Fulltiming Days Are Like A Box Of Chocolates !!

Thursday 27th March – Autotrail/Doncaster/Waterfront Country Park/Doncaster (88 Miles)


We had been without ‘Big Momma’ for three days, but we hadn’t been idle in that time as there were a few jobs that Shazza’s mum needed doing, jobs that even when we are not around, her mum does herself anyway. However, she had once again permitted us to descend on her and take over her house so on this occasion we could make ourselves useful. I cut her three bits of lawn and tidied the borders whilst Shazza painted the ceiling and glossed the skirting boards in the second bedroom, then she helped her paper the walls and between us we cleaned out one of the gutters which had become clogged with moss from the roof tiles.

The main reason for taking ‘Big Momma’ into the Autotrail Factory workshop was to have an additional external door security lock fitted on the habitation door. However, whilst it was in there we also needed a few other bits ‘n’ pieces checked or sorted. We certainly needed a new roof mounted solar panel cable cover fitted, as after some thought I now suspected that this was where the water ingress had originated and not the large front Heki skylight as I originally believed and whilst they were at it to conduct a ‘damp test’ to see if the water ingress had done any permanent damage. Then there was the issue with the water/habitation heating, the habitation door also needed realigning as there was a gap in the top corner and if possible we needed them to see if they could clean off the ‘calcite’ on the probes in the ‘Grey’ water tank.

Mark, the service manager had originally booked the van in all week, however he telephoned on Wednesday morning and it didn’t sound like good news, he apologised profusely and informed me that they had messed up, the external door security lock that they were supposed to be fitting had not been fitted !! Mark was quite open and honest and stated that ‘they‘ had ordered the wrong part and it would take three weeks to receive the correct one !! I asked if the other work had been completed and he confirmed that it had and that I could collect the van at my convenience. We were quite disappointed, we had booked the van in weeks ago with the primary task of fitting the external door security lock, I had explained what I wanted and they had confirmed understanding so how could they have got this so wrong ? It was only a couple of weeks ago that ‘Batribike’ had done the same thing to us, we had booked well in advance, they knew what we were going in for yet when we arrived they didn’t have the part in stock !!

We made the one hour drive to Autotrail in ‘Wuxly’,  Shazza dropped me off at the car park and then went to do some grocery shopping ready for us getting back on the road, she didn’t want to hang around, Shazza can at times have a short fuse and does not have the same patience as me and so she would have given Mark a piece of her mind with both barrels !! so we arranged to meet back at her mums house. Mark came out to meet me, again he was extremely apologetic and stated categorically that it was ‘their‘ error and he was sincerely sorry for the inconvenience. However, he had ordered the correct part and would put it to one side ready for when I could next get in. I did explain that I was heading for Scotland in the next week and would not return until September. He said that if I could ring him in advance of my return to arrange a day to bring the van back in he would ensure that it would be fitted whilst we waited. We walked across to where ‘Big Momma’ was parked, the first thing that I noticed as we approached was that they had given the exterior a good jet wash. He confirmed that they had conducted an internal ‘damp test’ and that it was clear of any damp. He also confirmed that they had checked the roof and agreed that it was the cracked solar cable cover that was more than likely the cause of the water ingress and they had fitted a new one. I didn’t know until I got ‘Big Momma’ back to Doncaster and checked the roof that I discovered that Autotrail had in fact fitted ‘two‘ new cable covers. When I first purchased ‘Big Momma’ it already came with a pre-installed Solar Panel and when ‘Detroit Solar’ fitted the additional panel, they put the cabling from the new panel through the same cable hole in the roof and used the same cable cover. Now I have no way of proving this but I strongly suspect that it was they that cracked the cable cover. However, Autotrail had removed the ‘Detroit Solar’ cabling from the hole in the roof  then replaced the broken cable cover with a new one. They then  made another hole in the roof and completely internally re-wired the additional Solar Panel, they fitted these cables through a separate cable cover and what a neat and tidy job they have made of it, this is one of the advantages of having jobs done at the actual Autotrail factory and not a dealership.

