May 28 2008   West Moors, Dorset, United Kingdom

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and ours started with a relatively short drive to Bladon Chains Caravan Site near Oxford.  It's on the Blenheim Palace Estate and is very pleasant, with lawns and mature trees all round and excellent toilet block and washing-up facilities.  We succeeded in setting the caravan up - this was only the second time we'd done it - and made a quick visit to a supermarket, then sat outside in the light of the setting sun eating sausages and drinking a bottle of Corbieres.   The next day was also warm and sunny so we walked into Bladon village to see Churchill's grave in the pretty little churchyard, before packing up and setting off again. We arrived in West Moors in the early afternoon and decided to put the awning up.  This was the first time we'd done it, and it was a hot, tricky job sorting out dozens of poles and acres of canvas, but hopefully will become easier as we get used to it.  And it's doubled our living and storage space.  

Had a slight disaster as we were preparing for bed - we emptied the teapot down the kitchen sink and a load of brown water immediately came up into the shower tray!! The ground was soft, the 'van wasn't quite level, and the shower plughole turned out to be the lowest point!  John did a bit of adjusting and the next day we went to a caravan accessories shop and bought various devices, some of which helped and some didn't!  

On Saturday 10th May we finally set off for foreign shores - well, Wales actually.  We were taking John's elderly mum and her dog for a week's holiday in Pembroke, which she loved visiting in the days when she was in better health.  Into the boot went her electric scooter, her wheeled walker, the dog bed and associated paraphernalia, and suitcases.  Then disaster struck - as John was preparing the caravan his back "went".  This was my worst-case scenario.  Being dyspraxic, I gave up driving years ago as my spatial ability was terrible, and for the same reason I'm not very good at anything practical.  How would we ever get going??  But John found he was ok while sitting and driving, so we set off.  It was obviously one of those days when if anything could go wrong, it did.  I draw a veil over the journey but we did eventually arrive, settle mum into a nearby B and B and sort the caravan out.  The site (Longhouse Farm) was small and basic - drinking water, chemical loo disposal point and electricity, but no toilets or showers.  We have those in the caravan so it wasn't a problem.  The view more than made up for the lack of facilities - in front of us was a field with a dolmen in it (Carreg Sampson, for you neolithic fans), and beyond it the sea and a series of rocky headlands.  

We had five days of glorious, warm, sunny weather and enjoyed exploring what must be some of the best scenery in the UK, if not the world.  John found a local chiropractor who helped with the back problem, and some local beer which helped even more.  Our last couple of days were showery, and on Friday 16 May we packed up and set off in drizzle.  

We brought mum back to West Moors and pitched camp in the same site as before.  Well, actually, at this point I cheated a bit as I went to Bristol to spend a few days with my old friend Maggie.  We talked, ate, drank, went sightseeing and generally relived the Sixties - great fun!  

The situation now is that we're still in West Moors while mum recovers from a shoulder replacement operation she had last Thursday.  She's due out tomorrow, and we have to vacate the campsite on Saturday, so all being well we'll move  to a site at Fareham for a couple of nights then get the Portsmouth-Caen ferry on Monday 2 June. Mind you, if it continues to rain as it has been doing for the last few days we won't need a ferry, we'll float over!

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