Saturday, 17 December 2011

Aromas in my kitchen

Who's idea was it to ban consumption of alcohol in my house in December? 

In a moment of madness I decided I wouldn't drink alcohol in the house on my own for one month.  It was an attempt to save calories for the big day but it is torture when I actually have to open a bottle of wine to put into a casserole.  I have just made the most delicious stew for friends coming over tonight - it's a Catalan beef stew with a twist - the twist being that it has chocolate, cinnamon and orange in it - how very festive.  Well, I can say that my kitchen smells mouth-wateringly good and the other half of the bottle of red is teasing me...roll on 8pm when my friends arrive.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Week 23

Oops...with all the excitement of getting Skye home, I totally forgot to do my weekly update.

The major news, of course, was Skye's operation.  Now that she's home it's actually been quite tough to adapt.  Skye has a new lease of life and is desperate to get outside and run and jump but she is restricted to the house for a month and, even in the house, she is not allowed upstairs, on the sofa or on her look-out post in my sun porch.  And on top of that, her food has been reduced by a third.  The quizzing looks she's giving me are unreal.  She's allowed out to do her business but she's quite fussy about where she goes and it's a battle of wills to get her to go.  I try to stay calm. I've tried the encouragement route and the silent route and nothing works. If I persevere, I WILL manage to break her OCD over her toilet movements.

I had my mum up for dinner on Saturday night and I made quite a feast: a roast chicken and trimmings followed by Jamie Oliver's Apple Pepper Pot Cake which was truly delicious.  You can probably tell that I am a huge Jamie fan and most of my favourite meals come from his recipes but I just love his enthusiasm for food. 

The week has also been about Christmas planning.  I put my tree up - and I'm so chuffed with it.  I have a purple tree - I don't think my photos will do it justice but I promise you it looks great.

So the party season is upon us and I have my first Christmas party next week followed by a dinner party at my house with some friends.  More cooking which I'm loving...

Friday, 9 December 2011

Skye's Home!

I am happy to report that Skye got home today.  Her operation was on Wednesday and she seems to be recovering very well.

The orthopaedic vet at East Neuk Veterinary Clinic did a grand job - he removed 3 chips of bone from Skye's left leg and discovered a crack in her right elbow so he removed the damaged bone there too.  His instincts were right about her right leg and I am happy that he persuaded me to have a look at both elbows at the same time because we've saved Skye a second operation.  I guess that's why he's got such a credible reputation.

I'm over the moon that she's ok and very grateful that she was well looked after.

Now that she's home, it's a bit confusing for her.  All doors are closed and rugs have been put down to save her sliding on my floor.  She's not allowed upstairs and there are obstacles guarding the sofas - making sure she doesn't jump up onto her favourite sleeping area. Her walk now consists of a 2 minute stop on my front lawn to give her a chance to do her business and then it's back into the house.  She must be so confused.  Reiki healing starts today.

Here's Skye looking rather sorry for herself with her shaved legs and bandages (though I'm relieved that she doesn't have to wear a lampshade collar):

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Week 22

The tension mounts.  A new month brings new events.  Skye had an appointment at the orthopaedic vet in Fife on 1st December and the outcome is that she will be getting an operation on her elbows on Wednesday - OMG - the worry....

I may have mentioned earlier that Skye has been limping on and off for a couple of years now.  Since our road trip and the cold weather setting in, Skye has been getting slower and slower.  It's painful to watch a healthy 8 year old dog walking like a teenage dog. My mind was made up in the summer that now is a good time to operate.  The only problem was that the vet and I could not agree which leg Skye was limping on.  I am adamant that she has problems on her left leg and we have the results of a CT scan (from 2 years ago) that show she has a fissure in her left leg.  However the vet is certain that Skye is limping on her right leg.  And you don't want to argue with a vet - they know what they're talking about.

So a compromise was reached: they will operate on Wednesday and remove the fissure in her left leg and ALSO use a scope to investigate the right leg.  If something shows up, operate accordingly.  So both legs will have keyhole surgery and Skye will likely be kept in till Friday.  Thereafter she will be house-bound for the rest of December and then on restricted exercise for another month after that.  Poor Skye.  She will get lots of reiki to help her body heal quickly and I've arranged for my mum to come up at the weekend to give her TLC too.

The rest of the week was pretty busy...a night out with the girls on Friday to celebrate Debbie's birthday - Happy Birthday Debs!  Then, following my work at the Guide Dogs on Sunday, I went to my dad's house for tea.  Amazingly, for the first time EVER, my dad cooked for us - a succulent fillet steak cooked perfectly for me...thanks Dad (I had to mention this because my dad only ever reads my blog when he gets a mention).

Oh well, I'm a bit distracted just now so I'll leave it there for now...I just hope everything goes well tomorrow for my beautiful Skyebird.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A new Challenge

I said at the start of this blog that I am challenging myself to refrain from buying any new clothes or shoes for at least 6 months (which will take me to the end of the year). 

Until last week, I have to say I was coping quite well and trained myself to recycle all Fat Face, White Stuff and Boden catalogues without even opening them.  Then I found myself with a couple of hours to kill on Edinburgh's Princes Street and couldn't help myself but have a sneaky "look" in the shops.  Luckily, I was travelling light to Holland later on that day and refused to pay Easy Jet's extortionate luggage charges so I had no room for new purchases...but it was difficult to drag myself away from the festive dresses - oh the sequins and the shoes - OMG the shoes!!!

I seem to respond well to self inflicted challenges and rarely give in so I decided to set myself another challenge starting 1st December:

I will not drink alcohol on my own in the house for the whole of December.  It might sound easy to some people but I have got myself into the habit of consuming a bottle of red wine over a Friday/Saturday night even when I'm staying in and watching TV.  I drink it because I like the taste - not to get drunk.  So, I'm allowed to drink when I'm out and when I have people over to my house but I'm not allowed to drink on my own.  I reckon the calories saved will only help with the indulgences of December.  And who knows, if I find it easy, I might continue it into the new year...though as I type this I'm actually craving a red wine right now and it's 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon...that's not good.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Week 21 - Going Dutch

The week started with a bang or rather a whir.  I was about to head off on my travels (first stop my mum's house to drop off Skye) and I heard a very strange whirring sound coming from my car.  I have to admit, when I bought the car, I had a bad feeling about it. Everything in my gut said to walk away but my stubbornness and the fact that Dougal's tax was running out the following week meant that I was under pressure to buy something.  And so it is that I found myself feeling nervous about the car and something goes wrong with it on my travelling day.  The noise was enough to put me off driving it so I took it to my reliable garage and left it in their hands to fix the problem - oh the joys of buying a cheap car...a huge lesson learnt here. 

But SuperMum to the rescue!!!  My mum collected me and got me to the train station for the first leg of my journey.  I was flying from Edinburgh on Wednesday evening so I took advantage of being in my favourite Scottish city and met up with a friend for lunch and a catch up then I booked myself in for an appointment at the Mole Clinic.  I urge anyone who has fears about skin cancer to get their moles checked out.  It's such a good service and only took about 30 mins for a professional to individually check every single mole on my body and give me the all clear.  Being a redhead, and prone to burning in the sunshine, means that I'm a high risk category for skin cancer so it was a relief to get the all clear for now.

