Until they split in January of 2003, my parents enjoyed caravanning.

What it basically consists of, is loading a tin box usually bearing a nameplate with half the contents of the house, sleeping bags, an irritating whistling kettle, and various other accoutrements, in which its owners will live, eat, sleep, and watch TV (although this last activity is often frowned upon by the more hardcore caravanners.) During the daytime they will go on excursions to nearby towns and attractions for whatever reason. At night they will return to their tin box, and sit reading books and the newspaper and similar such, and, if they have children, playing board games such as Monopoly (at which I pwned all) and the like.

Excluding Romany, the stereotypical caravanners consist of one of two main demographics. Firstly, there are the late-middle-aged couples who tow huge twin-axle two-berth jobbies behind a massive Range Rover or a hulking Volvo estate car. Their huge caravans will be stuffed with every conceivable creature comfort that the discerning 50-something could ever want, including a portable TV, a large gas barbecue, an awning with an awning carpet, folding chairs, and a plethora of melamine crockery. These people, to which I shall, from now on, refer to as Type A Caravanners, have children who have grown up and are out of their hair (and into their wallets at university.) The makes and models of caravans favoured by these individuals include the Fleetwood Colchester 1700 EB, the ABI Award Northstar, and the Avondale Land Ranger 6400 FB. Campsites they frequent are usually those with at least three stars and mountains of facilities in the Caravan Club guide. Not for them the 7am dash to beat the Germans to the shower block across a mud-laden field wearing nothing but a dressing gown and a nervous smile!

Type B Caravanners, on the other hand, are usually families with, on average, 2.4 children (dog optional). They usually tow small to medium-sized four-berth caravans, such as a Sprite Musketeer CLI or a Swift Challenger 340 or an Elddis Avanté 475, behind midsize passenger cars such as Vauxhall Vectras or Ford Mondeos. They will often be seen looking indefatigable (especially the fathers) with short shorts and sunburnt, peeling faces as they hammer down the guy ropes to the awning and sit out in the sun with. Their children will usually spend most of their time cycling or skateboarding and generally charging around the site at 200mph if they are under 11, and squatting inside giving evil looks to all and sundry and desperately hoping that people won't think they're related if they are over 11. During the daytime, the families will go on excursions to various places which their children will inevitably find "crass" or "samey." The sites frequented by Type B Caravanners tend to be rated "rudimentary" or, at a stretch, "acceptable" by the Caravan Club guide, just so they can project their aura of indefatigability all the more effectively. Yes, my parents were very much so Type B Caravanners.

The general aura around a caravan site is one of half-asleep tranquility and forced enjoyment:

Dad - We're REALLY having a good time, aren't we? This is the life, eh?
Elder Kid - Yes, Dad... *sigh*
Younger Kid - This is BOOORING!
Dad - Shut up. I'm having a good time, aren't I dear?
Mum - Yes, we are.

So, would I recommend caravanning? Well, at the moment, no. When I turned 12, 13 or so I began to become increasingly frustrated about being incarcerated in a precariously balanced contraption of aluminium and chipboard in which every single movement anyone makes is felt throughout the entire structure (Case in point - At a site outside Koblenz, Germany in 1998 I was accused of keeping my parents up all night by "wriggling and farting" in my sleep.) And at the moment, to be honest, I would rather be birched than go dragging round the UK with a pair of middle-aged specimens. Which is entirely why I wouldn't recommend caravanning unless all parties involved were willing. Otherwise, you'll end up pissing off your kids something chronic and they in turn will piss you off.

Oh, and another caveat of caravanning - If you have any children at all, there is no way you are going to get your end away whatsoever on a caravan trip. The whole structure will wobble and creak alarmingly, and your kids will know what you have been up to, and there's no more sure-fire way to fuck up, revolt, and generally disgust your kids. If, however, you're a Type A Caravanner, go for it. I'm sure it can be great fun in the right circumstances.

Notable brands of caravans in the UK include:

  • Abbey
  • Adria
  • Avondale
  • ABI Award
  • Bailey
  • Coachman
  • Eccles
  • Elddis
  • Eriba
  • Fleetwood
  • Lunar
  • Marauder
  • Monza
  • Sprite/Sterling
  • Super Sprite
  • Swift
  • Trophy
  • Viscount

    So, good luck, and always make sure you stop those Germans from monopolising the showers!

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