Holidaying in the caravan of love




Is it true that summers were better long ago? From the perspective of a certain age, it certainly seems so. Some of my earliest and sunniest memories of travel are from the 1970s. Against an aesthetic backdrop of long hair and faded bell-bottomed jeans (provided by my older brother), our family would decamp for a fortnight to the west Clare coast.

My parents possessed a fairly long caravan. We used to get a thrill just from sleeping in it while it was stationary at the back of the house. It was brilliant: bunk beds, a convertible table and mandatory torch usage.

The only slight disappointment was that the shower/toilet was never used, except as a broom cupboard.

When it was attached to the car and taken west to far-away Lahinch (a good four-and-a-half-hour journey from west Waterford back then), there were space-adventure levels of unbridled exhilaration.

My parents packed, double-checked and fussed, while we sat in the back seat, bouncing up and down with excitement. And once we were
moving, we looked behind every few seconds to check that the caravan was still behind us.

We would arrive at the caravan site in the evening (it was only the first 10 miles or so, and the final mile, of the journey that were unbearably exciting) and set to work on getting the caravan organised. I was always mightily impressed at the unerring knowledge my father seemed to possess as to how to park the caravan, heave it into place and let down the legs at each corner, remembering to use those little squares of plywood so that the caravan wouldn’t sink into the mucky ground.

There was one toilet/wash block, constructed from un-plastered breeze blocks featuring occasional patches of white paint. Huge black plastic cylinders that had once been some sort of flotation devices, with the tops roughly cut off them, served as dustbins. They were placed strategically around the campsite and lettering was unevenly painted on in white letters.

“Food for the pig,” it said. We never got to see the pig itself, but campers were enthusiastic in their donations.

My father made us laugh a lot over that one, as he painted a comical descriptive picture of the campsite pig crunching his way nonchalantly through the food leftovers, plastic pint bottles, empty jam-jars and beer cans.

We did have other holidays after that, but none of them quite measured up in my memory of fun-filled, sunny holiday pleasure. Even though I remember there being occasional wet weather during our stays in Clare, I don’t remember it getting in the way of much. The funny thing is, though, that according to my mother, it was never sunny during those visits to Lahinch.

Instead, she spoke of making her way across the soggy site to the wash block wearing Flip Flops with the rain running between her toes. But she and my father loved it. And so did we.

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