I am really good at parallel parking but have to admit that I am only good when I have the right conditions. Bizarrely, I can manage it really well between two narrowly positioned cars yet when I have to park next to the curb, and I have acres of room, I fail miserably. The same is true when towing a trailer; given the reference points of a narrow gate opening and I am a show off at reversing; in an empty field I am faced with too much choice and I look like a buffoon. Of course at my age I have years of experience to call on (reversing that is – not looking like a buffoon).
When our daughters were younger we were kindly given a caravan so that we could upgrade from the usual canvas holidays to ones with a few more luxuries; and when I say luxuries I mean curtains that don’t meet in the middle and lights that hint at being good enough to illuminate your world.
All packed up we set off for Cornwall with ideas of hot weather and rolling seas in our minds. My only concession to my inexperience at towing was a pledge to not go down any road unless I was sure that there was an exit at the other end. Reversing a trailer, after all, is for farmers and show offs. There seems to be a rule for family holidays that it set to try all parents; whenever you need a toilet/garage/restaurant you cannot find one.
When the noise of hungry children was at its loudest, we decided to stop at the next café for some well earned nosh. We drove for miles trying to convince the children that it wouldn’t be long before we found a food outlet.
Nearing desperation we spied signs for a country pub offering an ‘all day menu’. It looked to be a decent pub on a decent road, complete with children’s play area.
As we headed off the main road I saw two signs that made me break out in a mild panic; the first was a declaration that we were entering a dead-end. The second was a sign indicating that the road was un-adopted with the implication that it would be uneven.
By the time all of this news had sunk in it was too late to do anything about it and we could see the welcome sign in the pub window. We were all so tired and hungry that I decided to park up and worry about getting out after we had eaten.
Once all the feeding and watering had been done we returned to our vehicle and mobile home ready for the rest of our journey. I look at the car, then look at the road, then looked at my wife and kids and decided to make them feel proud of me.
It was a nightmare; not just because I couldn’t get the car and trailer to face the right way but because the beer garden was full of people watching every turn of the steering wheel. Some looked sympathetic, some where laughing and I swear I heard one or two of them clapping.
I tried for about a month (that is to say ten minutes) to make it work but I just kept ending up in more and more trouble. It looked more like I was trying to fold the car and caravan in half than turn it round.
Eventually one of the lads in the pub came over to offer some help. He explained that he was a lorry driver and that he couldn’t watch anymore as it was too painful an experience. It took him seconds, and I mean seconds. I swear that he even used just one finger on the steering wheel in an attempt at adding to how ridiculous I looked.
My daughters cheered, my wife said an embarrassed ‘thank-you’, and I went with the driver to the pub to buy him a drink. I walked back to the car feeling like a young buffoon determined to never try reversing a caravan again.
Like I said; Reversing a trailer is for farmers, show offs and smug lorry drivers