Category Archives: Evil The Caravan

Zees treep eez curzed…….

Well sometimes you have to wonder.   We were all organised and then due to a bank SNAFU, suddenly we had no money.  I had a lovely plan for the weekend which involved picking up the final few bits we needed to travel, leisurely load caravan on Monday and then just jump in and go on Tuesday.

It was a great plan.  It was a wonderful plan.  If there was a Nobel prize for plans, this plan would have definitely been nominated.

However, this plan was based on our budgetary funding being there.  When it disappeared for no valid reason on Friday evening, we went from groovy and relaxed to “so covered in poo, we’re breathing through a straw”!

I won’t bore you with the details of the stress that bank caused me – this is a light hearted caravan blog.  Suffice to say that at one stage yesterday while in the branch, I started having difficulty breathing and had to sit down.  That’s how difficult they made things.  

A huge shout out to my (ever) wonderful parents here for simply being them – my rock and harbour, with tea, sympathy, practical help and laughter!

So on to Tuesday – finances sorted, we had to try to squeeze in all the things we had originally planned for a weekend, into around 90 minutes, which is not conducive to a stress free and groovy vibe.

Then it was back home to do the packing.

There’s a clear division of duties here normally – I deal with packing and himself deals with caravan and car wrangling. Usually this works like clockwork, but on this occasion, between rushing, general stress and absolutely oppressive heat, things got fraught as we started tripping over each other and getting ratty. Neither of us are at our best in heat, and between my arthritis flare up and his sore shoulder, the whole situation was ripe for explosions!

And then……….
“Ter, don’t bother rushing. We’re not going anywhere”

Thinking that someone had blocked our drive, I ran down sure that murder would be committed if I didn’t intervene.
But oh no. Worse than that. Our leisure battery had gone to that great diode in the sky. It was deceased. Turned up its contacts and joined the generator invisibule. It is an EX battery.

In fairness, we knew it was on the way out, but we’d hoped it would do just one more trip as new ones are in around the €200 range and we simply haven’t had the budget for that.

I don’t know who has been sticking pins in our voodoo caravan doll, but when I catch up with them. ………

A quick phone call to Halfords confirmed they had them, fully charged. So yet another frantic trip to the shopping centre for emergency battery replacement.

And is the replacement battery the same dimensions as the one it replaces? Well, gentle reader, think of all has gone before. Do you really think it would be that easy?

What’s that? No? You won’t be stunned to learn that it certainly was not. However, Grant’s ever excellent spacial skills came to the rescue and while I still don’t know how, he managed to shoehorn the damn thing in.

Meanwhile, our fully fettled and (right up to this second) beautifully performing ASBO suddenly decides that it is going to play the flashy light game and not settle down…………

At this point, we seriously were having to consider abandoning the trip. But 2 restarts later and it settled down again. Either the voodoo ran out, or possibly ASBO was jealous of the attention Evil was getting.

So we finally get to the point where we’re getting ready to leave. Looking out the window, I see Grant using the motor mover to get Evil out of the drive…. and he’s totally surrounded by the local kids who a) think this is the best remote control toy ever and b) mostly don’t know what a caravan is!

However, I do think my favourite quote was “how old are you, mister? ”
“46”
“Wow – do you remember the war?”

And with that, gentle reader, I will leave you with this thought.

We know that Plan A always fails. That’s why Plan A is “throw weasels at it”! But when Plan B, C and Z also fail, it’s nothing that sheer bloody mindedness and a stubborn refusal to submit to a hostile universe can’t beat!

Then I thought – that’s probably how caravanning was invented in the first place!

note: bloody mindedness and being stubborn only works if you are genuinely lucky enough to have a family who stand by you and a marriage that won’t crumble in the face of universal hostility. Terms and conditions apply. Warning: your sanity may be at risk if you…..actually, that’s it. Your sanity may be at risk!!

The Mega-Trip!

So, it’s time for our mega-trip!

Getting ambitious this time.  Our previous longest trips have been in the order of 100 mile round-trips to River Valley which is really just down the road.   Even the Anglesey trips aren’t that long as the driving time each side is on the order of 30 minutes.

So this time we’re taking the plunge and getting adventurous.  This one is something like 600 miles, so it’ll be a test of patience and towing power.

Itinerary is:

  • Dublin
  • Belfast
  • Ferry to Cairnryan
  • Glasgow
  • Fife
  • Back to Glasgow
  • Donington
  • Anglesey
  • Back to Dublin

It looks even more impressive on a map!

