We arrived at the mobile home park and found the Pryce's mobile home. Do you know the feeling you get when you see something this size but find out it's only really this size? Well, that's how I felt after stepping into the Vogue. I'm sorry, I sound like an ungrateful cow but, well, you had to be there. I wish you were.
"Hello there, you must be Jeff Pryce's sister! We're Malcolm and Francis Greene and this is our son Archie and our daughter Caroline." I paused from lugging a suitcase up onto the (rather rickety) decking and found I was being spoken to by a woman wearing a bright red cotton dress, flanked on either side by a sullen child. "Erm, yes, well, I suppose I am, yes!" I muttered. David was just pulling into the car park and made the mistake of letting the three dogs out to come and find me. Having been separated from me for two hours they leapt upon me, yelping with excitement. Francis Greene looked horrifed as all three burst into the caravan (let's not continue with the pretence - it was not a mobile home as I thought it would be) and retreated to the safety of her own with her uncommunicative children. I didn't blame her.
It was....okay. Smaller than I imagined, especially when we were all inside together. Cosy, was the word David used. I was thinking more along the lines of "cramped". On questioning Mac while David popped to the shop, he said he liked it but wished it was "not at this place but at the place I like mummy". He meant Hastings and its environs. He perked up a bit when David suggested that he take Mac and the three dogs to explore while "mummy cooked dinner".
An hour later they were back - an hour in which I'd wrestled with lighting the oven, broken a nail on the drawer and managed to blunt the potato peeler on my King Edwards - to announce that the place is "brill" and "fab" and all three dogs had had lots of "wees and a poo each" in the Doggers Field. I must be spending far too much time with Marjorie because my head shot up at this point and I nearly brained myself on the extractor fan hood. "It's a field where all the dogs can do their stuff" David said, scrubbing his hands in the bathroom while Mac attempted to bring his duvet into the living area. All three dogs were piled up, one on top of each other, panting wildly on the five foot by five foot decking area. It was slightly worrying that I could hear David's own ablutions even with the door shut and the extractor fan on full. I made a mental note to spurn any romantic overtures that evening.
"I think this is ideal!" David said a few hours later as we watched the annual cheese-fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest while happy "holiday makers" schlepped their way up to the caravan park clubhouse which bore huge signs declaring "Come as your Favourite Country!" Francis and Malcom Greene had giggled their way up the path ten minutes earlier dressed as onion sellers. "It's a bit....compact" I ventured as I stood in the kitchen and was able to supervise Mac's teeth brushing from close quarters. From my position by the sink, I deduced that the Greene's caravan was three metres away. I could see into the master bedroom - it was an eye watering canary yellow.
As we lay in bed later than night (romantic overture successfully spurned) I was increasingly aware of the walls closing in on me and awoke, seemingly in a nightmare, when I heard a godawful screeching from outside. Heart pounding, I clutched David's arm under the duvet but then realised that it was a slightly worse for wear Francis returning from the clubhouse attempting to sing the Eurovision winning entry. It was a while before I could get back to sleep. Scenes from Tenko kept running through my mind.
Sunday morning dawned dully after a night of on/off rain. I cooked a usual Sunday breakfast in about a third of the space I'm used to and kept falling over dogs who were confused about where they were. Junior Dog didn't like the rain falling on the roof of the caravan and had spent the night three inches from my face while Senior and Middle took refuge in Mac's room. There was no air at all and the muggy atmosphere (not helped by the fact that not only were all the walls closing in on me but the other caravans were too) gave me a headache.
Charlie arrived and brought the sun with her and we all went into Folkestone for a wander. Charlie had her cockles while we attempted to keep track of all three dogs bowel movements. I fully understand the requirement for dog owners to pick up after their dogs (God knows I yearn for it when I see dogs doing their stuff and owners walking away as if it never happened - it's not a nice thing to do but, come on people, it's necessary!) but wasn't quite prepared for the sight of Dog Wardens who were patrolling the beach and beaming at people with obvious poo bags whilst commenting on passing pooches and their toilet habits. "Bet he goes more than once a day!" one such gentleman enquired of Charlie as she took Junior Dog (who is a pony sized labrador) down to the sea for a paddle with a Tescos carrier bag and a wodge of tissues - just in case.
We decided that there wasn't much to do in Folkestone and decided to return to the site. Charlie tried (and failed) to get enthusiastic about the place, even when David showed her how the shower worked in relation to the hot water boiler. Still, he managed to watch the football on Sky in the clubhouse - we went to find him towards the end of the game and were very nearly corralled into a game of bingo. "No thanks, I'm allergic to all that eyes down stuff!" Charlie said to the highly coiffed barmaid as we made a run for it. She took this as her sign to leave and advised me to "stick at it!".
