Friday, December 21, 2012

Where Have all the Chillies Gone......

We love Spice - the hotter the better. If Mrs SA had her way Chilli would be in the cornflakes, it tends to find its way into everything else. And yet here we are in Midi-Pyenee and their is a distinct lack of any spice whatsoever.

Having holidayed in Brittany earlier in the year, we had noticed then that there was a lack of spiced foods in the "Supermarché" - fair enough that they don't have a stock of "Patak's" Tikka Masala Sauce, but come on, we couldn't even buy Curry Powder.

When we planned this current outing we thought ahead, and stocked the car up with sauces and condiments etc, but we neglected the humble chilli. I'm sure we talked about it, but this is the South of France and we thought the influence of North Africa etc would be more prevalent here than in say, Berwick-Upon-Tweed. The local store in the village, "Super U", (size of a largish Spar), is well stocked with seasonal vegetables, most clearly local, but some from Spain, which isn't that far away, but devoid of anything resembling a chilli in either fresh, dried or powder form!

I think a phone call to the Avatar may be on the cards and an urgent Mail Order parcel despatched - assuming such a pungent order will make it through Customs, mind you the dog, did, so there's hope.

Another thing, much is made about the strength of the Euro against the Pound, Which at the moment works in our favour, roughly 1.22 euros to the pound. But we have been shocked by how expensive things are. Mrs SA didn't bring a set of scales, having been told that everything was in the house and apparently the lack of one has been something of a disaster, so off to the Supermarché we go. Suffice to say we haven't bought one - even the basic one that would be about £4 in Tesco retails here for about 22 euro! You can't walk into a store here and browse rows of electrical products at your leisure, they're just not available.

I've had a business idea as well - take a van back to the UK, fill it with tins of Quality Street that we last saw retailing in Asda at £4.99 and sell them here in France for twice that, call it 10 euros for cash - we've seen the self same tins on the market shelves here for 22 euros!


à bientôt






Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bridie the Superdog!

Our constant companion, well mine really, is Bridie, our four and a half year old Black Labrador, which Mrs SA got me for my 50th Birthday. In the last few months she has taken to living in a Caravan, travelled the length and breadth of the UK. Been assaulted by a vet with the largest needle I've ever seen. Been subjected to the noise and stress of a four hour ferry crossing, followed by a two day drive through France to reach our current destination.

All of this achieved with barely a murmur, just the odd raised eyebrow and occasional big yawn and stretch. her only comment being, "wake me when we get there, wherever that may be, and if you could remember to let me out now and again, to do what a lady needs to do, that would be good".

Now that we are safely lodged in the cottage, both she and I have taken to walking the local tracks and paths, something we have both enjoyed, particularly as the rain is holding off and the sun is shining, (although it is a bit brass monkeys at the moment).


Bridie is good at scaring up animal life when we're out walking, Badgers, Deer, Pheasants, Squirrels etc, all of whom she has given a damn good talking too, but never actually managed to catch. However out here in France - nothing, not even a squirrel. I'm assuming that if all the "Caution Hunting" signs that are around, the locals have killed everything.

So plenty of adventures to come, at least we both hope so - we'll report back later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time moves On....

It's been well over two months since our last blog, and a lot has happened in the intervening period. To start with the middle of October saw us acting as temporary wardens, (again),  for Greendales Caravan Park. We were well on the way to getting rid of the house, having spent some weeks either selling stuff on eBay or driving endlessly backwards and forwards to the tip. Where does it all come from! Once the Avatar look alike was ensconced in his house, that was also our opportunity to pile a whole host of precious artefacts that Mrs SA can't bear to be parted from in after him, much to his annoyance. I've also relished the opportunity to go around his house turning the lights on, and leaving them on - see how he likes it! By the time we arrived at Greendales we were looking forward to the rest!

The two weeks on the site went by in a flash, albeit in a very quiet way. Most of the seasonal owners were starting to pack up, and apart from a few passing Motor-homes no real touring traffic to speak of.

