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Sammy here. I have spent a week trying to get my adventures in order. I have to tell you it’s not easy. My driver said he used to have the same problem with his village-beating career as a cricket batsman; he reckoned he struggled to get his ducks in order. This, like a lofted cricket ball, went straight over my head.
Life isn’t all about adventures, if it were it would just be life and mundane. His C.C and B.W., which I now know stands for Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (funny name I think, but that’s what she calls herself when he needs sustenance on a journey) says life can be like parking up on a beach and watching the sea. Much of the time it’s flat-calm and a little boring, but occasionally when a tidal wave heads to land, you have to ‘fun like ruck’, (he always laughs when she says this so I know I am missing something).
They’re entitled to comment on the devastation a tsunami can cause, they saw it two years ago in Thailand where memorials to lost loved-ones sit high up on the cliffs, showing where that cruel wave had broken against the rocks and split asunder many families. I would have liked to have gone too but they went by aeroplane because they said it was too far for me at my age and I had a nice little rest while they were gone.
Anyway, today I am looking forward to a relatively minor adventure as we skirt Southampton; I would like to pick up my skirts and run but I plod along at 55mph on the inside lane with cars and lorries dashing by. I am rocked and buffeted by a Royal Mail pantechnicon but I don’t mind because it reminds me that I am still here and many of the caravans and campervans that left factories in 1984 have long ago perished in the tsunami of progress and modernity.
I am a simple chap, what for me is an adventure is run-of-the- mill for many, but when you read about the things I call an adventure, please judge them by what I, as a big lumbering campervan, can do. I will never drive a racing car, never fly in an open-cockpit aeroplane, never swim halfway across The Channel, let alone finish the second half. I will never go through the jungles of Africa or the Amazon, at least not without a chainsaw and stump puller (she laughed at this as well, but I don’t know why!).
I hate chainsaws...I always think that if men had to use hand saws and plain elbow grease, they’d think twice about cutting down trees. There again, I am now wondering where all the trees went, as we drive through the New Forest. He reckons they were all cut down to build Henry VIII’s warships and even a great galumph of a campervan that has never been to school knows that they didn’t have chainsaws in those days. I spend most of my time happily dumfounded listening to them. He says they didn’t have chainsaws back then although they had chain mail. She says they might have had chain mail but didn’t have chain letters or even stamps to go on them. Even I know they certainly didn't have those intimidating Royal Mail pantechnicons.
He was busy with my interior all last week, getting me all spick and span for this, our first expedition. I heard him on the phone telling somebody we were heading west for a ninety mile proving run and overnight stop. It’s early December...it makes no difference to me, I stand outside through all winds and weathers, it’s just a change of location. Have they ever stayed overnight in a campervan when it’s below freezing outside? Unless drastic measures are taken, it won't be much different inside...I just hope they don’t blame me.
Before we leave the trees behind, at least the thought of them and Henry’s men converting a forest into heath-land, he is talking about an adventure he once had involving a single tree, when he wished he’d had a chainsaw; well, he isn’t telling me but the CC&BW and I overhear everything, even when they whisper.
It was all a very long time ago apparently when he said his sap was rising (whatever that means) and he had parked up one evening with a hopeful bridal candidate only to find at the witching hour that his old car would not go into reverse. With the optimism of youth, he had headed off down a narrow track in the hope that it would lead back to a proper road.
Right in the middle of the bridleway, he said, stood a sapling; whether this had grown from the rising sap he’d left there on a previous occasion, I don’t know, but apparently this sap thing stood more erect and provocative than anything seen earlier on the bridal way. CC&BW is laughing again suggesting that, unable to go back, he went from the bridal way to the bridleway...she has a weird sense of humour.
Despite valiant efforts, the little tree would not yield to his attempts to uproot it and in desperation he tried to drive his car around with his right wheels climbing the bank to the side when disaster struck. The car slid down and the edge of the roof lodged itself against the wooden impediment. He trudged off to a farm where a farmer brought a tractor to tow the car free but not free; just before he did this he freed my driver of two weeks wages because he said that unlike him, he recognised a ‘sap’ when he saw one.
I hope my driver doesn’t have too much of a problem with rising sap each time he takes me out, I had enough encounters with trees with my last owners and as he should know, the tree always wins. Luckily, in case we should get stranded he went out to get a red gas bottle, so he’s not as stupid as he looks. My last owner and his wife stayed overnight in frosty conditions and the blue bottle with butane froze so I had no heating and they were reluctant to drag themselves from a painfully cold bed to my even colder interior.
So, I know what will be in store this cold winter evening as we park up on a Somerset hillside at the end of our first epic journey. Luckily, I heard him telling his son that he had managed to buy and bring a red propane bottle instead of butane. His son, who might be more stupid than he looks, asked if it makes any difference. Any difference? It is the difference between life and death, my driver told him...the gas bottle colour is also symbolic...a true reminder of the slogan, ‘Better Red than Dead’. Oh well, he understands something, but he is still in for a shock. I hope he’s got a big one, ’cos a small one won’t last...I’ve seen it all before. Halfway through the night with the gas fire at full stretch, a small one will give up and all heat will disappear and they won’t even manage a warm cup of tea, let alone a hot one in the morning.
It is 07.00, I am still alive but there’s hardly a sound inside. He must have a big one because I can still hear the gas fire hissing its pitiful production of heat that goes straight through me. It’s minus 3ᴼC outside and the frost-laden grass cracks as some mad dog walker trudges by and his dog helps to thaw the ice around my front tyre.
The Sap (my new name for him) is now out of bed making the Chief (my new name for her) a welcoming cup of tea. Shivering, he sits opposite my fire determined that if they do this again he would be coming up with ways to keep the heat inside me. I am all for that, it means I will still be alive and kicking, albeit gently in these modern times. The frozen, but waking world she photographed at 08.00 when she could lay in bed no longer as nature called, looks hardly modern. Now framed, it takes pride of place on my wall as a constant reminder of ‘Sammy’s first outing’.
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