Friday, April 13, 2007

Caravan to wherever

Since we bought our Roma caravan last year, we've been to a handful of places with it. It's quite fun living out of a caravan for a while, especially if there's a maximum of 3 people who have to stay together. If it's good weather and you're not obliged to be cooped up in it, it's absolute luxury.

Our caravan is the kind that gypsies - er, Travellers, as they're politically correctly known nowadays - use, minus the chocolate box windows. Caravans with chocolate box windows are frowned upon, looked down upon and indiscriminately discriminated against. And if you're in one of those discriminated-against caravans, consider yourself persona non grata, just like your chocolate-box windows.

What are chocolate box windows, you ask?
These are. Why "chocolate box windows" is apparent. But why they should be discriminated against isnt. The "why" is because Travellers (with a capital T, otherwise you're just a run-of-the-mill tourist) are associated with them. Most people who arent Travellers look down on people who are, because they (the Travellers with a capital T) are widely seen as disruptive and irresponsible and annoying - and not the least, thieving vandals.

They are all that, a lot of the time. (Not all of them, but there are always exceptions.) They will move into an open field or plot of land or even a building site and just settle there in their caravans, littering the site and not bothering to clean up. They cant be evicted forcibly, a court order is required. That takes a couple of weeks (or months? Not sure)... and in any case by the time the order is through, the Travellers are out of there anyway. Leaving behind a mess.

A lot of village and town councils try really hard to keep the Travellers from setting up camp anywhere. In fact, some of the caravan/camp sites actually wont allow Roma caravans on their site because they are gypsy caravans, even if they're not owned by Travellers. (We found that out the hard way. The campsite owner was enthusiastic about our booking until she found out that our caravan was a Roma - then she backpedalled so fast that she must have fallen on her backside! I think in retrospect that we should have sued her for blatant discrimination.)

The only thing that works with Travellers - and it's somewhat symbolic, rather like how having garlic on your person is supposed to deter Dracula from making a snack off you - is to have a gate for the property, whether that's an empty field or acres of industrial estate. And that gate has to be kept closed or locked if there isnt a guard. If the Travellers force their way in, the police can be called on them. If the gate is open, they have every right to move in where they're not wanted!

And now I've forgotten why I started on the topic of caravans. I know it wasnt to talk about Travellers...

Anyway, there are static caravans and mobile caravans. Ours is the mobile type... just! It's the biggest size of vehicle allowed on the road without being tagged "wide load" and requiring a smaller vehicle with flashing lights leading the way to warn other road users! In fact, the only vehicle which CAN pull this size of caravan is a Land Rover or a Range Rover (Coincidentally, that's what Pete has. But discount the coincidence.) According to Pete, it's the only vehicle which can and is allowed to pull something that weighs nearly twice as much as itself!

Pete's brother has a static caravan, which means it's really like a little house but because it's classed as a caravan, it isnt taxed like a house. The plus point is that it's in a site that has great sea and cliff views all around. It's fully furnished and nothing needs to be set up - it's all ready, all the time, so all it takes for a quick weekend break is a 2-hour drive. The minus point is, the caravan cant be moved anywhere else. They have to go back to the same place every time if they want a break without having to pay hotel costs.

We (and by that I mean Pete), on the other hand, have the hassle of taking our caravan everytime - which means battening down the hatches inside so that doors dont open and things dont fall out, hitching the caravan to the Range Rover, manouevring the caravan+car out of our drive and down our narrow little street to the main road. Once we get to the caravan site, the caravan has to be sited just right as level as possible, then unhitched from the car. The little "legs" underneath have to be let down so that they rest on the ground and stabilise the caravan after it is unhitched from the car. Next, the water barrel has to be filled and connected so that we have running water inside. The waste water barrel also has to be connected so that the grey water has someplace to go as well. Inside, everything needs to be unbattened, as it were, all the knick-knacks put in place on the shelves, the cushions rearranged, etc. That's it, as long as Pete doesnt take it into his head to set up the tent as well - that takes another hour or thereabouts but is usually worth the trouble because it doubles the space available.

To anybody reading this, the caravan might seem like more trouble than it's worth, even if it saves a few hundred pounds on hotel costs. To be honest, sometimes I think it IS too much trouble, but that's because I'm averse to repetitive hard work. Luckily Pete is not like me - nothing is too much trouble and he is tirelessly enthusiastic when it comes to work like that. The nice thing is, he enjoys the setting up business as much as he does pampering me. I do hardly anything when we're caravanning - not the cooking, not the cleaning, nothing. Pete does it all. Me, I just sit back and read, because my contribution to the caravan is books... books that I get at ridiculously cheap prices from the second hand stalls and charity shops. It IS the life.

And the bestest (so let me coin a new word, okay?) part? Our caravan can be taken to different places.

Europe, here we come!


Shruthi said...

That is so cool! As an adolescent, I dreamed of owning a caravan and living out of it (permanently). And I didn't know anybody who owned a caravan, until today :) You owe us (at least me) lots more caravan stories, and pics too.
Once again, I repeat, That is SO Cool! :D

shyam said...

Shruthi: Yep, all those Famous Five stories of going off in a caravan and camping and everything... those started me off :) Mind you, caravans have come a looooooong way in comfort since those horse-pulled ones!

I'll post a few pics, no problem. :)

desi witch said...

wow! i've ALWAYS wanted to travel in one of those. i'm super-envious. although it does sound like too much trouble. Maybe i'll hire one & do ONE vacation in it.

shyam said...

Desi Witch: That's probably the best thing if you dont want the hassle of setting up :)

Elizabeth said...

That takes me back ! I used to spend all my summers caravannning when I was young. Fun when it rains, though (our caravan always leaked)

mumbaigirl said...