Difficult start to this post. Regular readers will recall that I usually have a light-hearted dig at my dear Mother in Law AKA Creaky.
Oh how I wish I could be doing that now. Heart broken to let you know that after a long battle against illness, a battle that she bravely fought with everything she had, Creaky passed away in October.
Herself is due to return to work next week, but wants just a few nights away for a physical break between caring and grieving before signing back on to her laptop.
Sleep well beautiful lady, now pain free.
Only 3 nights, so not much to load up really, in fact we probably took more weight out (Isabella table and Thor chairs) that we added in clothes!
A first for us this trip in that we're not heading for a traditional campsite, instead we've got 3 nights booked in a pub beer garden (sort of), so with driving taken out of the equation in the evenings this could get quite messy for me.
Wednesday 3 November
Herself still had her reservations and is torn between wanting to stay with Grumbles or getting a few nights R&R. It wasn't until the van was out of the drive and hitched up that I believed we were going to go, but just after 10.30am , and under bright blue skies I was able to virtually shout on Twitter ....... Wagons Roll!!!!!
The tow was uneventful, just how it should be, and we cruised the M4 eastwards as far as J18, then taking the A46 up into The Cotswolds. I'd sent a message ahead and was disappointed that Charles & Camilla didn't bother to come out and wave as we cruised past their front door at Highgrove. I would have come out if he'd been driving through Llangennech!!!
Tetbury was interesting as we carved our way through the lunchtime bustle, and Herself had one of her "close your eyes" moments as I bullied my way through. Soon enough we're passing Cotswold Airport and pulling into the car park of the Thames Head Inn, our destination for 3 nights.
I'd read on tinternet about tight access to the campsite and had messaged the owner about my concerns. Reassurances were given that although tight they have no problem getting their twin axle 8ft wide van around there.
I swung as wide as I could to the left, hindered by sleepers on the tarmac and a bloody great big tree, before aiming left to straighten up. Not quite enough though, stopping sharply as I watch the side of the caravan settling just 40mm from a building overhang.
I asked Herself to watch me in, but she refused point blank to take any responsibility for the manoeuvre, so conceding that she was probably right the van was unhitched, mover engaged, and inched into a bit of open space. Hitching back up to complete the final 20m of the journey onto site.
A nice young lady gave us a choice of 3 pitches and we chose the largest as our rig isn't exactly small.
Couple of issues though. We're backing onto the fence that separates the site from the A433 and road noise, and the adjacent property is in the middle of having a large extension built (busman's holiday for me) though the moss on the blockwork says work has stalled for some considerable time.
We're just tidying up after pitching when we first encounter Mr & Mrs Entitled. Pitches aren't reserved here, but it appears they are regular visitors and were banking on being able to wind the legs down on pitch #9, which just happens to be the largest on site.
Herself gives a cheery wave as Mr Entitled lines himself up for the reverse onto pitch #7 which is returned with a filthy look. Mrs Entitled gets out to guide him in as his X Trail tears up the soft wet grass area and she also gives Herself the same treatment. They huff and puff through setting up, frequently looking over their shoulders to give us dirty looks.
They've bitten off more than they can chew here though as they don't know that I've a black belt in giving people filthy looks!
They pop out to get some shopping, and in unison both sneer at me as they crawl along the site track. Mine and Mr Entitled eyes met and locked. He now knows he's got a battle on!
The clocks have now gone back, meaning it's getting dark early. 5.15pm and we're grabbing a torch, clipping the dogs on and heading off to the pub. We walk in and the bar area appears to have been taken over by a gang of hooray teenagers. Most dressed in tweed, some with deerstalkers and some sucking on an empty pipe, but all braying as they discuss Pappa's latest muse.
We'd not reserved a table but luckily were fitted in as we wanted food as well and settled down for the evening.
After about an hour the hoorays departed and the pub adopted a different vibe .... chilled and relaxed. The barman comes round to take our food order. By now I'm a few pints into my evening and we've struck up a bit of a relation ship. It appears he's little time for the Hoorays and the convo went something like this.
Me - A bit quieter now the youngsters have left.
BM - yes, sorry about that.
Herself - At least they're spending money.
Through a sneer
BM - Not their money though, their parents' money!
I had the plaice with parsley sauce, and it was superb.
The evening whizzed by, sharing conversation with fellow caravaners who'd dined next to us and are stopping on pitch #3. Herself consumed too much fizz than was good for her and after about 8 pints of Morretti I'd moved onto the Costwold Gin.
Late on Mr & Mrs Entitled call in, he clocks me and I clock him and we exchange filthy looks as he ponders on his choice of real ale, before taking a seat in the opposite corner. About an hour later I get up for a pee and walk bye their table determined to get the dirty look in first. This caught them off guard and both studied the content on the beer mats until I'd passed.
Having been kicked out at the 10.30pm closing time the crisp fresh air hit us, and the 100 or so meters back to the caravan seemed to take an age. Climbing the steps was also a struggle.
Thursday 4 November
Unsurprisingly, after last night's shenanigans there was no early start this morning. It's 10am before I even think of lighting a flame under the kettle, and 2 mugs of tea before a few rashers get thrown into the pan.
Herself has no hangover, she deserves one, but has a head as clear as a bell. I'm envious!
I'd made some loose arrangements to meet some imaginary friend off the internet. With our late start to the day I wasn't sure hadn't already made plans. Not to worry though, after a few messages it was confirmed that they hadn't and we made out way north through the Cotswolds towards Broadway.
Having stopped just before the village to give the dogs a run we've parked in the short stay and are standing on the green by the monument on the lookout for someone we've never actually met.
Herself - I'm looking out, but what am I looking out for? I don't know what they look like!
Me - Err ........ Well, she's short, he's tall, and he'll be wearing shorts.
