Since getting back from the Wedding in the middle of August it should have been an exciting time, waiting for the publication of next season’s sites selection list, would we get allocated a site or not ? However, those darn ‘dark forces’ had other plans for us, I guess they thought that our year was going a little too well for their liking and so decided to throw a spanner in the works to take the smug grins off our faces. I will not bore you with all the details, but last season, after a very minor fall off a plastic caravan type step, no more than six inches in height, which at the time left me with nothing more than an occasional ache in my right knee, which was promptly relieved after a couple of weeks of wearing a sturdy knee support, this minor mishap has since blown out of all proportions, quite literally !! Just a couple of days after returning to work from our time off for the Wedding, I went out on site in the morning to do some grass strimming followed by a period of grass cutting on the ride-on mower, I stopped for lunch, my knee felt extremely painful, not just an ache this time but a real pain that had me barely able to walk, a painful hobble at best, when I rolled up my trouser leg I was horrified to discover that I could not even distinguish what should have been a knee cap, the whole area around my Knee had swollen out of all proportions. Now don’t ask me why, but something told me that this was probably quite serious and time to get a proper medical opinion !! I got Shazza to drive me to the local medical facility half an hours drive away in a nearby town, after a two-hour long and painful wait I was finally called forward to see one of the duty doctor’s, who immediately sent me for an x-ray. The results showed nothing broken so they made me an appointment at a ‘proper’ hospital an hour away, but the appointment wasn’t for a further two days and I was told to rest my leg and take painkillers !! Two days later I went for my scheduled appointment, the Consultant, after looking at the x-ray and examining my knee, diagnosed a ‘suspected’ torn ‘meniscus‘ !! I wondered if this was a generic term for an injury to a ‘male’ limb, is their such a thing as a ‘Womaniscus‘ or perhaps even a ‘Feminiscus‘ I wondered ? Not wanting to sound un-knowledgeable about human anatomy, I attempted to sound confident and enquired, “Is that the ligament” and was swiftly put in my place and told that the ligaments attach to the side, my injury was to do with the ‘Cartilage’ that sits between the upper and lower parts of the knee-joint. Now of course, had he have said in the first place that I had a torn cartilage then I would have known straight away what he was talking about wouldn’t I ? I came out wearing a leg brace, which fits from the top of my thigh, right down to just above my ankle and restricts the movement of my knee, but at least now I could walk with a limp instead of a hobble !! I then had to wait for a further three weeks for an MRI scan which would, or would not, confirm the diagnosis. Nearly three weeks later and I am still awaiting the appointment with the Consultant to get the results of the scan !! If the diagnosis is confirmed then that will mean a routine day operation, via ‘keyhole’ surgery to repair the torn cartilage, and I am guessing that will entail another wait until they can fit me in to do it. So, as I write this blog post I am having to continue to wear the leg brace and keep taking the painkillers !! I am not convinced that this operation will get done before we finish our Season’s duties and so that would entail either flying back from Spain to get it done or paying to have it done privately !! In any ‘normal’ job this would have prevented me from carrying out my duties and probably having to take time off work, fortunately, Shazza and I can interchange our roles, she is extremely competent in using all the ground equipment and I am competent in all the administrative functions so there is little impact on the effectiveness of the site. Whilst I am now doing a ‘little’ more of the office/admin functions I am still capable of doing some of my more usual duties, although I cannot do anything that puts a strain on my knee, like climbing on and off tractors, strimming etc. I do however still carry out the bin runs, which I know I shouldn’t but I am very careful getting on and off the tractor, I can still clean the facilities block, clean shower heads, conduct routine maintenance and repairs, paint anything that does not move and also do the monthly checks, so I am not totally office bound !! As for the leg brace, it doesn’t stop the pain in my knee it just prevents the problem causing the pain to get worse, or that is the theory ?
