Don’t let that smile fool you, inside I was feeling so nervous, we both were. I hate being the ‘newbie’, it may sound daft but even when we used to go on our hotel holidays I would hate the first day, not just because we were ‘Lilly White’ skinned whilst everyone else already had their holiday tans and we stood out as the new arrivals, but the hotel complexes always looked so big on day one with so many restaurants, some you went to for breakfast, others lunch and then the one you went to for lunch may not be the one you went for dinner in the evening, there may also be an outside location that did the BBQ meals and then the three or four ‘A la Carte’ venues. Then there would be the procedures for getting pool towels with usually a choice of pools, then the different array of bars. I didn’t actually relax until day two or three when I knew the routines and today, being our first day at work had that same feeling !
We had of course already met our site wardens, who were not only our bosses and work colleagues but also and probably more importantly our ‘mentors’ over the next Eighteen weeks. We had already heard many stories about how some Assistant Wardens, not just ‘newbies’ like us, did not get on with their wardens and this could make life quite unbearable. Both Shazza and I are pretty easy-going people and although we have come from ‘professional’ careers and both have a great deal of life experiences this could have been intimidating for our new ‘bosses’ depending on their own backgrounds but we were new to this and so we were prepared to just do exactly what we were told or how we were shown to do the jobs.
On our first morning we started off with an introductory chat and to be honest our Wardens seemed like pretty genuine people and our initial impression was that we would get on well, which is important as there are only the four of us and we needed to work well together as a team. They gave us our working roster and the duties and ‘down time’ had been apportioned very fairly. They told us right from the start that they had been Assistant Wardens themselves for four years, they were newly promoted wardens and this was their first site. However, they had been on site since it opened at the end of March and so they had to do ‘All’ the jobs on their own and when we leave at the beginning of September they will again be on their own until the site closes at the beginning of November. We didn’t appreciate on day just what that entailed but after just one week we realise now how tiring that must be as it is a seven-day a week commitment. However, one big advantage to this being just a two couple site is that we would get an opportunity to do everything, from the office duties to the outside ground duties which meant using all of the computer systems, doing daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly checks and getting hands on experience with all of the tasks and the equipment and machinery. On some larger sites, where there can be three or four couples, they do not always get an opportunity to do everything in their first season so although it was going to be pretty full on for us it would put us in a good position when we went to our next site in season two.
This really is a superb site in an absolutely fantastic location, however, it is one of the clubs older sites and therefore some of the equipment is a little dated and not quite as modern as the machinery we had seen or used on our Training Course. It is also one of the very few club sites that permits tents including ‘backpackers’, many who come to this particular part of Scotland to walk and climb the mountains or do sea Kayaking so they can arrive on site pretty late at night.
So, after our short introductory chat we commenced our first day proper and we were introduced to the old Ford Tractor, who I have already nicknamed ‘Freddie’. We ran through the ‘mandatory‘ daily checks that had to be carried out before we could even start ‘Freddie’, let alone drive him out of the ‘Equipment Compound’, and also the old trailer that is permanently hooked up to him. Once this was done Shazza went back into the office to learn about the ‘Office’ procedures, the electronic booking and payment systems and lots of other associated administration whilst I went out on my first ‘bin run’. The ‘bin run’ involved more than just emptying the bins !! First stop was the ‘facilities block’ and cleaning the ‘Chemical Disposal Point’, then cleaning and disinfecting the drains at the ‘Fresh & Waste Water’ point before actually emptying the bins and replacing the full bin bags with empty ones. Then it was onto the site pitching areas where the strategically located ‘Service Points’ accommodated between 4-6 normal waste bins and one large ‘blue recycling’ bin and Fresh & Grey Water points, the drains needed cleaning and disinfecting and then the bins needed to be emptied, there was also the grey waste drains at the ‘Motorhome Service Point’ that needed the same cleaning process. It is not a large site but there were six ‘Bin Service Points’ and the one Motorhome Service Point. Those duties completed, the trailer full of rubbish bags needed to be transported to the sites large bin compound, the rubbish bags that had been collected needed to be transferred into larger rubbish skips, which the ‘Refuse Disposal’ people came to empty on a weekly basis. That done, ‘Freddie’ and trailer were returned to the equipment and machinery compound. However, that particular duty also involves cleaning the ‘Communal’ building which we have on this site which comprises a Dishwashing area, a lounge area with a ‘pool table’ and TV, the laundry room with 2 washing machines, tumble dryer and spin dryer and a ‘Drying Room’, plus an external Dishwashing area, the latter being used extensively by the ‘backpacker’ and ‘tenting’ customers. It is a lot of work but we both quite enjoy it, I love being out on my own on ‘Freddie’, you get to speak to the ‘customers’ and just take in the fantastic scenery that surrounds the site. After those jobs are done its back to the office for morning tea break. After tea break, one couple go off to clean the Facilities block which includes the ‘Ladies & Gents’ Showers, Sink Cubicles and of course the toilets but also another Dishwashing area and the separate ‘Disabled’ facilities room which contains a Shower, Toilet, Sink and Baby Changing Area, all of that having to be completed within an Hour and a Half !! We have a roster system so we share the cleaning of the facilities block with Terry & Ennyd. The daily ‘Bin Run’ and ‘Facilities Block’ duties are the only ones that are ‘cast in stone’, they are important and have to be done at a specified time each day and have to be completed within a specific time frame but there are no separate ‘Pink’ or ‘Blue’ duties on this site like there are on some other sites, we all share the tasks from working in the office, doing the bin runs, cleaning the site facilities, cutting grass, strimming, hedge trimming, power washing of site facilities and all the other associated site maintenance duties. We also share the ‘Duty Warden’ roster which means that we have to do the end of day admin and reports and deal with any incidents outside of normal office hours, this can be anything from dealing with late arrivals or Emergency incidents.
As part of our ‘Training’ Shazza and I have been given some specific responsibilities for the period we are on this site, we have to do the monthly electrical checks on all the sites EHU bollards, manually checking that they are all serviceable and report any damage as well as testing the trip switches and that the night lighting sensors all function correctly. We are also responsible for the checking of the water temperatures, to prevent ‘Legionella‘, the temperature for the ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ water supplies have to be within certain parameters and we have to record the temperatures and report any discrepancies outside of the ‘mandatory’ levels. We are also responsible for the cleanliness of the ,’Site Information Room’ interior and exterior. It is quite amazing the amount of work involved, as Caravan Club’ customers ourselves for the last 12 years we have seen the ‘visible’ side of wardens duties but there is so much more that is not ‘visible’ to the customers that goes on behind the scenes.
Shazza had had a busy day in the office and was doing all the booking in of new arrivals, many had pre-booked so were already on the ‘system’, processing them was quite straightforward but there was still a sequence of events that had to be followed. Then there were the ‘drop-ins’, these were people who hadn’t booked and just turned up hoping that ‘pitches’ were available. There were two type of ‘drop-ins’, Caravan Club Members and non-club members, this meant that they had to be booked onto the system before they could then be processed in the ‘normal‘ manner. Although bookings could be made via the club booking service, phone booking through Head Office or ‘On-Line’ booking, customers could also phone the site direct and these were then dealt with as if they were ‘drop ins‘. Then there were the ‘backpackers‘ but again they were treated as ‘drop ins‘. So there was a lot to take on board but fortunately Shazza was very computer literate and a fast learner so she absorbed the information quickly and was dealing with all the customers with great confidence. I was a little more nervous, although I was computer literate I liked to absorb new processes at a slower pace to make sure that I did things right, so I was keen to get trained up but a little ‘pensive’ and as I wouldn’t get my chance until the following day I had all night to worry about it !! Terry & Ennyd were continually telling us to stop worrying about things so much, they were concerned that they may have been pushing us a bit too much but we told them that we were fine and that the ‘worrying’ was self-inflicted because we didn’t want to make any mistakes. I guess that is the problem when you come from professional environments you feel pressure to ‘impress’.
