Another weekend over but unlike the many others this time there had been no ‘Sunday Syndrome’ as I was beginning 2 weeks holiday. Under normal circumstances we would, right at this moment in time, have been half way through a month-long trip along the ‘Mosel‘ river in Germany. However, the unforeseen speed of the house sale had curtailed that and so in between carrying on working, clearing the house, doing car boot sales and selling our
tat ‘cherished possessions’ on ‘Gumtree‘ and ‘Ebay‘ we decided that a small break would be in order. Well ? small break in that it would be away from what was rapidly becoming a de-constructed home, in reality it would be working on a few jobs on the van prior to departing on our ‘Big Adventure‘.
The ‘Kings’, who donated ‘Dave’, our recently adopted ‘Tufted Capuchin‘ into our family a little over three weeks ago will be pleased to know that he is settling in quite well, although he does appear at times to be a little confused at the rapidly decreasing items of furniture. I think that he still has nightmares about the unexpected eviction from his former home by the High Court Sheriffs. Occasionally, when I get up to have my late night cigarette, I catch him peering out of the window gazing nervously up and down the street, perhaps fearing that he may once again become homeless in the dead of night. ‘Dave’ was proving to be quite intelligent and a quick learner, perhaps Shazza’s requirement for him to attend registration at Breakfast and again after lunch each day ! We had already built a bond between us, not one that I think Shazza was completely comfortable with. I had taught him how to uncork her stash of ‘Relaxation Juice’ and replace it with flavoured water, mind you, I was never present when he actually fulfilled the deed so not sure whether the real contents were disposed of down the sink as I had shown him. I had initially put his falling off the table, the arms of the chairs and the falling ‘up’ the stairs down to him not yet being fully familiarised with his environment ! but after three weeks with his sleeping in until well after noon and his holding his head in his hands for hours on end and his cries of ‘Never again’ have got me a little suspicious.
Dave had already met ‘Snoopy’ and now it was time to introduce him to yet another one of his would be travelling companions, ‘Big Momma’ ! Dave had been used to living in and travelling on a Narrowboat, at best he would have travelled at no more than 4mph. How would he get on with ‘Big Momma’ travelling at up to 60mph (okay, sometimes perhaps a little faster but only sometimes !), would he suffer from travel sickness or Cabin Fever ? What if he wandered off and couldn’t find his way back to us, after all, all ‘bipeds’ must look the same to him. We needed to get these questions answered and sooner rather than later so ‘Dave’ would accompany us to Warwick. He was already well-travelled and I wondered whether he had an understanding of history, so when I told him that we were going to ‘Warwick’ I asked if he knew the name of the famous person who originated from within the County. He said that he thought that ‘she’ originated from America ? “She” I exclaimed, “She is a He” I stated ! ‘Dave’ looked a tad confused and at the same time amazed and said that the surgeon had done a good job. Well by this stage he had totally lost me and I asked who on earth he was talking about ? ‘Dave’ started to hum the tune to “Do you know the way to San Jose”. I had to explain that Dionne ‘Warwick’ was American and that I had been referring to William Shakespeare. History lesson over and one I wish I hadn’t started !
Monday morning arrived, the van was loaded and whilst Sharon did the last checks of the house I did the usual walk around of the van to make sure all cupboards were secure and that externally all the lights worked etc. To my horror, as I went to the rear of the van I noticed that one of the two rear tyres on the tag axle was completely flat !! Damn and Blast !! what I did not need right now was to start having to change a tyre aaaaagh !! Do you believe in fate ? a conversation a colleague and myself have had very recently, however what are the chances that at the very moment you need a ‘Knight in Shining Armour’ that one comes along ? Well actually, as luck would have it, the ‘Knight’ was a man in a ‘Kwik Fit’ mobile tyre replacement van who just happened to be at one of my neighbours replacing a complete set of car tyres. I sauntered across and explained the situation and the very nice chap, the very, very nice chap told me to bring the van across to where he was and he would re-inflate my tyre for me. Within a couple of minutes my tyre was completely re-inflated and he had even used one of his special ‘thingamabobs’ tools to check that the valve was secure. He declined any offer of payment and wished me well on my travels. Now what is the chance of that happening ? a mobile tyre replacement van being right on my doorstep just when I needed one. Now had he have suggested that he needed to fit me a new tyre and relieve me of a ‘wad’ of cash then I may have thought that his ‘presence’ and my ‘bad fortune’ were probably too coincidental.
