Sunday, 29 April 2018

The search concludes Stanley!

Our new motorhome and life
A cryptic title and one that includes two stories from our last five days: one is our four day housesit with the lovable Stanley cat in Mells, near Frome in Somerset and the other is our purchase of a new (for us) motorhome, marking the beginning of a whole new chapter and life for us.

Stanley cat posing for the camera
We're very excited about our motorhome, but first we wanted to talk about our fabulous, but short, four day housesit looking after Stanley cat in the depths of Somerset. Although we were there for four days we were only actually on our own there for three. We arrived at Christine and Simon's house late afternoon on Monday 23rd and spent a really nice evening with them, having a guided walking tour round the village of Mells with them followed by a meal that Christine cooked for us, all while trying to get to know Stanley, who is really laid back and lovable. On Tuesday they packed and were gone by 11:00am, leaving us to drive into Frome to get some essential supplies from the Lidl supermarket, take a short walk round the town and them come back and spend the time trying to get to know Stanley and spend time with him. We watched TV in the evening after our dinner and encouraged him to come on his blanket on the sofa by us and gave him lots of strokes that he seemed to appreciate and he spent a bit of time on our bed overnight, so he had seemed to accept us and decide we were OK to attend to his every need.

And enjoying some strokes
Wednesday however became a bit of a long day for us as we wanted to go to three motorhome dealers in the area to continue our search. They were close together, but about an hours drive west from the house so we left at about 9:30 to give ourselves plenty of time. We looked at plenty of vans, discounting many at first glance as we, by now were getting to know what we wanted and could see that many didn't fit our requirements. Some were possibilities, but were always compromises, which many people said is what it is going to be. There is no perfect motorhome, they said, always a compromise - and so it was looking.
Doesn't it look fabulous!
On the way home we passed another couple of dealers so stopped at five in all and looked at goodness knows how many vans. Home for tea and cake followed by dinner and wine and cuddles with Stanley. He seems to have accepted us, having decided we will cater for his every need, walking to the back door and stopping to look at us, indicating he wants us to open the door for him despite the fact there is a working cat flap in the door he could use. Why waste effort going through the cat flap when he has staff to open the door for him? The pheasants and blackbirds are very much of the same opinion, expecting seed to be thrown and bread crumbs placed on the wall for them. Its all very countryfied, pleasant and relaxing here. Another evening in with Stanley cat, this time us trawling the internet researching motorhomes and looking at the website of another dealer 11 miles away in Warminster called Webbs. That's to the east of us, the opposite direction from the others we had visited, so we decided a quick visit there on Thursday would be better than making the day even longer on Wednesday. Their website wasn't too promising, they had a number of motorhomes, none of which were really what we were looking for, but they did have a German motorhome there made by Frankia. It read and looked fabulous, but it said it was 7.6m long and we didn't really want to go over 7m. We tried to discount it, but I researched Frankia which confirmed them as a quality German manufacturer with a great build quality and all the features we would want. But it was 7.6m long, that's too long for us, forget it! I'd almost decided it wasn't worth going, but it was so close decided we might as well go, even if its just to cross it off the list.

So on Thursday morning after an easy breakfast and plenty of Stanley fuss we went over. As expected nothing really fitted our requirements until we found one van which was absolutely fabulous and didn't seem too big. I immediately fell in love with it as did Jackie, but when I looked at the make it was the Frankia van I had looked at on the website the previous night that we had discounted as being too long at 7.6m. We went in to see the really friend young sales guy, who said he thought the 7.6m length wasn't right and it was 7.08m. He grabbed a tape measure and we went out and measured it at 7.08m. Now my specification was no longer than 7m and preferably nearer 6m, with a width of 2.2m, or as close as we could get to it. This was 7.08m long and 2.3m wide, a bit bigger than we ideally wanted but with a specification of everything we had as our requiremenbts and a lot more besides and with a build quality second to none. We just couldn't resist it, but tore ourselves away to think about it, making arrangements to go back the next day for a test drive on Friday morning before Christine and Simon return in the afternoon. So afternoon and evening was again spent with Stanley, who was quite forgiving of us going out, enjoying the fuss we were giving him as we debated what we thought about our find. It really was just what we were looking for, but a huge amount of money at £45000, but an amount we can afford and expected to pay. Is it the right van for us and are we jumping in too quickly?

On Friday we were up early, cleaning and washing our bed linen and towels, packing the car to be ready to leave when Christine and Simon returned after lunch and then headed out for the test drive, worrying about its size and how difficult it would be to drive. On getting behind the wheel we both realised when each drove, how easy it was, it was not that much different from a car (and maybe easy to forget its size!) We were sold and after they agreed to throw in for free our extras of refillable gas bottles, a solar panel on the roof, a day of their time to show us how everything works, a free evening at a local campsite so we can try everything out on a real camping experience and still go back the next day for extra tuition and time for them to carry out any snagging we find, plus them holding on to it until our preferred collection date of 18th June we went for it, paying them £2000 deposit there and then. How excited we were!

We were back at the house in plenty of time to be there for Christine and Simons return, hear their stories of their holiday, tell them about our new motorhome and say goodbye to Stanley cat. Christine was very impressed when he came over at Jackies call for a final stroke, something he doesn't normally do obviously very satisfying for Jackie. Before they had left on Tuesday they had told us of so many things we should visit whilst there, Wells cathedral, Bath and lovely local walks and we did none of them. We hope they are satisfied with us as housesitters and, if so, maybe we might go there again and this time be tourists!

Litter picking in Moseley
After leaving we drove straight back to Moseley in Birmingham to stay with our friends Ian and Helen for the night. It was great to catch up with them and Monty dog, go and have a few pints of real ale in the Old Moseley Arms and the Prince of Wales and a curry at our favourite Diwans Balti restaurant. Fabulous evening and great to catch up with them, but how did it get to 1:00am so quickly! We haven't drunk so much beer since.... well, since we last saw them! Lovely cooked breakfast with them on Saturday morning and then we went to do our good deed for the day, litter picking, with I&H and a number of other locals. They were all very impressed and grateful we, as non-locals were there, but with Ian and Helen we almost feel like locals and it felt good to be doing something good for a community. 20 bags of rubbish we collected between us in the hour we worked, so we really made a difference.

20 bags of rubbish - didn't we do well!
We left there about 2:00pm after going up into Ian and Helens loft where most of our kitchen stuff is stored and deciding what we need to retrieve in June ready to pack in our motorhome, and then we set off to Hall Green in Birmingham ready for our housesit for Sooty cat for the ninth or tenth time. It was good to see houseowner Abi again who is now a good friend of ours and also good to see little Sooty cat who rolled over expecting the usual strokes from us. Wow, have we really been away for six months?

Tomorrow, Monday, we take Abi to the airport for for her holiday and start the housesit proper, go and see my sister Denise and Paul to catch up with them and try to get some relaxation and strokes in with Sooty cat. It lasts until Thursday when we meet with our friend Corinne to go and look at her house and start work helping her to put it in order to sell, but that's another story - more on that later!

Back in Hall Green looking after Sooty cat

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