Saturday, 28 October 2017

October Part 2 - Toilet Troubles and Sunshine in South Devon

Tuesday 24 October

We wake to rain again, and I've no option but to get wet this morning, you see, we've got a caravan engineer coming out to try and fix our flush less toilet (we've been using jugs of water from the tap to flush), and the toilet needs emptying and cleaning down before the poor bloke arrives.

Back to the rain.  There is a saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.  Now as a seasoned caravanner I'm a firm believer in this, it's just that this week my appropriate clothing (my winter coat) is hanging up in our hallway at home, some 180 miles away.

This of course is Herself's fault but she's having none of it, despite me writing a list of what I wanted to bring 4 days in advance! She did manage to bring 2 coats for herself though!

I'd spoken to Pride and Joy Caravan Servicing on Saturday morning about our toilet issue, but he was away for the weekend.  He did try and solve the problem over the phone, but to be honest he wasn't suggesting anything I'd not already checked.  Let me put it on record here that in my opinion, the Thetford C250 chemical toilet is the worst designed piece of junk I've ever had the misfortune to own.

Anyway, bang on time the cavalry arrives and goes to work taking apart the bog and prodding his multi meter everywhere.  The fault lay with a corroded fuse holder (who in their right mind puts an open fuse holder in an a sump that collects fluid?) but the bloke didn't have the part on the van so had fashioned a temp fix that should see us through the week.  In my head I'm thinking back to my student days when 2" nails were deployed into the fuse box at the digs to make an everlasting fuse!

After letting him out of the site barrier I'm still trying to work out if I had a good deal or not, so my excise for what happened next is that my mind was preoccupied.  Herself is having none of it and is insisting I book an appointment to have my lamps tested on our return home.

Despite having been here a full 4 nights I've not stepped foot into the facilities block, my one previous attempt being thwarted by the cleaning rota,  but seeing as I was passing I thought I may as well (you do once you get to a certain age).

Into the heated foyer I stepped, checked the sign on the door and entered the gents.  I immediately think that the bloke smiling at me looks a bit feminine, but it takes all sorts.  I look around for a urinal, and this bloke has stopped to watch me, still smiling.  It then dawns on me that the bloke is indeed a woman and it crosses my mind that maybe she's a warden and I've just caught her at the end of her cleaning.

She's still smiling at me as I fail to find and urinals and doubts start creeping into my mind.  With that the door opens and another person walks in.  There is no doubt that this one is a woman and I pay particular attention to the sign on the back of the door.

They look so much alike don't they?  I make a quick exit and waddle up the hill as fast as my flip flops will allow.  I have to fess up to Herself immediately, just in case we get a knock.

The dismal weather is in for the day, so Herself dresses appropriately and I make do with what she packed for me, and we head off out to make the most of it.

There is sporadic light drizzle in Torquay as we find a spot to abandon Vera and take a stroll around the marina.  There is some serious money on show here, and I feel somewhat inadequate with the crushing realism that I probable couldn't afford the dinky ones in the foreground, let alone the gin palaces behind.

The drizzle becomes steady and we take a table outside Shiraz, under a large umbrella and next to the living flame patio heater to share a sandwich and chips for lunch.

It didn't go well.

There is a joke shop 4 doors down and a chav family have decided to buy some snappits, all four of them are now in hysterics as they continually throw box after box on the floor (even the adults).  The dogs are beside themselves and there is no let up.  I briefly consider going over to have a word with Dad (biological or not is anyone's guess) but he looked like he'd just come out of HM special hotel in Bristol and wouldn't mind going back for a bit longer, so just sat there and moaned!

Our food arrived at the same time as a chain smoking alcoholic took a seat at the next table to us.  I do my best to ignore the smoke and take a bite of the sandwich.  It was rank.  Cheap sliced bread with about 4mm of cheap margarine filled with value frozen prawn.

We just left it and moved on.  Vera is pointed towards the nearby village of Cockington, and once more money is fed into parking meters we go for an explore, stopping first at a gift shop with a thatched roof.

We buy a couple of "genuine" horse brasses before seeking out a map to see what's about.  I've been here before when I was a teenager, when we came here on the day of a village fate that was being opened by the famous Ruby Murray (no, I'd never heard of her either).  My two memories of the day were that the village cricket field was set in a dip and was U shaped, and that Coupons was disgusted because Ruby Murray was pissed when making the opening declaration.

