Saturday 10th May – Sunday 18th May
And so Saturday arrived, the start of our second week and what better way to start than a half day off, I did the bin run whilst Shazza took care of the office, after tea break at ten-thirty we went to do the Toilet Blocks and then that was it, working day over. We didn’t do too much on our afternoon off, we went for a short stroll to recce our route for the future walk from the site to the ‘Falls of Glomach‘, a mere 10.75 miles which the guidebook stated would take between 6-8 hours to complete, that will be saved for one of our future ‘full’ days off !! Back on the site and from our vantage point inside ‘Big Momma’ we were able to see the ‘new arrivals’ throughout the afternoon and boy did they keep on rolling in, by 6pm the site was virtually full !!
On Sunday it was Terry & Ennyd’s half day which meant that they did the bin runs and cleaning of the toilet blocks. There were several departures throughout the morning but their vacated pitches were just as quickly occupied by the afternoon arrivals. It was a strange sort of day, weather wise that is, one minute we had nice sunshine and the next, sunshine and rain at the same time, it had hampered my attempts at trying to get some grass cut, as a rule we do not cut grass near occupied pitches, neither do we cut grass when it is lashing down with rain as the wet grass clogs the mowers. Needless to say, the new arrivals kept coming and occupied the vacant pitches where I had intended to cut the grass. So it was back to the equipment compound to clean the mower and then into the office where Shazza and I took turns in ‘booking in’ the constant flow of new arrivals, some pre-booked and some ‘drop-ins’, by close of play we were virtually full again. In between doing that we started to read some of the equipment manuals and corresponding risk assessments as well as filling in our mandatory ‘Training Course Manuals’ for our ‘NVQ’ qualification in the ‘Tourism & Leisure’ industry !!! One of our new arrivals had entered the office and announced “It’s Big Momma and Wuxly“, this was Norman and Julie who it seems have been following our blog, some notoriety at last eh ! They stayed for a day or two, left, and then returned again a few days later.
We were the rostered Duty Wardens so it was a late finish for us, but we knew that with effect from tomorrow we would be starting our proper working rota based on a two-week cycle. One week we would do three days toilet cleaning duties and four days Duty Wardens and then the following week we would do four days toilet cleaning and three Duty Wardens, it all balanced itself out, each week we got one half day off and then a back to back half day and full day off, very nice. Although we still needed to receive some familiarisation instruction on a few pieces of machinery, we were both now able to use most of it safely and we were aware of the pre-use checks and the log sheets which had to be completed. As I have stated before, there are only two daily jobs that have time constraints, the bin runs and the toilet block cleaning, everything else is on an ‘as and when basis’. Terry has said that when we are fully trained, he wants it so that we will actually go in and tell him what we are doing that day. If it is cutting grass, strimming or hedge trimming then we mark on the site plan the areas we have completed, he and Ennyd do the same, that way we each know what has and hasn’t been done. There are other tasks like jet washing the service points and facilities buildings, general site groundwork and maintenance and routine checks that the services are working such as the EHU bollards. None of these tasks have to be done on any particular day or in any particular time frame, some of it is dependent on the weather conditions and others on whatever else is happening on that ‘day’ that which may take priority.
Now it just so happened that on this particular Monday, the first day of starting our new working rota, we were on our back to back one and a half days off, so once we had completed our bin run and toilet cleaning duties we were finished until 10:30am on the Wednesday morning. We spent our first afternoon pottering, Shazza did some laundry whilst I emptied and filled (as appropriate) the on-board tanks. The tent field backs onto our compound, so I erected our ‘Wind Break’ along the rear fence to act as a privacy screen. We had taken down the ‘Wind Blocker’ and wound in the awning a couple of days after first setting up as the weather had taken a turn for the worse. However, once the weather, more particularly the wind and rain, settle down and we get extended days of sunshine I will put it all up again and then we will have complete privacy again. After a somewhat lazy afternoon we discussed what to do on our ‘full day’ off the following day. Although four months up here sounds a long time, in reality it meant that we would have only 16 full days off to explore. We wanted to do the ‘Hogwarts Express‘, this is the return steam train journey from Fort William to Mallaig, that on its own would take care of one of those full days off, then we wanted to explore some particular areas over on the Isle of Skye, that would take care of at ‘least’ another four full days, maybe more. The ‘Falls of Glomach‘ walk would be another full day and then we also wanted to take opportunities to take ‘Kevin‘ out on a few of the Lochs we had seen, boy were we going to be busy !! So we decided that on Tuesday we would pack a picnic and a flask of coffee and start our explorations of ‘Skye‘.
