27 July 2008

First timers

Lesley of NB Caxton's recent reminisce about caravans prompted me to rewind back to the weekend where we lost our motorhome virginity. We picked the van up on a Friday in September 2006 and after the official handover we were left to our own devices on the overnight camping area the dealer had thoughtfully put aside for newbies or owners who are just passing through. So we were only two seconds away from help if we needed anything. I can remember the excitement we felt, like two overgrown schoolkids with a new toy. The dogs had already settled down onto the large U-lounge as I’d predicted and A and I got on with fettling up the van in readiness for the following day. The idea was to go to Clumber Park before heading onto our campsite for the Saturday night. An easy trip, no stress....


Fettling started with filling the water tank. We had bought one of those flat reel hoses but we’d never used one before so we simply put one end of the tap, rolled enough of the hose out so that we could stick the other end in the van, turned on the tap...and the whole hose assembly blew up, sending parts various rolling across the tarmac. Very quickly, a fellow camper came up and kindly explained that you had to roll out the whole hose before using it...whose bloody stupid idea was that then? But we duly followed instruction and soon had a full tank. One cup of restorative tea later and we were beginning to feel like old hands. The next couple of hours were spent finding places for things, then moving them around, then moving them around a bit more until we’d squeezed everything in. The dog food had to stay in the shower but I call that improvisation.


We were too tired to eat that night so I went in search of a couple of quarterpounders at McDonalds. I also treated the dogs to a hamburger each but when we were feeding them outside, Arthur’s meat pattie fell out onto the ground, to be set upon by the rest while he was left sucking his bun. That is the story of his life really.

And so to the last big test of our first day – bedtime. Of course we had always seen ourselves as sleeping together while out in the van and the U-lounge converted into a monstrous king-size bed – no problem there then. That is, until Susie, Arthur and Monty decided that they’d like to sleep there too. Suddenly the bed didn’t seem quite so large with three hoofing great dogs lying across you and next to you. A better passion killer you couldn’t wish to ask for and while we tried to tip them onto the floor, they just kept sneaking back on when we turned the light off. We gave up and let them stay. They had a fantastic night’s sleep, ours was less so. Something to do with no circulation in my feet and hot dog breath in my face. When we finally awoke, it was to find Arthur actually under the covers snuggled down between us, blowing a feather up his nose. As the next night followed the same pattern, it perhaps comes as no surprise that on the next trip A decamped to the Luton over cab bed and there he has stayed ever since. I sometimes think of joining him, particularly when four dogs want to me join me on the now smaller fixed bed we have in the Bessacarr. And there I was, thinking that I was the alpha...

Saturday’s plan was to go and walk the dogs round Clumber Park before heading off to our campsite for the night. We’d chosen somewhere close to the dealer, just in case anything went pear-shaped, so today was meant to be all about a gentle introduction to driving the van and proper motorhoming/camping. Now there are days you look back on in life when you think, what if. What if we hadn’t gone to Clumber Park? What if I hadn’t made A go past all the lovely green open spaces where people were parked up enjoying a picnic? What if I hadn’t made him turn left instead of right...into the carpark, not the coach park? Well, for one thing, we wouldn’t have hit the Ford Focus parked on the corner. And for another, we wouldn’t have hit it again as we tried to reverse out of our nightmare. The trouble was, the car park was small and tight, our van was big and A momentarily forgot both these two rather salient facts. After the second impact, we just felt sick. We didn’t like motorhoming after all and maybe we should just go home. After honourably putting a note under the Focus’s windscreen wiper, we finally got out of the carpark, me walking in front of the van waving everyone out the way. Another couple of minutes and we were parked up in a delightful leafy glade, which would have been absolutely heavenly were it not for the fact that we had an ugly scrape all the way down the right hand side of the van. We made a brew to try and quell the feelings of nausea and after an hour’s walk with the dogs we were seeing things in rather a better light. No-one had died, the damage could be repaired, so what if we’d bust it on our first trip out? Worse things happen at sea.

Thus equanimity was restored as we headed off to the Milestone campsite. When we arrived, the self-same equanimity started to do a vanishing act. We discovered that the campsite was next to the A1 and downward of a sewage works. Was this some sort of joke? Some sort of test to see if we were equal to the challenge of motorhoming? My favourite Carry On film of all time is Carry On Camping and Paradise Camp this was not! And yet, when we booked in, we found the place positively heaving. And after an hour’s walk round the camp, I understood why. Despite everything, it really was a rather delightful place. You couldn’t hear the road because there was a big embankment between it and the camp; the wind was northerly, leaving our nostrils unassailed; and on the far side of the camp there was a beautiful, huge fishing lake, plus a couple of smaller lakes in the middle of what was a perfectly manicured site. And, best of all, what had I espied from the top of the embankment? An OK Diner! That was dinner sorted then. That evening, we eschewed the one mile walk by road in favour of a scramble down the embankment and a 100 yard walk to the front door. What we hadn’t counted on was the barb wire fence at the bottom. Cue two large adults scrabbling on their bellies through a gap just large enough to tempt you in, just small enough to snag your knickers. But I wasn’t to be denied. My milkshake and chilli burger were making their siren call so one firm tug and one rip of the elastic later and I was free! Getting back in was even more a struggle as we had consumed our weight in curly fries. I lay in the stinging nettles unwilling to move, a beached whale with torn pants and a caterpillar in my bra. This was not how I thought my life would be.
P.S. High point of the weekend - the walk to Cromwell Lock on the Trent. The lockie's got a big one, that's for sure...

4 comments:

Lesley and Joe K said...

Enjoyed the post but, 'A' wears knickers does he?

Dogsontour by Greygal said...

Sorry to disappoint you...my big bum and my knickers only. David Beckham he ain't.

Anonymous said...

I must apologise to poor Arthur - the account of his stolen burger made me cry with laughter and I really should have been more sympathetic!
The only consolation is that we once bought a Mcdonald's burger for our old lurcher and she ate the bun before the burger - maybe there's more actual protein in the bread....
Sue, Indigo Dream

Dogsontour by Greygal said...

You might well be right there. You should have seen his little face though...