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A Caravanners Tale


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A long story this, but it touches on several aspects of caravanning, and you can always stop reading it if you get bored. So here goes.

Kath and I had managed, with some difficulty, to successfully install our caravan on a lovely campsite on the Côte d’Azur. I say with some difficulty, because the Caravan Club book had warned us that some pitches were ‘difficult to access by large outfits’.

Now I’m not one to boast, but I cannot deny that I do have a large outfit, even though my wife would no doubt disagree. And we’d had a tiring journey. I’d spent six hours negotiating French roads with an outfit with a total length of forty feet and a total weight of three tons, and poor Kath had had to keep turning the pages of her book. So we were both pretty shattered as we negotiated the sharp turns of the campsite. But we’d succeeded, the caravan was nicely in place, we’d had a celebratory bottle of wine, and retired for the night.

We awoke late the next morning to find that during the night we’d somehow been surrounded by Germans in huge motor-homes. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t object to one or two Germans on a campsite – we’ve always found them a friendly and happy people whose only fault is to have bigger and better vans, and cars, than us.

 

But as the days passed we did begin to tire of hearing nothing but the German language around us. They would jabber away at each other in harsh, guttural tones, using impossibly long words and putting them in the wrong order (in German, the verb always goes at the end of the sentence. Got it? The verb always at the end of the sentence goes). So Helmut would say to Hans: “Guten morgen Hans, wo ist sein ausgebruchtesbannen?” (where is your ausgethingy?) To which Hans would reply: “Ach mein Gott, donner und blitzen, ich habe meine ausgebruchtesbannen forgessen, Helmut. ” (I have my ausgethingy forgotten), adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses and running his hands through his crew-cut. The two would then have a good laugh, drink a litre or two of beer, and wander off chortling to admire each others’ Mercedes.

 

Meanwhile, their wives, who all seemed to be called Gertie or Frieda, would busy themselves cleaning their already spotless motor-homes and tidying their already immaculate awnings. Then they would wash all their clothes and hang them out to dry, beat their carpets and their chests and hang their duvets out of the windows to air. They might then do a quick oil-change on the motor-home, or at least adjust the tappets, before cooking huge panfuls of bratwurst and sauerkraut ready for their husbands’ return.

 

Between all this, they would always somehow find time to lay out their beach towels round the pool (the pool was actually closed for the winter, but one day, probably in late March, it would open again, and they clearly didn’t want anyone else beating them to the best spots).

 

And they were so serious, and so efficient. Kath was outside our van one morning, checking that the awning guy-lines were still parallel, and counting the gravel, as she does, and she watched a group of the German herren clustered round one of their tumble dryers (yes, they bring everything!), prodding it and muttering things like “Mein Gott, der flingenbritzen gebrokken ist”.

 

I sauntered up and peered over their shoulders and said knowingly:Vorsprung durch technik, I do believe”, but they weren’t at all amused. Instead they talked at me in rapid pigeon English. One of them asked me if I a tumble dryer had, and if so whether I had the instruction sheet for it brought, and if so would I them it lend? Honestly, have you anything so daft heard?

 

The other trouble with German is that because it’s such a harsh and guttural language, everything sounds so angry and threatening. Even if they are saying ”I love you” (and they weren’t) they have to say “Ich” (which involves spitting and making a sound like clearing some phlegm from the back of your throat), then ”liebe”, and then “dich” – pronounced ‘dick’. No doubt they think this is very romantic, but I would find it a bit off-putting if a German lady was to tell me she loved dick. And more-so if it was a German man saying it!

 

In the same vein, even if they are saying something inoffensive like “The sun today shining is, and all well with the world is”, by the time they mess it around and get their staccato consonants going it comes out sounding like an ultimatum to get off the campsite before they blitzkrieg you and eat your feet.

 

We were starting to think of building a tunnel, when as it happened Barbara, a friend from England happened to turn up at the site, and Kath decided this would be a good excuse for us to change pitches just to be near her. So we quickly packed everything away, and began to manoeuvre my large outfit (!) to a new pitch beside Barbara.

As always, our tactics were that I would drive the car and Kath would stand outside and warn me if I was about to hit anything. Because I have been known to. And these tactics worked, for a time, with Kath flailing her arms about as if she were a batman directing a jumbo jet, and supporting her gestures with shouted commands such as “Left a bit”, “Right hand down” and “Not so fast you moron.”

 

But then she vanished and everything went quiet. It turns out that she had seen Barbara at the washing-up sinks and rushed over to greet her. But of course I wasn’t to know that; for all I knew she could have gone to the toilet, or been abducted, or left me for a non-moron. I sat for a couple of minutes, then decided to risk the last few yards without assistance.

 

But as soon as I moved forward, there was an awful crunching sound, a bit like a bayonet going into a bag of nails. I looked round hopefully to see if anyone had by chance stuck a bayonet into a bag of nails, but saw instead that the side of the van had been pierced by the branch of an orange tree. The six-inch diameter branch vanished into the innards of the poor caravan, which was thereby firmly and immovably pinioned to the tree.

As ever in these situations, everyone came rushing out of their caravans and motor-homes, as if they’d been sitting there since October waiting for this very thing to happen. Kath returned, alarmed, and we began to exchange pleasantries, and inevitably it started to rain.

