“We have the caravan from Friday until Monday,” I said. “So I thought, with it being the school holidays, we could go on…”
“We’ll go on Saturday afternoon,” was his reply.
“Well, I’ve paid for it all weekend and don’t you think some family time – just the four of us – would be nice?” I suggested.
“Saturday,” came the reply.
“It’s a privately owned caravan,” I continued.
“It’s still sh*tting in a bucket,”
His stubbornness is
relentless endearing but so is my nagging.
“Will you just consider going Friday afternoon, please?”
And so he did and so we did.
Family weekends away: what you want VS what you get
1. The Holiday Shop – what you want
A family trip to Tesco where you walk hand in hand with your partner laughing and smiling about the forthcoming weekend. Your children, seated in the trolley, behave impeccably and do not ask for anything. Life is bliss as you buy the caravan essentials of milk, eggs, bacon, bread, butter, water and a bottle of wine. Just think: eating bacon and eggs in a caravan. What a time to be alive!
The Holiday Shop – what you get
A family trip to Tesco where one child demands sweets, crisps, chocolate and a toy whilst the other one is proving to anyone who will watch that he is the Usain Bolt of the supermarket world. As you reach the top of the cleaning aisle, he is already at the bottom of the pet aisle grabbing at a tin of Pedigree Chum and you don’t own a dog. As you reach the tin of dog food and place it back on the shelf, he is already locked inside the ice-cream freezer holding up a box of half priced Magnums (and you can’t help but praise him on that epic find).
By the time you reach the alcohol aisle, you wonder if swigging a bottle now and then paying for it at the till will be frowned upon. The one bottle of wine you were planning on taking to the caravan has now changed into a box of Tiger beers, two cans of Pimms, two gin and tonics and three bottles of cider.
On arrival at the check out, you will learn that you have spent over £30 on Haribo and packs of Pringles.
Then, when you eventually arrive at your caravan and unpack your shopping, you will find that everything you bought that needs putting in the fridge is precisely where it needs to be: in the fridge. Only, the fridge the food is currently residing in is the one in your house back in Yorkshire. Therefore, over the weekend you will survive on chocolate raisins, Haribo and prawn cocktail Pringles.
The caravan is clean, tidy, fresh smelling, warm and cosy. Bedding is provided and every want and need is catered for.
The accommodation – what you get
Having spent half an hour driving around the camp site because “caravan 243 does not effing exist” you will eventually arrive at caravan 243 to find that it is clean, tidy, fresh smelling, warm and cosy. Bedding is provided and every want and need is catered for…until…
“Mummy! I NEEEEEED A POO!”
Despite the kitchen being literally right next to the toilet, the door must remain open in order that you, whilst realising that you have no cold food packed, can keep one eye on your defecating five year old.
“Oh my Gosh!” You’ll exclaim as you abandon the shopping to grip your nose. “What have you eaten?”
And in an instant, the caravan is no longer clean, tidy, fresh smelling, warm and cosy as windows are frantically opened and food is left discarded on the side.
3. The entertainment – What you want
A free kids’ disco and reasonably priced alcohol.
The entertainment – what you get
After paying £54 for two adult entertainment passes (thank God the kids are still free) you would expect EVERYTHING in the entertainment complex to be free much like an all inclusive holiday. Absolutely nothing (apart from two slides, a set of swings and a roundabout) is free. There is, however, a kids’ disco that’s open to all but navigating your way through to it is like wading through mud and you’re sinking, sinking and sinking because in order to reach the end goal of the disco and (more importantly, the alcohol), you must first battle your way through hundreds of 2p and 10p slot machines. Expect to wave a sad goodbye to your July wage as the slots swallow up your pound coins. Your daughter, when standing next to the 2p change machine, won’t believe her eyes when 2ps come showering down into her plastic cup.
“Look mum! I’ve won!”
“No, love. No you haven’t,” You may be crying at this point as you pick out another pound coin from your purse.
Like jungle explorers, you will eventually manoeuvre yourselves safely around the various slot machines and into the bar. While it’s great that your moods remain unscathed at having successfully pacified your kids with pound coins and rides, your pockets will now be filled with ‘winning tickets’ as opposed to precious pennies. At least you’ll be able to get that beer (and hope that ‘winning tickets’ can be exchanged for cash) and sit and watch your children dance to the music that’s been just beyond your reach for the last hour.
As you open the doors, however, you hear the dreaded words: “Can we have the lights on? Eyes down and get ready for Bingo.”
4. The precious family time – what you want
Having spent an evening enjoying the odd slot machine and the kids’ disco, you’ll walk back to your caravan. Perhaps one child will be on your shoulders while the other one claims that you are the ‘best parents in the world’ for bringing them away on this little break. Once inside your caravan, your children will change into their pyjamas and take themselves off to bed as you cuddle up on the sofa and watch television with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
The precious family time – what you get
After missing your chance to purchase a Bingo ticket, you head back to your caravan. One child is clinging to your hip because they are over tired and the other is veering unsteadily on the path because perhaps the three slushies she downed may have contained a little too much food colouring and sugar.
“Hold my hand!” You’ll shout but it will fall on deaf ears as your five year old will already be off running to try to find the caravan that a grown man couldn’t find in daylight and with a map only three hours earlier.
Lo and behold, she will find it though and as you open the door and ask your children to change into their pyjamas, they will ask for more food and refuse to go to bed until a ‘tablet time’ deal is struck.
After ten minutes of ‘tablet time’ you will ‘playfully’ wrestle the tablets out of the little hands that have a surprisingly firm grip and you’ll lay with them because they are scared of monsters.
Unfortunately, because your children are warm, snuggly and give the best cuddles, you will invariably fall asleep and wake up cold three hours later. After a slight panic at the thought that you have no idea where your other half is, you’ll find him snoring on the sofa wrapped up in a sleeping bag he bought for a biking weekend last May.
The weather – what you want
Sun. And at some point over the weekend you will get this. However it will be at an inappropriate time like, for example, when you’re waiting for your friends to arrive.
The weather – what you get
On the day that you book the Pleasure Beach that’s when it will rain. Don’t be fooled by the morning sunshine peeking from behind the clouds. It is tricking you. It is giving you false hope. It is telling you not to layer up, not to take a coat and to leave the waterproofs behind. This is a mistake. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon you will be p*ss wet through but because British stoicism will always shine through (unlike the sunshine) you will continue in your quest to find pleasure at the Pleasure Beach.
You get to go on every single ride (even The Big One) without queueing for more than five minutes.
The theme park – what you get
A ride in a fairy taxi, which your son will hate. A ride in a hot air balloon, which your son will hate.
A slow, slow ride through the exciting, multi-lingual world of Dora the Explorer but all of this will be worth it just to see your partner and your daughter battle it out on SpongeBob Square Pants Splash Bash.
“You’ll get wet,” you will warn your child.
“I don’t care, Mummy.”
Famous last words.
You will spend your weekend in the caravan with your friends. Together, you will eat, drink, chat and be merry.
Friends – what you get
You will spend your weekend in the caravan with your friends…and their kids. Together, with your children, they will become a force to be reckoned with and the caravan will descend into a pit of chaos as beds are jumped on, poos are pooed, tantrums are thrown and food is dropped. But, despite this, you will eat, drink, chat and be merry.
And you wouldn’t want it any other way.
“The kids have loved it,” I said.
“Yeah, but it’s still sh*tting in a bucket isn’t it?”
Don’t worry. He loved our family break. Here’s my proof.