2nd March 2014 - 23rd March 2014

The Midlands
Note: No photographs in this section. A busy time preparing "ourselves" and the motorhome for a extensive stay in Scotland.

Sunday 2nd March 2014
Blackmore Camping and Caravan Club Site, Great Malvern, Lat: 52.09715, Long 02.27557, (140 Miles).

After preparing everything for leaving this morning we went to Amelia’s Pantry for a “Full English” breakfast all we needed to do when we returned to the motorhome was dis-connect the power. Our first stop was less than 9 mile away at the Tesco supermarket for our food needs for the next week; we knew exactly what we wanted so it was a quick dash around before continuing on our way. We judged our next stop to perfection we arrived at Michael Wood Services on the M5 north of Bristol at 1:00 pm. just stopping long enough for a “comfort break” and a cup of tea, after our breakfast we didn’t need anything to eat. I also had (another) brilliant idea, we tried using the “Bose SoundLink Mini” with Jenny’s iPhone with a music app and I found the ideal place to mount it on the dash above the radio using one of our plastic chopping boards as a “shelf”, it worked perfectly, certainly an improvement on the radio with its continuing poor reception (a known “fault” on motorhomes and despite 3 radios and 3 different aerial positions on ours still un-cured). After another stop at Tewkesbury to top up with gas, we have only used £7.39 worth since we filled up at the same BP station on the 15th December last year on the way to Dawlish, we continued to Blackmore and within a short time were pitched and sorted and able to relax for the rest of the late afternoon and evening.

Monday 3rd March 2014
The start today of a busy 3 weeks (ish), as well as a habitation service on the motorhome this Friday and a service and MOT on it next week and visits to the Doctors, Dentist, Opticians and hearing specialist, we also want to clean the motorhome from top to bottom and sort through all our “stuff”. We started this morning with the “bedroom”, taking everything out the two cupboards, cleaning the walls, ceiling, etc. before putting it all back and then whilst Jenny sorted our laundry I cleaned the roof vent and lubricated all the components.

Tuesday 4th March 2014
Great sunset last night, is the winter wet over? We had Auto Glass visit us this morning to repair a chip in the windscreen which we got on the way down to Devon in December, Dave the technician soon repaired the chip and then it was day 2 of our “spring clean”. Removing everything out of the top lockers and cupboards, cleaning, and then replacing it all, did I really need 5 pairs of walking socks? They will be going back to the storage unit! We finished mid-afternoon and “deserved” to relax for the rest of the day.

Wednesday 5th March 2014
Still attempting to get a “certain” birthday present for our son Michael we decided to go to Worcester today, again after visiting a few stores without success we gave in, we will try again when we are in Tamworth next weekend. We didn’t have much success in finding a Maplin’s either, we wanted to purchase an inside/outside thermometer for the motorhome, the present one no longer reads the outside temperature, despite Jenny’s several attempts to repair it. We did have a nice lunch though at “Quinn’s”, having our usual baked potatoes which we always enjoy there, before catching the bus back to Blackmore.

Thursday 6th March 2014
Day 3 of the “spring clean” and it was the turn of the cooker and bathroom, Jenny won the toss and chose the cooker (thank goodness), I used our “routine” of cleaning again, stripping everything that was possible out of the cupboards etc., lubricating the window catches, cleaning the shower room and all the glass and then putting everything back, I didn’t look what Jenny was doing, I do know it was me that took all the oven fittings to the washing-up room and “brillo-ed” them!

Friday 7th March 2014
Up earlier than planned this morning, over the last few days the RCD switch for some reason has been tripping out the electric power and this morning or in fact just before midnight and then again at 5:45 am we lost the power (the bright blue fridge light starts flashing), after it went off again I tried another EHU pillar, it went off again! After our showers and breakfast we decided to move to our “normal” pitch 16 opposite which had been vacated, it went off once more! Luckily Gary “Gazavan” arrived at 9:30 am to carry out the motorhome habitation check and as part of the check was able to investigate the problem. There was nothing un-toward within the motorhome, Gary seems to think our power cable may be at fault, Murphy’s law it didn’t go off in the 3 hours he was with us, but he did “WD40” the connections at both ends and clean them. After Gary left we caught the bus to Upton upon Severn to visit “The Map Shop” and purchase some bread rolls for lunch, then with 20 minutes to wait for the return bus we had a stroll along the riverside, the River Severn, at last seemed to be returning to its normal level. The power just went off once tonight, I went out and sprayed the whole length of the cable, including the connectors with WD40, seemed to have done the trick . . . for now.