EvilRoadTrip

So we set off Tuesday, and hopefully we’ll be updating along the way!

Watch This Space!

Pimp my Caravan

As you may already know, we’re kind of gadget freaks.  We like toys.  Sometimes our taste in toys can be a bit questionable….. there’s a really fine line between “amusingly ironic” and “tragically sad” – and sometimes, it gets a bit blurred in our house.

We’ve had a little bit of an issue with Evil in terms of lighting.  The built-in lights are not all that bright and the reading lights that the Vicar fitted are so bright that they give you involuntary laser surgery!

However, since our DIY skills are a little…..questionable….we were reluctant to do anything on the caravan that might involve making holes in it.  So although we would have liked to fit LED lights, we decided that it was probably safer not to!

But then Maplin came to the rescue with their LED lighting strips that stick on!  Stick on LED light strips – perfect.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well initially, nothing.  White LED lights with a remote control that allows you to adjust the brightness.  On a strip which is the perfect length to go under the overhead bins on both sides of Evil – each with an individual control so that if one of you wants lights out, the other can still keep theirs on – and not even have to get up to turn them off.

Ideal.

However, things started to get a little silly when we discovered that you could also buy colour changing ones.  Well come on – you didn’t think I’d be able to resist *that* did you?

They were on sale, so Grant made a run to Maplin to get the last ones in stock.  As the website said that the local store only had one set left in stock, he also ordered 2 sets online – 1 for each side of the caravan and one spare.

However, the store had TWO sets left in stock – so he got them!  They do come with an expansion kit, so you can join them all together so why not.

Of course, as soon as we got them home, they had to be tested.

Grant: White lights?
Me: Yep
Grant: Adjustable brightness?
Me: Yep
Grant: What does this button do?
Me:    ARRRRRGGGHHHH TURNITOFFTURNITOFFTURNITOFF
Grant:    I’M TRYING
Me:    I’M HAVING A SEIZURE
Grant:    SO ARE THE CATS
Me:    SO ARE THE NEIGHBOURS – TURN IT OOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFF

Ok.  Important safety tip folks.  Never ever EVER use the strobe button on the remote control.  Just trust me on this.  Don’t.

Even the crew of the International Space Station emailed to complain that it was giving them a headache.  I confidently expect that the first message we receive from extraterrestrial life will consist of “TURN IT OFF”.

Yeah.  Stay away from the strobe button.  Seriously.

Once that lesson was learned and Grant had been threatened with broccoli for dinner until the end of time if he ever touched the button again, we investigated the colour options.  Cool.  Very cool.

Not only does it have the usual primary colours, but it allows you to blend them, so you can get cyans and pinks, purples and oranges, etc. etc.  I’m not 100% clear on whether that crosses the line into tragically sad, but I don’t really care – they’re pretty! 🙂

So, while on our shakedown tour, Grant decided to fit them.  Which went pretty well, actually.  Of course, he fitted them during the day which meant that I was really desperate for it to get dark so I could see what they looked like.

Finally, darkness fell and we discovered a whole new way to annoy your caravan neighbours.

First we tested the white lights.  They were perfect for the job and could be nicely adjusted for reading without being blinding and also brighter for those times when you need to try and find whatever it is you just dropped on the floor!

Then it was time for the pretty colours.  And of course, they had to be tested from outside for best effect.

Blue       
Makes your caravan look like a closed butcher shop

Closed Butcher Shop

Green
Makes your caravan look like something that belongs on a Doctor Who set

Dr Who Green

Orange
Makes your caravan look like it’s on fire

Help We're on Fire Orange

Red
 Makes your caravan look like the world’s cheapest brothel

Brothel on Wheels

Purple
Makes your caravan look like a boutique caravan

Boutique Purple

Strobe Effect
Makes your caravan look like it’s about to go back in time and gives your neighbours seizures

Censored for your ocular protection!

Of course, there had to be a glitch though.  It’s us.  There’s *always* a glitch.  We only discovered the glitch when we decided to call it a night and watch telly in bed.

Beds were made up, comfort was achieved and Robot Chicken DVD was in.

Grant pressed play – and the lights went red.
We looked at each other in puzzlement.
We both checked to make sure we weren’t sitting on our respective remotes.
We weren’t.
Grant pressed rewind – and the lights went blue.

Yes.  Apparently the DVD remote for the TV is on the same frequency as the light remotes.  So every time you do something on the TV, the lights change colour.

Now what we really need is a remote control toilet.  Then we can change channel, turn Evil blue and flush the bog with just one handy button!