The rest of our first day was spent on all the different office procedures, where all the manuals were kept that we would need, either for reference, or maintenance records that needed to be completed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. There were set procedures for ‘opening’ the office each day and of course the ‘end of day’ procedures, cashing up, completing cash reports, securing the equipment and machinery, securing the equipment compound, etc. etc. and we needed to know all of this as the next day we were rostered to be the ‘duty wardens’ !!! Terry & Ennyd had produced a step by step ‘crib sheet’ for us to follow and if we really got stuck they were only across the road from us. At 6pm, with our heads exploding trying to absorb all the information that had been fired in our direction, Terry told us to call it a day and to go and relax for the night. We were both mentally knackered and glad to climb inside ‘Big Momma’. We had already pre-planned for long days and so had already agreed a menu of quick meals, things that could be prepared and cooked within no more than half an hour. We were both tucked up in bed and fast asleep by 9:30pm that night !!
We had been told to report for duty at 08:45am on our second day, so the ‘alarm clock’ had been set for 07:30, more than enough time for the ‘duvet coffees’ before getting up, washed, dressed, breakfast and ready to go. One of the things that had been changing for the worse, was the weather. We had been blessed with mainly good weather over the last few weeks whilst we were travelling up here but the advance forecast for the next week was for rain, rain and even more rain !! We could only hope that the forecasters would remain true to form and get it wrong.
The next working day it was Shazza’s turn to be taken out by Terry to do the ‘bin run’ duties and she had to drive ‘Freddie’ with the trailer attached. I got to spend the morning in the office to learn the computer ‘systems’ and routines. It was at this point that I discovered that I didn’t just have one computer to master but two !! The first computer was the one used ‘primarily’ for the ‘pitch bookings and allocation’ although it did mirror some of the processes that were on Computer 2. The second computer was ‘primarily’ the ‘Administration System’ which again mirrored Computer 1 and could therefore be used as a back-up if required. But Computer two was the one used to communicate via Email with Head Office, for accessing the staff ‘Intra-net’ for expense claims, ordering additional or replacement items of Uniform and Personal Protection Equipment, ordering supplies for the site etc. It was also connected to the Internet and one of the key uses was for the local Weather reports, a general BBC daily forecast and another Hill Walkers forecast that was much more detailed and gave a three-day advance overview. These weather forecasts were both printed off and placed in the Information Room, another thing that we had to remember to do !! The time just seemed to fly by and before we knew it Terry and Shazza were back from the ‘Bin Run’, it was then time for tea before Shazza and I commenced our first ‘unsupervised’ toilet cleaning duties !!
We didn’t laugh at the time, although we did afterwards, but we hadn’t ‘quite‘ got ourselves into an organised and agreed system, we just knew that we had forty-five minutes to complete the ‘Ladies’ then forty-five minutes to complete the ‘Gents’ and today we just about made it !! It may only have been Ninety-minutes but we both felt as if we had just run a full ‘Marathon’ !! Fortunately, once we had finished cleaning the ‘Dishwashing area’ and the ‘Disabled Room’ and tidied away all the equipment we went for an hour lunch break and boy did we need it, in fact we nearly skipped ‘eating’ so that we could lay down for a while but thought better of it, we probably wouldn’t have woken up !! We ate our sandwich and tried to convince each other that the pace would slow down once we had learnt the ropes and got into some sort of system. Back from lunch and it was outside into the compound and familiarisation on the two types of diesel industrial hand mowers. We were quite comfortable with these machines and once we had run through the mandatory ‘user’ pre-use checks Shazza went back into the office to get ‘hands-on’ with booking in new arrivals whilst Terry and I each took one of the hand mowers and went and cut some grass. We couldn’t chat as the engines were noisy and we had to wear the mandatory ‘ear defenders’ but it was a nice easy task and passed an hour or so. Once we had returned the equipment back to the compound, cleaned and re-fuelled them, Shazza and I were taken out and shown how to check the EHU Bollards and what needed to be recorded on the ‘maintenance log sheets’. We were cramming a lot in and Terry told us to tell him if he was pushing us too hard, however, whilst it was a lot to learn it was mainly just learning the ‘routines’ of doing things, once we had learnt these we felt sure that it would all just fall into place. We were a little apprehensive when we were informed that we were the ‘duty wardens’ for the night, this meant that we shut the office at 6pm but took a bell alert with us as we accepted arrivals up to 8pm. We would be ‘On Duty’ in our van next door to the office and could get our evening meal but if anyone turned up one of us would have to go and open the office and book them in. At 8pm we would then return to the office and conduct the days closure, reconciling the cash and credit card receipts, completing the online daily log sheets and zeroing the machines ready for the next days business. We then locked the office and took back to the van with us the ‘Defibrillator’ and the EHU Bollard Tester and Keys in case we were called out during the night, that was if they could manage to wake us up of course !!
