it's getting a little serious now as it won't hold pressure for any longer than an hour. It;s winding me up so I take another look at the faulty one that we didn't install. With a bit of fiddling I get the valve to hold and zip that one in ...... fingers crossed.
Turns out that Herself does not like Pimm's, so I'm left with the task of consuming the whole jar to myself. The afternoon is a bit of a blur after that, but I wake at 5.30pm with a river of strawberry flavoured dribble cascading down my chest. Having consumed the whole jug by myself I was feeling no pain whatsoever!
I go about creating a feast for tea. Herself will dispute this, but I maintain that the meal of fries, garlic mushrooms, onion rings, salad and sourdough bread would have been nothing had it not been for the chicken legs that I so skillfully cooked over hot coals on the BBQ!
It's been a lovely day.
Monday 3 July
We had a little rain overnight, not much mind and it's cleared nicely by the time we get up.
Not much planned for today. Herself is a little fragile as it's the 2nd anniversary of her sister's death. We have a lazy morning around the van before making the short journey for lunch as The Lawrenny Arms sat over looking The Cleddau. The crab sandwiches were superb.
From there we make tracks towards home as Herself understandably wants to spend some time with Grumbles and Creaky.
Big day tomorrow for us ..... a happy day.
Tuesday 4 July
Didn't sleep much last night, part due to worrying about our van abandoned in west Wales and partly due to anticipation of what the day will bring. Oh, and we ate very late last night, and at my age I don't do eating late any more.
I woke at 3.30am, gave up at 4.45am and got up, occupying myself firstly by doing a factory reset on my TomTom and secondly firing up the new lady in my life. My favourite new phrase is "Alexa stop." and she does, just wish that "Herself stop" would have a similar effect!
Unlike him, Roids is also up early and by 6.30am he's showered, shaved and in his best suit making his way to UWTSD to bag us some additional audience tickets for his graduation ceremony.
I set up a smart TV over at Grumbles' so that him, Creakey and Coupons can watch the live stream on YouTube.
We had a great day, and there was much grit in the eye.
It was rounded off with a slap up family meal at The Buck Inn, Pontlliw before Herself and I made tracks back west into the setting sun.
On pulling back onto site we are both delighted that the awning is still fully inflated and that my "fix" on the valve appears to have worked.
Early to bed tonight. Nos dda
Wednesday 5 July
Cracking night's sleep last night, and the sun is already high in the sky when at 9.15am Herself gives me a nudge and wakes me from my slumber with the words "Bog's full."!
We breakfast on scraps left in the fridge before setting out the loungers to face the sun. After a full on day yesterday I have no plans other than to smother myself in some used chip fat and work hard on getting that bronzed Adonis look!
The couple in the van across the paddock rise a little later than us and he emerges to set up their chairs. From the positioning of them one can only assume that he may have been snoring a little loudly overnight and they are not exactly on good speaking terms this morning.
We are converts to the tranquillity of these small 5 van sites, and this one represents excellent value for money, but I do miss the buzz of a larger site sometimes, especially in the morning, as I like to site in the chair with a mug of tea and watch the site come to life. Herself says I'm nosey, but I prefer the term observant.
I doze the morning away, until Herself points out that our fridge is empty. A trip to Haverfordwest is called for, firstly to Pets at Home for some replacement leads for the hounds and then Morrisons for provisions.
Herself fancies going back to Lawrenny Quay for some lunch and we make tracks there, except that on the way Ronnie gives us a call to say that him and YG are coming down to visit. This presents us a problem as our recently purchased provisions will not stretch to 4, that and YG will not eat lamb!
Vera is spun around and instead pointed towards Kilgetty and it's Co-op for some more stuff. With that done, and time getting on, plans for lunch are adjusted and we swing into The Woolridge Inn at Pentlepoir to wolf down a few sandwiches and bowl of chips...... again.
Back on site Herself rings Ronnie to see how far away they are, and they'd not left home yet! We would have had the time to go down Lawrenny after all!
I settle down in my lounger once more and embark on some serious personal contemplation time. Ronnie caught us by surprise on arrival, you see he's changed his car, and whereby previously we would have heard his Renualt Sport approaching from St Clears he pulled in stealth like in his BMW 3 series unnoticed.
I get up to pour some welcome drinks and they all start laughing. I've caught the sun, and what with my double chin resting on my chest and my mboobs resting on my belly, I'm told my front resembles a sunburn VW badge!
I prepare a jug of "turbo" Pimm's for myself and YG, Herself cracks open the Pinot Gricio and Ronnie has one of those ponsey fruit ciders.
The coals get lit and I cremate some dead animals for tea before I throw one of those joking logs on the embers for us to sit around and see the evening out, Toasting marshmallows for our supper.
By the time we're waving Ronnie and YG off, I've run out of Pimm's, run out of Thatcher's Gold and am slurping some G&T. Herself vows that I am sleeping in a separate bed to her tonight!
Thursday 6 July
Herself had a dose of CBA last night, and we eventually ended up sleeping in the same bed. She was adamant it wasn't going to happen right up until the time that effort would have had to been put into pulling out the slats!
Lovely morning again out there today, and we waste no time in setting out the chairs to enjoy a cuppa in the sunshine. We have local radio playing in the background, and catch the weather forecast. @DerekTheWeather 's cousin (although obviously not quite as well off as our Derek though, cos he's only on local radio) is broadcasting his work of fiction.
