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!


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The Road to Arran

After a few setbacks we finally left Leeds and were Arran bound, due to arrive at Lochranza campsite Wednesday afternoon.

We had decided to complete the journey over 2 days having a stopover somewhere enroute. Being an ostrich sort of person I hadn’t really considered where we would stay on Tuesday evening…..just somewhere. Luckily I am married to “Google Gary” who for several weeks had been on line investigating all the possibilities and permutations and these depended upon which route we took once we hit the M6.

As we tottered up the A66 looking at the glorious views it provided we agreed to head for Dumfries and then to a little harbour close by called Glencaple. This would leave us about 80 miles to do the following morning to Ardrossan where we were catching the 12:30 ferry to Brodick on Arran.

Dumfries is just out of the picture on the map being about 5 miles north of Glencaple

Gary had found out about this stopover from the Brit Stops book
http://www.britstops.com/welcome.php and then had checked it out on other sites where it had been given great reviews.

Those reviews did not deceive. It was a beautiful spot with glorious views looking out towards the Solway Firth.

Although it was mid week in late April the car park’s designated space for 5 motorhomes was already busy by the time we arrived at about 4pm, but we did manage to squeeze in.This was despite the fact that 2 vans had been badly parked and, with their owners nowhere to be seen were occupying more space than was their due. No wonder motorhomers often get a bad press!

The stopover is provided by the local council and has designated space for 5 motorhomes. An honesty box with information about the site which includes a request that motorhomes only park in the designated area is in a prominent position. There is  no accompanying recommendation regarding the amount of donation, but we thought that for this delightful spot £5 should be a minimum. If the site is full then there is the option to go to Castle Corner which is about 3 miles away and has space for 7 motorhomes.

There are clean toilets in the car park which are supposed to be locked overnight but when we were there seemed to remain open all the time. A cafe/ restaurant is adjacent to the car park and opposite is a pub, the Nith Hotel.

We ate in the pub that evening and had a very enjoyable meal.

We had, for us an early start the next day and reached Ardrossan with enough time to stock up with provisions and fuel at the ASDA, which is very conveniently placed next door to the ferry port, long before embarkation was due to start.

The van at Ardrossan waiting patiently whilst we collected the tickets

As we were there quite early we were just about first in the motorhome queue for the ferry. For once, we didn’t seem to have to wait too long once boarding began, before it was our turn. But Quelle Domage! When Gary was beckoned forwards and he turned the ignition on the scary red ECU light came on which we know means bad engine trouble.

What should we do? If we didn’t move we would be in the way, if we did there was a slight possibility that we would wreck the engine……..

What did we do?

We moved!

We drove onto the ferry promising ourselves that on the other side at Brodick as soon as possible we would park up and investigate the cause of the menacing red light.

On the ferry at Ardrossan harbour

With great trepidation we restarted the van when it came time to depart the ferry at Brodick hoping against hope that the red light was just a glitch and it would have disappeared…..but no, it was still there.

The ferry at Brodick…. plus random finger!

Brodick was very busy and we struggled to find anywhere to park our long vehicle. Finally we staggered into the Coop car park which was rammed. Gary was driving and I as navigator got him stuck in a dead end by the recycling bins.

Tempers were becoming fractured. I jumped out to see him reverse out of the dead end…..he revved the engine hard twice…not in anger as I erroneously thought……and miraculously…… the red light cleared and we were on our way again.

It was only 14 windy, twisty  miles to Lochranza through stunning coastal scenery past Goatfell, over the tops and we were finally there on site and pitched up!

Phew! What a view. It was definitely worth it!

Bluebell Memories

Spring is definitely my favourite season and this part of spring when the bluebells are in full bloom is the best. Our garden shimmers with a haze of misty blue and in doing so recalls memories.

A haze of bluebells on The Ridge yesterday

Unlike the usual stereotypes of a cosily married couple it is Gary who remembers our special dates and anniversaries. He is the memory man. I tend to have a more vague memory for such occasions pinned to the back of my mind more by a slight flavour or essence of the original event.

So indeed, I do remember our wedding day. It happened at this time in spring when the bluebells were in full dance and the smell of the May flowers hung in the air. It happened on the Friday of the May Day bank holiday and, so Gary tells me, it happened 30 years ago yesterday. Perhaps if I write the date out here, the numbers will stick to the front of my mind and not disappear in the clouds of remembrances which clutter my mind and fill up my memory bank. April 28th 1989!

….signing the register with our lovely Laura

With Gary’s Mum and Dad
The three Lovelace siblings

Bob was our best man and I remember him leading everyone in a fit of the giggles during the wedding vows due to the pompous nature of the male registrar. I also remember him lewdly sticking Laura’s posy down the front of his trousers in this photograph….until we insisted he removed it!

The very special French gateau ordered as a surprise wedding cake by our good friends Jeff and Neil
A picture for Elsa……of her Mum, Dad and Uncle Alan in different times!

We don’t usually celebrate our wedding anniversary but as it was a special one we thought we would, after all our kids had made the effort earlier in the week for us.

So, in the late afternoon we wandered down through the wooded Ridge breathing in the heavenly scents of the May flowers, past the haze of bluebells and wild garlic to a small Italian restaurant/cafe in Meanwood- Culto.

Now as you cannot book a table in advance and as it had been very busy the last time we were there we were a little concerned that we might not be able to get a table. But the restaurant section was empty and we had our pick of where to sit. This situation did not last long as within half an hour the place was completely packed , mostly with young families seeking an early evening meal. And no wonder, great value, high quality eating !