Cleaning the Caravan…….

Well well well, hey hey hey, it’s 2012!!!!!!

A new season, a new tow car and Evil is out of hibernation!

We bought evil a nice weatherproof cover to protect it from the horrors of the terrible winter and snow we’d been promised was arriving as early as October 2011.  Well there was no snow in October.  Or November.  Or December……..

When February arrived, we decided it probably wasn’t going to arrive at all and decided it was time to take Evil out of hibernation and check her out for the new season.

Taking off the cover wasn’t quite as bad as we expected and we even managed to fold it up to fit back into its bag.  Take note, memory foam mattresses!

So then it was time to do the “big clean”.

We’d shut down the caravan as per the instructions from the great John Wickersham, and I was very happy to find that we didn’t seem to have had any problems at all.

We’d been given a tip from a taxi driver to put tubs of salt in the caravan to soak up condensation.  Well that was bloody good advice!  I’d used three big tubs of dishwasher salt and they were swimming in water – but Evil was nice and dry!  However, there was a faintly mouldy smell that had me worried.

Armed with cleaning fluid and cloths, I set about putting everything to rights.

The sitting area was fine – I just needed to put all the cushions back in place and wipe down the surfaces and all was fine.  No mould, no damp.

Maybe the toilet….?  Nope.  With the exception of a couple of mummified spiders and a rather confused looking moth, loo area was dry and just smelling faintly of loo cleaning fluid.

Kitchen area was clear as well.  Very faint mouldy smell in the wardrobe, but no damp found.

So where was it coming from?

Ok next step was to check all the cupboards.  I was intending to take out all the delph and cutlery and run them through the dishwasher anyway, so off I went.

  • Overhead lockers –  check
  • Drinks cabinet – check
  • Under sink area – check
  • Little flap where the BBQ stuff lives……… oh deary me.

After taking out all the BBQ tools and bits and bobs, the source of the smell became quickly apparent.

We had a BBQ at Anglesey back in July last year.  You may remember I wrote about it.  Turns out that at some point, I’d thrown a couple of bread rolls into the cupboard and they must have flipped over the back panel and landed at the back of the BBQ tool storage area.

Ever seen an 8 month old bread roll?  Would you like to?  Because I took pictures.

I used the BBQ tongs to pick up the packet……..

On the plus side, no mouldy smell!

After a thorough cleaning and opening all the windows, we had a clean, shiny caravan with no smell of mould.

I have to admit to being worried – even though we’d followed all the “close down” instructions, let’s be honest, we’re not the most practical of people and I had the horrors that we were going to open up to something that looked like a scene from the opening of Alien!

So….now we have a shiny caravan, ready to use….. we just needed something to pull it….!

Anglesey September……

Well this has been a long time in coming.  Sadly, haven’t had the time to update it since we got back – I hope I can remember enough to post this! 🙂

To reduce stress, Grant lined up Evil the night before we went, so all we had to do was hook up and go.  Brilliant idea and worked great.  We’d packed up on the Thursday night as well, so all we had to do was get dressed, get in the car and drive to the ferry.  Kushty!  It was all going so well.  Surprisingly well since we rarely travel without at least a *small* bit of drama.

Arrived at the ferry port ontime and after a brief wait, we were loaded on.  It was only when we got out of the car that Grant realised that he’d left his bag behind.  This would be the bag with all his tech equipment – the Archos, the Dell Duo, the chargers…………  Behold!  Drama!!!

Fortunately, we had the car charger for his phone, so he managed to keep himself entertained for the journey, although he was a bit on the pouty side! 😉

I was a little apprehensive after the last trip we had but the school holidays were over and the Stena Plus lounge was populated enough for comfort, but not overcrowded and full of hyperactive children.  We indulged in a leisurely breakfast and settled in to chill out through the journey.

Sky news was on and one of the streaming banners caught my eye.  Apparently, the UK was expecting the tail end of a hurricane.  Where was going to be worst hit?  North Wales.  Situation promptely went from “Chilled” to “Chilling” as I wondered what would be in store for us at Ty Croes – which is right next to the sea!

However, when we landed, the sun was shining and it was a lovely day.  Once again, our poor abused Megane managed to drag our weighty selves, our marshalling gear and our caravan up the big hill.  As per our previous trip, I merrily shouted out “SPEEDBUMP” every time we came up to one.  This was a vain attempt to try and keep the crockery in the crockery cabinet.

Someone from Ty Croes must have read my previous blog though.  The stealth speed bumps going into the circuit were now clearly marked with bright yellow paint.

