It's the eve of my departure, and there's been snow all day on and off. This matters, because I'll be towing a caravan down to Devon tomorrow - that's 230-odd miles through areas that have had it worse than here in Sussex.
But I've done it before. It was bitterly cold when I went down to Cornwall just before Christmas in 2010, and quite obvious - from the piled-up snow on either side of the road - that the A35 between Dorchester and Honiton had been snow-ploughed only that morning. I got through during a lucky window of opportunity. I'm not expecting conditions quite as bad as that this time. Still, it's always wise to remember that, together, Fiona and my caravan represent a moving force weighing three tons, and despite my car having winter tyres and all-wheel drive, a mass like that isn't easy to control on an icy West Country hill. I won't be hurrying! Gently does it.
I can't recall loading up the caravan while snow is actually falling. Rain, yes, but not snow. I kept wondering whether it was really going to be possible to get off tomorrow. Would the necessary roads be open? Would it be too risky? Perhaps I'd have to delay my departure by at least a day. But I like the motto 'who dares wins' and so carried on filling the caravan up with all the stuff a lady needs, who likes to be civilised on a two and a half week early spring holiday. In any case, I'd put the electric heating on in the caravan, and inside it was nice and cosy. I could imagine being perfectly snug and comfortable once at my destination and pitched, even if a ton of snow fell on my first night down in North Devon.
This was the interior of the caravan at around 5.15pm, with two of the lamps just switched on, and snow falling. It was warm inside the caravan, but very chilly outside. By then I had most of the food, and most of my clothes, stowed away.
Even if I do get away on time tomorrow, there's still an outside chance of ending up in a sudden snowfall, and the road ahead getting blocked, and having to sit it out. That wouldn't be a disaster. The beauty of a caravan is that you carry a supply of propane gas for cooking and heating. I have food in the fridge and the freezer. And in Fiona's boot I have 27 litres of water in containers. So, given somewhere like a lay-by to park safely in, I could if necessary prepare a hot meal, and endless cups of tea or coffee, while toasting myself with the gas heater.
There might be a moral question about extending my comforts to others - whether to unlock my door and admit a stranded motorist or two, desperate to share my oasis of warmth, and perhaps use my loo. But being a single woman travelling on her own, I think it would be very unwise to let just anybody in. Where would you draw the line? Once admitted, would they leave if requested? And if they misbehaved, or were aggressive, what then?
If asked, I'd let in a girl with a baby to feed. Well, possibly. Nobody else.
All this sets caravanning apart. You don't get slippery roads, traffic convoys, and moral dilemmas in blizzard conditions when you take the plane to Alicante! On the other hand, I would loathe to be stuck at an airport with my flight cancelled, or postponed for ten hours...