Americans call them trailers but here in Great Britain we call them caravans. My parents bought their first caravan in 1955. It was a Lynton Triumph and its walls were composed of a kind of compressed cardboard. It was a heavy, ugly beast but it gave my family the opportunity to get away on memorable holidays at little cost. I suspect that that grey beast was manufactured between the two world wars. It's possible that the army used it as a tank! Significantly, when searching for an image to accompany this blogpost, I could not locate a single picture of a Lynton Triumph.
The first caravan holidays I remember were all in this country. For three or four summers in a row, we headed down to Pentewan in Cornwall and then at Whitsuntide we laboured up to a village called Braithwaite in The Lake District. It was quite cramped in the grey beast - Mum and Dad and my three brothers and I but we were a family. We got along in spite of our differences.
They were simple, economical holidays albeit it in cramped accommodation. We never dined out. Mum gathered groceries in cardboard boxes - starting weeks before departure. In Cornwall, the biggest treat might have been a round of "Kelly's" ice cream cones. And up in The Lake District on warm evenings we might stroll to "The Swinside Inn" where my brothers and I would drink pop (soda) and munch potato crisps while sitting on the pub wall. In those days, children were most definitely not allowed in pubs.
In 1959 or 1960, Mum and Dad plucked up the courage to take the grey tank further afield. Dad was the village headmaster and so in the summer he had the rare luxury of six weeks' holiday. All packed up like gypsies, we journeyed down to Dover - long before this country even had motorways. An overnight stop needed to be factored in before we reached the south coast.
Then we crossed the channel to France and took our grey beast hither and thither. There were border control posts at each border - Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany. Mum and Dad's passport pages were stamped over and over again. At border petrol stations, children could get their own pretend passports stamped and at "Agip" stations there were little free gifts too.
One summer - perhaps it was in 1963 - with September fast approaching, the groceries were running out and it was time to head back to Blighty. We were in northern France on a sunny Sunday afternoon - passing through an unremarkable village when disaster struck.
A dirty great builders' lorry (American: truck) came careering down the main street straight towards us. He wasn't stopping and the vehicle was on the wrong side of the road. It narrowly missed our car but crashed into the cardboard caravan with an almighty thud , ripping off the entire left-hand side. The lorry ended up on its side in a ditch by a farm with the drunken driver emerging from a side window.
Concerned villagers came to our aid and later both the mayor and the local gendarmerie arrived. The lorry driver was hauled off to the nearby town to face charges. A French farmer helped to shore up the side of the now broken caravan Naturally, there was much form-filling to be done but we were just happy to be alive. I can still picture that lorry heading our way as though in a nightmare.
We were lucky but the old Lynton Triumph wasn't. Back in Yorkshire it had to be scrapped and the following year, as I recall, Mum and Dad invested in a secondhand Sprite Alpine caravan that had not seen war service and had walls made from sheet metal rather than compressed wood. The new caravan was not an embarrassment from a caravan museum. In fact it looked as though it even belonged in the modern world. Of course there were plenty more caravan adventures to come but fortunately they did not involve runaway lorries nor Frenchmen who had supped too much wine over their plat-du-jours.
Ah, Plat de Jour. . .ReplyDelete
I know nothing about Caravans other than the one one of my uncles and his wife travelled in to Norway. Every year. Norway is good for those who seek solitude. The Angel soon be off to scale the heights of Snowdonia - on his own. This is a mother's destiny (don't tell your daughter): Once the Apple of you Eye can walk on their own you imagine crevices to be fallen into - without a phone signal.
Anyway, no caravans for me, so you may allow me to make an observation, apropos of nothing, instead: The way you write "R" is uncanny. So "KAREN" was, at first glance, KATZEN to me. No kittens materialized. Then there was your YORKSHIRE post. Which I only recognized because the brain connects dots where there aren't any. And today? Today we have CATZavanning.
Since you are/were a teacher, and serious not facetious question, how much store did you hold by your pupils' pen on paper? Did you criticize them? Did you resent having to second guess what teacher's pet actually wrote?
To be continued . . .
PS I think my parents made it as far as a Sandkorb (ask Meike) on the isle of Sylt.
"How much store did you hold by your pupils' pen on paper? Did you criticize them?" Of course I placed great store upon what pupils put on paper as that was my core responsibility. I was about boosting their skills to help them achieve their best potential in examinations. Naturally, this involved judicious criticism as well as encouragement and praise. Criticism and correction alone are hardly likely to bring about improvement. That approach could be quite soul-destroying. In successfully teaching English, there are often psychological undercurrents which need to be recognised if you are to bring out the best in young people.Delete
I am glad you interpreted my comment in a wider context than I meant (handwriting).Delete
That you tried to help those who - if I understand correctly from some of your other comments - came from a rather rough backwater I have no doubt.
You said it, YP, "judicious criticism as well as encouragement and praise". I certainly got that blend from some remarkable teachers. However, and here is a violin I refuse to play, when I got home . . .
