Day 75 of #vanlife

Leaving the place where everyone knows our name

So today was pack-up day … but with a difference. We had an 8am appointment at a garage in Cuminestown to get our windscreen wipers fixed and for a change, it is a nice story to report, although it didn’t start out that way!

Our favourite Caravan Park … not just because of the expansive countryside but because of the owners John and Anna.

So as I said in the previous post a number of things had started to go wrong with Fionnuala, the worst being our windscreen wipers had stopped working altogether. Now I consider myself fairly adept at things electrical as I have a degree in electronic engineering.* But I was rather flummoxed yesterday when I went to look at the fuse box in Fionnuala. I won’t bore you with the details other than to say that I had dismantled the fuse box trying to discover how two blown 20AMP fuses were just sitting in an empty space – not connected to any wires and thus any circuitry in the van! Maybe some comedian thought it would be a laugh to leave these fuses for some sucker (AKA Bucko) to come along 5 years hence and think they have found the answer to a problem. “Hey Caths don’t worry – I’ve found the problem” I announce to Catherine as she emerged from the Turriff Tesco with our emergency campers supplies (see final picture on previous post)! It was only after further investigation later on that I discovered the trickery laid by the previous owner.

*Many of you may not know the difference between an electrical engineer and an electronic engineer. In simple terms electrical engineers deal with large voltages and more importantly large currents (amps) – currents can kill you.”** Electronic engineers deal with much smaller currents often measured in milliamps or micro amps (that’s 1 thousandth and 1 millionth of an amp respectively). There is much Mickey taking that goes on between electrical and electronic engineers: one set believe they are real men, the other are really intelligent! I’ll let you figure which is which 🙂

**that’s current – not currant; current is like a river flow for electrons and enough of them will kill you! Currants you can find in a fruit bun or a Christmas pudding and ok enough of them will kill you – eventually!

In short, after two hours of firstly finding somewhere that would stock 20A fuses and then discovering the problem wasn’t the fuses, I had to change tact. So another journey ensued to a caravan and campervan repair shop where they told me that “engine stuff” was out of their expertise. I’d have to take it to a garage. Only a few challenges* there …

  1. It was 4pm on a Friday afternoon. All mechanics are planning their weekend ahead – not many mechanics work on a Saturday!
  2. There aren’t many garages in this part of Aberdeenshire
  3. Fionnuala is a vintage model so even if we are lucky enough to find a garage we then have to get the parts or get it sorted
  4. All this has to happen before 9am Sunday morning when we are due to travel to Pitlochry!

*There are no such things as problems as I tell my coaches and trainees – just challenges to be overcome!

So the guy in the Caravan repair place gives me the name of a garage where they get all their work done … “But I wouldn’t hold out any hope they can help you today” – he tells me!

Optimism and Enthusiasm make the difference

So I may have said before, that I am a naive optimist and I believe in miracles. We have already had a few miracles happen on this journey. But it seems nobody wants to hear about the good stuff that happens so I just write about the shite! I call the garage …

Now Scottish humour is a wonderful thing that I will save for another post, so as I speak to George, at a local garage, he dourly tells me that there is a lot of rain forecast for Sunday and next week! Errrr … “thanks George” I say “but I’ll use the BBC for weather forecasts but I’m hoping to use your skills as a mechanic to help me solve my problem”. He liked that. Scots love banter. So I elucidate.*

*Never use words like elucidate to mechanics, they’ll just think you’re a dick and will treat you like one. You have to speak their language, as I did.

I told him I would happily pay for the consulting just to know what the problem was. “Saturday rates are a premium” says he. “Not an issue” says I “we have to solve this” George was very kind and did me a favour and booked me in for this morning. He did point out that there was no way I would get any parts for a van of our vintage (1996) before Tuesday and the problem may not even be solved in the time I needed it. Again not an issue, but I didn’t tell George this. I believe in the law of attraction (see previous post on this) and good things happen to good people, getting the appointment is just the first step, without that I have nowhere to go; at least I now have some probability that can work in my favour.

So again I won’t bore you with details and will cut to the chase. The wipers got fixed AND Catherine got to drive a real car* that the garage owner let us borrow so that we could go back to the campsite to take down the tent and start packing up for the journey tomorrow.

Well I can tell you that Catherine was beaming as she slid through the gears on the 2014 Volkswagen Polo. “I feel like a formula one driver” she said as she took the last corner a little wide for my liking*

*Catherine informs me that this is called a racing line with a grin as big as a Cheshire Cat!

A sad goodbye …

This is the moment I reveal to John what I have been calling his “Guantanamo Jumpsuit” – fortunately, his Yorkshire sense of humour is similar to my Scottish sense of humour

So here we are now retrospecting over a glass of red and another Scottish ale. We have loved our time here at East Balthangie so much so we have to mention John and Anna, the owners of the site.

John asks that we don’t tell Vlad – he’s worried that he may be smited first! Not sure what difference that makes but, mums the word John 😉

John is a character and a proper Yorkshireman. He walks around the site in what I jokingly refer to as his Guantanamo jumpsuit. Even when we had the hot weather last week, he was still in his “suit”. We loved him from the start with his sense of humour, part of which is demonstrated with the dog poo bin that he has christened Pu-Tin with a picture of the Russian leader on it!

To say that John has been helpful is an understatement, he even gave some assistance on my wiper problem. We have also loved his conversations. I have been given an edict by Catherine on this journey “don’t make eye contact with people”. The reason being that once I get chatting, an hour can go by and Catherine will be wondering where is he now? With John, its all too easy to chat as he is so interesting and is also interested in us! I will write at some point about how so many people that we meet just want to “talk at us”, but with John, and Anna, they have a real interest in people. Their campsite is testimony to that. They provide a games room where the pool table, table tennis and table football are all free! There is a library of books that you can borrow and games for a rainy day. These people are awesome and we will be sorry to leave them and the campsite that they have developed over the last 30 years.* We will miss East Balthangie but we will be back.

*I feel quite sad at writing this as I remember that they have also rescued factory chickens and we have been so privileged to share in their eggs. I just can’t imagine any campsite being nicer or better than this.

So if you are ever up this way in north Aberdeenshire and you are looking for a quiet place to stay with many amenities and the loveliest owners, then visit East Balthangie – details are on the first photo on this blog.

6 thoughts on “Day 75 of #vanlife”

  1. Lovley to hear about your campsite owners and that given you such a great welcome – that’s what hospitality should be about. Hope you enjoy your whiskey tasting in Pitlochry🥃x

    • Thanks Pam. Yes John and Anna were awesome and as you say its what hospitality should be about. Had a great day today and looking forward to sharing about the distillery tour. Even met new van-lifers!!! One from Lanark where we are going next … truly awesome!Anyways I will go now as I am cooking dinner x

  2. Thank you for the lovely comments about Planet Balthangie (and us, he says in embarrassment!) – it was a real pleasure to meet you both and we genuinely really enjoyed you being about the place- the chats, the philosophical meanderings, the repair projects, the wind-ups. As fixtures go Mark and Catherine are well worth installing! We’re really looking forward to meeting up again with Team Van Life in the future.

    Noted “You will be back”- well you’re not having my clothes, my boots, or my motorcycle… well mainly because I don’t have a motorcycle…. but we might have an orange boiler suit to fit…
    Safe travels and safe home. Keep in touch!

    • Honestly John we loved being on your site and in your energy. We’re aligned in so many ways – and not just being Leeds supporters either! Catherine would love to be an installment in a heartbeat. Definitely will be back and hey if I can get a “guantanamo” and a go on your grass cutter I’d be well chuffed! Laters and love from Pitlochry …


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