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The First ManVanNoPlan Blog of 2022

The First ManVanNoPlan Blog of 2022

Welcome to the first ManVanNoPlan Blog of 2022.

We have had a fairly busy time since returning home from Spain on the 1st of December with the highlight being a family Christmas in Argyll. Our two granddaughters loved the occasion and it brought back memories of our two daughters at that age.

The weather over the festive period was reasonably good for Argyll at this time of year and Eilidh managed out on the bike Santa brought her and the traditional Boxing Day walk was enjoyed by all at Loch Glashan.

Boxing Day 2021 Loch Glashan
Boxing Day 2021 Loch Glashan

It was back to just the two of us at New Year and nowadays New Year in Scotland is a joyless occasion with unwatchable, unfunny TV shows compounded this year with a totally unnecessary restriction on our leisure sector. Those of us of a certain age were brought up enjoying the cream of Scotland’s best musicians and comedians on TV and we were treated to memorable entertainment. This year we saw in the New Year watching the Alba TV offering, which if unintelligible to the vast majority of Scots, at least made an attempt to entertain!

Fyne Editions had a record November and December and I have big plans to expand the listings, especially of diaries and notebooks and this is what has kept me busy throughout the first quarter of 2022 and hundreds of new listings have been added so check out Fyne Editions HERE. The series below is new for 2022 and features titles from 1940 to 2014 and they make great birthday presents as a £ 4.99, 101 page notebook is far better value than a birthday card that will probably be binned after a week or so! Click the nationality of your choice to see the full range…

Towards the end of the January we started to give our next big adventure serious thought and have a rough idea of where we are heading in March but I will keep you in suspense until the next blog!

At the end of January we took Bessie for a weekend away to charge up the batteries and make sure she had no issues after sitting unused for two months. The van battery had run down and needed a jump start to get us going and the leisure batteries were low but still functioning. Because of the delay in getting going our first night was spent on the banks of Loch Lomond at Tarbet, the first time we have stopped overnight at this popular spot.

GPS = 56.202522, -4.709549 & What3Words = ///blatantly.snack.downhill

All was going well as the journey charged up the van battery and as we settled down for the night we were the only van here. That changed throughout the evening as we heard other vans arriving but they did not disturb us until…

With the heating on at a peep and the road noise from the nearby A83 quiet we settled down after watching some YouTube videos and fell into a deep sleep until a van about fifteen feet away from Bessie started its engine at 1.50am and woke us up. Twenty minutes later it was still going so after a fruitless attempt to register our displeasure by shining a torch at the windscreen there was nothing else for it but to get dressed and go over and I gave the bonnet an almighty thump and shouted at whoever was inside to “turn the (expletive deleted) engine off!”

A rather sheepish face appeared around the curtain behind the seats followed by a hand reaching forward to turn the ignition off. The face and hand then retreated back into the back of the van and he never started up their engine again!

There has been a trend recently for people to convert vans into campervans and the various lockdowns over the past two years has seen many more people do this to get away and enjoy the outdoors and I’m all for this. We watch quite a few YouTube videos of people who have done this and are enjoying their new lifestyle. Some are fitted out better than others however and I’m guessing that this guy had no form of heating in the back of his van but it is a huge car park and he should have parked well away from anyone else…

Tarbet Loch Lomond

The next morning we headed for High Bonnybridge to see Stuart at RS Body Repairs who was recommended to us years ago and he made a fantastic job of repairing Louis’s back bumper after an unfortunate encounter with a bollard.

Bessie has a drawer on the outside where we usually keep the water hose and electrical cable but the runners have seized and it could not be pulled out so we needed it fixed before we head off in March so Stuart agreed to do the work in a couple of weeks time.

Beecraigs

We spent the next two nights at Beecraigs Country Park and the first night saw us survive another storm to equal the gales we experienced in Santander in October. The wind was so strong that we thought that the rear roof light was about to fly off at any second so we got out of bed and in the pitch dark and moved Bessie to the lee of another van nearby which helped slightly but Storm Malik did not relent all night and if anything got worse.

