Martin Roberts

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Ever suffered a caravanning calamity? Read Martin Roberts' latest blog about the perils of not checking your van over winter, until the moment you need it

Ooops! So, here’s the thing: is it okay to assume that one’s caravan will survive the winter months without too much attention?

I mean, unless it’s sitting there on the drive, how many times during the down period do you need to check that all is well?

If you’re replying “every week or so”, then I hate you. No, not hate perhaps, but... No, actually, I do.

A surprisingly aggressive and un-called-for stance, I hear you scream. Well, to be honest, I’m happy to alienate the lot of you right now, because I’m not in the best of moods.

“I’ve just been to the van, and I think we have a problem,” said my wife yesterday. From experience, I know that a problem is usually 10,000 times more serious than she alludes to in such circumstances.

“I think one of the skylights has lost its plastic cover,” she said.

‘That would be the plastic cover that covers a small section of roof. The same cover that keeps away the worst that the British weather can throw at it, and keeps the van dry,’ I thought in an instant.

“When you say ‘lost’, exactly what do you mean?” I whimpered.

“Lost. Not there. Big hole. Which bit of ‘lost’ don’t you understand?” she said sympathetically. “It looks as if the rain has been coming in for some time,” she added, pouring petrol on the already raging fire of panic sweeping through my brain.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I think the sofa has absorbed most of the water.”

My mind began imagining one of those magic sponges that expands to 4000 times its original size when a pipette of water is added to it.

A moment of guilt flashed through my brain when I recalled that the last time the van was used, it was for a rather raucous ‘Boys’ Weekend’ with six of my fellow big-kid buddies. We had no water, no hook-up, used every cooking utensil the van contained and had no ability to empty the loo.

So, while the final day of our usual family holiday ends with a military operation to clean and sort the van – carried out, it must be said, mostly by my wife – on this occasion the word ‘abandoned’ springs to mind.

I was desperately trying to find a way I could blame the loss of the said plastic cover on my wife, but was floundering.

There were two options: a) Open a bottle of white burgundy and forget about the caravan until the start of summer, and deal with its rotting remains then; b) Man up, get in the car and head over to where the van is stored to assess and remedy the damage.

I plumped for option a), so that’s it for my Practical Caravan column for the foreseeable future, because I no longer have a caravan. Goodbye and thank you. It’s been fun.

Okay, okay, I went for b). With a heavy heart, a boot full of towels and all the hairdryers I could muster, I set off.

Approaching the van, my worst fears were confirmed. I could have sworn I saw herons perched on the roof, beaks poised over the open skylight, beady eyes surveying the abundance of aquatic life below.

I tapped the van door in the way that cellar masters do to ascertain the level of liquid in a barrel. Halfway down, the sound from my knocking altered, confirming the water-filled state within.

At this point, dear Reader, I must confess something that I have not yet admitted to my wife. When I returned home some hours later, pretending to have fixed the problem, I had in fact spent three hours in the pub, drowning my sorrows.

To be fair, I did put a piece of plastic over the gaping hole in the roof, held firmly in place by a large rock.

I’m hoping that the coming months of warm weather will allow the caravan to dry out naturally and my wife will be none the wiser...

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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