Where Do We Go From Here ?

So, this is the end of this particular blog, but it is not the end of our adventures. For those of you who wish to continue to follow our adventures you will need to go to our new blog site at :

https://ourspanishbolthole.wordpress.com

If you wish to continue to receive Email updates you will need to register again on the new blog by pressing the ‘Follow’ button on the right hand side of the new blog page. For those that do not wish to follow our continuing adventures, I would just like to say a very big thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy ramblings.

For those of you who are still at the dreaming stage, remember this, do not let anyone rush you into making/taking this very important decision, although “Dreams Will Always Remain Just Dreams Unless You Make Them Happen“…………………

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Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 11 Comments

Down The Pit And A Ride On A Steam Elephant !!

Monday 19th October (Day 221 of 236)

It was to be our last period of extended time off, before we finished at the end of our second seasons duties as ‘Elf & Elfette’. Unbeknown to me at the time, and although we had ‘ticked off’ all our must do’s on our ‘To Do List’, Shazza had been plotting a final ‘Expedition’.

It felt good being able to just lay in bed enjoying a piping hot mug of coffee with no reason, or rush, to get up. It appeared to me to be just an innocent type of question when my beloved said “What do you want to do today” ? I had no reason to suspect anything untoward so I simply responded, “I am not really bothered, what do you want to do” ? Oh no !! big mistake Eric me lad, she had unwittingly ambushed me and now I had given her the opportunity to reveal to me exactly what it was that she already knew that we were both be going to do today !!  “Well” she said, with that conniving grin on her face, “I thought it might be nice to go to the Beamish Museum“, then she waited for the inevitable reaction, “A Museum“, well I nearly choked on my bloody coffee !! She then proceeded to tell me that this was no ordinary museum, it was a large estate and grounds and in it everything was of the ‘Victorian era’, a town, a pit village, a farm, a hall, trams, buses etc, all of which we could ride around on. It was as she was reeling off this full itinerary of what there was to do at this ‘Beamish Museum’ that the lightbulb moment happened, this was no spur of the moment idea, this was another one of those well planned ‘Shazza Expeditions’ !! “So how far away is this place” I enquired, “Only about seventy miles” she replied, “Well I guess we had better get ourselves ready” I said as I started to reluctantly make my way from under the very warm and comfortable duvet.

Whilst I got myself ready, and made a flask of coffee, she had ‘popped’ out to re-fuel ‘Wuxly’ and seeing as we wouldn’t have time to pack a picnic, she thoughtfully stopped off at the ‘M&S’ food hall to pick up a couple of packs of sandwiches and sausage rolls !! Whilst she was out I looked outside and, well actually there was no and, they call this place ‘Seaview’, a title which, this morning at least, could have been taken to task by the ‘Trade Descriptions Act’, for not only could you not see the sea, but you couldn’t see any of the buildings between ‘Big Momma’ and the sea, it was, to say the least, a bit foggy !! However, by the time Madame had returned, the grey soup had begun to dissipate, not that their would have been any risk of this ‘Shazza Expedition’ being cancelled. I had already thought about suggesting it but I already knew what her response would have been, something akin to “Well we are stepping back to Victorian Times, it was always foggy in those days so it will add to the ambience my darling“, or the more realistic version, “Stop being such a wimp and get in the car” !!

Our destination was South, down along the now familiar stretch of the A1, we had travelled this route many times over the last eight months to go on other expeditions. As soon as we had left Berwick-upon-Tweed the fog disappeared, which was good for me as the passenger as I always enjoyed the first part of the journey as it ran parallel with the sea. From my vantage point I could look out over the green fields and gaze out to the Holy Island where I could see Lindisfarne Castle, I had fallen into daydream mode but was soon awoken when the driver asked, “Are you hungry yet” ? I knew that this was a rhetorical question, and simply meant that she needed feeding !!

It had only taken us around ninety minutes to get to our destination and we found a suitable parking spot, the sun was shining, although there was still that Autumnal chill which required us to put on our coats. We were greeted at the entrance by a smartly dressed chap in Victorian apparel who, once he had determined that this was our first visit, imparted some relevant information so that we could get the best from our day’s visit………………

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I don’t know why, but as we approached the ‘Cashiers’ desk a thought sprung into my head, I was sure that as well as getting superb Club Sites in superb locations, with amazingly clean facilities and well maintained camping areas along with superbly amazing and friendly Elves & Elfettes, club members could also get discounts at some tourist attractions. Sometimes it’s worth just asking the question, of course you may end up being laughed at or even suffer a look of disdain, and that’s just from the wife !! however, sometimes it pays to have a bit of cheek and this was such an occasion, so I asked the question and on production of one’s Club Membership Card was duly rewarded with a twenty-five per cent discount, result !! Although the joy and elation was somewhat tarnished when she, the young female cashier, asked whether I also qualified for the ‘Seniors Discount’ !!

I don’t know whether you have read the book, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe“, where they enter a wardrobe and pass through into a magical world beyond, well we passed through a door and were immediately transformed back into the Victorian era !!

Our transport, with appropriately dressed driver and conductor !!

Our transport, with appropriately dressed driver and conductor !!

The driver asked if I wanted to stand on the footplate, although I wasn't allowed to actually drive the thing !! Too good a photo opportunity to be missed, before being shown around to the passengers entrance !!

The driver asked if I wanted to stand on the footplate, although I wasn’t allowed to actually drive the thing !! Too good a photo opportunity to be missed, before being shown around to the passengers entrance !!

Then we were on our way, our next stop would be the Victorian Town. It was a short journey of around five minutes but en-route we were passed by vintage vehicles going in the opposite direction, an old truck and then a tractor, they had this well choreographed !!

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We alighted at the stop in town but elected to venture down towards the railway station, on the way we passed a working steam-driven fairground carousel and a lovely old caravan that the fairground traveller’s lived in. I should also state that you could go on these rides, or use the public transport, all free of charge !! The only ‘extras’ were the things you wanted to purchase in the shops or food and drink at the many cafe’s available at the different locations.  Throughout the day we utilised several of the different types of public transport.

The steam driven carousel

The steam-driven carousel

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There was so much to see and do, we wandered in and out of everywhere, but if I were to narrate everything this post would take weeks to write and months to read (okay, which one of you said “What’s New” !!), instead, I will let you flick through just some of the photo’s that I took on the day…………………..

