Trial weekend….and yes, it was a trial…….

Well we got through the weekend. Some harsh words from time to time but no injuries, spousal murder or threats of legal action……. so it could have gone worse!!!!

Grant and Evil the Caravan

It didn’t really live up to my childhood memories of carefree summer days, followed by cosy nights playing board games while the rain rapped on the roof. But I guess it couldn’t really. Carefree children don’t have to worry about emptying the Toley tank, for a start!

As I think was mentioned previously, there is an agreement that as I am the designated Toley Tank emptier, this is a “pissing toilet”. No poos. Ever. However, this has now led to a new weapon in the marital arsenal – that of “keep that up and I’m going to go take a shite”………

The campsite was a nice place – for anyone that’s interested, I can happily recommend River Valley Park in Arklow. Well laid out, good facilities, friendly staff and neighbours – and within walking distance of a chipper and a pub. €25 per night including electricity.

The weekend didn’t get off to a good start – I was hoping to get an early start on packing the caravan but ended up having to work. This put us behind time and himself was not pleased about not getting onto the road until 4:30, by which time the rush hour traffic had started to build up. On the plus side, future packing should be shorter as much of the stuff we had to pack the first time will now live in the caravan which should drastically speed up the process.

Once we arrived, pitching was a lot less technically challenging than I had feared. The pitch was right next to a water tap and an electrical point and hooking up didn’t take a lot of time. First minor issue was that we had forgotten the tap adaptor for the aquaroll which led to some pain and suffering trying to get it filled. By the time we got to the second fill, we’d figured out that we had a spare outlet tube and if you held that over the tap, you didn’t have to try and lift the aquaroll – something that my poor abused back muscles were very glad to hear.

Waste water unit and electric were nice and easy to set up and we very quickly had full power and the ability to make tea and coffee…. Which brings me on to the second thing I forgot….. instant coffee. With no caffetiere and no handpresso, that left us a bit short. However, there is also a well stocked local shop also within walking distance, so we were saved!

The next test was the TV aerial – which proved to be more or less useless. It might work well in the UK, but in Ireland – no signal worth having! However, thanks to all the helpful links sent to me by everyone I know, I had the foresight to bring our Father Ted box set and the TV has a built in DVD player. So we settled down to watch the infamous caravan episode…only to be slightly disturbed to realise that our caravan was actually smaller than Ted’s!

After numerous cups of tea/coffee/fizzy drinks, it could be avoided no longer. It was time to use the caravan toilet. While I’m fat, I’m not tall, so I didn’t have too difficult a time of it. Grant’s first time was a bit more convoluted, and accompanied by much banging and swearing. New procedure for having a wee – if you are over 6 foot and trying to use a caravan toilet, make sure you reverse into the room!

Also, the pan is not deep. So if you have been holding onto a large bladder load, there is the possibility that you will encounter a warm, damp feeling on your nether regions if you don’t remember to open the blade before you begin…….. well we knew this would be a learning experience……….

By bedtime, we were ready for a good night’s sleep. The new sleeping bags were declared a success and Grant promptly passed out. I finally managed to find an acceptable angle for the bedside lamp which has a bulb which seems to burn with the brightness of a supernova……and then finally fell asleep myself.

It’s never a good sign when the first words that your husband says to you in the morning are “ARGH GOD, where’s the difene” Grant didn’t have a comfortable night – and had also managed to scrape his knee on the window blind. A short discussion decided that memory foam mattress toppers would be invested in.

After doling out painkillers, I moved onto the next important step – the preparation of breakfast. I have to say, I’m pretty good at breakfasts. But I haven’t cooked on a gas stove for years and I’m used to having a bit more room to work with. The eggs were slightly lacy and the toast was a little bit burney, but overall, it was pretty edible and I didn’t even set off the smoke alarm.

The First Breakfast....

After a morning of lounging around the caravan, the sun coming out encouraged me to get up and go and sit outside. Grant put up his new flagpole and we established that yes, I was right, 10 metres was drastically bigger than we really needed!

