Friday, 18 April 2014

The C Word: Caravans

Know your enemy
Each Easter, Satan sends caravanners to torment the people of Cornwall. Even on the shortest journey I meet lines of terrible white boxes, choking every bypass and lane west of the Tamar.

You’d think caravanners would squirm with embarrassment and guilt at the enormous traffic tailbacks they cause, humbly move aside to let normal road-users pass. But no: shamelessly, their wretched convoys torture us with snail-like progress.

To tow a caravan, training is not required. You just hitch up your little tin home and lurch off down the road, swaying like a cobra. Caravanners’ towing cars are often dreadful, unsuitably small or old, while the vans have bizarre brand-names: ‘Speedbird’, ‘Carefree’ and stretching things beyond breaking-point, ‘Popular’.

What sort of people are caravanners? Stony-faced old gits whose driving is best described as 'cautious'; they can’t read maps and sat-navs are modern rubbish, so everywhere they dither. Or else it’s poor families of sweaties, crushed into grimy derelict vehicles; if only the parents had tried harder at school, today they could afford a holiday ‘abroad’.

I'll just put the kettle on
Caravanners drive 500 miles from their conurbations to ‘the country’, and park in a turd-strewn field one foot from another caravan. They unload smart-price trashy garden furniture; little plastic fences are put out to mark their territories, like some incontinent mongrel dog. For two weeks caravanners eat from Tupperware containers, sleep on planks and play cards in the rain.  Full marks for resilience; no wonder they’re serene about causing road misery.

I don’t like Top Gear, a TV programme, but it has the right idea with caravans.  Every week, new ways are shown of ridiculing caravanners and destroying their ‘homes-on-wheels’. Normal people who all detest caravans can watch appreciatively as ‘emmet-bins’ are dropped from great heights onto concrete, or thrown in the sea.

Caravanning: it’s like a tow-along house, except it’s shit.  Come on caravanners, why not give it up and take a decent holiday? Give us all a break.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Cornwall In The First World War

Newlyn's seaplane base, 1918: a Short 184 floatplane under power

My new book, 'Cornwall In The First World War', was recently published by Truran. With 112 pages and 100 images, you'll find it in bookshops across the Duchy and on line at Waterstones with free UK post: 

The First World War affected every Cornish town and village; no-one stayed untouched. At the outbreak in August 1914 thousands joined the colours, while Cornwall soon became a vital part of Britain’s all-consuming war effort. Ships of the Royal Navy, aircraft, even airships arrived to defend the sea lanes off the coastline, in a brutal campaign against marauding German submarines. On the home front, for four gruelling years Cornish men and women worked tirelessly to support those fighting in distant battles overseas.

Today, although a century has passed there’s a strong connection with the First World War, through family histories and community heritage. We don't have to look too far back to find those who joined up, whether frock-coated, flat-capped or long-skirted. Conflict raged on a scale never seen before, and Cornwall would play a crucial role in the struggle.

The First World War's centenary represents a unique moment in history. As well as the military events, the book focuses on the people of that time; it's a glimpse of Cornish life a hundred years ago. I hope it will appeal to everyone interested in Cornwall's past. It's also available on Amazon:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Easter: Chocolate Heaven!

I have mixed views on Easter. On the one hand, I dislike any intrusion of religion into my daily life. I see the church – that’s to say, the Christian church in this country - as an idiosyncrasy in an ever more secular society. I'm not the only one.

The British Social Attitudes survey has been asking us about our religious views since 1983. The survey reveals that today, well over half of us aren't at all religious while Christian faiths are fast losing believers. Many British people who retain spiritual beliefs aren't Christians.

I visit churches for weddings and funerals, but really these are parties. When I fill in forms asking for personal religious details, I scrawl 'N/A' and move on. If the church is given airtime to 'speak out' on issues that don't concern it or about which it knows nothing, I shout at the television.

But at least we can all enjoy Britain's annual chocolate egg-fest. Maybe it's a hangover from childhood, but I have a great fondness for the old Easter egg. The satisfying snap as the first piece of shell is broken off; picking through the sweeties inside (to make this interesting, really they have to be different); wrapping the remaining shell in its foil, as we save a fragment for later.

So over the Easter break I'm looking forward to receiving loads of eggs, touch wood. Although if you like to believe it, touching wood didn't do much for Jesus.