Wednesday 3rd September 2014
It was a short hop from the Ladram complex to Oakdown and one that we were pleased to be making. For us, it was a combination of things that had conspired against Ladram – we arrived at Ladram from the Ilminster Caravan Club site where tranquility and well maintained, decently spaced pitches were the order of the day.
Arriving at Ladram, it quickly became evident that the pitches were closer together and not as well maintained as those that we’d encountered thusfar. Not that we’ve visited many sites in the great scheme of things to come but there’s a ‘feel’ about a location, first impressions and all that and where Ladram failed this test, Oakdown at least held some promise based on those first impressions.
Oakdown’s main touring section has one ‘open’ area and then a circular park road off of which there are a number of ‘cul-de-sacs’; the entire being well maintained.
And then Amanda discovered that they have 2 BATH-rooms in the facilities block!
Yes, rooms with BATHS! – they were spotlessly clean and with hotel-style facilities.
£1.00 for a 15 minute supply of hot water to either the bathtub or the shower.
Whilst we were at Oakdown, the park owners discovered that they had been awarded the ‘England and Overall Winner of the AA best Campsite of the Year for 2015’.
That’s a very big deal considering that there must be thousands of campsites in the UK and it definitely equals if not surpasses the discerning standards evident on our favoured Caravan Club sites.
Note for Coola: I googled to find which industrial estate or layby had won the ‘Best Freebie Park-up of 2015’ but couldn’t find it! – only joking!
Dogs are known for their ability to pollute nasal expectations when they’re in close proximity so it was quite surprising that even Tilley & Shakey expressed their gratitude when Amanda, after excitedly gulping down her first ‘starship has landed’ cuppa, announced that she was going to take to the bathtub for the first time in over 3 months.
Amanda was chuffed as ninepence and the hounds seemed just as pleased. Funny that.
I just said, “Oh”.
After Amanda had cleaned up her act, we spent the day on cleaning chores.
Amanda worked inside Twernt on the domestic bits and I did the oily and shiny bits abundant on Twernt’s exterior.
There’s something cathartic, akin to ‘man and his shed’, about hanging around Twernt’s garage, pausing for the occasional cigarette, whilst perched on the garage ledge and just watching the comings and goings as campsite life drifts by.
It can be educational as well – e.g. ‘Check out that LandRover Discovery with his twin wheeled caravan, huge awning and plethora of outdoor equipment, where does he stow it all? He’s got two ‘beasts’ to clean and polish, looks cosy in there mind, I wonder what this life would be like with that combination?’ ………………….. and on it goes.
It was for this reason that Amanda achieved much more than yours truly.
Ne’er mind, there’s always tomorrow.
Not that Amanda sees it that way, we’d discussed what we were going to achieve and my ‘wheels and Twernt skirts cleaned and polished’ target had resulted in an achievement of ‘wheels and some bits of Twernt skirts cleaned and polished’.
I knew that I’d need to prepare a sound defence if I was to avoid incurring the wrath and anger of ‘bacon lady’.
That wrath and anger will initially produce a scowl that, unless diverted or eliminated at source, would create a mood that permeates all forms of man/wife interaction for many hours (and possible days) following the point of my misdemeanour.
OK, so I hadn’t lived up to expectations – well, generally, that’s something I can live with, especially when other folks expectations clash with my own ambition (cigarette, Twernt garage door ledge and pretend to polish something whilst my head wanders wherever it wants to go – that’s why I smoke so much, it’s an ACTIVITY that prolongs meditational meanderings).
But this was wife territory!
I decided that I could make a ‘defence’ case by referencing the caravan over yonder that was in a much worse state than Twernt – shame really because had they cleaned their windows my view of the blonde lady getting changed would have been much clearer.
Not to worry, she was still worthy of attention as she lay on a sun-bed in her bikini. You don’t get views like this parked up on an industrial estate!
When the attack from Amanda was finally delivered, I immediately engaged said defence.
“Have you seen the caravan where they’re chilling in the sun, they don’t seem to care that it needs cleaning and polishing, why don’t we just follow their example?”.
