Martin Roberts

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Awnings – a caravanner's nemesis, right? No longer! Practical Caravan's Martin Roberts has his mind blown as he discovers the world of inflatable awnings

While resting my eyes in the caravan on our pitch, I’m rudely woken from my mid-afternoon slumber by a strange puffing sound.

‘HUMPH... HUMPH... HUMPH... HUMPH...’

I drift in and out of sleep, in that delicious state of semi-consciousness, as my mind contemplates the source of the noise.

It sounds a bit like a frantic parent trying to resuscitate a child’s inflatable crocodile, ahead of a trip to the beach, or perhaps breathe life into last year’s yellow-and-blue plastic dinghy (which is never going to happen!).

‘HUMPH... HUMPH... HUMPH... HUMPH...’ And then: ‘HISSSS...’

There’s definitely air being inserted into something.

Inflation station

A bike tyre, perhaps? Or maybe an inflatable mattress.

Eventually, my curiosity overcomes my desire to snooze and I peel back the caravan’s curtain to find that I’m surrounded by several new arrivals who have uncoupled and stabilised their vans, and are now proceeding to erect awnings of all shapes and sizes.

My mind flashes back to the Rubik’s Cube of complication that always accompanies the construction of the framework that supports our own awning, and the near-death marital squabbles that have ensued as rain-lashed canvas is reluctantly cajoled into shape.

I dip my head in quiet solidarity with my new neighbours...

But wait! That strange ‘humphing’ sound appears to be coming from one of those neighbours, who seems to be using a high-volume pump to inflate his awning. What the dickens?

An awning realisation

Have the two separate worlds of caravanning and hot-air ballooning suddenly congealed in the brief duration of my afternoon nap?

All around me, awnings are rising from the ground like strange oversized balloon animals – a sausage dog here, a pirate’s sword there.

One lady is casually using an electric pump to create her surreal inflatable, with a glass of wine in the other hand, chatting and laughing.

Wait a minute, this can’t be right. Awning construction isn’t supposed to be like this.

Apart from the clearing of a blocked cassette toilet, it’s the most traumatic experience you can have on a caravan holiday.

The future’s bright – and air-filled!

And yet, a sea of awnings is currently rising effortlessly from pitches all across the site.

I have a thought. Why should it stop there? Why not go the whole hog and have an inflatable caravan?

No issues with towing. No maintenance or safety checks.

It’s a brilliant idea. I just need to come up with a catchy name for it.

Something short and snappy. Oh, I know, how about a... a... TENT!

I think I could be onto something here.

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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