Caravan Kismet on our pitch before the arrival of the tent and French motorhome!
“That will make getting out tomorrow interesting!”
The campsite had plenty of space, but Mark’s comment referred to the French motorhome positioned directly in front of Caravan Kismet and the large tent to the right. With a fence to our left, we were hemmed in. Our only exit was backwards, and that route was anything but straightforward. We would need to reverse around a right angle on to a narrow bridge, while avoiding a tree, a hedge, a fence and a ditch four feet deep. However, Mark had a plan.
“I will just hitch, reverse past the tree, unhitch, spin the caravan, re-hitch and drive out.”
Simples. Until, of course, the Helping Committee arrived.
The campsite owner, Mark, insisted that we needed to push the caravan out.
“It will be fine!” my-Mark said. “I have a plan.” But Campsite-Mark insisted. He’s a nice chap; a qualified lorry driver – and it’s his site. What do you do?
I soon started to feel like William Wordsworth. All at once, I saw a crowd, but sadly not a host of golden daffodils. It was a gathering of our stout French neighbour and a couple of burly Poles. The sight of a caravan being pushed was as honey to a bee. A shot at caravan-pushing glory is always too much to resist, and our Frenchman was serious. He was wearing a T-shirt, so he didn’t have sleeves to roll up, but he slid off his flip-flops. The Polish chaps came out of nowhere. I’d never even seen them around the campsite. The result was a trilingual C.P.C. (Caravan Pushing Committee), operating in a babble of French, English and Polish. It would never end well.
Of course, the number of opinions on what to do next was as diverse as the C.P.C., its languages and dialects. There was pushing, pulling and twisting going on, all at the same time. At one point, I heard my-Mark say,
“So, what exactly are we doing?”
My-Mark also had to step in to prevent one Pole from hauling our 1.5 tonne caravan sideways using the lever that engages the ALKO stabiliser. This is not the first time that someone has tried to use the stabiliser to drag the caravan. It is emphatically not designed to be a handle, it is designed to stop the caravan going into a deadly snake while being towed, and would cause us tremendous problems if broken.
Heavy rain overnight meant that Caravan Kismet soon hit a soft spot and sank. Only my-Mark would listen to the lone female voice,
“The wheel has sunk. It’s stuck. There’s no point trying to push.”
This did not deter the C.P.C., who now had the bit fully between their teeth. Several strong shoves lifted Kismet’s front end clear off the ground. I know I have ovaries that affect my brain and mean I know nothing technical or scientific, but by invoking Newton’s Second Law and the Law of Moments, I calculated that 0.75 tonnes multiplied by the acceleration caused by gravity crashed on to one single, small point, i.e. the jockey wheel at the front of the caravan. In fem-speak, imagine a one-legged elephant jumping up and down while wearing a single, lone stiletto. My pretty pink conclusion, The Newton-Lambert Law is; “The weight of a caravan (or elephant) falling repeatedly on its jockey wheel (or stiletto heel) could be suffiient to cause breakage.”
Somewhere in the fray of trying to carry out a difficult manoeuvre while distracted by the need for crowd control, Mark sliced open his hand and began to bleed profusely.
It took some persuasion by my-Mark before the C.P.C. got their hands off OUR caravan.
“I’m going to hitch up and reverse,” Mark said firmly. “Don’t stand behind the caravan, as I will now need to accelerate hard to get out of the hole.”
The C.P.C. were all over like a swarm of ants. In English and French, I did my best to shoo everyone out of the way. I recognised the elements congealing into the perfect scenario for an accident to happen. Of course, everyone knew better than a wee wifey how to direct my-Mark as he reversed our van, Big Blue, on to the hitch.
“I’m only listening to you, Jax!” my-Mark confirmed, wisely.
“Merde! Attention! Arrêtez!” – “Sh**! Watch it! STOP!” yelled the Frenchman, waving his arms as he flew into a panic about Kismet’s roof catching on a tree.
“It’s fine, Mark, keep coming,” I said calmly. “The tree is about three metres away and if the roof touches anything, it will be only the fine branches.”