The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful and the transition to my brother's house was super efficient as only the Dutch can be.  I had a lovely warm welcome from my family who collected me from the train station.  I have to say the house is stunning - so homely and welcoming.  All credit must go to my sis-in-law who has an eye for interior decoration.  Here's the guest bedroom:

Our days were full but relaxing all the same.  On the work/school days my SIL and I negotiated the Dutch trams and buses and enjoyed taking in the splendour of restaurants and cafes.  There's a different vibe in Holland when it comes to eating out and I love it.  People watching is a sport in it's own right and there is no shortage of "buzz" to add a little bit of spice to a latte and apple pie.  Talking of which, we found a place called the Pancake Farm which had the most amazing cafe, play park and picnic area (for the warm sunny days).  And to top it all, the Dutch are a dog friendly nation so they are welcome in most places and I was pleased to see dogs at the Pancake Farm.  Skye's going to love it. 

We went to see Born to be Wild at the IMAX theatre which was an emotional rollercoaster because it talks about the plight of Orang-utans and Elephants and the wonderful people who have set up centres to rehabilitate orphans.  The sights are spectacular and the sound of Morgan Freeman's voice narrating the story makes it a must see!

At the weekend the four of us decided to take a cycle into the centre of town where I was meeting up with one of my Borneo friends (who lives an hour away) and we were taking J to see Happy Feet 2.  Now, I have to tell you about my cycling experience.  Firstly I would like to say that I normally embrace new things and would always urge people to immerse themselves in the local culture.  I feel it's only right that visitors also do the same.  So cycling was high up on my list of things to do in Holland.  We were setting off on 3 bikes (one had a tag-along for J).  Easy - all I had to do was follow the leader.  Unfortunately I started off at the back of the convoy.  I watched my brother wobble with J on the back and that made me wobbly.  Plus the cars are so close.  Plus there's so much to negotiate - cars coming from different directions, pedestrians, trams, buses and traffic lights specifically for bikes.  So you can imagine my fear when we came to our first junction.  Red lights.  But there are so many lights, I'm not sure which one is for us.  I see the ones directly in front of us turn green and SIL took off.  Then a car from our left started to turn right...and my brother had to swerve to avoid him.  Seeing this, I slowed to stop and my hesitation made the car edge further to the right then I realised if I let him go, all the other cars turning right would proceed and I would be stranded so I started cycling again and looked up and saw all the lights in front of me were now red!!!  Holy Moley!  My family were way ahead.  So I just went for it and hoped that nothing would hit me.  My heart was in my throat.  And the tears pricked my eyeballs but I blinked them away and cycled as hard as I could to join my family who were completely oblivious to my trauma.  At the next stopping point I asked to go in the middle so I had help either side of me.  We made it and I had a gorgeous pasta lunch to calm the nerves and fill the tummy.  The way home was more relaxed, possibly due to the reduced traffic, and I actually started to enjoy the feeling of wind in my hair.   We've since dissected my cycle fears - I'm a control freak and I always prefer to know what I'm doing and where I'm going so, being in the hands of others, makes me more nervous.  My solution?  On my next trip, my brother is going to set me free with a bike and a map and I'm going to meet one of them at a cafe in the centre and find my own way there and back.  This challenge also makes me nervous (probably moreso) but I'm in complete control and, as long as I study the map, I know I can do it might take me twice as long as everyone else but failure is not an bring it on...

On Sunday we went to the NEMO Science Centre in Amsterdam where J got stuck into the science experiments and we all learnt something too. 

In all, it was a fantastic holiday.  A huge relief to see my family so happy and settled in a country that seems to "suit" them if you know what I mean.

My journey home involved trains, planes, buses more trains and my fabulous mum to drive me and Skye home.  A dog's welcome home is unsurpassed.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Week 20

Look not from the mind but from the soul
For the life that is coming is already before us
Waiting to open up the world
Just look more closely
Find the eyes to see.

What a fantastic week.  Lots of amazing things happened this week...

First of all, I got news today that I passed my first module of my diploma which was a huge relief.  When you are studying from home, you have no one to compare answers with or chat to about the work so there's a bit of doubt when submitting answers - did I write enough/do I need to elaborate more/etc?  So getting a pass was an added bonus to a truly great week.

On Wednesday I visited one of my oldest friends - in terms of length of friendship not age.  "L" has recently moved to one of the most gorgeous parts of Scotland where she is undertaking a Sarah Beeny scale renovation of a mansion...or should I call it a castle?   I never quite know but it certainly is grand in scale and beauty.  L is a truly inspirational person as I watch her juggle workmen, 2 young children and 2 dogs whilst her husband works abroad. Often, when I spend quality time with a person, the repercussions reverberate for days afterwards.  And each time this happens, I never get a chance to thank that person or at least acknowledge the impact they have on my life.  Well, I'm trying to put this right by thanking L here and now for her words of wisdom.  One of our deep and meaningful conversations touched on life's regrets...I proudly sat there and convinced L that I had none.  Only later, when I was "going for it" in my body combat class, did it dawn on me that I do have one regret that I've kept locked away in my innermost soul for years.  I don't want to go into the details but I am so thankful that it has surfaced now and I am forced to deal with it because it will undoubtedly help me in the next phase of "finding myself".  I want to tell L that I appreciate our chats and you will never know how much they help me.

On reflection, it is poignant that certain friends pop into and out of our lives at exactly the time that we need them.

As if on cue, I went to visit another friend "M" the following day.  M is one of the most spiritual people I know and she always knows the right thing to say.  As if she read my mind (which was dealing with the issue of regret that I discovered yesterday) she offered me a foot spa which did a major detox of my whole system...the timing was perfect and helped me tie up a few lose ends in my head.  M's message to me is:

Find your passion and you will find your path.

She also provided the quote at the top of this post which she got from the magical book Celestine Prophecy - a must read for all!

To bring closure to my spiritual week, I had a lovely session of power yoga on Thursday which gives me a chance to connect with the soul and then a refreshing swim on Friday which cleansed the soul.  I cannot emphasise enough how this week's events were perfect timing in my life.  To celebrate all of this coming together I had a lovely night out with the girls on Friday.

As if that wasn't enough, I also have a holiday to look forward to.  This week, I'm off to Holland to visit my nephew, J.  You can read about his adventures on my sister-in-law's blog:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Week 19

So after a week of wine, rich food and very little sleep, this week has been about redressing the balance.  It's been exercise all week - body combat, yoga and back to swimming!

Practising my reiki has been another priority and I am grateful for my willing friends who continue to let me practice on them.

I've also completed the first module of my Dog Behaviour Diploma.  I'd forgotten how difficult it is to read something then answer a question and try to put the facts into your own words.  I also spent longer than I would have wished researching one question which asked for "the British writer who published the first dog breed book in 1800 which identified 15 breeds".  Easy - straight to Google - except it wasn't that easy and it took hours of my time. Fingers crossed that I've passed this first module...

So a few strange things happened to me this week:  Let me begin by asking you this: if you found yourself in the woods in the dark and you heard a strange sound, would you go and investigate? They do in the horror films. And strangely, so do I.  I guess it depends on the sound but just the other day I heard a strange knocking sound in the woods and could not help myself but go and have a look (I felt safe with Skye but not entirely sure what she would do in an emergency). It turned out to be trees swaying in the wind and knocking into each other...

