Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Today there has been sewing, and rain

We looked at Sunday's Countryfile weather forecast and said "OK, that will be fun: NOT" - a whole week of changeable weather, unseasonably warm with rain coming and going whenever it feels like it. And for once, that seems to be exactly what we are getting.

I managed a little time on the drive yesterday working on Bill's brackets (that can have a post of its own when the job is finished), and to my surprise it was dry enough for an hour this morning that I could do a little more. But it is a slow job - sand, prime/paint, leave 24 hours if the weather co-operates, longer if it does not. Repeat.

Confined inside this afternoon by "proper" autumn weather (wind, rain, more wind, so gloomy the lights have been on since 2.00pm) I pulled the brightest selection of fabrics I could fine. At the weekend I made Bill a new pillowcase in fabric which matches the curtain that covers the toilet, and I wanted a similar cover for my bedding (which doubles as a big comfy 'bean-bag-alike' cushion). I adore this multi-coloured fabric but there's no indication on the selvege where it came from - if anyone happens to have a couple of yards they are not using I'll swap good money for it!

I suppose this was [sort of] patchwork, but I've sewn all the seams on the overlocker because it is not going to be quilted, so it didn't feel like 'proper' piecing. Waiting for a well-known online retailer to deliver some 70cm zips, and then I can finish.

It is definitely a day when bright colour was badly needed, and this little project certainly delivered. Off to sit down now until it is time to start supper, and I won't need much persuasion to light the woodburner.

Friday, 15 October 2021

The North bit of north-east coast

Having covered half of this section of coastline in June, this was always going to be the more relaxing and easy part of the trip. It does not hurt that it is also much prettier and more quiet.

Last time I finished in Cullen, so that is where I started this time. It is a lovely town with easy parking, really interesting beach and its main claim to fame is "home to Cullen Skink". What the publicity conveniently glosses over is that this was a dish created in the face of starvation during long, dark, miserable winters when it is too dangerous to put boats out to sea: protein either from smoked haddock or beef scrapings and the potatoes which grow exceptionally well in this part of Scotland. On more than one occasion I found myself crawling along at 15-20mph behind a fully laden "tattie-wagon" (and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to go so slowly and look at the scenery, probably a view not held by the cars behind me).

From Cullen it was on to one of the highlights of the entire trip: Portsoy. The village had a wonderful feel to it and supports a thriving primary school, a tempting looking campsite, more shops & businesses than I expected and definitely seems like a real community. I can definitely see me returning here. It has been particularly difficult to select photos from the gazillions I took.

On another day I spent ages in Pennan. Reached down the narrowest, steepest of roads but happily there is a very large layby at the top of the village lane, big enough for two motorhomes and I stopped there. The walk down to the village was steep and I could have managed it in Bill but I am glad I chose not to. I had the best coffee of the whole holiday (other than that which I make myself) at Shona's Coastal Cuppie, played with her two awesome dogs, and had a most relaxing time. This might be the only time you see FaceAche at Bag End: link to Coastal Cuppie.

Not being very good with popular culture the fact that the film Local Hero was filmed here was completely wasted on me but that's what brings most visitors to the place. I am not sure you can call it a village - there are 11 fulltime residents in winter (there were 12 but Shona's daughter has moved) with the remaining houses being second homes and holiday rentals. The weather can be so foul that the coffee shed has to be physically dismantled and moved at the end of every season - the year the shed was left in place it was destroyed by the first big storm. Still want to live in a coastal idyll? It has been particularly difficult to select photos from the gazillions I took. 😝

I enjoyed Pennan so much I didn't feel the need to repeat the experience a couple of miles further on and visit Covie, which is even smaller and completely car free. Even residents have to park half way up the cliff. But I could see it from Gardenstown . . . maybe I will go back one day?

Gardenstown, another village which clings perilously to the side of a cliff and was reached down another endless steep road with a couple of alarming hairpin bends which turned out to be much easier to drive up than down. Go figure? Larger than I expected, welcomed motorhomes (unusually the carpark offered safe overnight parking for £10) but not a patch on Portsoy.

The last place I spent a bit of time in was New Aberdour. Long empty beach and as I arrived early it was deserted except for a motorhome which I suspect had stayed the night. Massive carpark in relation to the size of the place, so I guess it gets busy in summer. I walked east towards what I thought would be a couple of caves. The one of the left turned out to be a rock arch typical of the geology of this area (Bow Fiddle Rock is probably one of the most well known). At low tide I would have been able to walk through the arch but I wasn't in the mood to get soaked or wait another couple of hours for the tide to go out a bit further.

