Martin Roberts

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Extra space is always welcome on your caravan holidays but, asks Martin Roberts in his light-hearted column, is an awning the only answer?

It's that exciting time of year when we plan our annual caravan holiday over the long summer school break. It’s when we pore over brochures and maps and make strange thoughtful noises – the kind that you make when cogitating over why jam made from strawberries is called strawberry jam, jam made from raspberries is called raspberry jam – in fact, most fruit-based jam is named after its fruit – and yet orange jam is, inexplicably, known as marmalade. It’s a “Mmnumphrump... Hmmmmmmmm... Oherrrabernummmm...”

Each year, the debate follows the same pattern: touring a variety of sites, with all their attractions and idiosyncrasies, versus the hassle-free option of picking just one or two and staying as long as they’ll have us.

This year, the physical condition of our awning could be the deciding factor. It’s starting to look like one of those makeshift villages erected after a natural disaster. Clearly, the material that these things are made from has a life expectancy, and it seems that our example is well past it. Either that, or a new breed of moth has acquired a taste for nyloplastopolyurelon, or whatever space-age fabric is used for awnings these days.

Most of the seams are held together by cable-ties and duct tape. Most of the joints aren’t. As for the poles, it’s a small miracle of engineering and wishful thinking that they fit together. The rust that holds the joints has solidified to such an extent that my poor wife’s attempts to assemble the now permanently extended poles resembles a speciality act from Cirque du Soleil. If she hadn’t been a dab hand at KerPlunk as a child, we’d have had no chance.

A thought occurred to me, however. If we do end up staying in the same place for extended periods, I can erect something more substantial on the side of the caravan. I imagine arriving on site with a mini-digger, a cement mixer and a thousand breeze blocks, then excavating the foundations for a small extension. That may provoke a heated exchange with the site owner, but presumably something tasteful fashioned from, say, fence panels, forest-green corrugated roofing panels and a couple of Velux rooflights would be okay?

Or how about a modified Mongolian yurt or a tepee? Why does the awning have to look like, erm, an awning anyway? Couldn’t it be made from bales of straw, for instance? Well, my mind is now spinning and the possibilities are endless.

What would you add to the side of your van given the chance?

Visit Martin’s website for information about him, his books and his property training weekends, and follow his adventures on Twitter
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