I realised that to do a trip around the UK like the one I am planning, I must be a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club.. I joined weeks ago and have been rushing to the post each morning in anticipation of my welcome pack (there must have been an administrative glitch) but at last it has come.
They give lots of essential information on the location and facilities of all the campsites, and social events and get-togethers for like-minded campers – wild campers, rambling campers, under-canvas, motor-home- and caravan campers. And tips on equipment, local interest, etc.
I very well may go for a rambling or a folk singing weekend but at this stage it's the campsites I need to know about. I booked my first site this week, on a farm by Chichester Harbour, and Nick and I and Alf the dog set off on Monday.
I was quite confident about the berths because prior to this inaugural run Jane, Hebe and I had a run through the different configurations - two single berths, or one double.The driver and passenger seats go forward, bases pull out from under the sofa and chair, and gaps are filled with different shaped cushions. It's an ingenious design and easy once you know. Hebe had a nasty crack on the head when pulling out the double bed base, and I skinned my knuckles pulling forward the captain's chair (the passengers' seat which can face front or back.)
We took, for this one night, a basket of food, a bag of asparagus, bundles of bedding, the dog's bed and his food, an overnight bag... This innocent enough car-load of stuff confirmed to me what I really knew - that minimalism and tidiness (not great strengths of mine) form the backbone of successful campervan living.
We got a (reasonably) level spot to park in, got hooked up to the mains, got the loo flushing, the water heater working, and supper cooking. After supper Nick declined the offer of a shower, but I had one.
The 'bathroom' is an ingenious space; there is a loo and a basin, shower and towel rail and when you take the tiny carpet out it's a wet-room. I undressed outside the door and stepped in, flipped the basin to vertical and, having shuffled the shower curtain round behind me, switched on the shower. It's a very small space and only when I had balanced hot/cold and found the showergel did I realise that a cautionary notice from calor gas had come off the new gas cylinder and was stuck to the bottom of my foot. I tried to inch down to peel it off but I just couldn't get it. No matter, the water was warm and I started feeling pleasantly hysterical.
When I emerged from my somewhat floundering shower Nick was doing the crossword with a glass of wine – he looked slightly surprised that I found the ablution experience quite so hilarious, and Alf was asleep on his bed. We made the beds and the walls seemed to close in on us - there is very little room for a dog when the duvets are hanging over the sides of the beds. He could move forwards and backwards, but couldn't turn round. He panted a lot and it rained all night – but we were dry and snug.