Having struggled to remember how to load a caravan after our winter lay-off, we set sail at 9:35 AM with Billy in tow to head for our first stop of the trip at Newton Abbott, Devon. This stop was planned around Carol’s desire to rummage around Exeter’s dusty archives on a genealogical quest.
Normally a north-easterly wind in England is unwelcome ‘cos it’s darn cold having come screaming off the steppes of Russia but, when driving south-west with a caravan in tow, it helps progress and so becomes something of a friend. A tail wind and clear blue sky was a great way to start.
We arrived at 2:00 PM to find reception closed until 3:30 PM. So, as instructed, we chose a pitch and, with the art of caravanning gradually returning, we set up. A pair of friendly mallards waddled up to us and joined us for lunch in the sun. While we washed down our moussaka and salad with a beer or three, the mallards seemed very grateful of some water to wash down their bread. They settled down and sat with us. Maybe we’ve been adopted. Cute.
After a convivial lunch shared with the local wildlife, I went to register and pay. “It’s a new computer system”, explained the jolly warden as the minutes ticked by. Clearly my brain was on holiday because I didn’t bat an eyelid when the jolly warden asked for £60.90. Only after entering my PIN number for the credit card transaction did my beer and sun dulled brain awake and realize that my reservation form quoted £30.45. We had booked for three nights. “Your new computer system seems to have doubled my charges”, I said. “You’re here for six nights aren’t you?, he asked. “No, just three”, I responded. Still unsure about the mismatch, the confused jolly warden now had to summon his jolly wife to refund my money and put through the correct charge. (He didn’t understand refunds.)
While all this was going on, a eureka moment occurred. Closer inspection of the day’s arrivals list revealed another Mr. Curd – A Mr. D. Curd. “You have to be kidding; I’ve never met another one”, I gasped. Sure enough, Mr D. Curd was booked in for six nights. My surprise turned to stunned amazement when a voice in the now rapidly extending queue announced that she was Freda Curd, wife of Mr D., also waiting to register and pay. I’d exchanged messages with a Freda Curd on Genes Reunited some months ago about our families. There couldn’t possibly be two Freda Curds and, sure enough, there weren’t. Both Mr D’s and my families hail from Buxted, Sussex. Without my data, I can’t quite remember where the common ancestor is but we are something like third or fourth cousins, maybe with a “removed” thrown in for good measure. What a bizarre coincidence.
We recovered our composure with a late afternoon walk around the adjacent wildlife-rich Stover Lake and watched an argumentative swan, who had clearly lost his composure, expend a great deal of energy repeatedly chasing a handsome pair of Canada geese. A Great Crested Grebe sat serenely on her nest while the neighbours were arguing.
Our wildlife theme continued as we finished the first stunning day with some barbecued pheasant, courtesy of some excellent Kingsford charcoal.
We came here for Carol’s genealogical connections and found mine. Weird!