We popped down the motorway this afternoon to have lunch with my mum & dad - they live a little over an hour away from us, just the other side of Northampton. Just close enough to pop down for an afternoon, but also just comfortably far enough away, if you know what I mean. We left here at about midday and settled in for a comfortable drive down the motorway listening to 'Want Two' by Rufus Wainwright... he's playing at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall in April, and I bought a pair of tickets last week. I was mildly worried that nobody would want to come with me, but C. quite enjoys coming with me to the odd concert and was happy to accompany me now that she doesn't have to be away with work that evening.
Of course, this being the last day of the long Easter Weekend, the traffic was terrible.... it was still pretty early in the day, so it wasn't at a standstill, but it was one of those days where everything bunches up in the outside lane, and you find yourself slowing down to a virtual standstill for no reason other than that people like to sit themselves in the middle lane and stay there for the entire duration of their journey, forcing the rest of the motorway to go the long way around them.... Did you know that (according to the RAC) poor lane discipline blocks up about 1/3 of the UK motorway network at any one time? That's 700 lost miles of road every day - the same as the journey from Aberdeen to Penzance.
We heard on the radio a little later on that there was a huge snarl up on the M1 just beyond the exit we had taken. Sure enough, about 4 hours later, when we got back onto the motorway to head home, the southbound lane was completely blocked up with people returning to London from a long weekend up in the countryside. No doubt all the roads out of the South-West will be similarly snarled up this evening.
There had been a new addition to the road since lunchtime though - now everywhere you looked there were caravans. I just do not understand the mentality that leads someone to buy one of these things. I suppose they sell it as freedom: the freedom to get into your car, hook up your caravan, and drive really slowly on major highways and on tiny country lanes alike. The freedom to spend a few days each year in a cramped, single roomed tin can in dangerously close proximity to the rest of your family. The freedom to use a chemical toilet (do tour bus rules apply? i.e. no solids, or are the rules for the caravanning community different? Should you lay down a layer of paper in an attempt to stop the splashing noises? I think we should be told).
Prices for these things seem to start at about £10,000 (I'm sure prices vary enormously, but frankly there's only so much surfing of carvan websites I am prepared to do in the name of research). How many days use a year do you reckon people get out of these things? 2 weeks a year? 4 weeks absolutely tops, if they use it at the weekend as well as when they are on holiday? The rest of the time, these things are allowed to rot on people's driveways, cultivating a layer of green stuff. I don't know about you, but it would take me several years before I manage to spend more than £10,000 on hotels. Surely it's considerably less hassle and considerably more comfortable to just book into a room at some boarding house or bed and breakfast? Proper bed, proper toilet, proper shower? Perhaps it's just me....
The other thing that makes me laugh is the names these things have; they are almost always, without fail, ridiculously macho. Have a look yourself the next time you are out on the roads. They all have names like:
- The Conquerer
- The Crusader Storm / Crusader Typhoon / Crusader Hurricane (you see what they did there?)
- The Supreme Superstar (not just any superstar, mind you, the supreme superstar)
- The Avondale Ulysses
I'm sure somewhere out there is an 'Apocalypse' range, or, for the larger family, the six berth 'Armageddon'. I can't think of many things less macho than a caravan. Or indeed many things less macho than a caravanner. Are the names perhaps compensating for something? The more phallic the name of your caravan....
Maybe I'm just being cynical.
"Few industries can boast, as the Caravan Industry can, how they have kept up with the changes in choice, luxury, comfort and safety to offer the variety of lifestyle available today."
Maybe I shouldn't criticise until I've given it a go, eh? Maybe next Easter?
Caravans: "experience the freedom"....