I love caravans. They’re just a little bit magical. I love their not-quite-beds and their not-quite cupboards, their oompa loompa sinks and banquettes. How can you not love something that’s equipped with a banquette? They take me back to childhood summers sitting around the limbo dance inducing table (there was a technique to sitting at ours which would definitely challenge current health and safety regulations).
Then there’s that caravan smell. The smell of childhood. Of butane and bacon, aftersun and imperial leather, mam’s ‘going out’ perfume and drying bathing costumes. A tin can memory maker where we played ‘twist’ for 2p’s and giggled in the dark.
The ‘Ace Pioneer’ was towed into our lives by my father’s ford cortina in 1978. It was love at first sight for us all. We loved her beige-ness, for she was definitely a ‘she’, and the brown-ness of her belly. She lived on our drive (which was on an incline) and my sister and I would sit and play there for hours. Later, as teenagers, it’s where we’d all pile in with our friends after nights out on ‘Thunderbird’ without fear of waking my parents (but probably waking up the street).
Going on holidays in the caravan was an entirely exciting affair. We’d count down the months, days and hours until the moment mam and dad would come and wake us up when it was still dark (so that we’d miss the traffic) to make our annual pilgrimage to Cornwall. Bundled into the back of the car with pillows and anything else that could be squished, squeezed and tucked around us, we’d emerge five hours later crumpled and happy.
Over the years, the cars which towed our caravan changed . The excited children who sat in the back became awkward teenagers with experimental hairstyles who’d have the occasional ‘tant’. Our beloved caravan was a constant throughout, a reminder that no matter what the other 50 weeks of the year would bring, she would be faithfully beige and brown and butane smelling for us for 14 glorious days by the sea. Just as we liked her.
The day that dad sold her was a sad one. It was the end of an era. A letting go. An acknowledgment that things would never be the same again. An end to childhood and the beginning of holidays to Ibiza with best friends and boyfriends (for me…not dad…).
I’ve heard my father say many times over the years how he regretted selling her. As if he’d betrayed her and us in doing so. As if he wanted to reach back and pull those summers to him. As if he missed the two little crumpled girls who had grown up and moved away.
It is little surprise then that my father, who is now a grandfather, should reignite his caravaning romance and buy a new one this week…and d’you know… as if by magic, his two little crumpled girls returned, albeit looking very 38 and 40 years of age respectively; but return they did. 5 years worth of new look, shiny family holidays were organized within minutes.
The new caravan will live on my sister’s drive (which is flat) and we have already planned to spend the night in it; just the two of us, uncrumpled (but crinkled at the edges) to play ‘twist’ for 2p’s with wine instead of cherryade and to giggle in the dark, as always.