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The Sap has decided we’re heading north for Easter, but the up-country weather forecast is not encouraging with predicted snow flurries across high ground...well in some ways it is encouraging to The Sap because he is winterising me. We hadn’t been back from Wales a couple of days before he started on a list of improvements to make my living space cosier.
Campervans, like me, were designed almost exclusively for warm weather use. You may well ask why. Well, I suppose that thirty years ago, most campervan users were hardly going to take a fortnight’s holiday in the depths of winter. Nowadays with early retirements, things have changed.
Anyway, when I left the Lunar factory I was kitted out with a pair of long curtains that did a reasonable job of separating the driving cab from the living cabin. Now, curtains may do a fair job of keeping out the early morning light and stopping prying eyes when you’re relaxing during the evening, but as these two have found, especially with curtains that have shrunk and become difficult to close completely, they’re rubbish at stopping heat from escaping.
On every outing so far, the pair have huddled next to my gas fire. It has been amusing to watch them playing a version of musical chairs as they swap places. The heat rushes past them down the cabin past curtains that might just as well be football nets and once inside the cab throws itself out of the glass and steel skin like as if it has a death wish. So every fifteen minutes they change seats to warm the cold sides of their bodies, but worse still their feet have never been warm.
So The Sap has designed and made a partition wall out of two inch cavity-wall foam slabs. I have to say he’s done a pretty good job and he’s covered it in the same beige carpeting he now has on my walls. This removable wall sits up in the over-cab space and he can take it down and have it in the Tee-shaped aperture between cab and cabin in seconds. He tested it last night and the cabin soon became too hot with the gas fire flat out here on the south coast. Over the next couple of days he plans to line my ceiling with polystyrene tiles, so he reckons the living space ought to be good enough for the snow-bound wastes of the North Yorkshire Moors...we shall see.
I suppose Yorkshire is a logical place to go after Wales. He says it, too, has moorland hills, sheep, rain (which often falls as snow) and its own near-incomprehensible dialect. The Chief reckons it’ll be a bit easier to navigate without all those double consonants and words that seem to go on forever and obliterate the map in their quest for space. We discovered a backwater village called Sodom in north Wales, but not even Yorkshire’s doubtful collection of place names stoops quite so low. Up there, I’m told, they have places like Penistone, Scunthorpe, Humpswaite, Giggleswick, Crackpot and even Hole Bottom.
Eee, Ah’m reet lookin forward to gooin thar.
With names like those it’s hardly upmarket, but it’s so far up-country according to Phillippa, it’s almost knocking on the door of that other Celtic paradise...The Peoples’ Republic of Caledonia, where they hope to take me one day. Yorkshire is a damned long way according to Phillippa’s continual rehearsal of her well-planned route. I keep trying to pluck up courage to speak with her because I know The Sap won’t like her chosen course and neither do I, it’s all humiliating high-speed motorway, which is not natural snail territory.
When The Sap returns, weighed down with essentials for our forthcoming outing, Phillippa is still talking to herself and has just cycled again to the bit where she gives instructions to turn left onto the M1 off of the M25. He’s quick to put her right, “I bloody told you I don’t want to go by motorway, Phillippa...I pressed the damned ‘no motorways’ button, why do you choose to ignore me?” He’s sort of telling the truth; I watched him do it, at least I watched him go to do it, but as with the off button when he went out, he was distracted and missed. If she could say, ‘No you didn’t, you fat twerp,’ I’m sure she would. After cancelling the motorway option, he again leaves Phillippa on ‘repeat’ mode but after a while ungallantly clips her around the ‘ear’ for a bit of peace and quiet. It’s the misogynist in him...he only chooses to use the navigator with a female voice so he can shout at her when he thinks he knows best and believes she’s wrong, then if she doesn’t give up, he smacks her casing in the sensitive spot that rarely fails to work her off button.
When we finally set off for Yorkshire just before Easter, I was thrilled. I quite like their approach to getting the best out of me...with my previous owners it was always rush, rush, rush to get to their chosen campsite before dark. The current idea of a perfect campsite is to find a quiet spot down a lane or in a lay-by, just as it’s getting dark. Although I listened intently to Phillippa droning on about a detailed route taking us up through the Peak District and an overnight stop at Matlock Bath, I only vaguely remember the route we actually took because every now and then The Sap has to assert his authority and deviate from her track. He often takes what he believes will be a shorter route but Phillippa always manages to show that his short cuts are long cuts, but still he persists. First port of call, apart from the couple of overnight stops is to be Keighley and then Haworth... Brontë country.