After consulting the large map sign it is our intention to walk up past the cricket pitch to see the church and then the stables.  The drizzle is getting heavier and I' sorry to say that despite all good intentions we got no further than The Drum Inn Pub, taking a table outside under a thatched canopy, watching others walk past (no doubt on their way to see the church and stables).

The dogs are out of treats, and while I tolerate Herself's obsession with this, she knows better than to pay Pets at Home prices.  Google tells her that the nearest B&M is in Plymouth, but next best option is Home Bargains in Newton Abbot.

We stop in Paignton on the way back to site to let the dogs have a good run on the green.  As we gain height on our approach to Hillhead we are once again shrouded in mist and by the time Vera is parked on the pitch it's drizzling heavily once more.

I go about unpacking my daysack and to my surprise I find a pair of beautiful Stella pint glasses in there.  I've no idea how they got in there.

Really I haven't.

Wednesday 25 October

After an early night I'm wide awake as it's getting light and decide to give Vera the good news with a sponge and bucket.  Now is the best time to do it though as the washing of vehicles on club sites is prohibited, and there's less chance of being caught.

With that out of the way I light a flame under the kettle and make enough noise in the shower that Herself gets the hint.  It makes a pleasant change to eat breakfast with the heat of the sun streaming through the front windows - even if they are still sporting a healthy covering of dew.

Herself had promised Gwawr a chav (and more importantly) snappit free day, so we agree to return to Dartmoor, on the strict understanding that if it so much as threatens to cloud over we're turning around without delay.

With a picnic stuffed into my daysack and thrown into Vera I take the dogs off to the on site dog walk while Herself finishes making herself beautiful.  I must say it was cracking up there this morning and the view over Torbay stunning in the morning sunshine.

Via Trago Mills for some discounted Shell V Power we head to the east moors.  The weather is still holding as we climb up out of Bovey Tracey.  There are a lot of people about today, certainly far more than a few days ago.  Where were these wimps then eh?

As we rumble over the cattle grid and into the moor 40mph speed limit herself takes a pic and announces to Facebookville that the views are better up here today.

We park up at the foot of Heytor and I shoulder my daysack.  the ground is a bit boggy under foot at the start but soon dries out.  The views as we get higher are stunning, and I take my time pretending to admire them while catching my breath.

After a few scenery stops we reach the top and I search out some flat rocks to take a seat for lunch.  Herself says that she's not hungry, but I make a point that I've carted it all the way up here so she will eat it - hungry or not.

Many faces were pulled as he parked her rear end on our fold able seat pads and within two bites she has decided that there is too much bitter on the bread and the dogs have the rest!

I enjoyed mine though while drinking in the view.

Going down was a lot easier than going up, and we are still congratulating ourselves as I swing into the car park of The Old Inn in Widdecombe.

This place has a lovely beer garden, and after settling Herself and the dogs at a table in the sunshine I step into the blast furnace like interior of the conservatory, where the SAGA  faithful are huddled around a log burner in full winter coats.

Herself wants a cider and I decide to sample a seasonal ale from the Dartmoor Brewery.

The brewery's web site waxes lyrical ...... Flavoured with black treacle, Dragon’s Breath is a unique winter warmer beer that was launched in the snows of December 2010. Deep ruby-brown coloured, rich and full-bodied with a delicious aftertaste of morello cherries.

All I can tell you is that it was a nice gulping beer!

We enjoy a pleasant hour or so in the beer garden with the sun warming our bones before It's time to make tracks once more.

We'd not gone far when Dragon's Breath started to have an undesired affect on me.  It started with wind, lots of wind, and by the time we're waving at the cons in Princetown I have rumblings.  I'm too proud to tell Herself that me gulping the ale had upset my stomach, and suggest maybe stopping for another drink at the approaching pub.

She dismisses the idea as it looks too busy.  I'm now sweating as we start dropping towards Tavistock, and when Herself asks to stop to let the dogs out for a wee, I don't dare move from the driver's seat and leave Vera running.

We reach the outskirts of Tavistock, and due to my Gwyndaff Evans impression Herself has guessed my predicament.  By the time we park up outside the public toilets I estimate that I'm about 2cm dilated, and getting out of the driver's seat and to the toilet without any accidents is going to take some doing.

Some 10  mins later, I'm skipping back to Vera without a care in the world, and we enjoy a scenic spin back to site via Plymouth (Pets at Home) and Paignton (Asda).

