Sheila A Grant

It was a comfortable first night in Beryl, with a delighted Cleo taking advantage of the lack of space to tuck into my back. Not sure I approve, but it was rather nice. In the darkness of the night, we crept across to the facilities, me in silk dressing gown and wellies, Cleo on a lead attached to a collar of flashing lights. Anyone looking out might think the Martians had landed.

The morning got off to a disappointing start when I was unable to convert the bed back into a settee. Leaning backwards, I pulled on the strap with my fairly considerable body weight but it had no effect on the bed. I slid slowly under it ending flat on my back. Anticipating a new game, Cleo licked my face in joy, tail wagging.

Impatiently, I watched out for help – it was time they were all up and out on this lovely morning. Eventually a man opened his campervan door. I was across the site like a greyhound out of a trap. “Good morning,” I called, cheerily. Having his back to me he didn’t hear my approach. Turning swiftly, he bumped his head on the roof, grabbing on to the waist band of his brief shorts (or were they pyjamas?). I concentrated totally on his face while relating my woes. With a sort of ‘Hmph’ sound he strode briskly across to Beryl. One step and he was inside, strap in hand. With a fine show of rippling bronzed muscles, the bed folded up in one smooth impressive move.

A quick nod and he headed back to his own base, my grateful thanks ringing in his ears. The woman in the caravan opposite came out as he left. She stopped in her tracks, looking suspiciously in my direction, and I suspect came to the wrong conclusion from her expression. It could have been envy – my knight may not have had shining armour but he sure had an admirable physique.

There are two walks from the site, both using a path along a disused railway line. On the first day we chose the route to Lochearnhead village. At this early hour the loch was flat calm, the surrounding mountains reflected to perfection. Only as we neared the village did that change with a wide variety of sailing crafts creating a colourful scene. It was such a perfect spot.

My anticipated bar lunch did not happen as I only found one poorly stocked shop. “I’m just closing,” a voice said from behind the till. Some welcome to tourists! With my purchase of sandwiches (use by today) and a can of juice, I sat outside on a bench to enjoy my lunch. An elderly man (probably the same age as myself, but with more signs of wear) joined me. Warm welcomes appear to be rare here, as without hesitation he launched into his life and opinions. The language was so ripe he nearly made my ears bleed. The content of the diatribe was unapologetically non-PC and in other company he could have been lynched.

With the last disappointing morsel gone, I rose to leave. He joined me, still swearing and complaining. I doubt if I was his first victim as the lengthy complaint was delivered fluently without hesitation. When the path became steeper he seemed to falter, before turning back. What a relief as there was no room in the bed for another body.

Returning to Beryl I had new friendly and chatty caravan neighbours. By sheer coincidence (oh yes!) the subject of beds arose. I could not miss this chance so dropped my little problem into the conversation. They immediately offered assistance for my remaining two mornings and were as good as their word.
The following day I walked the path in the other direction towards St. Fillans. Logging had taken place leaving a mess of muddy holes and broken trees. Seven arduous challenging miles later we reached the village, delighted to find a welcoming shop that supplied snacks and was immediately opposite to the bus stop.

Initial relief turned to disappointment when I learned the bus stop was a relic! There were no buses on this route. Why leave a bus stop with a list of stops on the board… but no buses? No chance of a sail either as the boats in the bay belonged to holidaymakers. I must have looked done in (I was and my feet were throbbing) as the shopkeeper offered to arrange a taxi. It would take a couple of hours but I would have waited forever!

In the meantime, whatever was cooking smelled delicious and my mouth was watering. Dogs were allowed in so we sat at the table by the window. Never do I recall square sausage on a sandwich tasting so delicious. The portion was huge, two slabs of bread and two of sausage but so welcome. Cleo lay under the table enjoying her share.

Though not happy having a dog in the car, the taxi driver relented and Cleo lay down at my feet totally relaxed. No sign of the nerve-shaking reluctance she displays when I’m driving!
Next morning, we headed for home, taking the direct route this time. On the M80 near Cumbernauld a sudden swoosh revealed the roof ties were undone – I was now driving with a tent on the roof! In a panic I swung into the hard shoulder. I don’t think I have ever been so afraid. Cleo was looking up at me, tail wagging in anticipation of a walk.

Opposite stood Andy Scott’s statue of Arria, stretching her arms towards me in what I hoped was blessing. I did as best I could to restrain the roof and prayed for some of Arria’s historic courage for the next challenge – moving back into the traffic lanes. Signalling and edging inch by inch, a kind driver did eventually hold back to let me out.

Dropping in on my cousins and chief camping advisers, Margaret and Douglas, the roof was attached securely while I calmed down and received a ticking off for stopping on the hard shoulder.
Settled back at home I reflected on the trip. It had been a learning experience for sure, but despite the hitches, I enjoyed my first outing. That said, I’m not comfortable with the toilet situation and it’s not a subject you can discuss or make enquiries about in polite company. I resorted to Google for answers:
A Shewee is ‘A Pitch and Trek Female Urinal’.

I had never heard of this but it sounded a possibility. The business end resembles the oxygen mask on a patient’s face in hospital. You attach a long tube to it and direct the ‘flow’ towards a pail or a basin (caravanners carry collapsible pails). Sounds ideal! How unfair that the opposite sex should have the equipment built in. I found it amusing but worth a try and it will be in my pack on the next trip.
In a couple of weeks I am off to The Woods, a site near Alva with a restaurant. It’s a bigger site this time where I am sure to learn a lot more about campervanning. I’m counting the days.