The next morning we nipped out to Polmont to have lunch with Margaret and Allan, The Navigators sister and hubby before heading back to Beecraigs. The Navigator arranged with the reception for us to move pitch to a far more sheltered location than last night but the wind had relented slightly and we actually managed some sleep.

 

 

Sunday morning was still breezy and bitterly cold and with another storm forecast for later that afternoon we decided to cut short our stay in the Falkirk area and head home. As we drove west the weather progressively became worse, with heavy rain and strong winds and by the time we reached Ardrishaig it was lashing down with quite deep surface water on the roads.

Bessie was quickly emptied at home then put back in storage for a couple of weeks until I took it back through to Bonnybridge to get the outside drawer repaired.

Before that though we travelled over to Belfast for a long weekend to see our grandchildren before we head off for three months and to be with Jill on her birthday for the first time in many years – so she keeps reminding us!

Eilidh, the oldest, is a live wire and is a force of nature every minute of her time awake and Callie is at that mischievous stage of doing everything she knows she shouldn’t, and repeatedly at that!

The highlight of the weekend was going out for a lovely meal at a nearby Italian restaurant in a monsoon. The girls were on top form and Scotland beat England at Murrayfield so a great evening was had by all.

The Birthday Girl

You can tell Jill and Simon to look at the camera but…

And to prove it – “OK girls, let’s have a nice picture you with Bampa and Granny!”

We got there in the end though…

We came back on the Tuesday and the following Sunday I drove down to High Bonnybridge in Bessie as Stuart at RS Body Repairs was starting work first thing on Monday morning to fix the stuck outside drawer. It took about four hours altogether to free the runners which were completely jammed, take the drawer off the van, replace the runners and assemble it all again. 

It’s not a job I could ever have done and it now gives us more space in the garage as the electric cable, hose and other bits and pieces are now back where they belong.

Knowing I was coming down to civilisation I had ordered a new electric bike as the one I bought to take to Spain had to be returned as there was a fault with it. Unfortunately it would not be available for collection for a few days so I went to a farm site, plugged in and listened to the rain battering down on the roof for two days and nights.

Blue skies when I arrived but grey skies and flooded fields not long after!

As I killed time on the site another named storm (Dudley) came along just to make life a tad more ‘interesting’ again. That is now three times in a row that Bessie has been out in a named storm and hopefully it will be the last of them for a while. While all of this was going on The Navigator was working at Inveraray this week to top up the holiday fund, bless her!

On the Thursday the wind died down a bit so I made a dash for Dumbarton, collected the bike and headed home after servicing the van at Tarbet, Loch Lomond, at the junction of the A82 & A83. We only recently became aware that there was a motorhome service point here and it is a bit of a game changer for us as it is better to service Bessie here rather than at home.

CHECK OUT THE BORN & BRED IN... NOTEBOOK RANGE

Surprisingly the Rest and Be Thankful was open, especially as there seemed to be a lot of men in orange overalls up on the hillside monitoring the situation for potential landslides (again). We woke on Friday morning to snow falling which is a bye product of storm Eunice so The Navigator wisely cancelled her final journey to Inveraray.

When I returned home Bessie didn’t go back into storage and we spent the next four days getting her ready to leave Argyll on Tuesday the 22nd of February for le continent.

First port of call was an overnight stopover at our industrial estate of choice in Carlisle with another great Chinese takeaway from China Express. From there should have been an easy drive down to Ashby de la Zouch for an overnight at the Ashby Business Park in preparation for our visit to the NEC at Birmingham for the Caravan and Motorhome Show, not for any particular purpose, but it was on and would break up the journey to Dover.

Unfortunately storm Franklin had other ideas and the wind was so strong we could not get back on the M6 so we settled down for another day in Carlisle being buffeted about. We made an effort to drive south again but came back off the M6 after only one junction. Knowing we would never make the NEC the next morning I sold the tickets on Facebook and settled down for another night in the Industrial Estate. At about 3am I woke to find the van not being buffeted so we dressed and headed for Ashby de la Zouch and arrived at 8am. Although our plans had changed we still had to go to Ashby as I had ordered a gizmo from Amazon and it was being delivered to an Amazon Locker there.

