Thursday, 24 December 2009

I'm Dreaming Of A Silver Christmas

The ice has started to melt around here today, except in those places where the low winter sun doesn't manage to get a look-in. A thick mist rolled towards us from the moor this afternoon. That was our cue to go for a walk and enjoy the sillouetted trees and the sky becoming deep pink. In a dusky, misty field across the river we watched two deer as they watched us before springing off.

The lights are on, the bunnies have new Santa hats, we are cozy, stocked up and ready for our second Airstream Christmas.

Happy Christmas

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Notes From Here And There

We have had an attack of the gremlins lately. There was the wheel falling off, someone drove into us, Pete's laptop went all dark and mysterious. Not letting any of it get us down though. We're keeping warm and dry and staying on top of the 'moisture management'. That's mopping up condensation for all you non-trailer dwellers.

The rain has abated and our view of the Somerset levels which so far looked like a lake has revealed itself to be fields. It is proper cold though, dead wintry.

I spent last weekend in London visiting my bestest friend. We talked for two whole days. Life makes a bit more sense now. Life also makes more sense because I was able to travel by bus from Ilchester to Hammersmith for £20.00 return with a local coach company. Maybe mankind isn't doomed after all.

We are still prolonging our memories of the Hebrides. The idea is that, since we're taking things slow over the winter we could tell about our summer travels when there's not much to report around here.

To that end....

Back in June we took a small ferry from Eriskay to Barra. The Airstream grounded on the way onto the ferry so the crew were ready with the chocks to get us off at the other side. We took it slowly but unfortunately one of the guys put a chock in upside down so that as we drove over it, it tipped up and got caught in the spare wheel carrier underneath. Oh dear, we thought, or more expletive words to that effect. Many heart palpitations and miniscule manoeuvrings later we were free and headed for the beach where Andrew had bagsied us a spot next to him.

Now I would really like to tell you absolutely nothing about Barra because it is beautiful and special and very small, so I don't really want to encourage anyone to go there and make it all busy and stuff, like everywhere else. Have I said it before? probably, that Britain is small and populated areas are close together and there aren't enough empty spaces. Well Barra in June was lovely and empty.

The sky was clear, the sun shone, the sea was the cleanest, crystal-like I have ever seen and there were empty white beaches.

We parked up next to Andrew on the beach. This is really what we had wanted to do since buying the Airstream. Wild camping with a trailer is not permitted in England. On Barra it's the only kind of camping. The airport is a few hundred yards from where you can camp and tiny planes land on the sand a couple of times a day when the tides permit. There is a fresh water tap outside the 'terminal' and a neighbour told us where there were boat docking facilities where we could take our waste.

So that covered all the necessities. We set up, sat and admired the best view ever and waited for our friend Helen to arrive by plane from London. She had a few days off from her busy metropolitan life and the prospect of landing on the beach was the enticement she succumbed to. About five minutes before her plane was due we started strolling along the beach to meet her.

The next few days were a perfect mix of paddling, sitting around Andrew's fire-pit, watching sunsets, a boat-trip to Mingulay to get up close to the puffins, sandcastle building, castle visiting.

The sun went down very late at that time of year. It was light until eleven, eleven-thirty, which is great for nocturnal types like us.

A note on the weather, which was brilliant for those few days even if breezy at times. It can get very wild and windy up there and I suspect those white beaches and turquoise seas might be a little less inviting.

Having said that, our neighbour, Christine, has been going back and staying for two months every year for over a decade. Her caravan was anchored down. She said that when it gets stormy she thinks to herself, never again. And yet there she was. We met quite a few people who go back regularly. We all had big smiles on our faces. You would too, but of course I'm begging you not to go.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Uig to Uist

Wherever we have been lately it has rained persistently (Cumbria, Dorset, Somerset). Most of the UK is dripping at the moment so it seems like a good time to reminisce about our Hebridean journey and some blue skies. So the following took place back in June.

We had decided to go ahead with our Outer Hebrides trip. We turned up at Uig harbour, got measured to see if they could squeeze us onto a fully booked ferry and made the crossing to North Uist. From the harbour at Lochmaddy we drove south to Benbecula where fellow Airstreamer Andrew was staying and had reserved us a pitch.

Within a week we would be back this way to explore the landscape and bronze age ruins more thoroughly but this time we were basically passing through and just beginning to get a taste of this unique part of the British Isles.

I hope I can do justice to these islands. I suppose I can just start with my first impressions as we headed down to Benbecula. I didn't know what to expect, but I hadn't expected this. It was pretty flat. In my English mind Scotland is hilly. Surely the Western Isles would bear some resemblance?

Hills were usually visible at some point on the horizon but mostly there were wide open spaces. And these adjoining islands are generously dotted with various bodies of water. Or is it that the stretches of land are just giant stepping stones? Roads have somehow been built across peaty bogs, islands have been connected with causeways, watery areas of all sizes from pond to loch to actual sea surround you. There appears to be more water than land. The land has holes in it. It's like a massive peaty doily.

In a nutshell it is open, flat, boggy, lochy, causewayed and spread out. Oh, and no trees. But there is plenty of peat. More about peat later. Bet you can't wait. No wait, it's good stuff. Come back.

Buildings look like they are naturally spaced apart where the land allows. So instead of villages of close-together houses there are settlements where your nearest neighbour might be half a mile away, or more. Except on Benbecula where you come across an airbase and an attached community. Somewhere in there is a supermarket but you would have to be smarter than me or Andrew to find your way into it. We did eventually figure out that the entrance was disguised as a bus shelter, obviously. It probably gets pretty windy around there and you would need a buffer between the outside and inside. A bus shelter fits the bill.

It was worth the sleuthing though because among other lovely things within we found clotted cream to go with the scones we'd already hunted down. And so afternoon tea would be ceremonially enjoyed later that day.

On another day Pete and I returned to Lochmaddy to check out the arts centre. We had a look around an exhibition of photographs by Erskine Beveridge, a textile manufacturer who had been a frequent visitor to the islands in the late nineteenth century. He was interested in the islanders' way of life and captured it in pretty stark and atmospheric black and white images.

There was also an exhibition of sculptures by Claire McNiven. Figures caught in motion were built from tangles of string and rope which the sculptor had found on her walks on the beach. In a long-ago incarnation I was a dancer and seeing these figures really captured and reminded me of the split second moments of off-balance transition between one shape and the next. It was truly lovely and all from bits of reclaimed string.

We had a quiet Sunday on Benbecula which included a walk on the adjacent beach. The sand was white, the sky blue with voluptuous clouds hovering on the horizon. The sea was pure turquoise. There were tidemarks of small shells, crab shells, seaweed. There was even the jaw bone of a sheep. Since there is water everywhere, anything can eventually get washed out to sea.

The sunlight, the shades of blue and the reflectiveness of the white sand are incredibly uplifting. And there was plenty more of that to come.


Thursday, 26 November 2009

Calling All UK Airstreamers!

After organising two Airstream gatherings this year, we found that we needed a better way to spread news and keep in touch with other 'Streamers.

So we created a Forum.

It quickly outgrew its usefulness, so we made another. And attached it to a website.

Here is the fruit of our labours...

It's been designed as a meeting place and information centre for all things Airstreaming in the UK. Please have a look. If you have an Airstream (or are just hankering after one!), join the Forum. If we've missed anything off the Links page, please let us know.

We hope you like it.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Check Your Nuts!!!!

We interrupt this complete absence of posting with a warning to all you caravanners out there.

Check your wheel nuts!

A little over a week ago, while making a relatively short hop from Carlisle in North Cumbria to Barrow in South West Cumbria, the rear, nearside wheel fell off.

It wasn’t a happy experience, but we have come away from it much wiser and a little poorer.

I’ve always checked the torque on the wheels before a long journey, but I must confess that I wasn’t aware of just how quickly they can work loose after removing the wheel. We’d had a full service only a week (and 105 miles) before, and we were only six miles from our destination. There was no vibration, no instability, no warning of any sort, just a bump and then, less than a second later, a crunch, followed by the wheel, er, following us along the road.

The damage? A section of the wheel arch was bent inwards resulting in a couple of short tears in the side skin. Not pretty.

Another warning to you all… Check your vehicle recovery clauses. We have Green Flag cover which came free with our fancy-schmancy bank account. Caravan recovery is included, but the (very) small print restricts the caravan length to 7m. More expense. And the two guys managed to rip a rear-corner section of the skirt off while they were winching the trailer onto the flat-bed truck.

And then it started raining. A lot.

Those last six miles took three hours.

So what advice can we offer? Apart from the obvious (CHECK YOUR WHEELNUT TORQUE!!!), have a good look at your vehicle rescue cover. With hindsight (which is always 20/20 vision), we could have attempted to re-attach the wheel ourselves. All five wheel bolts were lost when the wheel fell off (it was dark on a busy road), so we now carry a full set of spare bolts. Even though the wheel was damaged during separation, the tyre was good and it could have got us the final six miles to our destination. Even though we carry a trolly jack, it would have been very difficult to get it under the trailer at the side of the road, but we could have driven the remaining wheel up onto one of those yellow plastic ramps (I knew there was a reason why we carry them) which would have got it high enough to put the wheel back on.