Later that night, after Ultimate Force, we retired to bed. Mac and Senior Dog decided that they wanted to camp out in the living room while Junior Dog prepared to set up camp again on my pillow. Middle Dog was completely confused and sat whining by the door. "Do you know, I think this is the way forward for us. We'd need a slightly bigger one of course but.....what do you think darling?" David turned to me as I switched the light off. I toyed with giving him my unsanitised version: I hate it, I hate it, I hate the fact that I can be in every single room in this caravan without leaving my chair, I hate that I could hear you peeing while I drank my tea, I hate the fact that there's no bath and the shower is tiny, I hate the fact that every time I set foot outside I am beseiged by people asking me what I think to "caravanning" and I HATE the fact that the site's public address system keeps telling us what's happening - "It's ten to six folks, happy hour starts at six until ten!". But then I saw his hopeful smile in the half light and merely kissed the tip of his nose and snuggled down under the duvet.
The rain woke me at twenty to twelve, again at quarter past and kept me awake until the wind started wailing. During one particularly forceful gust the caravan actually lifted and I had visions of Mac's wish that we relocate to Hastings coming true. At 1pm Mac gave up and shuffled in - "Daddy I'm scared" - and had to be hoiked into bed. Middle Dog had already joined Junior Dog on my head. Senior Dog is a seasoned pro at this Night Terror thing. It took a particularly heavy downpour with additional wind to propel him onto the bed. And there we stayed, in various uncomfortable positions as the wind wailed around us and the rain sounded like someone was continuously emptying tin tacks onto the roof. My last look at the clock was at 4.25am and then I don't remember anything until David woke me up at eight to inform me that the site "is flooded".
Bank Holiday breakfast and cabin fever sets in. As does a stunningly brilliant idea. I'm almost grinning as I offer to take the dogs out to Doggers Field in the teeming rain and howling wind. David looks surprised at this but I'm playing the long game. I've got the easy job. Sure enough, Doggers Field is flooded and short-arsed Senior Dog is waist high in muddy water within seconds of arrival. He was practically swimming. After half an hour (I planned to wear them out for their part in my Cunning Plan) we returned and I stood outside on the decking as all three dogs headed inside for what is surely their right after a long, wet walk. Towels, warmth and hot milk.
They all leapt on David requesting all three at once in their demanding doggy way and, while Mac was screaming "Daddy, get their towels!" and David was shrieking like a girl as three wet hounds ran round like lunatics I stood outside and waved to Francis Greene who was boiling eggs about four metres away from me.
Half an hour later, dogs dried, caravan sluiced down and covert choc drops handed out, we sat down and stared at each other. The rain showed no sign in letting up, nor did the wind. "We could go for a bracing walk!" David said. "Noooooo daddy, I don't like wet" Mac whines right on cue, without prompting. The boy is a genius "Read a book darling." I said in a wifely tone of voice as I settled down in my surprisingly comfy chair with my own. Mac picked up a puzzle and wandered over to the dining table. It was ten o'clock and it took until quarter past eleven for David to crack. He'd been to the shop to get the local paper and read it. He'd mooched around the caravan, pacing up and down measuring how much extra space we'd need. "We can't just sit here, look, did you want to leave earlier than planned?" I almost choked on my chocolate lime. No I did not. For one reason, my Cunning Plan was in full swing and for another, Jack wasn't due to take Amelia home until 3pm as she had to be back by 6pm for a piano recital. I didn't want our arrival and her departure to clash in any way.
"No, it's nice just sitting here doing nothing, all together." I said soothingly. As if to back me up, Junior Dog inhaled sleepily from his position by the fire along with Senior and Middle Dog. If you wanted to go to the loo, make some tea, or do anything out of the living area you had to clamber over still damp dogs. And, to be honest, it was quite nice despite by sabotage plans. Mac was snoozing on the banquette and I was in the grip of that lovely heavy feeling you get when you're completely relaxed. I kept my eye on the ball though.
"You're right baby, it is lovely here" I said, flashing him a winning smile. "We're a bit all.....smooshed up thought aren't we?" he said thoughtfully. "I mean, I'm not being unkind but I could hear you applying your underarm deodorant earlier." He did, I made sure of that.
"Yes, well, I suppose......." I trailed off and peered out into the murky distance. Malcolm Greene was picking his nose in the next caravan. "I suppose that, if we had a house we'd be less smooshed up. I mean, you could be in the bath now, listening to the cricket and I'd be doing dinner while Mac was in his room..........the dogs could be sleeping comfortably in their baskets instead of in a heap on the floor in the way......."
"Hm, maybe you're right darling, we need to think about this some more I reckon. Don't you?"