May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A morning of mixed fortunes

Yesterday was really the start of my odyssey.. I left my friends Jackie and Richard in Sole Street to see Kent... I had instructions on how to find Chatham Station where I was to meet Heather HB off the train from London. We had a lot to pack in, she had taken one precious day off work, and I will say more of the places we visited later. She is a very old friend and my first 'official' on-board guest – ie not Nick or the dog. We headed for The Historic Dockyard Chatham which is fascinating and well worth a visit. Then Heth bought me the most wonderful lunch at Whitstable and on to the Turner Contemporary Gallery at Margate which was showing JMW Turner paintings, Helen Frankenthaler and Edmund de Waal. Heth is known to enjoy scouring charity shops and was also keen to find a pair of coral coloured trousers to go with her new top.. but we did neither.
Baa on the front at Herne Bay
We headed back west towards Chatham and had a look at lovely Herne Bay. We made a foray in to Maidstone which lacks the charms of those lovely north coast seaside towns we had seen earlier, but has an excellent Sainsburys. I had booked in to a campsite on a farm close to Maidstone run by a charming lady who had dyed her hair like a bed of marigolds. She had chickens and stables (for DIY livery), barn storage, caravan storage and rallying events for caravanners. We ate fish pie and asparagus and had a pretty good night's sleep.
This morning we had a prompt start to get Heth back to the train at Sittingbourne I washed in the van, Heth used Mary's basin/shower/toilet facilities in the farm buildings, and was impressed. One of Fiona's yardsticks for a bathroom – is ease of use – 'There's nowhere to put my spongebag!' she will wail, if the facilities aren't to her liking.. and Heth was impressed with Mary's shed. Hooks for clothes and a plastic table for spongebag etc, and hot water.

And then my fortunes started to slip. I wanted to empty my waste water tank (something I hadn't done before) and Mary said if I hadn't been using bleach to empty it into the hedge.  I had to move to get in to position.'Stand back Heth,' I said - she was surveying the operation - 'because Baa let's off a blast of exhaust when I start her up.' I revved up a bit and then turned her sideways to the hedge (the waste tank (just sink/basin/shower water) - has a tapped hose under the van on the driver's side. I got out and fumbled for the clip to access the hose.. but I hadn't turned the engine off, and the exhaust pipe and the waste water are side by side. I got a nasty faceful of diesel fumes!
Heth did the gates and we waved good bye to the farm and set off for Sittingbourne Station. She made her train perfectly and I headed off .. first to the car park at Wickes. I did my meditation, sorted myself out, checked the stowing, and used the bathroom.. And then I discovered, to my horror, that there was no water in either the bathroom tap, the sink or the loo.. Aah! no pump? The pump must surely work on the leisure battery as well as the mains.. But the leisure battery was totally lifeless. I couldn't understand it.. I drove for miles yesterday and that should've charged it. I stood in the tiny bathroom wondering what to do and then looked up at the mirror... My face, washed and moisturised at 7am, was totally covered in black diesel smuts. And my hands too. (Heth can't have had her glasses on, or I am sure she would have said!) I took a photo in the mirror but the photograph didn't work – it was neither good or funny! 
I scrubbed at my face with a cloth and rang Simon at Somerset Motorhome Centre – how he must dread my calls! He said my problem was that I had been driving along yesterday with my master switch off – the leisure battery only charges when it's on. So I headed for Sandwich and Deal – master switch on.

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