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They didn't travel light in Victorian Times !!

They didn’t travel light in Victorian Times !!

Inside of the ticket office

Inside of the ticket office

Inside the signal box, no Shazza, don't touch those levers........too late !! Best we get out of here !

Inside the signal box, no Shazza, don’t touch those levers……..too late !! Best we get out of here !

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Meanwhile, back in town……………

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Inside the Dental Surgery, thank goodness I had already had my teeth done !!

Inside the Dental Surgery, thank goodness I had already had my teeth done !!

These fires were real coal fires, nice and toasty warm too !!

These fires were real coal fires, nice and toasty warm too !!

Okay, so who ate all the pies eh !!

Okay, so who ate all the pies eh ? Not me guv’nor, I only came in a moment ago !!

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In the newspaper and local printers office

In the newspaper and local printers office

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Mmmmmmm !! The sweet shop

Mmmmmmm !! The sweet shop

The 'chocolatier' getting ready his colouring just prior to making his next batch !!

The ‘chocolatier’ getting ready his colouring just prior to making his next batch !!

Well after ‘Shazza’ bought all the sweets and chocolates we needed a visit to the town bank…………..

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Cor blimey, could do with some of those rates on my savings today !!

Cor blimey, could do with some of those rates on my savings today !!

After grabbing a stash of threepenny bits and halfpennies (frightening, but I remember them !!) it was time to go and see what else the shops had to offer………………

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Looks interesting, wonder if they have one in stock I could look at ?

Looks interesting, wonder if they have one in stock I could look at ?

Well Sir, it just so happens that we do !!!

Well Sir, it just so happens that we do !!!

The salesman was reluctant to let me take it out for a test drive so I decided to give it a miss and we headed off to look at more antiquities…………..

There may be a few of you who still remember these !!

There may be a few of you who still remember these !!

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Home Delivery is not a new concept !!

Home Delivery is not a new concept !!

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Blocks of soap used for 'personal' hygiene as well as as scrubbing clothing !!

Blocks of soap used for ‘personal’ hygiene as well as scrubbing clothing !!

But of course, if you lived on the wealthier side of town you may prefer to pay for the 'branded' names !!

But of course, if you lived on the wealthier side of town you may prefer to pay for the ‘branded’ names !!

There always has to be someone to spoil the party !! I am certain that it wasn't the Victorians that invented the mobile phone !!

There always has to be someone to spoil the party !! I am certain that it wasn’t the Victorians that invented the mobile phone !!

So, all shopped out it was time to add a bit of fuel to the fire, yes, down to the Colliery and village community that supported it………………….

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The great thing about the Beamish Museum was being allowed to just wander in and out of buildings at our leisure. As with other locations there were people dressed in Victorian attire who would tell you about what life was like in Victorian days. We were taken down to the ‘coal face’, looked inside miners houses, the church and the school…………….

You can't go down the mine without a miners lamp, no battery torches in those days !!

You can’t go down the mine without a miner’s lamp, no battery torches in those days !!

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Actually down the mine !!

Actually down the mine !!

A tug full of the black stuff

A tug full of the black stuff

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A modest miners cottage

A modest miners cottage

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One door hides the 'thunder bucket' the other, the coal shed !!

One door hides the ‘thunder bucket’ the other, the coal shed !!

One of the popular pastimes was 'whittling', this chap was making a spoon !!

One of the popular pastimes was ‘whittling’, this chap is making a spoon !!

Back to school !!

Back to school !!

No Central Heating in those days, but guess what a 'pit school' was never short of ?

No Central Heating in those days, but guess what a ‘pit school’ was never short of ?

And as we all know, most pit villages had a 'Colliery Band'

And as we all know, most pit villages had a ‘Colliery Band’

Time to move on to the Farm !!

Time to move on to the Farm !!

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Time for more tales of life on a Victorian Farm !!

Time for more tales of life on a Victorian Farm !!

Call the police, someone has nicked this tractors tyres !!

Call the police, someone has nicked this tractors tyres !!

All this history stuff is giving me an appetite, let’s go see what we can find in the farmhouse kitchen…………………

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Forerunner of the iPod !!

Forerunner of the iPod !!

"Oh no my lovely" she exclaimed, "You cannot go until you have taken a ride on a steam elephant"

“Oh no my lovely” she exclaimed, “You cannot go until you have taken a ride on a steam elephant”

"Steam Elephant" you say, just so happens that I am going that way.

“Steam Elephant” you say, just so happens that I am going that way.

And this my friends is the 'Steam Elephant' !!

And this my friends is the ‘Steam Elephant’ !!

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Yes, we did take a ride on the ‘Steam Elephant’, well it would have been rude not to !! I cannot say that it was one of the most comfortable modes of transport that I have ever been on mind you, but it had to be done !! And that was it, we made our way back to our ‘Wardrobe Door’ and re-entered the twenty-first century.

I know that this, even by my own standards, has been an exceptionally long blog, but believe me, you have only been subjected to around one-third of the photographs that I actually took on this wonderful day trip. You can also look at it in two ways, it has given you the motivation to pay a visit to the Beamish Museum yourselves or, I have saved you the trip as well as a few pounds from your wallet !!

I am also hoping that Shazza has learnt something from this little expedition, it’s no good wanting to lay in bed under a nice warm duvet with a piping hot mug of coffee when there are fantastic days out like this to be had……………….. !!

Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 23 Comments

Surprise Gifts, A Purple Dream and A Birthday !!

Saturday 17th October (Day 219 of 236)

As I sit in my own little dream world, as I often do, counting down the days until the end of our second ‘Elf & Elfette‘ season, it suddenly dawned on me that we were actually three weeks into the ‘third year’ of our ‘Big Adventure‘. It’s amazing how time just flies by and although, in reality, we had spent twelve months of that time working as Assistant Wardens, we have looked back on what we have done, and where we have been, in both the UK as well as our travels further afield in the knowledge that we would never have been able to experience any of this had we have remained in our former ‘conventional’ lifestyles. As well as the places we have visited we have also met some very nice people, many of whom we remain in contact with via this blog and even Emails, Mobile Phone, Texts and Skype. There are also those that we have come to know, and remain in contact with, although we have never actually met, through their own travel blogs. This is such a wonderful life and with it comes an opportunity for ‘social networking‘ with people from around the globe, so whilst you can choose to ‘wander’ alone it does not mean that you have to be isolated, in fact, if truth be known, in our previous existence, we were probably more isolated living in a house in a large town with a population of thousands than we ever are now !!