I took instant command of the situation. I looked inside the caravan, and there, sure enough, was a foot and a half of six-inch diameter orange tree branch emerging from one of the overhead lockers, and a pretty little orange lying innocently on the seat. I knew instantly that the van hadn’t looked like this when we bought it, and that something

was therefore terribly wrong. So I emerged grimly from the van, and began, without a moment’s hesitation, to panic. And keen. And screw my eyes tight shut and clench my fists. And rock backwards and forwards. And say things.

The crowd weren’t terribly helpful, it must be said. One chap asked where we’d come from, as if that mattered. And a lady told me her husband had once nearly hit a sapling in the Lake District, which made me feel much better. But cometh the moment, cometh the man. And on this occasion, the man was – have you guessed it? – a German!

He introduced himself and his wife (because the Germans are always super-polite to show that they are still humble despite being the master race) as Willie and Gertie. Fortunately for him, Willie in German is pronounced Villy. And Villy, as I shall henceforth spell him, then despatched Gertie back to their enormous wohnwagon (literally, ‘livingwagon’) to fetch his saw (yes – saw!) and his axe (yes AXE!) I mean, who on earth carries an axe in his motor-home?

Imagine it: “Gertie, my sveet, haff you remembered ze Axenthingen in ze LiffingVaggon to put?” (In case you haven’t noticed, all nouns in German have to have a capital letter. How daft is that? No wonder they lost the You Know What. I ask you, how do they keep a straight face when talking to each other, when first of all they have to remember to put their verbs at the very end of their sentences, and then they have to combine words in the most unlikely pairings to produce stupid amalgams such as livingwagon, and as if that wasn’t enough they have to be careful to pronounce ‘w’ as a’v’, ‘v’ as ‘f’, and ‘j’ as ‘y’. The result is that from time to time they’ll come out with things like “Helga my sveet, haf you my Yar of Faseline and my Lederhosen mit ze monogrammed Initials in ze Carawan to put remembered?”

Anyway, back to the story. Gertie duly brought a full-size saw and a fearsome looking axe, and together they managed, after about half an hour, to cut off the branch and release my caravan. Which now has air conditioning.

Of course I thanked Villy profusely and even started to say something about how the Germans all had first-class tools, but Kath gave me one of her looks and I rapidly changed the subject. Instead, Villy and I had a glass of Yamesons and to our separate beds went (it grows on you, this verb business). But not before dear Villy had insisted on telling us a “funny Yoke to make us better feel”. He could hardly tell it for laughing, and beside him Gertie was almost having convulsions. Apparently “zer voss zis Bawarian who got out off his Bett one Morgen and put his Shoes ON ZE WRONG FOOTS!” Whereupon Villy his Thighs with Merriment slapped and insisted that we him to his Livingwagon accompanied to some Sausages and Beer enjoy. Villy and his wife were wonderfully solicitous and helpful, and I managed not to mention the You Know What, so we had a lovely evening toasting each others’ countries while our caravan gradually filled with rain.

The next morning, not surprisingly, we decided to leave in search of a caravan repairer or car bodyshop, and dear Villy was there to wish us a “guten Fahrt”.

I was happy to oblige him.

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Well that was way better than watching the rubbish on the telly! :D a thoroughly enjoyable read and well done! Must have taken you ages! Hubby was wondering what I was chuckling at :D hope you get your poor van repaired and you're still speaking to your good lady ;) loved it! :)

 

And did you mention the war while beating your van with the orange tree? :ph34r:

Edited by mayblossom
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You obviously have an amazing sense of humour and had me laughing out loud.

 

Well that is until the branch attacking caravan bit

 

Is the caravan repaired now ?

 

Bob

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Well that was the best read ever. Laid here @ the side of a swimming on Sanibel island FL rolling with laughter people and the wife thinking I'm having a fit absolute PMSL.

 

ENCORE

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Thoroughly enjoyed your tale. You are the new John Cleese or Billy Conolly. I wouldn't wish another catastrophe on you but perhaps you can report on something else from your holiday?

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Well! That does bring back memories of one holiday in France of pitching on a site in France one year, going for a meal and on return finding the van completely surrounded by Dutch vans! One so close we couldn't open the door, I kid you not!,

 

Thankyou for giving me something to laugh at this morning, Linda must have thought I had finally gone mad, judging by some of the looks she was giving me as I rolled around the floor in tears. :D :D

 

Dave

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Thanks for giving us a good laugh however sad to read about the damage to the caravan. Use some duct tape to do a quick fix.

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I'd agree - and perhaps the Caravan Club should offer you a job as Humour Correspondent for their monthly magazine. Your story is so much better than most of the magazine content!

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Laughter is the best medicine. I feel great. I have tears rolling down my cheeks, a real laugh out loud moment.

p. s. sorry to hear about your 'van . ...........

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sorry about your van but a brilliant story, hope you get your van repaired ok.

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Just read this to my wife (who is German by birth and speaks fluent German) and she was laughing more than me :D And I sympathise with the Germans as I have tried for more than 50 years to speak the language and still only class my self as a beginner :unsure:.

 

Lovely story look forward to the next one. ;)

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Wonderful humour. I have tears running down my face, you must have been on our site here in Spain! We have made great friends with some of the Germans here.

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  • 5 months later...

Well played ! At last someone who is able to communicate the real joy of caravanning, and your grasp of the German language most awesome is . ..........you don't happen to speak fluent Klingon do you, we could spend many happy hours in conversation.

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