The day out is rounded off the same way that it started.  We stop off at the dog walk chucking a ball for the dogs to chase while enjoying the view over Torbay, as the way the weather has been this week it may well be the last time we'll see it.

It's funny, but one of the reasons for choosing this site was the on site pub to use in the evenings, and we've not been down yet.  The truth be told, that once the dished are cleared after our evening meal i get a dose of CBA.  May be something to do with my advancing years, but this week I've been content to cwtch up in the van after a day out.  Herself doesn't mind as she can watch a stream of low budget yank crime series on TV, and wine or Prossecco tastes the same in the van as in a pub (and is somewhat cheaper).

Thursday 26 October

I don't wake until 8.30am as the cold grey of early morning is slowly being replaced by some sunshine.  Here's hoping for another nice day.  Herself had a tidy lie in, and by the time we get ourselves sorted and in Vera it's nearly 12 noon.

Tali's been threatening to bolt for the beach all week so as it's at the start of our day out we head to the beach at Paignton for a nice beach walk.

From there we hug the coast as far as Teignmouth and after finding a spot to tuck away Vera we walk along the from until we happen across The View Cafe Bar, and I'm quite taken with the roof terrace.

We got as far as the bottom of the steps and were stopped in our tracks by a rather abrupt and spotty adolescent.  People with dogs were not allowed up there, so we take a table road side with a view of the ....... errrr .... road.

Determined not to spend a penny more at such an unwelcoming establishment we necked our refreshments and left.  Onwards into the shops area we trudged browsing in windows.  

Herself fancies a pair of ear rings in a window so I popped inside to buy them.  I've even got my wallet out making it obvious that a guaranteed purchase was to be made.  This made no difference to the owner though, who started to set himself up on his workbench to put a battery in 3 watches that another customer had brought in.  10 mins I waited until Herself popped her head through the door to suggest we leave it.

We wander some back streets until Herself spots some quayside tables down a back alley.  Two establishments sit side by side and we chose the nice looking "Crab Shack".  I take a table with the dogs and Herself goes into the gaff to place our order.  I'm told the conversation went something like this .......

"Can I see a menu please?"

"Of course, but we're not serving anymore."

Herself looks round at the tables where people are obviously still waiting on food.

"We're not serving because we have a busy second sitting later."

"That's nice."

"But you can take a menu if you like to look at, and if you're here perhaps you can come back tomorrow."

"I don't think so!"

It's becoming rather difficult to spend money in this town.  We up sticks and move 15m or so to a table outside the adjacent Ship Inn.

Lunch was lovely sat at the side of the working quay watching the world go by.

We follow the coast a little further as far as Dawlish.  We've not been here for years, and while the central park area is  nice enough the rest strikes us as being a bit of a shit hole, much the same as it's neighbour Dawlish Warren.

We bypass most of it and make our way under the railway onto the beach.

Its getting late in the afternoon so we start to retrace our steps back to site, where Gwawr wastes no time in catching up on some TV.

We didn't make it to the pub again tonight, venturing out only to pick up a Chinese for supper from the excellent Wongs House in Brixham.

Friday 27 October

Our last full day here, and we enjoy a lie in, not poking a toe outside of the warm confines of our bed until 10am.  When we eventually venture out at 11.30am the sun is high in the sky as we're cruising the roads towards Totness.

Finding a spot to park is not easy as there are quite a few people about.  A fistful of pond coins are fed into the Turpin machine and we head for the main street.  It's bustling.  Many of the shops have staff dressed up for Halloween outside (at least I assume they were staff and not just shoppers) creating a jovial atmosphere.

Herself is taken with a pair of earrings in a jewellers but gave up waiting to be served.  What is it this week?

I don't do shopping and usually detest it, but it is a necessity today in order to get some gifts to take home.  But it has to be said, I liked Totnes.  It was nice to see an old fashioned town centre so busy.  A much better atmosphere that at the god awful out of town shopping outlets that dominate these days.

Buskers did their bit to alleviate my boredom as Herself popped into the odd shop as we slowly made our way to the market at the top of the hill.

The air was filled with divine aromas as the many street food stalls did their bit, and we did most of our gift shopping in the market, buying some hand crafted shit from hippies.

Herself announces that she's thirsty, and up the top end of the town pubs with outside space are limited ...... well non existent.

