Monday 25th August – Sunday 31st August
Have I mentioned how sunny and hot in can be in this place when it’s not raining, but it still just adds to our desire to get back ‘on the road’, and the ferry, to some more consistently sunnier climes at the earliest opportunity !! (Now where have I heard something similar to those words before…………?)
The weather here is such that it now reminds us a little of our first winter in Portugal. Very warm and sunny during the day but as soon as the sun dropped, and I mean that quite literally, it got rather chilly and now it is very much like that here. When we first arrived here on this Western Coast of Scotland it was still light at 11:30pm but now it is dark by 9:00pm and a there is a definite bite in the night air. The mornings too are starting chilly, we notice it in ‘Big Momma’ and the internal temperature is down to 9-10 degrees(c). However, as soon as the sun peeps over the mountain its rays are warming. The start of the week brought us more warm and sunny weather and the headboard behind the bed felt dry at last. I am not convinced that it will be completely dry behind the laminated panelling but a few more days of this weather with the ‘Heki’s’ wide open and the van getting a good airing should at least dry it out naturally.
The campsite is getting much quieter now, most of our European visitors have slowed down to just the odd one or two but that is normal. Some European countries have Industries that completely close down for several weeks during the summer but they are due to re-open so our continental campers are rapidly making their way South of the Scottish border. The Scottish schools are now back and the English ones start again within the next week so our group of family ‘guests’ have declined. The bulk of our ‘guests’ are now of the more mature ‘retirees‘ and I have now started to see some familiar faces from earlier in the season now returning. With all the rain the grass has now grown again so our next few days will be filled giving the ‘pitches‘ a bit of a ‘cut and trim‘, so we are all hoping this spell of good weather holds for just a bit longer, although the advance BBC ‘work of fiction‘ does not look favourable.
On Monday I had just come back in with ‘Freddie’ and the trailer when I saw a car pull up near reception, the driver got out and walked towards me, “I’m looking for Eric” he said. He was dressed far too casual to be a ‘tax inspector’ but I could already feel my former Police skills kicking into action, making that quick analysis. I noticed that although he spoke English it was with a foreign twang. Perhaps the ‘Crocodile Dundee’ hat and Crocodile skin boots and swag bag were a clue, “Hi, you must be Terry” I replied. Well actually, he wasn’t really dressed like how I have described and it was really his Australian accent that gave it away. You may recall, in one of my earlier posts that I mentioned that my daughter’s boyfriend, an Australian, had his parents coming to England as part of their European tour and had made arrangements to come up to Scotland to meet us. Well here they were, except that they were not supposed to be arriving until Tuesday !! They were only booked in to a local B&B for two nights meaning that they would be leaving now on Wednesday and not Thursday. This presented us with a problem, first, we were working and didn’t finish until 8:00pm that night. We were also the ‘Duty Wardens’ so couldn’t leave the site and then we were again on Duty all day the following day and again the ‘Duty Wardens’. The plan had been, had they arrived on schedule, that we would be on a half day off on the Wednesday afternoon and we would take them out to do some sightseeing then enjoy a meal out in the evening. However, as we soon discovered, ‘Terry and Jo’ are such laid back people they just took it all in their stride. We chatted over a cup of coffee and although having just met them it felt as if we had known them for ages. They were more than happy to sort themselves out for the rest of the afternoon and evening so we gave them directions to two local eateries where they could get a decent evening meal, then I gave them the route for the trip that we were going to take them on which they would now have to do alone, then we arranged for them to come to us in the evening to eat.
On Tuesday morning, before setting off on their sightseeing trip they called in to the site just to say ‘good morning’, how nice was that. Later that evening, as previously arranged, Terry and Jo arrived and we shared a few beers, ate our ‘take-away’ meal and chatted, and chatted, and chatted some more. We got on really well and would have loved to have been able to have spent much more time with them, but for now at least that was not to be, so we exchanged ‘Skype’ details and promised to keep in touch. They gave us their home address but we could not reciprocate other than saying they could mail their Christmas Card to ‘Big Momma’, care of somewhere in Morocco, we felt sure it would find us, eventually !! All too soon our night came to an end.
