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!