Overall, our first fortnight’s holidayin the caravan was deemed a success.
The weather when we arrived was fabulous; we could have been in the South of France rather than the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Actually, it was exactly that part of the coast where a cliff collapsed a few weeks previously, tragically killing a young woman. This meant that the Coastal Path, owned by the National Trust, was closed in one direction.
Our journey started well, we congratulated ourselves that we had taken the brake off, put the stabiliser on, disconnected the mover and shut all windows and vents. The ‘van was towing quite well as the nose weight was spot on.
In the very back of the car, two forlorn and cramped dogs were staring at us dolefully over the back of the seat. Tables and containers of camping-type goodies rattled alarmingly beside them and they skittered about on a slippery tarpaulin aimed at protecting the ‘good car’ from mud and vomit. In front of them in the back seat an oblivious Mavis communed with the god I-pod.
After some miles we noticed a strange noise; what could it be? Was it from the car or the caravan? I craned my neck but could see nothing wrong; the van was trundling along behind us in its expected place and there was nothing flapping loose as far as I could make out. We had left the back vents of the car open for the dogs and decided it was just that we weren’t used to hearing sounds from outside.
I imagine you have guessed that we were wrong. The noise became louder and eventually Whizz said that it was almost as though something was grounding. As soon as he said this it dawned on me what had happened. “The Jockey wheel!’ I exploded, “I bet it’s dropped down.”
We were on an A road; a non-dual carriageway that wove for what seemed like miles with no lay-by in sight. The noise was so excruciatingly loud that I thought we must be leaving a furrow in our wake. At last we spotted a parking ‘P’ and were able to pull over.
As suspected the jockey wheel, which had started the journey measuring perhaps eight inches in diameter, had been reduced to about two and a half; furthermore the tyre had been chewed up and dispatched somewhere behind us and the hub looked something like a fan rotor, having been ‘mutilated by tarmac’ – a painful death! Without this jockey wheel our remote controlled mover was useless and as we were almost complete novices in the caravan steering department, this filled us – Whizz in particular – with some amount of dismay.
Thank goodness for modern technology. As Whizz proceeded with caution, back onto the A road, what remained of the jockey wheel having been returned to its raised position, I used my mobile to locate a caravan supplier in Salisbury, our nearest town. I don’t often do this sort of thing as Whizz is a master of such tricks but perusing a phone while towing a caravan was not a favourable option.
I have to say that it was really easy. I found a supplier, and dialled the number. By this time we were following signs to Salisbury town centre. I got through to a guy who started to give me very complicated directions and soon Whizz cried, not exactly in a panic stricken way but quite urgently, “Just get the post code and we’ll use TomTom”. This I did but meanwhile the GPS in my phone had located us on Google Maps and was showing me exactly where we were and the position of our destination.
We arrived without incident and the people in the caravan firm (www.salisburycaravans.co.uk) were incredibly helpful. We used the loo, walked the dogs in a handy field opposite, bought a kettle in the shop and were on our way again in 40 minutes sporting a new, if slightly flimsy looking, jockey wheel.
When we arrived at our site, the reception area was swarming with people who seemed to think they had priority over vehicles regardless of whether they (the people) were on road or grass. Once we had negotiated the maze of pitches we found our own little home for a fortnight, pitch R17. We set up camp; our new awning was quite easy to put up and although the weather was glorious Whizz decided to fit the monsoon bars just in case. This proved a good move when the following weekend gave way to, if not a monsoon, certainly pretty flipping wet weather.
Nellie spent the first couple of days attempting to decapitate herself flying at every passing dog and summersaulting over her collar when she reached the end of her tether. We bought a set of windbreaks and Whizz hammered them in round the perimeter of our plot. It delineated us from the surrounding caravans and tents and served the purpose of blinding Nellie to passing imposters. It began to fall apart almost immediately and the emergency sewing kit came out.
Milo took up a lot of space. A large wet dog is both noxious in odour and inconvenient in volume. Every door I wanted to use, he was in front of it. This is not difficult in a caravan when you are a canine of rug-like proportions.
The dogs found they liked the sea but we found the shale excruciating on our feet and spent much of the holiday looking for diver’s shoes or something similar. Inexplicably, the shop on the camp site had children’s sizes and dozens of adult size 12. Typically we found some shoes towards the end of the holiday and didn’t have time to use them. Oh well; next time.
My parents came down for the bank holiday weekend and stayed in a bed and breakfast place a few miles away. Their view was spectacular and even better, they were soon on intimate drinking terms with their hosts. Horace and Kerching came to join us too and due to their unexpectedly late arrival Whizz and I ended up errecting their tent. Then the rain came. Three people and two dogs Sharing a caravan is a challenge but with an extra four people to entertain, things were very cosy. Thank goodness for Vino tento.
Milo injured his foot on the caravan step. We don’t know how but he is still limping and a vet’s bill of £46 was probably unnecessary; who knows? The vet told me he must rest, quite hard for a dog not yet three years old so we have endured a lot of whimpering since we got home.
The weekend of our return was also the one chosen for the Dorset County Show. Needless to say, having hurtled around to meet our campsite exit deadline of 10am we sat, almost stationary for about an hour once we got onto the road. Mercifully as soon as we had made our escape from the traffic the journey home was free of incident.
Saturday: arrived home
Sunday: family party in Kent
Monday: cleaned out the caravan and put everything away
Tuesday: Back to work. Where did the summer go?