West Midlands
Saturday 8th March 2014
Kingsbury Water Park Camping and Caravan Club Site, Kingsbury, Lat: 52.56788, Long: 01.70349. (54 Miles).

Another early rise this morning as we wanted to arrive at Kingsbury Water Park (1 hour 10 minute journey) before 10:30 am having organised Enterprise to collect us to pick up a hire car. In fact we arrived almost too early and they only had one pitch we could have, it being “Crufts” week and the campsite was full, it was a good job that we had booked a few weeks ago! At least we had time for breakfast before James arrived from Enterprise to take us to the office in Sutton Coldfield; Jenny was pleased we have a Ford Fiesta in a nice blue colour to use for the next fortnight. We drove directly to Tamworth to hopefully get the birthday present for Michael, again we were not successful and had to resort to “plan B”, we didn’t get the inside/outside thermometer we wanted from Maplin’s either. After two early mornings we relaxed for the rest of the day, I watched the cup match on television and Jenny knitted and we then had an early night, Jenny read, I listened to music.

Sunday 9th March 2014
Day 4 of our spring clean and it was the turn of the garage, everything came out and was sorted/cleaned and the interior of the garage washed down. One job I wanted to do was change the position of a garage interior light, When we had the high winds and rain in Devon, we were using the inside hatch to fetch vegetables, etc. from inside the garage instead of going outside. However, it necessitated Jenny using a head torch to see what she needed, I thought it a good idea to move the off-side one, which we rarely use and re-position it near the hatch. I assumed I would need an extra length of twin cable, but investigating and measuring this morning I decided the cable would reach, it did, albeit with just an inch to spare. The only thing I needed to do was drill a hole through a shelf, well I had a drill bit but no drill, I used a pair of pliers to grip the drill bit and make the hole, despite a bloody finger it was a success and has made it much easier to see within the garage, why hadn’t I thought of it before?

Monday 10th March 2014
A busy day today, a drive to Lichfield first to have our fasting blood tests at the Greenhill Medical Centre before continuing our ritual of a big breakfast at “The Causeway”. Next a quick stop at Specsavers to have my glasses tightened, before my appointment with Paul the hearing specialist at another Specsavers in Aldridge and after my test in the sound proof box, plus a full examination and clean of my hearing aids neither I nor the hearing aids required adjustment! A visit to my brothers was next at Great Barr and we had a great chat with both Brian and Linda, he also cut me a piece of black plastic to fit the “Bose SoundLink Mini” properly onto the dash, (Jenny wanted the chopping board back and anyway bright green didn’t suit it). We then drove back to Lichfield to spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening with our son Michael, Sharon and grandson Charlie.

Tuesday 11th March 2014
Day 5 of the spring clean and it was up on the roof! Just could not miss the opportunity of the warm dry weather to climb on the roof of the motorhome and clean the roof lights, vacuuming all the “nooks and crannies” before lubricating the sliding and winding mechanisms and then cleaning the Perspex. This afternoon Jenny stayed at the motorhome, I drove to Sutton Park at Sutton Coldfield where Brian was sailing his 1 metre class model yacht at Powell’s Pool, I didn’t attempt to sail it myself, Titanic would spring to mind!

