Dear Caravaners

They cause the most horrendous traffic jams. Their owners have the most appalling taste. And now we find out they're death traps, too

Or should I say dangerous road hogs from hell? Of course I should. And now I can get the West Country police to accompany me on backing vocals. They've just spent two terrifying, but to me utterly predictable, weekends spot-checking your big, clunky, ugly vehicles (suburbia on wheels, but pathetically given to get-up-and-gung-ho names like the Marauder, Cyclone, Sprinter and the - ha, ha, ha - Jet Stream) as they did their usual sadistically slow summer thing of allowing traffic to build up behind them.

Surprise, surprise, they found a 90 per cent failure rate on even the most basic safety standards - faulty tyres, bad brakes, worse suspension and, oh, my favourite, that hardy perennial, incorrect loading, in some cases by as much as five times the manufacturers' recommendation. So now we know why most caravans sway all over the place like Marilyn Monroe's butt: too much behind. As a shocked police spokesman said: "People think they can just hook up a caravan and drive away."

If only. Most caravans don't drive. Of the 600,000 in this country, only a quarter ever budge; most simply sit, freshly waxed with nowhere to go in someone's driveway, a bad taste home-away-from-home ("the caravan is fully furnished with flame-resistant velour settees that pull out to form bed-bases for four at night ... there are co-ordinated pelmets and lined velvet curtains, roller blinds over the door and kitchen windows to ensure privacy - plus fitted carpets!") that isn't away from home at all.

And if they should by some mistake actually move (Dad's on Prozac or Mummy's decided her next nervous breakdown is going to have some nice scenery) it defeats the object that isn't there in the first place, because what's the point of bringing your home on holiday? Home is what we have vacations to get away from, and if you must have all the cheesy comforts and twee touches, God has gone to the bother of inventing the B&B, so you might consider using it.

Sane types don't tote the damn thing with them, and certainly not to a muddy field in the middle of nowhere to rest among other caravans; go mild in the country (and remember to flush the chemical toilet). This might make some sense in America, land of open spaces, mighty vistas and freeway shootings, but playing King of the Road all the way to Texas isn't the same as a week (not) roughing it in Dungeness, is it?

But then I'm talking about fun, adventure, spontaneity, and you are caravan owners. True, I've only ever seen a few (well, me and the rest of the world are always in the jam, way, way behind you) but what a grim lot you are in your glace-white and two-tone green lower bodies with pine- green coachlines and matching towbars, her with her tight perm, him with his tight ass and the 2.3 kids looking as if they'd just got the news that Michael Jackson was coming to visit. But I guess that's what you'd expect from the sad sort who decide they can take it with them, and never mind the danger - aesthetic and, now we know, physical - that they represent to the rest of us.

JOHN LYTTLE

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