There’s something (a lot of people feel is) quite attractive, even romantic at times, about living in a caravan which probably stems from images and stories of New Age travellers, Romany Gypsies and others who either choose, or inherit, one of those alternative lifestyles. For people who are stuck in a ‘normal’ life working five days a week and with a mortgage and bills to pay it can almost be seen as utopia. We didn’t exactly have the ‘no bills’ bit but we did have that alternative Bohemian lifestyle for a few months and though it had its ups and downs they were very special days.
(Carol on Main Street with the children. Accessing the shops was now easier from the caravan).
I think to a certain degree we felt some of those lovely sentiments; it was a very close and cosy lifestyle which is exactly what we needed at that time (after our separation); there was also (naturally) less housework to do (than in a bigger living space) leaving far more time for leisure and recreation. My morning walks to work at HMS Rooke in the sunshine are still very much ingrained in my positive memory bank as is the relaxed laid back culture which allowed Carol to call in at my office in Rooke on her way back from the NAAFI with a tasty snack for me. Carol, too, found popping up to Main Street was far less arduous and more often a nice experience.
In parallel with the good bits though there were downsides which (in the main) Carol had to cope with. One was a lack of space for clothes, prams, toys, uniforms and a million other things. With four people in a small space she had to think twice before (for example) getting an ironing board out. Precision planning became essential and this was particularly highlighted at bath time; the caravan site had communal bathrooms and so people had to sort of book slots to use the facilities.
On the subject of the communal bathrooms there was actually two, each equipped with a bath, a sink and a toilet. Often, once the children had been bathed, I would have them in the caravan while Carol popped over to the bathrooms to have her own bath.
On one particular evening Carol was late going over to the bathrooms (we’d obviously been out somewhere) and it was quite dark. Entering one of the bathrooms she turned on the light to find there was no plug in the bath and so went next door to get the plug out of the other bathroom. When she went into the second bathroom and pulled the light cord she found the light wasn’t working as the bulb had blown. Knowingly roughly where the bath was and at which end the plug would be Carol made her way into the room and stuck her hand in the bath to fish out the plug…
Thirty yards away (in the caravan with with the children) all I heard was a blood curdling scream. I shot over to the bathrooms to find Carol the darkened bathroom frozen in fear. Realising the light bulb had blown I ran and got the bulb from the bathroom next door and turned on the light. There then followed….another blood curdling scream.
(When I went looking for where the Naval caravan site used to be on Queensway I found a bus terminal. 2016)
When Carol put her hand in the bath (in the dark) to fish out the plug, what she had done was stick her hand into a six inch deep colony of cockroaches (affectionately known as Bombay Runners – but please don’t ask me to explain why they are called that). It appeared the bath is where they slept, mated or did whatever when the lights were low.
I’m not someone who would go out of my way to share my space with these creatures but having spent a long time in the Far East I was sort of used to them being around. Carol on the other hand was pathologically terrified of them and between this incident and the last (on her first night in Gibraltar in the lobby of Trafalgar House) the experiences were life changing.
(Virtually opposite where the caravan site was is now the beautiful Commonwealth Park).
It took me a long time to move her psyche from ‘I want to go home to UK NOW!!!’ to ‘I’ll stay but you better check everywhere they might be before I go in or you’re dead’. Somehow I managed to achieve the latter because our stay in Gibraltar didn’t end for some considerable time. (And I’m not dead 🙂 )