I cleared the crowd away from Kismet’s rear then, with no tears, my-Mark carried out the original plan. He reversed Kismet backwards and unhitched. The C.P.C. were back on Kismet like a swarm of locusts and I had to stop them from pushing Kismet further backwards into the hedge. One of them even started unscrewing the bracket that holds on the jockey wheel, the only thing supporting the front of the caravan!
“No – please don’t push. We need room to turn. NO! LEAVE THAT ALONE!”
It was like dealing with a bunch of kids. “’ere mister. What does this do?” or a demented U.S. President, “Now what will happen if I push the big red button?”
When Mark had moved the van out of the way, we twisted Kismet around, re-hitched, and Bob was our uncle. Our original plan, executed perfectly, without bloodshed, absolutely no need for a C.P.C. – and if we’d done it like that in the first place, Campsite-Mark would not now have been crying over the crater in his much-beloved grass.
Thankfully, I remembered to double check for the wider effects of a C.P.C. before we left. I made sure that the caravan was properly hitched; that the handbrake was off; breakaway cable, electrics and ALKO stabiliser connected.
C.P.C. distraction and interference at inopportune moments often results in overlooking such essential details.
“Shall we check the lights?” I asked Mark.
“Let’s do that once we’re outside…” he replied. He’d had enough of hitching by committee.
Campsite-Mark’s last word was,
“You should get a motor mover!”
“Why?” we replied. “It would take up half our payload and drain the battery really quickly!” – and it would not have been any use at all in this situation. If the caravan is on ground flat enough for a motor mover to work, Mark and I can push it. And unlike some caravan owners, we ain’t afraid to reverse. It’s very rare to find ourselves in a position that we can’t resolve between the two of us.
As we drove off, the pushing points of the caravan dripping with husbandly blood, we reminisced about C.P.C.s past.
“Do you remember Romania, when the C.P.C left us with the back of the caravan hanging off?!”
Oh happy days – C.P.C.s always end badly. Mark and I have a well-rehearsed routine for hitching and manoeuvring, honed and used without incident for five years. Except when people come to interfere. I shall re-iterate the advice from Caravan Confucius; unless asked, please resist the urge to help!
Later, when we analysed the incident, Mark and I vowed that our initial strategy should be to disperse a budding C.P.C. forcefully, however kind and well-meaning they are and however much offence it causes. When you think about it, it’s actually quite rude of a C.P.C. not only to think they know better than you, with your experience and well-oiled routine, but also to ignore your wishes when, as the owner of an expensive piece of kit, you decline their help but they join in anyway and then damage said expensive piece of kit!
We also agreed that if this fails, which is inevitable, we need to push down the ALKO lever, so it doesn’t present a temptation for someone to destroy.
Surprisingly, on our drive to Sandomierz, we had only one near-miss with a mad Polish driver. Had we not braked sharply, the car overtaking us would have ploughed into a queue of oncoming traffic. In Sandomierz, we overruled the satnav’s peculiar directions and opted to stay on the main road. Our lack of faith forced us to execute a very tight U-turn on a narrow piece of road which passed a church. We had to mount the pavement to squeeze past a hearse and funeral cortege.
The low payload of the caravan means that we have to empty out heavy items when we travel. Once we had pitched and I described dinner, Mark launched into a full mickey-take over our lockdown-leftover supply of tinned food.
“I’ve made tuna pasta for dinner, which used a few cans. It’s a bit of a bind getting the tins in and out of the caravan every time we move. We still have some peas to use up.”
“How many tins of peas are there?”
“Er, one,” I admitted, but justified my position on peas by telling him,
“They are Piselli Medi, so they’ve come with us all the way from Italy!”
In a faux Irish accent, Mark launched straight into both sides of a mock interview with me,
“So, Mrs Lambert. What’s your main memory of your tour of Poland?”
“Well, it’s the peas, Eamon. We had this one tin that was with us forever. We had to constantly get it in and out of the caravan. It was a bit of a bind.”
Now c’mon Mark, that’s just taking the peas.
Next time, join us as we meet the Devil Children of Sandomierz.