… Eve when all through the house the mouse may not have been stirring but we most certainly were. Actually, forget mice, we were more akin to overgrown squirrels stashing a bumper supply of nuts. Instead of nuts, however, we happily gathered food, bedding, presents and heating devices amongst other things.
Three days before the Big Day I had booked a Christmas caravan break. No tree trimming and turkey stuffing for us this year; in fact we had made a conscious effort not to be tied down by tradition and society’s expectations this Christmas. 2012 had not been kind to the Regans and our one wish which could easily be granted was to spend Christmas doing the one thing that never fails to make us feel cosseted and content; time in our beloved folding caravan Cleo.
Early on Christmas Eve a kipping Cleo reluctantly awoke from her slumbers to make the short journey to Henlow Bridge Lakes. We were considered crazy for spending Christmas in a caravan but we do have some common sense. We were staying close to home; primarily so we could pop back to feed the cats but also because we knew we could easily bail out in the event of flooding or heating failure. We also chose a site with a reasonable mobile signal so we could exchange seasons’ greetings with family and friends and track Santa with NORAD.
We arrived at 1100 having been told that the site shut at midday and would reopen on 27 December. We were supplied with emergency contact numbers along with keys which would allow us freedom of movement whilst the site’s staff enjoyed their Christmas break. We were delighted to discover that Cleo would enjoy the company of four or five other caravans.
Our delight quickly turned to disappointment when we noticed only one or two discreet decorations. The phrase “camp as Christmas” was designed for us and we felt it was our duty to provide sufficient light to guide Rudolph and friends in to land later that night. Cleo was soon bedecked with lights both inside and out. How we laughed when one of our neighbours quickly drove off only to return with a string of lights which were soon slung over his ‘van’s front window. His mains powered lights may have burnt brighter and longer but ours were powered for free by Mother Nature.
Santa had thoughtfully provided slippers for the reindeer to wear when delivering to caravans. This considerate act meant we slept undisturbed until 0830. We opened our stockings whilst tucked up in bed before starting the day with croissants and Bucks Fizz. We opened our remaining presents in a leisurely manner whilst listening to Christmas music. A wonderful day was about to be transformed beyond belief. One of our gifts was a Camp De Lite portable fire log burner. It was truly magical to be wrapped up outdoors on Christmas Day enjoying the mesmerising flames of a real fire.
As the fire died down we retreated to Cleo. A halogen heater did a superb job of maintaining the temperature at 20-24 degrees during the day. A fan heater on low maintained a comfortable sleeping temperature.
Christmas Dinner consisted of cheese fondue followed by a chocolate and salted caramel pudding with custard. This truly was stress-free cooking, especially in a caravan without an oven.
The remainder of our break was spent enjoying quality time together, talking, remembering, making happy memories and relaxing. We were dismayed to see one of the fishing lakes had flooded but were excited to see that geese and ducks had taken up residence in this beautiful environment. So beautiful in fact that we were reluctant to leave. A text from a friend apologetically cancelling a dinner date granted us our wish; we could stay an extra night. How liberating it felt to ask on departure day if we could stay an additional night.
This was a truly stress-free happy Christmas. In breaking with tradition I think we may well have started a new one. See you on a caravan site next Christmas?
30 December 2012
Photographs by Allison Regan and Amanda Regan