I'd already been talking generally about Spring visits to see my aunt in Newport, and to enjoy a few days in North Devon, and now I've gone ahead and booked the most hard-to-get-in of the caravan sites involved, the Caravan Club site at Tredegar House Country Park on the edge of Newport. The other two, both farm sites, won't be nearly so difficult to book - a ring in early February will get me in. But the Newport site, open all year round and much used as an open-air hotel by Caravan Club members, is best sorted out well in advance. It's done. I'll be there in early March.
Then there are two other big caravan holidays I want to take in 2015. The most ambitious will take me north to Scotland, and much of June will be devoted to it. The other is to North Devon again, to attend the autumn Appledore Book Festival, which for me has become an annual event. That'll be the end of September and beginning of October.
Well, that's about eight weeks of holidaying already!
In between these jaunts, I am thinking of some other destinations. This year will probably mark a return to Eastern England - Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.
I've been to Suffolk more than the rest, most recently in 2005 and 2008 (both times with M---), and then on my own in 2009 and 2010. But not since. It's time to renew my acquaintance. The other counties were all last visited in the M--- era: Essex in 2007, Norfolk in 2008 (a difficult holiday, taken after coming out to M---), and Lincolnshire in 2006. I haven't seen the city of Norwich since 1995. The city of Lincoln not properly since 2006. So there's plenty to see again, and plenty more to seek out.
At the moment, then, I've sketched in about 85 days' holiday time - roughly twelve weeks, or three months - of caravanning, going from place to place every few days. I'll probably have to trim that a bit. I've budgeted for 80 days away during 2015, at a site cost of £1,000, and a fuel cost (for towing between sites, and driving around while on site, less what I'd spend anyway at home) of £1,200. This compares to the actual costs in 2014 of £794 for sites and £1,116 for fuel. I certainly expect site fees to increase, but who can say what fuel costs will be in 2015. I'm assuming that the price of diesel will remain lowish - it depends chiefly on world production, but the present government won't want to be responsible for a price hike in this important Election Year.
£2,200 for my holiday expenditure in 2015. It seems a lot to me. I do know people who can't spare much or anything at all for holidays, or at least never go away. But some will spend much more, and travel far. It's worth it, whatever you do. A change of scene, an escape from routine: it does you good, be the break ever so short. And it puts your feelings about your own familiar back yard into perspective. I love seeing new places, and some make me consider moving there. But increasingly they make me value where I live in Mid-Sussex all the more.
I'm definitely in a minority, going away on my own. A lot of people won't do it. I think that's such a pity, because with a bit of imagination it's simple to fill up your holiday time with very nice things, and indeed very interesting things.
And - although this is an unpopular view - I think that the solo traveller gets many more opportunities to meet people and make new friends. You have the time and the freedom for it. You can change your plans for the day, or the evening, in an instant. Nobody else will be affected, or let down. You have the flexibility.
OK, you need people-skills and confidence and self-belief, but phrases like it's now or never and if not now, then when? come to mind. Life's short, and passes exceedingly quick. And it's the only one you have. Seize the moment, I say. Even if the moment happens on a cold and windy day at such spots as Skegness, Mablethorpe or Donna Nook. Cue my finest shots of these places (is there nowhere I haven't been?):
That sea air! So bracing!