We live and learn. Wheel separation isn't uncommon. It is almost always the left-hand-side which drops off. I can't find any figures for the UK, but around 50 trailer and truck wheels fall off in the US every week. So, please, check the torque on your wheel bolts.

All-in-all, it was pretty heartbreaking but no-one was hurt (only our pride-and-joy and our wallets), and at least we still have our home. We were in Cockermouth only a week before the flood – it could have been much, much worse for us.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

More About Skye

Could we have known that in May we were about to enjoy the best weather of the year? This year I have become acutely aware of how short summer is. I like all of the seasons. They make sense to me, but summer is so eagerly anticipated, expectations are high. Spring is the teaser and then it's time to stock-take and update your outdoor seating and barbeque equipment. Whatever you do, don't save this stuff for the perfect balmy evening, get out there and burn something while you can. Also, just because the weather forecasters tell us it's going to be a long, hot summer, doesn't mean it will be. And, just because last summer was wet and we all felt like we were robbed doesn't mean some universal law of fairness will deliver a scorcher this time around.

We were lulled into premature hot summer excitement when we had a couple of really hot days at Glenbrittle. Our tent-dwelling neighbours were returning from conquering nature and geology looking decidedly drained and sweaty. I put their pathological unfriendliness down to a preoccupation with personal clamminess and an ability to focus only on achieving a summit whilst forgetting even the most basic of social niceties, such as a simple 'Morning' when you happen to be sharing the same tiny patch of this awesome planet.

We started to encounter midges in the evenings and worked on our strategies for keeping them off us and out of the trailer. But when we arrived at Loch Greshornish we were encouraged to hear that the blustery wind was keeping them away. Hurrah! Unfortunately that same blustery wind made it impossible to sit outside, let alone barbeque or enjoy our stylish new outdoor furniture.

No problem because it was at this time that I became firmly hooked on listening to Radcliffe and Maconie on Radio 2 in the evenings. They play a fine mixture of new releases with classic old stuff, including a generous helping of the cool stuff from the seventies and eighties. Mark and Stuart have a great, dry banter going on, even if Mark does sometimes sound a bit fed up or bored with his co-presenter. They know their music too. Then there is "The Chain", an ongoing, unbroken sequence of connected songs which members of the audience call in to suggest. The links can be as obvious or tenuous as you like as long as the chosen record is quality.

There's more but I don't think I can do justice to "This just in", or the live chat and music sessions. It's just exciting sometimes to hear something that you haven't heard for years, that doesn't get played on the programmes with their play lists handed to them by their producers. It's good for the soul to be reminded that you used to love this song or dance to that one, especially if you're looking out of the window, across a loch and watching the light change.

And while I'm plugging things I like I can recommend Cafe Arriba in Portree on the road that winds down towards the harbour. It is bright and jolly and the food is prepared freshly. There are loads of daily specials including plenty of imaginative veggie choices. For that reason this is a most superior cafe. We were about to embark on a journey where our lunch options would invariably end up being a cheese and onion toasted sandwich if we were lucky, or a bag of crisps if we weren't. I kid you not.

Our access to the internet was getting as scarce as a decent and nutritionally sound lunch. We had hoped that Cafe Arriba would have WiFi, it looked like the sort of place that would and we would have happily whiled away some time communing with the world at large and knocking back the coffees. However it didn't and, after peering into the windows of every cafe, pub and hotel without any luck we finally spotted a sign that led us to a kind of village hall with craft market and internet access. That's a rocking combination in my opinion. For a tiny donation we were given a choice of passwords to try and left to our own devices in the balcony-cum-mezzanine. And naturally I bought a hand-knitted scarf too.

Of course our phone signals were equally miss and miss and we would occasionally drive into a zone and start beeping as two day old messages made it through the ether. In time we would become more and more comfortable with feeling disconnected from everyone and everything, but not yet.


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Reaching Skye

Now that Autumn is firmly upon us, it’s good to look back on those gloriously long, hot days of the early Summer.

The first stop on Skye was at the Glenbrittle campsite, a charming little spot, tucked away at the end of an eight-mile cul-de-sac. It’s designed for tenters who fancy a crack at the very enticing Cuilin Ridge. The road to the site was a tricksy little thing, with a steep drop into the valley with two miles to go. We stopped to let the over-run brakes cool down (and to admire our Airstream in the wild).