And another spooky situation...I was walking through a closed caravan park with a few static vans...the park is in complete darkness except for the moonlight and I heard a mobile phone ringing sound coming from one of the empty vans....

Spooky or what?

Friday, 11 November 2011

Week 18

November brings about a change.  As I said in last week's post, I was feeling a bit down at the end of I had to do something about it and I turned to my reiki master for help.  I was feeling a little bit "lost" - perhaps at a cross-roads or a decision making point but I definitely didn't feel grounded.  Trude Bacon is my reiki master and I had a session with her this week and I can tell you the change was dramatic.  I told her about my feelings and that I needed to be grounded...well, when she worked on my feet, I actually felt like I had lead slippers on.  I felt my feet were so grounded they were going to pull me off the table.  As well as feeling rooted to the earth, I also felt a weight lifting.  I cannot recommend Trude highly enough.

The rest of my week got better and better...I continued my reiki practice with friends on Wednesday night (they also cooked dinner for me so that was a bonus) and on Thursday my beautiful friend Sandy arrived from Switzerland.  And, as an added bonus, my friends Pauline and Lizzie arrived from London on Friday for a "Borneo girls" reunion.  It was Sandy's first time in Scotland and I was worried because on Thursday morning the wind was blowing a hoolie and the rain was torrential!  But, as if my good fortune couldn't get any better, the skies cleared on Friday and the whole weekend was calm with the most stunning blue skies.

I had an absolutely awesome time with my gorgeous friends.  Our routine was mainly eat, walk Skye, eat, walk Skye, drink wine, eat, sleep...  Pauline and Lizzie left on Sunday and Sandy stayed an extra couple of days so I was able to show her some typical Scottish sights like a historic ruin, a beautiful sandy beach, bonfire night and our heather clad hills with customary "famous" grouse.

Week 17

Ok so I am late with my posts.  I want to tell you that I have such a fun-packed, rollercoaster lifestyle that I had no time to do my blog...but that would be untrue.  To be honest, I hit a wall - not literally.  I found myself with lots of negativity and feeling quite down so I really didn't "feel" like doing my blog.  But I turned it around and I'll tell you how in Week 18.

This week is the turning point: Summer officially ended and the clocks went back and the dark nights drew in...some people might blame the darkness for my lethargy but in all honesty, this is my absolute favourite time of year.  With the most stunning autumn colours, it actually feels like walking under a tunnel of gold at times.  I don't think my photos can do it justice but here's some of the better ones:

 And of course, with the change in season brings stormy seas:

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Week 16

Happiness is only real when shared

Is it?  I'm not totally convinced but it came from a film I watched recently called Into the Wild which I urge you to watch - a totally thought provoking film. A true story too which made it even more poignant.

It's been a strange week - it's almost as if I don't know what to do with myself now that the road trip is over and Dougal is off the road.

One thing worth noting - I'm back in the fast lane!  I bought a car this week - a Fiat Punto!  Not exactly the fastest car on the road but it means I'm back in the overtaking lane - somewhere that Dougal is unaccustomed to!

Other big news this week is that I have started a Dog Behaviour Diploma through the British College of Canine Studies.  The first module is in which means study time...

And even bigger nephew is back from Holland for a week's holiday.  It's so wonderful to have his energy around - it is totally uplifting!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Anyone for a little reiki?

I need some reiki helpers!  I want to continue practising my reiki and would appreciate willing friends and family to come to my house for a 30 to 45 minute session.  I cannot charge for the session (because I am at level 1 stage) but I suggest that you leave a donation in the piggy bank in my treatment room.  All proceeds will go to an animal charity.  Call or text me to make an appointment.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Week 15

First of all, Happy Birthday to Skye who is 8 today!!! 

I'm just wondering if it's right to give Skye a bath on her birthday?  She's got a juicy steak to look forward to tonight!

Not much to report this week.  It's been a week of rest and relaxation as I get back into my reiki.

But I did have one major achievement this week - I bought myself a wee car - a Punto!  I get it later this week.

And I did say that I would come to some decisions this week about an animal behaviour course. Well, I am doubtful about going back to Uni so I am looking into doing online courses through the COMPASS Education and Training website.  My application should be in at the end of the week when I've worked out which course to do.

That's all for now folks!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Road trip route

I thought you might like to see the rough route I took on my road trip.  Start and finish location not exact - obviously.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Ratings are in:

Every campsite had it's different qualities so I've decided to grade them - primarily to make it easier for me to select which campsite to return to in the future.  Bearing in mind that my top requirements are: off lead walks for Skye and dog friendly pub close by!

My scores are out of 10:

Drumshademuir, Glamis (Aug 2011):
Facilities: 6 acceptable but only 2 showers
Friendliness of staff: 7
Scenery: 3
Atmosphere: 3 (this is the one where J was told off for playing with a ball)
Mobile signal: Yes
Off lead dog walks: 2 (Strictly on leads at all times)
Skye's tail: 5
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: a very average 5

Findhorn Sands, (Aug & Sept 2011):
Facilities: 7.5
Friendliness of staff: 7
Scenery: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Mobile signal: Yes
Off lead dog walks: 9 (the beach is within walking distance)
Skye's tail: 9
Close to town/pub: Yes
Overall: 9 (already been there twice)

Banff Campsite (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 4 (toilets clean but the shower was pathetic - one of those ones you have to push a button to get hot water and the water only stays on for 20 seconds - I timed it)
Friendliness of staff: 6
Scenery: 7
Atmosphere: 7
Mobile signal: Yes
Off lead dog walks: 7 (walk to neighbouring towns)
Skye's tail: 7
Close to town/pub: Not really
Overall: 7

Portsoy Campsite (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 6 (funny smell in the toilet block and only one shower but not the push-button shower like Banff has)
Friendliness of staff: 8
Scenery: 8
Atmosphere: 7
Mobile signal: No but wi-fi
Off lead dog walks: 7 (beach)
Skye's tail: 9
Close to town/pub: Yes
Overall: 8.5

Old Hartley Caravan Club site, Whitley Bay (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 5 (funny smell)
Friendliness of staff: 5
Scenery: 6.5
Atmosphere: 4 (the other campers were not chatty)
Mobile signal: Yes (but the WiFi was £5 for 5 hours - unbelievable)
Off lead dog walks: 6 (strictly lead walks on site but good walks along the cliffs)
Skye's tail: 5
Close to town/pub: Yes but not very welcoming
Overall: 5

Wagtail Country Park, Grantham (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 7 (very new and tidy)
Friendliness of staff: 8
Scenery: 5
Atmosphere: 5
Mobile signal: Yes (but no wi-fi)
Off lead dog walks: 6 (there was a dog walk around site but it only took 10 mins)
Skye's tail: 5
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: 6

Kelvedon Hatch Camping and Caravan Club site, Brentwood (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 5
Friendliness of staff: 7
Scenery: 5
Atmosphere: 5
Mobile signal: Yes (Wifi was £2 per day)
Off lead dog walks: 5
Skye's tail: 5
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: 5.5

Folkestone Camping and Caravan Clus site (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 6
Friendliness of staff: 6 (mix up at the start - they had my booking for the wrong day!)
Scenery: 8
Atmosphere: 7
Mobile signal: Yes
Off lead dog walks: 9
Skye's tail: 8.5
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: 7

