I often wax lyrical about the joys of being away on a long motorhome tour but I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit there are challenges. Some challenges are relatively easy to fix, like finding a place to empty the loo. When we find a suitable public toilet where we can do that without alarming people too much we feel a big sense of satisfaction. Why, you might ask, would emptying the toilet cassette alarm people? Imagine the scene – we take out the cassette, put it into a large carrier bag and slip into a toilet cubicle. We take a bottle of clean water with us to rinse it out and we deposit it, with its pleasant smelling organic fluid down the loo, rinse it and flush. Job done. Now imagine that you are in the next door cubicle. You hear someone going into the cubicle next door, there is some rustling and then you hear the sound of approximately 30 litres of fluid going down the toilet. To your amazement there is then a swooshing noise followed by another couple of litres going down the loo. You too would be alarmed. You can only imagine you are sharing the facilities with a horse. And that, my friends, is why we prefer to find a public convenience that is a bit remote and completely empty of other human users.

A challenge that is less easy to fix is the online shopping dilemma. We live in an age where buying more unusual items, such as motorhome bits and pieces or items for hobbies, is much easier done online. Specialist shops are more likely to be online than on the high street and we’ve got used to finding things on Amazon that would be difficult, if not impossible, to find in a shop. An example of just such an item is Shirley’s left handed ukulele. You might well ask! We had to leave our bigger and noisier musical instruments behind when we set off on this jaunt and it wasn’t long before we missed them. I fixed the gap, at least in part, by purchasing an Irish whistle in a music shop in Oban. Shirley, who plays the guitar, came up with the idea of getting a ukulele but being left handed she needed to buy it online. Aha! We had the answer, or so we thought. Adrian and Rachel, kind guardians of the trailer we no longer trail were willing to let us use their address for online shopping. All we needed to do was time it right so that we were in the area not long after it arrived and all would be well. Wrong!

One day, about ten days after I’d put in the order, I received a phone call from Adrian, “Your parcel has arrived and it smells bad. I’ve opened it and there are three handbags in with the uke and they smell fusty. What do you want me to do?” I was bewildered. Three handbags? Even when inebriated I would never order a handbag, let alone three of them. I’m more of a rucksack kind of girl. We agreed that he would keep the fusty handbags in the garage until we got there in a few days.

Arriving at the house, still thinking the handbag story must be some kind of joke, we found that the ukulele had been delivered by mistake to a house in Gloucestershire from whence it had obviously not been ordered. The recipient added it to the handbags for return to Scotts of Stow, oblivious to the fact that it had come from somewhere quite different. Just in case you don’t know who they are, think of those small colourful catalogues that come with Sunday papers selling things you never knew you needed until you flicked through their pages. That’s Scotts of Stow. The person who had ordered the bags had obviously thought the uke had come from the same place and put them all together in a returns bag. She had also been asked to add proof of her signature and to our horror had photocopied the back of her credit card with her signature on and all the card numbers, including the security code, fully visible. I don’t wish to boast but that lady was so lucky that it was honest people who received the parcel by mistake. So, how did it end up being delivered to us rather than Scotts of Stow? She had used the original bag from the ukulele that had Adrian’s address on it.

The next day I phoned Scotts of Stow. I only did it because I didn’t want the obviously elderly lady to be charged for items that she thought she’d returned. Explaining this saga to the confused person in customer services would have made a pretty good sitcom. He kept saying, “But we don’t sell ukuleles” and I kept saying “I know you don’t. She put it in with the handbags.” Then he said, “Did you order the handbags?” and I said, “No, I ordered the ukulele.” Eventually we agreed that some strange problem had occurred with Hermes the delivery people and all we needed to do was get the handbags picked up. He asked me to put the paper work in with the parcel for return and I did, but not before using a permanent pen to obliterate the lady’s card numbers from the image.

The wandering minstrel

There is a happy ending. Shirley loves her uke and it won’t be long before we can play a few Irish jigs together. We have a small tuning issue to resolve first as my Irish whistle isn’t quite on concert pitch but we’re trying hard to ignore that. In the meantime if you find yourself pitched up next to us (see what I did there?), my advice is to turn your TV up louder or move to another, quieter, spot.

3 thoughts on “Tales of being off grid

  1. We both have ukes but have never got round to learning. Planning on fixing that soon.

    I’m about to start hand-building Ocarinas in the pottery. I am also going to attempt to tune them (complicated by the shrinkage between raw clay and fired changing the tuning, so I have to deliberately tune them flat so they sharpen up on shrinking.)

    We’ll see, but maybe you can have a go at playing one of them one day. 🙂

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