‘Dave’ had claimed his travelling position, right in the middle of the dashboard so that he could get a good view of the road. Shazza and I were in fits of laughter as every time ‘Snoopy’ ushered an Instruction ‘Dave’ would repeat it. “At the roundabout take the second exit” said ‘Snoopy’ followed by ‘Dave’s’ “At the about go around and miss the No.1 turn but take the next one” ?
Snoopy took us up and through the Cotswolds, the sun was shining and as we travelled along tree-lined, twisting, undulating roads, the sun would occasionally manage to pierce through the thick and lush canopy of leaves then we would rise up to the crest of a hill and overlook lush green fields and pass through villages and towns with their houses and cottages built from the wonderful ‘honey’ coloured stone that the area is renowned for. The one thing about this particular road is that it is single carriageway in each direction, it has so many twists and turns which will and does frustrate any driver that has a need to be somewhere else quickly, a bit like the rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ – “Oh Dear ! I’m late, I’m late for a very important date………..” Well as the thirty or so drivers, in front and behind us, soon discovered, when there are two slow, very slow tractors pulling trailers at the head of the queue, then nobody is going anywhere fast ! We were not in a hurry and so we sat in our elevated positions within ‘Big Momma’ and just soaked up the sunshine and the views and the occasional banter between ‘Snoopy and Dave’.
The Caravan Club site at ‘Warwick Racecourse’ is literally right on the racecourse. Normally you do not get allocated a pitch, you arrive, check in, find a suitable vacant pitch and then have to walk back and tell the reception staff what pitch you have selected to occupy. However, due to the size of our van we were allocated a hardstanding pitch right at the front overlooking the Finishing Post and the Main Grandstand, WOW ! what a view this would have been if there were any racing during our stay, especially as I had brought my own ‘Filly‘ with me ! Although I later discovered that on race days we would not have been permitted to pitch in that location !!
“The view of ‘Dave’ (who we have discovered takes every photo opportunity going !) and in the background the racecourse and Grandstand”
‘Big Momma’ in the background and in the foreground ‘Dave’ getting ready for his first ride on our Electric Bicycles !
‘Dave’ again !! this time taking over Shazza’s role of guardian of the TV Remote ? I can feel trouble brewing if ‘Dave’ doesn’t relinquish said remote when it’s time for Shazza to watch the ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’ !!!!!
I can quite understand the need, when returning from foreign shores, of the requirement to be vigilant and the need to check for uninvited guests who may have attempted to secrete themselves somewhere in or on your vehicle. But travelling within the confines of the UK ? Once we had arrived at our destination it was my job to do the ‘man’ jobs e.g. get the van up onto levelling blocks, connect to the EHU and then check that all essential functions are operating as they should. Shazza on the other hand would do the ‘girlie’ stuff, get the galley equipment out, check that the TV satellite system was working and fluff the cushions ! It was once that we had completed all these tasks that I decided to check the function of the onboard ‘ablution facilities’ and to my horror discovered that we had a ‘Stowaway’ on board !!
Staring up at me was not just a ‘Duck’ but a ‘Chelsea Duck’ sporting Chelsea colours !! How can any self-respecting ‘Leeds United’ supporter have let such an imposter get anywhere near ‘Big Momma’ let alone inside. I was ready to practice my best Rugby drop kick on said imposter but ‘Dave’ and ‘Shazza’ pleaded with me to let ‘it’ stay. So ‘It’ has now been christened ‘Jose’ because of the Italian connection and has added to our growing band of International Travellers: Big Momma (British/Italian), Snoopy (British), Kevin the Kayak (USA), Dave (Sockratian) and now Jose (British/Italian) !! I am not sure how long our latest ‘uninvited’ guest will manage to remain with us on our ‘Adventure’, perhaps one day when I am out Kayaking he may just decide to swim away and no matter how hard I may try he will just be too fast for me to rescue ??????