I had first met Roy (Twernt on Tour blog) virtually through Email, when he initially made contact asking for some guidance on purchasing an appropriate vehicle for his own ‘Adventure’. We remained in contact even after he and Amanda had sold their house and worldly possessions and joined the growing band of ‘fulltimers’ and set off on their own travels. Quite coincidentally, we had actually met up down on the Algarve in Portugal when we discovered we were only a few miles apart. Since that time we have remained in contact and Roy and Amanda who, like us, have deviated somewhat from their original ‘Adventure’, which is another great thing about this lifestyle, are currently based back here in the UK. Recently, Roy had been Skype texting me and for several weeks now he had been telling me that he was sending me something, or as he called it ‘a Thingy‘ through the post. I waited in eager anticipation, and waited, and waited some more but Roy would then text me and say that there was a delay as he was changing the ‘prototype‘ and that ‘it‘, the ‘thingy’ would be with me soon. He was very secretive and would give me no indication of what this ‘thingy’ was but continually stated that if I didn’t like it that I could ‘bin it’ and he wouldn’t be offended !! You can probably imagine how intrigued I was, the more the delay the more my inquisitiveness increased but no matter how much I attempted to probe him to give me even the merest hint, he would not divulge anything, other than to say that if I chose to keep the ‘thingy’ that it may, in around ten years, have a re-sale value of around £1.00 !! Now Roy is also a bit of a joker, so my intrigue was also tempered with a large element of suspicion and scepticism, I wasn’t going to allow myself to become overly excited  at the usefulness of said ‘thingy’ only to be disappointed once I had received ‘it’. After a few days I received a text advising me that ‘Thingy’ was en-route, via recorded delivery !! We had been away on a day off but upon our return it had arrived, it was a larger parcel than I had imagined and well wrapped up and very securely taped. I opened the parcel with some trepidation, knowing Roy, something may have been primed to leap out at me, but no, when I finally unwrapped the mystery gift(s) I was very pleasantly surprised to find a very nice piece of craftsmanship that Roy had quite obviously spent a lot of time making…………………….

Roy !! Shazza trusts that you are not implying that she is fat !!!

Roy !! Shazza trusts that you are not implying that she is fat !!!

In April 2014, we were on our way to our first ‘Elf & Elfette’ assignment on the West Coast of Scotland, one of the campsites we stayed on during that journey North was ‘Maragowan’. Whilst there, I had a brief conversation with a fellow motorhomer, as you do, and of course mentioned my blog, as you would. Tom was a Paramedic and he, and his wife Jo, had also dreamed of taking up the fulltiming lifestyle so showed an interest in reading about our adventure. Subsequently, Tom and I kept in touch and within the year they too had given up their jobs and taken to a ‘nomadic’ existence living in their Motorhome. Now the reason for providing that bit of background is that just recently, on the 12th October, Tom and Jo came to visit us on our site here at Berwick, they had taken the big step of selling their house and also investing in a new fulltiming palace on wheels. Unfortunately, the timing of their visit was not during one of our periods of extended time off, however, we were able to meet up and go and have a meal and a few drinks in a local hostelry that evening where the time flew by far too quickly. I have left the photographic evidence of our brief Union for Tom to publish in his own blog ‘Purpledreamsbigadventure.wordpress.com

Meanwhile, for us, the days were being ticked off and we were nearing our final couple of weeks and the sense of excitement was now beginning to build, that taste of freedom was so close we could almost taste it. But before that, another major event was about to happen, namely, my birthday !! Unfortunately, it would be a work day but we were off duty the day before and so, as the saying goes, we were able to kill two birds with one stone, a visit to my parents in Leeds, the last chance to see them before our next period of Winter sunshine travels in Spain, and a chance to celebrate my birthday with a ‘Fish ‘n’ Chips’ lunch at my mums favourite local fish restaurant. It would be a long trip to undertake in one day, no not the journey to the fish and chip restaurant, the three-hundred and sixty mile round trip from Berwick, but well worth the effort. Now my mum is a fan of that cooking programme, ‘The Great British Bake Off‘, and so had decided to provide me with one of her own ‘Showstoppers‘ as a birthday treat. It entailed ‘Choux Pastry, Fresh Cream and Chocolate’ and in good ‘bake off’ tradition, she had constructed it,  presented it with an appropriate birthday decoration and then walked it through to the judges table for the big taste test !!

Chocolate Eclairs !! A Winner in my book mum !

Chocolate Eclairs !! A Winner in my book mum !

Now let me tell you a little story, this is completely true and I have been given permission to share this with you. My mum had been suffering with a ‘frozen shoulder’, which often limited her use of one particular arm, however, she has become quite adept at utilising both arms when needs must. She was talking to her ‘physiotherapist’ at a recent appointment and when asked how she was getting on she very proudly stated that she had now become ‘Ambidistrus‘!! Her physiotherapist smiled and said “I think you will find that that is a plant, I think you mean ‘Ambidextrous‘” !!

And so, another blog post comes to an end, and with it, nearly our time here in Berwick-upon-Tweed. With just two more weekends to go we are now beginning to prepare for our departure and the start of a new Chapter in our ‘Big Adventure’. But before that, items that upon our arrival here were transferred from ‘Big Mommas’ garage to our on site storage shed now have to be re-packed into ‘Big Momma’, the van needs a good clean, inside and out, and then there are a whole host of other bits and pieces to sort out, but it will help pass the time a little more quickly. The Campsite has now begun to get quieter and although there is still a daily average of between forty and fifty units on site, it looks and feels quite empty, the sea, on a daily basis, is now more grey than blue, the mornings are quite dark to wake up to, the trees are very Autumnal with their red, orange and brown leaves with more falling each day to form a blanket on the ground. Yes, it certainly is nearly time for that migration South, to the warmth of the winter sunshine in Andalucia…………………………..

Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 16 Comments

A Brief Peek Into Our Future !!

