‘But mouse you are not alone
in proving foresight may be vain
the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew
and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy’
When Scottish poet, Robbie Burns turns up a mouse’s nest while ploughing a field (He was a farmers son after all) he wrote a poem to the mouse and thus makes famous, the line ‘the best laid schemes’.
That was back in 1785.
And ever since then, men and women’s best laid schemes still go askew.
But sometimes they go smoothly too.
27th feb 2020 08:30
The day I arrived in Amsterdam, the corona virus was far from my mind, instead I mulled over whether to take full cover on my car rental or chance the basic.
I chose the full.
I wanted no hiccups!
And as I joined the busy traffic out of Schiphol Airport, my shoulders relaxed and I smiled to myself.
So far nothing had gone askew.
I hadn’t missed my flight. The plane hadn’t crashed. I had remembered my drivers licence. It hadn’t been rejected.
On the contrary, holding it reverently between two beautifully embellished shellac nails, the receptionist at the Hertz car hire desk, tapped in my details in that now recognizable manner of one who has such things attached to their fingers. without once wrinkling her nose in distaste.
As she handed it carefully back to me, I reminded myself that I really must get more sticky tape to hold the folded pink paper document together.
My drivers licence is a bit of a curiosity.
The first time I showed it in public was many years ago on a family holiday in Portugal.
‘I’m putting you down as a named driver’ My Portuguese Son in law announced as we stood outside the car hire office in Porto airport surrounded by our baggage.
‘You might need to escape from us every now and again’.
I rummaged in my bag for the above mentioned document and gingerly handed it over.
He looked in disbelief between the much-mended-with-tape-piece-of-paper that was mine and the shiny plastic card that was his before trudging into the office without complaint.
But now, as the flat fields spread out on either side of the four lane motorway, I concentrated on where I was going, obeying the giant road signs.
Amsterdam to my left, Amstelveen to my right, On and on I went and then the four lanes changed into two.
Oh the pleasure of driving in a well behaved country!
No one hogged the outer lane. Drivers indicated and pulled in and out smoothly.
No one came up fast behind me with full lights on because I was overtaking too slowly for their liking.
It was so stress free that I was disappointed to reach my first port of call.
Sighing, I pulled into a parking space outside the caravan showroom in Lichtenvoord.
This was the first of three such places I had chosen to view and hopefully purchase the caravan of my choice from.
And, as I had planned to drive to the next showroom further north the following morning before finally heading even further north again to the kip caravan showrooms in Hoogeveen, I had chosen an airbnb equidistant to all places.
But things moved faster than I had anticipated.
Now I am not one of those people who hum and haw or do research or look at every nook and cranny before making a decision. I pride myself in being a ‘spontaneous’ buyer. My eye needs to be caught, my heart jolted, I need to get that ‘that’s it’ feeling (not a very reliable method when about to hand over a few thousand euro I hear you exclaim) and though the caravans here in Litchenvoord were excellent, none of them did that for me.
Or maybe it was just an excuse to drive again. Whatever the reason, I was on the road within the hour.
27th feb 2020 13;00 hrs
The flat dutch countryside has its beauty.
Clusters of farms here and there on the wide panorama. The odd windmill.
Wooden free standing gates at intervals indicate entry into the dyke enclosed fields.
Church spires marking out villages.
Small bicycled figures on the horizon lean into the wind. Women going shopping no doubt or bunches of children heading home from school.
Despite being a small country, the feeling of space is ever present, and coming from a place whose mountains constantly block my view, the openness here was a welcomed novelty.
By now I had reached my second destination in Dedemsvaart.
I wandered around another pristine showroom.
A tiny eriba puck that would test small ‘liv-ers’ to the limit caught my eye and I was tempted.
The pretty shaped teardrop T@G also caught my attention.
I was busy taken notes when the owner appeared bringing in yet another van.
Slightly bigger than the puck, the Eriba Familia measures 4 meters 83 cm in length and is just 2 meters wide.
I stop my note taking and walk across to where he was unhitching the caravan.
‘Can I look inside?’
‘Its not cleaned yet, but sure, go ahead!
‘1996?’ I asked. I was beginning to be able to tell the age by the interior design.
‘1993’ he replied ‘It had its test in December ’19. I’ll have it ready later if you want to have a better look.
I checked the clock on the wall. I still had time to visit the kip caravan.
‘I’ll come back tomorrow I promised’
27th feb 2020 16:00
A trip to the kip showroom in Hoogeveen would change the mind of even the most reluctant caravanner.
I was so excited by it I forgot to take a photo so bear with me while I try to describe what I saw.
For a start all the caravans are laid out in ‘camping mode’.
They snuggle between false trees and mounds of sand.
Artful piles of cut logs are arranged in natural heaps and there is a camp fire in front of each ‘site’.
And to make it even more appealing, each caravan has an awning attached.
Not the flimsy lightweight type that crackles and snaps all night keeping you awake. But the heavy De waard canvas one. The strong and silent type.
With an hour to closing I scoot around, peeking inside and out.
As I have mentioned in my previous post, the kip shelter is the smallest of this brand of caravan and the lightest.
Its simple interior appeals to me. The wide door at the back, means I can easily wheel my bikes on board.
There are three types of kip shelters.
The basic and The plus. (There is also an off road with a higher axle)
And here is where it becomes complicated.
For me, the basic is too basic. It doesn’t even have a front window. I know I would feel claustrophobic in it.
The plus on the other hand, has many features!
A ‘lift in and out kitchen’ for example. (Unhitch the kitchen unit, lift it outside, reattach it to a rim at the back of the caravan and you can now cook al fresco. Wonderful if you are in the south of France or Spain or anywhere where it is sunny and windless, but I’m not sure of its practicality in the wild and windy and often rainy west of Ireland)
There are no curtains in this caravan. Instead handy pull up blinds help make the interior appear roomier. The small reading lights can be moved as needed along a tracking system fixed to the ceiling.
There are ample sockets and if I remember correctly a USB port
The Plus also has underfloor heating.
Now all this sounds tempting but I remind myself that staying on fully equipped caravan sites is not my plan.
I need advice.
I step into a dark blue ‘Plus’ edition and pull out my phone.
Inside the theme continues in a soft charcoal. A color that implies contemporary sophistication.
It feels clinical and clean but try as I might I can’t imagine feeling cozy in it.
I ring my daughters.
‘Austere is the word that comes to mind’ I tell them.
‘Would Nordic be a better description’? One daughter asks
‘Yes Nordic describes it’ I agree, feeling I have been unfair to the caravan.
‘Sounds minimilistic?’ suggests the other ‘which might be a good thing, all that sand dragged in and out, would be easy to keep clean. But how does it actually feel?’
‘Hmmmmm’ I reply ‘Its as light as a feather, I can easily push it myself’
‘Light as a feather doesn’t sound good to me’ There’s a pause ‘Like, will it blow over in a storm?’
That is a good question. Storms are very much part of our camping/caravaning experiences.
‘Maybe Go away and sleep on it’ My daughters advise.
So I do
Feb 27th 2020 20:00
My airbnb is perfect.
A shed (stuur) behind the old farm house has been converted into a self catering apartment complete with sitting room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.
I follow the owner around the path to its door.
It is dark and she has wellies on. I feel at home already.
‘I have to bring Nana the cow in to her stall’ She lifts up a wellied foot as way of explanation. ‘She is pregnant and prefers to stay out in the field but I’ll tempt her with something nice’
Nana moo’s a greeting in the dim light. I can just make out her round shape and huge horns before she plods obediently into the stable and the smell of fresh hay fills the air.
I fall into my comfortable bed exhausted.
That night I dream of falling asleep in a small caravan listening to the sound of the wild sea and the rain drumming on the roof. Its interior has dusky rose colored cushions and an old fashioned wooden interior.
Not for one minute, while I slumbered peacefully, did I imagine the nightmare that lay ahead.
Nana’s meadow with the neighbor’s house in the back ground