Grant's massive erection

After that, feeling brave, we decided to try to put up the awning (henceforth known as Fight In A Bag or FIAB). The instructions were in the bag, but sadly, seemed to have gotten wet at some point – so all we had was a photo.

I decided that we should be able to figure it out from that……..after all, we’re intelligent people……and everyone who is now laughing at this SHUT UP!!!! 😉

Remembering back to my scouting days, I had a vague recollection that you’re supposed to lay out all the poles first. This I did and discovered that we had one extra pole which we couldn’t identify and 3 short poles that looked like old fashioned wizard wands. However, waving them around and chanting “Izzy Wizzy let’s get busy” failed to magically erect said awning, so we went to do it the old fashioned way – much to the polite amusement of our obviously experienced caravanning neighbours, all of whom had huge awnings with conservatories, shag pile carpeting, grand pianos and mezzanine floors!

After some discussion, I noticed our neighbours on the other side were also putting up their awning and I went over and looked pathetic until they took pity on me. In fairness, that took about 30 seconds! 🙂 Damien and Lorraine – lovely people who have been caravanning for years and are very willing to help out the confused newbies! I ran into them again later as Damien was coming back from helping another neighbour who couldn’t get his satellite working! If you ever read this, thanks folks – it was lovely to meet you and hope to meet you again sometime!

45 mins later and while we had a sort of tenty thing, it didn’t look a bloody thing like the picture. We decided to give up and get the instructions online and try again another time.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to relaxed reading and general chilling out.

We went to the pub for dinner, which was ok, but Grant was tired so we called it a night around 10ish and went back to the caravan.

That’s really about it for Saturday.

We both had a rough night on Saturday, so it was after 10 before we actually got moving. Breakfast was cooked and consumed and then it was time for the other thing I’d been worrying about – the caravan closedown process.

I got out the Thetford handbook and approached the horror that is the toilet cassette.

Extraction was relatively easy – however, our cassette doesn’t have wheels and you’d be amazed what 2 days of pee weighs! It was not a comfortable process getting the cassette from the van to the chemical dump point and I’m still sore!

The chemical dump point was actually a giant toilet! I managed the emptying with no major dramas. I do have a lot of difficulty with left and right though and that means that I have difficulty reading instructions and visualising how they work in the real world. Such was the case with the cassette – so I got a little bit of blue liquid on my feet before I figured out that I was holding the cassette with the blade down….. Mercifully I was wearing flipflops and I realised almost immediately what the issue was.

After that, it wasn’t too bad. I had already been advised to make damn sure that i remove the cap and placed it in a safe place well away from anywhere it might conceivably fall into the “wee hole” (thanks Al! 🙂 ) so I didn’t have that trauma to contend with – and the handy tap enabled me to do the rinsing etc. at the same time.

Back at the caravan, all loose things tidied away, liquids emptied and cannisters put away, electrics shut down and fridge off and locked up, we were ready to go.

Due to a miscommunication, I didn’t realise that Grant was expecting me to tell him when to stop reversing – I thought he was just lining the car up so he could use the motor mover. The crunching noise when he backed into the caravan tow bar is one that’s going to stay with me for a long time 🙁

Car hooked up, we were back on the road to go home and catch up with what was going on in Monaco.

So, did I enjoy the weekend? I don’t really think I can say I did. But I think that it has provided a basis for other weekends that could be a lot more enjoyable now that we’ve got the hang of how to use the caravan.

I’d like to say a big thank you to:

Al, Chris, Anita, Tim and all the gang on staff at Ten-Tenths who have provided us with loads of good advice and encouragement on our extremely out of character (and out of comfort zone!) purchase!

Damien and Lorraine for their kind advice and welcoming friendliness

John Wickersham for his brilliant caravan handbooks (and again to Al for recommending them!)

The Unnamed Vicar who previously owned our caravan – for his meticulous care of her and for keeping all the manuals. We’ll take good care of her for you.

And finally, to Evil the Caravan – for sheltering us and not blowing up, falling over, or simply expelling us out of the windows in disgust!

The Beating Will Continue Until Morale Improves