I still shouted out “SPEEDBUMP” though.  I like to feel I’m contributing.

Once we got to the circuit, we parked up in our usual spot alongside the med centre. After hooking up the power, it was off to Tesco for supplies (no Waitrose this trip – not after the last bill we got! ) Obviously, our main outlay was food.  Not beer.  No no no.  Definitely not beer!  And it’s a complete lie that Evil is still full of cans of Becks.  Lies, I tell you, LIES!

It being somewhat chillier and darker than our last trip, we didn’t do the evening sitting outside Evil – instead we wandered up to the Med Centre for a Father Ted fest! Lucky we were there, since I was the only person who knew how to get the projector working 😉

Back to Evil for a night’s sleep and then up at a very civilised time for sign on!  There are definitely benefits to staying at the circuit, and being able to roll straight out of bed, into your overalls and down to sign on is *right* up there!

During the day’s marshalling, the weather took a turn for the worse.  The wind started getting up and the rain was coming down sideways.  I was getting a bit worried about how we’d dry our gear (although the Oulton Wanderers were quick to offer the shelter of the old Med Centre if needed). There’s really no room in Evil for hanging up drying clothes, and as any marshal will tell you, damp proban smells like wet dog!  A really old wet dog.  With a bladder control issue and poo matted in its fur.  Fortunately, the rain cleared up at around 3 even though the wind was still quite bad, so we air dried!

Given the weather conditions, we decided that cooking inside would be our best option.  It was my first time cooking anything other than breakfast and it’s only when you try that you realise how serious the cooking limitations are when you only have three burners and a grill.  Particularly as you’re trying not to cook anything too strong smelling as you don’t want to have to live with smelling like a chip van or a curry house for as long as you keep your shed on wheels!  Still, 5 minute pasta with a stir in sauce?  How hard could that be….?

Well quite hard actually….. firstly, the stir in sauce turned out to be a warm through sauce.  Normally, I’d just bung it in the microwave, but in this case, I had to actually go hunting for Saucepan number 2.  Saucepan number 2 was rather surprised to be disturbed from its slumber and refused to release the kettle that was sitting in it (I bought one of those lightweight camping sets that has 3 pans and a kettle all stacked together).  While I was struggling to surgically remove the kettle, the pan with the pasta in it boiled over and the tortellini made a break for freedom.

Finally, I managed to wrest the kettle from a now very sulky looking saucepan number 2 and introduced it to its primary function.  Sauce-Pan.  A pan for sauce.  It reluctantly co-operated.  Then I discovered that we didn’t own a wooden spoon – or any spoon of a non-heat conducting kind that was long enough to stir the sauce.  I ended up having to use a metal dessert spoon with a teatowel wrapped around the handle!

Finally though, I had a sauce of a suitable temperature to go with the now rather soggy tortellini.  Time to drain the tortellini.  This is when I discovered that we didn’t have a colander.   Not a problem –  I decided to go old school and use the saucepan lid to cover the pan while the water drained out sideways.  But that meant finding the saucepan lid.  Of course, the saucepan lid in this set is also the frying pan.  The frying pan that was sitting at the back, unwashed, because I was going to fry eggs in it again on Sunday.

In the end, I used a plastic plate.  Managed to get about 2/3rds of the tortellini into the sink, but hey, we got there in the end.  Dinner was served.  Soggy tortellini that tasted vaguely of washing up liquid with an accompanying sauce that had managed to burn onto the bottom of the pan.  As for the garlic bread slices?  Well they had long since cooled and congealed to a texture that would really only have been suitable for chocking up Evil’s wheels.

Fortunately we were so hungry, we ate it anyway!

Then I went to make dessert.  Now, as I think I’ve made clear, the main thing I love about caravans is how they bring me back to my childhood.  This tends to have an effect on my shopping habits and things like Dairylea and orange squash (the old kind that still has sugar in it) sometimes accidentally drop into my shopping basket.

One of the other things that flings itself suicidally  into the groceries, while I’m being very grown up and contemplating Hummous, is Angel Delight.

You remember Angel Delight yes?  A worryingly brighly coloured powder that, when stirred into cold milk, becomes a strangly goopy, chemically flavoured sludge that masquerades as pudding.   It’s wonderful stuff! 🙂

So, feeling slighly smug that I at least had a measuring jug, I carefully measured out 300ml of milk.  Then went to get the whisk.  The whisk.  The whisk we didn’t own.  Uh oh……  Never mind, old school rules again – I decided I could just mix it in with a fork.  Hey, it works for scrambled eggs, why not for Angel Delight?

