Thursday 28 July 2022

All you need is a butter knife - introducing the debut novel - gripping thriller by Rachel *available for screenplay rights* Radiostar

All you need is a butter knife.


Setting the scene -  Names have been changed to protect identities. I am me, there's Helga who's Aunt owns the caravan and Jemima who drove us there and here and there and back again. Helga had suggested a cheap and cheerful two nights away stay in the Western bit of Cumbria - Silloth. She had warned us repeatedly in the run up, that Jemima and I should have really low expectations of the caravan, and then when we visualised those expectations, lower them a bit more. The hard sell it wasn't! We didn't need inviting twice. We were all up for a giggle. Bearing in mind the last time we had stayed together was literally two nights before in what is supposed to be a posh Lakes hotel - more on that, next post. This was our third stay away with each other - the hen do of the wedding, the wedding and now this.  

Chapter 1 
Setting off

We had unpacked from the wedding and repacked for our first ever girls on holiday together. The group text messages since were mostly us saying how we were not packed yet. Helga had told us we would need warm clothes to sleep in and some bedding - bottom sheets too,. I asked the important question about bathing facilities. Helga replied...
Def fanny wipes. If you want to brave the shower then bring a bath sheet. Will be a Krypton Factor mission to figure the boiler out. She went on...
Lol am I selling the 5* Luxury caravanning? Low expectations needed. That way you will be blown away by the facilities.”
Then she put 3 laughing emojjis. 

I packed a single quilt ( after the HG questioned if I would fit in the sleeping bag ????!!!!! ) and flannelette sheet, some warm clothes, some food and drink and some beauty products for a pamper night. We had done this at the hen do and it was such a good laugh. 
So the budget break itinery was; eat, sight see, eat, enjoy each other's company on a two night sleepover.  
We'd decided to take a packed lunch for an in car picnic or eat in the van. There is a co op or a Spar in Silloth that we could go yellow sticker hunting in. There was an added option for chips ont prom. An ice cream at Allonby ( it's famous for it ) and then a trip to one of the nearby bigger towns. We all brought various bits of booze and food. Jemima had just started SW again. I was F8/SW. Helga is dairy and wheat free and is also on a Low FODMAP diet. All specialities just about covered! Helga and I used to always have salad and chips when we used to eat out as she was wheat/dairy and I couldn't eat eggs before I had my gallbladder out! Thank god for chips being all diets catered for! We brought a couple of games too to play. I also brought what I now know to be an endangered could have sold it for ££££££ bottle of Almond Baileys that I had in for ages. You can't get it for love nor money these days. I’d had it in a couple of years after buying it for one of Mr 24’s vegetarian girlfriends he had, however, the evil witch that she turned out to be* split up with him before the Christmas I was going to gift it to her. Us three chums are absolutely fine and pride ourselves n our ability and willingness to consume out of date items. So all was well. 

Jemima picked me up first. She has a smallish hatchback type of car. She’d gone for the double duvet and we squished my stuff in. We went to get Helga. She’d gone for the double duvet too. In it squished along with her big bags of food and supplies. We set off, excitedly laughing and talking none stop. We just got on the motorway and as we drove past the first service station, Helga received a phone call from her hubby, Augustus. She’d left her suitcase!!!!
At first we all just laughed our heads off. Helga declared we would just get something from the charity shop. But then she realised that’s where she’d also packed her medications. Anyway, we were close enough to leave the motorway at the next junction, pull into an unofficial lay-by, and await Augustus, the hero to the rescue, who set off with Helga’s case. 

Now I’m not saying that currently we are all a tad heftier than we would like to be,  ( See previous SW/F8/FODMAP ) but pulling into the lay-by, Jemima had to negotiate the massively uneven road surface and we all winced as there was an horrendous scraping sound as the possibly overweight car, lower to the ground than usual, inched over a huge mound, into a parking space. This made us laugh a lot! First the forgotten case - Helga’s possible demise on our hands and now we faced a journey of many miles wondering if the exhaust was going to fall off or the bottom of the car had been severely damaged. 

