I tend to have at least two books on the go at one time, especially when I am currently reading a hardback owned by the sister. For some reason she gets very upset if I read her books in the bath. Therefore my current bath book is not in any way, shape or form a crime book (although it does include an assault with a deadly breadstick) I’m reading Emma Kennedy’s ‘The Tent, the bucket and me’. Having watched her win the fabulous Celebrity Masterchef I picked up her book at a local charity sale. Her tales of family holidays are absolutely hilarious.
We of course never went camping when we were children. Oh no, my family were much too posh for that, we had a caravan! It was beige and had orange curtains and was tiny. Although as with all good middle class families we had an extension, in the form of an orange awning that somehow zipped onto the side of the dinky toy size caravan and then got stuck to the ground with pins.
The great thing about our holidays was that we never had to worry if we were over the luggage limit. We could take whatever we could fit in the car and the caravan once the Mum’s stuff had been put in of course (In the family pecking order, Mum got first dibs, me and the sister a joint second, Dad was then allowed to choose whether it would be important to keep the spare wheel, or if he could take it out to put in a pair of shorts)
The caravan itself was like a big wheely suitcase. It had chairs that turned into beds at either end and cupboards with locks so all the contents didn’t fly out. Nowadays people with caravans buy four by fours to tow them with. Not us, we had a ford capri (or some such tiny 80s car) that my Dad was no doubt very proud of, but it was not particularly practical. It was always touch and go as to whether it would get up the hill. A week in Whitby was nearly the end of the car.
There was added excitement with the caravan, the annual ‘what would have broken when we arrive’ competition. The soundtrack to the first half of the journey would be the Mother, ‘Did you lock the cupboards?’ ‘I’m sure I can hear something breaking’ ‘Are you sure you attached the caravan properly’ The second half, inevitably having been punctuated by one of us in the back being travel sick, would then be conducted in complete silence with just the odd glare thrown round the front of the car.
Once we’d arrived at the site any hostility would be instantly dissipated by the natural one up man ship we all felt surrounded by tents. We had a caravan! We had two rooms, even though technically one was a tent zipped to the side.
Then the holiday fun would start. The daily arguments over the kippers my Dad would cook that stank the caravan out. The tv roulette, sometimes we got bbc, sometimes we got itv, sometimes we just watched snow, whilst my Dad spent the whole night balanced on the caravan roof with my mum shouting directions out the window. The endless traipsing round national trust properties with only the bribe of some Kendal mintcake to keep us quiet (at what age do you actually start to visit these on your own, and why is Kendal mintcake always sold in national trust shops?)Food was always a major issue on holiday. The excitement of knowing tea would inevitably be something tinned with smash mash. The constant desire to eat chips or candy floss, my Dad’s constant refusal to let us on the grounds of cost. The parental row that would end with Mum extricating some money out of his wallet for us (a feat that 25 years later, still only she can manage!) Then of course it was bedtime. The bunk beds had a curtain that pulled round them, with a gap at the end. The curtain that meant in my parents world we should go to sleep and not be kept awake by the news at 10 no matter how loud they were playing it (we were just grateful they didn’t bring the Jazz singer film along with them!)
Then after a week it would be home time, but still the excitement didn’t stop. Getting home in one piece was always a hit and miss affair. Trying to pack the awning into the same size bag it had apparently come out of. Getting stuck in the mud and being pulled out by a tractor. Arriving home to find my gerbil had undergone a sex change. A point that in our traditional family way was completely ignored, until the original gerbil turned up nesting in the boiler having escaped and been replaced by the old man next door in the hope I wouldn’t notice.
Sadly the caravan holidays came to an abrupt end, when the canvas bunk I slept on collapsed landing me on top of the sister and we were therefore deemed too old for caravanning. Of course that was the start of the B&B holidays, but thats a completely different story!
If you ever had to endure family camping holidays as a child, I would definitely recommend Emma Kennedy’s book.