I am partial to a nice hotel. I like fluffy towels and room service and the little chocolates that are put on my pillow at night and people cleaning my sunglasses around the pool.
Recently, during Fontalbe’s renovations, we have not been staying in nice hotels, not even in not-very-nice hotels. We have been staying in a caravan. I am not partial to caravans. I had managed to get through 41 years of never staying in a caravan, I never had the urge to stay in a caravan.
I will never stay in a caravan again.
We bought the caravan. It is a very big caravan with the apparent luxury of a fixed bed and a toilet (how is this a luxury?). I stopped Greg looking at other posh caravans by informing him that this was a one off – we would not be joining the Caravan Club or embracing this way of holidaying. We had a party with friends in the caravan, toasted its success and kidded ourselves that it would be cosy, romantic, fun. It is none of these things.
The problems started driving down the M25 on the way to Folkestone. Large trucks started beeping us. We ignored this until I noticed a flappy thing from the caravan behind me. Panic ensued and we had to stop on the hard shoulder and re-secure the flappy thing. This was not a very pleasant experience.
We finally arrived at Fontalbe and with the assistance of ten strong Polish builders managed to manoeuvre the thing into position. A couple of bits fell off and we gouged an enormous hole in the grass but it was relatively straight.
Setting up the luxuries of light, heat and water took a significantly long time. And a lot of swearing. I stopped silently weeping when I realised that there was running water and power and tried to be more positive. I packed the cupboards with middle-class accoutrements and felt significantly better after a bottle of wine.
When I woke up, in January, any wine-induced positivity had disappeared. The thing had moved in the night and was now at a precarious angle. It was several degrees below zero. We had to use the loo. This involves moving a little flappy thing, swinging the loo round and then shutting it very, very quickly afterwards. It is deeply unpleasant.
I gave up my feminist principles and decided that there were “girls’ jobs” and “boys’ jobs”. Boys’ jobs included emptying the loo, filling up the water butt and other nasty things. Girls’ jobs were making coffee and translating for the builders.
Having a shower is a whole new experience. To be fair, I can manage quite well at 5 foot. Greg, on the other hand, at 6 foot 4, finds things a little bit more of a squeeze. Matters become considerably more entertaining when the water runs out in the middle of a shower and Greg has to do a soapy, naked dash around to the other side of the house, dodging builders. I was warned never to put the photos on Instagram.
We have now spent quite a while in the caravan. Things don’t seem to be straightforward; we have frequently lost all power, the heating stopped working, the flush stopped working, the hot water tank overfilled. This involved a panicked phone call to our nearest and dearest to Google the intricacies of caravan hot water tanks and systems. On this occasion, I garnered the respect of Greg when I suggested that we just switch everything off then on again. Much to his surprise, this worked. Despite his frequent complaint that the practical world is a mystery to me.
We are going down again in a couple of weeks. It will be 38 degrees in the shade in Southwest France so I fully expect us to both lose about two stone in the sauna-like confines of the caravan.
Nevertheless, it has fulfilled its purpose. We have saved badly needed money by staying in it and we have been close at hand for builders’ questions. These normally involve the builder asking Greg something, Greg looking blank and then getting me out of the shower.
But, the building work is nearly completed and we will soon have a proper loo, shower, bed, fridge, kitchen etc etc. I cannot wait.
If anyone fancies buying a caravan with a couple of bits missing then please do get in touch. It is bijou, romantic and cosy.