A last Hurrah to Raasay BC part 3

Now in the third week of extreme social distancing our last trip away in the Van seems a million years ago!

Parked up at Metal Bridge

I am not sure if looking back at it is helpful or if it brings more to the fore the adventures we are missing.

As we retired a few years ago from our teaching posts we thought we were used to staying at home. But in actual fact we didn’t spend as much time alone together in the marital home as we thought.

Friends and family who know us and our history well have kindly enquired how we are managing in solitary confinement, caught together like rats in a trap! Suffice to say that although I keep the frying pan close to hand….I haven’t felt the need to use it ….yet!

So back to our last adventure.

Our first stop over on the Friday evening was a place we had driven past on many other occasions always intending to “give it a try” sometime. The Metal Bridge Inn near Gretna Green just off the M6.

This is a well known motorhome stopover and the pub provides about a dozen marked out pitches in a car park at the back of the pub. There is access to clean water and also large tanks to empty all types of waste water. Even better, access to the pub’s toilets is available from when they open their doors at about 7am until they close late at night.

When we arrived at about 4:30 there was only one other motorhome in the car park , although by the time we went to bed there was total of 6…and this on a cold night in early March. At the height of holidays I would imagine that the pace is crammed. We opted to park facing the riverside…with a view not only of the river banks but also the traffic speeding passed on the M6.

View from the van in our parking spot

Inside the pub was warm and cosy and surprisingly, extremely popular on a freezing March evening. People were even waiting outside for it to open up when we arrived before 5.

Part of the deal when parking up overnight for free in a pub’s car park is to have a meal and drinks in the pub. So we duly went in and happily complied with the unwritten rules. Gary was a tadge disappointed that the there was no hand pulled beer on offer but nonetheless enjoyed a couple of bottles from Scottish breweries that he likes….and later the several, inevitable glasses of red wine.

We sat in the conservatory looking out on the river and enjoyed a very pleasant meal in the busy pub. It looked as if many folk had come in for the meal deal which seemed excellent value…2 courses for £7.50.

We were just musing about whether to have a pudding or not when I went to the ladies. I was washing my hands…very carefully of course….when the door burst open ….Another lady customer appeared in a great rush and  some distress. Before she could make it through the doorway and in to one of the toilet cubicles she directed a stream of projectile vomit right at me. Leaving me cowering in the corner before this most unexpected onslaught.

Ignoring my baser instincts of cowardice to head for the hills, I dutifully enquired of the poor woman, as she continued to puke into the toilet, if I could help in any way. Thankfully, she spluttered a negative. Unconvinced, I asked if I could let anyone know of her predicament…her friends or family…or …given the dire state of the entrance to the bathroom the pub management? Again her answer was a no thanks…she would clean it all up herself and not to trouble anyone.

Still unconvinced, I left the Ladies and headed for the bar. The whole area of the toilets would need a thorough deep clean….and any unsuspecting female could easily step right into the unholy mess and then tramp it through the whole pub!

At the bar I approached the very young waitress who had served us earlier that evening. Trying to minimise the vomiting lady’s discomfiture I discreetly murmured the whole sorry tale to her. Shock, dismay and very definitely fear instantly registered on her pretty face. Realising that something was up her manager bellowed across the pub asking what was wrong. There then followed a bellowing farce between the two of them before he finally got the message and she was dispatched to clear up the mess and check on the possibly still puking lady.

For myself, I glanced around looking for the spare seat from which the puker had hailed. Was she with her partner, family or friends. No, I couldn’t see a vacant chair. So I returned to Gary and told him the sorry tale.

Gary was horrified. I was worried that she might be really very poorly….he was sure that it would be alcohol related….even though it was only about 9 o’clock. Pudding was definitely no longer an option. I just wanted to get back to the safety of the van as fast as possible. So we agreed to finish our drinks, pay up and go.

Then I saw her return to the very table next to us. This was a party of 4 middle aged couples out for a meal together. I watched her take her seat and wondered what she would say to her partner and friends.

To my amazement….she said absolutely nothing and carried on eating her meal, laughing and joking as if nothing unusual had occurred!

Perhaps Gary ‘s analysis was correct. It was alcohol related. Nonetheless I worried for the rest of the night that as I was in her direct line of fire…and ugh splatter… I might become ill.

I rang Sue the next morning and explained the whole sorry affair. Should we return home or continue with the risk of bringing her some lurgy?

She urged us to continue on our way. I hadn’t become ill yet and we still had a couple more days of travelling before we would reach Raasay. If I did fall ill on the way we could always reassess our options. I should seal all the clothes I had on that evening up in a plastic bag and wash them as soon as I reached her house.

So off we trundled on our way again…

To be continued….

Campsite Duties

Gary in his warden uniform cleaning the campers washing up area.

Life as an assistant camp site warden is quite varied. Apart from booking campers in, processing bookings and enquiries there are all the other jobs that need completing to successfully keep the campsite show on the road!

We have a great shift pattern here at Lochranza where the work load is shared between 3 couples as well as the campsite owners. We work one afternoon / evening shift from midday through to 9:00 in the evening followed by a morning shift from 8:00 till 1 pm We then have that afternoon, followed by a full day and then a further morning free to enjoy all the glories that this beautiful island offers.

Amazingly, one of my favourite jobs has been the 8:00 deer poo run!

To the delight of the campers wild deer roam the campsite and golf course and can be seen at very close quarters.

They do help to keep the grass down and tenters are frequently awaken in the deepest dark of night by strange chomping and munching noises immediately outside their fragile canvas home.

Now we all know that where there is an input there eventually has to be an output and these majestic beasts are no different from the rest of us.