On Wednesday morning, before they headed South to Edinburgh, they once again called in to see us to say goodbye before we started our duties for the day. These are two really nice, down to earth people, who I have to say with genuine sincerity, it has been a real pleasure to meet and who knows, in the future we could possibly be ‘family’ !! Sorry Stacey and Dean, no pressure you understand, but just in case their were to be any plans of the matrimonial kind in the ‘distant‘ future, can you ensure that if they were to be that far South could you make it during the Ossie Summer please !!
Our half day off arrived and it was very sunny and actually very hot, so instead of wasting the time, lounging in ‘Big Momma’, we decided to take a drive into ‘Kyle’, first for lunch and then to do the weekly shopping. Now I have to confess to being previously reprimanded by ‘some’ of my readers for occasionally, in past blog posts, including photographs of the cakes or bread that Shazza has baked or meals out that we have eaten, the photographs of said gastronomic delights being taken before they were consumed I hasten to add !! It seems that ‘some‘ of my readers are currently partaking in a disciplined ‘weight loss’ regime, many who have been on such for many months now, and I am led to believe, having had some success, however, it appears that I have been ‘almost‘ guilty of making them ‘crumble‘ with my photographs of such delicacies (No, not ‘crumble‘ as in one of those very tasty fruit filled dessert puddings with a beautiful topping of hot custard or runny single cream !). So in order to maintain harmony amongst my readership I will not include a photograph of the very nice, fat and chunky, hot, freshly cooked golden chipped potatoes that were smothered with lashings of Salt ‘n’ Vinegar and tasted mouth-wateringly delicious, no, I would not be so cruel as to do that to you !! So, with lunch devoured and being unable to lick the excess salt ‘n’ vinegar off any more fingers and thumbs, although I continued to try, it was time for dessert so a hasty shuffle across to the ice cream parlour and we sat and licked our way through our chocolate and mint choc chip cornets !! Then onwards to the not so exciting task of the weekly shopping before making our way back to the campsite. The sky was still blue and cloudless and the sun was hot, very hot so their was nothing for it, out came the sun chairs, a rare outing these days, and then we relaxed with a nice ‘cold one’ from the fridge before settling back into full recline mode and conducted a spot of individual contemplation, which, as you all know by now, is best done with one’s eyes closed !!
It felt good not to have to be woken up by the Alarm clock but just wait until one’s eyes were ready for the day to start, which, on this particular morning just happened to be around 10:00am. Shazza said that she had awoken in the night to the sound of rain !! I had a quick feel………………………………………..of the laminate backboard behind the mattress !! It was still dry. We sat enjoying our morning cuppa under the duvet staring up and out of the ‘Heki’ window, it wasn’t raining but there were thick grey clouds overhead with only the briefest glance of a blue bit every so often. We hadn’t made any ‘excursion’ plans for today but we had mused over the fact that we only had two days off left, however, the BBC ‘work of fiction‘ was forecasting Thundery showers for the Sunday and Heavy Rain for the Monday !! If we were going to get a last trip out it would probably have to be today. We had already come to terms with the fact that we would not get to do the ‘Hogwarts Express‘ train ride or the ‘Kayaking‘ trip this time around and we had done most of everything else so decided that whilst we had a think about what to do and where to go, Shazza would relax over a basket full of ironing !! I commenced starting to box up bits of my ‘Elf Outfit & Equipment’ that I would no longer be requiring for this last week of our duties, Shazza had already done hers a few days ago, keen or what !!
Ironing completed, Elf Outfit & Equipment packing completed and coffee’s drunk we had decided to go back to visit the small harbour side village of ‘Plockton‘, we had been there for a very brief visit at the beginning of our season (See the post ‘A Bird Ate My Chips‘) but we had not really walked around on that occasion. At this point I guess I should issue a warning, any readers of this blog post who are currently having tremendous success on a ‘weight loss’ regime, please stop reading this NOW !!. Apart from our tray of chips on our last visit we had not entered any other eateries whilst there, but apparently we had been told, by our Wardens and many of our ‘guests’, that we had missed out on a fantastic little restaurant called ‘The Shores‘ that was renowned for its ‘Shellfish Platter’. Unfortunately, Shazza would need to look at an alternative as although, like myself, she once adored seafood of all types, after a ‘Bad Scallop’ in Paris (Good title for a Book or Film !) she now has a very bad reaction, of the severe vomiting kind, when she eats any kind of ‘shellfish’.
