Martin Roberts

See other Blog articles filed in ‘Martin Roberts' "My home from home"’ written by Martin Roberts
If you're someone who struggles to travel light on tour, obsessive compulsive hoarder and Practical Caravan columnist Martin Roberts feels your pain

I may just have cured myself of an obsession. In fact, it’s more of a family trait: collectomania. I can’t bear to throw anything away, and I love acquiring endless objets d’art (although my wife calls them “rubbish”).

I’ve inherited it from my Dad. He won’t even throw away an old newspaper. My mum made him promise that when she died, he wouldn’t keep her in the garage ‘in case she might come in useful’.

How does this relate to caravanning? Well, I’ve discovered that a tourer is perfect for carrying the things that I’ve ‘wombled’ at car boot sales and that, therefore, the extent of my womblings is no longer an issue.

One of the joys of caravanning for me is those early Sunday morning trips to new and mysterious sales. After a recent summer of car-booting and caravanning in the West Country, packing for the journey home was chaotic, even by my standards. Every orifice in the van was stuffed with old car parts, secondhand light fittings, children’s toys and a welding kit (don’t ask). The car was rammed and the kids were preparing to be perched on stuffed bags and bulging boxes.

Despite that, on our final day, I decided that I had time for just one more sale, and sneaked out of the caravan at 7am for an hour’s mooching before the family stirred. Some time later, as I headed back to the car, my arms stuffed with yet more useful treasure (not “clutter”, as my wife describes it), I felt for my car keys. My pockets were empty. I must have left them on one of the hundreds of stalls through whose goods I’d been enthusiastically sifting. Nightmare!

Could there be anywhere worse to lose a set of car keys? An ever-changing sea of random bits and bobs in an ever-evolving landscape of coming-and-going bargain-hunters. ‘Keys at a car boot sale’ could quite easily replace ‘needle in a haystack’ as an expression for finding lost items.

In desperation, I must have rewalked each row 30 times or more, spoken to each and every stallholder twice, and harassed the organisers and the lady in the refreshment van more times than I can mention.

Eventually, I reluctantly accepted that my keys were lost forever. The ramifications of this slowly dawned on me: I was marooned in the Devon countryside; the family – including two kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs and two rabbits – were abandoned at the caravan site; and we had no way of towing the caravan home.

I plucked up the courage to call my wife. She took it well. Actually, I’m lying. She didn’t. Amid the accusations, anger, frustration and much shouting, almost as a throwaway comment, she said: “You didn’t leave them on the tyre under the wheelarch, did you?”

I made a noise like a constipated cow and put the phone down. And there they were. Safe where I’d left them to make sure that – you’ve guessed it – I wouldn’t lose them.

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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