THE JOYS OF CARAVANNING

We went out the other day to look at caravans and confirm that we didn’t need a new one – but guess what – we decided we did!

Many non-caravanning people do not understand the appeal of caravans and simply regard them as a hazard and nuisance on the road. But a caravan adapted to your needs can provide you with a very comfortable base for your holiday in a safe and attractive environment for between 20 and thirty pounds per night for two people. For this you get a spacious ’emplacement’ with a space for your caravan in the middle and room for your awning on one side and your vehicle on the other.

Caravan sites vary enormously from the spotlessly clean, excessively controlled affair where your caravan has to be parked at an exact angle, with impressively equipped communal kitchen, washing up area, laundry and shower room. Occasionally there is even a bath. On the other hand you can have a windswept field with long grass and a few sheep in it with no facilities at all. When we moved from England to Scotland we stayed on a very peculiar site with rather unsavory people on it. When I opened my bedroom curtains one morning, I discovered my window had been lined up with another caravan’s which was far too near ours and I was afforded an excellent view of its interior which was empty of all furniture apart from a dining chair on which a naked man was seated, strumming on a guitar. We were on another site that same evening. (This is the only caravan site I’ve ever come across which has been like this.)

We have caravanned for 40 years. Your requirements change. We had a 5 berth when we had the children with us. For the past ten years or so we’ve had a 2 berth. Now we’ve bought a 4 berth. This has as well as the usual seating area which can convert into a comfortable double bed, two single bunks which are permanently made up, and which are 4” wider than previously, \and one of which is 6’3” long. This means we do not have the labour of making up the bed twice daily, and I can retire to lie in my bed easing my painful back but still being part of the group; and grandchildren can sleep with us while their parents go out to dinner. This is a new design and should also appeal to families with teenagers.

Awnings which are like large tents attached to the side of caravans and which double the covered floor space have also now improved. They now ‘blow up’ with an electric pump which makes them a lot easier to erect.

Another development over the past ten years has been ‘the mover’ which is a remote control whch will move the caravan forwards. back and sideways without you’re having to humph it.

You can equip your caravan for your personal needs. Book, music, TV all go with you. The caravan will carry your clothes hanging up (although the wardrobe’s miniature dimensions are not one of its best selling points. ) Cooking simple meals is not difficult, and you can always eat out.

You’re very much out in the open air. Lying in your caravan while heavy rain pours down your windows, or on a clear night you can see stars through your roof light, or surviving a thunder storm – these are all enjoyable experiences.

As I made clear in my blog on Norfolk, most other caravanners are helpful and friendly. But occasionally you come across somebody memorably awful. We were, I think, in Belgium one summer and an older British couple parked next to us. We had three children with us and did not have time for prolonged social exchanges. A friendly wave or good morning was as much as we could manage. They invited us for a glass of wine that evening but we declined because we had to supervise the children. Clearly this didn’t suit our neighbours. They terminated the exchanges of waves, good morning etc. We then watched in fascinated horror while they entrapped a different English speaking couple every night. They would lull them into a false sense of security with duff wine. They would then indulge in one long boast : their country house; their flat in town; their glittering careers; the generous salaries they enjoyed; their dining out in famous restaurants; their holidays etc ad nauseum. This was boring and tedious in the extreme, particularly since exactly the same speech was offered night after night. On the last night, before he and we were due to leave the next morning, he was showing his guests out when John said to me (quite loudly), “Oh, Annie. He forgot to tell them that his drive is one mile long.” He looked at us with extreme hostility but said nothing. We left that site at first light and were enjoying croissants and coffee many miles away.

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