There wasn’t actually a problem with the water heater or habitation heating, it was ‘me‘ not understanding the manual on how the heating system worked. It was explained to me so I am now happy that it was a ‘pink ware‘ issue (human) rather than a ‘technical issue’ !! So although the primary job had not been done, they had conducted quite a lot of other checks and minor fixes, so to the question of the bill ? “No Charge” says Mark, “We messed up and caused you inconvenience“, I was lost for words for a moment as I was expecting to part with a ‘few’ hundred pounds, mainly on labour costs. “But you have fitted a new Solar Panel Cable Cover, re-aligned the habitation door and even given the van a wash” I said, “No Charge” he repeated, he smiled and shook my hand and as he left he reminded me to ring him a few weeks before I returned from Scotland to arrange to have the door lock fitted. Now I know of, and have personally experienced other similar service industries, that would have still have charged for their labour as well as for every screw or bit of ‘filler’ they used, but this is now the second time, within the last six months, that I have dealt directly with Mark at the Autotrail Factory and on both occasions received excellent customer service, which may seem strange for me to say considering that they hadn’t actually completed the primary task, however, I consider that admitting a mistake is a sign of integrity ! It has been my experience in recent years, that the words ‘good‘, ‘customer’ and ‘service’ are a rare commodity, so it is actually a breath of fresh air to be in receipt of some ‘good old-fashioned customer service’ so thank you Mark and Autotrail.

So we had ‘Big Momma’ back, again ! But only for the next six days then we would have to hand her over to the Fiat Commercial people who were going to conduct the Annual Service & MOT. I had previously used a Fiat Commercial dealers in our old home town of Swindon and they were excellent, but I was now going to use one on the outskirts of Doncaster that I had no prior experience of and so will reserve judgement until after the event. However, not knowing how long ‘Big Momma’ was going to be in the Autotrail Factory we had been unable to book anywhere to stay so we now had to do some trawling around the Internet to see what was available. We didn’t want to travel too far and so ‘we‘ were quite pleased to find a private site that was located near a Marina and the Chesterfield Canal, it was also less than one hundred meters from a canal side pub that served food, this would be handy as it would also be our Wedding Anniversary whilst there. However, we hadn’t pre-booked the site as it was one of those places that needed a deposit to be sent with the reservation, so we just decided to wait and phone them on the day we intended to turn up !

Waterfront Country Park‘ campsite is located in West Stockwith, another place that neither of us had ever visited before. When I found it on the Internet (http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk) it sounded like another one of my ‘ideal’ sites, it was right next to the ‘Chesterfield Canal’ and the ‘River Trent’ and there was a Marina and a lock right across the road, this could be my little piece of heaven.  I made the phone call and asked all the relevant questions, yes they could accommodate a vehicle of our size, yes they had Hardstanding, yes they had EHU, in fact they had everything including the all important Motorhome Services and even Showers and WC’s, this would do very nicely thank you.

When we arrived we pulled up at a log cabin sort of structure that appeared to act as the reception but it didn’t look occupied. There were lots of caravans already sited on pitches, some looked as if they were parked up there permanently with no signs of life in them, others had Awnings out but again no signs of life and some had cars parked outside although we didn’t see any signs of life. Normally Shazza gets out and does the arrivals stuff but on this occasion she left it to me. As I got out of ‘Big Momma’ I saw a chap in ‘trackie’ bottoms and training shoes walking towards me from one of the Motorhomes that was parked up about fifty metres away. He looked as if he was expecting me, “Hello” I said, “Are you the chap I spoke to on the phone ?”, he confirmed that he was, looked at ‘Big Momma’ and then pointed to a gravelled pitch in the corner of the site. He walked across the grass to the pitch whilst I drove around to it and then he proceeded to assist me reversing onto it. He then pointed out where the essential services where and advised that although the Showers were free they were operated via a token, we needed to give him a deposit of five pounds for the token, which would be returned to us when we left provided we returned the token ? I had forgotten that I had completely drained the fresh water tank before delivering it to Autotrail so needed to re-fill it. We had to move ‘Big Momma’ across to the water tap but as their were caravans parked up on nearby pitches I couldn’t get right up to the water point. No matter I thought to myself, I had purchased two lengths of hose for just such occasions, I could join them together which should do the job, well that had been the theory !! Even when joined together I was still too far away for the hoses to reach the water filler point on ‘Big Momma’, this was beginning to look like several trips to the tap with the watering can. However, the chap in the ‘trackie’ bottoms, who had obviously been watching my antics, wandered across and seeing the problem he offered me the use of a longer hose, which I gratefully accepted, before long the tank was full, we re-located to our designated pitch and settled in. We couldn’t have timed it much better though as we had just settled into the van and put the kettle on when we heard the gentle pitter patters of the first few raindrops on the roof, followed swiftly by raindrops that sounded like bags of golf balls being emptied on the roof and this lasted well into the early hours, however by then we were warm and cosy and tucked up under our duvets, it did feel good to be back in our own bed and in our own familiar surroundings.

