Thursday, 5 December 2013

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men (Robert Burns)

As Mr A Right (the planning manager) always says, once a plan is in place then it will go wrong. Now we are full-timing we can be flexible but last week our plans nearly went totally t*ts up.

When I wrote last we were having the van serviced and our hab batteries had failed the day before.  Well we needed a new set at a cost of over £350.  Wow that wasn’t planned, but at least it was before we needed to go pub-camping, before we need to watch the budget and also while we were in the country.

We had a lovely stay at Cheltenham, as usual,  and toddled off to visit Mr Right’s son  in Cheddar, then we left for Hampshire. Now there’s not much choice of a campsite near to Alton, we had settled on Woodside in East Tisted and booked in for four nights.  

When we got there, it was along a dirt track about half a mile long with a hair-pin bend half way up.  Had I mentioned before that we are over 8 metres long?  I’ll bet we had.  He went first in the car (Frodo) and I followed in Jan the Van. The hair-pin was certainly interesting, not to mention challenging.  Only a couple of shunts back and forward and yes!!! I was around without any major trauma. Following up the hill it was becoming clear that this independent campsite was going to be nothing like the luxury of Briarfields in Cheltenham (highly recommended). 

Well there was a gate which Frodo went through quite happily and as I could see a few vans parked in a field with electricity to my left I assumed that this was the field we were to park in. I decided that I’d had enough, I wasn’t going any further until I knew exactly where I was going to.

Yes I was right – that boggy sloping field was where we were to stay for the next 4 nights.  I quickly said to Mr R so say that we had booked in for only 3 nights, I didn’t want to stay any longer than necessary. They did have toilets and a shower, but I declined to make use of the facilities as they were just a portaloo (a ceramic toilet though) with absolutely no heating – hang on, I’m not that fussy but this was late November!!!!

What we have realised for a while is that you can go anywhere and stop anywhere as long as you don’t need to be somewhere specific. Once you need that then somehow there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to stay. We had spent 2 days searching on the internet and visiting CL’s and CS’s to find somewhere suitable and all were either, not suitable, not open, or too far away (33 miles) – very frustrating for me – I do like to know where I’m going. 

We were going into Alton for dinner and had considered getting a taxi, however reconsidered with that driveway.  If we asked a taxi to take us up to the site late at night I’m sure he would have thought that we were about to drive him into the woods and mug him.  No-one would have taken us and we would have had a very long and muddy walk in the pitch black.

We had  a lovely stay with Mr Right’s daughter, partner and children and left on the Monday morning to head home to the midlands for just a couple of weeks to tie up loose ends before heading south again on 21st  December.

We decided to have a luxury stay in Henley on Thames at Swiss Farm Campsite as we hadn’t got any commitments until Wednesday and turned up – on-spec in Henley.  We were greeted by a lovely lady who asked with a big smile “Are we expecting you?”, “No” I replied, “Well I’m sorry but we are closed to tourers until March.” What? I was sure they were open all year round.  Anyway the kind lady asked the owner if it would be possible for us to stay and he agreed that one night would be ok, so we were let in.  

This is a cracking site and the facilities are great, so we had showers etc and a lovely evening just the three of us (including the smelly one), cooking in our van and thoroughly enjoying it, looking forward to our months in the sun that were only a few weeks away.

On Friday we decided to return home (oh actually our motorhome is our home now), well to the midlands to just “finish off”  things and then head south. 

Heading home – or to Fillongley.  The stop over bit is always the comfortable boring bit so I don’t write much about that.  The fun always starts once you have to worry about going somewhere, where are you going to stay and wgd (not wkd as in the drink, but wgd as in Water Gas and Dump).

We had plenty of gas and water but needed to dump our waste (sorry but these are fundamental things to consider when you are living in your van). So we decided to stop at Warwick Services to refuel – yes I know the services are expensive, but sometimes you have to work out how far out of your way a cheaper station is and that can often cost you more money when you only do 9 mpg.