Our first destination on Skye was ‘Ergol‘, lots of people had told us about this place, it was where you could go out on a boat to view Seals, Whales, Dolphins and even Sea Eagles so it was worth a ‘recce’, even if the boat trip would have to wait for another day off. We were blessed with a beautifully sunny day and had just turned off the main A87 on the road to Ergol when we saw two female hitch-hikers. Ordinarily, in this day and age, we would not have considered picking up total strangers, male or female, but Shazza felt sorry for them as they both had heavy-looking rucksacks. We chatted to them during our journey and discovered that they were from Germany, both were in their early to mid twenties and they were on a short back-packing holiday. They were headed to the same destination as ourselves so I think that they were happy that they would get a lift all the way. When we arrived at ‘Ergol’ they said their thank you’s for the lift and we went our separate ways.
Once Shazza had been ‘fed and watered’ we decided to move on to explore another area around the South Eastern part of the Island. We headed towards ‘Armadale‘, this is another place on the tourist map but it is more renowned for being the place to catch the Ferry which takes, Coaches, Motorhomes, Cars and foot passengers to ‘Mallaig‘ on the Scottish Mainland, or of course, vice versa. However, before getting to Armadale we had been recommended to turn off onto a side road and head out on a circular route in the direction of ‘Ord‘. Just a word of warning though, this is not, in my opinion, a route to be attempted in a large Motorhome, by large I mean nothing longer than something like a panel van conversion or similar.
Sorry if you get fed up of just seeing a lot of landscape photographs, however there are quite literally views around every corner, so many that I daren’t turn off the power button on my camera or by the time I have turned it on again Lewis Hamilton (alias Shazza) has already sped past on the way to the chequered flag !!!
It was time to move on again, time was ticking away fast, next stop ‘Armadale‘. We were a little disappointed as there was very little to do here other than catch a ferry, visit the couple of tourist shops or grab a well deserved ice cream !!
Time was knocking on and we had one more place left on our ‘Places to See’, the Coastal village of ‘Kyleakin‘ which looks across from Skye to the ‘Kyle of Lochalsh‘. However, just outside of ‘Armadale’ was the visitor centre for the ‘Skye Clan of Donald‘. This was one of the ‘pay to enter’ attractions, well I guess they do have to make the most of the tourists when they can. We looked at the £8 per Adult entry fee and decided that with it being so late in the day we wouldn’t really get value for our money so decided to give it a miss this time around but it would be worth a re-visit if we do get the chance in our busy but time limited sightseeing schedule !! So we headed back towards the Sky Bridge with a small detour to Kyleakin and boy are we glad that we did otherwise we would have missed a real gem of a place. I wouldn’t mind betting that because it is so close to the bridge that people by-pass this lovely little Coastal village on their way to Portree and further North. For anyone who has read the book or seen the film ‘Ring of Bright Water‘ this is worth a stop just to visit the ‘Gavin Maxwell’ centre.
It was a long time since we had eaten our picnic lunch and we were both famished and more than a little weary so we decided that we would stop in ‘Kyle’, pick up some Fish ‘n’ Chips and eat them on the harbour front before returning back to ‘Big Momma’ and the campsite.
The last fifteen minutes, or so, drive back to the site seemed to take an eternity and we were glad when ‘Wuxly’ was finally parked up in our compound and we were able to take off our walking boots and sit and enjoy a nice cuppa.