At 07:00am, when we awoke, the rain had stopped but as I looked outside I could see that it had left it’s calling card as there were lots of rather large puddles all around the site, fortunately our Hardstanding pitch remained puddle free. There was no ‘lung starter’ today ! Well to be completely honest with you there have been no lung starters since Sunday afternoon, four days now !! I have been smoking since the age of twelve although in those days it was only the odd ‘crafty’ ciggy as and when I got the opportunity. Realistically I have been a ‘proper‘ smoker from the age of 16, proper meaning around fifteen to twenty cigarettes a day. I suppose that like lots of people I have had several attempts at stopping over the years and I have  tried most of the ‘Stop Smoking Remedies’, the nicotine patches, gum, cold turkey but I have failed miserably every time. The truth is, yes smoking is an addictive habit, but I actually enjoyed a cigarette and the reason I couldn’t stop on previous attempts was because unlike now, I didn’t really want to stop. I am one of those people who is not affected by ‘peer’ pressure or any other sort of pressure. Shazza apparently used to smoke but that was well before I met her and I will give her credit, not once has she ever put any pressure on me to stop. So why now ? Well it has nothing to do with money, I can still afford to buy cigarettes if I want to, in fact as I type this I still have twelve hundred duty-free’s in the van which i brought back from our recent European trip, I shall be donating these to my Mother as she smokes the same brand and as she is a pensioner this will also save her a few pounds in the short-term. I have been thinking about stopping smoking since we returned from our Europe trip, I am thoroughly enjoying this new ‘lifestyle’ and enjoying the exercise that this new-found freedom brings with it, Cycling, Walking and Kayaking and hopefully when the opportunities arise, swimming and snorkelling as well. However, the forty plus years of continuous smoking has undoubtedly taken its toll and I can hear myself wheezing after a strenuous walk so it’s time to do something about it. I know that I can never repair the damage that I have obviously done to my lungs but I can prevent that damage from getting any worse. I have to confess that I do not have the willpower to go ‘cold turkey‘ and the patches will only work if I put them over my eyes so that I cannot find my cigarettes, the gum just tastes disgusting !! However, whilst I was on the recent ‘Elf & Elfette’ training course there was another chap who, like me, had been a smoker for a great many years and he was using one of those Electronic Cigarettes. I of course was a little sceptical about how effective they really were so, after ‘interrogating’ him thoroughly, I have decided to give it a go. I now have my ‘Freedom‘ pack, whilst I am not sure that I can actually claim to be a non-smoker with these things, I have certainly stopped smoking ‘regular’ cigarettes and so we will see how i get on with them. Now though, after going public, if I should fail, my weakness will be witnessed Internationally !!

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We sat in bed drinking our coffee and chatted about what we were going to do that day. We knew that we wanted to walk along the canal towpath at some stage whilst we were here, but after the torrential downpour last night we both agreed that as this particular towpath was grass it may be too muddy today. We decided to just get up and have breakfast and think about a few other options. This is one of the really great advantages of our new ‘lifestyle’, we do not have to make hard and fast decisions and we can make plans but change them again if we so choose, brilliant, absolute freedom. After eating my bowl of ‘Frosties’ I went to do my daily chores, namely emptying the ‘Grey’ water and topping up the ‘Fresh’ water. For those of you who are regular readers of my ramblings you may recall the issue I have with the ‘Digital’ gauge which constantly shows my Grey Water tank at 100% full. I still have not received the ‘descaling’ fluid I ordered to do it myself, but I was also somewhat disappointed as I had asked if it could be looked at whilst it was at the Autotrail factory. I had forgotten to check if it had been done when I collected ‘Big Momma’ but once back at Doncaster I noticed that the gauge was still reading 100% so obviously assumed that they had not done it. Normally I would only have to make three trips with my bucket to the grey drain as we didn’t tend to use that much water on a daily basis, today however, the grey water just kept on coming, eight, nine, ten buckets of waste water, this certainly had me scratching my head, that was until the lightbulb in my head came on ! What they had done at Autotrail was exactly the same as I was going to do, add descaling fluid to the grey tank and then fill it up with water, leave it to ‘splash’ around in the tank which would dissolve the ‘calcite’. This I finally concluded is why the gauge was showing 100%, because the tank was full. Once emptied the gauge read 0%, yee hah ! So it’s thanks once again to Autotrail.

