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?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Happiness Manifesto (ABC)

I bought a card at the Findhorn foundation that had the A-Z for living happy so I thought I would share a few words of wisdom with you:-
A: Accept yourself, Appreciate each other and have an Adventure
B: Breathe deeply, Believe in love, Be still now and again...and again!
C: Choose calm and compassion, Count your blessings, Cuddle, Care for all creatures, Celebrate life!

Au Revoir

Farewell my beloved family. 

Well, what a traumatic start to the week.  My brother's family moved to the Netherlands on Wednesday which means my gorgeous nephew is no longer 30 mins away from me. On the up-side, it's a magnificent move for a 7 year old (and his parents) to experience a new country but on an entirely selfish point I will miss him terribly :o( boo hoo. 

I saw them on Tuesday night and we had a magical evening hanging out in Dougal.  We crammed 3 adults, a 7 year old and Skye into the camper and took loads of photos and played games until well past J bedtime.  Then it was time to say Bon Voyage...I think I held it together for J's sake.  Sometimes we take forgranted that our family are "just there" and it really is a blow to us when they move away.  But hey, Holland is only a short jaunt away...Farewell my family...I'm going to miss you loads. xxx

p.s. thank you for the hippy throw which adds a bit of glamour to Dougal xxx

p.p.s my readers can follow my family's journey in Holland by going to: