Monday 19th – Sunday 25th May
The rain had been continuous for four days ranging from heavy and torrential to light drizzle and everything in between. When we drew back the night blinds on Monday morning, the start of our third week, the sky was blue and the sun was shining and this meant one very important task above all others would need to be started, grass cutting !! It was difficult enough trying to keep up with this task when we had ‘guests’ occupying the pitches but when it rained it also meant that grass cutting all but stopped with the ‘ride on’ and the ‘petrol mowers’. In light rain or drizzle we could still go out with the strimmers but that only tidied up small areas. Although there were four of us on duty initially, Terry and Ennyd were on ‘bin run’ and toilet cleaning duties until lunchtime before commencing their day and a half off, that meant that Shazza managed the office whilst I went out to start the grass cutting on the vacant pitches before the noon arrivals started pouring through the gates.
Once the pitches that could be done were done, and the new arrivals had occupied pitches that I hadn’t got around to, I started on the larger grassed areas away from our ‘guests’ Caravans and Motorhomes. We needed to get as much grass cutting completed as we could as the following weekend was the start of the ‘Bank Holiday’ period and the weather forecast wasn’t looking good again come Wednesday. For a very long time, well before life working for the ‘Caravan Club’, I had wanted to drive a ‘ride on’ mower and now I had my chance on our ‘Kuboto’. It was good to finally get a chance to be in charge of a lawn mower that I could sit on and it certainly was good to not have to keep stopping to empty a full grass catcher bag like on the petrol mowers. It was also nice to be sat enjoying the sunshine but it does take a lot more concentration, I guess on nice long open stretches it is relatively easy, just go in straight lines. However, in areas where there are numerous obstructions like trees, hedges, fences, service points, EHU bollards etc it is not such easy-going and I have to say that I think I prefer the petrol mower.
Fortunately the weather remained good on both Monday and Tuesday and I was pleased with what I had achieved, the site was looking very tidy and there was just a handful of areas around the site that needed some attention but we would probably get away with strimming most of that. By Wednesday the weather had changed to being overcast and drizzly and we were on ‘bin run’ and toilet block cleaning before commencing our day and a half off. There are lots of other little maintenance tasks that crop up which are ideal for when the weather doesn’t suit prolonged outdoor activities, replacing light bulbs in the facilities blocks, repairing minor defects with toilet cisterns, repairing broken signage that our ‘guests’ inadvertently drive into, or over, when manoeuvring their vehicles etc, there is always something to be getting on with. But for Shazza and myself the end of cleaning duties at 1pm meant the start of a much awaited period of what in the military was termed R&R, rest and recuperation, and we were ready for it. We didn’t do much on our first afternoon off, after a leisurely lunch Shazza put some washing into the washing machine, then we drove to the Co-Op supermarket in ‘Kyle of Lochalsh‘ to do a bit of shopping. We decided to eat out in the evening so just went to what was becoming our ‘local’ eatery, the ‘Jacobite‘ which was only a few minutes drive away before returning to ‘Big Momma’ and then just vegetating in front of the TV.
We hadn’t bothered setting the alarm clock, well there was no need, we could just wake up when we wanted to, well that was the plan. Strange how when you don’t need to wake up early that you do, we were both awake by 07:45am and having had a good nights sleep we were totally refreshed. On opening the night blinds the sun flooded in and we could see nice blue sky so I got up and made the coffees and then we sat in bed debating what we should do with ourselves for the rest of the day. In our reception/office we have a small shop which sells the basics, fresh milk, free range eggs that we get from a local farm a few hundred metres away from the site, we also sell a few loaves of fresh bread and some other bits and pieces. The bread that we sell is not your ordinary run of the mill white sliced from the supermarket, no, this bread is made by a local ‘artisan’ who supplies the local ‘Eilean Donan‘ castle. Manuela and Thomas are a lovely German couple who have a small bakery that they run from their home, the business is called ‘Manuelas Wee Bakery‘ and Manuela is the baker. We had met Thomas when he made a delivery to the office and knowing that he was German I greeted him in my bestest deutsche “Guten Tag Thomas, Vie Getes” which translated means “Good Day Thomas, how are you ?” he smiled and answered me in his perfect English “I am very well thank you“. In conversation I learnt that Thomas originated from a place in Germany called ‘Bielefeld‘, this was quite a remarkable co-incidence as in my former military career in the early nineties I had been based at a military unit very close to Bielefeld, it really is such a small world.