As we were approaching Warwick Services it was pouring with rain and as it was nearing lunchtime I took pity on Mr Right who would be standing out in the rain filling the LPG tanks.  If you have ever used these pumps you will know that it can take over 20 minutes to fill the tanks and you have to lean on the button all that time.  So to be kind, I pulled over into the HGV area to have lunch and to wait for the rain to abate.  After about 20 minutes we decided to push on.  We still didn’t have anywhere planned to stay for the night and were thinking of going to Somers Wood in Meriden.  We knew that they didn’t have anywhere to dump our waste – yes I know that gets boring. So we rang our mate Glynn at the Weavers Arms in Fillongley ( to ask if we could dump there.  Yes, I’m sure I’ve got a drain that you can use.  Thanks Glynn.

We pulled away from our parking space on the services to find the lpg filling tank.  Oh no – there was no way that we could get to the filling station from the HGV parking. The only thing to do was to reverse back into the filling station or give up and go somewhere else.  We knew there was a Shell garage in Balsall Common but as we were going to Fillongley it was out of our way.  I sort of had this problem that if we went through Balsall Common to get to Fillongley then we would have to go past Somers Wood campsite then go 6 miles to Fillongley which seemed a waste if we were going to stay at Somers Wood.  My sub-conscious just had to find an alternative, the stress levels were rising.  I had heard of a cheap lpg station in Coventry but couldn’t remember quite where and it wasn’t showing up on the sat nag.  We agreed that we would go to Balsall Common and pulled out of the filling station.

Then out of the blue I remembered the name of the road where the cheap gas could be found.
We pulled off the M40 onto the A46 and I signalled to Mr Right (now remember that name it comes in useful in a bit) that we weren’t going to pull off but to go straight on towards Coventry. The sat nag took us directly to the filling station that I wanted – Mr Right hadn’t got a clue where we were going so had to stay close.

Horror upon horrors – the lpg tank was around the back of a unit on an industrial estate.  There was no drive in and drive out.  I would have to reverse all the way in, or reverse all the way out.  Now having changed the plan at Warwick (by going to the hgv parking) and now going to Cov instead of Balsall Common to get the LPG I had changed the plan twice without consultation.  I was treading on very marshy ground here.

Mr Right, whilst not actually saying it gave me the "Shouldn't have changed the plan, I'm always right" look.

I reversed the van out of the drive of the filling station and had a hissy fit in the middle of the road. I was seriously fed up now – I’d driven for 140 miles, made two wrong decisions and we still didn’t have anywhere to stay tonight and time was getting on, only a couple of hours until dark – except in reality we did have 4 choices of where to stay – but then that’s too many choices that I couldn’t decide where I wanted to be.

So another decision was made, go to Balsall Common to get gas then to Fillongley to dump our waste at the pub, then we’d make another decision of where we’d go.

Now from the filling station in Coventry to Balsall Common wasn’t that far, but it was across the back lanes.  I followed the sat nag.  All the time I was aware that I didn’t want to go anywhere near Berkswell station as I knew there was a low bridge – only 7ft and we were almost double that.  Well I missed the first turning as I thought that went to the bridge, then I refused to take the next turning, which did go to the bridge and I ended going “all round the Wrekin” (a great Brummie expression) to get to the Shell Garage. So having tried to save a bit of money going to a cheap station, we ended up paying Shell prices and used up about 1.5 gallons doing so.

Having re-fuelled (both vehicle and habitation tanks), we departed the Shell garage and moved onto Fillongley. My stress levels had started to subside - thank got for HRT. At least we were going to get to wherever we were going and we would be warm tonight.

As we got to the pub all the lights went out as it closed for the afternoon.  The car park was empty so we looked around for hopeful drains. Iain got out a screw driver and the drain lifters and as much as we cleared the lifting holes and the edges of the drain and then pulled and pulled, we couldn’t get the drain cover off.  We tried a couple of options.  Oh no, we were tired and fed-up and now we still couldn’t sort out the essentials.  Finally he noticed that (not for the first time) I had parked over the top of a potential source of relief, a drain cover.  I moved the van and this time the cover lifted.

By then Deb (the landlady) had come out to her car to go off home for the afternoon.  I was desperate and asked Deb it if would be ok for us to park overnight as I was knackered and had had enough for the day.  No probs said Deb – so here we were again, in pub car park.

This is a really salubrious life!!!! At least we don’t have to worry about drinking and driving we can simply fall into our van.

And if you are wondering about the title of this post  - catch it here

1 comment:

  1. This is a really useful site for tracking down LPG in Europe: