There’s one thing about caravanning above all others that gives me the absolute heebie-jeebies. The thought of it gives me nightmares. The sight of it sends me into alien-invasion B-movie fits of hysteria.
The cause of my anxiety is not the mechanical Rubik’s cube that disguises itself as the hitch and stabiliser. It’s not the state of the caravan food cupboards after a particularly winding journey. It’s not even the delights of the toilet cassette after a weekend away with a family of four.
My almost-phobia is of gas cylinders in all their shapes and sizes. It extends to the large orange ones, those blue ones that are identical to my childhood image of what a nuclear bomb would look like, small containers that refill the stove-lighting contraption and everything in between.
It’s not just the knowledge that even the smallest of these compressed gas cylinders (even typing those words makes me shiver) contains enough highly combustible chemicals and gases to turn me and the immediate vicinity into a charred, post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Everything about them is sinister. They smell evil. They hiss and whine the moment you try to attach anything to them. And they’re covered in more warning symbols, exclamation marks, red triangles and skulls and crossbones than a nerve-gas factory.
Yet, handling these potential weapons of mass destruction on a regular basis is part and parcel of caravanning – and without protective clothing. To my mind, anything short of full body armour of the type worn by those sweeping for mines, is inadequate.
This fear could be explained by an ill-advised student party where, as a cost-saving measure, I omitted hiring the regulator (which reduces the pressure in the compressed-air cylinder from a life-threatening 5000psi to a more beer-friendly 20psi). Instead, I connected the 50-gallon aluminium keg directly to the gas cylinder. A mechanical engineering student later calculated that the explosion – had things gone wrong – would have wiped out most of the student halls of residence.
Tales of a friend’s recent camping experience haven’t helped. He was trying to cook on one of those small, square, butane-powered portable stoves, the kind that takes those small cylindrical gas cartridges. Creating a gas-tight bond between cartridge and cooker has always struck me as a very random affair and sure enough, in my friend’s case, his trousers filled with highly volatile gases during the construction process.
When he pushed the electric-ignition switch, two very different rings of fire burst into flame simultaneously! As he was carried to the medical facility, his ever-caring family sang the Jerry Lee Lewis classic: “Goodness, gracious / Great balls of fire!”
Please, can anyone suggest a better cooking alternative?
Visit Martin’s website for information about him, his books and his property training weekends, and follow his adventures on Twitter.
They’re covered in more warning symbols, exclamation marks, red triangles and skulls and crossbones than a nerve-gas factory