I have to admit that I tend to agree with Jeremy Clarkson on caravans. OK. Hands up. I confess. I agree with Jeremy Clarkson on practically everything, but especially caravans.
Partly this is sheer selfishness, born of the rage and frustration engendered by sitting for half-an-hour behind a convoy of cars and a caravan, at thirty-five miles an hour, while I drive around the East Midlands region on single-carriageway roads with no realistic overtaking opportunities. But the frustration takes on added piquancy when I reflect on the sheer pointlessness of it all.
First of all, caravans are not cheap. You pay to buy one, then you pay the interest on the loan (or suffer the opportunity cost of not doing something better with your money, like putting it in your pension fund). Then you pay to store the caravan, in money if you’re on someone else’s site, or in visual amenity (to both you and your neighbours) if it’s on your front drive. You pay to insure it and maintain it and to equip it, and for all I know you pay to tax it and MOT it too.
Then you tow it. Even if you can ignore the rage of the drivers behind you, you are still stuck with a long, low-speed, tedious journey. There’s more wear-and-tear on your car with a van, and of course your fuel consumption rockets when towing.
Arriving at your chosen camp-site, you pay again for the privilege of parking up in the corner of a damp field, and perhaps extra for connecting water and electricity. And after all that, you still have to do your own cooking and washing up and general house work. Not much of a holiday.
Why on earth don’t they just book into a nice rural B&B? They’d have just as much flexibility, a great journey down, a comfortable bed, a hot farmhouse breakfast – and no chores! They’d have rather more protection from the weather. And someone else would make the bed! I suspect that unless you use the caravan constantly, the B&B option would be no more expensive, and perhaps cheaper.
So what are the arguments in favour? I remember a former colleague long ago in Colchester telling me that he and his wife loved to take the caravan to France, because they could stock it with so much tinned Spam and baked beans that they could avoid all that funny French food. But for me, funny French food is one of the main attractions, so I’m afraid his comment simply confirmed my worst suspicions about caravanners.
But I guess there’s one unanswerable benefit of owning a caravan. When Mother-in-Law comes to stay, you can put her in her own self-contained apartment on the front drive, where she can do her own washing up and stay out of your hair.