Day 1: The Cat

Ready (not ready)

The day has finally arrived. Too soon. We’re not ready. But we’re going anyway.

It’s only 8 weeks travelling together in a caravan through the south of Ireland, Spain, France and Portugal. Hardly Everest, but big enough to take some planning.

Nor is it the epic I’d originally envisaged – a year on the road with home- schooling. But it’s a start.

It’s a compromise between my crazy dreams and Anne-Marie’s pragmatism I guess. But a step in the right direction.

I’d no intention to blog about it. Part of the idea is to switch off from the world. But a number of people suggested it so I’ll write when I can and publish less frequently.

We’ve decided to rent our house out while away – an added stress that’s taken more attention than planning the trip itself. It’s like moving house again. We discard stuff we don’t need and pack away the remaining clutter we’ve gathered with three children. Stressful but, in the end, as I suspected it would be, a physically and mentally cleansing exercise. I’d recommend it to anyone. As we declutter we realise what’s important and feel a sense of simplicity and ease as each room transforms into a nicer space. I’m all for minimalism – in design and life in general.

It takes half a day to wrap up the final clean and pack so it’s late afternoon by the time we leave to pick up the caravan. Three minutes after we leave the storage place with the caravan hitched, Bertha is struggling (we named the car we brought back from Australia in 2016, and love her more since). Even in low gear, she’s finding it hard to lug the caravan. We think it’s just weight loading so we pull into the nearest garage and move a few items from caravan to car. But we smell burning when we try to move again. The caravan is like a stubborn mule refusing to move. Strangely we can reverse but not move forward. We are stuck. And, we realise now, clueless. Maybe our first night will be Portraine. Frantic calls to our caravan dealer fail to resolve the issue. He’s from Northern Ireland but may as well be speaking a foreign language as he throws out theories as to what is wrong.

No. Clue. We’ve had TWO previous trips in this caravan. What did we expect? A few locals try to help us but still no luck. Fortunately, we’re not in France yet, just Meath.


There happens to be a local handyman with a workshop next to the garage. One of the locals says he fancies himself as a mechanic. Which is a highly qualified expert compared to me so we ask him to help. He’s under the caravan quickly barking orders at me. I duly oblige.The kids help themselves to whatever they like in the shop. Yes is the answer to pretty much all children’s questions in times of stress.

One hour later and it’s done. I give “the best mechanic I’ve ever met” more than the going rate I’d imagine, judging by his reaction. His level of delight still may not match my level of relief. We’re not going home with our tail between our legs yet!

“We’re on the road again!” sings out as we head toward Dungarvan. Motoring along, enjoying the slowly lowering sun of the Irish summer cast its magic glow across the landscape. A kitten ambles onto the motorway to our left and I swerve (as much as I can with a caravan) to avoid it.

Close, but it survives. The first of its nine lives. Just like us. Though I suspect we might need more on this trip.

We are clueless. But we are together. A lot of people think we’re mad doing this. I think we’re mad not to. Maybe I’d be more hesitant on my own. But being clueless with someone else is fun. It adds to the sense of adventure. And when the proverbial hits the fan as it did today, it’s good to know you’re in it together.

Day 1. Holiday stories already lining up. Hopefully this blog continues to write itself.

All’s well that ends well

(Dedicated to AC, you know who you are!)

2 thoughts on “Day 1: The Cat

  1. Emily Lane Reply

    Love this James – love your writing, your attitude and sense of adventure. What a family – go team Parnell! PS Did you set the captcha to be a multiplication test?!! >< :-)))

  2. Pingback: Week 1: Moments – James Parnell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Complete the CAPTCHA *