Two weeks is a long time in the life of a Didsbury Son and one week is a long time in a caravan on the Welsh Riviera enjoying the wide range of rain driven weather patterns. Welsh Weather, that echo of chirruping sparrow and screeching sun that can change quicker than a transformer into leaden skied Hippos tap dancing on the roof of your caravan.
Our first afternoon here was idyllic. A beautiful hot spring day spent walking up beaches in shorts listening to lapping seas and well-fed seagulls. Didsbury Son and I stripped down to dig a joyfully pointless hole with seats in. The therapeutic value increasing inversely proportionate to its beautiful pointlessness. How we laughed as we created a jacuzzi. How we didn’t reckon on it actually being a usable jacuzzi so quickly. The perfect British seaside scene. Father and son digging, laughing and casting aside worries, Didsbury Wife in North Face coat close-by.
The sound of rain on a caravan roof can be mesmerising; then funny, then persistent, then overwhelming, then a precursor to a nightmare about water boarding. Still, it allows you to get to know the site, the caravan walls and the stock of Londis very well.
Caravan sites are microcosms of the worlds that they represent. There is a specific pecking order, etiquette and expectation. One magic moment was seeing Didsbury Son walk into a crowded Gents toilet block and shouting “Daddy!” From behind 10 stalls and through shaving foam and shower head a dozen weary voices, thinking they found a few minutes solace dutifully answered.
I have also had to up my blokeiness quotient to cope with other caravanning men who genuinely seem to know when to use a Phillips Head Screwdriver or the difference between live and earth (I am on a journey of discovery). Ask them about the difference between Spanish and Greek Extra Virgin Oil, nothing.
As a group of us manfully washed up in arctic conditions, pretending this was a good part of the deal I prayed the conversation stayed on sport and away from anything to do with cars apart from traffic. My honest view that DIY stood for “Done It? You’re Kidding” went down like… Anything except for water in a caravan sink. It is possible to sweat in freezing conditions whilst washing baked beans off a plastic plate. I am more Naked Chef than Ray Mears.
A quick guide to caravan etiquette:
1. There are two clearly marked taps – drinking water and chemical waste. They are not cheeky camping cocktails and pretending to empty the chemical toilet in the wrong one isn’t seen as a big jape.
2. There is symmetry between the boys here. They seem dressed, haircutted and taught to speak at Berghaus and White Stuff on the same day. They hunt in packs trying to look vaguely threatening in a way that only privately educated well dressed boys can. It’s not so much the crips and bloods and the crisps and Bloody Mary’s. The scooter tribe (John Lewis, not Vespa) and the bike possee skirt around each other warily like a pack of wolves. Instead of looking for prey they need their tummies tickled. Our tribe is the slouch and snack tribe worshipping the great God Freeview.
3. Being vaguely media and very MediaCityUK has no value.
4. The people you think don’t really exist when you spend your time in a city are real. Somewhere in the world there is someone dressing in a pink pinstriped shirt and blue pullover every five minutes.
5. Bumping into someone only when emptying a chemical toilet or going to a plumbed one severely limits small talk.
If Didsbury had a beach I would have no reason to leave. The ease of an M&S Simply Food and the Fletcher Moss on your doorstep should not be taken for granted. A week and weekends staring at the horizon across The Irish Sea, whilst wearing a coat has tremendously therapeutic benefits and we always hit that wonderful “Welcome to Greater Manchester” sign on the M56 rejuvenated by traditional Welsh fresh air, crisps and Peroni; ready to face branded coffee and aggressive begging with a new vigour.
The Lleyn Peninsula already holds many special memories and places for us. It is hard to beat the combination of mountains, coastline, cheese, and a good percentage of Cheshire’s 4x4s. For the roulette weather, there is the patient and friendly population (with the exception of the Londis in Abersoch).
This is where Didsbury Son built his first sandcastles, gave his first recital and caught his first, and hopefully only crab.
Our 2×2 occasionally gets a little bullied, but my off-road is parking in a field. When someone looked at my coat and asked me if I was a sailor I thought it was a chat-up line, but I am learning.
Didsbury Wife once told me that every child (from the North West) should have a chance to build a sandcastle on a Welsh beach and now I have found three venues close by with SkySports I heartily agree.