Whilst peaceful and beautiful, Aberdour was really smelly, very unpleasantly so . . . the strandline was full of feathers and bones. Later I heard a horrible piece on Radio 4 about hundreds of dead birds, mostly guillimots, washing up on the east coast recently. The wildlife expert being interviewed said the birds did not appear to have died of starvation, or been poisoned, and no-one knew what was happening. Whilst most of the casualties were being washed up much further south I had to wonder if something to do with the tide patterns had brought some of the problem onto this beach. Sadly my memory of this place will be the unidentified and very disturbing stench.

So, that's the north-east coast of Scotland from Dundee to Inverness completed, and possibly my last trip of 2021. The majority of campsites close on 31st October and this year that is the weekend the clocks go back.

I live in the place that millions of people make great effort to visit each year - Bill and I need to get back into the habit of days out.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Pain stops play

Whilst being twisted under the van on Wednesday was [sort of] fun and satisfying, it was also incredibly awkward and all muscles south of my shoulders and north of my hips have been complaining like merry-hell ever since. I made an Executive Decision on Friday that we are purchasing some decent ramps or jacks which can safely lift a fairly hefty campervan before I do anything else . . . research is underway and once again we have a job started and not finished, sigh, although Management bravely and kindly did sand down that first bracket and apply a couple of coats of Hammerite for me.

Rain normally delays things here but yesterday was dry, mild and thoroughly pleasant in the garden. As I had excused myself from van duties I had a day of Autumn gardening instead. In the greenhouse I have catalogued all the dahlia plants. They will have their own post eventually to act as a reminder for me - next Spring when confronted with dry tubers there's no chance of remembering which plant is which unless they are carefully labelled now.

Each plant has been numbered and photographed, then label in the soil next to the roots. All the greenhouse is done, there are a few outside worth saving, will try and do that today.

The squash crop is small but that is not surprising seeing as it has had virtually no attention. The Patty Pan squash look nice but I've not tried them yet - if they are foul to eat then I have grown Halloween decorations 🎃 🎃 🎃 . The Uchiki Kuri are gorgeous - a soft, creamy flesh which cooks beautifully and is lovely to eat. Sadly my entire crop was only four fruit. I'd definitely grow them again. The bed they were in has now been cleared out and can rest until next year.

Same with the runner beans. I am overwhelmed with them, the freezer is full to bursting and I have more than enough to fulfill my goal which is always to have sufficient to last until Christmas Day. I made the hard decision to remove all those plants too - they were showing signs of having got cold, and if I am not going to harvest any more crop there's no point the plants staying in the ground taking nutrients from the soil - and I nearly made it to the end of the bed before hunger took over and it was time to start supper.

Although I worked hard all day being upright and constantly stretching definitely helped remove some of the kinks caused by working under the van. Now, back to garage equipment websites . . . and whilst it was 'pain' stopping van play yesterday I have a suspicion that rain will stop garden play today.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

In which an old woman learns something new

After what seems like endless rain (has only been four or five days?) today gave us an opportunity to go outside and lie on the driveway without getting soaked and filthy. Replacing the taps on Bill's water tanks is turning out to be nowhere as simple as I thought it would be because Devon Conversions seem to have used their own idiosyncratic method of connecting up to the CAK Tank, rather than that which the manufacturer suggest. It's not a big problem now that we can see how non-standard components have been installed, and apart from the knackered tap nothing has ever leaked, but sorting out what to do has taken longer than expected.

Whilst we wait for new taps to arrive, I got to learn how to clean the brackets right down to bare metal and apply rust preventative stinky-paint-like stuff. Trying to fit under the van wearing eye protection, a proper mask and wield unfamiliar power tools was a new experience for me - but life would be boring if you didn't learn new things after 60! It would have been nicer to remove the brackets and have Management blast and powder-coat them but the fixings are fairly inaccessible.

After doing one bracket completely, of course I downed tools and went to the hairdresser 🤗 .

And whilst I was out Management removed the rear mud flaps, decided we did not need to buy new bits after all, cleaned up the old brackets and re-coated them beautifully. Sometimes it is very useful having sand blasting and powder coating on site!

When I got back from town I cleaned up the mud flap mounting areas and my job tomorrow will be derust and prime them, together with the other water tank bracket.

I hope Bill appreciates all this TLC, coupled with a full service and new brakes yesterday she's getting a lot of attention this week. Fingers crossed the weather stays half decent and I can give her a good clean as well.

