Monday, 24 October 2016

Not a proper holiday?

I'm now at Pandy Caravan Club Site, which is just off the A465 between Abergavenny and Hereford. I arrived today after a longish journey of some 200 miles, and rain was falling as I turned up. It's still raining. And it's definitely on the cool side.

But none of this matters. I'm snug and warm and comfortable, and I've had exactly the kind of evening meal I'd enjoy at home. It was fish tonight - simple peasant fare - a succulent fillet of haddock, with small flavoursome Charlotte potatoes and tender asparagus. And then a nice cup of tea. Later on, if I don't pick up a book (I've brought the three I acquired at the Appledore Book Festival) I'll listen to something on Radio 4, just as would do at home; or, if I can get decent digital radio reception here (which I probably won't) LBC or Classic FM. Again, just as I might do at home. Most people on neighbouring pitches will be watching TV, but I'm so very picky about what I like to view, and I watch so very little, that it just isn't worth bringing a TV on any of my caravan holidays. In any case, I couldn't give it my undivided attention. TV and photo-editing don't mix. Whereas radio and photo-editing very easily do.

Now that the blinds have been pulled down, and the curtains have been drawn, the softly-lit interior of the caravan looks like it always does at night. As it would wherever in the country I might be. That's one of the things I really appreciate about having a caravan. You can completely shut out the world and the weather, and enjoy being in a capsule where all is serene and reassuringly familiar. Just like it would be at home.

There are so many things that are exactly the same. My routines? Totally unchanged, except that in the caravan I wash up after the evening meal, and not first thing next morning. My food? Just the same. What I wear? Just the same. The equipment I use? Brought with me from home. There are really no compromises, apart from what the caravan's small amount of space imposes: so although everything has its proper and accustomed place, and is mostly stored neatly away, some of it can't be and remains in sight; and so the interior of the caravan looks cluttered in a way that I would never tolerate at home.

The only things that are truly different are (a) the scenery outside, and (b) the people I will encounter during my daytime wanderings. For me, caravanning is, in practice, taking a bit of my Sussex home with me all around the country - a small, two-room box-on-wheels that constantly suggests the place I've left behind.

I've clearly organised things so that the caravan is, in a very real sense, my home from home. I fully realise that it satisfies a pressing psychological need. I don't want a strange and unfamilar place to stay. I want my home. And if deprived of all the comforting and reassuring things I can take in the caravan, I do get wobbly. This argues that when I eventually have to give up caravanning, and resort to hotels, I won't be happy - because it will be impossible to bring along enough personal stuff. And travelling even more lightly to a fly-to destination might be entirely out of the question. I indulge my need to feel 'at home' by loading the caravan up with lots of things I could never put in a suitcase. And of course I insist on holidaying only by caravan.

Is holidaying on this basis really 'going on holiday' at all? I can almost hear some people shouting 'No!'. With my kind of holiday, you don't 'get away from it all' - you take it all with you. There is no sleeping rough, no missed meals, no risk, no deprivation, no adventure, no being out of touch with friends left behind. Some people, perhaps an awful lot of people, would prefer a proper break from their ordinary lives. It wouldn't work for me.

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