Once all my routine daily chores were complete it was time to make a decision on what to do for the rest of the day. Sharon had already started re-organising the internal storage, we knew that in just five days, once ‘Big Momma’ had been Serviced & MOT’d we would be starting our journey to Scotland to commence our ‘Elf & Elfette’ duties and they had provided us with ‘lots’ of uniform and other bits of kit, all of which we needed to make room for in ‘Big Momma’ !! Shazza had already been having a ‘mild’ panic attack for days about where we were going to put all this extra stuff. I had made a suggestion, it is always best with the female of the species to ‘suggest’ rather than ‘tell’, that we could utilise the side lockers in the overhead cab area to put the normal daytime clothing such as sweatshirts, tee shirts, trousers and shorts and so it was that our days activities had now been pre-determined. Shazza would set about performing the miracle that would see her produce storage space in an otherwise full van !!

I disappeared back outside and decided that ‘Big Momma’ could do with a well deserved Wash ‘n’ Wax. It was whilst washing the van that I happened to get chatting with my neighbour, now why do I know that that won’t surprise you. Dave and Natalie and their three children were currently living fulltime in two rather nice large caravans and an amazing trailer that was a mobile fitted kitchen, not a burger van affair, this was the sort of kitchen you would find in a flat or small house, top quality cupboards, cooker, fridge/freezer the works. Dave had sold his business, they had sold their house and furniture and invested the money. They have bought land locally and are in the process of developing a ‘Green’ campsite, initially similar to a five van ‘Certified Location’ (CL) with the option of expanding later, plus keeping part of the land to also breed sheep. They thought that they were the only mad people, selling their bricks and mortar and other worldly possessions to fulfil a dream, however, now they know that they are not alone and they in fact belong to an already large and growing community of lunatics !! I did finally stop talking and returned to Shazza in the van, she had re-arranged the under seat storage, made some room here and a bit there and before she knew it she had two empty side lockers in the front overhead cab area which looked as if they would be ideal to store things like Caravan Club sweatshirts, tee shirts, trousers and shorts………………..

Saturday 29th March  –  “There are some things that you just cannot plan or foresee, they just happen……………

All the weather forecasts we had heard on the radio, seen on the TV or viewed on our device ‘Apps’ had stated that the whole weekend was going to be very warm and sunny, but we have seen and heard this all before. But sure enough when we awoke in the morning, although we had not had any heating on during the night, the internal temperature in the van was a very pleasant 15 degrees(c). I opened the night blinds on the roof Heki’s and the sunshine came flooding in. We needed to take full advantage of this much appreciated change in the weather and we were in exactly the right place to do it, we had the ‘River Trent’ and its floating ‘traffic’ to go and view, the ‘West Stockwith Marina and Basin’ with the many boats moored up to view and then there was a five-mile circular walk along the ‘Chesterfield Canal’ and ‘River Idle’ to be undertaken, today would be a good active day.