As we had risen at all hours and had a fraught drive we went to bed and slept for a good few hours.

You may remember we ‘wild camped’ at an industrial Estate in Ashby de la Zouch on the way back from Spain in freezing temperatures but this time, although snow was forecast it didn’t amount to anything this time.

Before heading off overseas I needed to buy a new tablet but it had to be delivered to a home address and thankfully Garry and Carol came to the rescue and took delivery of it for me.

We booked into Lowdhams at Gunthorpe on the Friday and Saturday night and had lunch with Garry and Carol in Gunthorpe overlooking the swollen River Trent on Saturday lunchtime. We left Lowdhams fairly sharpish on the Sunday morning after servicing the van and set off down the M1 heading for Canterbury and all was going swimmingly until the St Albans junction where there was a three car accident in the outside lane,

The Victor Meldrew in me kicked in as the overhead gantries were signalling for everyone to move out of the two outside lanes into the inside two lanes but no-one did, causing a huge amount of congestion, most of it caused by Liverpool fans on their way to the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley which was still almost five hours from kick off!

The M25 was OK for us going anti-clockwise but there were massive queues going clockwise. Just your luck on this stretch of motorway, Sunday or not. By the time we made it to Clacket Lane Services we were ready for lunch and a break. After that is was plain sailing down to Canterbury where we frequented the Canterbury Park and Ride Aire. This is the first time we have used it and it was fantastic. It is £ 4 a day to park which also gives you a free bus ride into Canterbury City centre. Fresh water with black and grey dumping is available but no electricity.

GPS = 51.261239, 1.100483 & What3Words = ///smile.when.holds

Canterbury Park & Ride

On Monday morning we made use of the free water tap to clean the van as it hadn’t been done in a while and Bessie had to look her best tomorrow.

We then hopped on the bus and had a look around Canterbury for the first time in many years and enjoyed strolling round looking at all the historic buildings. Regularly readers of this blog will know that The Navigator likes nothing better than a tour of a Church or Cathedral for a moment of contemplation but unfortunately the world famous Cathedral was covered in scaffolding so we gave it a miss this time. The £ 14 a head entrance fee played no small part in this decision as well!

After lunch we headed back to Bessie and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.

Canterbury
Canterbury

Tuesday saw us up at the crack of dawn to head off to Sittingbourne as Bessie needed an M.O.T. before we could cross over to the continent for our next three month adventure.

Thankfully Bessie passed with only a few small ‘advisories’ to be aware of. The MOT station is JG Burgess, Unit 1 D2 Trading Estate, Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 3RH 01795 423815 who specialise in Fiat based motorhomes and I can thoroughly recommend them. It was a miserable foggy, drizzly day so we gave Sittingbourne town centre a miss. We did find a Halfords to try and find the elusive Angle Morts stickers which are now a legal requirement in France for big girls like Bessie but with no luck. Thanks to Garry we had photocopies of his as a temporary measure.

Next stop was Morrisons where we topped up on a few groceries, filled up the LPG tanks at 76p a litre (£1.10 in Lochgilphead) and diesel at £1.49. From there we went back to the Canterbury Park & Ride to hunker down for the afternoon as it was still drizzling.

I had not wanted to tempt fate and book a crossing to France just in case Bessie failed the MOT and needed a bit of work but I now could go ahead and book the ferry crossing with P & O for £101 which was considerably cheaper than the Eurotunnel (£150).

We were up early on the Wednesday morning to be at Dover for a 9.15am crossing, we were so early they put us straight on the 7.50am Spirit of Canterbury (apt). A disinterested French customs official stamped our passports (in the wrong place) then we had a security check which was a farce, then on to the efficient P & O check in and straight on the ship.

Thankfully it was a smooth and speedy crossing and we departed the docks at Calais without seeing a human being, so no checks for Covid passports or anything else.

And with the news we are on the continent for the next 90 days, Russian invasion permitting, I will end this blog here.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to follow our progress through five countries with nearly all of the places we are visiting new to us, so stay tuned…

COMING SOON ON THE NEXT BLOG...

Bessie finds a new to us free Aire in a great little French village before heading onwards into the deepest darkest EU…

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