I can see from the daffodils and the crocuses that Spring is with us once more, and soon it will be time to set out on our first caravan outing of the 2016 season. It's an exciting time of year, and I've been looking through old photographs, like this, getting in the mood.
I thought it might be useful to compile a top ten list of things for all you eager caravanners to peruse before we all hit the road.
I could only think of six items, though.
- Get the caravan serviced. Done. We take our ‘van to Derby for her service. It’s eighty miles each way but hey, you get a run out, and it feels almost like a holiday except you get to come home and sleep in your own bed at night. Except this year we slept in a cold and dreary budget hotel bed, having put the wrong date for a scifi thing I was doing, in my diary. It’s a long, unhappy and complex story, one for another day, perhaps. Anyway, we’ve been properly servicing our ‘van since we upgraded three or four years ago , and the process is still a bit of a novelty. The old approach used to be: set out into the wilderness. Pitch. See what breaks. As methods go, it worked. Most stuff broke. Things you absolutely need to be working in spring (which is really winter but with photos of daffodils on the calendar) would always break first, like the electrics, the heater, the water heater, the cooker… Spring is a really good time to find all the water leaks too. In our older vans, leaks didn’t mean cold spots that show up on a damp meter, leaks meant waking up in the morning with rain slapping you in the face. Yeah, so now we get the ‘van serviced.
- Check the items you took out of the van last year, and put them back. Yeah, a good tip. We once arrived without the bedding. Try spending the night under your coats and jumpers and the old smelly rug from the boot of the car. That will cure you of any laissez-faire attitude to check lists, I promise.
- Gas! This is an old favourite. You run out of gas towards the end of the season and you say, yeah, we’ll get some after the winter. It's a choice: End your autumn break with a meal in the pub, or shell out twenty quid, instead, for gas that you're not going to use for another four months. A meal wins every time. Or does it? Can you remember how good it tasted, four months ago, when right now it's gone midnight, and you’re outside with your head in the bottle locker, and you’re in your jammies, your head-torch strapped to your forehead, and there’s frost glistening on the outside of the ‘van. You swap the bottle over and you shout ‘okay! Try that,’ and you know what answer you’re going to get because that spare gas bottle felt awfully light when you moved it.
- Food. If you’re like us your caravan doubles as your winter larder. You’re out of pasta? No worries, there’s some in the ‘van. Need some cereal? A tin of peaches? Bin bags? People who aren't caravaners just don’t have this resource. They have to get in the car and drive to the supermarket. And so should you, my friend, because that first caravan outing can turn into a hungry affair.
- It makes sense to keep the wellies in the shed over winter. You’ll be using them in the garden. But it would have been good if you’d put them back in the ‘van afterwards, because your white trainers or your carpet slippers just don’t hack it when you have to walk across a meadow that is so slick with mud the Aquaroll you’re towing doesn’t even get enough traction to turn, it just… drags. You find your way back to the tap a few hours later by following the mud slide.
- At home it can be useful to have some spare towels in the winter. Sometimes it’s hard keeping on top of the laundry, what with so many bad drying days (so my wife tells me). We caravaners are lucky to have a store of dry towels at the end of the garden. Not so lucky when we forget to replace them, and our daily trip to the shower block during the spring try-out becomes ever-more miserable, because your only towel has become nothing more than a wet rag that you use to rub the water around on your body. The walk back to the van in the sub-zero easterly can be quite bracing when you’re wearing your dry cloths on top of wet skin.
Here’s to the new season.
Happy Caravanning folks!