A member of the aristocracy, who prefers to remain anonymous, has been sharing her words of wisdom with our reporter Lesley Bown.
I was chatting to Bertie only the other day about this so-called ‘credit crunch.’ ‘Bertie,’ I said, ‘What about this so-called credit crunch?’ ‘Lunch?’ he said, ‘Jolly good idea old thing, ring the bell there’s a good girl.’ So, as usual, it was down to Yours Truly to come up with a solution.
And, as usual, I came up with a simply brilliant idea. I was under the dryer down at Maison Kevin and I found myself leafing through an old copy of a camping and caravanning magazine. It came to me in a flash – instead of popping across to Tuscany as per usual we would buy a caravan and save absolutely heaps of money. After all, once you have bought it you can use it again and again, just like a Rolls or a Bentley. Instantly I gave the order to cancel Country Life and join the Caravan and Motorhome Club.
A quick visit to a local dealer brought the alarming discovery that the Rolls has not got a tow bar (you’d think it would be standard equipment). And that was the end of the caravan idea. Still I am not one to give up at the first hurdle. Before you could say Featherstonehaugh Chomondley I had sold the Rolls back to the wretched man and replaced it with our very own motor camping van. Since the person at the garage assured me it was ‘pre-loved’, I naturally assumed that it already contained all the cons, mod or otherwise, that a person could desire.
It was the work of a moment to pop the dogs into the ‘garage’ (a large mysterious space at the back, quite big enough for a couple of Labradors) and with Bertie snoozing in the passenger seat we hit the open road. I must have some gypsy blood sloshing around in amongst all the blue stuff because honestly, I was as excited as a gal at her first Regimental Dinner. We had a map and a camping site guide. Freedom beckoned!
Alas, our first trip was a disaster over which I shall draw a discreet veil, although I had a very stern word with the garage man on our return. Pre-loved indeed.
I should have paid more attention to those pages of the magazine devoted to living on board and also to what I believe is called ‘customerizing’ one’s motor camping van. So I turned to the wisdom of the interwideweb and soon discovered the wonderful things that can be achieved with a little creative thought and a few basic DIY skills. However there were some omissions in the articles that I have to say I found quite startling and which left me with no option but to work out my own solutions – more brilliance required from Yours Truly! And thanks to me our vehicle is truly a palace on wheels and I feel it incumbent on me to share my knowledge with the world.
The first little tip is, however many berths you have in your ‘van it is simply foolish to allow the butler to use one of them. The thing to do is to send the man on ahead with a pup tent, which will be quite adequate for his needs. With judicious planning it should be possible for him to serve one’s breakfast at home and be on the camping site ready with lunch just as one arrives.
Next, there is no need to go to all the trouble and expense of procuring hothouse lilies, (although by all means, if the gardener is able to provide them, you may as well enjoy their scent). But a few blooms from the rose garden in a simple cut glass vase will provide an elegant focal point for your living area. I designed a shelf to fit in the gap between the washroom wall and the TV cupboard. In walnut veneer with a French polished surface it is every bit as elegant as the Sheraton sofa table in the drawing room in the Manor.
Making the shelf was perfectly simple – there is a little man in the village who does all that sort of thing for one, and of course his wife is quite capable of making the new velvet curtains with swags and pelmets to replace the rather mean window dressings supplied with the van. While she had the Singer out it took very little extra effort for her to add the finishing touches to the four poster that her husband had cleverly inserted into the space previously occupied by the very inadequate fixed bed.
Do not, of course, pack the best china. The Sèvres dinner service is hardly appropriate and you can ‘rough it’ perfectly well with the second best Royal Worcester. One little tip that is well worth remembering is that Grandma’s silver teapot is unbreakable and ideal for a camping ‘brew-up’, as I believe it’s called.
And finally do not waste part of your precious payload carrying logs, kindling and firelighters – they are heavy and try as you might you won’t find a fireplace anywhere in a motor caravan – something of an oversight that I intend to write to the manufacturers about. Poor Bertie has to stick his feet under the grill to achieve his favourite toasty warm sensation in his lower limbs.
I think you’ll find that if you follow my advice you’ll have a perfectly charming time in your motoring home van without spending a fortune, and still manage to live in the style to which we are all accustomed. However I do not recommend staying away from home for too long – after a week without fingerbowls even the strongest among us begins to quail!