Cheers Elsie

Hard to believe but it is now four years to the day since Elsie the Marchioness of Ghastanbury passed away. In the words of Sandy Denny “who knows where the time goes”? It is also hard to believe I am still here as in the same place. I was convinced three years ago that I would be well away from here and living in sunnier and warmer climes. Oh well, Cheers Elsie you are sorely missed by so many people. I hope where ever you have ended up you are enjoying yourself.


Shell Island. Graveyard of tents.

A bit late but in the best of traditions better late than never…… After the trip to the dark sky park I decided that me and Bean Counter would not be camping on the bike again. I cannot carry enough equipment to ensure that people of our age (ie not in the first flush of youth) have enough comfort and warmth. Sleeping on a wafer thin roll mate when you are in your 20’s to mid 40’s is one thing but past mid 50’s it feels a little undignified. So I decide to buy a large frame tent and a four berth one at that complete with blow up bed and lots of camping gear like chairs and ensure some comfort. The tent was tried out in my garden and tested by Ted Magnum and his mate one mate with the verdict it was great.

I took the tent down and stowed it away in the shed. The following day I sparked up the barbie and while I went inside to fetch some things a stray spark from the barbie landed on the bag in the shed through the open door. I was lucky the shed did not burn down but the tent was a complete write off. Nonetheless I felt I had not given the tent a decent chance so I bought another identical model and BC and me set off for Shell Island in Wales. We found a perfect isolated spot on the top of a cliff only a few yards away from the toilet block and duly pitched up. The new Barbie was brought out and the airbed I had bought that morning was taken out of the car boot. I went to plug it into the cigarette lighter only to find it had a 230 volt mains plug on it. (Tip when buying camping gear take your time and read the box, I had bought a household inflatable airbed and not a camping one) I put the bed in the boot and we drove to the main hut at the campsite entrance where for a small donation they allowed me to plug it into the mains and inflate it.

This where the fun started, It was far too big to go back into the boot and too big to carry without turning into a hang glider. After 200 of 500 yards I dragged it behind me by the power cord not caring whether it ripped or punctured. Finally after getting it back to our camp it was installed. I had bought BC a new portable barbecue in a fetching shade of pink and she had in turn gone out and purchased a load of pink accessories including pink candles and pink plastic cutlery. After setting up camp to our satisfaction I sparked up the Barbie and poured some red wine into our new pink wine glasses and BC lit the pink candles. After an enormous meal, partially caused by Ted Magnum and his girlfriend “Snake hips” not turning up and us bringing enough food for at least four and there being no refrigeration we gazed out to sea with the camp looking like a Gay gin palace. At night it looked like your worst nightmare or something off an 80’s porn set with the pink candles blazing away for all to see for miles around.

It was during the middle of the night that BC realized why the spot we had picked was so deserted. The wind had picked and was blowing so hard the tent had blown in on itself and was resting only a few inches above BC’s nose. I of course slept right the way through this howling blizzard in a sound and fitful slumber. When I woke up in the morning the damage to the tent was all too visible. Where the fiberglass poles had rubbed against each other they had worn away the fabric of the tent leaving gaping holes that could only be fixed with gaffa tape. The zips had come away from the door frames and some of the poles were not the same shape as they had been when they left the factory. I cut holes in the doorway and attached some string so that they could be tied shut; I put extra guy ropes on the poles to keep them upright and repaired whatever holes I could find in the best manner I could. There was no doubt the tent was beyond economic repair and would not be coming home with us but it would provide us with shelter of some sorts for another night at least. I know lesser mortals would have come home there and then but we are made of hardy stuff and in any case I would never let anyone know I had failed!

We stayed another two nights in relative calm compared to the first evening. We even ventured out sightseeing on the second day taking in some of the castles and sights along the coast. I find it hard not to recommend this place, weather aside which can be crap anywhere and all too soon it was time to come home. I did not bring as much equipment home as arrived. The tent or what was left of it was dumped in the skip and one wag said “oh yes Shell Island, grave yard of tents”.

The site itself is magnificent and like all places when the weather is good it is worthy of a visit, right on the coast and with all the facilities you could want on a camp site. These included showers, a shop, a bar, somewhere to wash your dishes and a launderette and even a camp shop that sold just about everything. It had the obligatory fast food outlet and a restaurant of sorts with some fruit machines and arcade games for those who like that sort of thing. Even if you don’t, the site is big enough to hide away from all of those things and be left in solitude if that is your thing. Shell Island markets itself as one of the biggest camp sites In Europe and has strict regulations about how near another tent you can pitch. I think it is something like 30 yards but it is enough to ensure some degree of privacy. I will be going back at some point although a different and much more substantial model of tent will be accompanying us.