The site itself was one of those “park-where-you-like” jobbies, with only a handful of hard standings with hook-ups. We found a spot on the grass with a view out to sea, and spent a few days running on solar power. And there was plenty of it.

It’s perhaps worth mentioning our batteries. Back at Easter, we spent five days on a site without hook-up. It was my own silly mistake, but when I booked us onto a Camping and Caravanning Club site, I completely failed to register that a Standard Pitch can mean nothing more than a patch of grass. For the Caravan Club on the other hand, a Standard Pitch might include a hard standing, electric hook-up, breakfast in bed and the grass cut four times a day. So we tried to live off the batteries. The days were bright and sunny, but being early April, they weren’t very long, so to spare the blushes of the solar panel on the roof, we used the site shower and toilet facilities. You’d think that by watching minimum TV, using only LED lights and not running any fans, we should be able to last quite a while. On the third evening, the voltage dropped so low that the inverter wouldn’t run, so we had to go to bed at nine o’clock! I haven’t done that since I was a tiddler! The next couple of days were taken up by waiting around in the mornings until we were allowed to run the generator for a couple of hours, leaving us about an hour to explore before everything shut. So, these two 90 Amp-hour batteries were lasting next to no time. On our next trip to Tebay, we had an exchange of views on the state of the batteries. It turns out that the batteries are not covered by the warranty which, to be honest, is fair enough, but I wasn’t best chuffed to have to fork out around three hundred quid on something that was less than 18 months old. Airstream did, however, replace the PSU in case there was a fault with the charging system. The old one was sent off for testing – I’m still waiting for the results…

So, with new batteries and glorious sunshine, we had no problems surviving on Skye. Being at the end of an inhospitable road, we didn’t venture too far from the site. The Cuilins were calling, but the call fell on deaf ears (I was a: pretty unfit and b: it would have meant getting up early), so we just had a couple of short walks from the site, though one afternoon we did venture as far as the local distillery.

Talisker is a bit rough for my taste, but the tour was interesting. To be honest, though, once you’ve had one distillery tour, you’ve seen them all.

Still not having any plans, we moved on to the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Loch Greshornish. This was a world away from the terrible time we’d had at Easter – the welcome was warm and we were feeling very bold with our new batteries, so we booked in for three nights on a “Standard” pitch. This one came with glorious views across the little sea loch.

In the nearby village of Dunvegan sits the tiny little “Giant Angus MacAskill Museum.”
This was, quite simply, the best entertainment I’ve had this century. It’s a couple of quid to get in. You might need to ring the bell – the curator was in the house next door peeling tatties for when his wife got home from work. This curator, Peter MacAskill, traced his family tree and found he was a distant cousin of the Giant, so he thought it would be a good idea to make a museum of the Giant’s life. Angus, it turns out, never set foot on Skye, and none of the exhibits are original, but the recreations are excellent, and the commentary from Peter (when he wasn’t running off to check the tatties) was eye-wateringly funny.

If you ever visit, you could see the exhibits (housed in the single room of the old smithy) in about ten minutes, but allow yourselves at least three quarters of an hour for the stories. And don’t leave without asking about the coffin… The picture shows a waxwork of Angus, one of General Tom Thumb (who was in the same Show Business as Angus) and the real Peter MacAskill - Curator and Comedian.

It was while we were sitting in the campsite one afternoon that we decided that we would just hang the expense and go to the Hebrides anyway. You may remember that we have mentioned CalMac Ferries arbitrary pricing structure. Caravans are only supposed to be up to 8 metres long – anything longer gets charged as a commercial vehicle. They take 10 metre motor homes, but not 8.25m caravans, like our 684. Back in Oban (which was about the last time we were to get mobile internet access for the next three months!), I got on my high horse and send some frank emails to various people. It seems that the Hebridean Tourist Development Agency were familiar with CalMac’s fun and games, and the Scottish Minister for Transport promised to bring it up at the next meeting with the CalMac board. Caledonian MacBrayne, by the way, is wholly owned and funded by the Scottish Government, so you know who to complain to…

So we turned up at the ferry port in Uig, got a ticket and found ourselves, at least for the time being, leaving Skye and on the way to the Outer Hebrides…

Monday, 12 October 2009

Ticking off Ardnamurchan

Once we had decided not to allow the forbidding ferry costs to spoil our Scottish travels but instead take it as a stimulus to choose a different journey, we planned to continue heading north around the west coast and to go to the Isle of Skye via the bridge.