Lytton Lawn, New Forest (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 2 (push button shower, the water went everywhere, grass cuttings on my shoes dragged into the shower and the campervan!)
Friendliness of staff: 4 (a smile at reception would have gone a long way)
Scenery: 4 (what scenery?)
Atmosphere: 1 (road noise)
Mobile signal: Yes (but no wi-fi)
Off lead dog walks: 3 (strictly lead walks and no walks nearby)
Skye's tail: 0
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: 1

Ridge Farm, Wareham (Sept 2011):
Facilities: 3 (very old and full of mossies)
Friendliness of staff: 4
Scenery: 4
Atmosphere: 4
Mobile signal: Yes (but no wi-fi)
Off lead dog walks: 5 (walks round the nearby streets were ok as the roads were quiet)
Skye's tail: 4
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: 4

Slapton Sands Camping and Caravan Clus site, Devon (Oct 2011):
Facilities: 5
Friendliness of staff: 6
Scenery: 7.5
Atmosphere: 5
Mobile signal: Yes (Wifi was £2 per day)
Off lead dog walks: 6 (beach nearby but that was the day of the sore foot so couldn't walk Skye very far)
Skye's tail: 6
Close to town/pub: Yes
Overall: 6.5

Padstow Touring Park, Cornwall (Oct 2011):
Facilities: 9 (had my own shower room! would have been a 10 but there was no lighting near my pitch so needed a torch to run to loos)
Friendliness of staff: 8
Scenery: 7.5
Atmosphere: 6 (was too quiet and I wasn't close to other campers)
Mobile signal: Yes (Wifi was £6 for 48 hrs)
Off lead dog walks: 7 (farmland walk to Padstow nearby)
Skye's tail: 7
Close to town/pub: 1 mile away
Overall: 7

Cheddar Camping and Caravan Clus site, Somerset (Oct 2011):
Facilities: 8
Friendliness of staff: 8
Scenery: 7.5
Atmosphere: 6
Mobile signal: Yes (Wifi was £2 per day)
Off lead dog walks: 7 (walk to village 0.75 miles and dog friendly pubs)
Skye's tail: 6.5
Close to town/pub: Yes
Overall: 7.5

Clent Hills Camping and Caravan Clus site, Birmingham (Oct 2011):
Facilities: 6.5
Friendliness of staff: 6
Scenery: 6
Atmosphere: 6
Mobile signal: Yes (Wifi was £2 per day)
Off lead dog walks: 5 (just walks round the site)
Skye's tail: 5
Close to town/pub: No
Overall: 5

Moffat Camping and Caravan Clus site (Oct 2011):
Facilities: 7 (bit retro with orange walls in toilet block)
Friendliness of staff: 6
Scenery: 6
Atmosphere: 7.5
Mobile signal: Yes (Wifi was £2 per day)
Off lead dog walks: 6.5 (park close by)
Skye's tail: 7.5
Close to town/pub: Yes
Overall: 7.5

And the winner is: Findhorn Sands!  Closely followed by Portsoy campsite. Next year, I need to see more of West Scotland and hopefully venture over to Ireland.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Rested and Thankful

I had the most wonderful sleep in my own bed...and woke feeling refreshed!

I am so thankful for many things but mostly that Dougal managed to go 1,910 miles without a single hitch.  What a great investment - he's definitely a keeper.  I also couldn't forget "Morag" - my sat nav lady who (mostly) got me to the right address every day - the one time I defied her I ended up going through Bristol in rush hour!   I am also happy to see Skye's tail wagging madly now that we're home - she was way out of her comfort zone but her company was appreciated.  And finally, I'm wholly grateful to my friends for putting me up during my road trip - Ali, Pauline and Kay.

Week 14

After 22 nights and 1,910 miles, I am finally's how the week went:

Sunday I drove to Padstow in Cornwall on the advice of my friend Kay.  What a gorgeous little haven it is. And, with the recent October heatwave, the town was absolutely buzzing.  The shops - OMG - they were stunning.  Rick Stein has a restaurant in Padstow which I didn't venture into but I did have  one of his Cornish pasties - a haddock one - it was delicious.  I had changed a few plans over the weekend - due to Dougal's near over-heating, I decided to give Truro a miss and go straight to Padstow and stay 2 nights and have a day off driving on Monday. 

Well, my campsite at Padstow certainly came up trumps.  What a beautiful site.  It was only a mile walk into the town and the views were stunning.  My toilet block contained suites!  So I actually had a bathroom to myself and I didn't have to dance around the muddy puddles in order to put my clothes on!  Bonus! Something else changed when I arrived here...I can't quite put my finger on it...but I relaxed, Skye relaxed and everything seemed ok again.  After a few hiccups I was wondering why I should continue this trip and was considering going home early but Sunday was a great day - weather was phenomenal, I Skyped my family, I got some good food from the local Tesco and my faith in this trip was restored.

Monday was the perfect day.  I didn't need to pack up Dougal as normal, I just took my time and enjoyed the sunshine.  Skye seemed pretty chilled too.  In the afternoon I took Skye for a walk from the campsite into Padstow.  The route took us over farm I have to refer back to last week's post when I talked about walking through a field of cows.  My fear of cows is down to a few horror stories where people have died by being trampled by a herd of cows that were scared by a dog.  One of these stories was told by my mum who was chased by cows when she was a little girl.  So I have a deep respect for cattle and would normally avoid at all costs.  My route to Padstow took me through 2 fields of cows.  On the way in, they were way off in the distance.  Not so lucky on the way back.  I noticed the first field of cows were all walking towards one end of the field (I thought it might have been feeding time or something like that).  So I waited patiently and let them past then (with Skye on lead) I walked briskly to the hedge where I climbed over a small wall to get into the next field.  I then turned to check on the cows and they were walking towards me.  Oh God!  The next field was also full of cows and sheep and they were widely dispersed all over the field and right across my pathway!  I was stuck in the hedge!  I couldn't move for fear of drawing attention to myself and Skye and making the curious cows come over to me.  But wait!  There was a noise behind me and now a dozen cows from the first field were actually within arms reach.  A brave one stuck her nose in the hedge and stuck out it's tongue.  Luckily Skye and I were at the other side of the wall and they couldn't get to us.  I waited for what felt like an eternity...I was trying to figure out what to do in order to get back to the van before darkness.  I was trying to judge the distance to the gate and how fast I thought I could run if the herd decided to chase. Poor Skye was so patient! She keep looking at me for reassurance and I was trying my hardest to be the brave "alpha".  Finally I decided to go for it and walked along the path (within inches of one cow) at a very brisk pace...we made it! Phew!  I have no idea if my fear is justified - I honestly didn't think that cows and dogs went well together!

The rest of my stay in Padstow was relatively chilled out.  I got the most out of my WiFi this time because on Monday I decided to catch up on X Factor and watched 6 hours of it on ITV player.  Sad, I know.  I left on Tuesday morning and made my way to North Devon and to a site called Umberleigh.  The site was chosen due to it's proximity to my Wednesday appointment.  It was a perfectly good site but no dog walks for Skye close by.  I had to be up early on Wednesday to make my way to Combe Martin in order to meet Shaun Ellis at the Wolf Centre.  I had booked a one hour session with Shaun to hear about his experience of working (and living) with wolves.  What a wonderful man - so full of knowledge and experience - I could have listened to him all day.  I got to meet one of the wolf hybrids - an amazing animal.  The session totally re-ignited my passion for canine psychology.  The wolf centre run different courses ranging from 1 day to 5 days which I will look into doing next year.

