A Time To Think About The Year Ahead !!

Monday 2nd June – Sunday 8th June

It didn’t feel as though we had had our much awaited half day off on Sunday afternoon, what with me not feeling too great and the rigmarole of going to the hospital, the hanging around to get seen by the Doctor and then the drive back, it was late afternoon, early evening and so by the time we had prepared tea, eaten it and then cleared away the pots it was well into the evening. However, the good news was that the Antibiotics and ‘the Sweeties‘ had already started to do their respective jobs and as Shazza put it “You no longer look like a Hamster hoarding its food“, well actually that is close enough to what she may have said, some of the actual words she used are not printable, have I ever mentioned my beloved’s caring and sympathetic bedside manner !!

Monday morning arrived far too quickly for our liking but we had agreed that I should take it easy today, so in ‘Military Speak’ I was on ‘Light Duties‘ which meant that I would be in the ‘Office‘ whilst Shazza was ‘Out on the Ground‘. This is where having no ‘specific Pink or Blue‘ duties really has an advantage, as we have both been trained by our very good ‘Mentors’ in all aspects of the Wardens jobs, I was more than capable of managing the office and Shazza was more than capable of using all the ground maintenance equipment. However, and yes there is an ‘however‘, after a full day in the office I think personally that I could be coerced with very little difficulty into coming around to the principle of ‘Pink & Blue’ tasks as I much prefer the outdoor stuff, but don’t tell anyone that I said that !!

Our ‘guests’ change on a daily basis so there are always lots of new faces to greet, they are all a pretty friendly bunch, and why shouldn’t they be, they are either retired, or on holiday, on a truly wonderful gem of a campsite which just happens to be located in absolutely stunning scenery so it is no wonder that they are a cheery bunch, well it’s either that or the copious amounts of alcohol they consume when they are sat outside their respective accommodations in the evening !!

Terry and Ennyd had booked a Boat Trip from Portree on the Isle of Skye for their day off, when they returned in the evening they showed us the Photographs they had taken of the Sea Eagles, WOW ! Utterly amazing and miles better than the photo’s I had taken on our day trip, which by the way, Terry informed me was of a ‘Tourist Eagle’ ? And yes you are probably asking the same question that I asked, “What is a Tourist Eagle” ? He informed me that what I had seen and photographed was actually a ‘Buzzard‘ !! Oh well, I will console myself with the fact that it was a very nice looking ‘Tourist Eagle’. One of Terry’s photographs was of a Sea Eagle with a fish in its talons just soaring back into the sky after plucking its prize from the sea, an absolutely incredible photo, am I envious or what !! That’s it, we need to book on that boat trip and hopefully get some similar photo opportunities, watch this space…………. !! We are also waiting for the weather to become a little more settled so that we can book on the ‘Hogwarts Express’, as well as the ride on the steam train itself, the scenery as we travel is the big attraction, well for me at least, and of course the trip and the photographs will be shared with you as soon as we have completed it, I know, settle down, I can feel your sense of anticipation and excitement building already !!

I am not sure whether I have mentioned this in a previous post but next door to our site is the ‘National Trust Ranger Station‘  and opposite is the ‘Kintail Mountain Rescue‘. On Tuesday evening I was closing the front site gates when I saw two Landrovers parked up, ‘engines running’, outside the Mountain Rescue building. One Landrover was marked up as an ‘Ambulance’ the other in the more usual ‘Mountain Rescue’ livery. I took a look but there was nobody in either vehicle so I just returned to the site thinking to myself that perhaps they had just returned and were dropping off equipment or perhaps preparing for a training exercise, there didn’t appear to be any hurrying or scurrying so I didn’t think that it was any kind of Emergency. Around twenty-minutes later, I had just finished eating my evening meal and Shazza spotted someone in the field opposite holding a lit ‘Orange’ flare, shortly followed by the unmistakeable sound of an approaching helicopter………………………………………

In it came, dropping lower and lower, would my shed be safe or perhaps they could give our hedge tops a bit of a pruning whilst they were here !!

In it came, dropping lower and lower, would my shed be safe or perhaps they could give our hedge tops a bit of a pruning whilst they were here !!

How close is this ?

How close is this ? That’s my shed roof in the bottom of the picture !!