In the meantime Mrs SA had been plotting! I don't know whether the thought of a whole winter in the van was putting her off, but clearly she had been trawling the internet for alternatives. And as if by magic, how did we fancy three months in the South of France! Well Midi-Pyrenees, an area I've been to before when I was in the Army - the thing is, my memory of the area is that it rains - all the time!

Lots of discussion then ensued. Between me and Mrs SA, and the owners of the property she was interested in - and perhaps it won't be as bad as that. Certainly the temperatures on average seem warmer than the UK. They do get snow, but the Landrover will cope with that, so in the end, it seemed like an adventure too good to pass up. So December to the end of February will see us living the french life in "The Old School" Banroques, Entraygues-sur-Truyère, slightly North of Toulouse. Then the other shoe drops - on the way through France, we're going to look at another Cottage that just happens to be available for a long-term let. On top of this, close to where we are going, a couple are looking for seasonal wardens for next year, our cup runneth over!

Before all that though, it was time to move the van around the country, in order to visit family and friends.  The only downside was having to drive in some of the worst rain I've ever seen. Family in Wiltshire meant we were staying at Brokerswood, near Trowbridge and at one point we very nearly didn't make it off as rising water levels on the surrounding roads were about to make things impassable. We then moved to Northampton to stay with friends, at the same time as the nearby Billings Aquadrome Caravan Park was being evacuated after it was inundated with rising water.

At the end of this period, our drive back to the Borders became emotional - the final two hour drive from Ripon to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, took almost 4 and a half hours, as rising water levels caused the A1 to close at Catterick.

The strange things is that interspersed between this has been some lovely Autumn sunshine. The photo below was taken at Chain Bridge Caravan Park earlier in the month, and I challenge anyone to find a better view.


So, as the end of the week approaches, we need to get organised for another stage in our life we weren't expecting. Deciding what stays in the van whilst it is stored and what comes with us in the car, as always it's going to be tight. Passport for Big Black Dog, ferry bookings, overnight accommodation bookings etc. On top of this we have sworn to learn French and I have downloaded umpteen, (well 156), learn French by Podcast lessons onto my iPod, which are already the source of endless arguments in the car, but it passes the time.

Vive La France!

PS, now where are the heating controls in this house - I'm feeling slightly chilly whilst I write!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All Good Things Come to an End

So, our two weeks or have flown by and as they say, "all good things come to an end". I wasn't expecting the site owner home until Monday night, and I must admit to feeling a little disappointed when he made an appearance around lunchtime on the Sunday. It didn't feel the same then, remaining on the site which was ours, so to speak, when it had become his, again. I still went down and cleaned the toilets on Monday morning, only to find that the owner went and cleaned them as well about an hour later.

We've made an impression I think. When we were packing the awning away on Tuesday morning, one of the  Seasonal Tourers, of which there are a few, came up to say goodbye and told us that it had been a real pleasure to have us around, which was nice.

It was also a pleasure to meet and help a former National Serviceman, Arthur. Who in passing conversation mentioned that he had not received his veterans badge. I told him that because he did not receive a pension, the Veterans Agency would not know where he lived, so would not send one out. However this was easily fixed with a form downloaded from the SPVA website, which I completed for him and emailed. Hopefully he will receive his badge in about 6 weeks.

The owner was keen for us to stay full-time, but all he can offer is a pitch, rather than a wage, but for this the commitment he is asking for, seven days a week, is a little too much, so we have declined. We have agreed to go back in October to cover for him whilst he and his good lady go away again, which I think is a fair compromise.

Reflecting on the role overall, we've quite enjoyed ourselves, apart from the weather.  A number of people arriving on site, were those who had never had a caravan before, and it was rewarding helping them to pitch.

