Well, when I spoke to you last time we were safely parked up on our pitch in Slimbridge Gloucestershire awaiting the travel to Europe. We had the Channel Tunnel booked for 10th January from Folkestone to Calais for our travels proper. (Fully refundable- (does this tell you how confident we were about the viability of the journey!))
We are unfortunately still parked up safely on our pitch in Slimbridge six weeks later…. We always expected things to go pear shaped with Covid but didn’t really think that the second coming of the new variant strain of virus would be quite so punchy. We are really only thankful that (fingers tightly crossed) we and our loved ones are intact at the moment.
So what have we been doing for six weeks during the winter in the UK.? Keeping busy, keeping out of trouble -ish, and keeping positive.
There was initially the situation where we were tucked nicely away in our pitch when (if you have been paying attention previously), we were surrounded by two families in caravans with 2 awnings, 4 kids, 3 dogs and 3 cats, a transit van and a 4×4 all parked way too close in an almost completely empty site of four large fields. Well they were ok initially, friendly enough and somewhat entertaining however bit by bit the dogs barked for hours on end, the kids became noisier and the menfolk parked their vans/4×4 closer and closer to our pitch, blocking us in/out occasionally.
Enough was enough so we forcibly requested a move to another pitch. Bearing in mind that when I said this the site was almost empty, there were only four other motorhomes on site……the Park owners decided that we could move as requested and they gave us authority to park immediately next to one of the motorhomes on site.. ! What..! Really ! Right next door?
Yup…’Christmas week and New Year are going to be soooooo busy that we will need every other pitch’ they say. So anyway, it was a delight to move across to the large expanse of grass, on a clean wide gravel pitch with a shelter-providing hedge behind us. Ruby left a long length of tyre rubber as we dashed away from our pitch in our excitement to move. New location, New outlook. Life on the road eh!
On the approach to Christmas we had taken the decision to cancel our planned turkey dinner with family back in Portishead due to the scary new virus variant. This was not ideal but we re-adjusted our mind-set and accepted that this year would be different, for the first time it would be just me and the missus… Shock horror…. Well it’ll be fine. We do quite like each other after all.
So this was around the 21st December and we were chilled. Our new neighbours are ironically Irish, a nice older couple who are stuck here as their house is currently being subject to huge renovations and they had no roof, no sinks, no baths at home. Happy enough and cheery enough. (Despite us being dumped into their immediate neighbourhood. Therefore almost all the other pitches on the site were empty as they were not allowed to arrive as we were in Tier 3. Christmas and New Year was not going to be rammed after all. There was just us, our new older neighbours, the traveller community and a couple of other motorhomes. All quiet, and not a bad thing but this would not be an exciting Christmas.
However, worse was to come……On the 24th December Boris had told the nation that due to Covid growth the expected relaxation of Tier regulations would not happen. We were now going into Tier 4 in Gloucestershire. The site owner immediately began marching up and down the park telling everyone ‘yes, we are having to close. Everyone has to leave’ followed up by the good news that ‘you don’t have to leave now. The gates won’t be locked until midday tomorrow’ (Christmas Day! ).
Well that did it. We were well and truly stuffed (bit like the turkey). We have nowhere to go apart from the kind offers people had made previously once they realised we were homeless..
Thankfully we spoke to the boss Grahame in person and to our relief, once he realised who we were (not Royalty or Celebrity or anything) he said ‘Aaah, you are ok as you have nowhere to stay and you are homeless’.. phew. ‘But… we are locking the shower and toilet block’…. poo. He then kindly let us have a key for the single disabled toilet and shower. Now picture this, a nice big room shower in one corner which is real hot and powerful, toilet some 2 metres away and sink in the other corner. Not too shabby really. Until you realise how many people will be expected to use it.
Thankfully many of the people on site were shipping out and mostly on Christmas Eve as this was the better option. One disappointed caravanning couple had arrived on 23rd, set up including their huge awning, only having to then pack it all away soaking wet after the overnight rain. Happy Holidays !
The Travelling families packed up both caravans with 2 awnings, 4 kids, 3 dogs and 3 cats, a transit van and a 4×4 in double quick time and were gone within the hour. They must have had somewhere to go. (Hold this thought ..)
Christmas Day 2020. We decided that if we couldn’t have a Roast Turkey dinner we would have a barbecue. Why not. The sun was out, the wind was low and it was a full +1° heat outside. We would do this. Rest of the World be damned. Christmas would be special. We had chicken filets, pigs in blankets, turkey and pork stuffing, garlic mushrooms, potatoes, all cooked outside on the bbq and eaten at the table on the grass. Both of us wearing several layers of clothes topped up with large Christmas hats. Christmas wasn’t a write off, interspaced with WhatsApp chats with several family members it was a delight.