Next it was off to another campsite deep in the Cheddar Gorge at a place called Mendip Heights - what a surprising little campsite!  The drive up was stunning - totally unexpected. 

The warden at the campsite gave me such a warm welcome and advised me to take a walk into the village and go to one of the (dog friendly) pubs for food which I did. I chose the Queen Victoria and I ordered garlic chicken in a creamy white wine & mushroom sauce - it was ok but I could not detect any garlic at all! At least the walk there and back gave Skye a little bit of exercise though it was starting to get dark on the way back and Skye was on edge of course. She is such a nervous dog at the best of times and all this moving around, new locations, new smells is making her worse. 

Cheddar campsite was excellent - I would definitely come back but this is the campsite where everything changed.  In a matter of days the temperature dropped by about 20 degrees!  Honestly, my winter coat came out and I could have worn gloves (if I could find them!).  It was wet and windy all night.  It was exactly this point when I decided to cut my trip short by 2 days.  The fact that so many of my clothes were soaked through and I had no means to dry them was the deciding factor.

On Thursday I had an appointment with a lecturer at Bristol University.  It turned out the Vet School was only about 20 mins away from the Cheddar campsite so I had an easy journey for once.  It is quite interesting that anyone I talk to about going back to University, mentions the fact that I haven't studied for over 15 years so I would not get onto an Animal Psychology/Behaviour course without first doing an Open University course in science.  It does help make my mind up though.  My appointment was mid afternoon so by the time I got out, I only had a few hours of driving in order to get to my next campsite.  This time, I had nothing booked but was heading North and wanted to get as close to the M6 as possible.  I made it to Clent Hills on the outskirts of Birmingham - just as rush hour kicked in. The temperature here plummeted at night time and I typed up my blog in the van with freezing fingers - it is definitely time to go home.  I could see my own breath!

On Friday, I was determined to drive as far as possible before dark.  I had originally considered staying the weekend in the Lake District but the freezing temperatures and my strong desire for my "home" forced me to bypass the Lakes and cross the border into Scotland - Home!  I was on the road for about 6 hours and made it to Moffat by 5pm. This campsite definitely ticked a lot of my boxes.  It was perfect and surprisingly busy.  The campsite was within walking distance to the town centre so I ventured to the Buccleuch Arms (a dog friendly pub) for food and wine.

On Saturday, I was up and away early and finally made it home (after a stop at my mum's for a cuppie) by late afternoon!  Ahh...home, sweet, home.

I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be home.  A comfy bed, a clean shower and TV!  There are so many things that I took forgranted - like being able to make a cup of tea by just turning a switch, being able to get changed without dodging the puddles in the shower room or without sitting on the floor in Dougal hoping no-one can see me, being able to hear music/radio without having to consider what other electrical appliances I have on that might blow a fuse, being able to dry my hair, having water on tap, being able to lie out and watch tv...the list goes on.  Camping is wonderful but home is better and I won't ever forget that.

I have made some decisions during the road trip which I will tell you about in next week's blog.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Buzz off!

I meant to tell you about my nightmare journey on Saturday...the one where Dougal almost overheated and my mosquito bite on my foot was swelling up...well something else happened which tops them all!!!  In earlier posts you will have become aware of my phobia of wasps...well, guess what?  As I was driving towards Devon, I sensed an insect to the right of me and saw a yellow and black stripe out of the corner of my eye - it was literally centimetres from I had 3 choices: (1) flap around (like I normally do) and cause an accident (2) stop the van in the middle of the road and jump out of the door and possibly cause an accident or (3) calmly open the window and pray that the little bug*er flies out the window.  I chose option 3 and thankfully he flew out.  All my windows were closed from that point on!  For safety reasons, of course.

Week 13

Monday morning I drove a familiar route from London to the New Forest. I used to live nearby the New Forest - in fact Skye was born in this neck of the woods!  So, for old time's sake, I visited my old home.  You should have seen Skye's tail when we walked one our our favourite New Forest walks - I honestly think she remembered it.  She certainly remembered where the watering hole was!  She also found all the muddiest puddles to lie in!  After our walk I had to wash her down with the tank of water I keep in the van - it was a hot day and we attracted the attention of nearby horses (which, if you don't know, have right of way in the New Forest) so I quickly rushed Skye into the van and left the water on the grass...only to discover that the horse was investigating it.  I had to rush over and grab it.  Without even thinking how close I was to being kicked by the horse!

I stayed at a campsite just outside Lymington for a couple of nights - it was recommended to me but I have to say that my experience is not favourable.  There was a busy road the other side of the hedge!  On Tuesday morning, I woke to blaring sirens - it sounded like I was still in London not in the idyllic New Forest!  The worst thing about the site was the lack of dog walks.  On the first evening, I walked out of the site to find a nice long walk for Skye but it was busy roads at all sides of me so I kept to the site and walked Skye round and round - her tail summed it all up - it was constantly curled under her bum - too many scary noises.  Another thing that bothered me - when they cut the grass, they don't collect the grass cuttings so you have grass on your shoes and it gets everywhere! The first time I tried the showers, I tested the push button shower to see which shower got the longest run of hot water - only to get a face full of water - it was so powerful the water went everywhere: on me, my clothes, on the floor.  The floor was now flooded!  Mixed in with the grass cuttings, which I brought in on my flip flops, meant that the drains soon blocked up!  Mmm nice muddy, grassy water everywhere.  I decided not to shower on the second day. Suffice to say, I won't be visiting this campsite again.  I'm actually rating each campsite as I go so will post them at the end of my trip! On Tuesday I spent the day with a friend whom I hadn't seen for years. Thank you to Julie and her family for entertaining me all day and feeding me in the evening.  I had a lovely time and it was awesome to catch up.

I arrived at Kay's house in Dorset on Wednesday afternoon and spent a couple of chilled out days with her family.  My timing could not have been worse because Kay was getting a new kitchen put in and her house was topsy turvy but she was so accommodating - I could not have wished for a warmer welcome.  On Thursday, Kay and I went to Cerne Abbas to walk the dogs.  Cerne Abbas is famous for it's "Giant":

The dogs got a long walk round the Cerne Abbas Giant which included a nerve wracking walk through a field of cows! With both dogs on leads, we tried not to  make eye contact with the cows but we were literally feet away from the herd and I was imagining the worst thing that could happen - Kay had been for a run in the morning so I figured she would be too tired to outrun the cows so I had a relatively good chance of escaping.  Despite my  fears, the cows were basking in the sunshine and didn't really bat an eyelid at us.  After the walk we went to the Royal Oak for a crab sandwich which was yummy. 

Then it was off to Burton Bradstock for an ice cream on a picnic bench overlooking the sea watching people swim - yes really people swimming in the sea! 

I can't believe how hot it was in Dorset - high 20's on Friday...WAY too hot for a redhead like me.  So this freak weather turned some of my plans upside down.  It was far too hot to leave Skye in the van so going to Monkey World as planned was not an option for me on Friday morning. Instead Kay took me and her family to their beach hut. 

