Don’t forget the holiday budgie smugglers

For some, packing for a holiday is all part of the fun, for others, like me, it is more of an annoying pre-requisite of leaving the house for my holiday.

Yes, I know it is the start of my holiday so I should be enthusiastic, but looking at that empty suitcase and trying to work out how many tee-shirts and pairs of socks to take on a 2 week stay just does not fill me with merriment.

I think the issue is that it boils down to decision making. That in itself is not the problem, but its knowing that the consequences of any wrong decisions could spoil your holiday. After all, a miscalculation on the weather front could leave you wearing shorts in a typhoon or a polar neck in heatwave… both ways you look an idiot and not in a best frame of mind.

This year we have the added complication of going to France. Now, I love France but they do get themselves in to a tiz over the silliest things, which brings me to this years dilemma…. do I have to pack some budgie smugglers?

Yep, you have got to love the French when it comes to swimming pool etiquette. For them the modest swimming shorts and board shorts are viewed as some sort of pariah, carrier of potential legionnaires disease, and as such never to be allowed in a swimming pool for health reasons.

Or that’s the reason I am led to believe. Really.

I am not sure how great this threat really is, particularly as I haven’t seen thousands of surfers washed up on the beach each year with their board shorts squeezing the life out of them. However, the rules are the rules and if that is what they insist on then I will just to get on with it even if I look like an idiot – after all there are very people that look good in speedos and that certainly includes me and all aging French men.

But then, the indecision kicks in because although that is the rule, how often is it actually enforced? Do I really need them or should I do as most foreigners do, ignore the rule, the signs and the lifeguard? And, what example does that set to the children about obeying rules – if I ignore that one how can I tell them off for running around the pool?

Oh, I hate decisions… maybe I should count my tee-shirts again.

PLEASE NOTE: In the end, I packed the budgie smugglers and shorts, always the best decision if heading to France.

Oh no, whose moving in next door! Ideal camping neighbours?

An empty camping pitch next door to you is always a source of worry. While it would be nice to think that it will remain empty and provide you with a private sunbathing area or badminton court, deep down you know there is a risk it could be filled by your worst nightmare.

This year at the La Garangeoire (Vendee, France) the pitch next door is empty and we are waiting to see what our new neighbours are going to be like. Could it be potential new life long friends or a visit to the noisy side we so want to avoid.

Call us caravan snobs but hearing the distant rumble of a camper van we are filled with a certain amount of dread. There is something about these van, tent, caravan hybrids that makes me think we are moving towards the noisy neighbours. You know the sort, aging hippies that are embracing the great outdoors… which always seems to mean sitting outside until the early hours talking loudly.

Which all got me to thinking, who are the ideal people to pitch next to you if it’s not to be empty or to be your friends (although I am not sure that in some cases I want friends there either)?

• Clearly you want people that are quiet, although as long as they are quiet at bed time, that would do for me
• People that are chatty when you want someone to pass the time of day with. But then not so chatty that you need to hide in your tent or caravan to avoid being talked at
• Someone with a lower spec caravan or tent than you. After all you don’t want to have tent or caravan envy all holiday
• Campers who understand boundaries, of all kinds
• Ideally a family with similar aged children to yourselves, the children are impeccably well behaved and become lifelong friends with your children, and the parents feel the need to keep all the children entertained on your behalf.

Ok, the last one may be stretching things slightly, but then it was a list of the perfect people next door. I am not sure whether anyone can really meet my exacting needs of ideal camping neighbours, after all I can’t move in next to myself, but let’s hope the   family surprise me and meet some of my requirements!

So who would be in your list of people to have next door?

What would I give for a pair of pliers

I need some pliers, badly. No, it’s not for some sort of children control/torture device or basic dentistry to remove a tooth… we need pliers to fix our car to caravan electrics.

So here we are, all packed up and ready to move to another campsite which is about a 4 hour drive away on the western coast of France and suddenly when we use the car indicators the caravan does nothing, not a blink, no noise, nada, nowt – that really can’t be good or legal come to that.

Ok, it’s at this point I should probably say that may be it wasn’t that sudden or that much of a surprise. A few days earlier our car radio stopped working – now that really was unexpected – we got back in the car and turned it on and nothing; no power; not even a flicker.