I’ll tell you why not.  Because Angel Delight, when wet, clogs together in little powdery lumps that defeat the wide spaces between the tines of the fork.  I beat and I beat and I beat.  There were little claggy lumps of Angel Delight flying everywhere with wild abandon.  There was Angel Delight in my hair.  There was Angel Delight on the walls.  There was probably Angel Delight pebbledashing the tent that had set up next door.  But it was all worth it in the end.  For at the end, I had……. pink milk with lumps in.

We ate it anyway.

Grant was totally worn out by the long day’s marshalling and the hard effort he’d put into sitting on the sofa laughing his arse off at me attempting to produce dinner and promptly fell asleep.

Me, being made of sterner stuff, wandered down to the bar just in time to assist with the last few quiz questions for the Marshals’ team!  I could hear the wind getting up again and expressed a little bit of worry to some of my fellow marshals, all seasoned caravaners.  “Not to worry” I was told.  “these things are guaranteed for up to 60mph winds.  Nothing to worry about”.

It was distinctly bad timing that their daughter then joined us, excitedly saying that the news had said that the winds were going to get up to 80mph….

When I was coming back from the bar,  the wind was definitely back.  With a vengeance.  Previously optimistic campers were now vainly chasing their tents around the paddock and our tent next-door neighbours (who presumably hoped Evil would shelter them from the wind) had given up on camping altogether and were loading their sleepy PJ’d children into the back of their transit.  And so it began……….

If the caravan is rocking, don’t come a knocking.  That makes rocking caravans sound like something that is both naughty and enjoyable.  I’m here to tell you, it’s not.  It’s very worrying to be tucked up in bed and find yourself swaying from side to side as the wind howls around the van.  I used to like being in a caravan and listening to the gentle pitter patter of the rain as I was tucked up warm in bed.  It’s less comforting when the rain is coming down sideways driven by 60mph gusts of wind. ……

The following day was dreadful in terms of weather.  Driving wind and rain made the whole day very uncomfortable.  That being said, a good marshalling crew can make all the difference between a good day and a bad day, and despite the conditions, mine was actually pretty good!

So now it’s Sunday night.  The rain has stopped, but the wind is still very much with us.  All our friends have left the circuit and headed off to their nice stable brick domiciles.  We were advised to move Evil down to the scrutiny shed, which would hopefully shelter her from the worst of the wind, rather than staying on the exposed hillside we were camped at.

So we moved down to the now virtually deserted paddock.  It was dark.  It was wild.  The wind sounded like a hoarde of werewolves that hadn’t eaten in a month.  The power lines were making that worrying “whum whum whum” noise that has certain elements of air raid siren.  The lampposts were swaying back and forth and the disturbing shadows this created made it feel like we were in the middle of a 70s schlock horror movie.

Attempts to watch the F1 Highlights were abandoned – our TV reception was so pixilated, it looked like everyone in F1 had turned into an accused paedophile leaving the courtroom!

Have you ever tried to sleep in a caravan that is being subjected to 60mph winds in a deserted motorsport paddock in the dead of night?

Here’s a tip.  You don’t sleep.

Still, it could have been worse.  Up on the hill, where we’d been previously, there was still a tent clinging tenaciously to the hillside.  Everytime I saw it, all I could think of was that old superglue ad where they glued the guy to the board and then hung him from a helicopter.

Great stuff that superglue!

So, not the best night’s sleep we’d ever had.  And now we had to worry about the journey back to the port.  The winds hadn’t died down significantly and the possibility of huge gusts of wind hitting the side of Evil was a serious concern.  We don’t generally go particularly fast while towing, but this journey had to be our slowest ever.  The ever-present threat of a “snake” loomed before us, to the point where it would have been quite possible to overtake us on one wheelie shoe.

Finally, we got back to Holyhead, just in time to get aboard the ferry.

Grant and I don’t generally suffer from seasickness and it had been a long time since the previous night’s fish and chips.  We were also knackered.  So we ordered breakfast.

Despite the stabilisers, the ferry was heaving from side to side in a slightly alarming way – although it wasn’t the worst trip on that route we’d ever had.

We ignored it, stolidly ploughing our way through a full Irish and then drinking lots of coffee.

Here’s a  little known piece of etiquette for you.  When you’re chugging down a fried breakfast in front of a bunch of people who are pea green and madly clutching the arm handles of their chairs for dear life, it’s considered rude to shout out “SPEED BUMP” every time the ferry does another jump in the air…….