Wednesday 19th February – Birmingham to Swindon (74 miles)
I think that now, after living this lifestyle for five months, Shazza is beginning to learn how to ‘slow down’ to this pace of life, surprisingly though, for a former compulsive planner like me, it hadn’t taken very long !! We only had two nights at the ‘Chapel Lane’ site at Birmingham and we would have been quite happy to have stayed longer and we would have done but we had things to do in Swindon.
We had set the alarm clock to ensure that we didn’t sleep in, we had got used to just waking up as and when, drinking our coffee in bed before getting up, washed, dressed and then we would make our minds up about what we were going to do for the day. However, today we were on the move and although it was less than a two-hour drive there was no way of predicting what the traffic would be like. We had booked onto a CL which only advertised Hardstanding and EHU so as we would be there for three days we needed to be reliant on our own on-board facilities, so we needed to ensure that our on-board facilities were full and empty as appropriate. Shazza had decided that she would prepare an evening meal for the four of us tonight and so wanted to stop off en-route to do some shopping. I also knew that although I had enough diesel to get to our destination we would probably be near empty so a refuel stop would also be required.
We had got our ‘moving on’ day routines down to a fine art and so it wasn’t long before, in the lovely morning sunshine, we were pulling out of the ‘Chapel Lane’ site. Apart from it being a very nice site it also had the advantage of being within a ten minute drive to the M42 Motorway which would link to the M5 and then at Junction 11A we would pull off on to the A417/419 dual carriageway all the way to our destination, an easy drive. We probably didn’t really need the services of ‘Snoopy’ either for I was on familiar territory, I had travelled along this route on former work related trips more times than I care to remember. However, ‘Snoopy’ also had ‘hundreds’ of pre-programmed Points Of Interest (POI’s), one category being Supermarkets, so we pre-programmed a route to a large Tesco Superstore, which also had a fuel service station, just 11 miles away from our CL and only a minor detour of one mile from our route.
Although Motorway driving can be pretty boring, it was nice to be able to just switch on the ‘cruise control’ and sit back and enjoy the journey, no RTA’s to hinder us. We both agreed that it felt a bit strange heading back to a place that we once called home although at least, unlike unfamiliar towns we have visited, we knew where things were and our way around. Whether it was because we chatted constantly, in between shouting answers to the questions on the ‘Pop Master’ quiz on the radio, the journey seemed to pass relatively quickly and the next thing we knew ‘Snoopy’ was guiding us into the large Tesco Supermarket car park just off the dual carriageway where I had no problems parking ‘Big Momma’ and she fitted in to two car parking spaces quite comfortably. Although we didn’t need very many items and Shazza had a shopping list why is it that she still felt the need to wander up and down all the aisles ? One of those questions in life where only ‘women’ actually knew the answer !! I remember the days when it was me that did the weekly shopping, every Friday I would take an extended lunch and go and do it, I too had my list and knowing where everything was I soon zipped in, got what was required and was back home unpacking it and putting away in no time whatsoever. I was given the instruction before entering the store, “Don’t rush me” she had said, “I want to have a look around” and so we meandered our way through each aisle looking at things we had no intention of buying !! Eventually though, meandering complete and Shazza’s desire for looking at shelves and shelves of products she had no intention of purchasing quenched, we left with our goods and the wallet relatively unscathed. After a quick manoeuvre over to the fuel forecourt where ‘Big Momma’s’ thirst was quenched !! We were back on the road and the short trip to our CL.
We had lived in Swindon for six and a half years, we of course knew of the ‘Turnpike Road’ as that is where the former ‘Brownhills’ Motorhome dealership used to be located before they went ‘under’ and now ‘West Country’ Motorhomes have set up next door to what was the ‘Brownhills’ site, however, neither of us knew of the small lane that ran off from this road, a very narrow single potholed lane that led to our small 5-van CL. When we first drove through the entrance gate we wondered what the hell we had come to, it looked a bit unkempt, a selection of rather old breeze block and corrugated roofed buildings, Commercial vehicles parked up and all in all our initial feelings were one of despair. There was already one caravan parked up on the loose-stoned Hardstanding and we could see the EHU bollards and a fresh water tap so parked up alongside the caravan. We hadn’t been parked up long when ‘Chris’ (short for Christine I assume) the owner arrived from her Bungalow and B&B establishment to welcome us. We were pleasantly surprised when she told us where the Chemical Disposal Point and recycling bins were located, a bit of a bonus as these facilities were not advertised. Our initial impression of the CL had not been good but the view behind where we were parked was of open countryside, so it wasn’t as bad as we first thought. Shazza had elected to cook for Chris & Sarah in the van (not to be confused with Chris the CL owner), it made sense rather than going to their house, Sarah would have had to have driven across from the other side of town to collect us (Chris doesn’t have a licence), drive us to their house and then drive us back again, it just didn’t make good practical sense. It was good to see them both again and we spent the whole evening just ‘catching up’.