On the way we spent a couple of nights in Fort William. Some of the journey so far was familiar since we were retracing some of our steps travelled on our honeymoon thirteen years ago. The last time we had been in Fort William I popped into the hospital to get a tick removed from my leg. It had so far foiled all attempts at eviction by a squeamish me. The doctor I saw back then was new to the job, English and had not encountered a tick before. The digging out technique he used was not the preferred one but his grasp of the tweezers was a bit shaky. Apparently what you don't want is for the body to come off and leave the spiky mouthparts in situ. Other possible remedies include dowsing the little critter with alcohol or suffocating it with a blob of Vaseline. Both methods are supposed to result in the nasty little blighter simply dropping off. This time around I was ready for ticks (purpose-made tweezers, Vaseline and I'm sure there's alcohol around here somewhere), midges (jungle spray) and rain (brand new red Gortex jacket).

Fort William was much smaller than I remembered. The last time we were there it was a useful place. It was where we stopped off for essential supplies. This time my impression was of one street lined with discount outdoor clothing stores and shops selling tacky souvenirs of Scottish clich├ęs. This is where the shortbread trail begins.

The site we stayed on was kind of pleasant and kind of odd. Well really it was just unlike the sites we normally use. It covered all of the self-catering holidaying options with 'chalets', apartments, tent areas and touring caravan areas. All of this was under the giant shadow of Ben Nevis and a couple of miles from the town centre.

At some point along the way our road atlas had changed its scale without us noticing. So when we fancied a bit of a drive out to Ardnamurchan, the furthest point west on the British mainland, it was twice the distance we'd anticipated. On our travels we have developed a need to see the ends of roads and the furthest points of the compass. It started quite accidentally. We just happened to be at the most south-westerly landmark at the beginning of our journey and, since we have this Man From Atlantis-like need to return to the sea, we always seem to be ticking off these extremes.

This drive was also to be our initiation into twisty, single track road driving. Most of the roads from now on would be narrow and perfectly constructed. It was fantastic. What an exercise in concentration. With trees alongside a lot of the route you just never knew what was around the next bend. When we weren't enclosed by foliage the scenery was hilly and green at times, then as we traced the higgledy-piggledy coastline the sea sparkled under clear, blue skies. It was prettier and a lot less rugged than we had expected.

Touristy landmarks along the way included the Glenfinnan Monument commemorating where Bonnie Prince Charlie's standard was raised in 1745, and the viaduct used in the filming of the Hogwarts train in the Harry Potter series.

Once we had finally arrived at the Point of Ardnamurchan we could enjoy looking across the sea we would not be crossing and enjoy views of the islands of Eigg, Rum and Muck. (No, I'm not making this up). These were not on our itinerary so not so torturous as you might think.

There was also the first of many lighthouses. They go with the territory of course and they look magnificent against a clear, blue sky. My favourite features are the huge red-painted fog horns.

Most of Scotland's lighthouses were designed by members of the Stephenson family. Think of the heyday of industrial engineering, bridge building, the steam engine, railways. Various members of the Stephenson family were responsible. Confusingly, a few of them are called Robert. The author Robert Louis Stephenson was also related. Great genes aplenty there then. This one was the work of Allan Stephenson.

And I always try to imagine what it must have been like for the lighthouse keepers to live in these places. Sometimes it must have been beautiful solitude and at others it must have been desolate and desperate. Surely you must love the wind, or go mad.


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Road Less Travelled

Here goes, we are looking back over the summer we spent in our Airstream in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. I had anticipated some good scenery and some bracing sea air but I never guessed it was to be the high point of our travels so far.

We decided to make the first leg take us from Keswick to Oban. The ferries to Mull depart from there and that was to be the first destination of our island-hopping.

The first half of the drive north couldn't really have been any easier. Once on the M6 you're on one of those uplifting routes which gradually loses fellow motorists to the cities and towns along the way until you hit the open spaces and the roads less travelled.

We did have a mini hitch when we wanted to stop at services and make some lunch. On our first attempt we followed the signs towards caravan parking and found ourselves driving around a very busy CAR PARK! No big spaces for caravans or trailers. If there had been room to manoeuvre we might have tried to take up two spaces, but there wasn't. Instead we did a circuit and moved on. At the next stop the caravan area was basically a grass verge with room for three or four vans. We refuelled our tums and got back on the road.