She spots a free table outside a rather poncily named "Mangetout"  Delicatessen & Cafe.  Beers are sold only in bottles and they're charging more for a bottle than the pub over the road does for a pint.  I grunt my disapproval at the rather up themselves manager of the establishment as I'm instructed to help myself to the glasses on a shelf behind me!

Refreshed we set off back towards Vera, and I'm thinking I've got away with it, but no, Herself wants another go in the Jeweller, and my heart sinks as I see the shop is now empty.  She's in there far too long for my liking and emerges some considerable time later clutching a few expensive looking small bags.  I'm not invited to see the contents in public ...... this is a bad sign.

Vera's nose is now pointed towards Dartmouth.  The plan was to take a table on the quayside at The Floating Bridge to have lunch while watching the Higher Ferry ply its trade crossing the river.  We don't use this ferry as it's 50p more expensive than the lower one.

Unfortunately we failed to find a parking spot within walking distance so Herself suggested parking in town and lunching at the George and Dragon which has had a makeover.

We settle down at a table in the strong sunshine and I make my way up the steps to the bar, clocking a sign that says lunch is served until 3pm.  My watch says 2.58pm, so just in time ...... or so I thought.

I'm stood at the bar trying to catch the attention of the barman who's engaged in conversation with a few locals.  Eventually he acknowledges me and I ask for a menu, he looks at the clock which now reads 5 mins past the hour and says "Sorry, we've stopped serving."

I'm too hungry to even contemplate trying to reason with him as I know I'll lose the plot.  Two pints are placed on the table in front of Herself ...."Make the most of it, that's lunch!"

It is lovely and war in their suntrap though and my solar panel takes a pounding.  We''re resigned to eating back at the van.

The lower ferry is quiet and we roll on without having to queue.  We stop mid channel though and as we drift sideways we can see the other barge struggling to free itself of the concrete ramp.

Back at the van I drop the canopy bone dry while Herself cooks up some steak to throw between some slices of bread.  We eat them in the sunshine while chatting to our neighbours.

With the daylight rapidly fading we make tracks down to Paignton to exercise the dogs on the green.  The pier looks lovely all lit up, as does one of the hotels which is doing a Turkey and Tinsel break.

Like I said previously, one of the reasons for choosing this site was the onsite pub / club.  We've not used it yet and the plan tonight was to pop over for a meal and a few drinks. 

However, as we were leaving earlier we saw dozens of kids enthusiastically making their way over there in full Halloween dress.  It would appear that tonight is party night, so any plans we had for a visit were swiftly kicked into touch.

The evening is instead spent in the van nibbling on nibbles with a few sherbets while watching Bear Grylls feast on a maggot infested sheep's leg.

Saturday 28 October

Going home day today and I'm up waiting for it to get light so that I can go outside and continue the process of breaking camp.

Last job before hitching up is emptying the bog and taking rubbish over to the bins.  I'm on my way back and a purple haired young woman is approaching with two pugs on long extending leads.  The two immediate take a dislike to me, and start yapping and snarling.  One wraps himself around my ankles and the other is trying his best to rip my socks off.

She says "If you stay still I can untangle them." to which I replied "I'm not standing still while they try to bite me." and I thrash my legs to get some slack before launching one into orbit.

She says "There was no need to do that." to which I replied "Oh, I think there was, if the bastards are nasty they should be on a short leash."

We're hitched up and away by 9am, bit our Alko stabiliser head needs the pads cleaning, because as we're threading our way around the site the hitch is groaning like a cheap whore!

The going is quite good and the traffic is quite light, until we get north of Bridgewater where it chokes up for a while., but at least we kept rolling, even if it was at a snail's pace.

It's so much easier travelling on a weekend without the volume of trucks clogging up the roads, and those that do tend to work the unsocial hours are the misfits and wierdos.

We've crossed the border and are now heading west through south Wales in slow moving traffic when my attention is drawn to a nutter at the wheel of a 40T DAF rig travelling in the opposite direction.  He's flashing his lights, bouncing up and down in his seat and waving frantically at us, drawing all sorts of attention to himself.

We immediately think something is up so pull over onto the hard shoulder.  I'm puzzled as we have no flat tyres and no open roof lights ...... maybe he was on a wind up to relieve the boredom of a 9hr shift or something, who knows?

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we're pulling up outside HomeisWhereYouDragIt Towers at just after 12.30pm.

PS. I've since found out that the rabid truck driver was none other that Boss Ludford who'd been watching out for us on his way back to Hampshire from West Wales.

Until next time .......