I could bring home (talking late teenage years here) an essay or whatever marked by any of my teachers as up to University standard, only for my father to declare all my teachers incompetent, tear into my work take it apart. There was no praise. Three hours later . . .
Three hours later my mother might come in and tell her husband that "that is enough". Another afternoon trashed. Not that I didn't learn from him. I did. I also realized, many years later, that despite of him no one has ever been able to trash that innate bred in the bone confidence of mine. Which, if you and I were in the same room this minute, might lead to a discussion about nature versus nurture.
Good teachers are marvels, never forgotten. I thought of one of mine only yesterday.
As Mr. Spock used to say to Captain Kirk, "Fascinating." We didn't have money for such luxuries as caravanning or catzavanning either. I would say the most popular kind of trailer over here and now considered a classic is Airstream.ReplyDelete
They are things of beauty - like by-products of the space age.Delete
I had friends who lived with their three (then four) children in an aforementioned Airstream hauled by a fifty-five Chevy. The father was a musician, the mother was everything else. They were pretty amazing people. Still are, except for the father who died recently. I think all of the children look back on those days of being homeschooled in a car on the highway as halcyon days and every one of them has grown up to be a very productive and successful human being. But this has nothing to do with your adventures in caravaning. However, you triggered a memory, a story. I bet you do still remember that truck bearing down on you. How incredibly scary. And incredibly lucky that it was only the caravan that perished.ReplyDelete
Happy to have triggered that memory and that the offspring turned out so well.Delete
So you are the prats we used to get stuck behind.ReplyDelete
Our family name is not Pratt my good man. - it's Molehusband.Delete
I hope you enjoyed your trips around Europe at such a young age. My family holidays as a youngster were restricted to a frame tent in Dorset and Devon. Personally I still hanker after an Airstream but Paul doesn't like towing anything.ReplyDelete
I had enough of caravan holidays for a lifetime... but Airstreams - now they were something else.Delete
What a scary incident! It could have easily been the end of your entire family, instead of just the end of the old caravan. Your parents must have been great people, full of courage and the determination to show their sons as much of the world they could afford. That you saw so much of other countries at a young age laid the foundation to your fascination with the lives of people everywhere, and your open-mindedness.ReplyDelete
Your final supposition is most astute.Delete
I love caravans. There used to be a caravan showroom near where I lived as a child and I would beg my mother to go inside every one of them every time we walked past which was at least once a week. I loved opening the drawers and sitting on the beds. I bet the salesmen were none too pleased at not making a sale, but they didn't show it. Greg and I loved camping in tents too. I guess there's a gypsy inside me somewhere.ReplyDelete
Yes. Gypsy Rose Lee. Please read my tea leaves. I will cross your palm with silver.Delete
Wow, what a story! When I was a kid, I always wanted to live in a van or motor home. I would have loved a trip in one, but my parents weren't about to make that investment.ReplyDelete
If you had been a good boy Steve, I am sure they would have made your dream come true.Delete
What a frightening accident! I bet you do still remember it well. Thank goodness you and your family were not harmed. I enjoyed hearing about the family vacations you took in the caravan. It must be wonderful to have the opportunity to travel across Europe like that! I have never been out of my country but I have traveled and lived in different places here.ReplyDelete
With its many states, America is like a collection of separate countries.Delete
I feel sickReplyDelete
Horrid memories of 1970 Scottish holidays
"Stop moaning John and get to sleep!"Delete
And I read this as a childhood resembling my own, parents determined to show their children the vastness of the country. There were no passport stamps here.ReplyDelete
That would have been great if each state had had its own border control offices with fancy passport stamps..."Ohio - With God all things are possible".Delete
Goodness YP, what memories this brings back!ReplyDelete
We didn't go caravanning, but over the years we certainly visited all the places you mention on your first trip abroad. I remember the gifts from "Agip" petrol, and still have a small teaspoon with a Swiss flag embossed on the handle. It's nestling in my teaspoon drawer as I write this. It must date from the late 50's, and is still in use.
Something else I found recently, from our trips of so long ago, was a list of all the items we had purchased along the way. In my mother's neat handwriting everything was itemised, alongside was the price in sterling and the equivalent currency of the country it was bought. There was even a note to say if it was a gift or something personal!
I wonder, will tourists have to produce such a thing again - once the UK has finally left the EU? At least euros will make for easy calculations!
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Sounds so familiar! My parents had a Cheltenham and, as kids, my sister and I did the Devon and Cornwall trips (1950s) and my parents spread their wings out to "the Continent" in later years, We did Germany, Austria, Italy, France. My father was a stickler for the "level." We spent hours getting the legs put down exactly right. Drove me crazy! Thanks for the memories...ReplyDelete
PS... were your parents CC (Caravan Club) members? I'll bet we crossed paths!ReplyDelete