Wednesday 12th March 2014
At Sutton Coldfield this morning at 9:30 am for the motorhome MOT oil change and filter change and the levels checked. We were at Bassetts Pole Service Station at the Riland Industrial Estate; just yards from 7 Riland Road, where Jenny lived and from where we went on our first “date” almost 46 years ago! My old friend of 40 plus years, fishing companion and work mate Dave “Blackhead” Whitehead was servicing the motorhome and organising the MOT for us, we left him with the keys and we walked up to the “Gracechurch Centre” in the town for a breakfast at British Home Stores, excellent value too for a “10 item” breakfast, £3.75, although the bacon, sausage and black pudding did not compare with the taste of those at Cofton. After we window shopped around the centre for a while we strolled back to the garage, where Dave had completed everything for us including the MOT “pass” and we drove back to the campsite. After filling up with fresh water and emptying the grey waste we pitched on No3 instead of No7 where we had been since Saturday, a level pitch, not in the shade of trees late afternoon and where we can erect the awning on the “sunny side”. This afternoon it was time for our appointment at our Hygienist and Dentist at Lichfield, I dropped Jenny outside their door and then drove to Tesco to park the car, by the time I arrived Jenny was already with Hayley and I didn’t have to wait long before it was my turn, in the meantime Jenny had her check-up with Stuart and I followed, an hour later we were both finished, with clean teeth, but £210 worse off! Wanting something to drink we thought we would try a new coffee shop in Bore Street, Caffee Chico, good coffee and the bread pudding and almond slice wasn’t bad either! We had intended to do our food shopping today; we have decided to leave it until tomorrow.

Thursday 13th March 2014
Our turn today for a “service” and we were at the Health Centre in Lichfield at 10:45 am for our doctor’s appointment and we appeared to be alive and kicking for at least another year! Tesco was next for a major food shop, postponed from yesterday, however, once again with our shopping list on Jenny’s app; we weren’t long and were soon on our way back to Kingsbury, via a stop at Canwell Caravans for a container of toilet fluid. We spent the afternoon with Jenny’s niece, Kathy at the campsite, they certainly had plenty to talk about, and my ears are still aching!

Friday 14th March 2014
The first opportunity today to put the awning up, we didn’t want to do it until we moved on Wednesday and on our “favourite” pitch, great teamwork as usual and it didn’t take long to erect. This afternoon we drove over to Jackson’s at Old Arley to purchase a new shower tray anti-slip mat, they didn’t have it on a roll, but they did have a length which although twice the size we required we bought at a reasonable price, then after a further browse around the store we went back to the campsite and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Jenny didn’t even need to cook tonight and more to the point I didn’t have to wash up, “Stewarts” fish and chip van now visits the campsite on Fridays, very nice they were too!

Saturday 15th March 2014
We thought it would be an easy job (although it wasn’t exactly hard) to use the old shower mat as a template and cut the new one around it, but although we have been using it for 4 years, we didn’t realise what a poor fit the old one was, so we carefully measured and cut the new one to fit instead. Day 6 of the “spring clean” and it was the turn of the cab of the motorhome, cleaning and polishing the interior of the doors, dashboard and vacuuming and cleaning the front seats. We stopped for a very important event; at last after a 3 month lay-off the Formula 1 Grand Prix’s season started again and we watched the qualifying from Australia, it will be “interesting” this year with all the many changes to the cars. Another “plus” today, Aston Villa beat Chelsea!!!

Sunday 16th March 2014
Great sunset last night over Kingsbury, the first decent one we have seen for some time and this morning we had breakfast “El fresco” in the awning a first for this year. I was intending to attempt to watch the F1 race, live from Melbourne on the internet using some “obscure” streaming programme, but decided to watch the football highlights instead last night, (I haven’t seen Aston Villa win very often) and as it didn’t finish until 12:05 am, I certainly didn’t want to get up at 4:00 am this morning to watch the F1! We cleaned the windows and frames this morning and lubricated the blind slides as I finished one window Jenny re-fitted the net curtains that she hand-washed yesterday. I also cleaned the outside step and lubricated all the numerous pivot points, only the outside edges of the windows to clean now, which I will do tomorrow when I vacuum the screens from the outside, we have then fully completed cleaning the interior of the motorhome from top to bottom . . . then it’s time for the exterior! We just finished in time for the F1 highlights on BBC and then relaxed for the rest of the day, it was a good job there was an excellent programme on Channel 4 “Live from Space” otherwise we would have been listening to music all evening.

Monday 17th March 2014
Just a bit of finishing off of the cleaning this morning before a short drive over to Tamworth to our storage unit at Bonehill. The usual stuff to take, medium weight duvet, winter boots and clothes, fan heater, etc. and collected summer duvet (being optimistic), summer clothes and most importantly my fishing tackle. After a very short food shop at Asda we went back to Kingsbury and once again relaxed for the rest of the day.