The days were flying by, well actually it was the nights, no sooner had we closed our eyes to go to sleep and we were waking up to another day. Terry was on ‘Bin Run’ duties and it was their turn to do the ‘Toilet Block’ cleaning so we were left to manage the office. We had both had lots of opportunities of using the computer systems and although only on day three we could now do bookings and process people on the system with our eyes shut. We had already processed the ‘pre-booked’ customers, the ‘drop-ins’, the ‘Backpackers’, Telephone bookings, amendments to bookings and refunds. We knew how to do the ‘Bin Runs’ and all the tasks associated to that duty, we had a system between us now for the toilet cleaning and although we were still against the clock we were cleaning to the correct high standard required within the time parameters, we had been trained on some of the ‘site’ equipment and machinery so capable of conducting ground maintenance tasks and although we still had to undergo some more familiarisation on some other bits of equipment we were pleased with what we had achieved in just a few short days and our Wardens were confident enough now to take a half day off and leave us in charge, yee hah !! We had been looking forward to our fourth day because actually it was only half a day, I volunteered to do the ‘Bin Run’ and Shazza managed the office whilst Terry & Ennyd got on with some other site tasks. After tea break Shazza and I went off to do our ‘Toilet Cleaning’ duties and boy what a team we make, it is actually quite physically hard work but we both knew what our particular jobs were and today it went like clockwork. When we had finished and tidied away the equipment we went back to the office and got a nice surprise when we were presented with our own full set of office and compound keys and then told to go and enjoy our afternoon off !!
It was nice to sit and have a leisurely lunch without watching the clock. We both felt really shattered, we hadn’t worked for over seven months, we had stayed in bed for as long as we wanted during that time and then done as much or as little as we wanted so getting up at 07:30am and working 8-10 hours a day was a shock to both our systems. Although to be honest, whilst we are ‘working’, it’s not ‘work’ as we once knew it and apart from the two daily routines that I have previously mentioned there are no time deadlines with any of the other tasks. Quite often the ‘customers’ would come across and chat and so we stopped and chatted then continued once they had gone. There are a lot of International backpackers who arrive on a daily basis, they always stop and talk and always comment on the ‘wonderful’ facilities they have on site which does make all the work we put in worthwhile. We had been advised by other Assistant Wardens that we would feel totally knackered like this for a couple of weeks but then we would get used to the routines and not feel so ‘wrecked’ at the end of each day. Instead of just collapsing on the bed and sleeping our half day away we decided to get in the car and go sightseeing, we had again been advised that on days off you needed to get off site and that was pretty good advice so we decided to drive across the road bridge (toll-free) to the Isle of Skye.