It has caused me to reflect on a few things though. Why do people;

  • Allow their dog to pooh and not pick it up?
  • Throw cigarette butts on the floor instead of in the bin?
  • Put dirty nappies down the toilet?
  • Use the caravan site toilets when they are clearly from the site next door?
  • Pull onto this site at 0730am and then make as much noise as possible reversing their van?
  • Leave the static site at 0530am, stop by the bin area and slam their car door?
  • Invite two of their mates to stay overnight in their van and not expect to pay for it?
  • Linger on site, well past the due time to leave, without asking first?
  • When out for a Sunday drive, come onto the site, and feel it is their right to cruise around the touring pitches, without stopping and asking if it is ok to do so?
All these things were meant to try us, but we found it helped to just smile, even if sometimes it felt a bit forced and through gritted teeth.

So, we now have a house to pack up, work out what will come with us in the caravan, what goes to the tip, and what we can store, and a teenage son to move to his new abode, can't wait!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Things That Go Bump in The Night

The early hours of Thursday morning brought disaster. I didn't even hear the rain start, but apparently it was bad. what woke me was a loud bang, which I thought for a minute was Mrs SA falling out of bed, but she had awoke at the same time and thought a similar fate had befallen me. A quick inspection of the van revealed nothing out of the ordinary, even the dog seemed unperturbed. I then stuck my head out of the doors to reveal an awning collapsed on one side and some very bent poles. The rain was the culprit and it had gathered in one spot on the awning roof causing the collapse. So 0400hrs saw myself and Mrs SA rescuing odds and ends from the awning and making sure that at least things weren't going to get worse.

As it turned out the morning revealed things were salvageable. The bent poles were straightened in a vice belonging to the site owner, however one of the corner joints had sheared and would have to be replaced. I managed to put the awning back up using a mixture of cable-ties and bungees and a phone call to Reads Leisure in Blackburn has sourced the part I need, which should be delivered sometime today.

All in all I think we got off lightly, but I'm not sure that Mrs SA will sleep next time it rains.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Survived!

Well we survived our first weekend as Wardens, and a Bank Holiday one as well.

Mr O had conducted a handover to me on the Friday, and Saturday saw us fully up and running, almost literally.  We never seemed to stop, from greeting new arrivals to answering simple questions and ensuring that the toilets were clean and tidy.

All the people on the touring site seemed friendly enough, as did some of the occupants of the statics.  You do get a sense though, that some of the old hands on the site have formed their own clique, and we are very much the outsiders - no matter, I can talk to anyone!

The weather forecast for this area, Lancashire, was pretty poor, strong winds and torrential rain, and this provided plenty of comments with passing dog walkers, Tourers and Statics alike, and as it turned out the forecast was spot on.

Mrs SA divided our fellow caravanners by type; Mr and Mrs Divorce, (on the horizon at least), the One-Uppers and the two ladies sharing a common bed if you get my drift, (not judging, just saying).

The One-Uppers had nearly the same caravan as ourselves only a newer model, but were self-confessed new to Caravanning, I nodded sagely at this statement, and didn't let on that we had only had ours since February.

It was Mrs SA's theory about the shortly to be divorced couple - he was always slipping away to use his phone, (I know this because Mrs SA has taken on the appearance of a Meerkat, occupying a strategic seat in the van which gives her the best view of the park and giving me regular SITREPS of all the coming and goings), with a wife who looks less than happy.  Sadly they have two lovely little girls, so I hope her theory is wrong.

Sunday started off not too bad, at least it didn't rain, but it was clear that most people were keen to stay indoors with a cup of tea, as did we.  However towards early afternoon things deteriorated with strong gale force winds and heavy rain.  It was with some surprise then, that I noticed Mr Divorce starting to put up an awning in the lashing rain and gales, aided by one of his little girls.  Too much for me I'm afraid and I had to go across and lend a hand, to find that he was putting up a brand new light-weight awning and had failed to read the instructions, or indeed bring them with him.  I then showed him where all the shock-corded poles went and how to tie down etc.  The only thing that irritated me was the fact that he had spent the morning drinking tea in his van and waited until the weather worsened before trying to put the thing up.

The rest of Sunday was spent trekking backwards and forwards to the distribution box to reset a trip that supplied the four vans on our side of the park, that is until one of the two ladies came to our van to inform us that the toilets in the ladies loo were well and truly blocked.  This brought about a complete change in Mrs SA - with a worrying gleam in her eye, she stated, with some enthusiasm, that she knew exactly what to do and headed off to the toilet block.  "Pass me a mop", and in short order she had cleared the  toilet.  It's something to do with her past life as a Care Home Manager, let's leave it at that.