After a bowl of cereal and my second mug of coffee we were ready to ‘hit the road’ and we set off towards the small hamlet of ‘Ardelve’ and ‘Manuelas Wee Bakery‘.
We couldn’t leave without purchasing some of Manuelas’ poppy seed cake and she also gave us a sliced fruit loaf which she was attempting and I can tell you now, after sampling them both later that day that they were absolutely delicious. Manuela bakes her bread for the ‘Eilean Donan’ Castle who use the castle not just as a tourist attraction but also to host weddings and other banqueting events. Being so close it would have been rude not to have done the touristy thing at the castle ourselves. The entrance fee was £6.50 each and as we were spending very little of our daily ‘personal budget’ it was well within our means. The road runs right along the side of the Loch and you get to see a vast array of vessels from cargo ships, fishing boats, dredgers and occasionally these beauties……………………….
With time knocking on we decided to take a drive out to ‘Glen Elg’. Drives around these parts are anything but boring. The very narrow, steep and winding roads certainly make it an ‘interesting’ journey for the driver, in this case ‘Shazza’, but for the passenger it was just another feast for the eyes !!
We hadn’t just headed out to Glen Elg on a whim ! We had been told of a quaint little pub that sat on the edge of the Loch with views over to Skye and it just so happened to be time for a spot of lunch so time to find the ‘pub’.
Shazza had selected the Salmon and Creamed Cheese sandwich, without the chips !! after our hearty but leisurely lunch, washed down with a small glass of Amber nectar for me, Diet Coke for the driver, we decided that all this sightseeing had made us a little sleepy, or was it the lunch I wonder ? Anyway, another good exploration trip on our day off and now it was time to go and relax in ‘Big Momma’ with just the odd request to the driver to pull over for a couple more scenic shots for the album………….
Once back at ‘Big Momma’ we sat and enjoyed a coffee before contemplating where we would go to eat, such contemplations are always best done with ones eyes closed !! When we had finished our contemplations, after about an hour, or so, we decided to try another local hostelry that had been recommended to us and so, purely in the name of ‘research’ you understand, we visited the nearby Loch Side ‘Kintail Lodge Hotel’. Now you may think that this is yet another excuse to save our own efforts on food preparation, cooking and then washing and drying of pots, and you would be correct in that assumption, however, many of our ‘guests’ would enquire as to ‘places to eat’ so it was always good to be able to provide a recommendation based on ones ‘personal’ experience.
We had not pre-booked but were fortunate enough to be given a table for two even though the place was very busy. Even though the name of this establishment gave an Aire of ‘poshness’, this was not a place where you were required to ‘dress’ for dinner although neither did that mean that you couldn’t if you felt so inclined, but it was a relaxed atmosphere inside and there was no pretentious formalities, this was a place where the food would speak for itself. And just in case you were wondering, when I say you didn’t need to ‘dress’ for dinner I am not implying that it was one of those ‘naturist’ type places !! Shazza had a ‘Haunch of Venison’ with all the trimmings whilst I settled on a Seafood Pasta in cream sauce. I certainly couldn’t manage a dessert but Shazza managed to ‘force‘ in a decent helping of Sticky Toffee ‘Ginger’ pudding, toffee sauce and ice cream !! Would I eat there again, most definitely, so yet another successful ‘research’ mission completed, what we do for our guests is surely above and beyond the call of duty, but I guess someone’s got to do it !!
