My family has a caravan in Co Clare and we head off there whenever we get a chance. We are a nice Dublin herd migrating west in a hatchback: two teens, one husband, and a dog named Snowy â€” a fluffy white Bichon Frise.
The first agenda item is a stop for fuel in Enfield. By fuel I mean coffee â€” I get the petrol the day before. We leave the dog in the car and load up with steaming take-away cups.
When we return to the car, the younger teen expresses a worry. He thinks he might have left a bag with some pink bonbons on the back seat. It is now empty. Bonbons are those vile tooth-eating balls, covered in a pink sugary powder, with a rock-hard toffee centre. We inspect the dog. He looks innocent. We smell his breath. It does not smell of bonbon. The teen claims he might be mistaken and perhaps he ate the bonbons himself. Onwards.
The caravan is like an alternative parallel universe, with its own rules. For example, it suddenly becomes obvious that ironing is absurd. It has a gas hob, a wonky grill, and no oven, so cooking is pretty basic.
In the nearest town, we pick up grub to get us started. We get basic supplies: rashers, sausages, eggs, bread, orange juice and milk. The car is pretty stuffed, its hatchback door jammed down on bags of wetsuits, bodyboards, orthopedic pillows and chew toys. But the bag of groceries squeezes in. We are on the last leg of the journey.
Snowy, who travels on the floor of the back seat, on top of the younger teenâ€™s favourite pillow, starts whimpering. The road is narrow, but there is a lay-by, so we pull in. Too late, the dog vomits.
It is like someone has put the bonbons into a liquidiser as pink projectile puke issues forth, like that scene from The Exorcist. It gets all over the teenâ€™s favourite pillow, which is ruined. The car stinks of bonbon barf. I open the hatchback, get out a bin bag, and consign the pillow to it.
It could be worse. A pillow isnâ€™t much of a loss. We set off again. My car makes a funny electronic noise if a door isnâ€™t closed properly, but I manage to not hear it, and head off, the rear door open to the wind. The older teen spots this and that groceries have fallen out and are scattered along the road, retreating in the rear-view mirror.
A car comes around the corner, and neatly swerves the groceries. I cannot stop, however, as the road is narrow and it could be dangerous so I proceed about 80 yards to a house with a drive, close the rear door, turn the car and drive back. Four more cars have passed. I pull into the lay-by again, and scamper onto the road to gather the vittels. A car sees me and slows, and I summon all my dignity and wave.
Collecting scattered groceries from the middle of a country road in Clare is perfectly normal behaviour. Mister Hayes (not his real name) is cracking jokes about having roadkill for dinner.
The orange carton has a dent; the milk Tetra Pak has a rubber tyre scorchmark but is intact; sausages and rashers are still perfect in their vacuum packs. I open the egg carton. A half dozen cars have run over them, but they too are all perfect. We have bacon omelette for dinner, though it now feels a shame to break them.