What a luxury to have a beach hut and be able to cook your own food and sit in or out of the sun as you wish.  It was a fantastic day.  By mid afternoon it was time for me to say goodbye...thank you to Kay, Tony their boys and Henry the dog for putting up with another dog and human in the house.  And of course, Tabitha for doing my laundry. You guys are great!

After leaving Kay's, I headed to Monkey World arriving at about 4pm.  I thought it would be cooler at this time and I might have been able to nip in to see the apes for a few mins but even at that time it was too hot...with the windows open, I was sweating in the van after 10 mins - you only have to imagine what would happen to a dog in that heat.  So I had to give up and head to a nearby campsite.  Compared to my last campsite, this was a lot quieter though the toilet block had seen better days and the mossies were a nightmare!  Talking of which I got bitten by a mosquito at Kay's house - on my big toe...I saw it happen which is even my toe is all swollen and very painful - luckily I'm wearing flip flops all the time because I don't think I could get anything else on my feet!

On Saturday my toe was even worse! The swelling had spread over my whole foot and the bite was blistered and painful.  I could hardly walk!  So Saturday ended up being a mixed day.  A bad start due to painful swelling in big toe but I managed to get about 45 mins at Monkey World in the morning before the intense heat hit.  Check out some of the shots I got as a ran round my favourite ape enclosures:

So that was a bonus getting a chance to see these wonderful creatures. I just wish my mum was with me because she loves Monkey World!!!  Sallly the chimp who looks after the nursery chimps was basking in the sun.  Paddy's group was totally chilled out as normal. But that can't be said for Hananya's soon as I heard the great chimps hoots, I knew it must have been Hananya's group from all the hours of "Monkey Life" viewing! The Orang-utans were as chilled out as always.  It's humbling to see them again and I look forward to my next visit and only hope it's a bit longer than this one. After my brief visit, I headed west to Devon. 

As I reached a queue of traffic at Bridport, poor Dougal started to overheat - I watched the temperature gauge creep up and up and feared for an AA call out so I stopped and gave Skye a quick walk and give Dougal a chance to cool down.  Another 2 hours later, along some very narrow and twisty roads, we finally made it to Slapton Sands campsite - an unfortunate name!!!  By this time, my foot was unbearable. I had been feeling the swelling spread as I drove and was astonished to see a very sore, swollen foot when I finally stopped.  Ouch.  My first walk was to the local shop where I bought every manner of antiseptic, plaster and painkiller.  The store keeper did raise an eyebrow and I was tempted to show him my foot to justify my purchases but then I thought against it. 

Apart from nearly overheating, Dougal is doing great.  We are now over half way through my road trip and have done over 1,000 miles.  I've had an easy week actually because I've had many meals with friends and haven't done much cooking in the van.  Well, from now on it's all campsites - this will be my longest run of campsites but I'm really looking forward to it as I'm going to areas I've never been to before.  Skye is doing brilliantly too...she's a nervous dog and all this change - going to people's houses, strange noises at campsites is bound to unnerve her...I can tell she's a bit on edge and is definitely clingy with me but I think she's coping really well.  I have made some plans along the way to meet uni lecturers and animal centre workers but some of these plans might have to be scrapped if this hot weather continues.  I won't put Skye at any risk so if I don't make it to some meetings, I'll have to do it over the phone.  Either way, my plans have been scuppered by good weather and it's not often you can say that!  At least I've had a great holiday!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Happiness Manifesto (WXYZ)

W: Wake with gratitude, Walk in wonder, Work with love
X: X marks the spot - it's right here, right now.
Y: Stay Young at heart, say Yes to life - Yes, Yes, Yes
Z: Zzzzzz sleep with gratitude and love

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Happiness Manifesto (TUV)

T: Turn off the TV, Take time to see with new eyes, Touch someone with compassion, Try tenderness, Trust
U: Understand that we are all one family, Unite with others in candlelit silence
V: Visualise a happy, loving, peaceful life, Visit places of beauty

Monday, 26 September 2011

Week 12

So I started this week in Edinburgh and finished in's how it went...

Monday - after a lazy start to the day and a walk on the beach, I left Edinburgh and headed to Whitley Bay.  Bearing in mind, I am the slowest vehicle on the road (fact!) it took a little over 3 hours to get there.  But I had picked well, the campsite was on the cliffs looking towards a lighthouse.  The usual embarrassment followed when I tried to park in a straight line into the designated tracks only to discover that a VW camper is too narrow to fit so with half a wheel on/ half off I had to give up.  By this time, I was rather hot, sweaty and red faced and it didn't help that the guy in the motorhome next to me was watching the whole event without an offer of help.  I have to say that this stand-offishness summed up the rest of my stay.  I cannot fault the campsite at all (well maybe the funny smell in the toilets that didn't go away) but there wasn't a welcoming feeling that I was looking for.  Skye got some great walks along the cliffs but by Tuesday morning I was itching to go.
Tuesday was my longest drive - over 170 miles that took over 4 hours.  I ended up at Wagtail Country Park in Grantham to a bubbly welcome from the site warden.  She bent over backwards to make me welcome and ensure I was happy.  The weather wasn't the best here - wet and windy.  Again, the site was absolutely fine - clean and fresh facilities but the camping atmosphere wasn't here.  It was quiet and the campsite seemed to be in the middle of nowhere so I didn't really venture very far and Skye's walks consisted of a few walks round the site - which took a grand total of 10 mins!  The campsite was chosen because it was right off the A1 so I shouldn't really complain.

On Wednesday I drove less than 3 hours to Brentwood in Essex.  This time I ventured further out of the campsite along some very narrow roads to give Skye a proper walk.  Here I had arranged WiFi so spent a lot of time surfing and Skyping my nephew in Holland!  A much more pleasant stay but I was missing the sea so was keen to get moving on Thursday because I was heading to Folkestone!

Thursday's drive was a lot shorter.  I had planned to visit Howlett's Animal Park in Cantebury before going to the campsite.  I arrived at the park early afternoon and decided to have lunch there in the car park and wait a little while before going into the park (I didn't want to leave Skye in the van in the midday sun).  When it was a little cooler, and I had my reflective shades on the windows,  I ventured into Howletts reception.  I was astonished to find that a day ticket costs £19.95!  Yes, one adult for one day.  They do a year ticket that costs the same price but is really only useful if you live in the area. I explained that I had travelled from Scotland and I only had a hour to spare so only really wanted to go in and see the gorillas but they were insistent that it would cost me twenty quid.  To make matters even worse, their sister site (Port Lympne) cost a similar price and I could not buy one ticket to visit both sites.  Luckily, I had arranged to meet one of the primate keepers at Port Lympne on Friday so I decided to give Howletts a miss.  It's a shame really but I am Scottish and thrifty and could not justify that money for such a short visit.  It's a shame they don't cater for half day tickets.

I had checked into the Folkestone campsite for 2 days.  After a little mix up at reception (where the lady had me booked in for Friday/Saturday rather than Thursday - I know I was right because I had my spreadsheet with me and it is too detailed to be wrong!) I got a pitch within earshot of the sea.  First thing, get my (very) patient dog out for a walk.  I think Skye's tail sums up when I find a good campsite - she goes crazy for the sea and seemed at ease after day upon day of driving.  Waking up hearing the sea was an added bonus.  As was the fact that it was mild at night and I didn't have a frozen nose when I woke in the middle of the night. 