I couldn't quite hear what the Winchman at the door was saying so I asked him if he could get a bit closer !!

I couldn’t quite hear what the Winchman at the door was saying so I asked him if he could get a bit closer !!

Hey come on !! I was only joking about getting closer !!

Hey come on !! I was only joking about getting closer !!

Talk about quick, did they even land ? No sooner had they disappeared down behind the site hedge and they were up in the air again !!

Talk about quick, did they even land ? No sooner had they disappeared down behind the site hedge and they were up in the air again !!

Then they moved away !

Then they climbed into the sky !

And disappeared  as quickly as they had appeared !!

And disappeared as quickly as they had appeared !!

Usually, on our days off we would have some sort of ‘Shazza Expedition’ planned but it was not to be on this particular one. We awoke to the sound of rain beating on ‘Big Mommas’ roof but it was nice to be able to just relax under the nice warm duvet, hot mugs of coffee in hand looking up through the ‘Heki’ at the grey wet sky and in no hurry to actually do anything. It was pointless going out sightseeing, what would we see ? Neither was it worth getting soaked to the skin on one of the numerous walks in the vicinity, so we just resigned ourselves to having a complete day of relaxation and a bit of pottering. In Sharon’s world that meant sitting and doing the ironing, which she had laundered the previous day, whilst listening to Radio 2 followed by making a ‘Quiche’. For me it was a good opportunity to catch up with the domestic accounts and checking that all the ‘official’ balances concurred with my own spreadsheets, and they did ! By the time I had completed reconciling the ‘books’ the rain had stopped and although the low grey cloud was still clinging on resolutely to the side of the mountains it was a warm and humid day but ‘Midge’ free. I went outside and first checked on our gas consumption, still loads in the first bottle and my initial thinking that we would not need to refill until September is still looking good. I also had to smile when I discovered in the rear garage compartment the bag of large ‘fir cones’ that we had collected from the campsite in the mountains near Madrid, one day we will get around to burning them on the ‘smokey joe’.

Then I started to do a wee spot of gardening in our compound, well I say gardening but what I really mean is pulling up some of the green weeds, grass and moss that were growing through the gravel base. That done it was time for another coffee and whilst drinking it I also cleaned both our work boots, after a brush down, application of polish and then a quick shine up I then applied some ‘Dubbin’ to provide some added waterproofing. That was my mornings pottering done and so I rejoined Shazza inside ‘Big Momma’ to consider our menu choices over the next week or so. This is not something new, even when we lived in a house we would sit down each Thursday evening to plan the week ahead menus, we then could make a shopping list of what we needed and I would take an extended lunch on the Friday and go and do the shopping. Because in this role we have several late nights and so really wanted to have some ‘quick’ meals we could prepare and with the supermarket being some distance away we planned enough meals for around a ten day period. Menus duly agreed, Shazza made the shopping list and we set off to the local Co-Op supermarket in ‘Kyle of Lochalsh’. Our trips out of the campsite also enabled us to make our phone calls to family as we had no phone signal on the campsite. Shazza is able to speak to her mum several times a week using the good WiFi signal on the site to make and receive Skype Video Calls, however, we are still working on getting my parents up to speed with this technology so I am reliant on the weekly phone calls to keep in touch with them.

