Camping in the Capital Pt 1 – A day out in ‘Brum

Good morning from a (currently) sunny but very autumnal Crystal Palace Caravan Club Site. I say currently – there was lots of rain during the night and with a strong wind the skies look anything but settled. Still, at the moment it’s very nice and with Patsy warm and cosy and bellies full from a bbq’d breakfast all is good in our little corner of the world.

Right, catch up time. Friday and with Patsy now in storage making sure we had everything we needed took a little more thought. The essentials like water carriers and so on had been left with her ladyship. Bigger stuff like the awnings were in the garage whilst some stuff had appeared in the flat. In a way it was much easier when she was on the drive when you could just go back and forth but we probably ending up going away with much more stuff than needed.

Anyway, we arrived at the storage compound soon after 9am and I busied myself checking the tyre pressures and wheel nuts whilst Trev took care of the inside. With no mains hook up the on board battery was virtually flat and unable to power the tyre inflator. Not an issue really as we always camp on sites with electric hook up anyway.

A little after 10am we were on the road again – resisting the lure of the roadwork's at Handcross and heading instead up the A24, cutting across to the A23 near Gatwick.

We normally swap over driving duties once we get inside the M25 but I decided to carry on as I’d never hauled Patsy through the South London traffic before. No major dramas with only a couple of drivers choosing to vent their displeasure with the use of  horn. I also elicited a glare of pure hatred from some impatient tool in a white Merc at the roundabout near the site who clearly didn’t like his progress being impeded for a few seconds, despite the fact that I indicated AND it was my right of way. I glared back but my hands were too preoccupied with the steering wheel to issue a more visual response!

The warden recognised us from our last visit and was as welcoming and helpful as always, even managing to secure us a pitch over new year. More about that at some point.

Having been on the lovely grassed area at the front last time we were hoping to get a similar spot but that was now closed for the winter – for obvious reasons. Instead we were placed down the end I dubbed the council estate last time – serves me right I guess. However it’s a small site here and with recent pitch reorganisation club wide, pitches were even more limited. We were just happy to be here.

There was no one on the pitch opposite so it made my intention to reverse Patsy in to position using the car a lot easier. With the stabiliser disengaged and Trev directing operations at the rear I eased her in and got her reasonably in line with the pitch marker first time. I know I was lucky and it’s something I need to practice a lot more but was still pleased with myself.

So Patsy was in position but having unhitched and pulled the car away, a glance at the spirit level in the window indicated that she was listing a bit too starboard. A ramp was needed but there still wasn’t enough life in the battery to operate the motor mover. However a few minutes hooked up to the mains and her ladyship was soon level. The wheels were chocked and the legs wound down.

The small awning travelled with us this time, the thinking being that it wouldn’t be warm enough to sit out, but it’s stayed pretty mild so far and the larger one may have been worthwhile. A foray to the nearby supermarket was the only excursion of the day and bbq’d burgers with salad and wedges provided the necessary sustenance later on.

Saturday, and an early start for the days excursion. To Birmingham. Yes, you read it right. Our week away coincided with the Caravan & Motorhome show at the NEC, so soon after 6am the kettle was on and Trev was making sarnies. Our visit was twofold – first to look at caravans – obviously – the 2014 models were on display so it would be interesting to see what the manufacturers had come up with. Secondly – and more importantly there was to be a meet up of fellow Twitterers for a beer or two.

It was fair to say that I didn’t feel tip top first thing. The Fullers Bengal Lancer IPA had proved a lovely accompaniment to the burgers but was a little too potent. A large mug of tea, some breakfast and a steaming hot shower eased the sluggishness a little.

The train to Birmingham went from Euston, north of the river so various modes of transport were employed. The number 3 bus took us to Brixton underground station and the tube took us from there to Euston. As usual we’d allowed plenty of time and arrived well early, but having bought the cheapest rail tickets – as per usual – taking an earlier train was not permitted without considerable financial penalty. I used the spare time to replenish my wallet while Trev waited for the platform number for our train to appear.

Of course my unofficial nom de plume on Twitter and the like is ‘The Blogger in Black’ so it was important that I went suitably attired – not exactly a hardship given my rampant melanophilia! I did contemplate briefly donning my trusty trench coat ensuring that I’d be recognised – at least by fellow tweeters – but previous experience of the Caravan Show  in February  suggested that I’d  melt given that it was likely to be as hot as a sauna - though without the naked men. Sadly.

Well, it was as hot as expected though a little less busy than we feared. We avoided most of the smaller accessory stall this time, pausing only to look at the stand demonstrating the inflatable awnings – one of which we bought a little while ago. Quite a crowd had gathered as one of the salesmen demonstrated how easy they were to erect. He was happily pumping away (stop sniggering at the back please) when there was an almighty bang and one side of the awning began to sag. This brought a round of applause from the onlookers but the salesman was not amused. The problem seemed to be that the the covering protecting the air tubes had been unzipped he said accusingly, causing the the tube to over inflate. Correct of course but embarrassing for the company all the same.

We looked at new models from Swift, Bailey, a few dealer specials and of course Coachman who made Patsy. Some great looking vans and some eye watering prices too. We checked out the Hobby stand, hoping to see what the German manufacturer had to offer – and to see why pik-sorry travellers like them so much, but only motorhomes were on show.

Twitter beer o’clock was set for 2.30pm but with aching feet and  growing thirst we headed to the rendezvous point early. Queued up for nearly half an hour, paid the most I’ve EVER paid for beer at a Wetherspoons – that includes airports – and eventually grabbed a seat. The first of our fellow caravanning tweeters – or should that be twittering caravanners – showed up a little while later and soon there were ten of us enjoying a beer and some fresh air on the terrace. It was great to catch up with David, Amanda & Allison again, who we’d met up with at Twittercamp in the summer and say hello for the first time – in the flesh at least – to Vicky, Leslie, Helen, Stephen & Daniel. We all introduced ourselves via our twitter monikers and conversation was easy and relaxed and yes, caravans were mentioned occasionally too. Plans  for Twittercamp 2014 were hatched and although nothing has been decided we hoping to put together a meet sometime in April somewhere up the A1. Will obviously keep you posted – the more that can come the merrier.

photo

Our time together was great fun but all too brief and it was soon time to say goodbye. We scurried off to the train station via a slight detour to relieve our aching bladders. A bit of shut eye on the train helped revive us a little and the day out ended with a lovely burger and pint at the Grape & Grain in Crystal Palace. They have a mixture of twelve real ales and ciders on hand pumps here so clearly another visit – for research of course – is essential.

You may have already noted the lack of many pictures. I took our little compact to the show, not wanting to lug the DSLR around. Sadly the cameras’ memory card doesn't fit the card slot on the new laptop – what a muppet I am for not checking. Thanks to David for letting me use his photo of us all.

So a late afternoon Sunday lunch beckons, or we may just pig out. Tomorrow we have a visit to the Houses of Parliament – and I will be taking the big camera for that! Someone at work wanted to give me a rucksack to carry in too. Can’t imagine what would be in it…….

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