Bypassing Glasgow is simple and the scenery just gets better and better as you drive up the west side of Loch Lomond. It feels like you're really starting out on a proper trip. For us it was starting to look like a proper wet trip. As we progressed northward alongside the loch it started to pour with rain. The further north we went the narrower the road became. Add to that road works, a temporary and bumpy road surface and what seemed like buckets-full of water being thrown up at the windscreen whenever another vehicle passed us. When we arrived at the campsite we were told we should have turned off and taken a detour to avoid all of that. Ah well.

The site in Oban was large and affiliated to one of the clubs and had the benefits of helpful staff, immaculate facilities, hook-up etc. Most of the vans were in rows facing the sea. Luckily for us we were pitched on the side, angled and staggered so that we could simply enjoy the sea view without having to look at the white box terraces. The only downside was that the loo disposal point was so far from our pitch that the 14 litre cartridge had to be transported in the car.

A bonus was that fellow Airstreamer, Andrew, arrived the following day. He was also on a Hebridean trip of his own and while we would be doing our own things, we would make a point of meeting up along the way. Like us, he knew where he wanted to visit but the final details were to be confirmed.

In between planning we had some walks on the beach and cheered on Andrew as he took to the sea with his kite board.

Pete and I took a look around Oban on a Sunday in what was probably low-ish season and I suspect we didn't see it at its best. I can comfortably add it to my list of 'functional towns'. This town's main function seemed to be as a starting point for island hoppers. Although I can recommend the view of the harbour and of Mull and surrounding islands from McCaig's Monument. The monument is like a massive folly in the shape of an ancient amphitheatre. Apparently it was going to be a museum and library but it was never finished. What stands now is the external circular structure with a park in the middle of it instead, and the great view.

We found an excellent guide book about hopping The Hebrides in the Oban branch of a well known high street book store, got some chips and mushy peas, ate them while walking the streets and protecting our dinner from the circling seagulls then popped in to the ferry terminal to make enquiries and book our tickets. Unfortunately this is where things started to hiccup.

There is only one ferry company operating between the mainland and the Hebrides. Just think about the disadvantages of any monopoly and apply them here. The most obvious one being, no choice. What they say goes. And what they said was that since our trailer is longer than 8 metres, by 25cm they would be charging us as a commercial vehicle. So instead of our Island Hopper ticket costing us around £350 it was going to be closer to £700. I could have cried. Our plans seemed quashed in a moment. It was too much, impossible to justify. Even if it weren't I wouldn't have wanted to let them get away with such an arbitrary hoick in fees, an extra £350 for an extra 25cm.

We returned, deflated, to the trailer to rethink our plans. Scotland is overly endowed with beautiful places which we had not yet seen. We would simply enjoy them instead. We would continue heading north and work our way around the coast.


Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Rally Call

Back in March, I put the word out (just to see what happened) and nine Airstream owners turned up with their trailers and motor homes for a mini-rally.

Last weekend, we did it again.

This time, thirteen units turned up, ranging from a '59 Tradewind to a hot-off-the-presses European. Almost all of the "old guard" returned (Chris - you missed a good one; Chuck - get well soon), along with a splendid collection of new faces.

The weather was fantastic (the best it's been since early June!) and the sun poured down all weekend on shiny aluminium.

We arrived a few days early and caught up with John & Carole (or Jack Lightning and the Milky Way Kid as they are now known) in their '06 Classic. I hope they won't be too embarrassed if I say that they are two of the finest human beings I have ever met, and that I find them truly inspirational. Actually, I'm sure they will be embarrassed, but I hope they'll get over it by the time we see them next.

It just remains for me to say "Thank you" to everyone who came (in, more-or-less, the order they arrived)... John, Carole, Bill, Christine, Ian, Arianne, Dave, Helen, David, Ali, Michael, Glynis, Pete, Paul, Hazel, Scarlet, Flo, Andrew, Simon, Emma, Carl, Gaynor, Connor, Rory, Paul, Carla, Sebastian and Casper. I didn't have nearly enough time to spend with each of you, but I hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I did. Thanks, also, to the huge number of visitors we had. It seems that a Rivet of Airstreams (is that the proper collective noun?) cannot go unnoticed! And finally, thank you to the wardens Irene and Richard, who graciously put up with our late-night revelry, our stream of arrivals and visitors, and our night-time light pollution!

Will we be doing it again? Oh, yes. There will be another gathering of some sort in the Spring, and we're working on a special project or two for next year.... Stay tuned...

We'll be back very soon with another installment in our Scottish Odyssey.