Well here we are – drying out slowly, warming up slowly and contemplating a rather soggy week ahead. I started the day looking out of the window at a roiling light grey sky merging seamlessly with a darker grey sea. Hillsides loomed and small villages were just visible under their glowering ceiling. The rain played tympanic patterns on the metal exterior of our caravan ranging from light bathroom showers to thunderous splashes of crashing wave proportions and the only other sound I could hear was the heavy breathing of my slumbering husband recovering from an anxious night of waiting to take flight on th gales.
It has to be said that our break away to much loved Dartmouth (so far only two days) have been highly frustrating. As our new (I know unspeakably extravagant) caravan is longer and heavier than our last one, we invested in a motor mover to take the strain out of trying to manoevre the narrow lane outside. Well feeling confident and, it has to be said, a bit smug we managed to drive the caravan onto the road, but just at the crucial moment, fraught with the potential to inflict chaos on tractors, combine harvesters and various drivers of four wheel drive vehicles, the mover … stopped moving. Locked out. Frantic apologies to all the commuters waiting patiently, furious thumbing of booklet and resetting of system, away we went. That is until it did it twice more.
Okay we can now get hooked up can’t we? Well no actually, because somehow whilst sitting on our drive, inanimate, the plug has twisted, turned and metamorphosed into something that no longer matched the car. After some tense discussion we decided that I would (inadvisedly) drive to the trailer center in Plymouth to rectify the problem. Once there the fitters advised that the plug, having sat in the dealer’s yard for one year, the caravan is a 2011 model, had coroded and needed to be cut off and rewired with a new connection. Hmmm – cue MacDonalds to start the unhealthy consumption of food and drink that we have been planning for some weeks now.
Back to the trailer people feeling satisfied and a little more relaxed (if a little bloated), we discover as we try to connect up that the numpty who wired the new plug had not pulled the outer casing over the waterproof sleeve. Back to the drawing board – a rewire over here please mate.
Eventually we set out on the route that my husband Bob had planned – a stop, starty, winding, narrow, yucky route, no seriously it can happen to anyone but his plan was rubbish! So, pretty tired and stressed, imagine the scene. We reach the village of Stokenham, narrow and winding and bounded by stone walls allowing little room for manoevre. As I drove through the narrowest stretch I found myself behind a double decker bus. Not a problem – after all he is forging a channel for me to follow. But lo! what obstacle in yonder window breaks – a second double decker bus in opposition. With much scraping of hooves and tossing of horns, the two giant vehicles eyed each other in overt hostility. I am trapped, towing a 20ft caravan and sandwiched with half a dozen closely following cars, campers (you get the picture). On the other team, a lone landrover (not a real one, a poncey one that thinks it’s a luxury car) driven by a scowling man growling his disapproval of life in general. He refuses to reverse and several smaller gang members slope into the lane behind him.
The bus drivers, both of whom ‘have lived here all my life, been driving for years and know these lanes like the back of my hand’ seemed decidedly unconcerned about the situation. The one approaching me actually allowed some passengers to disembark in order to pursue their allotted activities, and at one point looked like he might take out his packed lunch and a newspaper.
Bob, a barely controlled state of frustrated anger seeping from every pore, announced that if we disengaged the caravan, we might tuck it out of the way and shorten our obstacle to allow the bus to pass, and just as he has achieved this very task, the landrover man moves. The people in the vehicles behind had taken turns to come and glare at Bob and I, as we were obviously the perpetrators of all crimes committed in this event, even though we were completely innocent and only trying to help a stalemate. But now they all retired to allow the bus in front of us to pass.
Now who was the obstacle? Bob frantically tried to reconnect the towbar under the increasingly angry gaze of the oncoming vehicles and as we finally pulled past the landrover, the face flushed with lividity turned and the man spat ‘you ought to learn to drive that thing’. Bob was out of his seat in a flash, with me hollering at him to get back in the car. After a short but effective period of abuse he came back to the passenger door only to find that R2 (our car is called R2D2 because it’s a computer genius and cleverer than both of us put together) had decided to lock him out, and there was nothing I could do. With angry drivers behind and narrow passing places to negotiate I could not stop and Bob found himself walking a good 400m up the lane behind me before I could pull over.
Clear water now to the site, but Bob had selected a location with the aforementioned fantastic views, which inevitibly meant a pitch that sloped at 45 degrees (well, possibly not quite that bad) and a side to side camber. After three attempts at moving, turning and ratchetting of the levelling lift, we finally set up camp.
And then the weather started to make its first opening salvo and we consoled ourselves with some more of the said unhealthy consumption. The first night was uncomfortable for both of us due to a combination of stress, overworked muscles and aching joints, but we awoke to admire the view over breakfast through the curtains of cloud. The wind gathered and by the end of the day the porch came down considerably quicker than it went up, although with less precision as we fought with its volumnious folds in the increasingly damp, high speed air and struggled to maintain a secure foothold.
And last night – well very little sleep was enjoyed by anyone as the caravan tossed and bucked like a rodeo ride in the thunderous galeforce winds and lashing rain. Hot chocolate at 4.30 a.m. and a relief when a respectable 6.15 arrived and we could get up. So now I admire that limited view – oh hell what view? Everything has been swallowed by the rolling mist and cloud. Bob fill the cafetiere – start the fry up, let unhealthy consumption begin!