Sunday, October 9, 2011


Europa 1976 Vintage Classic, holiday villa, or ...

This story reminded me of my own long-drawn out slow police chase on the motorway as I was going to Cornwall a few years back.

I was moving to Bodmin where I planned to live if I enjoyed the job I'd got at Newquay. If my family liked the area, we'd eventually sell our house and settle over there for good. Until then It seemed a good idea and financially the most practical to live in the caravan on Bodmin Moor.

It was my pride and joy. I enjoyed every minute of the eight months I lived in it - even over the worst winter Cornwall had experienced in a decade when I was up to my knees in snow.

The caravan fell into our lap after a school gate conversation me and my other half had with a schoolmum we knew well. We'd chatted about how we had stayed in a friend's modern caravan on holiday and what a good time we'd had. The mum told us that she had a caravan but it almost tore her relationship apart. She hated it. Her husband loved it but recognised that every time they took it away they tore verbal chunks from each other in heated rows about it and came home feeling as miserable as sin. After their last holiday in it, they dumped it on a farm and ignored it.

Next day, as promised, the mum gave us the keys. The caravan came home all green and mouldy but when cleaned it gleamed and I fell in love. I polished it regularly, taking care to ensure the chrome bits around the windows sparkled, I made new furnishings for it, and my other half fixed a few things that didn't work inside it.

He always hated it. My descriptions of it alternated between "my holiday villa" and "A 1976 vintage classic." He had only one phrase to describe it : "A F****** piece of junk."

He intended just to clean it up and use it for one summer but 10 years later it was still taking us on holidays by the sea because I just couldn't let it go. When the chance to work in Cornwall came up it seemed the ideal solution to a temporary accommodation problem.

One of the main reasons my other half hated the caravan so much was because he had to tow it. If we ever argued it was always because of the stress of the journey - like the time the tyre blew out on the M25 as the hard shoulder ran out.

And so it was that he had to tow my treasure to Cornwall as I followed in my car. I don't like driving much and I hate motorways. This was at night so I stuck close.

Caravans don't travel well at over 50mph and it's best to keep them slower than that. Needless to say on a 70mph road, I was doing something like 35mph in my little Ford Fiesta as I followed. I became aware of flashing blue lights at the side of me as I drove. As much as I wanted to pull over, I couldn't. My other half hadn't spotted this going on behind the caravan.

Everytime I looked to my right, I saw a police officer pointing to the hard shoulder. I couldn't stop unless my other did because I was scared he'd drive on, I'd lose him and not know the way from there. He had the map. We've never had a SatNav.

I looked away awkwardly at first and then back and away again, and then pointed to the caravan hoping the officer would understand why I couldn't stop, that he'd have to pull my other half over if he wanted to talk to me. He looked a bit confused but at the moment as I looked away again the caravan began to indicate to the left, pulled into a lay-by and I pulled up behind it thereafter followed by the police.

The reason for the stop was because I was driving to close to the caravan, they said, which perhaps I was not wanting a lorry to get between me and my view of it. The police were very nice about it. They made me watch a video of myself driving too close to the caravan. They wanted to know where I was going. I told them about the new job as a senior reporter. They wished me well and let me off with a warning to keep a good braking distance apart.

I don't know how long they followed me on this slow chase before we all came to a stop but it was some time. I guess they knew that I wasn't going to outrun them or make a dash to cross the border to the next county so they patiently waited until it ended as it did.

I really enjoyed that halcyon few months working in Newquay and living on Bodmin Moor. I saw stars dance on the sea on a brilliant hot day on Fistral Beach. I counted the decades of different plant species in the historical hedgerows as I walked the lanes. I saw some of the best sun-sets I will probably ever experience in my life. I trod through snow deeper than I've been in before. And in work and life I met some of the nicest people I've known.

The planned move didn't work out, incidentally, but that's another story - and I have plenty of those to tell about this caravan which I was persuaded to sell after my kids all grew up and we found less and less reasons to move it from the space it occupied on the drive.