Our day and a half had passed so quickly and before we knew it we were back into our Elf & Elfette uniforms. Terry and Ennyd were about to commence their day and a half off, after we had done a handover and they had finished cleaning the toilet blocks. We were advised that for the next three days the site was fully booked, well the hard standing pitches at least, there was still some room for ‘tent campers’ though. We had three Hardstanding pitches that had been out of commission because the EHU bollards weren’t working but the Electrical Contractor was due to arrive so we should have those back on-line later in the day. The weather was being kind and although it was quite cloudy it was dry again. This meant that I could get on with some grass cutting so I went off with one of the petrol mowers to do the business. I was getting on quite well and had just two areas that I wanted to finish when Shazza got on the radio and informed me that the electrician had arrived, so I was unable to finish my last two bits and I had a trailer full of grass that needed emptying, but it would have to wait. Although I didn’t need to ‘escort’ the electrician everywhere he needed to go on site, I did need to open doors, find isolation switches, none of which I had the faintest clue of where they were. There was a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing but by the end of it I had learnt where these important areas were !! When the electrician had done his bit I then went to the EHU bollard to physically check that all three were working, I had a handy little tester for this so it was a simple enough task and no sooner had I informed Shazza that we now had three extra pitches available than she went and booked them !! the site was fully booked, again !! It had been quite a busy period, there had been a constant flow of new arrivals which had kept Shazza busy in the office and with my to-ing and fro-ing we didn’t get our lunch until just gone 4pm !! I still needed to empty the trailer full of grass so after eating my half a ‘Scotch Egg’ and a bag of crisps I set to work again, it seemed a shame to miss out finishing those last two bits of grass cutting so I did that first, then emptied the trailer, returned to the machinery compound and cleaned the mower and the trailer and put them away for the day. On my way back to the compound a couple of our ‘guests’ had reported problems with both the TV reception and the WiFi signal so I grabbed the ladders and went to try to resolve the TV issue. It was a simple enough task but involved climbing into the loft space above the ‘Gents’ toilets where the ‘Digital’ boxes were located, unplugging the boxes and re-starting them again, it was an important task as lots of our ‘guests’ were followers of the ‘Masterchef’ programme and tonight was the start of the final stages of the programme, I think the ladies would have formed a lynch mob if I couldn’t resolve the issue !! Re-set complete, after returning the equipment to the workshop I dutifully visited the ‘guests’ who had reported the issue to inform them that they should now be able to watch their beloved programme. The large beaming smiles on their faces told me that my mission had been successful. Now it was time to see if I could repeat the miracle on the WiFi reception, I could do no more than re-set the modem and router but it appeared that some were able to get a decent reception whilst others couldn’t, oh well, a fifty per cent success rate was better than nothing I suppose. When we are Duty Wardens we close the office at 6pm and go and have our evening meal, returning to the office at 8pm to cash up, do the daily journals, check that the ‘pitch allocation board’ is up to date, print off the list of arrivals for the following day, log off the machines then close the office for the night, taking the ‘Defibrillator’ and EHU bollard tester with us in case of a ‘call out’ during the night. We had just sat down to our meal when the office ‘door bell’ sounded on our remote bell box. I went to the office to find an elderly gentleman stood at the door with a massive rucksack on his back, he looked very tired and all but done in, he just wanted a tent pitch for the night and a hot shower. I opened the office, booked him in and informed him of where all the facilities were located. In conversation he told me that he was Seventy-Five years old and was taking part in the two-week walking challenge across Scotland, it kinda put my own feeling of tiredness into perspective !!