Tuesday 6th October (Day 208 of 236)

As I am writing this, we are now finally down to the last four weeks of this year’s Summer Season as Elf & Elfette and in just five weeks time we shall, for the first time, actually be in our newly acquired Apartment in Southern Spain, enjoying, even if I do say so myself, fifteen weeks of well deserved rest and relaxation. Okay, perhaps a little bit of rest but if Shazza has her way, and let’s be totally truthful about this, she will have her way, it may not be as totally relaxing as perhaps one of us may wish for. I have tried the kicking, screaming, digging my heels in but as you well know by now ‘Resistance is futile‘, so I don’t bother anymore and just go to bed still wearing my walking boots as it seems pointless wasting time taking them off !!

Unless you are a time traveller or are a true descendent of the ‘Romany’ community with an exceptionally reliable ‘Crystal Ball’, generally, the majority of us can never look at what life has in store for us, however, occasionally, we may just be lucky enough to have an opportunity of taking ‘A Brief Peek Into Our Future’ !!

But before we could take that scintillating look there was the here and now to contend with. We may have had an indifferent kind of Summer, nothing to get too excited about, there were certainly some very nice sunny days but no searingly hot temperatures like those that had been enjoyed a wee bit further South in the Country, however, it hadn’t stopped the Caravanners, Motorhomers or the tenters from coming out in ever-increasing numbers. Our site had been virtually ‘full to capacity’ every day since Easter but we had been looking forward to the end of September when the numbers were going to start to decrease. Well, that had been the plan, according to the information on our advance bookings system. The ‘Work of Fiction’ had other ideas though and decided to have a bloody laugh at our expense. We could hear them having an enormous belly laugh as they once again connived to shun the normal routine of bringing September to an end and hail in the Winter proper, with freezing temperatures, fog, winds and rain. But oh no ! Instead of that, they had decided, at their weekly ‘let’s make up another weather forecast’ meeting at the Work of Fiction HQ, to play silly buggers, they sat around their gigantic weather map and said, “I know, let’s not do leaves on railway tracks this Autumn to disrupt public transport, the British population will be expecting that and let’s not bring down the wrong type of snow, that too was totally old hat by now, instead, they had giggled, like mischievous school boys, why don’t we do something totally unexpected like…………… extending summer !!”  And so it was that in the last week of September and first week of October, just as everyone was bringing out their winter woollies, hats, scarves, boots and thermal onesies, they provided us with a bloody heat wave !! The on-line booking systems were nearly in meltdown and our site phone rung continuously, “Can we book a week at your site” please, the customers already on site, queuing at the office door like it was the morning of a ‘Harrods Sale’, even before we had finished eating our bowls of ‘Shredded Wheat’, they were clammering to extend their stay, before we knew it, we were fully booked again for the whole week, deep joy !!

Fortunately, or so I thought at the time, at least my enforced time in the office was almost at an end, just two more days, then I could look forward to getting back out into the fresh air, I hadn’t thought that I would have missed the daily bin runs as much as I had. Before I could do that though, I had to have my routine follow-up appointment at the Opticians, this was something required by the Consultant at the hospital, whom I had an appointment with at the end of the month. My left eye was still a little bit ‘gritty’ and uncomfortable but that is normal, according to my electronic medical advisor on ‘Google’. I was still using the eye drops four times a day but they could be stopped in another couple of days.

The Optician was very thorough but instead of informing me that my vision had improved and that he would now prescribe me my lenses for my new glasses, instead, he advised me that he would be writing to my Doctor as a matter of urgency requesting that I have an earlier appointment with the hospital Consultant sooner than the pre-arranged one. When I asked him how much sooner he stated “within the week” !! I of course, quite calmly, asked what the problem was, well it seemed a logical question to ask, and it would appear that I have some inflammation around the area where the surgeon had made the incision to remove the ‘cataract’ and where he had inserted the new lens. So, okay, come on it was only inflammation and not as if I had contracted some sort of ‘infection‘, which could have been quite serious and created further complications, so surely this just meant that my eye was still a little swollen from the procedure. He gave me more eye drops, well no, actually he hadn’t actually given me them, I had to pay for them, but this eye solution was, he informed me, of a thicker viscosity and would ease the irritation which was created every time I blinked !! Strange really, blinking is one of those things that occurs naturally and an action that you don’t normally give any thought to, unless of course you are advised to try to not blink too much !! Have you ever counted how many times you actually blink in a day ? So the really bad news came when he told me that I had to remain on ‘light duties‘ until my re-visit to the hospital, ‘why me‘ I thought to myself, everyone else I have spoken to, who has had this type of eye procedure, have never had any problems, so ‘why me‘ and for now at least, well it is back to the waiting game, yet again, blinking heck !!

Our long-awaited extended period of time off came and we had decided to use the time to take ‘A Brief Peek Into Our Future‘ by taking the two hundred mile, four-hour drive, from the North East Coast across to the West and a little further South. We were headed to what will be our ‘temporary’ home for eight months next year. We had booked onto the site at ‘Burrs Country Park’ for two nights and we were looking forward to meeting up with our good friends, Paul and Debs. They had been away in ‘Bugsy’, their very nice Carthago Motorhome and were returning home, ‘Bury’ was en-route.

It was an easy drive and virtually all dual-carriageway and Motorway, but the main thing we noticed as we left the North was how congested the roads were as we got further South. It served to reinforce our opinion that driving in UK is not a pleasant experience, driving in mainland Europe is much more relaxing and enjoyable. However, we made it, unscathed, in the four hours that ‘Snoopy’ had stated and she delivered us right to the front door.

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We were given a really warm welcome from Allan and Jean the duty wardens, we had met them previously, two years earlier as it happens, as they were on the same initial Training Course as us, they invited us in for a cuppa but we graciously declined and re-arranged it for the following day. We needed to get set up on our nice spacious fully serviced ‘pitch’ and then freshen up ready to meet up with Paul and Debs at the local pub, it couldn’t get much more local, it was right outside the site’s main entrance, now there’s a bonus !!

Our nice spacious pitch !!

Our nice spacious pitch !!

Our very local pub, the 'Brown Cow'

Our very local pub, the ‘Brown Cow’

It was great to meet up with our friends Paul and Debs again, although we had kept in touch via mobile, texts and Skype it was the first time we had seen them in person for two years. However, our re-Union was brief as they both had to return home ready for that appointment with another Monday morning at work, but we enjoyed a meal and a drink and then a coffee back in ‘Bugsy’ before once again saying our farewells.