All too soon our day off was over and Friday saw us back on duty, although not until 10:30am. I was to learn even more skills today, I have never been a practical sort of person and I have to confess that deep down there were parts of this job that concerned me as I knew that there would be lots of stuff which required ‘Wardens’ to be pretty much hands on. However, it’s amazing how ‘scared’ you can be of the ‘unknown’ but then how foolish you feel once you are shown how easy some things are to do. I learnt a couple of things on this day, the first was how to re-set WiFi electronics, not just the switch that you flick on and off to re-set the modem, no this was the electronics that lay secreted in the ‘repeater’ boxes that sit just below the Ariel masts that are located at strategic points around the site. The next skill was tracing and rectifying faults on the ‘night lights’ that are inbuilt on top of the EHU bollards. We had several that were not illuminating at night, there were three possibilities, bulb, starter or faulty sensor. The first two we could rectify but the third was a ‘contractor’ job as we were not permitted to play with ‘electrics’. Anyway, Terry showed me what to check and if it was a simple matter of a ‘bulb’ or ‘starter’ then that we could do, so, armed with a list of bollards that were faulty I went on my way. I felt pleased when I returned and informed him that I had resolved quite a few but others would require a ‘contractor’. The rest of the day was spent on routine jobs, strimming and cutting grass as well as booking in new arrivals. We were the ‘Duty Wardens’ and we had just sat down to our evening meal when some ‘drop-ins‘ arrived on the off-chance that we had pitches available, we did so they were booked in. After eating our meal it was back to the office to close down for the day, this meant ‘cashing’ up and reconciling the accounts, logging off the system and making sure everything was ready for the following day. This evening was not going to be that straight forward though, the system will not let you close down if it reflects that people who were recorded as due to depart today hadn’t been cleared off the system or if people who had arrived had not been allocated a pitch number on the system. This was not a major dilemma, it just meant that I took a note of the respective pitches that should be vacant and went on site to physically check them and for new arrivals who had not come back and advised us of the pitch they had occupied I simply noted their vehicle details and went and found the pitch they were on. Shazza didn’t have to wait for me to return to the office as we had radios so once I had established that a pitch was vacant, or found the vehicle, I would simply advise her so that she could update the system and so by the time I had returned to the office she had finished the Admin and logged off and then all we had to do was to take the ‘Defibrillator’, EHU Bollard tester and ‘Bell Alarm’ back to ‘Big Momma’ and hope for an ‘uneventful’ night !!
We awoke to a beautiful warm sunny summer morning, it was the Bank Holiday Weekend and we were fully booked so no room for any ‘Drop Ins’ unless they wanted a tent pitch and even then there was only room for a handful. The one big thing that I am having difficulty in coming to terms with in this job is some sort of order. In my previous existence, whilst priorities did often change I could generally plan my diary and workload, I knew what needed doing and when, usually weeks in advance but here, apart from ‘Bin Runs’ and ‘Toilet Cleaning’, there is no order of events, it is very much reliant on several factors, primarily the weather but also on the needs and requirements of our ‘guests’ and the serviceable nature of equipment and other ‘services’. For example, this morning Terry & Ennyd were not in until 08:45am, I was on ‘Bin Run’ duties and then after tea break Shazza and I were on ‘Toilet Cleaning’ before knocking off for half a day, simple enough. However, ‘Freddie’ decided that this morning he didn’t want to play so, not a problem, I would put him on the battery charger and go and do the Laundry Room first, by which time there should be enough ‘juice’ in his battery to get him started and go and do the bin run. I was about to go across to the laundry room when one of our ‘guests’ came into the office and advised that he had no electrical power, to be fair he was up front and stated that he had ‘blown’ it late last night. So first minor detour was to re-set his EHU bollard but whilst on route another guest ‘complained’ that he couldn’t get a very good picture on any of his TV channels, he explained the problem and I knew that this meant me climbing into the loft to re-set the ‘digital’ boxes. So, after these two detours I finally got around to the Laundry Room but I was now running way behind time and would have all on to get finished ready to start the Toilet Blocks on time. Fortunately Terry had arrived on duty and started ‘Freddie’ and went and did the bin run for me. This would have given me much-needed breathing space if it wasn’t that there was a light out in the laundry room that now needed sorting. Now it is not that any of these ‘detours’ were of a critical nature but in my ordered mind they were not on my ‘To Do Lists’ and therefore not programmed into my day’s schedule, I am sure that I will learn to ‘chillax’ and take heed of Terry’s wise words, “As long as the place doesn’t burn down or anyone dies then there is no panick or stress just jobs that will get done, eventually, some a little sooner than others“.
Our cleaning duties over and that was it we were on our half day off, yee hah !! This was our good weeks rota, we would not be back on duty until 10:30am in the morning and although ‘Duty Wardens’ we would finish on Monday lunchtime until Wednesday morning, however today we were going to enjoy a very relaxing sunny afternoon. I rolled out the awning and put up one side of the ‘wind blocker’ to provide some privacy, out came the sun chairs and I prepared the BBQ ready for the evening. I was sat enjoying a cup of coffee when I received a ‘Skype’ call from our good friends Paul & Debs, it was really good to be able to see them as well as speak to them and so we had a good natter and just caught up with general chit-chat. After that it was time to sit back, enjoy the sunshine and a glass or four of ‘Vino Calapso’ !! I think I have mentioned before that our ‘wardens compound’ backs on to the tent field and it was pretty well occupied. It was nice to sit and listen to the sound of people enjoying themselves, not boisterous or too noisy, just campsite noise, the sound of chatter, glasses chinking and the sound of a football being kicked around on the grass field. I lit our BBQ and whilst the meat was sizzling away I just ‘drank’ in the views that surrounded me lush green mountains, a slight breeze gently wafting through the trees, the resident cuckoo singing out its repetitive call, the swifts flying to and fro, busy building their nest under the eaves of our next door reception and office, finches taking turns at the bird feeders situated at our front gate and other birds I couldn’t even name chattering away merrily. The activity on the tenters field had changed from play to food preparation under the communal wooden gazebo, finally all was well within my world and at last I felt the sort of inner calm and peacefulness that I had imagined that this life would be like.