Food was delicious, Gary had a great pizza Diavola with spicy sausage and a nicely risen crust and I had a fabulous Mille Folle- layers of aubergine, courgette, tomato mozzarella and ricotta.

Later we met Laura and Maggie and went to the Meanwood Institute to watch a friend’s band, The Hollow Men previously Full English Breakfast perform a gig they called A song for Europe and other English Tunes.

The institute is a very small and intimate venue, not much bigger than our sitting room.

We have seen the band play many times before, they are all very talented musicians who can play a wide variety of instruments.One of their specialities however are the beautiful and at times haunting songs which they sing A Cappella.

Most of the music they play are covers of fairly well known songs but all done in the bands own style.In last nights selection the most famous items included Bus Stop by the Hollies, Cliff Richards’ The Young Ones, Debris by Ronnie Lane and Michelle by the Beatles. They also played two songs especially in honour of our imminent departure for Arran….a very tongue in cheek Donald Where’s Your Troosers and a moving song by Robert Burns about a happily married old couple called John Anderson, My Jo.

Yet another brilliant musical evening, this time to raise money for Leeds Refugee Forum and also for those affected by cyclone Idai in Malawi. And at a mere £5 per person what a bargain!

Fun and goodwill all in one event!

Oxford….

At the court of “King Bob”

On Sunday and Monday night we stayed at the Camping and Caravanning Club site in Oxford. This is brilliantly placed for visiting Oxford.

We have stayed here on many occasions including when we came for Bob’s 60th birthday party and also when we came for his memorial service in Balliol chapel 7 years ago.

The amenities are fairly basic and show their age but are well cared for and kept clean by the friendly site wardens. It truly is the “friendly club”.

All pitches are on grass and during wet weather most vans are parked by the wardens on the roads ….a bit bizarre… but it uses available space to the maximum and prevents vehicles getting stuck or churning up the pitches.

Due to our immense ages we are able to claim an age concession on the site fees and so each night was priced at a mere £16.

Just a couple of minutes walk away is a bus stop with a frequent service into the city…..an adult day return is £3. Or you can walk in….about 25 minutes.

We took the bus and were soon at Balliol college.

My brother, Bob, had lived in Oxford for most of his adult life and had worked at many of the university colleges as a philosophy lecturer. Balliol was the college he was working at when he became ill and the one he felt he had the greatest affinity with. Additionally, the college had been very supportive throughout his short illness.

In days past …..and in all weathers…Bob could usually be found sitting outside the Buttery at Balliol with a glass of red wine, fag in hand, holding court to students,friends and colleagues. Discussing life, philosophy and using his acerbic wit to entertain those who gathered at the court of “King Bob”.

He loved to shock as well as entertain and wasn’t beyond spinning a few tall tales. I remember, at his 60th birthday party being asked about our Native American heritage!

Apparently, he had told college staff that we were descended from a famous Apache chief and had done so, so convincingly that it was an accepted truth!

So on Monday we headed straight for the Buttery to see the bench which students and colleagues had placed outside there in memory of Bob.

The inscription reads:

Bob Hargrave 1949- 2012 “Amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.”

Which, as most of you will know, is a quote from David Hume – “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”

The view from the Buttery and Bob’s usual seat

We also visited Balliol chapel where the college held a memorial service for him. I can remember him planning that service one cold, wet miserable afternoon outside the Buttery, full of dark mischief and tongue in cheek.

Balliol chapel from the Fellows Garden

The small chapel is beautiful inside and all are welcome to visit it on days when the college is open to the public

The Ashmolean Museum is quite close by and well worth a visit, but the last time I was there I was pushing a cantankerous Bob around in his wheelchair and the memories are overwhelmingly too vivid and sad for me to wander round again.

Bob in deservedly cantankerous mood outside the Ashmolean, just a few days after his diagnosis of lung cancer

So instead we headed off for a wander through Jericho, which is a historic suburb of Oxford. It developed just outside the old city wall and hundreds of years ago as a place for travellers to rest if they had reached the city after the gates had closed. Today it has a bohemian arty feel and in 2017 was ranked number 11 by Travel Supermarket in a list of the UK’s most “hip” destinations. It also has several literary connections. Thomas Hardy’s novel “Jude the Obscure” has a scene set in St Barnabas Church and one of the pubs is called Jude the Obscure as a homage to that. Parts of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy are also set in Jericho which is home to the water-dwelling “Gyptians” and this in turn reflects the way the real Jericho is bounded by the Oxford Canal. There is a lovely walk along the canal which leads back into the city centre and you can admire all the houseboats decorated with fabulous artistic designs which are moored alongside the canal.

One of the places we were keen to visit was the pub called the Old Bookbinders which had been described to us as a “hidden jewel of Oxford” and “Oxford’s best kept secret”. The pub and surrounding area also has special resonance for “Morse” fans as the very first episode, “The Dead of Jericho” was filmed here and included the exterior of the pub which in the episode was called The Printer’s Devil.

The interior of the pub is filled with the most amazing and amusing bits of antiques and junk…..including an old toy railway complete with track and engines stuck to the ceiling!

But it was the food that had brought us….French bistro style and with a menu du jour of fantastic value £10.50 for 2 courses or £13.50 for 3.
Food was fabulous and served by a lovely  French girl. We really struggled not to speak to her in Franglais…and did mistakenly drop an automatic merci here and there!

What an end to a great day!

Next stop, Eastleigh!