On a much happier note, during the last few weeks we have had some surprise visitors to our site, first we had someone who I communicate with on a Motorhome Forum, ‘Alaskaguy’, but who I had never met in the flesh so to speak, he was actually staying on a small CL (Certified Location) next door to our site, but on discovering that we were neighbours called in to say hello. Then, more recently, Roy and Amanda came and stayed on site for two nights. Those of you who have been following our blogs from the beginning of our ‘lifestyle change‘ will remember that we first met them when we were in Portugal and met up several times thereafter, during our ‘road trips’ through Portugal and Spain. We have remained in contact since then and so when they said that they were starting another road trip but in the UK and were going to make our site their first stop we were so pleased, especially as it was during our time off. Unfortunately, my damn knee issue prevented me from being fully mobile and getting out and about, but we did manage to spend one day having lunch in Sutton-on-Sea and catching up and then on their last evening we went out to another local hostelry and had dinner. It was great to see them both again and Roy has been keeping me informed of their whereabouts now they are on their road trip proper. Then another day, Shazza and I were out on site re-seeding some of the worn grass pitches when a couple approached and asked if I was ‘Eric’ ? They didn’t look like ‘bailiffs’ so I confirmed that I was that person and they introduced themselves as Allan and Carol, better known to me as ‘alandcar‘ who, again, I had communicated with several times through my blog and I think also on the Motorhome Forum but had never met them personally, until now. They were staying on our site on their way South and so it was good to once again put faces to people who I had been communicating with over the Internet. We only spent a short time chatting, work to do and all that, but it was great meeting them so, Allan and Carol, if you read this blog post, thank you for taking the time to seek me out and it really was a pleasure meeting you, next time perhaps it will be when we are both ‘on the road’ and we can spend a little more time catching up on things over a beer or three !! Then, one evening, a Motorhome arrives and I book the guests in as normal, their faces didn’t appear familiar but whilst booking them in we chatted, as you do, and I discovered that he was a ‘Gibraltarian’, so we talked about Gibraltar, and of course where we had our apartment in Spain, it being only half an hour drive from ‘The Rock’. The following day, whilst I was out doing some painting, this same couple came by and stopped saying that they hadn’t realised it but they knew us from when we were working at Berwick-upon-Tweed a couple of years earlier and had remembered the conversation we had about just having purchased an apartment in Spain.
Now, like many of my faithful blog readers, they were interested to know the outcome of the sites allocation for next year, did we or didn’t we get a site of our own to manage ? For some of those early visitors I still had no news on that score, however, since then we have discovered our fate !! Shouldn’t there be some sort of background music to aid the suspense before announcing the outcome ?
I can now disclose that Shazza and I consider ourselves to be extremely fortunate in becoming the ‘Site Wardens’ of the ‘Ilfracombe‘ Caravan and Motorhome Club Site located on the North Devon Coast (Pause for much applause, clapping of hands, cheers of ‘hoorah’ and the sounds of trumpets). Now before you all rush to book a pitch for next season let me tell you something about our new location. Firstly, it is a single couple site, which means that we have no Assistant Wardens we will manage the site ourselves. More importantly the site has 88 ‘all grass pitches’ and NO Toilet Block, although it does have Electric Hook Up Points, Service Points for the disposal of Chemical Toilet Waste and Grey Water, Fresh Water taps, General & Mixed Recycling Waste and a Motorhome Service Point. So, if you are quite happy to utilise your own on-board facilities (Toilet & Washroom) then this is a very nice site, quiet and peaceful with wonderful views but within easy driving distance of the lively harbour town of Ilfracombe (4 miles) which has both TESCO and LIDL supermarkets, the sandy beach at Woolacombe (4 miles) and the much larger town of Barnstable (Half an hours drive). The local village has a Community Shop and a Pub that serves meals, what more could you want, okay Mobile Phone signals and WiFi, well we can accommodate on those two counts as well and, unlike our current site, which is ‘Members Only’, we, at Ilfracombe, are happy to accommodate non-members as well, so what are you waiting for, get your diaries out and plan your visit to come and say hello in 2018, although you cannot book a pitch on-line until December, or directly with us on site until March. In case you are wondering whether I am just trying to drum up business because we get a bonus for the more ‘guests’ we have on site, the answer to that one is that we do not, we get paid exactly the same whether we have 10 pitches occupied or 88 pitches occupied. We just like it when we see lots of campers, on whatever site we are working, having a good time, the smell of BBQ’s, the ‘chinking’ of glasses, the babble of numerous conversations going on and of course, the opportunity for me to engage in my two favourite pastimes, talking and ‘people watching’, and if the boss is reading this (and I don’t mean Shazza on this occasion), of course the grass cutting, grass strimming, hedge cutting, emptying bins, painting and general maintenance, after all, it’s not as if we are being put there to enjoy ourselves now is it ?