After a wonderful relaxed afternoon and evening off, we slept well, I think the ‘Vino Calapso’ worked its magic and it was nice to wake up refreshed and enjoy our morning duvet coffees. It had rained in the night and it was still grey and overcast when we reported for duty and although we had no bin run or toilet cleaning duties it was going to be a long day, we were Duty Wardens and that meant an 8pm finish. Before we could even think about that though there was another full day of grass cutting to be done and I needed to make an early start before we were inundated with the new arrivals. Although we had a fair few departures we would be almost full again by the end of the day with just two free pitches available. Terry and Ennyd finished at lunchtime, by which time I had managed to get to cut most of the grass around the vacated pitches. Shazza was looking after the office and when she wasn’t dealing with ‘guests’ making purchases from our on site shop, dealing with ‘guests’ who wanted to amend their bookings and dealing with new telephone bookings, she was ‘power washing’ dustbins. We keep six spare dustbins and every so often we rotate the bins so that all of the sixteen permanently out on site get a good clean, inside and out and of course the rubber lids, never a dull moment in the life of site wardens. This job certainly keeps you fit, never mind all the walking around the site but there is a fair bit of lifting and carrying so it’s a good workout. The afternoon cheered up a little and it was certainly tee-shirt weather. Although there are a few ‘midges’ about, the wind helps keep their numbers down, Shazza has been bitten three times but I don’t think that they like the taste of me, no bites yet and I work primarily outside in short sleeve tee shirts !!
Manuela and Thomas both arrived today to bring a fresh delivery of bread for our shop, but they also brought us a special ‘German’ dark bread loaf to try, it didn’t have to wait long as I had some for my lunch, it was really good, they really are lovely people and so generous. We had a German couple staying on site for a couple of nights so we told them about their fellow countrymen at ‘Manuelas Wee Bakery’ and they said they would love to visit them so we gave them directions.
The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful, most of our ‘guests’ had gone off for the day, sightseeing, walking, cycling whilst others just enjoyed the ‘Bank Holiday Sunday’ relaxing in their awnings. I got on with more grass cutting until 5:30pm when it was time to get back in and clean up the equipment. Another week has now passed, we are now fairly comfortable with the routines of the job but still learning new bits and pieces as we go which is good. We now have a Whiteboard which we use as a ‘To Do’ List, I can relate to these !! Grass Cutting, Strimming and Hedge Trimming are just continuous ongoing tasks but then there are the ‘jobs’ that need doing when we get the chance, which includes ‘Admin’ related stuff as well so there will always be something to be getting on with come rain or shine. It would be wrong to say that this is ‘hard’ work but it is not a job where you are sat around doing nothing. Sometimes it can be ‘demanding’, it can also be very busy and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that there is certainly a lot more to it than we had initially thought. But the important question is ‘Are we enjoying it’ and I can safely say that we are but it has taken us this length of time to settle into it. As Terry and Ennyd have repeated many times, this is not a career choice, it is a job that pays ‘minimum wage’ for Forty-six hours a week for just eighteen weeks, so we should just enjoy it. It really is a ‘stressless’ existence in a truly wonderful location and I think that we are now both beginning to accept that we are no longer in our old world, we are not accountable or responsible for targets or budgets or writing policies and procedures so although we both want to do a good job and pull our weight, we do what we do and as long as Terry and Ennyd are happy with us then that is all that matters. The proof of the pudding will be next Saturday when we have our first monthly formal one-to-one with Terry & Ennyd !! We have both just received our first months pay, now that was nice as we have four incomes in the month, two pensions and both our work pay, and our monthly outgoings are minimal so we not only have our Winter trip well covered but can also put a nice big chunk into our savings fund and after all, that is what these jobs were all about, so just three more pay days to go and then our six month winter holiday commences……………………………………