Our colum­nist’s mus­ings about tour­ing

Practical Caravan - - Contents -

THE SAGA OF our car­a­van pur­chase con­tin­ues. If you re­mem­ber, last month we had a near miss with a sec­ond­hand car­a­van scam, which could have re­sulted in our hard-earned money sup­port­ing the GDP of some far-flung despotic regime. In­stead, we set­tled on the com­fort­able fa­mil­iar­ity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of Ray­mond James Car­a­vans near Coven­try, who, last time I wrote, were in the process of pre­par­ing us a rather lovely Eld­dis Avanté, which had passed the rig­or­ous suit­abil­ity re­quire­ments of the en­tire fam­ily. Who would have thought that guinea pigs would ex­hibit such a keen sense of in­te­rior de­sign and dogs could dic­tate the num­ber of axles from a sta­bil­ity per­spec­tive? But ev­ery­one chipped in, and our new six-berth was now un­der­go­ing the spit, pol­ish and el­bow grease of a thor­ough ser­vic­ing and valet­ing, prior to our col­lec­tion. Then came the tele­phone call. “There’s a bit of a prob­lem with part of the roof,” said the lovely Bill. “It hasn’t passed our rig­or­ous test­ing cri­te­ria and so it’s in the work­shop be­ing stripped back. “We un­der­stand if you want to go for an­other car­a­van in­stead, but it will be rec­ti­fied to bet­ter-than-new stan­dards.” And herein lies an­other cau­tion­ary tale, and an ad­di­tional rea­son why buy­ing a sec­ond­hand car­a­van from a rep­utable dealer is really worth any ex­tra you might pay over a pri­vate sale. Not only had Bill’s team dis­cov­ered some­thing that I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have no­ticed, they were also do­ing an ab­so­lutely ster­ling job of sort­ing it out. On top of that, they were pro­vid­ing a two-year guar­an­tee on the car­a­van. Even so, I thought I’d like to see the prob­lem they’d un­earthed. I was film­ing nearby, so de­cided to pop in to their work­shop. Kevin (who used to build car­a­vans for Avon­dale) was sit­ting in the mid­dle of what I can only de­scribe as the real-life equiv­a­lent of one of those Dor­ling Kin­der­s­ley en­gi­neer­ing-pop-up­cross-sec­tion-3d con­struc­tion man­u­als. Bits of roofing panel, in­ter­nal mould­ings, wiring, up­hol­stery, cab­i­nets, floor­ing, sec­tions of metal and var­i­ous pieces of pipe had ap­par­ently ex­ploded out from where the in­side of a car­a­van used to be. “You have to take it right back to ba­sics,” said a sur­pris­ingly un­fazed Kevin. “But she’ll go back as good as new,” he smiled. It turned out that a small bit of failed sealant around the chim­ney had led to a drib­ble of water, which over time, had seeped into the fab­ric of the van. Now I’m used to see­ing houses in a fairly di­shev­elled and raw con­stituents kind of con­di­tion, but faced with this gi­gan­tic jig­saw puz­zle, even my imag­i­na­tion was rather stretched. “But will you be able to re­build it OK?” I asked, a bit ner­vously. Kevin gave me a friendly but know­ing look. “She’ll be fine,” he said. Sure enough, less than two weeks later, we col­lected our shiny new-to-us car­a­van. And un­less Bill and the team had done a se­cret switch with an­other model from the fore­court, the pris­tine in­te­rior gave no hint of its re­cent trans­for­ma­tion. The staff at Ray­mond James could not have been more help­ful or friendly, and this felt like an­other fine ex­am­ple of one of the great joys of be­ing in­volved in the world of car­a­van­ning. The peo­ple who do it, and clearly also the peo­ple who make their busi­ness out of sup­port­ing the peo­ple who do it, are a gen­uinely lovely bunch. I’m go­ing to sug­gest to my lo­cal MP, who just hap­pens to be Ja­cob Rees-mogg, that they let us car­a­van­ners take over the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions from this point on. With an in­trin­sic lack of an­i­mos­ity and sen­si­ble, prac­ti­cal heads, surely we can solve even this great co­nun­drum!

Guinea pigs and other pets should have a say in the choice of a fam­ily car­a­van

Visit Martin’s web­site www.mar­t­in­roberts.co.uk for in­for­ma­tion about him, his books and his prop­erty train­ing week­ends, and fol­low his ad­ven­tures on Twit­ter @Tv­mart­in­roberts

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