Thankfully there were no emergencies during the night but we didn’t get off to the best start in the morning, the IT had locked us out for no obvious reason and no computer access meant we would not have access to our electronic booking or payment systems, I made a hasty retreat and left Shazza dealing with that whilst I prepared to go out on the bin run but that’s when ‘Freddie’ the tractor decided he didn’t want to play either !!!! I spoke gently to him at first, then I shouted at him and then I shouted and cursed at him, I even threatened him with a visit to the ‘breakers yard’ if he didn’t fire into action but try as I may ‘Freddie’ just was t having any of it. I connected the ‘jump start’ cables to the ride on mower but even the bloody mower wouldn’t start either !! What have I ever done to either of these two bits of machinery that has made them hate me so much, is it because I am English ? There was nothing else for it, the bins needed emptying, I grabbed the refuse sacks and decided to do the job by ‘foot’, well what alternative did I have ? I guess in hindsight I could have driven around the site in ‘Wuxly’ but I don’t think Shazza would have been too impressed with a car full of rubbish !! I had just started emptying the bins at the second service point when I heard my name being called, it was Terry, he had got the tractor started so I returned to the office and collected ‘Freddie’ and the trailer then completed the bin run. Shazza had resolved the IT issue and so although we were running behind schedule we were at least back on an even keel. Isn’t it strange though how events like this, right at the start of the day, can ruin your whole day. Whilst I may still have Sixteen weeks to work on this site I already despise that darn tractor with a vengeance !!
I don’t know where the time went but Friday morning arrived, apart from our last arrival turning up just after we had cashed up and logged off the system, there were no emergencies or blown electrics during the night so the end of our second week was almost over and we had survived it !! ‘Freddie’ wasn’t playing again and neither was the mower but Terry had turned up early and set to rigging up the battery charger. I changed my morning routine and by the time I had cleaned the Chemical Disposal Point and the Laundry block Freddie was ‘alive’ again so I then went straight out on the ‘bin run’. It was a beautiful sunny morning, our resident ‘cuckoo’, who perches on a hill overlooking the site, was in good voice and I was enjoying riding around the site and seeing how nice the site was now looking. It had been the weekly ‘refuse collection’ for both the ‘general’ and the ‘mixed re-cycling’ waste and the previous evening I had put out the eight large skips, so now they needed to be brought back in from the roadside and put back into the bin compound. Once ‘Freddie’ had been returned into the machinery compound it was time for the morning cuppa before our turn to clean the toilet blocks. Shazza and I were working really well together, we each had our own particular areas to clean and we just got on with them and could now do it within the allotted time and this included doing a few of the ‘extras’. The extras were done bit by bit so that at the end of a fortnight everything had been cleaned, extra’s included cleaning all the windows, high and low, cleaning the pipe work, washing the door mat and lots of other tasks that just couldn’t be fitted in within a Forty-Five minute timeframe. In addition to our ‘Extras’ there were site specific checks that needed to be done on a weekly and monthly basis, these were not the responsibilities of any one individual just whoever was available at the time. Today it was the checking and testing of all the site fire alarms and the emergency alarm in the ‘Disabled Toilet’ facilities. After lunch I volunteered to do this as I hadn’t done it before and it was another routine to get used to, it also meant being out on site with an opportunity to chat with our ‘guests’ so another task that was right up my street. Now that the site was fully occupied we had now decided to do an extra bin run, this is where you get to see a certain aspect of ‘human nature’. If a bin is full you would anticipate that our ‘guests’ would go and find one that did have some capacity, even if it that did mean walking a few yards to another ‘service point’, however, this I am finding is not the case. If all the bins are full, instead of coming to the office and advising us that they needed to be emptied they just put their rubbish into an already full bin, sometimes ramming it in so that the bin liner rips making emptying the bin difficult and very messy. Anyway, I went out and ensured that any bins that needed emptying were done.
We do have some interesting ‘guests’, there are those who like to inform us that they have been regulars on this site in excess of twenty years, as a new and keen Assistant Warden I did think about advising them of the Club rules about staying no longer than Twenty-One consecutive nights but didn’t think they would see the funny side !! They are always willing to advise us of changes they like or dislike, for example, one customer informed us that they found it inconvenient when they returned to the site after a day out to discover that the front gates were closed (not locked, just closed), apparently, in the past the gates had ‘always’ been left open. We attempted to explain that on occasions our neighbouring farmers animals liked to escape from their field and wander down the lane, they had a bit of a liking for our nice fresh and lush green grass. When we saw them sauntering past then looking into the site we would run down and shut the gates. However, our ‘guest’ explained how inconvenient it was for their ‘passenger’ to have to get out of the car, open the gate and then close it again after they had exited or re-entered. I wonder how inconvenient it would be to clear up a nice big fresh stinking cow pat from the front door of their caravan ? Of course we never actually asked them that particular question !!