As we're sat there soaking up the rays he's just given out a weather warning for the afternoon. Thunderstorms with heavy rain, high winds and hail are coming our way. I look up at the clear blue skies and can't quite believe it. But he's the weatherman, they never get it wrong, do they? Just ;look at Michael Fish. Oh, hang on a minute!
A quick decision is made to (wait for it) skip breakfast (I know it's hard to believe) and head straight out before "storm whatever they name this one" hits west Wales.
We pull into Tenby and manage to grab a space in the multistory car park. The dogs get put on their leads and we get dragged down the stairs. Now like most men of my age, whenever we visit somewhere I need to have a pee before we go exploring. I head for the entrance and am stopped in my tracks by a turnstile.
I have to cross the road and beg Herself for a 20p, 20p mind just for a pee! Herself can't stop laughing as I dance from one foot to the other, and I'm pretty sure she could have located a 20p a lot sooner than she did! I was only going in for a pee, but at 20p a shot I made sure I had my money's worth out of Pembrokeshire CC.
We walk past the tat shops and head up to the benches looking over the north beach and harbour.
It's too hot for the dogs though without shade so we stop long enough just to take in the view before taking a stroll down the hill in the shade towards the harbour and into the beer garden of the Bucanneer Inn for a pint of cider and a sandwich with chips for a change.
Vera is lovely and cool when we return to her and the dogs benefit from fully open windows as we make our way to Freshwater East. A friend informs me that "da west side is da best" but I'm with Ali G on this one.
We spend an hour with the dogs splashing in the sea and by the time they've also scoffed an ice cream they are suitably cooled off.
Back at Cwm Deri, we stop long enough at the van to put our shopping away before popping round the corner to indulge in some wine and liqueur tasting with a cheeseboard.
The cheeseboard hit the spot lovely, and we were particularly taken with the lump of Snowdonia, so much so that we purchased a bigger lump to take with us. The wine? It was OK, but not great. We've visited two other UK vineyards recently, and I'm sorry Cwm Deri, but the offerings are nowhere near as nice as either White Castle in Abergavenny or Polgoon in Penzance.
Back at the van our new neighbour appear to be struggling with their awning. I offer assistance, which is gratefully accepted as it's a new awning to them and they were a bit flummoxed.
With my good deed for the day done I kick back in a lounger with a few cans of Thatcher's for company before embarking on some personal contemplation time.
I get into JFO mode a little later and produce a stunning evening meal of Lamb Shank, served on a bed of lamb fried rice and a side of roasted carrots and parsnips.
Time to work that off though, so while Herself clears away and does the dishes I take the opportunity to take the dogs ........ back outside and throw a ball for them from the comfort of my chair whilst sipping on a pint of Thatchers while the sun sets over the other side of the hedge.
Still no sign of the storm as we collapse into our pit, so it would appear that our Derek's less well off cousin is no good at his job, and is doomed to reading out his work of fiction on local radio in deepest and darkest west Wales for the foreseeable.
Friday 7 July
Another fine morning, if a little hazy, at Cwm Deri as we wake, but the laden sky and BBC work of fiction suggest it won't last long.
We decide to drop the awning while it's dry. It stayed inflated by the way, so my fiddling with the valve did the trick. It comes down easily and is packed away in it's rather large storage bag in no time at all.
Only a caravanner can understand the relief of packing away a bone dry awning!
Herself suggests we miss breakfast - two days on the trot now, but immediately suggests lunch in Lawrenny. We retrace our tracks of Monday and are skidding to a halt in the gravel car park of The Lawrenny Arms bang on 12 noon.
Sandwiches and chips are ordered .... again .... and we settle down at a quayside table looking over the mud flats.
With full bellies we look for somewhere to walk the dogs, firstly stopping at Carew Castle. The place is packed so we press on and head for the beach at Freshwater West.
We run the legs off the dogs and to be honest they're glad to see Vera and her boot. Now having been to both East and West Freshwater this week I am now firmly of the opinion the "west side is da best!" if only because it's free to park there!
I want to go to see St Govan's Chapel and we criss cross the Castle Martin firing ranges. the place is none too welcoming either with dangerous looking signs and MOD acquired properties deserted at the side of the road.
We arrive at St Govan's Head, but Herself's knee is giving her some serious gip, and she's now in the mode of seeing the world from the comfort of Vera!
I set TomTom to guide us home. Herself remarks that it's a little early to which I retort that there's little point in staying out if she doesn't want to do anything!
We've passed a little pub numerous times this week, but as they don't do food haven't bothered to stop. But that's different today as now we only want a drink ..... oh and a pee!
We take a table opposite The Cresseley Arms, taking in the view and watching a small boat navigate the impossibly shallow trickle of water in the river bed at low tide.
What was interesting though was that the only woman occupant of the boat was chucked overboard to wade the vessel onto the shore!
Back on site I set about finishing off my Pimm's stash while Herself goes about cooking anything we have left in the fridge. I was a bit rapid in downing my liquid refreshment and by the time dinner was served I had a bit of a buzz on.
Saturday 8 July
We stir at 8.30am with sun streaming through blinds that we'd left open to get some air into the van last night. It took all of my will power not to walk over to the estate office and book ourselves in for another night.
We've broken camp and are on the road by 9.30am doing battle with the traffic on the A40 heading east.
An uneventful journey see us pulling up outside "Home is where you drag it" Towers at 10.45am and the van packed away once more, only for a week this time though as Ronnie is using it for a week away in Cornwall after that.
Until next time ..........