At the time, it had seemed like a good idea. The gallery on the website proudly displayed beautifully manicured gardens, immaculate six-berth caravans, and the facilities listed among other things, an indoor swimming pool, a children’s play park and a clubhouse where we could buy milk, bread, bacon and beer… It was cheap too – only 160 quid for four nights. In short, it was too good to be true.
Honeyed memories of caravan jaunts I’d experienced as a child came flooding back; the surplus of like-minded playmates all on holiday too, the wooded countryside and the wholesome fresh air. It would be like re-living the Famous Five. Yes. A little jaunt at a caravan park was exactly what we needed after the stifling, dusty heat of Dubai.
I immediately poo poohed him. ‘Don’t be such a snob! You’ve been in Dubai too long. There are loads of historical things to see, and we can take the boys across to France for the day on the ferry. And anyway,’ I added, ‘we can’t afford anything better after Air Berlin ripped us off.’
DH, who knows exactly when not to disagree, shrugged his shoulders and took it on the credit card. After all, the pictures were lovely. What could possibly go wrong?
After a two hour drive from London, we discovered the caravan park wasn’t actually in Dover, but situated several miles out of town, down a long and winding, but annoyingly busy country road. Our progress there went like this.
Drive. Jam on brakes. Reverse half a mile and pull into slightly indented hedgerow to let tractor/truck/bus/articulated lorry etc pass. Drive. Jam on brakes. Reverse back to slightly indented hedgerow. Repeat.
I was all for forcing the other drivers to make the concession, but DH, with his superior eyesight, had already clocked the savage local expressions and he wasn’t about to argue with them. ‘Who’s been in Dubai too long now?’ he answered dryly.
When we finally turned off the Squirrel Nutkin Highway and into the caravan park, I don’t think anyone said anything for about, ooh, two whole minutes. And that included the children, who’d been whinging non-stop for three hours.
There was something about the place that just didn’t feel right. Perhaps it was the eerie lack of children – or the nearby trailer that looked as though it had been ransacked by a bunch of alcoholic sewer rats. It might even have been the scary woman covered in tattoos and smoking a dodgy fag, who was eyeing us up suspiciously from the ‘clubhouse’ doorway.
‘Well now. This looks lovely,’ I attempted gamely. ‘Let’s go to the office and find out which caravan is ours?’
‘Fine,’ responded DH bravely through gritted teeth, (although I knew he really wanted to turn around the Audi and hare off back to London). ‘But whatever you do, don’t mention anything about Dubai. And I’ll do all the talking.’
This was just as well, because I’m rubbish at accents, especially thick local ones, and DH knows this. I start off okay, then quickly veer towards a sort of Irish South African twang, before forgetting myself completely, saying something inappropriate like ‘gosh’ or ‘gee whizz’. It’s a real problem at murder mystery dinners as no-one can tell if my linguistic gymnastics are part of the actual plot.
DH on the other hand, just loves getting into character and is rather good at it. ‘Alright’ love? Ow’s it going? Luvvely wea-ver for ducks, innit?’ He greeted the scary tattooed smoking woman with such a thick mockney accent that I half expected him to break into a few well-known lines from the movie Snatch.
She looked back at him through narrowed eyes, and I could see she was taking in the well pressed chinos, the navy v-neck pullover and the smart, baby blue Balmain collared shirt he was wearing underneath it.
‘We’re up ere for a few days from Landan,’ he continued, knowing he had to work fast. ‘Fought I’d take the missus somewhere where she couldn’t do my credit card no more arm’. Know wot I mean?’ This was followed by coarse, Sid James style chuckle and a wink of camaraderie at the old girl.
She hesitated, but then nodded gruffly. DH had done it!
‘So darlin’ he added roguishly, at which point I almost expected him to slap her bottom, ‘which of these gaffs is for us?’
After our less than auspicious start, we were aware that all eyes were upon us. Though we rarely saw the other ‘residents’, we knew – indeed could feel – that they were watching us. You see *Sunny Views Caravan Park was not about holiday makers at all. In fact we were the ONLY holiday makers there. The rest of the camp was filled up with what we later learned were, ‘long term lets.’ In other words, us ‘poshos’ had actually paid good money to spend four days in a trailer park filled with pikeys.
But, because we’re British, we made the best of it, and ‘Operation Britney’ was born. The children were carefully briefed. ‘You have to walk around like this,’ said DH, glowering intimidating at them. Drop all your H’s. Instead of saying ‘good morning,’ just practice saying ‘Alright?’ And never, ever smile. ’
I tried hard too, and 24 hours later, I was setting off the smoke alarm in the caravan by frying crispy bacon, eggs and insisting that the kids ate their ‘sarnies wiv HP sauce an all the fat left on.’ We would fit in if it killed us, I decided, because not fitting in just actually might.
By day three, we were better acclimatized. Always conscious of my weight, I’d thrown caution to the wind and gobbled down three bacon ‘sarnies’ for breakfast. Later on, I even swigged Stella from the can and vaguely considered the possibility of getting a pierced eyebrow and a tramp stamp.
The kids were improving too. Oldest son didn’t even flinch when one shaggy resident opened up his trailer door, to reveal an equally shaggy and gigantic Irish wolfhound. Instead, he glowered bravely, and said with a Dickensian aplomb worthy of RADA; ‘Like yer dog mister. Wot’s is name?’
There were a couple of wobbles however, like on day two, when I went to the lobby and just couldn’t get my accent right. ‘Erm, excuse me love, could you direct me to the play park – innit?’
‘It ain’t there no more,’ she scowled. ‘The council shut it down. Elf an safety.’ After that, we felt a dip in the pool (which was open – but had been massively misrepresented by its online picture) might be pushing our luck.
Nevertheless, we survived our stay, and when the moment came, we actually found ourselves a bit sorry to go.
‘You got luvvely, friendly kids,’ volunteered *Magda (scary, tattooed smoking woman) as she checked us out of our trailer. We knew her name because it was on a huge gold name tag round her neck. ‘They’re much more friendly than the ones we usually get around ere,’ she added. And we glowed with pride, which resulted in us forgetting ourselves and thanking her in our ‘posh’ voices.
So we left Sunny Views Caravan Park, and a baffled looking Magda – and were on our way once more. Admittedly, we were a collective stone heavier from all the fry ups, the beer and the Kettle Chips. But we had at least escaped without a large Alsatian on a string, and DH had talked me out of a trip to the tattoo parlour.
Next stop, Constable country. Don’t you just love holidays?
*names have been changed