I was quietly impressed with Warwick as a town. These days most towns and cities look the same with their pedestrianized shopping Precincts or Malls and wall to wall shop fronts of the usual high street chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, WH Smiths, Waterstones, Boots, Debenhams, HMV, Next, Dorothy Perkins, Marks & Spencer etc. well I guess you know what I am talking about the list could go on and on. However, Warwick is not like this, it has a ‘newish’ shopping area but primarily full of ‘local’ retailers with the odd ‘Costa Coffee’, Café Nero and Subway as you walk around. Then there is the High street with more local retailers, banks, restaurants, antiques shops and art galleries which leads into what looks like the old town again with small local retailers interwoven with restaurants of all nationalities, Lebanese, Portuguese, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Indian, Chinese and several normal ‘British’ style eateries. I would normally get very bored, very quickly wandering aimlessly up and down shop fronts but in Warwick it was actually quite a pleasant experience. The Castle itself, whilst not far away from the main town centre, is discreetly hidden down a side street which again was festooned with small intimate cafe’s and bars with the odd local retailer tucked in between and even a nice little cottage or two which just added to a lovely visual experience. There is no mistaking the Castle as you come face to face with the large stoned battlement walls. There are several entry points which lead into a Courtyard, this is where the ‘Tourism’ factor hits you ‘full on’ ! We took a look at the prices for entry into the main Castle Grounds and depending on how much you wanted to see depended on how much you had to pay. There was enough to do and see to fill a ‘full day’ but for Shazza and myself they would have wanted to have relieved us of £60 !! (If you book in advance on the Internet you can get a decent reduction on the ‘at the gate’ price). We decided to mull it over and perhaps come back on another day. I guess us ‘Brits’ have seen so many Castle’s and Stately Homes in our lifetime that they do not have the same appeal as they do for foreign tourists who perhaps do not have the same historical heritage.
This trip was not all about doing the touristy bit, we had work to do on the van but day one was utilised as our travel and relaxation time. It was nice to wake up to Sunshine again and there was no rush, no timetable of events just a nice casual approach to what needed to be done. Surprisingly our van did not come with the usual habitation door fly screen although it did have one on the door window but this was no good if you wanted to leave the door open in hot weather. Shazza had pre-ordered a ‘Fiamma’ door fly screen of the self-assembly variety and this she had willingly ‘volunteered’ to be her DIY project. She was a little apprehensive as it did require fitting a rail which required securing with screws. You need to understand that Shazza has, on some of my previous vans, left ‘her’ mark. When we first met and I took her away in what was her first trip in what was then my relatively new van (Swift Kontiki 665) she attempted to burn it down !! She broke a window catch and then proceeded to knock a sliding cupboard of its runners and bent them in the process, so her record so far was not the best. Now she wants to put screws in my nice wood panelling which just happens to be just below where the electric cables run for the operation of my ‘Sargent’ master digital control unit. This is the control unit that provides me with the status of essential on-board functions !! Anyway, she wanted this job out of the way, her self-imposed urgency being for one reason and one reason only, if she got it wrong and I ended up telling her “what a silly girl she had been” ? we could still be back home before nightfall ? There was no need for shouting or sulking or for packing the vehicle up and heading home as she made a very neat and tidy job of it. We even tried all the electrics just to make sure that everything was still working as it should, as we finished the last check of all the function switched I am sure that out of the corner of my eye I saw her ‘uncross’ her fingers. Below are pictures of the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ and I must say that she has made a very good job of it.
That set the tone for the rest of the short trip and over the next couple of days we set about completing the list of other tasks; Fit a new retainer clip to one of the awning legs, fit the roof rafter poles that will support the sides of the ‘Windblocker’, fit the ‘Windblocker’ and mark where the ‘press studs’ need to be sewn in and also the support straps for the ‘Tie-Down’ ratchets and then fit the ‘Fiamma’ laundry rack to the rear mounted bicycle rack. The only job we did not complete was to fit new cupboard catches to several internal under seat lockers and some galley cupboards but this was primarily due to space in the van. We decided that this was a job best done when we were not actually occupying it and when the under seat lockers were empty so an ‘at home’ job for me. We had eaten in the van every day so as this was our last evening we decided to treat ourselves and let someone else do the preparation, cooking and washing up. The choice was so wide it was difficult to know what we wanted, in the end we plumped for a ‘Turkish Meze’ and a bottle of ‘Turkish Red’ and both were absolutely excellent. The food was cooked in an ‘Open’ kitchen so it was good to watch our meal being prepared in front of our eyes and a nice touch when the Chef who had prepared it came over to our table towards the end and asked if we had enjoyed it. Of course we said ‘Excellent’, what else could you say when a man with blood on his hands and bearing a meat cleaver is asking you to comment on his culinary skills !!!!!!
No sooner had our short break away started and we were on our way ‘home’ again, but ‘Big Momma’ was our home, it felt like home and we were comfortable in it, so was Snoopy, and Kevin and Dave and……..’The Duck’ thing !! The mood was sullen and it would have been so nice to have just been heading to a new destination…….one day soon, one day, very, very soon…………