By Sheila A Grant
There was an emergency when driving to The Woods, a site near Alva, when a red light began flashing on the dashboard. With no handbook and all words on screen in Japanese, I was up a creek without a paddle! A sign with directions to a campervan dealer near Perth saw me swing off the A9 into a forecourt full of impressively luxurious vans. Had I gone through the looking glass? I approached the receptionist in the plush entrance.
“A red light is flashing on my dashboard and as a complete novice at this camping van lark I have not a clue what to do. Would anyone be available to assist me?”
Without hesitation the man gave Beryl a quick check before stressing I must drive directly to my destination and, on arrival, immediately plug into power. Seems my leisure battery (I never knew I had one) was almost flat and should be charged as soon as possible.
I gave their selection of campervans a longing look before taking a photo of an impressive two-berth automatic Mercedes to forward to the family. It caused a bit of consternation I believe! ‘Surely Mum is not thinking of buying that!’
After driving past Cornton Vale prison a few times I was forced to phone the site for directions. It was within walking distance! My sense of direction is not improving. Once on pitch, plugged in to power, water tank filled, and no flashing red light, I relaxed and enjoyed the view of the heather-clad Ochill Hills.
My cousins and fellow campers, Margaret and Douglas, came to visit and we enjoyed a meal in the site restaurant. Douglas knows always to bring his tools when he visits me. Today’s problem was the big window in the pop-up roof, so high I was unable to reach the attachment to open and close the blind.
Despite cutting back on my essentials e.g. silk dressing gown, smart clothes, flying microwave, wine (maybe), there was still no room for a step stool but Douglas effortlessly attached a hook to a plastic rod and the job was done.
In the evening, as if a bell had tolled, my fellow campers emerged strolling along the site paths, chatting and comparing knowledge. I had to get out there and start learning! I took Cleo, in the unlikely event of me struggling to get into conversation. She attracts admiration where I fail. Everyone was generous sharing their knowledge and advice. And yes! It is possible to find a two-berth campervan with toilet facilities. That knowledge was acquired without the word ‘Shewee’ passing my lips. Too personal!
Sleep was elusive as I mulled over the possibility of upgrading Beryl. Was it extravagant? Yes.
At my age, was it stupid? The jury was still out on that one.
The next morning, a long walk to clear my head was needed. A path from the site led to the little town of Tillicoultry where a relaxing tasty lunch at Tilly’s Tearoom lifted the spirits… and then it rained, increasing in strength for the remainder of the day. The walk back was laborious and seemed longer. Passing Sterling Mills I ought to have purchased an umbrella but as dogs are not permitted in shops I was prevented from any shopping therapy.
We were soaked to the skin and miserable when we got back to Beryl. Lacking a canopy or awning for shelter, poor Cleo was subjected to a vigorous rub down with a rough towel before grudgingly being permitted access. A hot shower in the facilities cheered me but left me with the task of draping wet garments and towels over the steering wheel, seat backs, cupboard corners and any other available spot.
I learned next day the site had a drying room.
Forfar Loch site was our next goal allowing me close access to the Angus Glens. On previous holidays in the Cairngorms on Deeside, I had enjoyed looking south towards the Glens and I yearned to have a wander there.
A kind farmer allowed me to park before pointing out the best route into the heart of Glen Clova. The steep, winding path gave an increasingly wide view looking down on the River Esk, gently meandering down the glen. I always like to see what is around the next bend and, as usual, I pushed myself to the limit. It was worth it, though, to walk the south end of Jock’s Road (Scottish Rights of Way). At Loch Callater, near Braemar, I ventured on the north part of this superb walk where we glimpsed a Bluethroat, a bird so rare no one believed us.
The spectacular but challenging Corrie Fee pass was stiff going. Wee gasping rests were required frequently but it was lovely to witness Cleo in her element, tearing about in every direction, tail wagging with joy. Apparently dogs cover treble the distance of their owners on such expeditions.
As expected, my knees suffered badly on the descent, my own fault. But it had been a lovely relaxing day endorsing my enthusiasm for this style of holiday. I decided it was now or never to start looking for a vehicle meeting my specifications. A two-berth with a toilet and auto transmission does not sound much but the latter attribute proved to be the hardest.
I Googled, I phoned, I searched in magazines, but they were as rare as hen’s teeth. I had no luck, and hiring is not permitted at my age.
I recalled an occasion years ago when I talked my husband into buying a caravan. Collected on a Friday, we spent a weekend in Ayr. At least I did! He hated it and went home. It was returned still draped in polythene on the Monday. I called the company.
“I’m looking for a two-berth automatic motorhome with a toilet,” I said.
“We don’t have any but I do have a campervan…”
“No use,” I said, “you can barely stand up in a campervan.”
“I can walk up and down in this one,” said the girl. “And I’m 6 foot 1.”
I was there in 24 hours! ‘Julie’ was on her lunch break, but dominating the showroom the campervan was hard to miss. It was a stunning van almost the size of a single-decker bus. At nearly 80 years old I didn’t have the courage or the skill to drive something of that size.
Dejected, I wandered outside and spotted a smaller but very similar version of the same Chausson. It looked abandoned sitting on its own minus price tickets etc. It had been returned that day after a 7-month ownership. It was like new and had 700 miles on the clock. Even before I heard the sales talk, in my heart I knew this was mine! I had found my dream campervan.
Knowing I was looking, my cousins, leaving for a holiday, warned me to take my time and not rush into purchasing it. They would, they said, assist me on their return.
I paid a deposit and sent them a picture of Sylvie!
Would I regret it? Time would tell.