During my childhood and teenage years, I went on more than my fair share of caravan holidays.
There was a time in the mid-90s when I probably could have named every Haven holiday park in the country. And believe me there were a lot of them.
We had the Tiger Club mixtape (that was a thing. Sylvester the Snake’s song was a particular favourite) and the orange baseball caps adorned with Rory the Tiger’s face. We entered all the talent shows and spent every night in the clubhouse watching the cabaret-unless it was a comedian, in which case we would be swiftly whisked off home. My parents rarely approved of the visiting comedians, who were mostly described in the brochure as “blue,” which was usually interpreted by my parents to be a codeword for sexist and racist.
Not that we would have known whether or not that supposition was true, since we were never allowed to watch them.
My memories of caravan parks are of days out and moaning about the weather, which never seemed to be as good as when our friends went on holiday and apparently saw nothing but blue skies. Of peculiarly British and rainy attractions with names like Babbacombe Model Village; of cagoules and cameras which yielded blurry square shaped photographs. Of listening to the Tiger Club mixtape long after we returned home, and memorising the lyrics to all the songs. Of cheap plastic toys loved and lost in the brick-strewn abyss beneath the caravan.
And so it was that this year, with the advent of a new member of the family now apparently old enough to appreciate the delights of caravan holidays, we have again found ourselves in the clubhouse at 8pm of an evening, this time chasing an overexcited Piglet repeatedly around a flower bed as he tries to keep up with the older children present, and their antics.
Yes, this year I spent my actual birthday in the clubhouse of a caravan park; a venue that, far from the exotic seaside glamour of years gone by, now consisted of a large shed packed with arcade games and serving up a diet of burnt oven chips, burgers and bingo to the sort of crowd usually seen on the front page of magazines with headlines like “HE CUT ME UP WITH A KNIFE AND FORK!”
So what happened? Did I get older, wiser and snobbier, or was it the holiday parks that got old, and a little bit faded?
The truth, as it dawned on me as I trudged wearily back to the caravan, vowing to go to Center Parcs next year, was probably far more simple. It was never about the holiday parks at all. To a child, any holiday is good. As long as you’re at least twenty miles from home, there’s a swimming pool and the promise of ice cream every day, it doesn’t matter if the arcade games are a rip off and the bucket and spade splits the moment it leaves the shop. No one even cares if it rains every day for the next forty days as though the land was stricken by some biblical weather curse. WE ARE ON HOLIDAY, and to a child, that is everything.
From my own experience, I am a woman who as a child owned a bright yellow T-shirt with the slogan “Golden Rail Holidays” and the old British Rail logo on it, and wore it but once a year, on the 125 to Dawlish Warren, which to me was the epitome of excitement. The same train we caught this year. I wish I still had that T-shirt, and if the truth be told I still get a bit excited when getting on a train, all these years and countless trains later.
And although I can’t speak for Piglet’s experience first hand-he has yet to say anything other than “ball” and a narrow range of animal noises-I think it’s fair to say that he was pretty happy with the local attractions, particularly of the locomotive variety.
We may not have been in the most upmarket resort; one or two of the local “attractions” were looking a little bit past their best and the food may have left us feeling more of an affinity than we might have wished for with the scurvy-ridden sailors of the eighteenth century Navy, but what’s a holiday for if not to see the face of a toddler light up with delight at the sight of a life-size plastic Iggle Piggle in his boat?
Would I go on another caravan holiday? Yes I would, but maybe not next year. We’ve got other adventures to have. I hear they don’t do bingo at Center Parcs……
If you think my blog is in any way, shape or form vaguely decent, please consider voting for me in the Best Writer or Comic Writer category in the Mumsnet Blog Awards. Well, a girl’s got to ask.