You always know when you're abroad - for everyone there's a certain something that distinguishes abroad from home - sometimes it's the intense heat when you step off the plane, sometimes it's the smell of coconut suntan lotion.  For me, it's the sound of crickets!  It's a sound we're not used to in Scotland but they are definitely in the south of England.  I wouldn't normally call this abroad but the fact that when I turned on the radio in the morning I got a French speaking station rather than radio 1 means I'm nearly there.

So the VW's arrived in Folkestone on Friday, I was glad to be here to witness it.  In total there were 7 type 2's and 2 type 25's!  Actually one of the type 2's was on the pitch next to me...I heard it arrive late on Thursday night - the "potato, potato" sound of the type 2 air cooled engine is the biggest giveaway. When it arrived, my curtains were closed so I had a sneaky look at my neighbour - yes, I was a curtain twitcher!  I saw through the crack in my curtains a pair of hairy legs - bonus, it's a man next door!  Anyway, because he had the pop-up roof up I couldn't see his face.  Even when I dashed to the loo, I could not see his face.  All night I was left to fantasize about this solo male in the next camper.  Morning couldn't come quick enough.  I was up early and saw that HE was already up and making breakfast.  I STILL couldn't see his face because he was standing up making porridge.  I ran to the loo again...rehearsing what I would say to him on the way back.  As I approached his van I could see a shape sitting down eating out of a bowl but I couldn't stare so no more details were available to me.  I opened my van door and heard this beaming Lancashire accent and grizzly tone: "Morning" - I turned to say morning back and there in front of me was a 60 year old bald man with a wispy white hairline! It unnerved me when he couldn't hear (or understand) my initial question to him - more evidence of his ageing years, if that was required.  So much for my hero being another campervan owner.  It turned out my neighbour was lovely and chatty and we got on really well.  He gave me lots of advice of places to go and advice for the camper too (he's been driving his for 20+ years). Oh well.

Friday was a glorious day. The perfect temperature for me with a very slight breeze.  But too hot for Skye.  I couldn't take her to meet my contact at Port Lympe as planned at 10am because it was too hot to leave her in the van.  Instead, I had a chilled out day at the campsite reading my book and watching the other VWs arrive (it isn't just me who to's and fro's a million times to find the right spot, I noticed that all camper owners do it!).  I eventually went to Port Lympe at 4pm and managed to catch my contact Simon Jeffrey as he was leaving. Simon was so helpful and gave me advice about which course he would recommend I do and that I need to get loads more voluntary animal work under my belt.  All this info is going to be processed when I get home before I make a  final decision about what I do and where I do it but I thank Simon for his time.

On Saturday morning I drove to London where I was staying with my friends Pauline and Sonny for a couple of nights.  I can't tell you how lovely it is to be with friends, get a lovely warm shower and a comfy bed for the night.  On Sunday, we had a leisurely walk into Windsor where we had lunch in the gorgeous sunshine.  Thank you to Pauline and Sonny for their amazing hospitality and phenomenal  food.

Portobello Loveliness

Before I leave Edinburgh, I wanted to share a few highlights of my visit to Portobello.  The first was a surprise as my friends had warned me it could be a hit or a miss - we went to the Dalriada on Sunday afternoon for the live music session and of course, it was a huge hit!  Find me a bar that plays live folk music and serves decent wine and I'm there!
The second was a stop for bread but turned into an visual feast!  The newest store to hit Portobello is Earthy which stocks organic food and is all about being at one with to my ears.  The products on offer were inspiring - the things I could cook up...alas not so much in a campervan so I left with a dark chocolate bar with strawberries and chilli - the combination might sound a bit weird but I promise you it was a taste sensation!

Finally, my Monday morning stroll along Portobello High Street found me pressing my nose against the window of a gorgeous antique shop called Friday Street.  It has some unique and quirky stuff - an Aladdin's cave!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Happiness Manifesto (PQRS)

P: Pray for Peace, Play for fun, live on Purpose
Q: Question your intention, enjoy your life's Quest
R: Rest like a tree, Read less negativity, Rejoice in loving friendships, Reach out and touch
S: Sing from your heart, Smell the roses, Speak your truth with love, Simplify your life, Smile, Surprise yourself

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Week 11

It's been a productive week.  I shut myself indoors and spent hours on the internet planning my route and finding suitable campsites along the way.  I'm trying my hardest to cram in visits to animal centres and universities along the way so there's been a lot of e-mail correspondence setting up meetings and ensuring my dates and locations align.  I feel I am ready now and will amend my itinerary as I go - at least I have the first week of campsites booked in advance.  Fortunately, I have planned to stay with friends along the way so I can catch up with them but also so I can use their WiFi, get a comfortable night's sleep and do my laundry (hopefully).

Dougal had a service early in the week and needed a few minor modifications but, generally, he is in tip-top shape.  I had a couple of set backs though.  Firstly I woke up on Thursday with a sore throat - it felt like I was getting a cold - but I went along to my power yoga class and the Ujjayi breathing helped clear my nose.  I did a bit of reiki on my throat and, by Friday, I was much better. My second set back involved Skye: on Thursday night she was acting strange - she would not settle.  By Friday morning, she could not climb the stairs or jump onto the sofa.  I think her lumbo-sacral disease was playing up.  I gave her some reiki first thing in the morning then I called my vet to ask for some medication to take on my trip with me.  In a way, I'm grateful that this came to light BEFORE I took off so at least I'm armed with medication to ease her pain.  She's already looking much brighter today and can get into and out of Dougal so that's  relief.

I cut my grass on Thursday.  I used the lowest setting on my lawn mower so my grass is the shortest it's been all summer. Unfortunately, it's now looking quite anemic.  Whilst cutting the grass I had a swarm of midges around me and got about a dozen bites on my face and neck!  Not quite a setback but not a very nice look plus they're itchy!!!

Saturday morning I did an early shift at the Guide Dogs and set off on my road trip straight afterwards.  My first stop was Edinburgh to see my friends Ali & Neil and enjoy home cooking, red wine and great chat.  Thank you guys for making my first stop so relaxing and enjoyable.

Tomorrow I head South...

Friday, 16 September 2011

And we're off...

Thermals? check
Hat & gloves? check
Skye's blankie? check
Heater? check
Umpteen cans of food? check
My itinerary spreadsheet? double check

Well, it looks like I'm ready to set off.  First stop my mum's house so I can squeeze in a few hours at the Guide Dogs centre on Saturday then it's Edinburgh for a couple of nights.

Google maps estimates that I'm going to do 1,700 miles and it will take over 36 hours of driving. Wish me luck!

Happiness Manifesto (LMNO)

L: Laugh like a child, Listen with your heart, Let go of old stuff, Love who you are with, Let your light shine

M: Make soup, Make friends, Make a difference, expect Miracles

N: Nourish one another, have Naps, enjoy and respect Nature

O: Open your mind, Open your heart, watch for Opportunities, try Optimism

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Spreadsheets Rule, OK!

People who know me well will be relieved to hear that I have set up a spreadsheet for my upcoming road trip.  It is very complex and has route details, campsite details, contact could I possibly go wrong?