Saturday morning arrived and it was nice and dry and the sun was trying to break through, however the forecast was not looking good, heavy rain early afternoon right through until Monday. We were rostered for a 9:45am start so although we were awake at 07:15am it felt good to be able to just enjoy our morning duvet coffee. It was Terry & Ennyds half day off so that meant that they would be doing the bin run and the toilet cleaning duties although we were the Duty Wardens. With the four of us in for the morning it meant that now we were considered as ‘capable’ we could get on with most jobs unsupervised. Ennyd was on bin run and had been delayed starting, Terry was doing paperwork and managing the office so Shazza and I went and cleaned the laundry block between us to help Ennyd out. That done we had a short handover and then we were in charge again !! It was going to be a busy day with new arrivals and the site would be fully booked again. This is quite unusual for this time of year and our ‘other’ club sites in the Highlands were also fully booked, the only explanation being that it had been such a mild Winter and Spring that the camping and caravanning season had started earlier than usual. Anyway, whilst it was still dry I could now get out and catch up with some ‘Strimming’ in places where it was difficult to get to with either the ‘ride on’ or the hand mowers. When that was completed I returned to the compound and cleaned the strimmer. The new arrivals had started to arrive and Shazza was being kept busy in the office, the rain had also started, at first just a shower but then the wind picked up and the rain got heavier until it was just one big relentless torrential downpour. It would have been nice to have stayed in the warmth of the office but some of our new arrivals had problems with their electrical connections so I grabbed the EHU Bollard test kit, donned my bright orange waterproof coat and my ‘Elf’ cap and ventured out into the elements to resolve the issues. We do have instructions on our EHU bollards indicating that once the EHU cable has been inserted into the connection it should be twisted to the ‘right’. Now, perhaps it was due to the inclement weather and our ‘guests’ wanting to get into the comfort of their vehicles rather sharpish that they didn’t see or read the instruction but all of the ‘problems’ were, well let’s just call them ‘user error’. A quick turn to the right of the EHU plug and we had happy ‘guests’ once again. The wind was so strong that the raindrops were like cold ice missiles as they struck my bare hands, I don’t know why I was wearing my glasses as I couldn’t see a thing out of them, as I was ‘wading’ my way back to the office, cold and wet, looking forward to a nice hot cuppa and a lovely warm radiator to warm my hands up Shazza’s cheery tones came crackling over the radio, “Eric, are you there” ? she enquired. I felt like responding “Am I where” but instead I just told her that I was on my way back and asked if there was another problem. She informed me that a chap from the company that conducts our Annual Fire Extinguisher checks had just arrived and could I meet him at the office. We were not expecting him, especially on a very wet and stormy Saturday afternoon. He explained that he should have turned up last Tuesday but had got delayed and so was working today to catch up with his schedule, a phone call would have been nice !! Well I couldn’t get any wetter than I already was, to be honest once I had given him a site plan he did most of the checks himself but their were some he couldn’t locate so we hunted them down together. Well there was one thing for certain, my day passed pretty quickly and we had processed our last booked arrival and were full so after securing the compound and workshops it was 6pm and time to get some tea. It felt good to be out of the torrential rain and in the warm and soon we were sat down eating a piping hot sausage casserole that Shazza had prepared earlier in the ‘Ramoska’. The rain was pounding on the roof and we had all on hearing the TV but we couldn’t relax for long, once the pots were washed it was back into the office to do the cashing up, prepping for tomorrow’s arrivals and then logging off.
Although we were on ‘Bin Run’ and ‘Toilet Cleaning’ duties on Sunday we had the comfort of knowing that at One O’Clock we would get our half day off, the weather, if the forecast was correct, was much the same as it had been so we would just lock ourselves in ‘Big Momma’ and unwind until we were back on duty on Monday morning…………………………