I quickly discovered that I was on a hiding to nothing when Amanda replied, “Yes, but that chaps in a wheelchair and probably finds it difficult to keep their caravan cleaned and polished, you should be praising him for overcoming any challenges he’s met just to be here with his caravan”.
Bugger, I hadn’t noticed that! Thought he was just sat in an outdoor chair and, like me, was sitting watching the world go by.
Anyway it was his wife that I’d been keeping an eye on.
“Oh, I hadn’t noticed that” I replied whilst trying to find some conversational diversionary route that would sidetrack my woeful failure to achieve the tasks that I’d been set.
Nothing more than my customary ‘Oh’ sprang to mind and it hadn’t leveraged enough time to mentally source a secondary line of defence – I was exposed, whatever I could muster now would be too little, too late, it was going to have to be a series of “Oh’s” until the victor’s verbal appetite was satisfied.
And then came the opening salvo, as Amanda, in full-on launch mode dove in with, “You should be offering to clean and polish their van as well as doing what you’re supposed to do here”.
Now I may have been a somewhat delinquent achiever regarding Amanda’s ‘Do this, do that’ list but I rarely miss a great opportunity, so I replied, “OK, you go and tell ’em that I’ll clean and polish their windows using our super-duper wazzo spray stuff”.
I won’t tell you what visual delights that could achieve!
Altruism serving self-interest – build a reputation for having a generous disposition whilst benefitting from one’s labours. Perfection or what?
Silence followed after delivering my magnanimous ‘win-win’ offer and then Amanda was off to start her next task. Whatever that was.
Marital bliss restored. Twernt was at peace with all at Oakdown once again, time to get back to my garage ledge………….
I think I’ll write a book – ‘How to Achieve Bugger-All and be happy doing it’.
Back to reality, well back to blogging events of the last days – the reality is that I’m sat here keying and gluing this blog together on a very sunny late Sunday morning and sipping a cold beer whilst raising the occasional glance over towards the glimmering surface of the ocean – but only because I can.
Thursday 4th September 2014
The following day we somewhat nervously anticipated the arrival of Kevin and Corina, Kevin (aka Coola) is a member of a forum that I sometimes frequent.
We had yet to meet any of those forum members but we are in touch with quite a few and if they all turn out to be as good as it was when we met Kevin & Corina then we’re going to meet many really good folk.
It was like we’d known Coola and Corina for years!
And we hope we’ll be meeting up with them here and there for many years to come. Corina is a Lancashire lass and she didn’t hesitate to dive in and fix the vittles with Amanda. Thanks Corina!
Proper down-to-earth folk, Kevin, an ex-long haired surfer dude but now a postman, is at an advanced stage of planning to go full-time next year in a coach that he has personally revamped from tip-to-toe – including what some may consider to be an overkill of solar and leisure battery power – something like 1000w of solar power and 6 leisure batteries!
Kevin & Corina also have an old Hymer that they use pending their coach being ready for duty.
They have chosen to pursue a different route to full-timing to the one that we’re on – hence the massive power supply set-up – their intention is to never, ever, visit a campsite during their travels.
And there are many like them out there.
We belong to the ‘Wrinklies Seeking Comfort and Views (!)’ group – it can create some ‘competitive needling’ but it’s all in good humour and the basic ‘life on the road’ that’s shared by both ‘groups’ is paramount. So, on that basis I have licence to rip them apart! – only joking Coola – again!
Coola’s a good chap and can take a joke but there may be some that can’t, in which case, I’m not joking, I mean it – eat it.
Neither ‘group’ is better (well, OK, yes, I know WE are but we just let them rant away to amuse themselves – I’m busy writing this as I watch another MoHo reverse into an embankment and we’re listening to Barry Banjo on his electric banjo a couple of pitches away – sights and sounds not found on the average industrial estate!). Ha ha.
For you non-motorhomers, the fraternity out here in ‘tin-can’ full-timer land is second to none.
In just over one week, we have met and befriended way more folk than in the last 10 years in bricks and mortar-land.
The same time-period in our old lives would have simply melted one week of drudge and sameness into many more weeks, months and years bearing the same similarities.
All in the name of ‘security’.
OK, our security is less than ideal but that security can’t match the feeling that we’ve already been out here a long, long time by comparison.