Now I know that it may look as if the 'girls' are having to prop up a 'worse for wear' Paul, but he had only had a pint...............of Coca Cola !!

Now I know that it may look as if the ‘girls’ are having to prop up a ‘worse for wear’ Paul, but he had only had a pint……………of Coca Cola !!

After one of the best nights sleep we had had in ages we awoke, after a good lay in and morning coffee, totally refreshed. The site, as the name suggests, is located within a Country Park with the East Lancashire Steam Railway line running along one border, the other views are of the Park and the surrounding hills and countryside.

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The buildings look like Country Cottages but they do in fact house the 'Activity Centre'

The buildings look like Country Cottages but they do in fact house the ‘Activity Centre’

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The site is certainly in a beautiful location and has a feeling of space but it is only a ten minute drive, or forty-minute gentle stroll through the park, into the town. We took the latter option and when we arrived into the town centre, wow  ! After Berwick’s one main street, this was a metropolis, civilisation on a grand scale, big brand name stores, modern shopping malls, a multi-screen cinema, bowling alley, loads of eateries and a proper busy bus station and a Metro Tramlink with trams direct to the Centre of Manchester running every twelve minutes. Combine that with our growing list of things to do, at least nine different reservoirs, loads of walks and Canals, well let’s just say that I don’t think that we will be short of things to keep us occupied in our spare time !!

Upon our return to the site we went and had a cuppa with Allan and Jean and then Allan and I went for a walk around the site. This site, unlike Berwick, was completely flat and although similar in the number of pitches, it was more compact in its ‘footprint’, but if we thought that our current site had lots of grass and hedges then the amount of ‘greenage’ on this one was a bit of a shock !! It would certainly require one heck of a lot of regular cutting and maintenance so I don’t think we will be short of something to do !!

For our last evening we decided to be lazy, yet again, and chose to re-visit the local hostelry for our evening meal, I elected to try out their ‘Mixed Grill’ and boy, was I glad that I hadn’t bothered eating lunch earlier in the day !!

Tuesday morning arrived far too quickly for our liking, it was time to head back North and it would be fair to say, without any exaggeration, that we were not looking forward to it !! But on a positive note, four weeks today we will depart our site at Berwick for the final time and five weeks today we will be in our Spanish apartment, so something to look forward to……………………………………….

Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 16 Comments

A Bit Of Forward Planning

Wednesday 23rd September (Day 195 of 236)

Here we are, now into Autumn, the mornings and evenings have that tell-tale seasonal chill in the air, the dark nights are already beginning to draw in and yet our site is still packed to the gunnels !!  The families with their ‘little darlings’ have all returned to their homes with children now back at school and parents back at work, and it is now the turn of the childless couples, and those of a certain age group, to come back out of hiding, and they have and continue to arrive in their droves, so whilst we were very much hoping for some well-earned respite it would appear that that is just not going to happen, well not yet anyway !!

With just forty-one days of our second seasons duties to go, it was time for us (well just me actually) to get stuck into a bit of forward planning. Okay, so we had already pre-booked, and paid in full, our ferry crossing to Spain. We knew that we would have fifteen weeks in our new apartment to look forward to and had already got all our holiday funds sorted in both our Spanish Bank Account and on our Caxton FX ‘Euro Cash Card’, all that was left to do was to Email Chris, the estate agent in Spain, to advise him of our arrival date so that he would have the keys ready for our collection. Although we would arrive at his offices after closing time he had already told us that he would place our keys in his night safe, outside the office, and he would provide us with the access code. So there was little else to do on that score other than catch the ferry, drive down from the top end of Spain to the bottom end, in one journey, then get into our new Winter ‘Bolt Hole’. Once there though we would have things to do, we were not sure what we would find when we turned the key in the lock of  the apartment door, the metal window roller shutters would have plunged the place into complete darkness for what would have been nearly seven months. Although on the two occasions when we had viewed the property, prior to the purchase, the then owners had obviously had it looking at its best, but we knew that they were taking all of the pictures off the walls so perhaps there would be some holes to fill and then a spit of redecoration to undertake but who knows what else we would discover, however, there was no point dwelling on too much of that right now, I had other more pressing matters to consider.

I knew that I was getting close to running out of space on this current WordPress blog and I thought that I only had two options, pay an annual fee to upgrade and thereby get additional space on my existing ramblings or look for an alternative blog provider. I wasn’t keen on adding more expense to our budget but was a little ‘miffed’ at the thought of having to get to grips with the quirks associated with using an unfamiliar blog. However, after pondering for a while and playing around inside my blog settings pages, I realised that I could stay with ‘WordPress’ and just add a new blog with another free 3Mb of space. I had got used to using this blog provider and the formatting, loading of photographs etc but there would be a downside, the new blog would be just that, so any of my existing 205 subscribers, who want to continue following our adventures, would have to re-subscribe to the new blog. But then again, that would be true if I changed blog provider anyway, so I am now working on building a new blog with ‘WordPress’ and once it is ready I will provide the link or address, so watch this space as they say.

Earlier in the season we had to put in our requests for areas we wanted to be in for next seasons ‘Elf & Elfette’ duties.  We had spent our first two seasons on the Scottish Region, yes I know, Berwick-upon-Tweed is in England, but to be fair, it is literally spitting distance from the Scottish Border. However, this is still too far North from family, especially now that we have twin Granddaughters to visit and spoil, so we requested a change, hoping to be midway between Doncaster and Swindon, we identified a few desirable locations in and around the ‘Peak District‘.

The advantage of staying on the same region is that your Regional Manager, who has already got to know you and your work ethic, is going to give you priority on your ‘choices of site‘ over those he doesn’t know and who are coming from another site outside of his area. We were in that predicament so all we could do was wait until the 2016 site allocations list was issued. The system is this, you get allocated to a site and then have the option to accept or decline it. If you decline you wait until all other Assistant Wardens have accepted or declined then, from all the sites that have been declined, you are allocated a second site. Now this site may be better than the original one offered, there again it may not, if you decline the second offer then you have no contract for the following year !!