As always I went armed with my camera as I knew from an earlier ‘reconnaissance’ of the Marina that there were plenty of Narrowboats that may need to be photographed once or twice !! Our first ‘port’ of call was just across the road from our campsite, I wanted to show Shazza the River Trent. When we had discussed our dreams of starting a new life, a few years ago, one of the options was to purchase a Narrowboat or Widebeam and become ‘full time Liveaboards’. I had spent very many months researching not just the very many types of boats but had purchased the full set of the ‘Nicholson’s Guides’, these were publications that showed every single Inland Waterway in the UK, the boaters bible, and I had looked at potential routes we could take. One of the very many routes was the ‘River Trent’, a fast flowing tidal river, which we could take to link us with several of the Canals that branched off it, the Chesterfield Canal here at West Stockwith was just one. To get from the River into the Lock was quite a tricky manoeuvre and could only be done at certain times of the day to coincide with the tidal flow. When we got to where the lock entrance was located there was no traffic on the river and nothing coming out of the Marina Basin so it looked as if I would just have to make do with pretty uninteresting photo’s of both the mouth of the river and the green slime covered lock gates. As I was getting myself set for the picture of the empty lock the Lock Keeper asked me to move as he needed to set the lock gates for incoming traffic. I looked out onto the River and where, just a few minutes earlier, there was nothing, now bearing up river towards us at quite literally a great rate of knots were two Narrowboats. This was going to be quite an experience, the river was flowing with the boats and at the speed they were going surely they could not turn into the small narrow entrance without crashing into the concrete and brick walls ? I was left in awe as I watched the two ‘captains’ at their tillers manoeuvring their vessels, they left a good distance between themselves and in turn each turned their boat sideways into the river, the natural flow of the river turning the boats around so they were now effectively facing in the opposite direction to which they had been travelling, the river had pushed them past the lock entrance but they then were able to use their engines to push against the river and make a controlled entry into the lock entrance, I was so mesmerised at watching such skills that I nearly forgot to take photo’s !!

Looking down river from the Lock Entrance. One moment nothing..........

Looking down river from the Lock Entrance. One moment nothing……….

Then bearing down on us at a great rate of knots came two Narrowboats !!

Then bearing down on us at a great rate of knots came two Narrowboats !!

The first Narrowboat to enter was a fifty foot Traditional ‘Tug’ style boat and once it had positioned inside the second boat entered, a fifty-seven foot Semi-traditional style. Fortunately this lock was automated and controlled single-handled by the Lock Keeper. Once the outer locker gates had been closed then water from the Canal was released into the lock until the two boats had risen to the height of the water within the canal basin. During this time I was able to chat away to the owner of the fifty-seven foot Narrowboat ‘Little Haven’ and he was very obliging at answering all of my ‘Gongoozler’ questions and even imparted more information than I had requested. Once the inner lock gates had been opened both boats prepared to continue with their journeys, we wished them both ‘Bon Voyage’ and thanked them for their time and watched as one continued out of the canal basin, under the road bridge and onto the Chesterfield canal, the other tied up in the basin. I certainly hadn’t bargained for witnessing such a show and before we knew it a good hour had passed and we hadn’t even left the Marina, let alone commence our walk along the Canal Towpath.

In came the first boat ...

In came the first boat …

It took its position in the lock...........

It took its position in the lock………..

Then in came the second one.

Then in came the second one.

Then the Lock Keeper pressed a button on the automated panel and the large outer lock gates closed behind the boats

Then the Lock Keeper pressed a button on the automated panel and the large outer lock gates closed behind the boats

Although both boats had mooring ropes to the Bow and Stern, the water in the lock filled slowly so the boats hardly moved, but better safe than sorry.

Although both boats had mooring ropes to the Bow and Stern, the water in the lock filled slowly so the boats hardly moved, but better safe than sorry.

Once the lock had filled with water the inner gates were opened and the first boat exited ........

Once the lock had filled with water the inner gates were opened and the first boat exited ……..

Followed by the second boat

Followed by the second boat

The first boat continued through the canal basin and moorings, under the road bridge and on to the Chesterfield Canal.

The first boat continued through the canal basin and moorings, under the road bridge and on to the Chesterfield Canal.

So, with an added spring in our step, we too passed under the road bridge and on to the start of the Canal Towpath. We were able to look down from the towpath onto the Campsite where we could see ‘Big Momma’ on her pitch.

We walked under the road bridge to start our 5 mile circular walk.

We walked under the road bridge to start our 5 mile circular walk.

Looking down from the Towpath onto the Campsite and 'Big Momma' on her pitch.

Looking down from the Towpath onto the Campsite and ‘Big Momma’ on her pitch.