The journey whizzed by as we barely paused for breath chatting and laughing so much. Helga, all the time, explaining how we should not be expecting much. 
We arrived. The caravan site was huge. The address, Helga said, was Owl Close and we were in front of a field of llamas. We followed her directions and came to a nice bush that said Owl gardens. We looked for the llamas. None. We laughed as Helga said -  looking at the llamas was one big compensation for the caravan

Chapter 2
The caravan

From the outside? Well, yes, it looked well loved. It was a standard static caravan. Yes, one of the legs had almost rusted away, but the other legs, looked not quite as bad, up on their teetering towers of concrete breeze blocks. There was a small umm shelter/ shed at the side that was overgrown with shrubs ( That’s the shrubbery, Helga explained ) and the ahem,  Summer House with the patio furniture in. A lovely feature. Said patio furniture was green with moss and the like. We think it used to be white. It definitely had a patina I think they call it. Rich folks will pay a fortune for someone to apply a coating of yogurt to new furniture to achieve the same effect.  It just made us giggle. There was a rickety set of steps up to the front door. We all took a deep breath, tentatively gripped the less than stable wrought iron green handle and due to the afore mentioned heftiness, one at a time, followed Helga in.
The kettle will be explained shortly! But here is the way up and in. 

Have you ever read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations? His powerful description of the room where Pip sees Miss Haversham? The sense of darkness and sad decay? Not even strong enough to describe what met us! 

To be fair to the caravan, it had been standing, forlorn and neglected for two and a bit COVID years - it had been ‘shut down’ by the site staff, which basically meant that the water was turned off to prevent damage by frozen pipes etc. 
We peered in, the curtains were shut so it was dark. As our eyes adjusted to the light we saw the beauty of what Helga had been describing. 
Inside it was direct from the 80s. All beige trim with Summer Chintz curtains. Perfectly acceptable to us. But there was black mould on every hard surface everywhere. Cobwebs too. It smelt ok, no damp. So all it needed was a bit of a wipe down and an airing and all would be well. We were given the guided tour. 
Three bedrooms, shower room, toilet, kitchen and lounge. The kitchen door was wedged open and the sound it made trying to get it shut was horrendous! 

and it was a long galley that we could only go down one at a time. Two of us? then it wouldn't have been just the door that was wedged! Jemima and I were already fine and had been charmed by the caravan! But we did need to clean it thoroughly! 
We needed water. 
Helga explained we needed to turn it on by turning on the external tap that was connected to the huge hosepipe under the vanSo that’s what we did. Helga went round the side of the van, Jemima and I followed to watch! 
All of a sudden, a tsunami of water, gushed from under the van towards Jemima and myself causing us to scream like the 15 year old school girls we had turned into! Helga appeared as quick as she could from the back end of the van, wondering on earth what had happended - we could only point and laugh and direct her gaze to see the torrential path of water, threatening to sweep us off down the valley. She ran** back round to the tap and turned it off. Upon further investigation we realised the hose connection had not been secure, we secured it and tried again. Wasn't fully secure as there was drippage but it would do for now. Back into the van we traipsed. We turned on the taps to see if we had water. We all collapsed with laughter again. Helpless with mirth, I think they say. 

The boring explanation is the site staff run antifreeze through during the shut down. That’s all it was. So we flushed all that through. Helga tried to light the boiler to no avail. There was a kettle. So we boiled water. Armed ourselves with cleaning cloths and bleach spray and set to work like the good little Cinderellas we were. We scrubbed everywhere. Opened the windows and doors to air it. Soon it was perfectly spick and span and clean enough and we were ready for a brew. We emptied the car, turned on the fridge, filled it with our food and enjoyed a lovely cup of tea and our picnic packed lunches. Helga switched on the gas bottles and then after a phone consult with her Aunty, she switched the correct bottle on. Helga had another go at lighting the boiler so we could light the fire as it was getting chilly. As she went to fill the kettle again, she dropped it and smashed it. As she tried to light the fire with several damp matches, she dropped a match on her Aunty’s bible and burned it. That’s it, we declared, we are definitely surely doomed now. 

We decided to go on a shopping trip for new kettle, via reception, to ask them to fix the water and turn on the boiler. We drove into the town. So empty and peaceful and quite pretty.  We entered the amazing world of Jaybees. The shop that sold everything. Unluckily for us,  the shop although it had the brill cream and cheap sunglasses on Helga’s shopping list, it didn’t have the quality £14.99 kettle we wanted so we decided we could live with boiling a pan for a brew. We got back to the caravan to discover no site person had been to fix our water/boiler so there were several more attempts to light the boiler. 