So, early every morning one of the wardens is wandering the campsite collecting the mounds of deer poo before the campers step in it and walk it into their temporary dwellings.

The equipment is basic but very effective. A huge handled “dust-pan” and an accompanying rake to scoop or flick the droppings into the pan.

Perhaps it is due to their diet…..but deer poo seems to be odour free…..unlike the slurry you can get from cowpats.

I really enjoy these early mornings rambles. The light at that time of day is delightful and without the demands of a specific task I would probably otherwise remain snuggled up in bed and so miss one of the best parts of the day!

Naturally there is a close correlation between how many deer have been on site and the number of pan loads of dung collected.

My personal best has been 2 and a half pans but there has been as many as 5!

Sparkling washbasins in the Ladies!

Sticking with the clean-up theme, one of our other duties includes cleaning the Ladies and Gents washrooms.When I do this I like to imagine that some Very Important People are due on site…..due to my egalitarian nature not royalty ….perhaps the Obamas…..but not some of my other heroes like Billy Bragg or The Mekons as I am sure they wouldn’t care! Whatever…. we aim to clean so that everything gleams!

We also ensure that there is a constant supply of toilet paper! The poor quality availability of toilet paper in campsite toilets is one of my pet hates as are those ruddy contraptions that only allow one measly sheet at a time. So I am so pleased that at Lonchranza soft paper runs freely from its dispenser!

Nor do mouldy shower curtains cling limply to your body when showering as the pretty curtains are changed monthly…..another warden duty.

Regular readers may be aware of a lavatorial theme running through this blog…..particularly regarding characterful loos. Like my good friend Maggie, the owners of the campsite have had their Ladies and Gents toilets twinned with toilets elsewhere . The aim of this admirable twinning is to provide sanitation in places where there is a significant lack.

Must rush off now…..need to help Gary book some campers in!

The poshest loo in Leeds….

Gary and I took a trip into Leeds city centre on Sunday. Unless you know Gary that might not sound unusual. However, those of you that do will be flabbergasted to know that we were going shopping together. Yes, we actually went into Debenhams and he bought a pair of trousers! He even tried them on in the changing rooms first!

What on earth could have caused this topsy turvy reversal of the natural order where I buy his clothes unaccompanied, guessing his size and he eventually tries them on at his leisure in the comfort of his own boudoir. Those items that fit are gratefully accepted, those that don’t go in the pile of stuff on the chest of drawers to be returned or await the moment in the distant future when they might fit through either the loss or gaining of weight by the aforementioned Gary.

Being a leftie, anti-capitalist socialist he hates the whole business of shopping and would much rather be playing football, watching football, talking bollocks about football, planning future football matches or at the very least be safely ensconced in a pub with a pint.So what had happened?

Earlier in the week we had had a major clear-out. In doing so I went through several old handbags and in one I found some Debenhams vouchers that I had forgotten about…..a mere £110 worth, and as they don’t have expiry dates it seemed they were still valid….even though I had had them stashed away for about 15 years. So on Sunday we were off to spend the vouchers, Gary was coming with me to ensure I spent them wisely and didn’t incur any further expense and….he was in need of a pair of trousers.

We weren’t entirely convinced that the vouchers would work and that we could actually exchange them for goods so we approached the pay desk with a little trepidation. Fortunately, our only hiccup lay in the redeemable value of the vouchers themselves. We had 4 vouchers for £25 each and one for £10 and when you used them to pay for goods you couldn’t be given change. The trousers cost £20. What on earth could we do with this Level 4 SATS maths problem?

Simple! I just had to buy a cardigan and a pair of trousers to make the amount up to £50!

Job done, Gary needed to celebrate his foray into the world of shopping. As luck would have it , just over the way, down a ginnel in the Turk’s Yard was one of the oldest pubs in Leeds, Whitelocks.

Whitelocks has a romantic link for us. It was at Whitelocks that I was first attracted to the loud, moustachioed Economics teacher who seemed to have a “mot juste” for everyone and everything during a staff night out. I particularly remember the way the pub fell into a stunned silence when a huge Australian soldier bearing a massive kit bag on his shoulder burst into the room and forced his way to the bar to be greeted by Gary welcoming him with “Hey up! Action man!”. Was Gary about to be finally pasted for his tongue in cheek greeting and delight in taking the piss out of those senior or in this case larger than himself? No! The gigantic Australian slapped him on his back and bought him several rounds of beers as they continued to swap insults.

Reader, I was enchanted!

Whitelocks , described by John Betjeman “as the very heart of Leeds” was first licensed as the “Turk’s Head” in 1715 and was rebuilt by the Whitelock family in the 1880’s and they created its internal, ornate decor including a long marble bar , beautiful tiles and etched mirrors.

In days gone past it was a favorite haunt of stage stars from the City Varieties close by and gained renown when Prince George entertained a party in a curtained off section. At one time, many years ago, a doorman ensured that only dinner jacketed gentlemen could enter and ladies of course were not allowed at the bar so customers were served by waiters at their tables.

No dinner jackets or table service were to be seen on Sunday. The place was packed to the gills though with folks coming for Sunday Dinner and we were very lucky immediately on arrival to acquire one of the small round cast iron tables.

Before long my consumption of liquid comestibles meant I needed to pay a visit to the ladies. I climbed a very steep and narrow stairway, perilous for anyone who had had more than a few alcoholic beverages, to gain access to a room containing the grandest throne I had ever beheld. A sumptuous mahogany seat, wide enough for the largest of ladies bottoms sat like a howdah upon the back of a china elephant. Yes I did say the back of an elephant!

With its beautiful black and white tiled floor, brass fittings and chain for old fashioned flushing this must be the poshest loo in Leeds!

Or even the whole of Yorkshire!