It was a pleasant walk, we passed several Narrowboats, of crying size and style, moored up on what looked like ‘permanent moorings’ on the opposite bank. They were each connected to EHU bollards and the bits of furnishings on the Canalside bank outside the respective boats was a clear indication that these were long-term residents. We were not alone on our walk, plenty of other folk were out enjoying the beautifully warm sunshine, the boaters all waved cheerily as they passed us or we passed them, depending on which direction they were travelling and we exchanged pleasantries with other ‘gongoozlers’ along the way. We had not walked very far when we saw the Narrowboat ‘Little Haven’ tied up at some bollards just before the first of two locks. Recognising us, ‘Richard and Sharon’, as we came to know them, again greeted us and again we engaged in conversation at which point Richard invited us aboard to take a look at the internal layout of their Pride and Joy. They had the boat built for them just two years ago and were now fulltime Liveaboards, I was amazed when he told us to go down below, by ourselves, and have a look around, which we did after first removing our muddy walking boots. He was stood at the stern on the tiller talking us through each part of the living space when we felt the boat moving, not the motion of a boat rocking from side to side but forward motion ! I asked Richard, “is the boat moving ?” To which he replied “Yes, you can come up through the locks with us”. Bloody fantastic !! I have looked at numerous Narrowboats in Marinas and have even been inside a few whilst moored up in Marinas, but I have never been on an actual Narrowboat whilst it is moving along a canal and never been on one going into and rising up an actual lock !!

Taken whilst stood at the stern and slowly rising in the lock, awesome !!

Taken whilst stood at the stern and slowly rising in the lock, awesome !!

This was like a dream come true, bloody marvellous, what a damn good day I had had already. Once out of the first lock we were talking to Richard whilst he was pulling into the side to let us off the boat when I heard a voice call out, “Hello Eric and Sharon”. Astonished by this I looked onto the towpath and stood within a few feet of us was ‘Tony’. He, and his wife ‘Anne’ were one of the couples we had met recently whilst at the Caravan Club Induction Training Course down in East Sussex !! Sharon remembered that they had said that they lived up here but we certainly hadn’t expected to see them, my goodness what an extraordinary sort of day we were having. By way of thanking Richard and Sharon for their generosity and kindness we assisted them through the next set of lock gates before waving them goodbye, by which time Tony had rung Anne and she arrived on the towpath to greet us before inviting us back to their bungalow for coffee and cake, they lived literally a few yards away from where we were stood.

Shazza & Sharon making their way to the next set of lock gates.

Shazza & Sharon making their way to the next set of lock gates.

It was really good to see them both again, for all of us newbie ‘Elves & Elfettes from the Class of 2014‘ it was like graduating as we were dispatched to the four corners of the UK and nice that already we were keeping in touch with each other. The time just flew by and we had already had an eventful day even though we hadn’t completed our circular walk, so after saying our farewells we opted to return to ‘Big Momma’ and decide on whether we just relaxed in the hazy afternoon sunshine or give the walk another go.

Me with Tony and Anne !

Me with Tony and Anne !

After a quick sandwich lunch we decided that we would complete the circular walk so we set off again, back along the Chesterfield Canal. Not long into our walk we came across the ‘other’ couple that we had seen in the lock earlier that morning, the ones with the fifty foot Traditional ‘Tug’ style Narrowboat. Again they too recognised us, once seen never forgotten eh ! and we stopped for a brief chat, we graciously declined their offer of a ride on their boat up the canal, wished them a good trip and off we set again.

Back on our walk again !!

Back on our walk again !!

We turned off the Canal towpath at ‘Misterton’ village, we followed the main road through the village until we came to the bridge across the ‘River Idle’ and then followed the Public Footpath along the Southern bank of the river, this was the wrong choice as this path was some distance away from the actual River whereas, had we have crossed the bridge, we would have discovered a better footpath that actually followed the course of the river !!

The River Idle. The old building in the picture, a former water mill, has been restored into a private residence but they have integrated the old working parts into the structure of the new home.

The River Idle. The old building in the picture, a former water-mill, has been restored into a private residence but they have integrated the old working parts into the structure of the new home.

Flipping heck !! When this place floods it really floods eh ? A house on a central stilt !!

Flipping heck !! When this place floods it really floods eh ? A house on a central stilt !!