The list was published and we began trawling through the Alphabetical listings. We didn’t have to trawl for too long, in fact only as far as the list of sites that began with the letter ‘B’, for there were our names against ‘Burrs Country Park‘. We didn’t know where this site was so went to our sites listings on the Internet to locate it and discovered that it was at ‘Bury’, which is in Lancashire, around thirty-minutes North of Manchester !! Now, having travelled the UK a fair bit in my life, I knew that Manchester, let alone Bury, was not between Doncaster and Swindon, our hearts sunk. We had a bit of time before we would have to ‘formally’ accept or decline this offer so decided to sit back and consider our options. In that ‘Consideration’ time we looked on ‘Google Earth’ satellite mapping, a great application as it enabled us to not only locate the actual Campsite and surrounding area, but it enabled us to ‘Zoom’ right in so that we could visually inspect the site. We were looking with two sets of eyes, the first was work related, the layout of the site, the facilities, the amount of grass and hedges to be cut and strimmed, the terrain etc. We were actually quite impressed with these aspects and so moved on with our second set of eyes where we started to visually explore the immediate surrounding area, the local town, which we discovered was within walking distance, and then wider afield, including road links. The more we looked the more we started to warm to this location, it was within a large Country Park on the edge of the town, with a very handy Pub/Restaurant a stones throw away from the site entrance. The River Irwell was also just a stones throw away in the Park which had a conveniently located ‘Canoe Club’, the website of which indicated that it was possible to paddle stretches of the river in ‘Kevin’ (our Kayak), on our days off, if of course we so desired. There was also a Tramlink from the local town direct to Manchester, only a thirty-minute ride away and there were absolutely dozens of walks in the area. We would also be right on the Motorway Network which, subject to road works, traffic congestion, accidents and weather conditions, could see us arriving in Swindon in just three and a half hours. Okay, let me cut to the chase, having given the offer due consideration, we have accepted the offer and, as some of you may have already guessed, I have already started to compile a list of ‘Things to do‘, ‘Places to Visit‘ and ‘Walks to be Walked‘ !! We have booked onto the site on our next upcoming and extended period of ‘time off’, in a couple of weeks, to take a closer look at the site and the local town, so I will have a few more ramblings to pen yet, before bringing this particular blog to its natural end.

Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 16 Comments

Dark Forces, A Castle and A Fluffy Duster !!

Thursday 17th September 2015 (Day 189 of 236)

The big day finally arrived, Friday 4th September, time for the eagerly awaited trip to the hospital in Newcastle to get my Cataract sorted. I say eagerly awaited but the truth was, as much as I needed this to be done, I couldn’t get one major thought out of my head, the one that could only visualise a shiny sharp bladed scalpel heading in the direction of my eyeball, I was glad that I had the forethought to wear my brown trousers today !! Once checked in I didn’t have to wait long, first it was to put some eye drops in to dilate my pupil and then, once they had been given time to work, I was taken down to the theatre and prepared for the Operation that would last Forty minutes. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest at a great rate of knots, oh how I wish I had opted to be put to sleep, but that would have meant waiting even longer to have it done, but I was here now and there was no turning back………………..

At least on the way back to the waiting area, where Shazza had been sat, patiently awaiting the return of her patient, I didn’t have to walk, a  hospital porter gently pushed my wheeled carriage up from the Post-Op area to the waiting room. I couldn’t see a damn thing out of my Left eye for they had covered it with a bandage and plastic eye shield. I really don’t know what all the fuss was about for not only had I not been able to see the knife or the surgeon, but the anaesthetic, that he had put into my eye, meant that I couldn’t feel anything either. Had it not been that he was talking throughout the whole procedure I may have been forgiven for thinking that they had just left me in a room by myself for Forty minutes then wheeled me out again. I believe that those ‘Dark Forces‘ had been up to their tricks again, making me worry for weeks that the worst was going to happen, giving me many sleepless nights, but in the end, they had decided to go elsewhere and wreek havoc on some other poor sole. The bandage was removed Twenty-Four hours later and only then did I discover that when I say that “I will keep an eye out for you“, that I really mean it…… !!

I hadn't asked for a 'Zoom' lens !!

I hadn’t asked for a ‘Zoom’ lens !!

It would take a day or two before I know if the new lens implant would be any good and improve my vision, then it could take up to four weeks for it to settle down. Dougie and Avril, our site Wardens, are absolutely brilliant and they had re-jigged the work rosters so that I didn’t need to take any ‘official’ time off work but I had got three full days off before going back, but on strictly ‘Admin’ duties as I couldn’t risk getting an infection in my eye.

As I wasn’t on ‘the sick’, it meant that I could still go out and do things on our days off, although I had to have four lots of eye drops each day and had to wear sunglasses to protect my eye from bright light. We elected to go and do the final two things on our sightseeing list, the visit to ‘Bamburgh Castle‘ and then the ‘Grace Darling‘ Museum.

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Once we had explored the outer parts of the Castle it was time to take a peek at the inside………………….

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An early bicycle known as the 'bone shaker', note, no saddle and no pedals !!

An early bicycle known as the ‘bone shaker’, note, no saddle, no pedals and no brakes  !!

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Could this be an early 'Dyson' prototype ?

Could this be an early ‘Dyson’ prototype ?

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We wandered in and out of lots of rooms at our leisure, up and down stairways, exploring little nooks and crannies. It was easy to imagine how great it must have been to live in such a marvellous building, I could have hidden from Shazza for days !! This had really been well worth the wait, I love Castles like this, ones where you can roam around without the need for a ‘official tour guide’, for as long as you wanted, well until they chucked you out at closing time that is !!

Before we left we had to do a last external walk around the ramparts to admire the views, much to Shazza’s displeasure, she wasn’t a big fan of castles but was happy to humour me, up to a point that is, and we were nearing that point quite rapidly !!

Looking across to the Farne Islands

Looking across to one of the Farne Islands

Looking out upon the Cricket and Croquet field and to the village below the Castle

Looking out upon the Cricket and Croquet field and to the village below the Castle

Marvellous wide sandy beach just below the ramparts

Marvellous wide sandy beach just below the ramparts

Looking across to Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle

Looking across to Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle

The weather had been kind to us with warm sunshine and only a light breeze blowing. Even with only one good eye I had enjoyed our visit to the Castle. Sometimes, when you are looking forward to something, when you actually get around to doing it, it can be disappointing and it doesn’t live up to expectations, not so Bamburgh Castle, it was well worth the wait.