It is quite useful to be able to go and visit sites before the outgoing Wardens depart, chat over the essentials about the site like where to turn on the main water and electricity supplies, the waste collection arrangements, who services the equipment, any outstanding repairs or maintenance that require attention and of course any ‘peculiarities’ or ‘quirks’ associated to that site or its location. Our new site was due to close on the 2nd October with the Wardens locking it all up and leaving just three days later, that was in less than a week’s time !! Fortunately, our current Wardens had already been thinking about this and very kindly adjusted our work roster to enable us to drive down to view our new site and have the opportunity to meet and talk with the outgoing wardens.
We knew that it would be a long seven hour drive so Shazza prepared some Chicken and Bacon Sandwiches to eat on the journey. At around the half way point we decided to take a ‘comfort’ break and change driver’s, my knee was beginning to feel uncomfortable, apart from that, Shazza also needed to get used to driving the ‘Little Fokker’ as well. Our ‘unscheduled’ stop was the ‘Strensham Services’ on the M5 Motorway. We had parked at the rear of the main services with the other Motorhomes and Caravans and entered the ‘Foodhall’ by the rear entrance. We only wanted a Coffee and the Coffee shop was at the front of the ‘Foodhall’, the main entrance and as we walked towards it you could have knocked me over with a feather, for who should we see just walking in through the doors but Peter and Linda, our former Wardens from last season at Burrs Country Park !! What were the chances of that ? They were on their way to visit friends in Wales and they too had just decided to stop for an ‘unscheduled’ drink before continuing their journey, bloody amazing co-incidence but a very pleasant and joyful one. We could only spend five or ten minutes chatting as we both still had long journey’s to complete, they congratulated us on our promotions, they already knew where we were going as they had seen the list when it had been published, then we hugged and went our separate ways, it’s a small world isn’t it ?
We had booked onto a different club site than the one we would be managing, not because ours didn’t have a ‘Toilet Block’ you understand, more out of consideration because the Ilfracombe site was in the process of being closed down, I am sure the outgoing Wardens would have been busy with other things and wouldn’t have wanted to have been distracted by our presence, so we had pre-arranged to visit them the following morning. The ‘Willingcot’ Club Site was only 4 miles from ‘our’ new site and quite conveniently it did have a very nice, warm and recently refurbished Toilet Block !! We arrived just as it was getting dark, having phoned ahead we were told to just find ourselves a pitch and see them in the morning.
Ray and Fiona, the Wardens at Willingcot, were very welcoming and invited us, once we had returned from the visit to our site, to have a cuppa with them, which, as we were to discover, would be beneficial as they would be our ‘Parent’ site as far as ordering anything that we required for our site, cleaning materials, wood, paint etc. was ordered through them.
