While resting up at home, I haven't been entirely idle. Last week I decided on the dates for my caravan holidays in 2018. From March right through to November. I could book the Club sites online, and did so at once. They are now in the bag. The two farm sites will both need a phone call, and I must see to that soon, especially as one of my stays includes the Easter weekend.
In all, and subject to cancellations if the money earmarked for holiday use needs to be spent on something else, I'll be away for 107 nights. For a total site cost of £1,547. The holiday fuel needed for Fiona will of course come to as least as much. Even so, that still works out at only about £30 per night away from home, and I challenge anybody to enjoy warm and comfortable accommodation for 107 nights, on any basis, with travel and day trip costs included, for as little as this. Long may my caravanning last!
And all without paying any deposits. The Caravan and Motorhome Club doesn't require its members to pay any. Nor do either of the farms. And so long as pitches are available, you can tweak the bookings to bring them forward a bit, or to put them back, or to lengthen or shorten them. In the case of the Club sites, it can all be done online. If necessary, and with three days' notice, it's possible to cancel a booking entirely, without penalty. It could hardly be more convenient or hassle-free.
I often do find myself amending my bookings. It's inevitable: something unforeseen will come up.
And something unforeseen did come up with the first holiday of the year, which was going to begin on 26th March, but I've now brought it forward to 19th March. And instead of going to the farm near Lyme Regis first, and the farm near Great Torrington second, I've swapped them around. The reason hangs on two chance discoveries.
Back on 16th April last year, I wrote a post called A puzzling painting, which chiefly concerned a picture painted by the artist Ric Hyde. I'd seen it hung in the Willoughby Gallery at The Castle in Bude on 4th April 2017. It was an arresting work, and I very much wanted to find out more about it. But when I went to the gallery again on 7th April, it had been taken down, presumably because it was deemed unsuitable for a marriage ceremony taking pace on that day in the exhibition room. I couldn't find out anything more about the painting on the Internet.
The painting slipped from my mind, but when looking through my photos for 2017 a day ago I saw a shot of it. I also remembered the blog post I'd written. I looked it up, to check the name of the artist and what I'd said last year about his work. I wondered if any of his paintings wee on exhibition in 2018.
Roll forward to a couple of hours ago. An Internet search had revealed that Ric Hyde and his daughter Zoë were exhibiting at The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington from 24th March 2018. Just down the road from where I was staying on the farm. And that there was going to be a Preview there at 7.00pm on Friday 23rd March. Aha! Surely both artists would be there, to field enquiries from the people coming? A chance to meet Ric Hyde, and ask him about the painting I'd been so intrigued about. Doubtless there would be wine and nibbles too; but buttonholing the artist would be my major objective. And to be there at all, I'd need to bring my holiday forward, and swap the sites around...
Previews are often for 'members only' - meaning, in this case, Supporters of The Plough Arts Centre. I could become one, for 2018, for a fee of £25. Hmm. The Plough's online programme said nothing specific about allowing Preview entry only for Supporters. But to be on the safe side, I paid the £25, and I'm now a fully-fledged Supporter.
That transaction done, I was presented with a list of upcoming live talks and performances. Let's have a look, I thought. And there was one event I immediately wanted to see. It was the TV historian Lucy Worsley, talking about Jane Austen (and of course plugging her new book about that lady). Now I dare say Dr Worsley will feature at the Appledore Book Festival in September (which I will be attending), and I could see her there. But the gods have decreed that I should have a chance of a sneak preview in March. Does one spurn the gifts of the gods? At one's peril! I shall get a ticket. As a Supporter, it will cost me only £17, saving me £7.
The Plough Management Team will wheel her on at 8.00pm on Monday 26th March. Before then, The Plough (which does nice food) is offering a 'meal deal' from 6.00pm, with a reserved table - one course or two courses, as you like it - as part of the booking. Well, why not? But I'll need to phone them. The meal can't be added on if booking online. Tomorrow morning, then, they'll hear from me.
So that's two items for my possibly wet and rainy stay in North Devon. Three, if you count in a visit to Slimming World at Fremington on Wednesday 28th March. Coincidentally, that's the day when I intend to get to my weight-loss target. Meaning three stones (42 pounds) lost. Wouldn't it be nice if I achieved that, and got not only my Three Stones Lost Certificate, but whatever additional award they give out for getting down to one's Target Weight? It's worth a final push. So no cream teas with my North Devon friends in the run-up! And definitely no Devon ice-cream, if it's warm and sunny - as it could easily be, given the wayward weather in the West Country, even in March.