But our day was not done as also located in the village was the ‘Grace Darling Museum‘. Now I have to say that very many years ago when I was a young boy at school, I didn’t really absorb things as well as perhaps I should, but I always enjoyed a good story. It was back in this distant past when I was told about the heroic exploits of a young girl who lived with her family in a lighthouse, her father being the lighthouse keeper and the girl was called ‘Grace Darling‘. one stormy night she looked out from one of the windows of the lighthouse and saw a paddle steamer, the ‘SS Forfarshire‘ being wrecked upon the rocks. This ten-year old girl, and her father, rowed out into the stormy maelstrom and managed to rescue nine survivors who had managed to climb up onto the storm battered rocks, the rest of the crew and passengers were drowned. So, here was I, very many years after initially hearing that story, in ‘Bamburgh’, the birthplace of that young girl, so a visit to the museum was a must.

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Across the road from the museum, in the church graveyard, is the place where Grace Darling was buried.

Across the road from the museum, in the church graveyard, is the place where Grace Darling was buried.

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The museum was well worth the visit, there is obviously the history of Grace Darling and her family which was very interesting, a short, but informative video of the tragic events of that fateful night and there, restored in all its glory, the actual boat that she and her father rowed to make the rescue.

Being just that little bit older now, I found myself wondering why Grace’s father didn’t get the same accolade that his daughter had. Although Grace had rowed out with her father initially and collected four of the survivors, he had risked his life a second time, returning to collect the remaining survivors. A question that I guess will forever remain unanswered !!

The early evening sunshine was still warm as we left the churchyard, so having viewed the shrine to Grace, we sauntered through the small village. We looked at the rather tantalising menu’s displayed outside some of the ‘eateries’, perhaps worth an evening re-visit at some point. We settled for coffee and a wee morsel to go with it, Shazza was tempted by the clotted Cream and Jam Scone whilst I settled for a quite delicious toasted tea take, well we had already walked most of the calories off that we were just about to put back on !!

The days off just seem to fly by and soon it was back to our ‘Elf and Elfette’ duties, but with a slight change. Whilst Shazza was now having to don all the High Vis and Health & Safety attire to do the ‘external’ stuff, I was in charge of the Office and Admin related stuff. This is the great thing about the Club training regime, it doesn’t matter whether you are Male or Female, you both get trained in all aspects so that we can do the ‘role reversal’ stuff when required, and for the next three or four weeks, it was required.

Almost two years ago, and literally just before we boarded the ferry to Spain on our first ever Adventure in ‘Big Momma’, we were invited to a weekend meet with three other couples at a small Campsite near Wisbech. For regular readers of this blog you may recall that I did write a ‘Blog Post’ about it. We had never met any of the other couples before but since that time two of the others have commenced their own Adventures, Steve & Lyssa (Adventures of Big Bird) and Nic & Cath (Tales from Aurora) and we have met up with both of them since that original meet in Portugal on our travels. However, the third couple, Mike & Sue, were not quite at the stage where they could commence a fultiming lifestyle, however, over the last two years we have kept in touch with them via the Blog, Telephone and Email.

Last Saturday (12th September) the ‘Fluffy Duster’, that’s what Mike & Sue call their very nice Motorhome, entered through our site gates, they had booked on for five nights. Although they are still working they have left Bricks ‘n’ Mortar and live fulltime in the ‘Fluffy Duster’. They were on holiday and had come up to see us, as well as sightseeing in the local area. We were unfortunately working during most of their stay but we had two great nights out with them and spent ages just catching up and getting to know each other much better. They are both really nice people, so down to earth and ‘normal’, well as normal as people who choose to live in a plastic box on wheels can be !! But don’t knock it until you have tried it that’s what I say !!

The 'Fluffy Duster' with a marvellous Sea View !!

The ‘Fluffy Duster’ with a marvellous Sea View !!

Mike & Sue do 'Berwick-upon-Tweed' !!

Mike & Sue do ‘Berwick-upon-Tweed’ !!

It was Mike’s Birthday on the day they were leaving so on the evening before the big day we all went into town and had something to eat, and of course, celebrate his Special day with one or five liquid refreshments. Well it would have been rude not to and especially as the establishment we frequented had gone to the trouble of putting on a Special ‘Malt of the Month’ deal. All I can say is that it was one of the best nights sleep I have had in a long, long time and it was probably a good job that we were on a day off the following day !! It had been really good to see them both again and we really appreciated them taking the time to come all the way to see us, so a big thank you to both and we are already looking forward to our next re-Union, we may even have completed our rehabilitation sessions at ‘Alcoholics Anonymous‘ by then !! By way of Coincidence, this week we also had a phone call from Steve & Lyssa who are currently taking a break from their travels in France to spend time renovating their newly acquired property. This for us has been, and continues to be, a great adventure, you meet so many lovely people and although you may not see each other regularly, you keep in touch until the opportunity arises when you can get together again and have a good catch up !!

Just as a bit of a footnote, it’s always good to know that when your children grow up and leave home that you have managed to influence their lives in some way. My daughter Stacey and her Partner Dean, who now live in Australia, have just sent me a photograph of their latest acquisition to their household……………………

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Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 21 Comments

Look Forward Not Backwards !!

Thursday 3rd September (Day 175 of 236)

Over the last few weeks, with my feet growing evermore itchy to taste ‘freedom‘ again, I have spent several periods quietly, and inwardly, reflecting back over our last two years. As well as continuing to read a whole host of ‘other’ intrepid travellers blogs, I also occasionally scroll through some of my own earlier blog posts, on doing so recently, I came across a photo that I had taken of a sign I saw outside a shop in Albufiera, it simply stated “If you think Adventure is Dangerous, …..Routine is Lethal” and that, at this present moment in time certainly resonated with me as we appear to have got ourselves back into ‘routines’. It got me thinking about how we are currently living our lives and the question I keeping asking myself, inwardly, is ‘Is this really living the Dream‘ ?

I have always said that my ramblings will be an honest account, it’s okay being adventurous, or as some people may call it, ‘Brave’, but when you have burnt your bridges like we have done, given up our careers, both of which provided exceptionally good salaries and sold our modern four-bedroom house and all our furniture and taken to living in a plastic box on wheels, and then write about it, would we really want to have to admit to the world if we decided that we had got it wrong and didn’t actually like it !!