It was a bright and relatively warm morning, if not a little breezy, when we arrived at what was going to be our new home although the grey clouds overhead didn’t look promising. We were met by two very cheerful and smiling faces, Richard and Sharon, they had the mornings priorities just about right, we started with a nice hot cuppa !! Of course, although we had already spent time listing the questions we needed answers to, the more we chatted the more questions arose, but they provided us with all the information we required and more !! Some of what they willingly imparted I knew would stick in my brain but it didn’t matter about the rest, for every site there is a comprehensive ‘Wardens Handover File’ with all the essential information, including photographs of where things are. Sharon had also made her own ‘additional’ list for us with stuff like who and where to get our ‘Ice Cream’ supplies for the small on-site shop that we would run, the Calor Gas bottles and so on and so forth, very useful stuff !! I was chomping at the bit to get out and view my new domain, my own ‘Kingdom’, and Richard was keen to tell me that that it comprised of 11 acres of mainly grass. In addition to the 88 pitches, and associated grassed areas to cut and manage, I also had a ‘Environmental Eco Area’, a large grass dedicated ‘Dog Walk’ area, a large ‘Recreational Field’ and a grassed ‘Caravan Storage’ compound !! To assist me I had a Ride-on mower, Tractor and Trailer, Petrol Hand Mower, Strimmer and Hedge Trimmer and an assortment of gardening tools !! In addition to the management of the grass there were several ‘Service Points’ and a ‘Motorhome Service Point’ to maintain, well that should keep me out of mischief for a month or six I thought to myself !! I have to admit that after a good walk around of the site, the storage building, workshop and the ‘Little Fokkers’ new compound, I was wearing a grin from ear to ear, I was looking forward to getting here next season, our first site as Wardens and in a wonderful location and I have already commenced compiling a list of things that need doing, from getting the site ready for opening to some longer term maintenance and repair work. Sharon and Richard had already spent time on maintenance around the site but as on all sites, large or small, there are always things to be done. We thanked Sharon and Richard for giving up some of their valuable time to us, we already know, as Assistant Wardens, what it feels like to be getting close to your ‘travel out’ day but with a long list of things still to be done, as Wardens, there are more responsibilities as we will soon discover, so we bid them farewell and success and enjoyment at their new site next season.
As the harbour town of Ilfracombe was only a short drive away we decided to take the ‘Little Fokker’ into town. This trip was proving very beneficial to us in more ways than one, the downsizing from ‘Big Momma’ would pay dividends on the narrow Devon roads and we were able to take the ‘Little Fokker’ through the narrow town streets of Ilfracombe and park right on the quayside without any ‘brown trouser’ moments. There was no way that my knee was going to withstand anymore strain, with the excitement and enthusiasm of looking around our new site I had managed to limp my way around, ignoring the repetitive ache but now it was telling me that enough was enough for one day. Fortunately, from the car park on the quayside, there was a little tourist ‘Land Train’ that did a mini-tour of the town, so we hopped aboard, well, one of us hopped the other walked quite normally !!
The tour only lasted around half an hour, but it was long enough to get the lay of the land so to speak and it had started to drizzle with some of that wet stuff, so a few taster photo’s was all we could muster in the grey and wet conditions.
We returned to our pitch at ‘Willingcot’ and then went around for an introductory cuppa with Ray and Fiona the site Wardens. They were able to give us some insights into the local area and we would certainly see and speak with them a great deal more once we took up our next seasons duties. It had been a bit of a short stay and I guess with our surprise visitors and whirlwind trip down to Devon, you might say that this has been a month of ‘Brief Encounters‘.
We were very pleased with the ‘Little Fokker’, having now used it as a ‘On The Road’ vehicle, as opposed to just a ‘Static Home’ it had proven to be both spacious and comfortable for all our requirements, it’s nimble vital statistics were ideal, allowing us to venture to places and down narrow country roads where we would have been reluctant to go, by choice, in ‘Big Momma’. I was mega impressed with one statistic in particular, on checking the fuel economy it showed that on this trip, our longest to date at over 500 miles, we were averaging a rather tasty 31.3mpg !!
So, a somewhat mixed bag of fortunes to write about this time around, with only the knee injury to blight what we consider quite an eventful year. As I write this, we now have only thirty-seven days of our season to go before we can head off into the warmth of the Spanish Winter sunshine but with lots to look forward to next year.