It also has something to do with severing those bricks and mortar ties; one day I’m sure we’ll need it again but today is all there is and this is the best way that we ever spent TODAY (Realtime: pauses to reload with beer).
Those aires had better live up to expectation otherwise it will be campsites for us.
Kevin and Corina, and many others (Coola & the gang!), call campsites ‘prison camps’!
Here are some pictures from the last few days:
Friday 5th September 2014
Amanda’s Uncle Dennis and his wife, Joyce, called to let us know that they were in the area travelling with their caravan en-route north from their home in Par, Cornwall.
They said that they would leave the caravan at their Lyme Regis campsite and drive over to our campsite for a cuppa at around 2:00pm.
We arrived at about 12:30 and Dennis was peering through Twernt’s front window at about 1:15pm! They had uprooted their caravan and booked into this site for 2 nights.
Amanda was out on a ‘dog-walk’ when Dennis arrived so I intercepted her return walk with a ‘Let’s check out the neighbours’ ploy.
About 50 yards from where we were pitched, but in a separate enclosure, I told Amanda that I liked the look of a Merc car/caravan combination and I said, ‘Check this one out’.
The owners were clearly ‘in residence’ but I started inspecting the car and then got VERY close to the caravan causing Amanda, in a LOUD whisper to say, ‘Stop it – they’re in!’.
And then Dennis appeared in the caravan doorway!
The look on Amanda’s face was priceless!
‘Aaaargh, it’s Uncle Dennis!……….. but I thought…………’ trailing off as Dennis’s face beamed as he vocalised his greetings.
<Real-time: pauses for a coffee>
I still managed to get in trouble for manipulating that surprise as Amanda later reflected, ‘What if I’d said that I didn’t like his outfit and what if they’d heard me?’.
Can’t win ’em all, or, in my case, none of ’em!
That afternoon, the four of us descended the cliff walk down to West Bay…….
When we returned the four of us had a barbecue to round off the day.
Saturday 6th September 2014
Dennis had discovered that ‘The Bridport Hat Festival’ was ‘happening’ and he said that we just needed to repeat the walk to West Bay and then follow the river inland to Bridport, his guess was that it would be something like a 3 mile walk.
Looking for adventure, we took off an the highway, well, OK, it was a path over the cliff.
We set off at about 11:00am and made swift work of those 3 miles to get to the Hat-Fest.
It was Sunny!
It was ‘Perspiration City’ beneath my shirt!
And it was crowded!
Don’t say I didn’t bring something to the party! (those around me couldn’t actually speak as it would involve ‘gulping in’ the aroma that I’d earned from that walk!).
But it was a great day and the personification of English-ness.
Tilley spoilt some moments by trying to attack anyone and anything that she deemed was too close to our group; this meant about 2,000 people, 100’s of dogs and many small children.
She is really a very loving ‘non-biting-so-far’ dog but she does like to portray herself otherwise.
Still we, and everyone else coped with her misbehaviour, one lady even gave her a tub-full of dog treats and a large bowl of water on the Bridport Millennium Green that we visited to watch the brass band playing – Dennis played/plays in a brass band and maintains a keen interest; he does, and did, get tearful when listening to a piece that he used to play with his father (Amanda’s Granddad) and he holds my admiration for that.
Good on yer Den!
<Real-time: pauses for a stick of Bridport ‘stick of rock’>
Here are some taster pics:
Finally, no picture can serve to do justice to the feel of the place, Dennis stood and cried during one “pianissimo” piece. We believed it was a piece that he once played with his father, but we didn’t want to intrude as we know that Dennis recovers faster if left alone.
So, here is a very short clip of the St. Swithun’s Brass Band at the Bridport Millenium Green – Dennis & Joyce can be seen at the end of the clip, nearest camera.
I caught one chap that had clearly decided that the day was a bit too much for him, luckily, the Bridport St. Swithuns Brass Band came to his rescue and helped him to the place that he sought – Zzzzzzzzzz – hope he wasn’t dead!
Finally, to answer a question that I keep getting asked – ‘How long does it take to write your blog’.
The answer is ‘Two beers, one coffee, one ‘stick of rock’ and cigarette breaks as desired’.
I hope that helps.
Ciao until Hastings.