We were both still feeling pretty well worn out and knew that we would not do justice to this place today. There were lots of ‘day trip’ locations on the Island and over the remaining four months of our time here we would pay them a visit and perhaps, just perhaps you understand, get an opportunity to take ‘Kevin’ the Kayak out into salt water !! But for today we just took a short stroll around the few, and I mean few’ small streets of the town. It was a worthwhile visit as a couple of days ago both my pairs of glasses decided to pop one of their lenses, on one pair I had actually lost the small screw that holds the lens into the frame, on the second pair I had managed to re-tighten a loose screw but I had ‘car booted’ my ‘Watchmakers’ screwdriver set which had those really small screwdrivers just right for re-tightening screws on glasses !! There are something’s that you never use for years and the minute you get rid of them you need them !! As it happens, we came across an Opticians and I went inside and spoke those immortal words “I wonder if you can help me, I have a screw loose” !! I couldn’t believe the words that had just fallen from my lips but the young female laughed and said “It’s funny, but we get a lot of people with a screw loose coming in here“. Feeling a little embarrassed I returned to the car park and retrieved my spare set of glasses from the car then returned to the opticians and was more than happy in the knowledge that when I exited I no longer had any loose screws !! Enough was enough for one day, we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out so that when we got back to ‘Big Momma’ we could just collapse. We elected to wait until we got back over the bridge onto the mainland before finding a place to eat and then decided it would be advantageous to partake of the culinary delights of the local hostelry nearest to the site, this would serve two purposes, on a personal note it was a five-minute drive from the site but it would also give us an opportunity of knowing whether we could recommend it to ‘our’ customers. This was no plush ‘A la Carte’ sort of establishment with white linen tablecloths or silver service, but it was very clean, homely and friendly with a good home-cooked menu with plenty of choices for a good three-course meal, if required, and at very reasonable prices with a fantastic view of the ‘Loch’ and yes, after just one meal there, a main and a dessert, we would recommend it.
Back at work the following day and fully refreshed, it’s amazing how quickly you can recuperate after a bit of time off, a meal that you haven’t had to prepare or cook, no dishes to wash and then a good sound restful nights sleep. We were well into the swing of things now, it was Terry & Ennyd’s half day so between them they did the ‘Bin Run’ and the ‘Toilet Blocks’ whilst Shazza and I managed the office and the customers and took turns to do a bit of groundwork out on site. The site was not full to capacity but each day we had a minimum of forty units on pitches and two or three tents. Now it will come as no surprise to any of you who have been following this blog to know that if their were a ‘Olympic Event’ in talking I would easily claim Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and so this job is working out to be ‘right up my street’. I don’t know whether it is the relaxed location of this site but all the people I have met so far on this site are absolutely wonderful, we have a range of nationalities staying with us, German, Dutch, Nigerian, English and oh yes, a few Scottish folk as well !! They are all so pleasant and cheerful and ready to stop and chat at any time of the day. Even when I was doing some general site tidying, clearing up windfall leaves and branches, people would stop and chat, this was the part of the job that I had been most looking forward to and I was not disappointed. Now I am sure that in time I may come across the odd one or two ‘less happy’ souls but for now this is like living in a small village community where everyone is happy in themselves and with others.
Before long we had completed our first full week and Terry & Ennyd said how pleased they were with how much we had achieved in such a short time, they were not the only ones. Just seven days ago I was so nervous but now I feel that I have learnt such a great deal. Although there is still a lot to learn, a lot of policies, risk assessments and procedures to read and a lot of groundwork to maintain on a daily basis, on Monday we start working on our ‘proper’ rosters so we now know what hours we are working on a daily basis, when we are the ‘Duty Wardens’, when it is our turn to do the ‘Toilet Blocks’ and when our ‘time off’ will be. But probably more important is the fact that we are working with two really lovely people, Terry & Ennyd, who are willing to teach us all they know and want us to be as involved in the running and maintenance of the site as they are as Wardens. Although only one week has passed, we are now not feeling as tired as we did just a few short days ago which has come as a bit of a surprise as we thought it may have taken another week or so but Terry & Ennyd said that is because we have learnt so much and are getting used to the routines and systems which is a good job really as the site has really filled up and looking at all the advance bookings, we are going to be kept very busy !! Will we make it to the end of week two ? ……………………………..