It was raining hard as I prepared to leave Bolton that afternoon, and the miserable weather certainly didn't help my mood. This was the start of a long weekend away in my caravan, and the very first one on my own - to say that I felt more than a little apprehensive was an understatement, I was also nervous and very worried. How would I cope with all the technicalities - connecting the gas, electricity and battery, and putting up the awning? What would I do if things went wrong? You see, up to a month before I had always had a man around to take care of the technical side of camping and caravanning but he was no longer with me - the weekend had been booked long before he disappeared over the horizon and I hadn't wanted to cancel it, but by that morning I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right decision to go on my own. But I had to see it through, as other people had gone to a lot of trouble for me - at that time I couldn't even drive, so a lovely couple (Jim and Margaret) from a camping/caravanning forum on the internet had offered to tow my caravan for me and I didn't want to let them down. So giving myself a mental shake I put the dogs on their leads and went to wait by the garden gate for my driver and helper to arrive. I didn't have to wait long, and once my possessions and the dogs had been loaded into their car we set off to collect my caravan from the storage site, which was on the way to where I was going.
The journey was about 32 miles, and the further away from Bolton we got the less it was raining, and by the time we arrived at Bridge House Marina caravan site near Garstang it was fine and the sun was starting to shine. After checking in at reception Jim reversed my caravan onto my allocated pitch and Margaret showed me how to wind the corner steadies down. Unfortunately they couldn't stay long as they were meeting some friends, so once I had transferred my possessions and the dogs from their car into the caravan they left, with the promise to come back for me the following Tuesday - and that was that, I was completely on my own.
The first thing to do was put up the awning, but as it's the same length, width and height as the caravan and I'm less than 5ft tall I knew I wouldn't be able to do it on my own so I had to look round for help - and it just so happened that the guy in the caravan on the next pitch looked to be the ideal person as he was over 6ft tall, so not one for being shy I put on my nicest smile and went over to ask. He was quite happy to help, and between us it didn't take too long to get the awning up and the poles tensioned correctly, but pegging it all down was entirely up to me. And up to then I had never realised just how many pegging points there are on a full awning - it took me ages, and it didn't help that I was pitched on a hardstanding, though fortunately I did have plenty of rock pegs to do the job. By the time I'd finished I had a raging thirst and the dogs were wanting to go out, so I collected a can of Coke from my bag and took them for a walk round the site before I continued setting up camp.
The next job was connecting the electricity and the gas, both of which were actually easier than I had first thought. The hardest part of that was getting the tall heavy gas bottle out from the front of the caravan, but my weight training sessions in the gym stood me in good stead for that one - and once I'd figured out that the regulator screwed on anti-clockwise and not the usual way things were soon up and running. Next was the leisure battery - I had previously asked someone 'in the know' which way to connect it up but I wasn't sure if I remembered correctly. Which connector went to which terminal? What would happen if I got it wrong? There was only one way to find out - connect it up, and if I blew myself, the caravan and the dogs into the middle of next week then I knew it was wrong! So I tentatively made the connections and waited for the bang - which didn't happen. Not quite believing that I could actually be right I went into the caravan and pressed a light switch - and bingo! the whole kitchen area was illuminated, so obviously I'd got it right. Then came the tv aerial, which was relatively easy to set up - three slot-together poles with the aerial itself screwed to a bracket on the top one. Clamped onto the caravan drawbar it's much taller than anyone else's aerial and practically guaranteed to give a good picture. And finally the waste water container under the back of the caravan. Then it was time to sort things out inside - groundsheet down first, curtains put up at the awning windows, then set out my table, moon chair and the dogs' beds. By the time I'd done all that I was feeling quite hungry so I made myself a brew and a sandwich - it had gone dark by then, so after my brew I fed the dogs and took them for a final walk round the site before settling them onto their beds for the night. And when I got into my own bed I realised something - since arriving at the site I'd been so busy setting everything up that I'd lost all my earlier feelings of apprehension and nervousness and I'd managed things very well. So it looked like I was going to be okay after all!
- Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it