I hope my nearest and dearest will sleep well knowing that I am armed with a spreadsheet.  My ex-work colleagues would be so proud of me.

I'm a born organiser...I need details, details, details...(that's specifically for my brother ;o))

Happiness Manifesto (HIJK)

H: Hug and old person, Hold hands, Help where you can, let love Heal, Honour all people

I: Invite folks into your home, and Into your heart, Imagine peace, know that we are Interdependent

J: Think juicy, live Juicy, Judge no-one

K: Kiss a friend, practice Kindness

Monday, 12 September 2011

Week 10

Hi all! I'm afraid it's going to be a short post this week.  It's been mega busy and I still have tons to do before I embark on my road trip this Saturday!!!

So the week has been productive - I've spent most of my time on the laptop scanning for university courses  and writing to the relevant lecturers asking to meet them on my road trip.  I have been looking at doing an Animal Behaviour/Psychology degree and have a short list of universities I aim to visit on my road trip.  Fortunately they are all on the South/West coast of England (so hoping it will be a few degrees warmer than Scotland which has become baltic over the last week or so).  I have also e-mailed a couple of animal centres for their advice and/or the opportunity to meet one of their animal carers/keepers.

Monday through to Thursday was mainly research (isn't it amazing how time flies when you are on the Internet?) then I had a break over the weekend and travelled to Norwich for Anna and Adam's wedding. I travelled by train - thinking it would be faster and more economical than Dougal - of which I am starting to doubt after a long and tedious journey home yesterday.  This wedding was very special to me because it gave me another opportunity to meet up with the "Ape Girls"!  Affectionately named, since we all worked together at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre with our gorgeous orang-utans. I worked with an international group of 12 girls from UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, US and Australia.  And I'm pleased to tell you that most of us are in close contact and try to see each other every year.  Fortunately there has been an event (like a wedding) to bring us all together each year.  I think our friendship is totally unique.  We were all strangers when we met each other in December 2006 but spent 8 weeks together doing something we all love.  I think it fast-tracked our friendship and made us bond stronger than ever because we shared an amazing experience together.  Though we don't speak for months at a time, when we do get together, the bond is as strong as ever.  I love you guys and can't wait to see some of you in November!  And congratulations to Anna and Adam who had a superb wedding - the location, the bus, the dress, the champagne (oh so much champagne), the food - it was all unforgettable.  And of course the Ape Girls for company.

The journey home took 10 hours with 4 train changes and a stop off at my mum's to pick up Skye.  Now I'm frantically trying to get things ready for my road trip.

The one thing I wanted to share with you is my emotions at this time.  I can honestly say that the last 10 weeks have been remarkably chilled. I have had feedback from people who think I look totally relaxed and I feel it...but last week I had a reality check when the enormity of this change really hit me.  As I looked at course details, I had a wave of fear which has still not left me.  For someone who plans every details of her life, I'm struggling with the unknown - where will I be this time next year, what will I do for money, etc???  I am putting my trust in fate and trying my hardest to go with the flow and hope that things will "work out" but it is a huge task for someone who is used to being in total control of every aspect of my life.

Anyway I plan to do lots of meditation, reiki and exercise this week to focus my mind.  In between all of that I will be scanning the Internet for campsites ensuring I have a rough idea of where I'm going next.  Dougal is going for a service tomorrow to ensure he is in tip-top shape for this journey.

Bye for now.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Happiness Manifesto (DEFG)

D: Dream passionately, Dare to be different, Delight in little things
E: Eat with awareness, Encourage a child, Enjoy being in your body
F: Forgive yourself, Forgive others, have Faith, Flow with change, Follow your bliss
G: Greet a stranger, Grow plants, Go within, Giggle

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Week 9

After the trauma of saying farewell to my family, I had to Skye, Dougal and I headed up North and ended up in Banff. I can't believe I'm saying this but the campsites just keeping getting better and better. I am literally looking out to sea as I type this.  It is 10 steps from Dougal to the beach!!!  check out the views from the comfort of my cosy camper.
 What is it about parking in a campsite pitch that I find so difficult?  Perhaps I misjudge Dougal's it took several attempts to park!  On the first attempt, I crashed into the electric switchboard at the back of my pitch...I say crashed but that's a slight exaggeration...I merely touched it then moved away and back and forth until I was comfortable. Then I checked to make sure no one saw me and in the caravan on my right there were 2 dogs sitting at the window "laughing" at me!!! 
 After stepping outside and checking my parking, I moved Dougal twice more until I was happy. 

I've invested in a few things that make my camping experience more enjoyable - an electric kettle, a battery powered radio and a heater...which will come in handy now that our Scottish weather has suddenly changed. On the food front, I continue to eat well - Wed night was chicken dhansak with pilau rice followed my raspberries, granola and yogurt accompanied by a few glasses of Cab Sav!  Just before darkness fell, the tide went out and Skye and I went for a run on the beach - it's so appealing to watch the waves from the camper...there's something therapeutic about it. 

So it's Thursday and I've moved 6 miles along the road to Portsoy...another wonderful campite.  I'm actually writing this on a picnic bench with the sea lapping a few feet in front of me.  It's dry, thankfully, but still quite chilly - where has our summer gone?  Guess what? I parked first time!!!  I've got a concrete pitch today which made it easier for me to park in a straight line.  The warden here is very helpful and chatty - when he saw me typing on the picnic bench he asked if I was a writer - "Not exactly" was my reply...but maybe one day.
There's something about Portsoy that attracts me to it more than any other site.  It think it's because it's a small site so a little bit more intimate and personal.  Plus the sea is captivating in it's own right and I'm parked right in front of it.  The other thing I like about Portsoy (compared to Banff) is that the village is close by so I could pop to the local pub for an afternoon snifter and stroll back to Dougal in time for tea!

I now realise that the things important to me are: brilliant views, people watching, pubs/shops close by and dog friendly.  Most of the dogs in Portsoy campsite are off lead and it helps that the warden has his own (well behaved) dog too - a gorgeous Alsatian/husky cross. The campsite is not fenced off so even the local walk their dogs on the beach in front of me. I also think Skye is finally realising that Dougal is our home - she seemed so much more settled here.

The mellowness continues on Friday as I return to Findhorn Sands for my last night of camping. At least at Findhorn I had some friends to enjoy a drink or two in the pub with...and a beautiful sunset. 
Before I left on Saturday, I went for a walk on the beach and discovered 50 or 60 seals basking in the sunshine.  I couldn't get that close to them because Skye was with me but what a sight and what a time to forget my zoom lens!

I am now feeling wholly capable of embarking on a long trip now but I know I'm going to miss my home comforts - there is nothing on earth like your own bed or your own shower and Sky + of course! 

So here's some logic for you.  I actually considered the time of year for going away in a campervan (apart from the fact that I didn't have a camper until August) and decided that Sep/Oct were the best months for me because they are cooler and I could leave Skye in the van without fretting about it overheating.  Can anyone think of a bad reason for going away in September?  Yes, WASPS!!!  My worst nightmare...I hate even typing the word.  So far on this trip, I have had 4 wasps venture into the van!  Plus, when I was enjoying a glass of red outside the Shore Inn in Portsoy, a pesky wasp wanted some of my wine.  I whacked him away then squished him and, following that, his friends arrived to annoy me.  Why oh why can something so little inflict so much fear and dread?