There have been lots of times, only recently though I hasten to add, when both Shazza and I have wished that we had not applied for these ‘Elf & Elfette’ jobs, or that we had failed in our applications, because before doing so we had already made the massive leap to go off and live a nomadic existence and we were adapting to the lifestyle very quickly and enjoying it. Had we not have been successful we would have had to manage living solely on the income of two pensions. We had already done the ‘maths’, several times, over several years, prior to taking the leap, so we knew that we could live in relative comfort, we would not have been rich but neither would we have been on the ‘poverty’ line either. I think that if we were to be totally honest, had we have known then, what we know now, that being that we didn’t actually need the ‘safety net’ of extra incomes, we probably would not have applied for the jobs, but we had, and we were successful, so that was that and let’s face it, no-one is holding a gun to our heads, we can always choose not to do the jobs if we so wished.

Hindsight is brilliant though isn’t it, and all things being equal, and in an attempt to have a balanced perspective on the ‘choices‘ we have made, I have to consider some of the things that we have experienced thus far, things that we could never have foreseen, but things that, had we not have had the additional ‘safety net’ of the incomes from these jobs may well have already turned our ‘dream‘ into a nightmare !!

In our first year the only additional ‘unscheduled‘ expense outside of our anticipated costs was for a new heating element for the Truma Combi Boiler, it certainly was an unscheduled expense and the cost, although not a huge amount, was an expense that had to be met, which, had we have been living the original dream, would have meant having to make savings elsewhere within our limited income and our already allocated budgets !! Fortunately, having taken these jobs, with the additional monthly income they bring, the ‘safety net’, we didn’t actually bat an eyelid and just got the heater element replaced. There are some people who would have had the confidence or ability to have just purchased the ‘part’ required and fitted it themselves, thus saving the ‘labour’ costs, however, I had neither the ability or the confidence and, dare I suggest, there may be other dreamers like me out there who will have to rely on others to conduct the repairs and so suffer the additional financial cost that comes with that. There are many other people who live this lifestyle who have the tools, the skills and the knowledge, or confidence, to just get stuck in and fix things themselves, I really do envy them but look, sometimes it is good to be a dreamer but there are times when you have to be honest and realistic and know and accept your limitations. That doesn’t mean that you cannot learn as you go, frequent followers of our adventures may recall that on our first trip I had to replace a water pump, something that I had never done before, and I did manage it, but had it have been anything a bit more mechanical, perhaps it would have been a different story, actually there is no perhaps about it !!

During this our second year, so far we have had several ‘other‘ unscheduled expenses. By far the biggest was the ‘Fuel Contamination Incident‘ we experienced in Morocco. This could have happened to anyone and at a cost of £1,500 to put it right, this expense, would have been one month’s income on its own, had we not have had the additional savings from the income of the jobs, that would have definitely meant suffering several exceptionally lean months !! Since then, we have also had the ‘unscheduled’ expense of having to replace the heating element in the ‘Fridge/Freezer’ and just recently the rather large bill for Dental work. I accept that in ‘other’ circumstances I may have been able to have got the dental treatment ‘cheaper’, however, my point being that all these things have happened, they were all ‘unscheduled’ expenses and they all needed to be dealt with. Of course we could just consider ourselves to be unlucky with all these things happening, we may go for the next two years, if not more, with no other ‘unscheduled’ expenditures. I guess the message I am trying to get across, rather clumsily I think, is that it is okay dreaming about driving into the sunset, on a limited income and budget, parking up and wild camping under the stars, travelling around Europe at an easy pace and enjoying the freedom, but if you do not at least ‘consider’ the likelihood of the ‘unexpected’ happening or the ‘unscheduled’ expenses then dreams may very quickly become nightmares. Of course, you may not be as unfortunate as we have been and may not experience some of the things that we have, but as sure as eggs are eggs, there will be ‘other‘ things that fall into the category of the ‘unknown‘ that will happen at some point and will have to be dealt with, somehow !!

Now do not get me wrong, this is not me attempting to spread doom, gloom or despondency, you only have to read the numerous current Motorhome travel blogs that are on the Internet to see what a fantastic adventure this is, even when things don’t always go to plan or things need repairing or replacing, you just tend to have a moan about it, curse your misfortune, say “Why Us” then deal with it. We too have already experienced several wonderful adventures without misfortune and quite honestly, we really cannot wait to get back ‘on the road‘ proper and play the cards that we are dealt with, but we have the ‘peace of mind’ that at least, thanks to the incomes of the jobs, we have savings and so a bit of a ‘safety net’ ready for the next ‘unexpected‘ and ‘Unscheduled‘ expense.

I titled this post “Look Forward, Not Backwards” as a bit of a kick up my own backside, a reminder to myself that you cannot turn the clock back and really, I have just shared conversations and musings that I have been having in my own head, with you, so now you may understand the reason why I often refer to these posts of mine as ‘ramblings‘ !!  It also serves to remind me that sometimes things happen for a reason. Had we not have applied for and got the jobs and have had to live on our limited income, then, with our misfortunes, how would we have managed ? I don’t know the answer to that question and, thankfully now, don’t need to, all I do know is that we would have just had to have managed, somehow !!

We do now of course own a nice ‘bolt hole’ in Southern Spain, at the time of purchase we didn’t know that as well as being a nice retreat for ourselves, in between ‘Elf & Elfette’ seasons, that it would also serve as a nice place to entertain our twin granddaughters as well as other family and friends, did I mention that things happen for a reason ?

So, perhaps my reflective mood has been caused due to what has been, and still is, a long, hard and tiring second season which is coming to an end and we are both ready for the good long break. On the positive side, we now have three types of ‘Adventure’ awaiting us, the expeditions and explorations around whichever new location our next seasons Elf & Elfette duties take us to, the expeditions and explorations around the locations of our new Spanish residence in ‘Wuxly’ and the wider expeditions and explorations of Europe in ‘Big Momma’.

So, wider world, “Looking Forward and not Backwards“, should I be saying that we got it wrong, I don’t think so, it was still a good decision, and although our direction may have changed a bit from how we had initially planned the adventure, the great thing about our lives right now is that we still have the ‘freedom’ to make changes, to make choices, isn’t that what an Adventure is all about ?

Talking of expeditions, isn’t there another Castle still waiting to be explored……………

Posted in Elf and Elfette - Season 2 | 14 Comments