So we brewed up, sat and had a natter. I went to attempt the boiler again, we braced for an explosion but....success! I’d managed it. Not sure how, even to this day! I went for a wee on the way back to the lounge and came back laughing, declaring the bulb in the bathroom had gone. Talk about Carry On Caravanning!

Just then Helga’s daughter rang to see how we were getting on and that she’d see us all tomorrow as her and her young man were coming for an overnight holiday. It was dusk. Helga told her daughter all about our escapades but it was getting dark and we were going to think about making tea. She hung up. We closed the curtains and set about getting comfy for the evening. We put the big light on. That bulb had gone too. We hadn't managed to find a spare bulb yet for the bathroom! Helga said that there would be some bulbs somewhere as her Aunty basically had it stocked for the apocalypse. She turned on the kitchen light to look in the cupboards. Oh oh! No kitchen light had gone too..... 
Except it hadn't gone...There was no electricity! 
We could not stop the hysterical laughter at this point. It was literally pitch black by now. 

Jemima and I had yet another comedy moment as when Helga was stomping round the van hunting for the electric box, by the light of our mobile phone torches, the water in the glass on the table was vibrating like it did on Jurassic park. ( We were wondering if the rusty leg was going to give way! )
 Before it got any pitch blacker, we decided to do what any modern day damsel in distress would - go find a man to help! Just before we set off in the car, I had  to evict massive tarantula via the mop head thrusting it out of the door method before we could get out of the caravan.  Because we were laughing so much, Jemima took many wrong turns and we included a 360 point turn with the indicators going in the car on the way to reception. Helga left us to find reception. She went, she came back …everyone from reception had gone home long long ago! Helga, by now was crying, helpless with laughter and decided to head to the campsite bar to ask for help.  Into the packed out pub she went, crazy lady with firmly crossed legs, crying, pleading for the barman to get help. She said she could barely get her words out! She tends to speak in a very squeaky thin tone when hysterical and would have been at the point of an asthma attack with all the efforts. It felt like Jemima and I were waiting in the car for aaaaaaages.  Writing it here does not convey how very very funny this all was. 
Eventually she came out and now it was Jemima and me laughing because we'd moved the car and were parked in a different spot and she couldn't see us! She got in, and said a knight in shining armour was on his way. 
We returned to the pitch black caravan to await rescue. It was the night of a big football match on the TV.  I said I bet the poor person they send will be effing and jeffin about effing holiday makers, effing well coming here, effing useless etc.

 Soon after, our knight appeared. 

 A small, squat knight  - our rescuer was erm a man in shorts. He had a  beard and a funny accent saying he’ll learn us what to do, all the while shaking  his head and falsely smiling. I could tell he was annoyed!  He didn't have official campsite clothing on. But we could have just killed him if needed with a game of All Pile On. So we put our trust in him. 

He opened the main electric box with a metal butter knife - waving it at us and said,
 "All you need is a butter knife!" 

He showed us, he mansplained it carefully and  told us it was sorted. He was trying to clear off when we shouted noooo come back it’s not on, he asked to be invited in ( rather like a vampire )and rifled through Jemima’s bedroom at the back end of the van.  He was in the cupboard, pressing buttons - the lights would not turn on. He asked us what had we done. He asked us what was plugged in. He told us to unplug everything. He got the lights on and we set about plugging the only two things that were plugged in. He told Helga it was her fault for breaking the kettle - reader, she had dropped it on the floor, now Im not an electrician, but I am pretty confidant,as Chris Tarrant would have said on Who wants to be a millionaire, that there was zero electrical issue with the kettle.  We then discovered it was the fridge tripping the switch. He broke the news we needed a new fridge. The  fridge that we had stocked with perishables - naturally we found this hilarious.  So it was fridge off,  lights on, beds made up, on Pjs on and tea! I said that the next day we should get a bag of ice to help keep stuff cool in the fridge but we wrapped things up in tea towels to help insulate and figured it’d all be fine! 

* Actually a nice enough girl, just didn't work out. 
** staggered, doubled over with laughing

 Back soon with the final enthralling chapters.....