Tuesday 18th March 2014
Spent the morning doing some planning for our forthcoming tour of Northumberland and Scotland, hopefully we are leaving mid-day Monday, staying overnight at a Britstop in Nottingham and then staying at Cherry Tree Camp Site near York for four days before driving across the moors towards Whitby. We then spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing.

Wednesday 19th March 2014
An appointment for Jenny a 12:00pm at Good Hope Hospital, as it was just for a “vision field’s test” I dropped her off at the hospital (just as well the car park was full) and drove to Rectory Park to park and read my book until she rang me. However, the park is only 200 yards from Chambers of Sutton the Ford Dealership that I worked at for many years so I decided to walk down and see if any of my old colleagues were there, they were and I had a nice chat to Paul and Ian for about ½ an hour before returning to the car, I only read a page before Jenny rang for me to collect her, we were back at the campsite having only been out just over an hour in total.

Thursday 20th March 2014
A very windy night and the only problem with our awning when its windy is that it “creaks” against the frame and it keeps us (me) awake. With the forecast of even higher winds during the day we decided after breakfast to take the awning down, especially as it was nice and dry and there is rain expected for the rest of the week. Despite the wind we didn’t have much of a problem getting it down, we even declined help from a fellow camper and Jenny managed to fold the canvas neatly by moving into the lee of the motorhome, I struggled somewhat pulling the pegs out of the hard ground, however within 30 minutes everything was safely stowed away. Jenny then concentrated on the washing whilst I “planned some more of the trip for the coming months by marking on our road map the camp sites and Britstops in Scotland. Mid-afternoon Michael, Sharon and Charlie came to visit, Michael bringing with him a new 1kg powder fire extinguisher, it was recommended by a fire safety engineer that I chatted to at Blackmore last year to replace it at 5 years old, I will re-fix the old one in the garage as a spare.

Friday 21st March 2014
A busy day! First to the shopping centre at Tamworth for a few bits and pieces, then to our storage unit to drop a few extra bits off, before continuing to Fradley. When Michael came over yesterday he forgot to bring the post, so we went over to collect it and have a cup of tea with Sharon . . . quiet in the house without the boys! We then decided to “go around the corner” to Fradley Junction as Jenny’s nephew Mick had moored up there recently in his narrow boat, despite having a walk up both arms of the canal we didn’t find him, we guess he has now “sailed on”. Onto Lichfield and Tesco to do a “super shop”, we purchased a lot of non-perishable items to take on our trip to save buying at supermarkets on the way, Fruit, vegetables and meat we will buy hopefully at some of the “Britstops” that we intend to stop at, especially on the East coast of Scotland. Two more stops, the library to return books and maps and Canwell Caravans to buy a spare toilet fluid. Tonight “Stewart” arrived in his mobile fish and chip van, I sent Jenny to queue for them, it was too cold out there for me!

Saturday 22nd March 2014
Nice surprise this morning when our friend Don rang and said he and Jan were coming over to visit us, knowing they both had a “passion” for Jenny’s home-made scones, she immediately baked a batch before they arrived. She had baked a Victoria Sandwich on Thursday, that’s our sons favourite cake, we should have had plenty of that left . . . except that he took it home with him! We had a great couple of hours chatting with them both, they were talking about visiting Scotland themselves, hopefully they may be able to meet up with us, especially if we go anti-clockwise and they drive clockwise. After they left we spent a couple of hours looking at our itinerary for the next month or so, unusually we have pre-booked three of the campsites as we want to make sure we are close to the Yorkshire Moors and Whitby before Easter and more importantly near the Northumberland coast afterwards.

Sunday 23rd March 2014
No power when we woke up this morning, it must have gone off quite early as it was only 7.5 degrees c in the motorhome, I checked the switches inside and on the EHU and they both appeared to be OK so I put the gas heating on (there had been a frost) and went back to bed. We had our morning cuppa in “the lounge” and after opening the blinds, sure enough, other people were checking their electrical connections to the EHU, obviously it was a site power outage. Jenny found out what it was when she went to reception to order tomorrows paper, we have on the site this weekend the CS (Certificated Site) owners, who are doing some “training” at the Camping & Caravan Club headquarters at Coventry. They all arrived back by coach and mini-bus late last night and obviously switched on their heating/kettles/electric blankets, etc. all at the same time and blew a fuse, you would have thought they would have known better . . . more training required evidently!!!