We have driven the route from the Campsite, along the Lochside, past the ‘Eilean Donan’ castle and into ‘Kyle of Lochalsh’ many times now, but the scenery never bores me, it is absolutely tremendous. For some reason the supermarket was extremely busy and for once Shazza didn’t want to Dawdle so we manoeuvred our way through the chicane of trolleys, grabbing the items we required from the shelves as we did so, then made our way to join the queue of trolleys at the checkout tills. We thought we had done quite well when they opened up an additional checkout and we were second in line but ‘Sods Law’ struck. The woman on the checkout couldn’t ‘log on’ to the cash register and then she couldn’t get the conveyor belt to operate, now call me cynical but the store has just been refurbished over the last two weeks, up until then everything was working just fine !! Oh well, you always expect a few teething problems I suppose when they change a perfectly good ‘older’ system for a newer more modern one !! What’s that saying about “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it” ? We eventually got through the turmoil and with no more purchases required from any other store we headed back home with our ‘messages‘, that’s what they call ‘shopping’ in Scotland, ‘going to get a few messages‘ !! We had lunch, then Shazza, the provisions ‘Quartermaster’, put away the shopping in its respective storage areas and then as they say on cruise ship itineraries it was ‘afternoon at leisure‘. On our days off we tend to eat out and on this particular evening we had decided to try the Restaurant at the ‘Dornie Hotel‘ which had received good recommendations. You enter through the small bar area, there were two chaps sat at the bar, some distance apart from each other, which gave us the impression that they were not together, however they both turned to where we were stood, smiled and said a cheery hello. We were shown through to the main restaurant area where there were a few people already tucking in to their meals. The decoration was very much 70’s and it looked as though in former days this would have been part of a larger bar area but has been turned into an eating area. There were no linen tablecloths, the cutlery, two knives and two forks were laid together on a ‘paper’ rather than linen serviette but the views outside the windows of the Loch and the Mountains made up for the rather spartan looking interior. However, it was very clean and the service was efficient and extremely friendly and we presumed that the recommendations were based on the quality of the ‘fayre’, which is why we were here. The menu was typewritten and sandwiched between a hard plastic holder, more ‘Cafe’ style and the choices were not exactly scintillating, Battered Fish & Chips, Steak & Ale Pie, Burger, Rib Eye Steak………….. we were hoping that the quality would be out of this world, oh well, we were here now so we would just have to go with the flow. For starters, Shazza decided on a stuffed Tomato with Goats Cheese and I decided to be a little more adventurous and opted for Haggis, Black Pudding, Apple and a Whisky sauce. For our Mains we both opted for the ‘Dornie’ Burger !! The verdict ? Shazza’s starter was nice, tasty but nothing out of the ordinary but mine was truly a gastronomic delight. I had lived in Scotland very many years ago and nothing had tempted me then to even try Haggis, but I have to say that I have now, in just five weeks, had Haggis cooked three different ways and I am now a confirmed Haggis convert. The ‘Burgers’ arrived with a side order of very nice crispy chunky chips and first impressions was, it’s a ‘Cheeseburger’ !! Now I am not going to say that this was anything out of this world and that I would want to race back for another but it was most definitely a ‘home-made’ Quarter Pounder and you could certainly taste the ‘Oregano’ and ‘Onions’, it was so filling that we both left our ‘chunky chips’, nothing wrong with them we were just totally stuffed !! Would I go back, probably not but would I recommend it to our guests, well ‘Yes’ if they wanted a good wholesome meal in a relaxed, friendly an unpretentious environment as opposed to a gastronomic feast.

We returned to work on Friday after an uneventful day and a half off and the weather was absolutely beautiful. Friday is the only day when the four of us actually spend a few hours on duty at the same time, when the weather is this good the priority is Cutting grass, Strimming, Hedge Cutting and general tidying of the ‘pitching’ areas. Terry and Ennyd were on ‘Cleaning’ duties in the facilities block, I loaded the tractor with the petrol mower, hedge trimmer, strimmer and leaf blower and headed out to get to vacant pitching areas whilst we had the opportunity and Shazza looked after the office. After lunch Shazza and I went out together to continue with the groundwork whilst Ennyd took care of the Office and Terry did the ‘Wardens’ admin stuff, rather him than me ! Later on though Ennyd and Shazza did the groundwork whilst I looked after the office. It was Terry that commented on the rare occurrences, it was Friday, 5:30pm, the sun was shining, all of the ‘expected’ arrivals had already booked in, now that was unusual for a Friday, but even more unique was that two men were in the office whilst our better halves were toiling in the ‘fields’ so to speak !! After returning from their toil, the equipment was cleaned and put away and then Terry appeared in the compound, to the rear of the office, with a pack of ‘cold one’s’ and we enjoyed an end of week beer together.

As we enter our sixth week it is fair to say that we really feel at home here, there are still some procedures to learn and some key checks to undertake such as checks of the ‘sewage tanks’ and conducting monthly water checks. The site is not on ‘Mains’ for sewage so we have our own discharge, filtration and holding tanks and these need to be monitored on a weekly basis and then emptied every 5-6 weeks. Public Health is of vital importance and so we need to ensure that water temperatures are maintained, to set guidelines, to prevent ‘Legionella’. We hadn’t realised just how much was involved with these jobs and it really is an eye opener. As former CC ‘guests’ ourselves, from the outside looking in it looked as though this ‘Wardens’ lark was a ‘cushy’ little number but you certainly know at the end of the day that you have put a full shift in !! Do we regret applying for these jobs ? Not at all, the work is primarily physical, not hard or stressful, apart from the initial pressure we put on ourselves to learn everything as quickly as possible and then try to run at a hundred miles an hour, we have now settled into the routines. I keep mentioning it, but Terry and Ennyd have been superb, both as our ‘Mentors’ and now what I would consider as ‘friends’. Shazza and I are both aware that we could have been assigned to work for ‘Wardens’ of a different ‘Ilk’ and life for us could have been totally different !! The site is really looking good, we will never not have to cut grass, strim or trim hedges but it is really good to see the site looking so tidy.

It isn’t all about work though, on our days off and during the evenings we have three main diversions, other than conducting the normal domestics that is. We talk about the places we want to see and things we want to do in the relatively short time we have left here, some of which will definitely be dictated by the weather. We only have twelve full days off remaining and so much we still want to see and do. We are also considering our route for this years ‘Winter’ trip, we have already pre-booked our Ferry so leave UK for Northern Spain on 19th September, however, whilst we know that we will travel through part of Northern Spain, into Portugal and down to the Algarve again before heading off to pastures new, Morocco, we want to do a different route to that which we took last year. Shazza is doing all the plotting of the ‘Aires’ and looking at potential route variations and she spends a lot of time gathering information and then plotting ‘Aires’ on to our road maps. Our third diversion is thinking about which region we would like to be in for next season. As ‘Assistant Wardens’ we can select a preferred region but not a ‘specific’ site and we need to have this ready by July, just a few short weeks away !! We have really enjoyed being in Scotland and especially here at Morvich, however, looking at the sites in Scotland many of them are just too isolated for us. There are a few sites on the South East of Scotland that we would certainly consider but as we cannot select an ‘Individual’ site then selecting ‘Scotland’ as a Region could mean us being allocated a site in an area that we wouldn’t particularly want and again Terry and Ennyd have given us some really good advice? So plenty to do and think about over the next few weeks and as a ‘small’ additional diversion there is a little matter of the ‘World Cup’……………………..

As we come to the end of another week, the site is full and will be for the majority of the coming week, we have ‘guests’ already on site who want to extend their stays but we have had to disappoint them ‘No room at the Inn‘ as they say. You know my feelings already on the BBC weather forecasts and they have proved this week to be consistently unreliable as we have now come to expect. As I look out the van window on a beautiful sunny Sunday evening, the birds are chattering away, the sun is shining on the mountains that surround us and their is a strong smell of BBQ smoke in the air and all is well in our little piece of heaven. Just ten minutes to go before we log off the systems and close down for another night before enjoying a nice ‘full’ glass of chilled ‘White Zinfandel’ and a bit of TV.

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4 Responses to A Time To Think About The Year Ahead !!

  1. Debs says:

    wow how cool was that helicopter !!!!…… I am glad that your on the mend Eric…… another good week for you too. the time seems to be going so fast……Sept will be here in no time !!!!

    • You are right Debs, Cool ? What do you expect with fan blades that big :0) lol

      The time is flying by, almost completed one third of our time here, just 3 more weeks and we will be at the half way point !!

  2. mike says:

    Hi Eric & Shazza,

    Playing catch up as usual……:P
    Good to hear you’re feeling better although by now its probably a distant memory!
    In this blog you gave a date for your departure from Blighty! This is the week before we’re off on our planned trip to Scotland…..I don’t know what your plans or route down are & if there’s any contingency for a stop-off & catch-up before you leave.
    Keep em coming……one day I’ll be able to read them as they come (sue already does but she sits in an office allday!)….probably be FTing myself by then! 🙂
    Take care

    • Hi Mike, was wondering where you had got to :0) we will be on a tight schedule when we leave here so don’t think that there will be much opportunity for any detours although it would have been good to have had a catch up. Give our regards to Sue, glad she is still keeping up with the blogs :0)

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