No worries, we thought, bound to be a fuse just need to work out which one and replace it with the spares we brought. Now a VW Touran has fuses under the steering wheel but sadly no indication of what they all do so this would be a good time to have the log book, but who brings that on holiday? Not us, and so instead we were reduced to pulling out every fuse and checking them for damage… but they are all fine.

But while checking the fuses another unexplained black wire has popped out of the fuse area. The good news is it doesn’t seem to impact the car starting but wires are not supposed to be hanging around are they? Oh well, I just jam it in to a vacant fuse hole and all is well.

With some directions from the campsite we find a French VW dealer that confirms that the car radio is fried and it’s going to be ‘very expensive’. Mmmm, think that can wait until we get home then, so we pop into the Intermarche and buy some speakers for the ipod to make sure we don’t spend the best part of 1,000 miles of our caravan holiday listening to a whistling roof box and a creaking Alko.

So here we are now… awning packed, everything tidied away into the caravan, the caravan hooked up to the car and we are just doing a quick light test before leaving, except there are no lights on the caravan.

Ok, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that the little black wire must have something to do with it all. Off comes the fuse cover again and a closer inspection reveals that the wire is unattached again. A simple fix, just a quick squeeze of the clip with the pliers and we are all set… if only our camping set actually included a pair of pliers.

We have screwdrivers, spanners, socket set, hammers, electric tape, spare bulbs and fuses, mallets, but no pliers. We are resourceful so we try with a pair of scissors but no joy; we try the friendly people in the tent next door, no joy there either.

Finally we manage to borrow a prized pair of pliers from the campsite owners and all looks good, we are finally going to leave, and then those words you never really want to hear, “does that tyre look a bit flat?”

But that’s another story.

Learning points:

• Put a pair of pliers in the caravan
• Take the car’s manual on holiday
• If something goes wrong don’t pull black wires

A bump in the night…was that thunder, a gunshot, are we under attack

It’s late, very dark and we are all contentedly snuggled up in bed when there is a very loud crashing noise.  You know what it’s like when you are woken up suddenly, rational thought is a little way behind, so the initial panic sets in… a gunshot, who is attacking us, has a late night driver mistaken our pitch for the drive, are we in a thunderstorm, have the kids fallen out of bed….

Eventually, after a quick caravan headcount and no re-occurrences of the noise, sanity starts to return and a vague memory of pitching close to a tree comes to mind.  Now, if I had better observation skills I may have looked to see what sort of tree it was when pitching but in my defence it was raining and so it seemed far more important to get the caravan pitched quickly rather than checking out our location.

The morning light revealed that we have actually pitched under a huge oak tree.  Although we initially considered the possibility of a psychotic squirrel throwing his nut store at our caravan, the evidence of the huge number of acorns scattered across the pitch suggested that maybe it was just the natural fall for this late summer.

We had thought earlier would be great for providing some important shade from the summer sun. And, of course, it will provide some great shade but there are other considerations about pitching under trees, here’s what we learnt the hard way!

  • Trees inevitably mean birds and birds make mess.  Were we being persecuted by a wood pigeon or did he just have tummy issues?  Either way, if you pitch under a tree be prepared for the bird poop and keep that sun roof closed.
  • Check out the type of tree and time of year.  Oak trees mean acorns and when they fall from a great height they will wake even the heaviest sleeper.  At our next site we were offered a pitch under an apple tree where it was clear that it was falling season… heaven knows how much damage they would do landing on your roof but we decided not to find out.
  • Trees do provide shade – which can be good or bad depending on the weather – but they also extend a rainstorm by hours.  While the rain can have passed over head the tree can dripping rain on you for a long time so if you are a light sleeper be warned.

So we have learnt our lesson, pay more attention to where we are pitching the caravan next time including looking UP!

Have you had any camping pitch nightmares with trees?  Why not tell us about them?

Welcome to The Happy Camper

We love camping!

Whether we are in a tent, caravan or motorhome we like nothing more than exploring the UK and Europe via the fantastic campsites this continent has to offer.  On these pages we celebrate all the fun of camping from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the cool to the decidely quirky and, of couse, we welcome your input to.

So read and enjoy.  Get involved via our Camping Chat.

August 2016
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