The Sap wants to see the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway while The Chief is excited about going up on Haworth Moor to see the ruin at Top Withens that is said to have inspired Emily Brontë when she set out to write Wuthering Heights. I am delighted that she likes to look at old ruins because The Sap and I should still be pleasing to her eye for a few years yet.
I find it quite interesting watching steam trains that are even older than I am rumbling in and out of Keighley station. It's a biting cold day and the steam drifts across into the car park where I'm sitting.
After half an hour we move on to Haworth and they park me between the town and the railway line. No more than five minutes passes after they leave before I hear a distant Sap shouting out excitedly to The Chief. Now I can just see him pointing up at a building on which I can make out the word Spooks, but he seems to be pointing above it and it isn’t until later when we’ve parked up in the car park for the Top Withins path that I get to see the picture she took when he hollered. Anyway, The Sap reckons that by the time Joe Public sees this blog and the picture he has modified to protect himself from Welsh wizardry, the locals will probably have changed the name in the picture because in these be-nice-to-all politically correct times,
even perverts have rights.
Ba ’eck t’were cold up on ’aworth Moor! As usual she is gasping for a nice cup of tea as soon as she stumbles into my sanctuary. After the kettle is readied to sing, he has the partition in place and the gas fire on. I have to give him credit...it seems to work a treat...he’s even hinged it half way up so it’s possible to scramble underneath into the cab to retrieve something. Apparently, up on the moor, she came hurtling down a slope, arms wide and shouting ‘Heathcliffe’ when she slipped, carried on down on her backside and crashed into him. Eeee! I don’t think t’were like that in t’book. Muddy wet clothes are now hung up above my gas fire and it is so warm they can now sit in their undies in the midst of winter. Tea and food behind them, they settle down with barely a glow from the gas fire and it’s like a hot house all evening, so hot in fact that so much heat has congregated in the above-cab bedroom that he has to open the window briefly before they climb into bed.
We’re going even further north today, heading for the North Yorkshire Moors and yet another railway, this one running from Pickering to Grosmont. Midway between them is the hamlet of Goathland, which doubles as Aidensfield in the old TV series Heartbeat. On arrival she says it seems quite strange to be sitting outside the village garage drinking tea and expecting to see some old police cars hurtle through what still looks like a 1960’s village. Just before dusk descends we head east up a winding track to the moors but quickly Phillippa tells him to turn right, then to turn around and finally to turn back.
“Shut up, Phillippa,” he snaps, “we’re going by a track that cuts across the moor where we’ll stop overnight...it will bring us out in Grosmont in the morning.”
“Turn back, turn back,” she seems to cry, before stepping further out of her programme in her desperation to protect us, “turn back, this track is impassable in winter.”
For her trouble she is cuffed around the hypothetical ear and powers down in a sulk. He finds a spot just off the track and we settle down with The Chief cooking a stew which almost has the effect of making this diesel-gobbling campervan feel hungry.
The next morning there has been a fair old fall of snow which allows my idiot owners to run around like a couple of kids having a snowball fight, but they hit me more than each other, I don’t mind though, it is all quite amusing. After breakfast we continue the spectacular winding track and descend into a valley where the fast flowing river is shown on the map, but there’s no bridge, just a warning sign for a deep ford. “She told you the road was impassable, ” says The Chief, patting a slumbering Phillippa.
“Don’t you side with her, that’s all I need. If you want to do something useful you can pull on your Wellington boots and see just how impassable that damn ford is, because it’s a long way back.”
“Why don’t you walk it? You’re the twerp that got us into this.”
“And I’d be the twerp who’d have to walk back again! No, you must go so that I can watch carefully and steer Sammy in your footsteps...so don’t fall over!”
I can’t believe she’s going to do it, but she pulls her boots on, slams the door and heads for the river, which looks ruddy deep to me. He opens his window and shouts, “Go on, if the water just goes in your boots, Sammy will go through okay...if it reaches...well, if it gets that high we’re all going to get a soaking.”
Then he seizes the moment and rushes by her, causing a tidal wave that dampens her ardour for days and I’m sure he is given smaller portions of her cooking as punishment. Wisely, he said nothing...she could have used some unusual flavourings in his portion if he had. Even so, her absolution was a long time coming. I’m not sure about Phillippa’s forgiveness though...I swear that several times when he switched her on, I heard her say, “Told you so!”
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