Herself - Oh there they are look!
After initial hellos thoughts turn towards finding somewhere warm to have a chat. Mrs L joins a queue at the door of a teashop. When I say queue I mean behind 2 old ladies, but it may as well have been a bus load of them as the barrier at the door to control numbers inside saw no signs of being rolled back, the old biddy in charge being more terrifying than bouncers that do the same job at night clubs. I subconsciously look down at my feet to check I don't have daps on.
We're stood in the queue and Herself and I, despite our very slow start to the day, are feeling a little groggy. Mr L makes us feel a whole lot worse about ourselves as he informs us he's been on a 50 mile bike ride already today!! At that point in time I would have struggled to do a 50 mile car ride!
We decide to try somewhere else, and just 2 doors away walk into the very welcoming Broadway Hotel. Thoughts of tea and coffee are ditched in favour of beer and we spend a delightful afternoon discussing all things caravanning, site etiquette, our families and of course other imaginary friends off the internet (there must have been some ears burning in the lands of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter!!)
You can read Deb's excellent blog HERE.
Too soon it's time to say farewell and head back south. We're cutting it fine for out 6pm reservation in the pub on site. We were late, but thankfully the establishment is a little quieter tonight so there was no problem and we're sitting down for our evening meal in comparative quietness.
The food was once again superb, but to the barman's disappointment (and his till) we're heading back to the van after a few drinks by 8pm to settle in and watch a film off the dodgy box.
Friday 5 November
I get up for a pee at 7am and lose my spot in the bed to Gwawr. I'm in no mood to argue with her so settle down up front to tap some keys and disturb Tali as it gets light. Some research is done for the day's excursion and I look up how to actually get to the actual Thames Head (River not Pub).
The internet tells me it's a traipse over a few muddy fields and you're not actually guaranteed that there will be water coming out of the ground, and the statue marking the spot has been moved downstream some way. I decide against bothering.
Looking very crisp and fresh out there this morning.
Our early night pays dividends a we're up and ready for a day out after herself does us a full breakfast. First stop is the nearby Cotswold Airport. We thread our way through the site roads and I get the feeling that I'm slightly more enthusiastic about the visit than Herself as we park up Toyah under the wings of a 747.
Herself doesn't bother unclipping her seatbelt as I get out to watch a nutter take off sat in a pram strapped to a piece of plywood and a lawn mower engine.
From there we head to Bibury. Parked up and clipping the dogs onto their leads we cross the footbridge to take a look at Arlington Row and soak up a bit of culture.
We're doing the loop and having crossed the other footbridge up stream we come across the rather welcoming looking Swan Hotel. We decide we've had enough culture and dive inside for some refreshments near the fire.
From here we head down to Cotswold Water Park. This time of year it's officially closed, but you can still drive in and park up (without paying the usual £15 fee) to walk around. I must say it looked glorious in the autumn sunshine as we walked along chucking a ball for the dogs.
Back in Toyah and she needs fuel for the tow home in the morning. To our horror, Tesco in Tetbury has run out and we drove all the way back to the BP garage at Didmarton where I get robbed for diesel at 151p a litre!
The return to site gives me the opportunity to record a "site arrival" video for the campsite. For future reference note how tight it is getting from the car park past the sleepers and between the building and the tree with protruding roots.
A quiet night was planned. We were heading over to the pub for our 6pm table reservation, we were going to have a meal with a few quiet drinks and head back for an early night. That was the plan, honest.
However, after we'd finished our meal, a gay couple from Cardiff sat down on the adjacent table. We got chatting and the evening flew by. It was a smashing evening with conversation flowing and before we knew it we were being kicked out at closing time and staggering back to our vans on site under a clear sky.
Saturday 6 November
It's raining. No option to sit it out though, so waterproof coat is donned and my Dai cap to set about breaking camp.
By 9.40am we're ready to roll. With mirrors adjusted we make our way slowly to the awkward site exit.
The sickening crunch stopped us in our tracks. I'd misjudged it. Concentrating so much on the sleepers in front and the building to our left I'd dragged the caravan onto the protruding roots of the tree behind us.
I swore ........ a lot!
We're wedged tight, and the motorhome behinds us is now getting impatient. The only option I have is to unhitch, raise the front and go backwards on the motor mover.
The sound of getting free is horrendous.
I manage to limp it around the corner with the mover squealing and grinding to clear the entrance. I get down onto the wet ground to take a look and it's evident that without any tools I can do nothing except get on the blower to Mayday. Our predicament took some explaining, but after some time they accepted we were covered and at 10.10 am I got a text giving an ETA of 12.10pm. We sat in Toyah to enjoy the view!!
12.10pm came and went with no sign of the cavalry arriving. I get on the blower again and am told they will be another 30 mins. We're both getting severely pissed off now. 12.45pm and I get a call from a private number on my phone. It's the technician and I'm assuming it's him going to ask for our precise location as he's nearly with us.
Our jaws drop as he tells us that he's only just been given the call and he's 50 MILES away from us. What can we do though?
I take another look and confirm to myself that without tools I'm shafted, so sit it out.
To be fair to him though, when he did arrive it took him just 15 mins to loosen the clamps and slide the mover along the chassis, using cable ties to secure the broken cross bar.
It's 2.10pm, some 4 1/2 hours after initially hitching up that we are able to hit the road to head home. The tow in the wind and rain was horrendous, and the 101 miles took 2hrs 41 mins to cover. Both tired, annoyed, and feeling pig sick at damaging the van. Herself tries her best to console me, but I'm gutted by my error. In my previous 29 years of towing, I've not so much as hit a pitch marker post!
So, there we have it. A smashing time in more ways than one. Still no one was hurt and stuff can be repaired. when we get out next will depend on when our insurance can get the van sorted.