Bank Holiday Monday didn't really see any improvement in the weather and by mid-morning most of the tourers had gone, leaving us, seemingly, with time on our hands.  Part of my responsibilities will include cutting the grass, but the ground is far too wet for that, so feet up and kettle on - I could get use to this!

It's A Start

We're slowly working towards the reality of living full time in the Van, and have just begun another part of the "trial" runs.  From my point of view these are essential to make sure we can operate out of a "micro" home.

But to explain further we need to take you back slightly.

We took the Van to France in July and early August for a holiday, and despite the wet weather, enjoyed ourselves.  We allowed ourselves a few days to work our way back to the Channel Ports and picked out from the internet a caravan site called "Fred's Place" in Normandy. The write up in UK Campsite was fine, as was the owners website.

We arrived on the site at roughly the agreed hour, 5pm to be met by nobody, not a soul. Unless you count a rather friendly dog, a Cockerel with a limp and two goats.  The site was grassed, with continental hook-ups, but very overgrown. Dotted about here and there were various older caravans in different states of dilapidation. The shower block seemed to have been badly effected by the recent storms judging by the amount of standing water on the floors, together with a large pile of pigeon poo in one corner. No amount of hammering on doors could raise the owner, who's car was in the drive, and in the end we made a slightly relieved exit and found a site elsewhere. We later sent an email to the Dutch chap who administered Fred's website, saying we were a little concerned, (Mrs SA was worried that Fred might have taken ill), but he assured us all was well and Fred was fine.

However the long drive back set us to thinking; it started with a "let's go back and offer to look after Freds place, in return for free pitch and electric", this stems from Mrs SA coming out in a rash when she sights a business opportunity going begging. The conversation then turned to the fact that there must be lots of places in the UK looking for Wardens, which, as it turns out, there are!

We started with an obvious place, the Caravan Club, who advertise for seasonal wardens, with a selection process that begins in September. However the whole thing seemed a little overdone for my taste, and a bit too Regimental. I then looked on the UK Campsite page, which advertises seasonal warden opportunities in abundance.

The deal seems to run along the lines of, retired or reasonably self sufficient couples, with there own Caravan, who would be willing to work a couple of hours a week, or cover for two days a week, in return for a free pitch, electric etc. Locations are as varied as there are Caravan Sites. Variations then include more hours but with some sort of pay.

I then produced a short list of sites that were looking for temporary wardens during the 2013 and sent enquiry emails to them all, about 6 in total. Those we excluded included those where they wanted 40 hour plus a week commitments, were too far South, not dog friendly or Adult only sites.

On a positive note, everyone replied and we were encouraged to submit CV's, which were long on experience of life and a little short of experience as Wardens. No matter, we settled on a site not too far from Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, which is mainly Statics, with pitches for 10 Tourers. The owner, it turns out, wanted someone as soon as possible, which may not suit us currently. We then travelled down on a Thursday to spend a weekend on the site.

Much discussion then ensued; understanding what the owner was looking for is key, and on balance this site probably needs more than we are prepared to give, in return for little reward, we are also determined not to rush into anything. Mr O, let's say, wants effectively a full-time warden, in return for a free pitch and electric. As we're to discover later, being a warden is time consuming. We were up front and honest about what we were expecting and Mr O asked whether we would be willing to cover for him whilst he and his wife went on holiday at the end of August, which seemed like a good idea, and we agreed.

So the next couple of weeks will see us acting as temporary wardens for a site which hold 15 tourers and 24 statics, bring it on!

Friday, May 25, 2012

AT LAST, THE SUNSHINE


BUDLE FARM, BUDLE BAY, nr BAMBURGH

Depart Home for:

Budle Farm, Budle Bay, nr Bamburgh, Northumberland, NE69 7AJ, United Kingdom,
telephone 01668 214357.

