Arriving on caravan parks this summer we were welcomed by the owners of the various sites or by the staff or family members employed there to ensure that things are well run and organised.

Checking in was as usual a doddle and, because we were out in June for our main trip, it was easy to get our first choice of pitch. Day one, when we arrived early, was spent setting everything up.  Getting the food out of the cool box and getting it on board, and setting the awning up.

On the occasions when we arrived at campsites a bit later in the day this work was done the following day and then we started to get oriented;  Finding the local super-A caravan, awning and windbreal all set up on the, how far are the local beaches and where and how far do we go to the local attractions.  All very easy indeed, and all very good and conducive to a relaxing time in the local area.

One of the places where we stayed was in Etables sur Mere in Brittany, which is very much a holiday area.  In case I give the wrong impression let me establish from the get-go that this place, while being geared for people on holiday to enjoy themselves, very much retains the feeling and character of the local landscape.  The little towns and villages, while having everything that anybody could wish for, are of a size and scale that are in keeping with their historic development.

Beachfront holiday apartments are largely absent and where the odd complex is visible it doesn’t make for a hugely adverse impact on the place. A mixture of supermarkets, museums, small shops, souvenir outlets, ice- cream sellers, golf courses and places to visit offer you as much, or perhaps more, than you want to do during your time in the area.

None of this operates without people.  People who prepare the beach and the roadways, maintain the signage and information boards, those who run the shops and the cafes and the people who plant up and maintain the floral displays that you see and enjoy all over the place.  Always these people are efficient and helpful.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that was unhelpful let alone uncooperative, not since the dark days of the Fawlty Towers era at any rate.

Some people are always friendlier than others and some simply efficiently do their jobs and move onto serving the next customer.  Sometimes a little joke will be met with a laugh, often simply a polite laugh depending on the quality of the witticism.  People who work in the holiday industry see and deal with hundreds of customers each day and if they’re operating successfully, thousands over the season.

On one campsite we had a small problem with broadband, which was available on the pitch and in the reception area.  Every few days it tended to slow down and would eventually grind to a halt.  I suspected that all that was needed was a simple re-boot of the system.

I saw the site owner who was busy with his swimming pool and marched over to him.  As I got closer I noticed that while he was doing the swimming pool job he was also keeping an eye on reception, monitoring the phone and being available to chat to his customers.  Near the swimming pool his hedge maintenance equipment was ready to go – his next job was to trim the hedges.

This chap was busy!

I decided that I wouldn’t unnecessarily add to his list of things to do so I just told him about the broadband problem & said that there was absolutely no rush with it – I wasn’t putting him under pressure.  His reply was interesting.  He said that I could be sure that people would soon put him under pressure because of it.

Friendly barman behind his beer taps ready to serve

It’s easy to forget that the people who own and operate caravan parks, campsites and other holiday facilities are there to make a living.  Their businesses are often small, employing themselves and a few others.  They really do do everything themselves, from acting as unofficial tourism offices & ambassadors for the local attractions to keeping the grass cut and the toilets clean.

Small business is always hard work.

While you are out there to relax and enjoy your stay, do perhaps think about your hosts and consider them as extremely hardworking people, running their business in order that they can make a decent living.  We don’t really pay huge amounts to stay on caravan parks and for those fees we really do get an incredible amount;  security, comfort, clean and tidy facilities, often a swimming pool and a bar, play areas, hot showers, fresh water, toilet facilities and chemical disposal points to name only a few.

So, the next time you pull onto your pitch and get all set up, seek out your host and have a friendly word, give him or her a friendly wave or offer to buy them a pint or a glass of wine.

They’ve earned it.

Buy Your Host A Pint By: Roger Blackwell