As if to give us some sort of decent, potentially last, day out, as we pulled away from the site in ‘Wuxly’, the grey clouds turned to white one’s and the sky turned blue and the sun came out.
As soon as we got out of the car Shazza declared that she was hungry ! Now why didn’t that surprise me, it was after all lunchtime, either that or it was thunder I could hear rumbling !! We went in search of the restaurant, not a difficult search with it being just two-hundred metres walk from where we had parked ‘Wuxly’ along the harbour front.
We entered and found ourselves a table, there were only a handful of other diners so it didn’t take long for our very friendly waitress to arrive with some menu’s for us to peruse. There was a nice variety of choices, including a separate sheet of ‘Daily Specials’, this was going to take some time to ‘digest’, so we ordered a couple of drinks. I had already made my mind up about the ‘Main Course’, it had to be the ‘Shellfish Platter’ but I had a little more difficulty deciding on which ‘Starter’ as there were several that tantalised the taste buds !! Shazza went for the ‘Haddock, Leek & Parmesan Tarte‘ as her starter and ‘Venison Medallion, Black Pudding, Blue Cheese with Rhubarb Chutney‘ for her main course whilst I finally decided on ‘Scottish Black Pudding, Blue Cheese and Apple on a bed of Chutney‘ as my starter.
I had never eaten an Oyster before, having been put off by varying accounts from ‘others’ who had tried them. However, another lesson learnt, try things for yourself, for as that saying goes ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison !’ Or in this case ‘Shellfish’. It had already been prepared so I didn’t have to fight to release it from the shell, it was served in half a shell in sea water and I added a small amount of fresh lemon juice and a few ‘specks’ of black pepper and……………..it was lovely. A similar texture to a correctly cooked scallop and instead of just swallowing it down whole, which seems to me to be such a waste, I chewed on it first, verdict ? I will be having them again and perhaps when we do a tour of the French Coast will collect a few of my own, although having read other blogs from people who have done this I know that I will need to go armed with some proper ‘Oyster’ collecting and opening tools, but this sounds as if it may be one of those DIY jobs that I think I would really like doing !! Back in the restaurant and both of us agreed that there was no room for a ‘dessert’ so after paying the bill it was time to explore this very picturesque coastal village.
Afternoon was rapidly turning to early evening, but the sun was still shining, we headed back to the campsite and spent the rest of the evening and night just relaxing before we returned to work in the morning. Normally we would not be rostered to start duty until 10:45am, but on this particular Friday we were to be assessed on our handling of the Ground Equipment by Tony, one of the Club’s LANTRA trainers so it would be an earlier start.
Friday morning arrived and although Shazza informed me that we had had a heavy downpour in the early hours, I hadn’t heard a thing. The BBC ‘work of fiction‘ had forecast another 4-5 day spell of the wet stuff but when I was woken up by the alarm at 07:20am it was dry. I checked out the back panelling, I was now getting paranoid about it, but was pleased to find that it still felt dry. However, we were hoping that today of all days that the forecast would be accurate, for a change, as rain may have kept our LANTRA Assessment brief, but the BBC ‘work of fiction‘ proved to be as reliable as ever and got it wrong !! Tony arrived at 08:20am, a little earlier than we had anticipated, knowing that he had driven for two hours to get up here we invited him in to ‘Big Momma’ for a cup of tea. We had first met Tony on our ‘Induction Training Course‘ at Lingfield, back in March, albeit his ‘Introduction to the Ground Equipment‘ had been only for one day of the five-day course. However, we met him again in April on our journey up to Scotland for as well as being a LANTRA Trainer he is also the ‘Warden’ at the ‘Strathclyde Country Park’ Club Site where we stayed for a few nights.