27.3 miles from home.

Well, we didn't think we would get away this weekend, but at the last minute we managed to create the opportunity, and after a quick phone-call we found a spot on another site we have never been too before.  This one we have spied a couple of times when we have been on the road from Seahouses back home and managed to find it on

http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk



We set off in glorious sunshine, with more promised throughout the weekend.  The site is located just outside the small village of Waren Mill, down a narrow track.  Waren Mill has two other large Caravan Parks, but we always avoid sites such as these.  There are only 5 pitches and they do seem to be Camper Van friendly rather than van, but we got on without a problem, although levelling port to starboard proved difficult and we weren't quite true.

The site has no frills, but there is a hook-up, water and waste disposal, what more do you really need, however its piece-de-resistance is the location; a two minute walk takes you to the shore of Budle Bay with its Bird Sanctuary and beach.  We were hugely impressed and would definitely be coming back.

The weather stayed fine all weekend and the most taxing activity we took part in was sun-bathing, trying to outdo each other with the better sun-tan.

The orientation of the shoreline in the bay meant that late on Saturday evening we moved to a small vantage point and watched the sun go down against the water, not something you would expect to do in Northumberland.



Friday, May 18, 2012

A DECISION MADE


So, we're starting to come around to the idea of living in the van full-time.  It seems that the 1st of October 2012 will be the target date, althougth there is a lot of planning and water under the bridge to go before then.

Some of the stumbling blocks include;


  • What do you do for a postal address? lots of places require an address, although I think I have a solution to that one. 
  • We'll need to heat the awning, how to do that safely.
  • Store or sell the things we don't need.

Let's face it, these are hardly earth-shattering problems are they!

Advantages include;

  • Low-cost of living.
  • Less 'bumfff' around.
  • Freedom.

Can't wait to break it to the Avatar look alike that masquerades as Tricia's son that he'll have to find somewhere else to live.

Between now and 'C' day, as I've decided to name it, we've got a business to get going, a caravan holiday in Europe to get to grips with and an exercise in downsizing that'll prove interesting - time to order a skip...!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

WEEKEND AWAY

Thorntonloch Caravan Park, Dunbar, EH42 1QS, United Kingdom,
telephone 01368 840236.

31.5 miles from home.

Set off from home to a new site near Dunbar.  The weather was absolutely atrocious.   On approach to the site we had to negotiate a fairly tight and narrow entrance, ripping  off the offside plastic wheel arch cover!

Ouch, bloomin' gate-post


The site is split into two fields, 'A' and 'B' with 'B' having the better sea views.  'A' on the other hand has a fantastic view of Torness Nuclear Power Station, (we're on 'A').  The rain did continue all night, but we did get the awning up and as usual things were warm and cosy in the van.

During the night we dealt with road noise from the nearby A1 and train noise from the nearby East Coast Mainline.  I also had to explain to Mrs SA how Nuclear Power Stations generate electricity by converting sea water to steam to drive turbines.  Mr's SA is now convinced that Bridies nose is glowing and we've all contracted Luekemia!

The wind and rain had cleared on the Saturday morning, so it was time for a walk on the beach.

If  you ignore the Power Station then the beach is a gem, but it does seem to be a surfers paradise, so probably not safe to swim in.

The dogs enjoyed it though.
As stated the site has pitches in the middle of 'A' field, where we are, but you do feel sandwiched between static vans and the view is dominated by the power Station, whereas the other pitches further round have great views of the beach and the sea.

Saturday saw us drive up to North Berwick, just to see if we could spot any other Caravan gems around.  North Berwick was very busy and quite touristy, and we didn't hang around.  The coast is rocky so the type of sites we like are thin on the ground.

Saturday night turned into a bit of a nightmare.  I woke up after midnight to find Mrs SA sat in the lounge area staring out at the power Station, convinced it was about to blow.  I'm not sure that we were near that scenario, but it was strange.  Lots of steam, lots of light, lots of noise and you could feel the vibration from the turbines through the van floor.  It took a lot of persuasion for her not to hook the van up and drive home there and then.  It didn't help that I suggested that if it did blow, we wouldn't know much about it!