Monday, 4 October 2021

The East bit of north-east coast

The "Coast by Campervan" journey for my September trip covered that big bit of Scotland on the right which sticks out into the North Sea. I found it a coastline of two very different and very distinct halves. You've already seen the before and after map pics but I feel like using them again:

After a few easy hours on the motorway, I had the weirdest, unexpected experience on the M90 as it ended at Perth; without any warning, not that there is any need, the road soars high over the River Tay. Apparently this is the Friarton Bridge, you can look it up yourself but it is a really big, tall, high bridge. I have driven over countless bridges in my life with no problem. I have a damn good head for heights which makes me to go-to-householder for ladders, scaffolding and all things exposed. Until Friarton Bridge . . . where I had the makings of a panic attack.

Not serious enough to affect my driving but stupid enough that I opened the driver's window and had one hand on my seatbelt buckle entertaining ludicrous ideas about how I could make a quick escape from Bill if the bridge collapsed, and as it is half a mile long I had plenty of time to conjure up all sorts of scenarios . . . Of course the bridge did not collapse and I was able to pull over a couple of miles later, make a fresh mug of tea and give myself a calm-down-talking-to, but "whoa", that was a new one 🤯🤯🤯.

Putting it firmly behind me I decided my journey really started at Dundee which I liked the feel of. I enjoyed driving past the RRS Discovery and V&A Dundee making a mental note to return one day to visit both; of course it is highly unlikely I ever will. The first day finished with a drive through Carnoustie and Arbroath and I confess I did not like either. Nowhere to park, SatNav being a pain-in-the-**** and it was time to head to my campsite. CAMC Forfar - as always with the Caravan Club it was safe, reliable, friendly.

The next day I went back to Arbroath knowing that there was an even BIGGER bridge across the Montrose basin. "Oh, that could be fun" thought the brain. But it was nothing, non-event, inconsequential. So maybe Perth is just special . . . but I will never know because I don't fancy returning. It was also the day I had to deal with:

My first proper stop of this trip was St Cyrus Beach, a well-regarded nature reserve. Nice enough, but not sure it was worth the steep, narrow "is this ever going to end" road that leads to a height-limited carpark? Thankfully I was able to park, because it would have been bloody irritating to have slogged down a single-track road with no passing places to have to turn around and leave immediately . . .

I did, however, approve of their attitude towards "weeds", reminded me of Bag End!

The carpark at St Cyrus was to become the defining element of the "east" section of coast, all the way to Fraserburgh. Very small carparks, most with height barriers. I get that, I really do - old villages and harbours do not always have the room for vast expanses of tarmac dedicated to parking, and height barriers are becomingly increasingly necessary to stop the free-loaders who want to "wild camp" setting up in completely inappropriate places and not putting much, if anything, into the local economy. But it means that people like me - who want to visit lovely places and spend money in local cafes & shops cannot stop and do so. Over the next few days, almost without exception, being able to park safely and legally was a main feature and completely spoiled this part of the visit. Stonehaven, Gourdon, Johnshaven and various points in between - you were a disappointment. And yes, I will harbour a grudge and probably never return 🤬.

The exception was Peterhead where I found generous, safe parking and was able to have a wander, and then sit looking into the harbour with binoculars studying what was there. Despite the large (free) carpark I came away with something which did nothing to allay my dislike of this area: people wax lyrical about fishing, traditions, local economy. All I could see when I zoomed in on these massive vessels were floating murder machines. Talking to Management later we came up with the word Brutal. And that is what these ships are - they are massive, brutal, metal killing machines destroying not just fishing stocks but the entire marine environment. I already eat very little fish and seeing these ships close up has left me not wanting to consume much more.

Unrelated and more enjoyable - CAMC Banchory, seried ranks of pitches yes, but clean, quiet, with fabulous staff who sadly are going to retire after 18 years as Site Managers because of the atrocious behaviour of the "new breed" of Post-Covid Campers. A couple of the stories they told of what they've endured this season absolutely beggars belief.

Despite decent campsites it is fair to say that I did not fully enjoy this part of my holiday. I've already mentioned my lack of planning and the unacceptable behaviour from the SatNav had given me some less than ideal experiences, BUT, it is important to maintain a sense of proportion. Not all jaunting about in a campervan is as Happy Hippy as Instagram would like us to believe, and whatever I'm writing about I try to be as honest as possible. If I had done my 'usual thing' I would have known, for example, that St Cyrus was height limited and either I would not have visited or I'd have arrived at everyone-else-still-asleep-o'clock and it would have been easier to safely park Bill in the small section which was accessible.

Friarton Bridge image: This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Paul McIlroy and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.