The aim of the Assessment was to test our knowledge about each piece of ground equipment that we used on the site, ‘Freddie’ the tractor, the Trailer, The Ride-On Mower, Hedge Trimmer, Strimmer, Hand Mowers and the Leaf Blower and, by practical demonstration out on site, we both, in turn, had to show him that we could operate the equipment in a safe and confident manner. Tony had a big checklist and was ‘ticking’ off the various requirements as we progressed through each piece of equipment. Upon finishing the practical elements we then had to complete a short ‘multiple choice’ questionnaire and then our perceived ‘brief’ Assessment finally concluded after six hours !! Tony was great and in addition to talking us through the requirements at each stage of the ‘Assessment’ he also imparted additional useful information on the differences that we may encounter on equipment at ‘other’ sites. It came as a bit of a relief when he announced that we had both ‘passed‘ as although we had not anticipated failing, you can never be too sure as there is always a sense of trepidation when you know you are being ‘scrutinised’. Apparently, we will now both get a Certificate, another to add to our list of achievements in our first few short months of being a ‘Elf & Elfette’. We would be seeing Tony again next week when we travel to Inverness to receive our training on the ‘Power Take-Off’ equipment. We were both ‘mentally’ exhausted by the end of the working day but consoled in the knowledge that we now had only seven days left of which two would be days off, a training day away from site leaving us with just four working days ‘on site’ to do and I was now almost smelling those Spanish Tapas getting ever closer…………………..
We were now at the stage where our ‘weather checks’ were focused on the Spanish and Portuguese temperatures and whilst here in Scotland we were experiencing 15-17 degrees(c) across the water they were enjoying a ‘slightly’ warmer climate of 28-33 degrees(c) we could only hope that those sort of temperatures would continue for several more weeks, and hopefully, months.
We had just enjoyed four and a half days of glorious weather, our laminated backboard was nice and dry, aided by the fresh circulation of air we were able to achieve by keeping the large Heki’s open during the days we had been at work and by keeping the habitation door open for as long possible during the evenings. However, on Friday it had rained heavily throughout the night and it was still beating its tune on ‘Big Mommas’ roof on Saturday morning, it was certainly not going to be a pleasant ‘Bin Run’. My initial focus though was not on work, with the constant rain my concern was with the laminated backboard but I needn’t have worried, it was still completely dry. It appears that I have managed to stop the water ingress, ‘temporarily’ at least, although I still do not know which of the ‘potential’ areas that I originally identified is actually responsible for the ingress, but hey, I’ve sort of fixed it, that’s got to be a positive hasn’t it ? It really doesn’t matter anyway as I will just re-seal all of them when I get the opportunity !!
The weather improved slightly for the daily bin run, if you consider ‘drizzle’ better than ‘raindrops’, but I was grateful for this brief respite as I don’t mind wearing the bright orange waterproof coat but no way am I wearing those oversized bright orange trousers. Dressed in the complete outfit I feel as if I should be walking around a shopping centre advertising ‘Jaffa Cakes’ !! For my ‘International’ readers of the blog, ‘Jaffa Cakes’ are circular chocolate covered sponge cakes with an Orange flavoured jelly filling. However, the weather didn’t improve throughout the remainder of the day and night but at least I had another dry night inside the van.
When we woke up on Sunday morning it was one of those ‘Dinah Washington‘ moments, you know the ones where you wake up and find that the things have changed again and you start singing “What a Difference a day makes………“. It was our day off, no time to be couch potatoes though, we only have two days to get ‘Big Momma’ cleaned, inside and out, as well as going back up on the roof to give all the ‘skylights’ a thorough clean. We also need to clean our ‘compound’ before we leave so no sightseeing just cleaning. We spent six hours and Shazza achieved so much inside the van, not only did she clean and sort out all the internal storage lockers but she cleaned all the leather upholstery and even did the washing and ironing, but then made me my most favourite meal, Pork Schnitzels, which she breadcrumbed herself, and topped with her own home-made mushroom sauce, absolutely delicious, she really does takes good care of me and that is why she will always be not just my wife but also my best friend and most trusted ‘confidante’.
So, that is almost the end of yet another mini-adventure within ‘Big Mommas Great Adventure’, it is quite amazing how much we have done already and when I look back over the blog and our travels it’s hard to believe that we haven’t yet completed our first full year of ‘Fulltiming’ !! However, before we do finally depart there are still four days duties to complete, one of which is an ‘off-site’ Training Day and with time rapidly ticking away, I just need to finalise some ‘personal’ documentation. However, with just over seventeen weeks completed the finish post is in sight as we now finally enter our last five days here on the West Coast of Scotland before commencing our ‘second’ foreign winter adventure’……………………………………….