The Caravan Arrives

The choice of caravans was mind boggling; so many layouts, so many models, and we wanted a second hand one. We decided to visit the Caravan Show to get a feel for the options, and we dragged Mavis along (much to her disgust) as we felt she should have a part in the decision making. In point of fact she spent most of the time complaining of being bored and demanding cake and chips – not on the same plate.

We looked at caravans with fixed beds, end shower rooms, bunk options but eventually decided that we wanted one with bench seats – a double bed – at both ends and a dividing door in between This would give Whizz and I some privacy from Mavis and a friend, and vice versa. It transpired that the layout was only available in a five berth ‘van. Continue reading The Caravan Arrives

Caravan Preparation

The previous owner of our house, apart from being a shady sort of character, serviced vehicles in a huge double width, one and a half height garage. Next to it stood a double length, concrete sectional garage, and overlooking them both was our living room with patio doors. It was not an attractive sight but it’s amazing what you can learn to live with when your husband is suddenly made redundant.

When we first started considering a caravan of any sort, the only thing that would fit down the side of our house was a folding camper and it was for this reason that we started out with one of these. We kept it at the side of the house, not taking it through the gate and into the back garden because that was full of garages.

It was quite recently that Whizz discovered that caravan design had changed and they had become narrower. After a lot of measuring and head scratching he decided that certain models would indeed fit into the space.

In a separate conversation on another day I had commented that we could probably sell the sectional garage on EBay and while Whizz was working away (it’s always a dangerous time) I placed it on EBay for £3.50 – ‘buyer dismantles and collects’. To my astonishment it was snapped up by a fellow from Blake Robins. Whizz was not amused at the news that I had done this so suddenly (a reasonable attitude given how busy he was) but soon came round when he realised, after more measuring, that the caravan would fit into the vacated spot.

The trouble with having two large garages is that they soon become a repository for all the things you don’t know what else to do with. Apart from the usual garden tools and bikes (although we had five for three people) we also had, for example, a set of skis and boots, a set of golf clubs with trolley, an old macerator and kitchen cabinet left over from the afore mentioned bathroom make-over and loads of wood that would ‘come in handy one day’. This had to be moved into the other garage and before that could be done, the other garage had to be reorganised too!

The purchaser was keen to get started the following weekend as he needed extra garage storage space for his three Land Rovers. Whizz and I had a busy time creating a huge heap of ‘car boot sale stuff’ and trying to fit a quart into a pint pot with the rest of the contents of the two garages.

We managed it though and the purchaser, we’ll call him Builder because of his rear view, came rushing over to begin work. Boy, did he work! In the end Whizz and I were out there too, labouring away and watching first his own small vehicle laden down with a very small number of concrete panels (about 4 out of a total of nearly 50) and then his son’s van – and his son and grandson – with a few more. Eventually he hired a van to take away the rest of the panels, the roof (asbestos) and the door. We surveyed the remaining site. It was by no means clear and there followed countless trips to the local tip with huge branches of ivy, lumps of concrete and soil.

The shady vendor of our house, let’s just call him Shady, was a great one for using what came to hand and we were amused to note that on the side of our remaining garage was a front door, complete with a brass knocker that declaimed the number 6 as identifier of our garage. We have already got used to the two double glazed, lattice windows matching those of our house, adorned with cobwebby curtains, that overlook our garden on the other side of the garage so we will no doubt stop noticing the ‘front door’ on time.

Every few hours (or so it seemed, Whizz would appear with his tape measure. He announced with satisfaction that the caravan would fit into the former garage space with lots of room to spare on either side but his brow would crumple every time he measured the approach. It definitely had a couple of inches each side, but was the space straight, and was the width the same top and bottom. There was one other factor that we had failed to take into account but more of that another time.

Caravan

When I was about 14 my parents bought our first caravan, a slightly shabby Sprite Musketeer. The whole family set to sprucing it up and there began many years of happy weekending and holidaying.

It was entirely my fault! I had been invited by a friend to stay for a week with her and her parents in their caravan. The event was a youth rally with the Surrey branch of the Caravan Club. A youth rally is an event organised by the youth section of the branch, and we put on a ‘cabaret’ at the dinner dance, I went to my first pub and had my first French kiss. Quite a baptism for a girl!

Of course I wanted the whole experience, mixing with a crowd of young people, socialising and so on, to continue so I persuaded my mum and dad that caravanning would be a good thing for us all to do. I don’t think they needed much persuading really. We began going to weekend rallies and also holidaying around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall.

You would think that all these happy memories would have encouraged me to get a caravan of my own once I had left home but surprisingly, it was not until I met Whizz that we cottoned on to the idea.

We started with a folding camper, bought with the help of Grandpa’s bequest, and enjoyed a few weekends away and a fortnight in France before Whizz began globe-trotting for work, and the camper sat on our drive losing value daily. Eventually we sold it for half the purchase price and spent the money on a new bathroom.

The one thing we learned from having the folding camper was that it took an awful lot of time to erect and fill. Items could not be transported inside as the space was needed for the folding top so everything needed to be put in the car and then, once the roof was erected and the wardrobe and sink put in place, the camper had to be stocked from the car. This was not too bad for a fortnight’s holiday but for a weekend away, with a young Mavis running about and complaining of hunger, it was stressful and we were at each other’s throats quite quickly. Not a good start.

Recently we have had another bequest, this time from poor old Sloggo, whose M.S. finally gave in to pneumonia and a not unwelcome demise. This time we have bought a proper caravan and here begins a series of articles charting our successes and disasters as we travel about the continent.