My earliest memory of a caravan was when I must have been about five and we stayed in a gypsy caravan somewhere in Norfolk; my sister and I slept in it, and my parents had a little tent, with a separate groundsheet no doubt! It wasn’t very nice weather as I recall and we sat inside with ‘magic painting’ books we’d been given by the dear old lady who owned the flat we lived in. The painting books were outlines of pictures and when you ‘painted’ them with water colours emerged! Such simple pleasures! We ate outside round a little camp fire, and one morning one of the farmer’s hens stole my sister’s breakfast of the plate on her knee…
My next caravan experience was a wonderful holiday I went on with an aunty, uncle and cousin; they lived in Germany and we went up to Denmark, over to Sweden and then onto Norway – about six weeks in a caravan! I loved it!
I would like a caravan, or a camper van, or a caravan holiday, or a camping holiday… but my husband is resolutely against it! he is six and a half foot tall and wouldn’t like the cramped space… Huh! is all I say! if he really loved me… But in fact we do have great holidays not in a caravan, so I’m not really complaining, it’s the gypsy in me I guess… Family storiess do have it that there is Romany or traveller blood in our family…
Ruth Drew, whose collection of writings was posthumously put together in a book called The Happy Housewife’, was a keen caravanner; she had a tiny little van which she trundled about the countryside in, and she writes about her adventures, but also gives advice to first-timers in the 1930’s or 40’s:
… you’ll need a good water can with a lid – ours is a two gallon aluminium one; an enamel basin; and a can for milk… for crockery, mugs are better than cups and saucers – and enamel plates are best – they don’t break and you can keep them on top of a simmering saucepan.
Then bedclothes. Sleeping bas are much warmer than blankets. And sheets are a refinement it’s best to leave at home. But a hot water bottle isn’t – take it by all means unless you’re setting a very Spartan standard.
First – and this is important – see that every inmate of the caravan has some kind of absolutely watertight footgear – rubber boots are invaluable for camp pottering – but, if they can’t be raised, then see that boots or shoes don’t leak. One summer I had a couple of visitors – a nicer pair I couldn’t have sheltered. But it rained – good sloshing Cumberland rain – and their boots leaked. Well, I can tell you that wet socks hanging up to dry from the roof have a nasty way of falling into the porridge saucepan – which is bad for the porridge and sticky on socks.
She continues on about other clothes, long-sleeved jerseys, and skirts and tops rather than dresses for women – although she does accept slacks ‘if you like’! She paints such a vivid picture of camping in a very different world from ours, and it seems charming, but how cold and wet and maybe hungry, they must have been for much of the time!