I’d have been new to the ranks of teenager in 1971 when my parents came up with the whizz-bang idea of buying a caravan.
“… we’ll now be able to take weekend breaks throughout the year, whenever we fancy. Won’t this be splendid?”
‘Splendid?!’ Are you mental? Weekends? What happens to my athletics / cross country races? What about my football? My school parties? Saturday morning cartoons on the telly? What possesses people to forsake their nice spacious homes to go live in a claustrophobic, formica lined box on wheels?
I was already counting the days till I could be legally left at home to fend for myself. I’d even willingly do household / garden chores while the family were away. Maybe we could broker some kind of deal? Creosote the fence or something?
Resistance was futile though, at least for a couple of years.
“Do you fancy going for a golfing trip to Pittenweem this weekend?”
If I’m going to stay in a five, or even four / three star hotel, then maybe.
“It’ll be fun,” they lied.
And so it was … frequent weekends were spent collecting the caravan from the storage facility in the neighbouring town; bringing it to the house; uncoupling it overnight and loading it with clothes and provisions for the weekend; reconnecting the car and driving to Fife, usually arriving just in time for lunch.
Reverse that procedure on the Sunday afternoon, ensuring we arrived back before the storage facility closed, and we had just enough time to squeeze in a round of golf and fish supper on the Saturday, and a walk along the windswept and bitingly cold beach on the Sunday morning.
Oh yeah – this was fun, alright!
Then, horror of horrors! Emboldened by admittance into the Caravan Club of Great Britain, my excited parents announced we’d now be taking an additional summer holiday. An additional week. In Dornoch. In the caravan!
Heavens above! Dornoch, even in 2021, is a good four and a half hours drive away. Fifty years ago, and towing a bleedin’ caravan …. a letter with a second class stamp would get there quicker.
“It’s a lovely caravan site – right by the golf course. And there’s a toilet and shower block too.”
And that’s the best selling point you can come up with?
I suppose having a site toilet block is better than the family sharing the chemical filled potty that stank out the wee cubby-hole that passed as a toilet in most caravans. Oh, perish the thought! (We actually used that space for storing the golf clubs.) But really, is it such a privileged luxury to waken in the dead of night, scratch around for a torch, pull on a pair of wellies / sandals / golf spikes, and trudge a hundred and fifty yards to a damp, smelly and cold toilet? I think not.
We’d play golf in the morning and weather permitting, another round in late afternoon / early evening. This was summer in Scotland, though. Weather has a habit of messing with your plans. So we’d then be dragged off on some Godforsaken sight-seeing trip.
John o’ Groats? Nothing to see. Still wet there. Dunnet Head? Naff all there either. And just as wet. Thurso did have a chip shop, though.
Back at the caravan, my mum, not renowned for her culinary skills, bless her, would prepare a hearty evening meal. Something along the lines of tinned Heinz macaroni on toast, followed by Birds Eye instant custard and jam. Yes. Jam.
Meals would be served up in instalments because the ineffectual cooker, fired by a suspicious and sinister looking gas canister, had the power of a Christmas candle. While we waited in not-so-eager anticipation, the combination of body-heat times four, damp clothing and smoke from the burnt toast (told you, didn’t I?) would cause the windows to steam up. A decision then had to be made: open the windows to clear them and die from hypothermia, or risk asphyxiation from the steam, smoke and ever-present hint of leaking calor gas.
Thankfully, I managed eventually to extricate myself from these tortuous events, playing the ‘I best stay behind to study for my exams,” card.
A couple of years later, freed from the shackles of holidaying with parents, a few pals who like me were leaving school in the summer of 1976, decided to go away together. Benidorm? Majorca? Blackpool?
Nope. We had all recently bought our first motorbikes – one had a car, a Morris 1100, I think.
Why don’t we drive over to St Andrews and rent (no! please, no! I can sense what’s coming ….) a caravan for the week? It’ll be a right laugh.
I’d love to tell you it was a right laugh. I’d love to tell you it was a right nightmare. I’d love to tell you it was a right anything. Truth is, I can tell you next to nothing! It’s all a bit of a haze.
I do recall we upset someone in a neighbouring caravan who was always on our case. So we did what any self-respecting gallus teenagers would do, and threw a pan-loaf worth of bread chunks onto the roof of his caravan in the dead of night.
Yeah, you’re there – come first light, his caravan was besieged by a flock of noisy, ravenous seagulls pecking the bread and stomping around on the roof.
Have some of that!
Other than that, my only other recollection is suffering my worst ever hangover after a night on Pernod and lemonade. That took care of one of the seven days.
The hangover from Hell – and in a caravan.
I’d said it before, but this time I meant it. To this day, I’ve never even sipped a Pernod.
And to this day, I’ve never again set foot in a caravan.
I’d rather wash my mouth out with soap.