The famous Caravan No.6
I had never seen Dad so excited. He had been talking about it for weeks, showing us old photos and telling stories, digging out random things from the backs of cupboards and exclaiming things like ‘just the ticket’ and ‘bit of spit and polish and that’ll come up nicely’.
And now the car was packed, the sun was shining and we were finally about to set off.
Mum sat in the passenger seat scrolling on her phone. I was wedged into the backseat among the suitcases and boardgames and walking boots. Dad was poring over an old AA map spread out on the bonnet of the car.
“Shall I just…?” said Mum, waving her phone, but Dad shook his head.
“No, we don’t need any of that rubbish, do we Soph? A good honest map will get the job done. Am I right?”
I giggled and nodded excitedly. Mum rolled her eyes and went back to the endless scroll.
But after the fifteenth wrong turn things were starting to wear a bit thin. The Monopoly was digging into my arm and I really needed a wee. Worse, the sky ahead was growing ominously dark and Mum’s battery was getting dangerously low.
Dad remained cheerful. “It’ll be brilliant. We can just walk down to the beach in the afternoons for a swim with the blow-up cheetah. Lots of lovely walks and fresh air. Beans on toast for tea and board games before bed, eh Soph?”
But the best I could summon this time was a half-hearted shrug. I wanted to go home. The blow-up cheetah’s deflated head stared balefully at me from under the suitcases. I saw Dad’s face tighten briefly in the rear view mirror.
When we eventually pulled into the caravan park the rain was coming down in sheets. Dad sprinted out to collect the keys from the old man at reception then hauled the car up the gravel path to the famous Caravan No. 6 - the place of magical boyhood adventures.
It stood, lopsidedly in its plot, ready for us. Rust streaked up its sides in orange-brown stains and greenish mould spread across the plastic windows.
Inside was even worse. It smelled damp and rain dripped onto the floor behind the plastic coated sofa. There were two tiny bedrooms, a shower cubicle streaked with mildew a fold down dining table and a risky looking electric kettle. Dad flipped a switch and a strip light stuttered into life.
Mum nearly cried when Dad offered to make a cup of tea.
“Hugh, we can’t stay here.”
“What do you mean?” cried Dad “Bit of damp, bit of weather - it’s all part of the adventure isn’t it?!”
It was no good.
“Sophie, come along. We’ll find somewhere on the seafront to stay. There’s bound to be some hovel somewhere that will be better than this.”
She held out a hand, impatient and imperious. Dad’s relentless grin had frozen into a sort of desperate grimace. The kettle began to bubble, steam curling from the spout, misting up the windows. Three cups stood to attention beside it.
The Monopoly waited expectantly on the fold-out table.
“Bit of weather is all part of the adventure, isn’t it Dad?” I said. “Shall we play Monopoly till the rain stops?”