However, both routes ended up back in the village of West Stockwith and only a few yards apart. A short walk back through the village, towards the Marina and back to the campsite. This circular route was 5 miles but our total mileage for ‘walking’ today was 8 miles. To finish off a very eventful day, that evening Shazza received a telephone call from Julie (Julie & Glen, fellow Elf & Elfette) who had just completed her first week as new Assistant Warden at the Caravan Club Campsite at Looe in Cornwall. It had been a wonderful day, full of surprises and now just before it came to an end we had one last task, we needed to put all our on board time pieces forward by one hour as tomorrow we will be on British Summertime which means that the evenings stay lighter for longer.

‘Each day in a Fulltimers life is like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get until you bite into one……………..’ 

We awoke to the sound of numerous birds tweeting, the kind without the hash tag ! We had been forecast an even warmer day than we had yesterday but as I opened the night blinds to let the sunshine flood in I was disappointed, the sky was grey and there was no sign of any sun, in fact it looked a tad misty. It was not cold though, just not sunny !! Today was also Mothers Day and so after the usual morning cuppa, no lung starter, not even a puff on the electronic device, I made the call to my Mum and I was pleased to hear that she had received the card that I had sent earlier in the week. Shazza also rang her Mum but I wondered how long it would be before Stacey and Chris made their calls. Shazza didn’t expect any cards, after all where would they have sent them to ? but I was hoping for Shazza’s sake that they didn’t forget to call. Stacey sent a text, sometimes the modern gadgets in this modern world can be a scourge, not only do they now not necessitate the effort of purchasing, penning a few words and then posting cards but it also does away with verbal physical speech when three words of text will do ‘Happy Mothers Day‘ !! Although the day was virtually over when Chris did finally ring at least he made the effort to speak personally !! Would it have been any different if we had still been living in our house, probably as Chris, who lived in the same town, would have made the effort to personally deliver the card. Stacey didn’t live in the same town but she would probably have made the phone call so it really is our fault for choosing to sell up and have a life.

As the sun didn’t look as if it was going to make an appearance any time soon we decided to go for another walk along the Canal, it would serve two functions, our daily dose of exercise and the opportunity to call in at the village store to purchase some milk. There were plenty of people walking along the towpath although little movement of boat type traffic on the canal, still it was a pleasant walk. Although lots of our ‘Motorhoming’ colleagues were still in sunnier climates, and yes we did envy them, we had already tasted a small piece of the foreign winter touring life and enjoyed it, but actually we actually had quite enjoyed doing a spot of winter touring here in the UK. We had now visited several places that ordinarily we probably would have never visited but which have turned out to be real gems. It was only a three-mile round trip and we were soon back at ‘Big Momma’, although it was still hazy sunshine it was reasonably warm and so I decided to get out the recliners and enjoy a bit of Sunday afternoon ‘people watching’. It was good in theory, however, how soon do we forget, the hoards of weekend campers that had arrived late on Friday afternoon, and into the early evening, were from the ‘other side’, No ! not that ‘other side’ but the other ‘Conventional Living‘ side, those that still had bricks and mortar, jobs, the Monday to Friday routines and worst of all the dreaded ‘Sunday Syndrome‘, those people who had had their day and a half’s weekend escape and now had to get back to their conventional lives ready for Monday morning. So instead of people watching all I got to see was the glow of red tail lights as one by one they departed, soon the campsite was given back to just us few handful of people and the calmness and tranquility was once again restored. Anyway, it wasn’t as warm as I had hoped, so perhaps laying prostrate in my sun chair wearing my ‘speedo’s’ and covered in ‘Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tanning Sun Oil’ was just a bit premature at the end of March !!

It tasted as good as it looked !!

It tasted as good as it looked !!

Apart from Shazza making a first attempt at a Ginger Cake, which was very good, our final day involved another six-mile Canal Walk and it seemed only fitting to finish our short stay here by watching the final part of the TV series ‘Great Canal Journeys’.


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17 Responses to Fulltiming Days Are Like A Box Of Chocolates !!

  1. Debs says:

    I love canal boats we used to go on holiday in them a lot when i was growing up……. another very interesting blog Eric…… Glad your both having a great time 🙂

    • Yes, I like boats, Narrowboats, Widebeams, Barges but this was the first time I had been on one whilst it was moving along a canal :0) just got the Service/MOT to have done on ‘Big Momma’ tomorrow then Scotland here we come.