Monday, January 16, 2012

THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN....

Myself and Mr's SA are currently not speaking.

I consider myself a reasonable and patient man, but my patience was sorely tried on Sunday afternoon.  It started well enough; everything working in the van ok.  Pleasant walk with the dogs in the sunshine albeit a bit brass monkeys everywhere.

Decided to close the van down.  The only thing I couldn't 'suss' out was how to drain the on-board water-tank.  As I said yesterday; should've listened closer to the explanation when I left NE Caravans.

No, the thing that ripped us asunder was my decision to place a cover over the Caravan, or to put it more precisely, 'er indoors decision to help!  I suppose it's a bit like the female of the species inability to map-read.  They just don't have spatial awareness like the hunter gatherers we're descended from.  Why go left when it should be right, why pull when it should be push - after a period of pulling and pushing the cover, and a fair amount of swearing at each other, (Mr's SA is a former Convent School Girl, where did she learn such language), the cover was on.  However the zips that allow you to still access the Caravan were on the wrong side!  Mr's SA then stated that this was because I had purchased a left-hand Caravan,when most Caravans are right-handed.  You can see my point surely.

I then pulled the cover back off and started again, this time on my own - a task completed successfully the second-time around.

I'm not too worried about being on "Radio Silence" currently, she'll give in eventually and we'll carry on as normal.  I know that Mr's SA will have to come to me - how else is she going to get that jar open.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

GOD IS IN HIS HEAVEN...

Sunday morning.  Cup of tea in hand, listening to the radio in the van - albeit the thing is parked on the drive, but the thought is there.

An eventful couple of days.  Collecting the van on the Friday didn't present too many problems, the show-out was a bit of  blur, and later on I wished that I had listened a little closer to the vagaries of the water system, however I was soon driving North on the A1, heading home.

I'd had a slight niggle in the back of my mind the day before; could I actually get the van into the drive.  The closer I got to home, this became a clanging bell along with, "what's my fall-back plan".  However it fitted "just", and I breathed a sigh of relief.

The next problem was turning it through 180 degrees at the top of the drive.  I've done it once before, but that was a single axle.  I'd underestimated how much more difficult a double axle will be.  In a nutshell, it won't turn on a sixpence, which I needed it to do because of space.  Eventually I had to call on the services of the wife and the 22 year old, who grunted about the inconvenience of being torn away from "World of Skyrim V" or whatever the PC game is that he plays all day.  It's ok though, I hold the trump-card when it comes to things like that, the login to the Wireless Router; I can cut him off at anytime, and frequently do when he gets on my t*ts or we need to get his attention.   With their assistance, we got it turned the right way, levelled and parked.

I was keen to get everything plugged up and working only to find that there was no connector to plug the van into my garage mains, no leisure battery, no aqua-roll, no waste pipes.  Aqua-roll and waste pipes are no biggie, but no leisure battery!  As the chap at North-East Caravans stated, "you don't need one, you will always be on sites with mains hook-up", even my small brain thought that one wouldn't wash - what if there is a power-cut.  By now it was dark, so I left it, however I did research Caravan Accessory outlets and discovered that there was one almost on my doorstep, Ollies at Ord , Berwick-Upon-Tweed, which would be getting a visit from me on Saturday morning.

We do live in the middle of nowhere, on the Scottish Borders.  I'd resigned myself to either having to travel back to Newcastle or North to Edinburgh, however, not expecting too much I paid Ollies a visit and made a new best friend in Alan, the shop proprietor, together with his wife.  In a slightly disorganised warehouse type shop Alan had everything I needed at great prices.  We also discussed Motor-Movers, I've glanced at them now and again, and thought they must be for people who can't reverse their van, but Fridays experience proved that I probably needed one.  At the price he quoted me it would be rude not to, so it's being fitted next week.  If I say that the prices I have seen for a twin-axle are plus of £1100, Alan will fit one for considerably less.