We awoke the following morning to the sound of heavy rain being driven on the roof by a strong wind, not what we needed as we had things to do today and that was going to involve walking. Fortunately the rain stopped just as we were about to leave ‘Big Momma’ but the forecast was for more of the same throughout the day. We were told that there were buses to Swindon about a ten-minute walk up the top of the lane, and there were, and although there were timetables at the stops no buses were forthcoming at the specified times. We elected to walk to the ‘Orbital Retail Park‘, a place we knew well as it was only a twenty-minute walk from our former house, but from the CL it was a little over three miles and a forty-five minute walk. Once there we only had to wait five-minutes for a bus to the ‘Outlet Centre‘. We had a couple of things to do there, exchange a sweat top which Shazza had bought for me during her ‘Doncaster’ shopping spree, unfortunately it had a hole in it but we knew there was a branch of the store in Swindon so hoped they could do a straight exchange. We also wanted to look at those rubber shoes they call ‘Crocs‘ as they are more hard-wearing than flip-flops !! Although the sweat top exchange couldn’t replace the damaged item like for like, I was able to find an alternative, it was more expensive than the original sweat top but they gave us a ten per cent discount so we only had a little extra to add. As luck would have it the ‘Croc‘ store was directly opposite the sweat top store, I did tell Sharon that we didn’t have much time so if she wanted a pair she would have to make it ‘Snappy’ (I bet you didn’t see that one coming eh !). We both purchased a pair and so that was the ‘shopping’ done. As Chris only lives a five-minute walk from the ‘Outlet Centre’ we text him to see if he wanted to join us for lunch, he did, so for Shazza there was another opportunity for a ‘Mother and Child Re-Union’ as we were not sure when we would next see them both again. We were clock watching a bit as we needed to get back to the ‘Orbital Retail Park’ and then walk to our Doctor’s Surgery for Shazza’s appointment. With all the tasks ticked off the list we made the forty-five minute walk back to ‘Big Momma’ on the CL. Checking Shazza’s ‘gizmo’ it showed that we had been out for six and a half hours and walked just over 8 miles !! Whilst Shazza put the kettle on for a well deserved cuppa I took the opportunity whilst it was still light to empty the grey and top up the water tank then it was shoes off, feet up and a well deserved relaxing night in front of the TV.
I feel a little guilty because I haven’t done anything more on my German Language Course, just one hour a day would have seen me pretty well into it. However, I was fairly pleased with my renewed appetite for reading. In the past two weeks I have finished two books and half way through my third ! I believe I have mentioned before that I only like ‘non-fiction’ books, ones related to travel or of ‘Building a New Life’ in other countries. My recent books have been about people who have taken up fulltime live-aboard lives on barges and Narrowboats which is something we were seriously considering at the same time we were thinking about fulltiming in a Motorhome. I still harbour a yearning for living on a boat (sorry, another pun !) either on the UK Canals or the Inland Waterways of Europe, well you just never know what the future holds do you ? ‘The adventures of an even Bigger Momma’, got a certain ring to it don’t you think ?
Our last day on the CL in Swindon saw a visitor for Shazza. Helen is a former work colleague of hers, as well as being one of my loyal blog followers, so she had read that we were in the locality and came for a ‘Catch up’. The ‘girls’ chatted their way through a few hours and I kept their tonsils lubricated by providing the coffee. It was nice of Helen to take the time to come and visit and I know that Shazza really appreciated it so thank you Helen. Once Helen had left Shazza got into ‘baking mode’ again and made the most wonderful ‘Lemon Drizzle’ cake.