Ah yes, the blog. I’d conveniently forgotten about ever having written a blog once we’d got our four tyres and four feet back onto UK soil. In my head I’d given myself permission to have a holiday from the blog whilst back visiting family and friends but with it now being three weeks to the day that we arrived back in the UK I guess my holiday is now, strictly speaking, over. So, as it’s raining and I have a lovely view of a Scottish beach framed by the vans rear window which just happens to be next to the bed, I thought I’d do the next enthralling blog instalment from the comfort of my bed. And why not?
It’s hard to believe that three weeks have disappeared so quickly but they do say time fly’s when you’re having fun. And we were having fun. Friends and family in the west country to meet up with, appointments to attend and old haunts to check out. Then the trip ‘oop north’ to catch up with my parents and enjoy some home cooking, a free washing machine and a couple of pets to stroke. In fact the free use of the washing machine turned into a complete service wash and iron. It’s the first time our clothes have had an iron run over them in over two years. If we had more in the way of clothing we’d be saving them for ‘best’ but as the service wash constituted half our wardrobe that’s not really practical. Even the bedding and tea towels underwent the same treatment….imagine. Thank you Mum for all the home cooked meals and for doing our washing with such love and care. I must say I’ve never seen Tim’s underwear looking quite so, well, flat!
And thank you also to all our other friends and family for fitting in with our tight schedule for meet ups. It still amazes me how we can just slot back in to other peoples lives as if we’ve never been away. Our return this year was made all the more enjoyable as we didn’t have to revisit the question of our ‘stuff’. That was dealt with last year (you can read about it here if you feel so inclined). We’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable three weeks ‘holiday’ but all good things come to an end and as of yesterday we are now back to ‘work’. The ‘work’ being a six or seven week tour of Scotland. It’s a tough job but we’re happy to take it on!
I’m not going to talk about Scotland in this blog post though as we only arrived a couple of days ago. Instead I’m going to give you some thoughts and musings on things that we’ve noticed or had forgotten about on our return to the UK after the best part of two years away from it. Don’t worry, politics won’t feature.
Firstly then, the price of groceries. You’ve never had it so good here in the UK. I can’t say I noticed it last year as we came back to the UK from Spain which was maybe slightly cheaper than here or about the same but this time around we couldn’t believe the difference. Especially things like fruit and vegetables, bread, tuna, biscuits, sweets and cakes. A tin of tuna in Greece will set you back €1.79 (£1.57), here it will cost you a measly 87p. A friend of mine asked what foods I missed whilst being away from the Uk and I think my exact words were ‘nothing really apart from real ale’. Why then did I come out of Aldi with Hot Cross buns, crumpets, decent crackers, savoury noodles, Fox’s Golden Crunch creams, Branston pickle, Melton Mowbray pork pies, baked beans and spaghetti hoops piled high in the trolley? Moral of the story? If it’s out of sight then it’s out of mind. We’ve calmed down now after our binge!
One thing we had forgotten about was that shopping at a supermarket in the UK accompanied by a 7m motorhome is much more of a challenge than we remembered, especially at Aldi or Lidl. The carparks are generally much smaller and much busier than their European counterparts. Unless you shop very early or late in the day then it’s probably best to find another place to park up and walk or find a bigger supermarket. Also, we’d forgotten that it’s not always easy to find any parking at all with a motorhome and that you usually have to pay!
Next up, traffic. There’s probably not significantly more traffic on the roads as opposed to two years ago but the volume of traffic here is much higher and it was noticeable as soon as we rolled off the ferry in Dover. From local traffic to motorway traffic it’s just busy, busy, busy. There are definitely more potholes and some of the driving has been reminiscent of the roads we experienced in Italy. The worst has to be yesterday being shaken to bits whilst circling around the suburbs of Glasgow trying to find LPG. It seems the ‘beast from the east’ has done its worst to the road network.
And finally, my driving leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from the odd occasion driving various cars when on our Helpx assignments I haven’t really driven for the last two years as Tim is driver and I’m navigator. For overall harmony in the van it’s better that way. This, though, has left me somewhat rusty on the old driving front. We hired a car for a week to make it easier to get to friends, family and various appointments and to give Tim a break from driving it was just insured for me to drive. Well, all I can say is my driving skills are now shocking. Dithering at junctions, being in the wrong lane on roundabouts, hesitating before driving round parked cars when you could fit a bus through, passing too close to cyclists, forgetting which way to give way to on a roundabout and not quite making the turn on a mini roundabout and having to reverse are just a few of my motoring misdemeanours. The worst was taking off and driving at least one hundred metres on the right hand side of the road before realising I should be on the other side. Fortunately it was on a very quiet housing estate. Even my navigation skills are shot as I’ve directed Tim to take the third exit on several roundabouts instead of the first as, in my head, I’ve gone round it the other way! Shocking, shocking, shocking. Of course, I’m now thinking should I drive more to keep my hand in so to speak? After witnessing me driving a tiny Toyota for a week I’m not sure Tim would let me loose with driving the van now though.
So anyway, that’s us up to date now and we are thoroughly enjoying being back in the UK and feeling revitalised and re-energised. We’re now getting layered up to take on whatever Scotland has to offer.