We’ve used the camper van quite a lot this summer, and just for the record I think that I now know that three days is about the limit to the length of time I can stay in close quarters with Chris. I discovered this on day four of our last trip, when his insistence on playing fast and loose with his dirty underpants finally got to me.
Anyway. Let’s start at the beginning because that’s a very good place to start, eh?
We had a fabulous week in George St in Millport, and we used the camper van mostly to motor round to Fintry Bay for picnics, barbeques etc. We also took it round to watch the Tall Ships coming past the island, but I’m ashamed to say my interest waned. They were very ,very, far away, and we’d forgotten the binoculars. I became distracted by the discovery of a cheese sandwich in the picnic, which I’d thought was a ham one, and when I looked up again, they seemed to have mostly passed. Ah well.
We had booked tickets on the Waverley Paddle Steamer on the Thursday, and I was very excited. I’ve wanted to go on it for years, but the price always put me off. However when I realised it was just going to be me and Chris in Millport this year, and spurred on by the news that The Waveley is in big financial trouble , I went ahead and booked the “Three Island Cruise”. Much as I’m keen to support the Waverley, I wasn’t prepared to pay premium prices for a sandwich, so quarter to one saw Chris and I on Millport Pier,eagerly scanning the horizon for the boat, armed with a packed lunch and thermos.
A North Ayrshire van drew up and two work men jumped out.
“Anybody waiting on the Waverley? She’s no’ comin’ in today- private hire” they bellowed, and then jumped back in the van and exited sharpish, before I could vent my old lady wrath on them . A quick phone call to the booking office connected me to a smug and bored minion, who informed me snootily that all passengers had been informed by email. Aye, right, that will be why I’m standing on the pier with my thermos, son, I told him tartly.
So we went on the wee Cumbrae boat trip instead, which ,while it wasn’t the Waverley, was lots of fun and most informative.
The weather was fabulous for most of the week, and I felt very relaxed until I returned to work, and within twenty minutes I was stressed again. My evenings were spent trying to impose some sort of order on the house, and ironing bed covers for the Millport flats, and answering emails from people asking if Country and Western weekend was still available for the flats.
Trip number two was up to Beauly, to see my dear friend Jane. She’s going through some gruelling chemo just now, and I didn’t want to be a house guest- her husband has enough on his hands without guests, no matter how well meaning. So we decided to stay at the Lovatt Bridge Campsite, just outside the village.
The campsite was strangely quiet when we arrived, considering it was the start of the English school summer hols. We had plenty of spacious pitches to choose from, and there were only a couple of other tents, some caravans with awnings, and very little competition for the lovely benches, set right on the river bank. It was heaven. I sat on the bench and made like Bob Dylan, Watching The River Flow. I had some tea. In the morning we opened the door and sat on the step, and had breakfast. I could have stayed there for ever.
On our way home, the weather was again glorious, and we meandered gently down A roads, stopping to brew up several times at various different lochs. As I sat in the sunshine, and thought how little I wanted to return home and work, I had one of those Moments when you just know something has to change. I swear to God I cannot work another summer like this. Even with Chris on domestic duty at home, and doing as much as he could in Millport in the way of seeing in guests, it’s been really hard work. My busiest time in Millport always coincides with the busiest time of year at work,and I’ve had to work an additional forty hours at the creche each month for the past three months, to cover staff holidays. Something is going to have to give.
Trip three was my second week off work, and was really worked round the Waveley Trip Attempt Two. This one was picking up from Dunoon, and we found a lovely campsite just outside the town. It looked beautiful, and I looked forward to more cups of tea sitting on benches . Chris had suggested a couple of days in Galloway first, and then a leisurely drive up to the Dunoon campsite, a night there, The Waverley Trip Attempt Two ,another night at the Dunoon campsite, and then home on the Friday.
The two days in Kirkcudbright site were gorgeous- sunny weather, nice meals, quiet campsite, breath taking views. Perfect. I went to school in Kirkcudbright, and last time I was there, the year after mum died, I was impressed by the number of charity shops in the town. Now, however the number of Galleries selling Arty Stuff has risen exponentially, and the number of charity shops has dropped massively. Kirkcudbright is obviously working the Artist’s Town label to the full, but I do like a good charity shop, and feel I have more than enough Arty Stuff. Some of it was quite good, and some …less so. There was a really good exhibition of The Glasgow Boys in the town hall, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Anyway. Chris mentioned that the weather didn’t look too promising for W.A 2, but I wasn’t really listening as I was trying to spot the bus shelter where I did much flirting with Alan Morrison, when we were both at school. I do believe they’ve knocked it down, and him such a prominent Artist himself!
Overnight on Tuesday night I was awoken by the sound of torrential rain beating on the roof of the camper van. I lazily decided not to bother with a shower in the morning, as the van was parked a fair way from the toilet block. It was one of those you had to key in a code to gain entry, and the thought of standing in my flip flops and dressing gown, in the rain trying to remember if it was C1684 or C1864 was not attractive. It’ll just be a passing shower, probably,I said to Chris. I’ll wait till tonight in Dunoon.
As we drove ,the rain became torrential. We crawled up the coast, past Fairlie , where traffic was at a standstill. The burn seemed to have burst it’s banks, and rain water was surging out of every drain, pouring down the hill ,and had flooded the railway track. Largs was just as wet. We stopped at the Morrisons supermarket and bought some things for tea, as it was clearly going to be later than we’d planned before we hit Dunoon.
The ferry from Greenock took about twenty minutes, and we arrived in Dunoon at about half past five. Horizontal rain lashed the town, and a grey, murky mist wreathed the shops. They were shut anyway. Everything looked shut.
We drove about for a while trying to find the camp site..(use the Satnav?? Don’t make me laugh.. ) Finally we found it ,down a bit of a hill off the main road. It looked shut too. After a bit of paddling about, we found the owner, who observed that the pitches were a wee bit damp… maybe we’d want a bit of hard standing? He then directed us to the toilet block and fresh water taps, and left us to it. The rain was ceaseless. We cooked up a very tasty meal of steak and mushrooms, with strawberries and cream to follow, and listened to the rain thundering on the van roof. I put on my hiking boots and set off to check the toilets. Bleak, dark, and a bit bloomin’ chilly, I was unable to force myself to undress and get under the shower, even if I’d had the right change for it. Instead, I went for a little walk. There was only on other motor home parked beside us, housing a very genial chap from Manchester. The rest of the park was littered with some really ancient caravans, the kind that Father Ted and Dougall stay in when they go for their hols. They were all unoccupied. In fact, they looked as if they’d been unoccupied since about 1979.
I returned to the camper van, where the puddles outside the door seemed deeper.
In the morning, we awoke to four inches of standing water. I sloshed over to the toilet block. The toilets and sinks were making some very disturbing slooshing and gurgling noises. Best not to attempt the showers, I reasoned, and just washed my face and brushed my teeth. My hair, which had got wet at least three times and dried out, looked like a bad drawing of Albert Einstein. If I’d been able to see myself properly in the fly spotted dingy mirror, I suspect I was sporting his moustache as well.
There was no chance we were staying on the camp site for a second night. We drove gently through the water, and headed for the Waverley.
There certainly wasn’t a great view from the ship. One big grey lump was Arran, another Pladda, we were informed… and I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my wet boots and socks. I comforted myself by hanging around the engine room, which was nice and cosy, and drinking lots of hot coffee from the thermos. I tried not to catch sight of myself in any mirrors. I might book again for next summer, as I’m sure on a nice day, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Especially if I’d had a shower, and had dry feet.
We disembarked at around eight o’clock, and sprinted to the camper van to catch the ferry back to Greenock. Chris drove, I dozed, and we were home by eleven.
By half past, I’d showered, put dry socks on and was in bed with a bottle of wine and a hot water bottle, catching up on the London riots. I feel sure if the weather was more Scottish, i.e wet, there would be less trouble. It’s hard ,I’m sure, to feel anarchic if your feet are damp.