Unpredictability - Good for your health

Our modern life is based on organising an environment free from the unexpected. The house needs to be as stable and reliable as possible. The job as safe as possible. Nothing should break down. Nothing but what we predict, should occur.
This is the life of the zoo animal. Let's explore the life of the Nomad. Let's live the life of the Nomad.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Easter Monday

I woke up at 6.00 am to the sound of rain on the caravan's roof.  The plan for today was to take the children horse riding from 10.00 till 11.00 and then start the 300 mile drive back to Brighton.  I would have booked the horse riding for the Saturday or Sunday but sessions on these days were fully booked.  I was in two minds about it all because I always prefer to begin a long journey early in the morning.

After waking the kids up I cajoled them as best as I could to get them to pack up all their belongings in preparation for vacating the static caravan.  This was all done by 9.00 am but it was still raining.  I could have taken them horse riding in the rain, and I did bring along the required wet weather clothing.  But this would not have been the enjoyable experience I was hoping for, and so I cancelled the riding session.  And I was relieved also since this meant we could begin the journey home.  The children were sad.  They wanted to stay longer - and this gave me some pride.  To have given the children an enjoyable holiday.  Memories that will last.

If I was concerned the twenty three year old van would not make the outward journey, I was doubly concerned it would not succeed in the return journey.  If you are going to see a car stationary on the side of a road with its hazard lights flashing - more often than not it is when it rains.  And this journey was eight hours through a soup of rain.  For the entire trip the windscreen wipers were swinging at their fastest level.  Half a dozen stranded vehicles were passed, and some of them looked to be fairly new.  The rusty old van gave me no problems at all.  Such a fine old machine she is indeed.

And that was my holiday with three children in tow.  A good old fashioned holiday without the crystal glasses and the gilded mirrors.  A working class holiday surrounded by families, escaping for a few days, the drudgery of their daily toil, the bills and the grinding noise of a life in the city.  If there is a proof that the nomad exists in everyone -  isn't this the evidence?  To do the vacation - to travel somewhere and live a different life, even if it is only for a few days.

Peace to all

Easter Sunday

After breakfast, which consisted mainly of eggs of the chocolate kind, I rounded up the kids and got them into the rusty old van for a three mile trip to the Wildlife and Dinosaur park.


This zoo is built on a very steep group of hills and is a great workout itself just walking the perimeter of the zoo. There were a series of shows and the show of the day for us was the two Seal Lions. The entire crowd became mesmerised as these two seal like creatures rap danced, caught rings around their necks and played copy cat with the presenter. Such intelligent sea life I have never before seen.

Then there was the lion show. These majestic creatures sauntered around their enclosures with the lofty air of royalty. Indeed they are the king of the jungle and while us humans may be at the top of the killing ladder, I wouldn't fancy a ding dong with one of these creatures without a fully loaded rifle in my hand.

For six pounds the zoo keeper gave you the privilege of feeding a chicken leg to the lion and a couple of ladies in the audience paid for this opportunity. The great beast grabbed the leg through the cage and cracked it in his mouth and swallowed it in one go as if it was a mere peanut. Yes these are fine killing creatures - majestic, brooding, arrogant and haunting. An interesting fact about these male lions is that there mane exists because they are such prolific fighters. The mane serves to protect their necks while fighting. If they become castrated during a fight, they will lose the mane and their status within the group will be lower than that of the female lions.
There were various other animals - ponies, penguins, parrots, spiders, lamas and monkeys. I am always fascinated by the meerkats and can spend hours just observing the way they behave together as a gang. I must have been wearing the same cowboy type hat as their zoo keeper because when I looked over the fence they all came running up to the gate's entranced and I had a dozen pair of eyes looking up at me - probably salivating for a juicy worm or two.

The dinosaur section consisted of real sized replicas (obviously) of various types surrounded by forestry and it reminded me of a scene from the Jurassic Park film. Every hour these models would awaken and their necks would move and their hearts seemed to beat. It was all very effective and interesting to watch.

After the zoo it was time to head back to the holiday park. A five minute walk down a steep path brought us to the Combe Martin beach. A good couple of hours was spent here for this was not your normal beach. I was taken back a few decades when my best mate and I would take off in the morning and spend all day exploring rock pools, caves and climbing various rock formations. The kids had never seen such a natural playground before and loved it all.

This night's entertainment again was bingo and afterwards the man put on a singing performance. The entertainment would not compare with what you could expect at the bigger commercial holiday camps such as Butlins or the Haven holiday parks - but we all nevertheless had a good time. This time the youngest daughter won a round and it was great to see the excitement on her little face as she shouted out BINGO and ran as fast as her thin little legs would take her to the presenter's stage. She chose this gun that was full of coloured LED lights and spurted out bubbles in rapid succession.

Easter Saturday

As a man in charge of three children for four day's holiday, I had to consider how I would feed them all. I do not believe in sitting around watching the television when on vacation, so the kids would be very active and require a lot of food. But since this was my holiday also, I didn't want to spend all my time at the oven
preparing meals. So the deal was as follows
CocoPops cereal with milk and some fruit.
Pre-prepared lunch bags containing either a tuna or ham sandwich along with some fruit and some biscuits and crisps.
Off to on site pub/entertainment building for one of their meals.
This format worked well and the pub meals were good value - your typical fry up sort of thing with chips or mash or wedges. Nothing fancy but full of calories to keep the children's stomachs full and their energy levels high enough for the day's activities.