      • Debs says:

        I hope the Service/ MOT goes well today…….. well done on giving up Smoking. have a safe trip up to scotland 🙂

        • Thanks Debs, Service done, needed a new front tyre and a wiper blade and a couple of minor bits but otherwise all good for another fulltiming year !! Flew through its MOT :0) we head off tomorrow (Thursday) to start our four week holiday before starting work again on 3rd May (If you can call a paid hobby as work !!). I will start writing new blog post tomorrow :0)

          How is the new job ?

          • Debs says:

            Well done Big Momma flying through the MOT…. Enjoy your months holiday cant wait to read all about it :-)……… I am sure you will both enjoy your Season in Scotland……
            My New Job is going fab thanks 🙂

  2. anteater says:

    Eric, that’s brilliant news about you giving up smoking. Just keep it up – you have so much to do in your life now that will be fantastic and you need to be as fit as possible. If temptation looms, just remember that you want to live your dream not crawl through it! Congrats on having the balls to go for clean living once more. It will be better for Shazza too of course!
    Anteater

    • Many thanks for those words of support and encouragement, very much appreciated. Day 9 and yes I am counting. These electronic cigarette things are a help, much more than I thought they really would be. However, early days but going well so far and not taking too much to snacking, yet !!

  3. mike7692 says:

    Wow – a mini adventure on the water….sounds like excellent customer service from Autotrail….more than can be said for my mates dealer where he bought The Fluffy Duster’s cousin from …a problem with the water heater & told he was too busy & it would be a month – 6 weeks to fit him in….joke! Glad you’re both ok & stay safe

    Mike & Sue x

    • Thanks Mike, yes excellent customer service and the van is 4 years old and no longer under warranty either ! How are your plans for France coming on ?

      • mike7692 says:

        We booked the ferry……need to get a few bits & pieces ordered EU ehu, beambenders & bulbs etc….the legal stuff but still need to book a couple of sites to have a destination whilst finding aires en route! We will also be moving house as the subject of the van on the drive has raised its head again but that is another story for another time. Good luck with the non-smoking & enjoy your travels up North!

        • Did you not use the EHU at Wisbech ? That was the blue Euro plug ! Remember that although you do not really need the ‘Alcohol Test Kit’ (Breathalyser) it may still be worth having one, the French can be a funny lot !! Good idea about having a destination and then using Aires in-between. There is no right or wrong way, just the way that is right for you ;0)

          • mike7692 says:

            Oh…..really….everyday’s a schoolday! The way its marketed I thought it was an adaptor for that like….a three pin to two or something…oh well my list just got a bit shorter 😛

          • Don’t close down that shopping list just yet ! You may have the Blue Euro Plug but some sites in France still use a domestic style two pin plug, you can get one of those from a Caravan/Motorhome Accessory Shop. On one end will be the white two pin plug on the other the blue Euro plug that you connect your EHU cable to. Sorry !!

  4. DebsK says:

    Hi Eric and Sharon, pleased to hear you had a great weekend, we ended up at Clumber Park, had read a blog which said it was very good :), lovely walk around the lake. Mothers Day, now that’s an interesting one, we are still bricks and mortar folk and had only gone away for the weekend but only 2 of the 5 managed to pick up the phone to say Happy Mothers Day, the other 3 coped out with a text!!! best I get used to that. Good on you for giving up the smoking, as you say early days but stick with it anteater is exactly right, you need to LIVE your dream. Hope there are no probs with Big Momma MOT/Service etc.

    • Hi Debs, just shows you with the kids, you will miss them more than they will miss you, until they want something of course :0) Van all serviced & MOT’d for another year !! Head off to Barnard Castle CC site tomorrow for 5-6 nights then Troutbeck CC Site for another 5 nights before crossing the border :0)

  5. Paul says:

    Yet another great blog post Eric.

    Good for you for giving up smoking, you know it makes sense! Now the entire world is watching (well, your blog readers anyway) there can be no more talk of ‘lung starters’ in the morning.

    Very interesting to read about the narrow boats leaving the river for the canal, looks incredibly narrow – the ‘captains’ must really know what they are doing.

    • Thanks Paul, they don’t get any shorter either, the Blog Posts not the Narrowboats :0)
      Watching the Narrowboats get into that lock from the fast flowing river was truly awesome, well impressed !! It’s a nice Canal to walk as well :0)

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