Back to those Travellers though… it seems that they did have somewhere to go but then were presumably quickly turned back and by Christmas morning the whole of the Slimbridge village were gossiping about the fact they had all crammed into the village car park, having squeezed their 2.5 metre van under the 2 metre high metal barrier. And set up both caravans, 2 awnings with 4 kids, 3 dogs and 3 cats, a transit van and a 4×4 tidily in one corner. They are still there at the time of writing on 13th Jan. ! The parish council have now left the height barrier open as they have got fed up with fitting a new padlock every two days..! A lot cheaper than our pitch but then… no water, no electric, no toilets, no shower, no laundry room, no grass…..
The following week was nothing too exciting. We had got into a routine with the disabled shower room though it was totally dissatisfying. An email plea to the site manager about opening the main toilet block was met with an eventual email saying ‘No’ then ‘All necessary sanitation is provided and the use of this facility is a favour to you’. Ouch. !. Now it is not like me to avoid a battle but.. we are locked in, we do not have anywhere else to go (well we probably could but to be fair this is comfortable and the local area is terrific and has lots of places to walk, cycle and run). Also, we haven’t paid anything at all in January, nor have we been sent any invoice or bill. We are engaged in a battle of wills which could go either way. Watch this space.
So we have kept calm and continued with this shower block situation. There are others to consider too. Don’t want to upset the management and have them totally lock the shower room and leave us to use our own facilities in Ruby. Also..there is a laundry room that they readily unlock on request which means we only have to wear our clothes for two days in a row rather than five!
New Years Eve was also quite funny. We are still ‘working from home’ and were working on our laptops in Ruby until 11pm on New Years Eve. We then met up outside of Ruby by pre-arrangement with two lots of neighbours at 11.30 ready to greet 2021. It was bloody cold but dry and we stood in a wonky circle – two metres apart having a chat. At 11.45 we pulled a bottle of cooled champagne from our huge fridge, (proper stuff, none of that Prosecco tat..) which I put on the floor awaiting Big Ben to announce 2021 via the BBC app. Well just as the first BONG of New Year arrived, the posh champagne went into auto pilot and the cork popped out of the bottle and shot up 10 feet into the air on its own. ! Wow, amazing and quite quite funny. Guess it was the colder air on the ground causing it but the timing was special… Happy New Year… !!
And as an extra bonus the other couple that have been sharing our ‘bathroom’ decided to ship out and stay in an AirBnB for a month. Lightweights. ! We were sad to see them go as they are a nice couple of similar age and mindset. However we were glad that they were going as he worked with the ambulance service and was working way too close to Covid Central at the hospital. Not the kind of person you want using the same shower room……
Then came full-on Lockdown 3. It’s a laugh ain’t it..?! Well now we cannot go anywhere other than Tesco or Sainsbury’s (see how flexible we are… two different stores !). We could readily go for a walk/cycle/run but all previous plans firmly put into the ground. No visits to families or friends, no restaurants, no shops other than groceries, no entertainment, no hotels, no beaches, no swimming, no bars, no ice cream parlours, no campsites, no weddings, no parties… well you get the picture. Grim for everyone. (Mind you at least we don’t have to deal with the Donald Trump farce..!)
So what have we been doing throughout the six weeks of non adventure. Well, apart from the very occasional ‘working from home’ days we have been walking, walking, walking, cycling, cycling, running….Mud permitting. ! Watching TV/Movies/Nintendo, playing Yahtzee, ‘One for his knob’ (Crib!)
We have an abundance of bird life here all round us (in addition to Michelle :-). We are half a mile away from the Slimbridge Wetlands and Wildfowl site which is where all the birds park up throughout the year! We therefore benefit from many overflow (pun intended) birds from the site. Currently counting 29-30 different birds seen on a daily basis just outside Ruby. We are not, nor never will be, bird watchers (twitchers) but we do have binoculars and a RSPB book .!
And for those of you who worry about us (anyone?!), we have the most amazing fluid-filled central heating system that probably works better than most I have had in previous houses. This is powered by gas or electric to great effect so we are more than comfortable. So yes, electric hookup is fully employed. We do cook on gas mainly but so far in six weeks we haven’t had to change a bottle once. Wow..
And for those of you paying close attention. ‘How do you get to the shops if the gates are locked ?’ Well our Mini has been parked in the pub car park outside the site. Simples.
The other big, big news is that we have handed in our notice at work… ! We have told them we want to be Workless as well as Homeless by the end of March. Big news for us. At least the Covid Lockdown 3 will reduce the levels of work for our last few shifts. When you factor in our rest days and annual leave we will only have about 10-11 shifts left. Wahooo…. This has been our plan for over a year now and Covid has not put us off- Lets hope that by the end of March we can go somewhere. It may not be our Grand European leg just yet but thankfully the UK has the most incredible places yet to explore. Fingers crossed this will happen.
Did you know…? The difference between a duck and a goose. Well, apart from the obvious, ducks are tubby with short necks (We all know people like that don’t we ! ), geese are slimmer with long necks. Geese are herbivores (eat grass) where ducks like insects and grubs as well. Most distinctly is that Geese Honk and Ducks QUACK…. 🙂