Today I had decided to take the kids to a theme park called The Milky Way.


This was a great little place, independently run and very good value with something for everyone. The two elder girls loved the roller coaster and the youngest loved the indoor play area. In fact they all liked the indoor play area and they spent a good few hours wearing themselves out while I read my book.

For the adults there was a museum section detailing life on a farm early on in the century before we had telephones, computers, washing machines or the television. There was also a birds of prey section. I was fascinated by these fine falcons and owls and the keeper even gave us a display of their flying ability as they swooped a couple of inches over our heads from pillar to post.

Facts about the barn owl:
1) They have twice the number of vertebrae in their necks as we have - this means they can swivel their heads 360 degrees.
2) Their eyes do not rotate in their sockets as ours do - thus the need to be able to swivel the head in all directions.
3) Their flight is totally silent due to their unique wing design.
4) The shape of their heads, concave shaped, enables them to locate prey acoustically.
5) All of the above renders them the perfect night time mouse killer.
After the theme park visit we drove to a place called Lynton, which is known as England's little Switzerland. Having lived myself in Switzerland for several years, I can say this little town does indeed have an Alpine feel about it with lines of houses built on steep inclines and there was even a cliff railway.

The railway was built in 1888 and operates on a pulley system using water to adjust the weight of each carriage. Thus the railway is completely emission free. I had been on several of these in Europe, but for the children it was a very unique experience and a little bit frightening also - staring down the railway of a sheer face.

We returned back to the holiday park and had our evening meal in the on-site pub. The evening entertainment was bingo and my eldest daughter won a round. The prize was a John Fowler shirt and two free tickets to the Milky Way!!! Funny how that sort of thing happens. We gave the tickets away to another family who were very grateful.

Easter Friday

The preceding week had been a bit depressing.  The relationship between C and I had come to an end and here I was once again single.  To be single is not necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary it can free up a lot of energy and time.  But neither is it ideal since you can end up talking to yourself in the mirror.  To C, if you read this blog, let me say thank-you for joining me on this short journey through this short life of ours.

So there I was sat in my caravan on the field, wondering what was to become of my life.  I looked out through the caravan's front window at the rusty old van of mine.  She looked like I felt, tired and dishevelled.  I wasn't happy with myself about this.  What sort of nomad was I!!!  What sort of nomad would neglect his rusty old van?  And then my thoughts turned to the Easter break and it was like staring into the abyss.  Four whole days without work and no idea how to fill in the time by myself.

A few weeks ago I took my two girls to see a film called 'We Bought a Zoo', and we all enjoyed this film.  It is based on a true story about a widowed man who waved goodbye to his office job and purchased a zoo.  It detailed all the obstacles he and his family had to surpass to bring the zoo to sustainability and profit.  So for me the idea to go and see the real zoo this film was based upon seemed like something worth doing.  I would travel, with the kids, the three hundred miles or so to Devon to see this great zoo over the Easter break.

I went out and pumped up the van's tyres, and topped the oil, the radiator fluid and the washer fluid.  I gave her a new fuel filter and drove her down the road to a yard where a group of Romany Gypsies earn their living selling, repairing and washing cars.  I knew these fine industrious, dark skinned people would do a great job.  As they cleaned and waxed the outside of the van, I tidied up the inside with the Flash and the elbow grease.  Half an hour later the van was transformed.  She was gleaming and purring.  We were ready for another adventure.

So on the Friday morning I leave the campsite at 7.00 am and head to Brighton to pick up my two girls, and also my eldest daughter's best friend.  We head out West to North Devon to a place called Combe Martin.  I had booked a static caravan on a holiday park and I was lucky to have found this booking since most places had sold out.

This was a John Fowler holiday park and after reading a few reviews on the Internet I was a bit concerned.  Some gave a superb rating, and some said the chalets and vans were damp, dirty and full of dog's hair.  I was also concerned my 23 year old van wouldn't make the journey.  But after eight hours stopping and starting on the busy Easter roads, we arrived in one piece at the holiday park.  The van really is a fine vehicle - and she didn't let us down on this journey.

The holiday park was superb.  The static caravan was clean, warm, damp free and very spacious.  Of course most holiday makers will have to adjust to a living space smaller than their home space while on holiday.  But for me the opposite is true.  This static caravan felt like a palace.  A nomad's dream.  All the amenities of a house but in a caravan.  Flushing toilet, full sized fridge, mains connected water and a full lounge.

A google directions check revealed a two and a half hour journey to the Dartmoor Zoo, so this would be a waste of time given there are a number of zoos local to Combe Martin - ironically we wouldn't be seeing the attraction that inspired the trip, but this is how life is sometimes.  So after all that travelling to a stunning location overlooking majestic hills and sea and rock - what do you think the kids wanted to do?  Ten pin bowling. So that is exactly what we did, and I am happy to say the writer won the game.  We returned to the static, all exhausted. It didn't take us long to fall into our slumber.