I then spent a fruitless Saturday afternoon, trying to get the electrics to work from the mains, but the power console showed it was drawing power from my car - no mean feat when it was parked 30 feet away.  Eventually I disconnected the 13 pin to 7 pin adaptor I'd needed to tow the van with and hey presto, everything worked.

So finally, Sunday morning, here I am, van working, heating on, cup of tea in hand, God is in his Heaven and everything is right with the World.  Now watch some Tw*t spoil it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

WHERE TO START


We, by we I mean the family, (more in a moment), need to give up living in the conventional brick and mortars way, and take to the open road!

A bold statement, but their is a lot of thinking behind this.  Best to start at the beginning.

The family unit currently consists of myself, formerly a long-term career soldier now retired after 35 years.  My partner, Mr's SA, a former Nurse, Care-Home Manager and Cafe proprietor, (Flower Shop Owner, Sandwich Round Lady, the list is endless..).  Charlie, my 12 year old Step-Son.  George, Tricia's 22 year old son, who decided to come back home and live with us, with whom I have a rather strained relationship, but I'm working on him leaving home again..soon! The dogs, Bridie a 4 year old Labrador and Lulu a 5 year old Patterdale/Border Cross Terrier, 8 chickens and Mr's SA's Mum who suffers from Dementia.

Over a number of years, particularly when the children were young, we camped; a lot!  We worked ourselves up to a veritable Sheik's paradise in the way of tents, complete with internal carpets, lamps etc.  The children were never allowed into the tent with shoes on, and Mr's SA was constantly brushing the floor to keep it "shipshape".  Plans were halted however for the next big project I worked on, two large tents forming an 'L' shape, one for sleeping in, one for living in.  The whole thing loaded into a trailer, with generators etc to make the whole thing self-sufficient.  This plan only ever remained an aspiration on paper, and thankfully never saw the light of day.

4 years ago, for no particular reason than we could, I hired a four berth caravan from Tilshead Caravans, Salisbury and after a very short lesson in how to deploy the thing headed to the North of England for our first Caravanning Holiday.  We've always loved the coast around Bamburgh and Northumberland and had chosen Springhill Caravan Park, near Seahouses as our first, and as it would turn out, only destination.  The Caravan site was perfect for us; a short walk to the beach for the dogs, clean and family friendly without being too over the top.  I wasn't perturbed by towing, having towed often in my army career, (I also enjoyed travelling the highway at a sedate 50mph - 60mph)  Our biggest fear, truth be told, was leaving the Caravan unattended at Motorway Services, having seen a Police Programme where a family did exactly that, only to return to the car-park to find the Caravan gone.

Caravanning was a revelation - driving onto the site, "into action drills" over in seconds and the kettle on in short-order.  How could that compare to deploying tents etc, a task often completed on my own and taking quite literally hours - I made a vow, no more Camping; Caravanning was the only way ahead.  Sadly, that first trip was slightly short-lived; Mr's SA was rushed by blue-light to Cramlington Hospital, having fallen ill on the third night, however she did recover to make the journey home.  Returning the Caravan a couple of days later we were almost seduced into purchasing our own, a Swift Conqueror 645 with a fixed island bed and all mod-cons.  We bumped into this caravan a number of times and almost succumbed, but eventually wiser heads prevailed and we shelved the plan. However we have been hooked ever since, and my slightly earlier than planned exit from the Forces, meant the opportunity was there to buy our own.



After much shopping around, last Saturday we paid a visit to the North-East Caravan Centre, and after wandering around their second-hand stock, (we decided early on not to buy new), found tucked in one corner nothing less than the same Swift Conqueror we'd looked at some 3 or 4 years before. I'll swear it is exactly the same, down to the chassis number and it must be 'fate', but I've been told not to be so stupid. Anyway, paid for in full, it is currently being valeted and will be collected by me in the next couple of days.


Now the discussion begins; can we really ditch everything to do with bricks and mortar living and take to the open road? 'yes' from me, wife is suddenly hesitating. I've pointed her in the direction and started to follow "Our Life in A Caravan" by another Blogger with a very similiar mindset to myself, I think.