Claudia DowellSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Claudia Dowell
WHOEVER THOUGHT THAT holidays were for rest and relaxation had clearly never experienced a caravanning break with my family.
Going on an Asquith caravan holiday can feel a bit like a military operation
My childhood holidays were planned with such military precision that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that my Mum was high up in Special Ops, and her whole 'medical secretary' thing was just a rouse. If she suddenly appeared hoovering around Ross Kemp on the frontline in Afghanistan I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. If Mum said we were setting off at six in the morning, sorry 0600 hours, then there was nothing approximate about it.
Woe betide you if at 0558 you needed a wee; you either crossed your legs for three hours until the next scheduled stop or spent a quiet week at home on your own. We weren’t allowed to stop for breakfast until a decent enough length of motorway had been placed between us and home and even then we had to shovel our Little Chef Olympic breakfasts down at record speed, in case North Yorkshire filled up and they began turning people away? Or did she have a South American dictatorship to topple before lunch? Either way, everything was done flat out with a barely suppressed sense of rising panic.
Now, with a family of my own, there is more chance of a CL opening in Helmand Province than there is of us managing a 6am departure. We once managed to travel 1.7 miles from home before needing to pull into a service station for a Burger King and have therefore spent a disproportionate number of nights in late arrival areas. I would describe ourselves as laid back travellers, but the truth is, we’re pretty chaotic.
As our 10am departure time looms, I'll still be in the kitchen throwing the contents of the fridge into a cool bag, convinced that a week’s stay in Cromer will require every half empty condiment jar this side of horseradish sauce whilst the other half will be outside on the step ladder, washing the van roof. We will argue about whose job was the most pointless. He will think he’s won until three days later when he has to eat a burger with no mayonnaise or ketchup and the van’s covered in dead flies and I will have the last laugh.
Once we are on holiday I really do try and relax and for the first couple of days while there is still the illusion of endless work-free, rainbow-coloured days, I am content to look at the view, read a good book and generally watch the world go by from the shelter of the awning.
And then it all goes wrong; usually on a Wednesday. I’m never sure why it’s always a Wednesday. Maybe it’s because the middle of the week hastens the approach of the weekend and therefore the end of the holiday? I’ll wake up in a panic because it’s already after eight o’clock which (according to my mum’s philosophy) means the best part of the day has already gone.
On this fateful Wednesday, we will have made a plan. There does seem to be an urgent requirement come midweek for some sort of organisation so the remaining days don’t slip by squandered. We will have decided to go to the beach. We are all in on the plan. Except for the weather gods.
“It’s raining again,” says the 4 year-old with a more than slightly accusatory tone. “Yes, I know,” I shout over the drumming of the drops on the roof. We sit and stare at the place where the hills will be, should the mist ever lift. “You said we could go to the beach today,” he continues balefully. I resist the urge to drag him down to the sea and make him sit on the beach in drizzle, primarily because I know he would be quite happy to sit there all day despite clearly impractical beach conditions. And then miraculously, after lunch, the sky suddenly clears, the hills reappear and the trip to the beach is back on.
The thing is, I have no idea how long we have until the clouds regroup and so beach preparation becomes something akin to an emergency evacuation procedure, with everyone shedding layers of clothing and me throwing hard-boiled eggs and kit-kats into the cool bag while screaming “Get the wet suits. And the body-boards. Oh for the love of God I can see a cloud! Move, move. MOVE!!” We will of course take far too much to the beach, yet I will still have forgotten something of hitherto unknown vital importance. (“What do you mean you’ve not brought my Transformer?”) But this aside, we will then enjoy a blissful few hours playing in the sea, hunting for toilets and digging a huge hole because that’s what you do. And when, as it inevitably does, the sky begins to darken and the first cool drops begin to splatter the beach tent with the broken pole sticking out, we will wearily gather up buckets, spades, crab bodies and children and begin the long, up-hill walk back to the caravan. My husband will be sandy, salt-encrusted, probably carrying at least one child on his sun-burned shoulders, but he will be happy, and content.
We probably won’t make any plans for Thursday.